Morning Fizz

Morning Fizz: A Direct Challenge

Caffeinated News & Gossip featuring: controversial studies, "hostile" questions, soda taxes, and ponderous initiatives.

By Josh Feit September 27, 2013

1. A recent No on I-522 TV ad cites a study by the Washington Research Council, saying "Initiative 522 would cost Washington farmers, food producers and consumers millions."

I-522 is the measure on November's ballot that would require the industry to label genetically modified food, or GMOs.

It turns out the study, as well as another study by the Northbridge Environmental Management Consultants cited by the Washington Research Council, were both funded by the No on I-522 campaign. (The No campaign itself, which has raised $11 million, is being funded almost exclusively by six food and chemical corporations including Monsanto, Dow, Dupont, Bayer, and the Grocery Manufacturers Association.)

According to the the Public Disclosure Commission, the No on I-522 campaign spent $12,500 on each research study, and still owes $37,500 to the Washington Research Council and $3,805.50 to Northbridge for the research.

Dana Bieber, the No campaign rep, said the fact that they funded the studies does not invalidate their findings. She said the 'No' campaign simply requested a study on how much it would cost consumers if I-522 was passed, and the Washington Research Council carried it out from there. The study concludes—under the assumption that food producers would use non–genetically engineered ingredients to avoid GMO labels—that prices would go up for consumers. The assumption, she said, is based on what happened to countries in Europe after they passed GMO labeling laws.

Asked about the 'Yes' side's argument that prices have not gone up for European consumers following their labeling laws, Bieber said she has seen "not one study" showing that.

Elizabeth Larter, spokesperson for the Yes campaign, said the No side lacks independent or real-world evidence that prices will go up for consumers and pointed to some independent studies, including one from Emory University for California's (failed) GMO labeling initiative Prop 37, concluding that labeling would not bring significant cost increases to consumers.

Footnote: The two sides are battling it out in court over a campaign finance lawsuit filed by supporters of I-522 arguing that the 'No' campaign is concealing donors.

2. Maru Mora, a member of Mujeres of the Northwest, the founder of Latino Advocacy, and a Mayor Mike McGinn supporter, put up a Facebook post yesterday saying that McGinn challenger, state Sen. Ed Murray, had called her "hostile" during a recent candidate forum. 

"I think he didn't like my questions. And I didn't like his answers."

McGinn's soda tax idea also read like a direct challenge to Murray, who McGinn has derided for taking Coke and Pepsi money.

In a followup post, Mora explained that she asked Murray how many Latinos he had on staff, that he didn't seem to know, and that he told her she was being "hostile"—a dicey put down when it comes to a dude criticizing a woman for raising questions.  

Murray's campaign didn't respond to Mora's charge on the record, but Murray has six paid staffers on his campaign including one, Pedro Gomez, who is Latino.

3. Speaking of debates, at last night's Seattle Park's Foundation's mayoral forum at the sculpture garden's Paccar Pavilion, McGinn, when asked about parks funding, revealed some details of a new proposal he's working on—a $.01 per ounce soda tax that would bring in $21 to $29 million annually.

It's a compelling idea (there's a nexus between funding parks and rec and penalizing the purchase of unhealthy soda drinks) and Seattle voters supported the state soda tax passed by the legislature that ultimately went down statewide at the ballot in 2010.

McGinn's soda tax idea also read like a direct challenge to Murray, whom McGinn has derided for taking Coke and Pepsi money. (The Washington Beverage Association has contributed $5,000 to a separate independent expenditure committee that's supporting Murray, and they've give $700 directly to Murray's campaign itself.)

Fizz asked Murray what he thought about taxing the soda companies. He's against it:

"Been there, tried it at state level and lost. And a soda tax does not raise enough money. We need a metropolitan parks district to handle ongoing maintenance and operations and take care of the $250 million backlog."

Check out our Twitter report from last night's mayoral debate here, which includes a fun fact check on McGinn's contention that Key Arena was no longer a competitive venue for top tours.

Our tweet: "Re: McG saying Key isn't getting big acts, huh? Kanye, Macklemore, Kendrick Lamar, Selena Gomez, Pink, Pearl Jam, Avett Bros, NIN."

Erica will be on KUOW's news roundtable this morning at 10 am discussing Murray, McGinn, and much more.

4. Mayor McGinn frequently touts his Center City Initiative—a conceptual proposal to improve public safety, civility, and street disorder downtown—as one of his biggest accomplishments. In his latest budget proposal, he asked the city council to increase funding for the program by $1.5 million in 2014. 

However, council sources say that isn't likely—in part because, so far, the CCI, unveiled in the spring of 2012, has consisted mostly of meetings and "conversations," not programs.

McGinn did send the council a list of people identified as causing the most harm downtown about a week ago, but council sources say there hasn't been much more action; council members have sent McGinn's budget office a list of questions about how he plans to spend additional money on the, to-date, evidently ponderous initiative.

5. Can't get enough talk about the mayor's race?

Erica will be on KUOW's news roundtable this morning discussing Murray, McGinn, and much more. Tune in on 94.9FM at 10:00am.


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