Friday Jolt: Ugly Deals, Ugly Politics
1. Loser: The Environment. Again.
"The environment was the first to take a hit in the budget negotiations ... as usual," Washington Conservation Voters state lobbyist Cliff Traisman says about last night's compromise.
Late last night, the Republican-controlled senate signed off on a Democratic house proposal for $160 million in new revenue by closing a loophole in the estate tax in exchange for a Republican priority policy bill, Sen. Doug Ericksen's (R-42, Ferndale) legislation to revamp the voter-approved toxics cleanup account.
The cleanup account, funded by a .7 percent sales tax on hazardous substances (basically a tax on industrial polluters and oil companies) was approved by voters in the late 1980s after a century of unchecked contamination and pollution had messed up the environment and left the public on the hook to clean it up. The money is dedicated to cleanups on public lands or orphaned or abandoned sites—or sites where a privately liable party (AKA an industrial business) no longer exists.
Traisman and environmental advocates believe Ericksen's bill gives private parties too much access to public cleanup money. "Under the new regime," he says, "there is access to public funds for privately liable parties. We will fight to the bone to make sure public dollars are spent on public cleanup."
Traisman is referring to a combo of factors in the complex bill (Carryn wrote an in-depth piece on the bill when Ericksen passed it out the senate during the regular session). The bill sets up a new fund (called ELSA ... named, super weirdly, after Ericksen's daughter) that creates "model remedies" or pre-fab cleanup programs. It also tweaks existing standards in the original accounts for new brownfield redevelopment programs that could allow private parties to get funding. These two changes worry greens.
This is a bit wonky, but the section of the bill (Section 10) that outlines eligible projects is vague when it comes to the new account, which broadens access by offereing the pre-fab programs; that section is governed by the old account rules—which, while prohibiting privately liable parties in general opens up the door for brownfield projects where the rules were changed to allow funding for mixed public/private projects.
"What about a private developer that partners with a local jurisdiction to redevelop a brownfield?" Washington Environmental Council lobbyist Darcy Nonemacher asks.
Once again, though, as has been true during the last several years of shortfalls and dire budget negotiations, the enviromental movement has take the bullet for the Democrats.
Ericksen says his changes did not open up the door to private companies. "There is nothing in my toxic cleanup bill that changes who is eligible for toxic cleanup dollars. This bill does not let private companies off the hook. My legislation will clean up more sites faster than at any time in state history and identifies the tax dollars to get it done," he tells me.
Ericksen did get key last-minute support from a couple of Democratic environmental leaders—Rep. Hans Dunshee (D-44, Snohomish) and Sen. Kevin Ranker (D-40, Orcas) who, Traisman acknowledges, "did a good job making it less onerous."
And Ericksen did make some concessions in the last-minute negotiations. He backed off on deprioritizing prevention spending (the legislation initially prioritized cleanup that led to redevelopment), and he also narrowed the scope of what the money could be used for; initially, for example, it could fund general stormwater work. Now, stormwater money has to be tied to cleanup.
"Our concerns were not fully addressed," Traisman concludes, though he gets the reality of that. "The facts are clear. This was the bill that someone decided was going to be exchanged for Bracken [the estate tax fix]. It was a fast-moving train."
"Ed, you would be better served to keep your sleazy attack dogs on a leash, get your campaign out of the gutter and join the rest of us in a rigorous debate about the future of this city."
Once again, though, as has been true during the last several years of shortfalls and dire budget negotiations, the environmental movement has taken the bullet for the Democrats.
2. No formal winner or loser here, but ... well, whoa ... serious fireworks in the Mayor's race.
Mayor Mike McGinn's campaign consultant, John Wyble, wrote a post on his firm's blog going after local campaign consultant Sandeep Kaushik, who's working for McGinn rival state Sen. Ed Murray (D-43, Seattle).
Wyble, typically a mellow dude, wrote (and I'm quoting it in full)
I think this is going to be the ugliest campaign Seattle has ever seen,” posits (Ed) Murray…
Ed, that’s because you hired Sandeep Kaushik.
In the last week, Sandeep has attacked the personal character of the Mayor, myself (this is where I took it personally), the campaign manager, and former staff on the Mayor’s campaign urging reporters to question our adherence to campaign ethics rules. Some of this questioning is legitimate but most of it is chasing unfounded, flimsy conjecture down a rabbit hole.
I get it. Politics isn’t tiddlywinks. However, we’ve had a robust campaign with dozens of forums and a strong focus on issues. I applaud Bruce, Peter, Kate, Mary, Joey and Charlie for their focus on ideas and issues.
Ed, you would be better served to keep your sleazy attack dogs on a leash, get your campaign out of the gutter and join the rest of us in a rigorous debate about the future of this city.
We can all waste our time taking potshots at each other. But, I think the voters would appreciate if Ed Murray told his consultants to pull their heads out of the gutter and focus on why Ed should be the next Mayor.
I called Wyble to ask him what Kaushik had done specifically. Wyble said Kaushik was relentlessly pitching a story to local reporters that "WinPower [Wyble's firm] is hiding campaign expenditures. He's attacking my personal character."
I have a call in to Kaushik.
Wyble says the initial calls were fair (McGinn's recent campaign finance reports—and we noted this in Fizz as well—are curious because there are no payments to formal campaign staff ... no fundraiser? no campaign manager?). And reporters were asking about that. Wyble says he explained it: He says he takes his $3,500 consultant fee from McGinn and gives $2,500 to Bill Monto, a WinPower staffer who's doubling up on McGinn duties as well as other WinPower responsibilities. He also says Bill has overseen McGinn's fundraising calls.
However, Wyble says the reporters, at Kaushik's urging, kept coming back with more and more insulting questions. "The first calls on Monday were fair, but by Thursday?"
This all brings us to another Jolty item: McGinn has hired a fundraiser.
McKenna Hartman, Tim Burgess' former fundraiser, has joined Team McGinn as the Burgess spoils keep coming.