1. The union-backed group Working Washington is circulating a bill of rights for “Uber Economy” drivers (and passengers) complaining that $51 billion companies like Uber “exploit” contract workers by, for example, not paying the $15 minimum wage and not allowing drivers to organize. (Check out Working Washington’s driver and passenger bill of rights, which also highlights passenger privacy.)
Citing the city’s regulatory powers over the ride share industry, progressive council member Mike O’Brien recently proposed legislation that would give contract drivers the right to organize.
Working Washington has reached out to candidates (and current council members) through social media, receiving some enthusiastic responses (Kshama Sawant retweeted the effort with a shout-out in support, and her opponent Pamela Banks favorited the campaign), but only seven of the 18 candidates and one of nine council members have officially signed the document.
Both District One (West Seattle) candidates, Shannon Braddock and Lisa Herbold, have signed (and extra props to Braddock because she’s also gotten a $500 contribution from a Seattle Uber manager). District Two (Southeast Seattle) candidate Tammy Morales has signed. Both District Four (U District, Roosevelt, Wedgwood, Sand Point) candidates, Rob Johnson and Michael Maddux, have signed. District Six (Ballard, Fremont) candidate and current council member O’Brien has signed. And at-large Position Nine candidate Lorena González has signed.
Meanwhile, showing online support (but not yet signing yet) like Banks and Sawant in District Three (Capitol Hill, Madison Valley, Central District), at-large Position Eight candidate Jon Grant has tweeted support.
2. Last night, the Greater Seattle Business Association—the regional LGBT business group—hosted a forum at the W hotel for city council candidates in Districts One (West Seattle), Three (Capitol Hill and Central Seattle), Four (Wallingford, the University District, Roosevelt, Wedgwood, Sand Point) and the at-large Position Eight seat. Former KUOW host Deborah Brandt moderated, asking candidates how they would assist small business development in Seattle and fund LGBT social services.
Some candidates framed small business development in the context of housing affordability. District One candidate Braddock, a former aide to Democratic King County Council member Joe McDermott, said the city should look at offering relocation assistance to small businesses displaced by rising rents, while her opponent, Lisa Herbold (longtime legislative aide to outgoing veteran city council member Nick Licata), said the city needs to preserve existing affordable residential housing stock and commercial spaces to prevent displacement from redevelopment as the city upzones.
Position Eight incumbent and current council president Tim Burgess said he was confident in the new leadership at the Office of Economic Development and the Department of Neighborhoods to have an open ear to small business interests. (Mayor Ed Murray recently appointed Brian Surratt to head the Office of Economic Development and Kathy Nyland to head the Department of Neighborhoods.) Burgess challenger Jon Grant, former Tenants Union director, said collaborative committees such as Murray’s income inequality advisory committee is a “good model” for ensuring fair representation in policy making.
In the District Four round, Democratic party activist and bleeding heart liberal Michael Maddux said there is a lot to love in the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda recommendations, particularly the mandatory inclusionary housing program. But he took a stab at some of the pushback the “grand bargain” has received from the development community. “Some people on the development side, the free market side, are actually comparing mandatory inclusionary zoning to making gay people pay a fee to get married because of the purported negative impacts on heterosexual marriage,” he said, referencing a recent PubliCola editorial by urbanist Dan Bertolet that made the comparison as a spoof "Modest Proposal" to point out that taxing housing to create housing is kind of ludicrous. Maddux didn't like the joke: “That’s offensive to me personally. I think that’s a problem we need to address and get back to the issue of how we’re going to build more housing.” (He prefaced his comments by echoing what fellow lefty Herbold told us earlier this week—saying council member Mike O’Brien’s residential linkage fee proposal should be kept on the table if the grand bargain falls apart.)
When asked how the District Three candidates would help “honest” small businesses understand and implement Seattle’s new $15 minimum wage ordinance, Urban League CEO Pamela Banks gave her routine line about fully funding and staffing the office of labor standards, particularly translators for immigrant-owned businesses. Incumbent socialist council member Kshama Sawant—to no one's surprise—said the forums’ questions about better small business representation “illustrate the reality that city hall and halls of government in general are open to big business and big business executives. There’s very little consideration for small businesses.”
She went on to call for a small business task force and city-sponsored 401(k) program for employees small business (paid for with a millionaires’ tax of course).
3. The city council is holding a hearing on a Sawant/Nick Licata resolution this morning to support lifting the state ban on rent control.
A press release from their offices states:
If the state ban were lifted, Seattle would have the option to pursue rent regulation legislation locally. Current state law does not allow cities to limit rent increases. Seattle has seen rent increases of up to 145 percent during 2015.
Council members Sawant and Licata support having rent control as an option as part of a bold and comprehensive set of solutions to preserve affordable housing in Seattle.
Interestingly, Licata's aide Lisa Herbold, who's running for city council in West Seattle's District One, issued a statement this morning that veers away from "rent control" as the topic at hand.
Council members, the resolution before you is not a rent control resolution. I am one of the authors of this resolution. Much of the public discussion has been misleading about the true content of this resolution. It is a resolution to ask the state legislature to restore your authority to consider all of the different local options to regulate rent. The types of rent regulations we are preempted from developing are numerous. A rent control law is only one type of rent regulation, it is not what is proposed today.
This resolution is intended to empower Seattle policy makers, tenants, landlords to develop policy that is based on common ground and a shared interest in regulating the outlying behavior...
I'm concerned that the portrayal by both opponents and proponents of this resolution as a rent control resolution is limiting and will propel people to their prospective separate corners, rather than bring them together to problem-solve.
Think of any law at all that would regulate rent. It is prohibited. Do you want to limit rent increases in rentals with code violations? It's banned. Do you want to regulate the size of rent increases for seniors, veterans, or families with small children in the winter months? It's banned. Do you want to consider an “unconscionable rent increase” law like New Jersey has? Banned. Do you want to prohibit rent increases given to circumvent other city laws? Also banned.
Meanwhile, Herbold's opponent Shannon Braddock told us yesterday that she was "likely" to support the resolution to lift the state ban. But in the candidate questionnaire she filled out for the Washington Housing Alliance Action Fund earlier this year, she said only that she'd support putting the issue on the ballot rather than the resolution's call to simply have the state legislature lift the restrictions against local control.
From Braddock's questionnaire:
Do you support asking the state legislature to remove the state ban on rent regulation?
No. I do not believe rent control is a solution to housing affordability. (That said, as a council member I may support a resolution to the state to give our residents an option to make that decision with the popular vote although I would be unlikely to support it at the ballot). Support for rent control in Seattle may win populist applause lines, I believe the actual effects of the policy are proven to harm the vast majority of those it purports to assist.