Morning Fizz: Casting Himself as the Anti-McGinn
1. Fizz is still waiting to hear back from Mayor Mike McGinn: Why, if you're so opposed to Whole Foods paying its workers an average of $16 an hour, are you OK with the fact that the city pays some of its workers just above minimum wage? (The McGinn campaign says the mayor objects to the fact that Whole Foods doesn't pay health benefits, and McGinn consultant John Wyble has said the mayor will get back to us with more specifics.)
In the meantime we checked out lbloom.net, which catalogues public employees' salaries. As of 2011, they report, nearly 700 city employees made less than $33,592 a year—the amount an employee would make working 40 hours a week for $16.15 an hour, which Whole Foods says is its average non-managerial wage. While many of those workers (perhaps half, based on the fact that they make under $25,000) are clearly part-time, a substantial number aren't—and it's worth noting that one of McGinn's objections to the Whole Foods project is that the company relies on part-time workers, a claim that could also be made of the city.
According to the city's job pay scale, around 30 job grades start out at a pay rate of less than $16.15 an hour.
2. During a candidate forum sponsored by Microsoft yesterday, mayoral candidate Peter Steinbrueck was the only candidate to hold up a sign (during the obligatory "lightning round") saying he thought transit programs should have to be approved by voters.
Contacted after the event, however, Steinbrueck said he was "still trying to figure out what red and green meant, because they weren't marked [yes or no] on the cards," and added that he thinks "any and all means of funding transit, given the crisis, is called for, and if it takes a voter-approved package, I would support that." If the state legislature doesn't give King County the authority to ask voters for more money, Metro riders face a 17 percent cut to service.
3. Speaking of Steinbrueck, he has found a hot issue to spar with McGinn on as a way to turn the race into a Steinbrueck v. McGinn contest as opposed to the Murray v. McGinn contest that the latest polling had set up less than a week ago.
It started out as a PubliCola "One Question" for the candidates about McGinn's objection to granting Whole Foods an alley vacation for its West Seattle project. (McGinn frowns on Whole Foods' non-union policy.) Steinbrueck accused McGinn of "an abuse of the city’s regulatory functions."
And he went on: "There is a process for alley vacations and it has nothing to do with prevailing wage rates. It's perfectly legitimate for the mayor to speak out personally on his views on social goals and social justice such as living wages and housing affordability, but ... the regulatory system does not exist to be used as a tool to advance certain social goals. ... All I’m saying is that the regulatory frameworks should not be used manipulatively and in fact I think it’s illegal."
Murray, meanwhile, told us he was still thinking about the issue.
And while Murray was still thinking about it, the Seattle Times' Danny Westneat, who wrote about the Whole Foods issue last weekend, picked up on Steinbrueck's charged comments for a follow-up story late yesterday, writing: "A few campaigns did whisper that McGinn was only bucking for the grocery-store union endorsement, which he got. But Steinbrueck, alone, came out blazing publicly about it."
Westneat goes on to give Steinbrueck the mike. And he takes it. Westneat writes:
He called McGinn a hypocrite for not making these same economic-justice points when pushing through a major rezone in South Lake Unionthat greatly benefited Vulcan and the nonunion Amazon.
“It’s only Whole Foods that gets this scrutiny?” Steinbrueck said. “Why is that?”
Steinbrueck also questioned the larger livable-wage movement, saying the unions are rashly using the mayor’s race to “turn Seattle into a national battleground.”
Wages can’t be raised this much by government fiat without “us first having a much broader discussion, which has to include bringing businesses to the table,” he said. “It’s completely presumptuous to say we should jump all the way up to $15 an hour for the minimum wage.”
At an SEIU forum earlier this year, Steinbrueck said he agreed with the idea of a $15 minimum wage but believed it should be "phased in" over time.
Steinbrueck also, Fizz thinks, has taken the mike away from the other candidates, particularly supposed frontrunner Murray, seizing on an opportunity in the runup to the election to cast himself as the anti-McGinn.