1. Supporters of public financing for city council campaigns, organized as Fair Elections Seattle, are accusing the chair of the council's education and governance committee, Tim Burgess, of "recanting" on his promise to include the issue on the committee's June 4 agenda.
"We were told as recently as Thursday or Friday of this last week that we were going to be put on the agenda for the committee to explore a new proposal that would be tweaked to accommodate districts," says Estevan Munoz-Howard, chair of Fair Elections Seattle. "All of a sudden we heard from Tim that he had decided not to put it on the agenda."
Burgess has expressed skepticism about the proposal, which would increase property taxes to pay for a six-to-one match for contributions of up to $50 for candidates who qualify by raising a certain (to-be-determined) amount of money on their own. (We explored some of the many outstanding questions created by Seattle's new districted council election system here).
With so many other tax and fee measures likely to be on the November ballot—including both universal pre-kindergarten and funding for Metro bus service in Seattle—Burgess said he "struggle[d] with advancing this measure this year. ... While I support in principle the concept of public financing of campaigns, I would probably support universal preschool and other measures we will be considering at a higher level."
However, Munoz-Howard argues that crowded ballots are actually good for progressive causes. "Especially in an off year, the more initiaitves that you have on the ballot, it just increases the progressive turnout."
2. The city council approved the siting of an $80 million sewer overflow tank beneath a tennis court in Seward Park Monday over objections from a loud group of neighbors who oppose the city's plans to locate the tank within several hundred feet of their houses. (According to committee chair Jean Godden, about ten houses would be affected). The alternative, a site in the main parking lot for the park, would cut off access to the park's loop trail, the most popular feature in the park, as well as its only ADA-accessible picnic shelter.
The tank will help protect Lake Washington from an estimated 17 sewage overflows—which can spill as much as 1 million gallons of raw sewage into the water at a time—each year.
The neighbors, who showed up in force at this week's committee meeting, object that placing the underground tank at tennis court location will create excessive noise and vibration, destabilize the steep slope they live on by removing trees, and isn't necessary when the city can put the tank in the parking lot directly on the shore of Lake Washington instead.
They also argue that the city's cost estimate—SPU says the parking lot location would cost $13 million more than the tennis court site—are fabricated. Or, as their advocate on the council, Bruce Harrell, put it, that the costs are "a scare tactic ginned up after the last committee meeting."
"I don’t think [SPU] made a strong case at all," Harrell said. "They’ve, quite frankly, failed to produce any credible arguments about why the tennis court makes more sense. ... The correct policy choice is to select the alternative that is furthest away from single-family residences."
It was an odd argument coming from a council member who frequently champions the Race and Social Justice Initiative, which encourages the council to consider the implications of policies it adopts on minorities and other disadvantaged groups.
In what some might view as an unfortunately timed announcement, state Sen. Janéa Holmquist Newbry (R-13, Moses Lake) ....
According to a staff report on the tank location, the "social impact" of locating the tank under the parking lot would be to limit or eliminate access to the park for 1.1 million visitors a year in an area where many residents are minorities and low-income people who, as parks director Christopher Williams put it, "do not live close to water" and for whom "enjoying the woods, enjoying the shoreline, is a special treat."
The council voted 8-1, over Harrell's lone 'No', for the tennis court location.
3. In what some might view as an unfortunately timed announcement, state Sen. Janéa Holmquist Newbry (R-13, Moses Lake), who's running to succeed retiring U.S. Congressman Doc Hastings (R-WA, 4) sent out an elated press release earlier this week announcing that she's been given the highest possible rating, an "A," from the National Rifle Association.
The announcement comes less than two weeks after 22-year-old Elliot Rodger killed six UC Santa Barbara students and wounded 13 others with a semiautomatic rifle, prompting renewed calls for gun control measures.
Nonetheless, in her announcement, Holmquist Newbry brags that "As State Senator, she has helped to stop proposals in the Legislature that sought to require background checks for gun show purchases" and says that if elected to Congress, she'll "be diligent in defending and safeguarding the Second Amendment at every opportunity."
The name of the current mayor is Ed Murray, not Mike McGinn.
5. We could have saved this for our Friday Fizz Likes & Dislikes (under Like): Rep. Ross Hunter (D-48, Medina), the main proponent of the levy swap idea—a revenue neutral proposal that would replace local K-12 property tax levies with a state property tax increase—is presenting the idea later this month at an Association of Washington Business forum.
We Like it because Rep. Hunter was bullied out of his smart levy swap idea during the 2012 gubernatorial election when then-Democratic candidate Jay Inslee used his own opposition to the idea as a wedge issue with the GOP candidate Rob McKenna, who was promoting it.
With the state still needing to come up with about $5 billion extra to meet the McCleary funding mandate by 2018, the levy swap proposal—worth about $2 billion per-biennium—would stabilize funding and take local districts out of the equation, two things (in addition to finding the money in the first place) that the Washington State Supreme Court demanded.
Ironically, liberal Seattle voters don't like the levy swap idea because under the plan, Seattle would send about $200 million extra to the state (only getting about $60 million of it back) while most districts in the state, 53 percent of them, would see a tax decrease.
But that's the way progressive taxation works—wealthier districts help poorer districts. (Rep. Hunter clearly understands that; his wealthy district, like Seattle, would also be a net loser.)
Before partisan Seattle liberals complain about "rual socialism," keep this in mind: An overwhelming number of districts—295—have local levies, meaning only 15 minuscule districts, totalling about 2,000 kids overall, have opted out of prioritizing education. The rest have opted for the taxes and would still pay them.
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