1. City council candidate Pamela Banks's campaign DISLIKED a Fizz report this week that Banks was encouraging local wealthy donors by hyping the idea that her campaign was in line for big out-of-state contributions. Her camp disputed the account. (We got the account from a guest at a recent Banks fundraiser.)
Banks is running against Socialist star Kshama Sawant—who herself, it turns out, is popular with donors who don't live in Seattle. According to the most recent campaign finance reports, Sawant has nearly three times as much money coming from outside Seattle than Banks: $30,000 to $10,700. (So far, Sawant has raised $81,000 total and Banks has raised $48,000 total.)
The biggest slice of Sawant's pie, 37 percent, comes from outside Seattle versus 22 percent for Banks (her second biggest bloc of money). Money coming from inside their turf, district three (Capitol Hill, the Central District), makes up Banks's biggest portion, at 33 percent. Sawant's in-district cash, her second-biggest portion, comes in at 16 percent.
As for raw number of contributors: Twenty-eight percent of Sawant's donors (the biggest portion) are from outside Seattle, while 23 percent of Banks's donors (the second-biggest portion) are from outside Seattle. Just 10 percent of Sawant's donors live in district three, while 25 percent of Banks's donors are in district three. (Complicating all of this, though, is the fact that 40 percent of Sawant's donors do not list an address. Just 6 percent of Banks's donors don't list an address.)
Some footnotes: With 731 donors overall, Sawant's average contribution is $110. With 207 donors overall, Banks's average contribution is at $227.
2. Last night the Board of Parks Commissioners formalized its DISLIKE for smoking in parks by unanimously approving a citywide ban; the new rule which could lead to arrest and trespass citations for people caught puffing in parks, expands a 2010 rule that banned smoking on beaches and near playgrounds.
The proposal has been dogged for the past few months by homeless and civil rights advocacy groups—such as Real Change, the ACLU, and the Low Income Housing Institute, which have slammed it as a rule that discriminates against the poor, the homeless, and people of color. They had noted the proposal's $27 fine, likely racial bias when it comes to enforcement, and general potential for harassing the homeless.
Mercedes Elizalde, a volunteer program coordinator at LIHI (and a city council candidate in North Seattle's position five) told Fizz:
“This is not about antismoking versus pro-smoking. This is about stopping regulations that disproportionately target the poor. This is about stopping the criminalization of poverty and homelessness. The hard truth is people are living outside and in the parks, and this kind of rule can further marginalize an already struggling population. If we really want to invest in public health, we need to invest more in solving homelessness not criminalizing it.”
Retiring superintendent Christopher Williams and the Board of Parks Commissioners (which advises the superintendent) amended the proposal last night to address those concerns, they said. Williams presented the board with several amendments to the original proposal: The recommendation eliminates the $27 fine and creates a monitoring committee (composed of a downtown resident, one parks board commissioner, and reps from a homeless advocacy group and the Human Rights Commission) that will meet every 90 days to review enforcement data (such as issued trespass notices and warnings) to check for racial or homeless disproportionality. The revised proposal also adds a dispute process, which amounts to a meeting between the parks department and any individual who feels wrongly accused of violating the ban.
“We think these [the amendments] are directly responsive to some of the concerns we've heard,” said Williams during the board meeting, adding that the 90-day interval meetings of the enforcement monitoring committee will allow the parks department to be “nimble” in adjusting the ban based on its results.
However, adamant park smokers could still be arrested for lighting up. Park rangers will be the primary enforcers of the ban; they can issue offenders a verbal warning and then two secondary written warnings before they can bring in SPD, who could then issue a trespass notice or arrest the individual.
Williams stressed that policy is similar to enforcing open-container laws and parks rules about loud music.
The ban goes into effect on July 1.
Despite the amendments, Alex Becker, advocacy program manager for the Real Change News Homeless Empowerment Project still DISLIKES the ban. “We’re disappointed that the full ban was not rejected,” Becker said after the meeting, adding that Real Change and human services groups will monitor the implementation of the ban (he did say that Real Change is “happy” about the elimination of the $27 fine).
Though the ban is citywide, the focus will be on downtown parks. They are the most heavily trafficked in the parks system and are the only parks regularly patrolled by park rangers, according to Williams.
That isn’t much comfort to Susan Russell, a homeless Real Change newspaper vendor who was on hand last night to protest the ban. “They [the homeless] come to parks because parks are the only place for them to go. They don't have the privilege of smoking in their own home, in the privacy of their own home,” she said after the meeting.
Seattle parks code previously required smokers to keep a distance of 25 feet between themselves and other park patrons, but Williams has routinely stated that it has proved difficult to enforce. He hopes that community “peer pressure” will be the primary method enforcement which will “denormalize” smoking in parks. “The idea is not to exclude a person forever from a park,” he said.
“The flip-side of denormalizing is stigmatizing [smoking],” Tim Harris—founding director of the Real Change Homeless Empowerment Project—told PubliCola prior to yesterday's board meeting. “And do we really need legislation that stigmatizes people [homeless smokers] who are already stigmatized?”
But park commissioner Tom Byer said: “We are literally doing this to try and make everybody in our community including people who find themselves homeless healthier.”
E-cigarettes and vape pens are not included in the new ban. (The city sees those products as routes to helping people quit; but low-income advocacy groups see the exception as classist.)
During the next 30 days before the ban kicks in, the parks department rangers, in coordination with Seattle King County Public Health, will hand out informational cards that outline smoking cessation resources.