1. For the past couple of legislative sessions in Olympia, Democrats such as Rep. Luis Moscoso (D-1, Bothell) and civil rights groups such as OneAmerica and the ACLU, have tried in vain to pass legislation that would allow minority communities at the local level to change election rules—specifically, from at-large to district setups—if they can prove that minority groups have been disenfranchised at the polls.
Exhibit A was Yakima, where at-large voting has kept Latinos (41 percent of the city) off the seven-member city council for years.
It's a glaring case of polarized voting (where the majority keeps a major minority out of office). And since the legislature wouldn't do anything about it—Moscoso's Voting Rights Act passed the Democratic house, but failed in the Republican-dominated state senate—activists relied on the courts.
Confirming the Latino community's legit grievances against Yakima, the federal U.S. District Court of Eastern Washington concluded in dramatic terms in an opinion issued late Friday that Yakima's local election system violates the federal voting rights act:
All of the undisputed evidence points decidedly in favor of Plaintiffs’ claim. The threshold ... preconditions are easily met: there are a number of ways to draw a Latino-majority district in Yakima, and under the current at large system, the non-Latino majority routinely votes as a bloc to defeat the Latino minority’s candidates of choice. The totality of circumstances both explains and reflects this ethnic political divide in Yakima.
Yakima’s present political reality is colored by a history of official discrimination at the polls, consistent racial bloc voting, and an election system that stacks the deck against minority voters. While Latinos in Yakima have disproportionately low education, income, and health care levels, they struggle under the at-large system to elect their preferred candidates—and to no avail. No Latino has ever been elected to the Yakima City Council.
The ruling also dramatically cited a 2009 Yakima city council election where it concluded that council candidate Sonia Rodriguez, identified by a local official as "the ethnic candidate," lost in a contest "infused with race-based characterizations."
The plaintiffs in the case, Yakima residents Mateo Arteaga, a university administrator, and Rogelio Montes, a student at Yakima Valley College, were represented by the ACLU.
The sweeping summary judgment ruling means the plaintiffs can skip the trial and move straight to the rememdy phase where they plan to propose a district formula.
2. PubliCola's Pedestrian Chronicles was blown away by Saturday's 2.9-mile community hopscotch bonanza.
The second annual DIY Central District community event—a hopscotch course stretching from 28th Ave and Jackson skipping and hopping north to 23rd Ave. S and Union—featured pop-up stops along the way like a lemonade stand, a book sale, a kids' art gallery, face painting, a garage sale, a playground, a flower shop, and a story-telling booth (theme: games).
There were a crew of local sponsors, including Cupcake Royale, the Low-Income Housing Institute, Feet First, the Pratt Fine Arts Center, and Capitol Hill Housing, but the city was MIA.
Prediction: This latest dose of tactical urbanism will become part of the city's official work plan next year (just like parklets have) and will go citywide.
The poll also included specific questions about city council member Tim Burgess and Mayor Ed Murray.
3. The two unions pushing a November citywide ballot measure to mandate prekindergarten teacher training standards and increased pay (an alternative to a city-backed measure to fund pre-k spots for low-income kids) are reportedly out in the field with a phone poll. The poll tests both their measure, I-107 or Proposition 1A, and the city measure, Proposition 1B.
The poll also included specific questions about city council member Tim Burgess and Mayor Ed Murray, testing their favorables. The mayor and Burgess, both open antagonists of the union measure, have prioritized universal pre-k funding and believe the union measure—which isn't funded—creates an obstacle for their favored funded, city measure.
Burgess, as we reported, held a closed-door council session about the union measure. The council's resulting ballot measure—which pits the two measures against one another—drew a legal complaint from the unions (SEIU 925 and the American Federation of Teachers). But the court sided with the city earlier this month, keeping the measures as an Either/Or proposition.
To the two unions' chagrin (and in a show of behind-the-scenes bitchy union politics), the King County Labor Council has endorsed the city measure and not the union measure.
The union measure is I-107 or Prop. 1(A). The city measure if Prop. 1(B).