Morning Fizz

Morning Fizz: Holcomb vs. Sawant

Caffeinated News & Gossip featuring the union vs. the union, Holcomb vs. Sawant, and a slow-growther fast-growther love fest.

By Morning Fizz July 17, 2014

1. File this one under Jolt: At last night's King County Labor Council meeting, the executive board voted against endorsing a labor-backed pre-kindergartne plan while voting to endorse Mayor Ed Murray's and the city council's pre-k measure. 

The full group then approved the board's recommendation to support the city's measure.

As for the union version—known as I-107 and being pushed by SEIU 925 and AFT Seattle—a motion to consider trumping the board's thumbs down and support 107 as well was approved for consideration at next month's meeting. 

The city's pre-K measure, a $55 per year property tax on a home valued at $500,000, would offer pre-K on a sliding scale (free for families making 300 percent or less of poverty level—$70,000 for a family of four—and half tuition for families of four making $120,000, for example.) The plan would fund about 300 slots in the 2015-16 school year and increase to 2,000 slots in the 2018-19 school year, which covers about 1/6 of the city's pre-K-age kids. 

The union measure is more about teachers than kids—calling for training requirements and increasing child care workers minimum wage to $15 ASAP. It is not funded, however. 

Our coverage of the two pre-K measures is here.

The ACLU's Holcomb

2. File this one under On Other Blogs Today; it's our follow-up to yesterday's Seattle Weekly scoop that ACLU and marijuana legalization rock star Alison Holcomb is seriously considering running against socialist city council rock star Kshama Sawant in next year's district elections. 

In an interview with Holcomb yesterday afternoon, not only did Holcomb tell Fizz enthusiastically that "yes, yes" it was very likely she would challenge Sawant, she also addressed how much of an impact her husband's ownership of a small restaurant on Broadway in Capitol Hill had on her feelings about Sawant—who championed the hard-line $15 minimum wage cause, exasperating many indie restuarant owners. 

Holcomb told Fizz: 

"Gregg [Holcomb's husband who owns Witness on Broadway] was frustrated by how the $15 minimum wage conversation unfolded. He felt that small business owners who tried to express concern about their ability to easily absorb the increase were unfairly demonized, and that the debate quickly became unnecessarily antagonistic and polarizing. He's not sure how the law as ultimately passed will impact his business and neighboring businesses in the community, but he's certain that the strategy of pitting progressive activists against progressive small business owners hurt progressives more than big businesses."

And she added:

"I was dismayed by the shrill tone, and by the oversimplified analysis."  

"I think it's fair to say his concern prompted me to question whether the idea, which sounded great at first, had been thought all the way through before being championed as an inevitable ballot issue.  Once I started listening in on the conversation, I was dismayed by the shrill tone, and by the oversimplified analysis. 

"Yes, Sawant's approach to the minimum wage debate has heavily influenced my thinking about whether to run, as has her vote against confirmation of Chief O'Toole, and her support of a regressive employee 'head tax' to fund public transportation."

Sawant and council lefty Nick Licata are pitching an alternative to Mayor Murray's vehicle license plus sales tax approach to fund buses with a tax on employers and an increase in the commercial parking tax; their proposal still includes the VLF, though.

3. File this one under Isn't It Weird That ...

Mortal enemies (or at least rhetorical ones) John Fox of the anti-development Seattle Displacement Coalition and pro-development Roger Valdez, a paid lobbyist for the developer-funded Smart Growth Seattle (Valdez got paid $5,000 to lobby the council between April and June) agree on a development issue? 

 Not to overplay it, but Valdez's views sync up closely with those Fox expressed in his latest "Outside City Hall" column, where Fox and coauthor Carolee Coulter argue against the city council's emphasis on encouraging the development of "workforce housing"—that is, housing for people making more than 60 percent of the area median income. "There’s plenty of housing already for this group," Fox and Coulter write. (A February 2014 city report confirms their assessment.)

Instead, they write—and here's where Valdez emphatically agrees—the city should be focusing on creating incentives for developers to build housing for the actual poor, those who are being driven out of Seattle by high rents. 

"[The] critical need is for affordable rental housing for very-low and low-income households. While the amount of rental housing stock affordable to households earning above 60 percent of median income appears adequate, market-rate affordable rentals for those between 40 and 60 percent AMI are scarce and not well-distributed geographically."

In comments to the council's housing committee, which met last night to discuss affordability in Ballard, Valdez wrote, "Why is the City Council pouring it's time and energy into an area of the housing market that seems to be performing well when the need is at lower levels of income? Clearly, people who care about housing in Seattle from all parts of the spectrum are wondering why you are allocating resources for a problem that likely is not a burning one, while at the same time squeezing housing supply where it is needed most." 

Obviously, Fox and Valdez have different agendas: Fox wants to preserve existing affordable housing stock, while Valdez wants to get rid of incentive zoning (which requires developers to pay into an affordable housing fund if they want to build denser developments) in favor of allowing more density without developer fees. But it's fun to see the two in the same corner, if only for a single meeting. 


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