Rep Frank Chopp, Sen. Ed Murray, and Rep. Jamie Pedersen were subjected to a lovefest on Saturday, as opposed to the anti-incumbent free-for-alls we've come to expect from town halls in the Great Recession.
Constituents—about 200 people packed the Capitol Hill church—thanked, applauded, and even cheered the legislators. “To us, they’re heroes for what they’re doing, but I also wouldn’t expect anything less, this is the 43rd we’re talking about,” said community member Susan Kolinska.
L-R, Murray, Pedersen, and Chopp
Sure the legislature's recent vote to overturn voter-approved 960 came up—but as a good thing. (Tim Eyman's I-960, which requires a two thirds vote of the legislature to raise taxes, lost in the 43rd 76 to 24 back in 2007.)
One woman went as far as to say, “I want you to find a way to tax me more."
Lining up at the mike to address the legislators—namechecking the Housing Trust Fund, Planned Parenthood (there was a crew of Planned Parenthood supporters in matching pink shirts), a medical interpreters program for ESL clients, and adult day care—43rd District Democratic members were preaching to the choir. Chopp, Murray, and Pedersen all nodded in agreement and plugged the idea of new taxes. (Both House and Senate Democrats will be showcasing their budgets Tuesday, both will most likely include tax increases.)
Constituents line up to speak at Saturday's 43rd District Town Hall
Rather than big government, the pinata in the 43rd was Wall Street. Speaker Chopp gave a passionate speech about the destructive behavior of Wall Street—how companies such as AIG “ripped off” the American people. The focus, he said, needed to be on small businesses. Sen. Murray followed up by hyping legislation the group is working on to give tax credits and loans to small businesses.
The only other bad guy in the room was the 520 plan that the state Senate signed off on last week and that east side House reps are forcing on Speaker Chopp.
Jonathan Morris Dubman from the Coalition for a Sustainable 520 boiled down his group’s view on 520 with a simple description: Seattle is looking at “the worst option on the table.” The current plan—as Murray said in his Senate floor speech against the 520 bill last week before being just one of just three 'Nay' votes—lacks transit connections between 520 and the planned UW light rail hub. Also at issue—the offramps into Montlake (in the heart of the 43rd) will upend the neighborhood, they say.
The legislators took the opportunity to reiterate their own frustration with the 520 project and hint at what could ultimately be the only solution—a lawsuit. (Mayor Mike McGinn, who the 43rd district legislators have teamed up with to find an alterantive 520 plan, hinted at the same plan of attack when he met with the press on Friday.)
Speaker Frank Chopp described the current $4.6 billion proposal with only half of the funding accounted for as, “the height of insanity,” and explained the lawsuit strategy. “Sometimes the third option [litigation] has to be utilized in order to start winning on this thing,” he said.
Murray was in agreement, “I’ll be happy to work with you to raise money for a lawsuit.”