Morning Fizz

Morning Fizz: "However, If Corporate Resistance Results in the Ordinance Getting Watered Down..."

Caffeinated news and gossip: raising the minimum wage, taking out Rodney Tom, and making it easier for police.

By Morning Fizz December 5, 2013

1. A statement from Good Jobs Seattle, one of the lefty groups zeroing in on the $15 minimum wage cause, framed today's big minimum wage march from SeaTac to Seattle with a press release this morning: "Carrying on the momentum of the landmark victory for the $15 minimum wage in SeaTac, fast food workers will lead a day-long, eight-hour march...that traces the $15 movement’s path from our first big victory in SeaTac to our next destination—Seattle City Hall."

Kshama Sawant, the newly elected socialist city council member who stunned observers in November by winning a seat on the council—defeating longtime incumbent, green urbanist Richard Conlin, with her proletariat $15 minimum wage stump speech, may be the star of today's City Hall finale.

In a press release of her own, Sawant added:

"I look forward to working with the city council and the mayor to pass a $15/hour minimum wage ordinance. However, if corporate resistance results in the ordinance getting watered down or not passing in 2014, then we will need to place an initiative on the 2014 ballot."

Her "however" confirms the pending standoff between incoming Mayor Ed Murray (who also pledged to pass a minimum wage increase) and Sawant that Josh flagged in a column last week: "Sawant May Upstage Murray on Minimum Wage Effort."

2. City Hall administrators were glad to hear Sawant was planning to be at City Hall. They'd been anxious because, they report, she hadn't shown up to sign insurance policy papers required of all city council members (members have to be bonded in case they're subject to any future claims of wrongdoing), which Sawant is required to sign before Conlin leaves office on December 20. (All council members must be sworn in by 10 days before the end of the calendar year or a new council member must be appointed).

The council, in fact, sent Sawant a letter requesting her signature by certified mail.

Sawant spokesperson Ramy Kahlil assures Fizz: "Councilmember-Elect Kshama Sawant has turned in the insurance forms..., and she is scheduling an appointment to take the oath of office."

Despite the hissing that Sen. Rodney Tom's name elicits at Seattle Democratic Party pow-wows, taking him out isn't going to be as easy as zealous Seattle liberals think.

3. Despite the hissing that eastside Seattle suburban state Sen. Rodney Tom's name elicits at Seattle Democratic Party pow-wows, Sen. Tom's rap that he's a good fit for the socially liberal/ economically conservative towns such as Medina and Bellevue he represents is accurate. And taking him out isn't going to be as easy as zealous Seattle liberals think. (Tom enraged Democrats by siding with the GOP last session, giving the Republicans a majority in the state senate.)

There is hope for liberals, though: Rep. Ross Hunter (D-48, Medina). The brainy (and lefty) house budget guru and popular Eastside rep would be a formidable Democratic challenger to incumbent Sen. Tom.

Fizz reached Hunter yesterday to ask if he was going to run against Tom. "I haven't made a decision," Hunter said, adding that "there are a lot of people who would like me to run...many many many many people," noting that supporters in the grocery store and the party have all urged him to challenge Tom.

However, he said he's focused on his current job as house appropriations chair and getting reelected to the house next year.

More urgently, he groused yesterday, he was focused on fixing his schmancy suburban mailbox, which some joy-riding kids had evidently vandalized the night before. He sent a picture of the task at hand, joking, "Neighbors came by and said it was nice to see a politician actually working for a change…"

4. The city council's public safety committee is considering legislation that would allow the police chief (currently interim chief Jim Pugel) to appoint command staff above the position of captain from outside the department.

The argument for making the change (currently, command staff—excluding, obviously, the chief himself—have to come from within the department) is that SPD should have the ability to recruit the best talent, regardless of where they're from, and that a new police chief should be able to bring in his or her own command staff. The argument against is that allowing the chief to hire too many high-level staffers from outside SPD could destabilize the department. 

On the pro side, council member (and ex-cop) Tim Burgess: "We obviously want the top commanders of our police department to be the best possible, regardless of where they come from…Our restriction is very uncommon…there are problems with the command staff of the police department"—Pugel demoted two assistant chiefs, Nick Metz and Dick Reed, last week—"and if we keep this restriction in place we are not going to be setting the table for the kind of reform that we want to have." 

On the skeptical side, council member Nick Licata: "If there was someone from the outside [as assistant chief], what would the effect be on the rank and file?" 

We have a call out to Licata for more details about his concerns. 

5. As we've reported, the city council is considering new rules that would make it easier to eject public commenters who disrupt meetings by yelling or speaking off-topic.

Yesterday, commenters opposed to the new proposal, as well as another proposal they viewed as creeping totalitarianism—a new "mesh network" making it easier for police and fire vehicles to connect to dispatch systems and emergency networks via Wi-Fi. The network, which the city has shut down, also theoretically allows SPD to track users of Wi-Fi enabled laptops and mobile devices, prompting privacy concerns.

The commenters on the two proposals at the council's public safety committee meeting yesterday, however, largely failed to make their case. For example: Alex Zimmerman of Stand Up America, complaining about the new commenting rules (which weren't on the agenda—making his comments technically out of order), compared the council to "Nazi Germany," "Communist Russia," and "fascists," and said they were "mentally sick people who should be in a mental institution."

Then another commenter, speaking about the mesh system, held up a pair of handcuffs and said she was there to make a "citizen's arrest" of Chief Pugel, and demanded of the committee, "When are you going to get off your asses and represent the people instead of the big interests?"

Committee chair Bruce Harrell, perhaps understandably, declined to answer. 



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