Morning Fizz

The Law Disproportionately Targets Poor People

By Morning Fizz July 1, 2010

1. In a briefing on his office's annual report yesterday, City Attorney Pete Holmes announced his intent to reduce the number of prosecutions for driving with a suspended license in the third degree (an infraction known as DWLS-3) by 90 percent. DWLS-3 refers to license suspensions for minor infractions, such as failing to pay parking tickets. Critics have long pointed out that the law disproportionately targets poor people, who are less likely to be able to pay their tickets.

Assistant city attorney Darby Ducomb said yesterday that the city attorney's office would ask the police department to send DWLS-3 cases to them instead of straight to municipal court, and the city attorneys would decide which cases merited punishment. "They're just a waste of money in our criminal justice system," Ducomb said.

2. Multiple city council sources say there's virtually no chance that any tax measures will go on a citywide ballot this November, dashing Mayor Mike McGinn's hopes that the council would agree to put a seawall bond measure before the voters. "I think everybody's at the point where they say you've gone back to the well too many times," says council member Sally Bagshaw.

Pointing to a half-dozen other potential levies—including a levy for sidewalks, a levy to fund operations and maintenance at city parks, and the expiring families and education levy—Bagshaw says, "it's going to have to be in the nature of an emergency" for the council to pass any taxes this year. The council may instead come up with revenue sources that don't require voter approval to help fill next year's estimated $56 million budget gap.

Not too surprising, another McGinn proposal that looks increasingly unlikely to pass the council is the proposal he rolled out Monday: an amendment to the agreement between the state and the city on the deep-bore tunnel which would stipulate the state cannot move forward with the project until the legislature removes the provision that puts Seattle taxpayers on the hook for cost overruns.

Worth noting: McGinn has not yet actually sent any legislation to the council (changing the agreement would require a council vote), and hasn't briefed any council offices on the high profile proposal.

The campaign for the high-earners income tax, I-1098, is heading to Olympia this morning to turn in their signatures. They say they've got 360,000—you need 241,000 to qualify for November's ballot. (The Secretary of State recommends turning in at least 300,000 to guarantee you've got enough valid ones.)

I-1098 cuts the state portion of the property tax by 20 percent, eliminates the B&O tax for small businesses, and taxes rich people—5 percent on couples earning more than $400,000 per year ($200,000 for individuals) and 9 percent on couples earning over a million ($500,000 for individuals).

I-1098 proponent Bill Gates, Sr., who has contributed $100,000 to the campaign, will be in Olympia to turn in the signatures.

The campaign, calling itself Washingtonians for Education Health & Tax Relief (the estimated $1 billion annual in revenue will be dedicated to education and health funding), has raised nearly $800,000 and spent $171,000. They've spent $10,000 on paid signature gatherers.

The campaign's top funder is the Service Employees International Union, which has contributed $320,000.

(Full Disclosure: Sandeep Kaushik, who co-founded PubliCola in January 2009, is currently I-1098's spokesman. On the flip side, one of PubliCola's investors, Rajeev Singh, is the COO of Concur Technologies, which has contributed $25,000 to the anti-1098 campaign.)
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