About 30 folks had gathered in a corner room at the North Bellevue Community Center (across the tidy suburban complex from the ballroom dancing lessons) to hear Washington State Attorney General and Republican gubernatorial candidate McKenna speak to the King County Young Republicans. McKenna was about 40 seconds into his talk—he was outlining the state's dismal job numbers—when a young man in a blue Cougars baseball cap, blue sweat jacket, jeans, and Tevas walked in, sat in the front row, took out a camera and started filming.[pullquote]"This individual's presence and activities on your property—including filming political activities—constitutes core political activity robustly protected by the First Amendment."[/pullquote]
McKenna stopped and asked the man who he was with. The man gave his name, Zach Wurtz, and said he was with the Washington State Democrats. The Young Republicans club president, Jennifer Fetters, asked him to leave. Nope. McKenna told Wurtz to turn off the camera. Wurtz refused. McKenna's voice got sharper, "You need to put the camera away. Now!"
Wurtz said it was a public place, that he'd seen the event advertised online, that he checked with the building's rules, and that McKenna was a public figure. He stoically remained seated in the front row with his camera up. "I'm just here to listen to what the attorney general has to say."
The club's political director, Gary Franke, a tall trim guy in a beard, said Wurtz could stay, but he'd have to turn off the camera. Wurtz said he'd "close" the camera and flipped the view screen shut, but he wouldn't stop filming.
Conservative Bellevue council candidate Patti Mann, also slated to speak last night, blocks Wurtz's camera
A few members of the club argued with him—"we paid for the space" ... "are you a lawyer?"— but to no avail. So they called the police. "Don't touch me," he told conservative-slate Bellevue City Council candidate Patti Mann who approached him to put her hand over his camera lens. "I'm not," she said, hovering over him with her hand in front of his camera.
McKenna stepped outside by the cupcake table, and the meeting awkwardly and self consciously devolved into announcements about upcoming events and membership. When Fetters asked for a show of hands of folks who were following the group's Facebook page, Wurtz raised his hand.
The police were taking their time showing up, and the group ended up standing out in the all purpose room by the soda machines and round cafeteria tables where McKenna was lingering and chatting; a couple of members were back on the phone trying to track down the cops. Wurtz remained sitting inside.
McKenna told me Wurtz didn't have a right to be at a private meeting, filming, if the group didn't want him there. "Dwight [Washington State Democratic Party Chair, Dwight Pelz] tells me he's just doing his job," McKenna groused. "Fine, but I don't have to help him do it."
McKenna eventually left and Fetters (with Wurtz—who stepped out to join the group—filming them again) announced they'd reschedule. The police finally showed up, but Wurtz left of his own accord after telling the officer he'd simply come to hear the attorney general speak.
Wurtz showed me a copy of the Bellevue Parks & Community Services Department facility use request form which states:
The applicant agrees that, during the use of the Parks & Community Services facility [Name of Group] will not exclude anyone participation in, deny anyone the benefit of, or otherwise subject anyone to unlawful discrimination or harassment.
He also showed me a letter he had from his attorneys at Perkins Coie that stated: "Please be advised that the individual carrying this letter is present on your property to gather information on behalf of the Washington State Democratic Party on matters of public interest. This individual's presence and activities on your property—including filming political activities—constitutes core political activity robustly protected by the First Amendment ... and [the] Washington State Constitution..."
Wurtz, who'd been forcibly removed by police from McKenna's announcement speech press conference in June, wouldn't say exactly how much he was being paid by the Democrats ("enough"), but said he'd been paid $2000 a month to shadow Republican candidate Dino Rossi during last year's U.S. senate campaign.
2. Although the odds that six county council members will all agree to pass a temporary $20 fee to pay for Metro transit service are virtually nil (passing the fee requires a six-member supermajority of the nine-member council, and only five members have expressed any inclination to vote "yes"), the prospects for a countywide public vote, which requires the approval of just five council members, seem more and more promising.
Word is that at least a couple of the council's four Republicans---perhaps Jane Hague, who's facing a stiff reelection challenge from Seattle Port Commission member John Creighton and former Gov. Gregoire counsel Richard Mitchell, and Pete von Reichbauer---now say they'll vote to put the measure on the November ballot.
3. Earlier this week, the pro-tunnel campaign, Let's Move Forward, held a fundraiser for "young" (AKA under-50) professionals. Although the campaign doesn't know yet how much it raised, campaign spokesman Alex Fryer says 77 people signed in---and all were allowed to "pay their age," which we're guessing works out to a total of a few thousand dollars.
4. In an angry letter to Lake City residents on Wednesday, Lake City Travel owner Suzy Smith expressed strong opposition to Mayor Mike McGinn's proposal to locate a permanent homeless shelter in a fire station in the neighborhood that served as the temporary site of the Nickelsville homeless encampment.
In the letter, Smith wrote, "This in NOT a done deal. The city has not heard much opposition to this plan. The Churches (some that are not anchored in Lake City I might add) are pulling heavily to get this site opened. I as a concerned homeowner and resident feel this is a BAD FIT for the current retail core in Lake City."
The neighborhood will hold a community meeting at 6:00 pm on Wednesday, July 13, at the Lake City Community Center (2531 28th Ave. NE).