1. According to the latest fundraising reports, city council incumbent Jean Godden has fallen behind one of her challengers in the District Four race, Transportation Choices Coalition director Rob Johnson. Urbanist transit nerd Johnson beat longtime incumbent Godden in both amount of money raised last month and also in the all-important cash on hand number. Godden has still raised more money than Johnson overall at nearly $80,000.
Johnson, who has raised $56,649 total, brought in nearly $10,000 in May with $21,668 cash on hand. Godden raised just $7,715 (a shaky number for an incumbent) in May with $19,539 cash on hand.
Johnson's list of recent contributors include donations from: veteran civil rights leader (and recent council appointee hopeful herself) Sharon Maeda, King County executive Dow Constantine staffers Sung Yang (chief of staff) and April Putney (Constantine's transit lobbyist and former Futurwise staffer), Bullitt Foundation head and Earth Day icon Denis Hayes, Vulcan executive (and former mayor Mike McGinn deputy) Phillip Fujii, and former Washington Bus leader Thomas Goldstein.
Another Godden opponent, Democratic Party activist Michael Maddux, was right on Godden's heels in this latest round of dialing for dollars, raising $6,314 in May.
All the other incumbents who've reported numbers—Bruce Harrell in District Two, Mike O'Brien in District Six, Sally Bagshaw in District Seven, and Tim Burgess in District Eight—remain comfortably ahead of their challengers in fundraising. Burgess, the only one who appears to be facing a stiff challenge (from tenants advocate Jon Grant and local rock musician John Roderick) reminded his challengers how formidable he is though, raising nearly $40,000 in May, bringing his total raised in the at-large district to $183,000 and his cash on hand to (whoa) $146,000. (Grant raised $4,481 in May—bringing his total raised to $28,552—with $20,545 cash on hand. Roderick raised $11,655—bringing his total to $67,325—with $42,592 cash on hand. Another challenger and another guy named John, union activist John Persak, raised nearly as much as Grant, bringing in $4,135 in May.)
District Three incumbent Kshama Sawant hadn't filed her report yesterday (even though reports were due at midnight). Her main challenger, Urban League leader Pamela Banks, had a big month, raising an impressive $42,690 in May (the most of all 48 candidates overall)—bringing her grand total to $91,000—with $66,000 cash on hand.
Erica C. Barnett over at The C Is for Crank—who has a comprehensive list of May's fundraising numbers—has a reality check on Sawant's demonization of Banks's money, that's worth quoting at length:
Sawant takes every possible opportunity to point out that she is “the only candidate who does not take money from corporations or big business.” Which is true—and if some supremely misinformed big business ever offered her money, I’m sure Sawant would say no. But the thing is, neither do most other candidates, simply because big (and small) businesses don’t give much money directly to city council campaigns. Looking at Banks’ list of contributors, I see just a few companies, including: local consulting firm Strategies 360 ($700), food truck Jemil’s Big Easy ($699), billboard company Total Outdoor ($350), and a few local businesses that made smaller contributions.
Those low numbers don’t prove there isn’t massive corporate influence in council races, Sawant’s defenders have told me, because it’s the employees of the company who give, and that’s just as good as the companies contributing themselves. I won’t run through all the companies whose employers have given to supposed corporatist Banks (you can find the list here), but I will take a moment to list some of the corporations whose workers give to Sawant. Because if the assumption is that employees share the political views of their employers when they contribute, surely Sawant can be judged by the people signing her contributors’ paychecks. Among them: Microsoft. Zillow. Amazon. Tableau. The Canadian National Railway. US Bank. And Boeing.
The point here is that unless you can point to a specific instance or event in which workers were directly pressured to give to a certain candidate, it’s unfair to trash an opponent because of where his or her contributors work. Sticking strictly to outright contributions from corporations, Sawant simply doesn’t have a case against her “corporate elite” opponent Banks.
Banks, by the way, raised $42,690 in May, for a total of $91,123 total [sic], with $60,589 on hand. The biggest employer of Banks’ contributors? The City of Seattle.
Sawant's campaign also likes to hype her average contribution size—a way of highlighting that she's backed by small donors. She has more of a claim here; Sawant's average contribution is $110 versus Banks's $227. However, only 10 percent of Sawant's contributors live within the district, while the 28 percent live outside the city altogether. By comparison 25 percent of Banks's contributors, her biggest slice, live in District Three, while 23 percent live outside Seattle. (These numbers are complicated by the fact that Sawant's biggest batch of contributors—44 percent—don't list an address at all, likely because they are small contributors.)
In the wide-open District Nine race, the other at-large seat in the new districted system, civil rights attorney and former mayor Ed Murray legal counsel Lorena González has taken a commanding fundraising lead over neighborhood activist Bill Bradburd (in what used to be a much tighter money race). González raised $23,270 in May compared to Bradburd's $5,775. That brings González's total to $92,486 with $61,290 cash on hand. Bradburd has raised $53,415 total with $23,358 cash on hand.
Final notes: In north Seattle's District Five race (where there's no incumbent council member) former King County Superior Court judge Debora Juarez appears to be edging in to the second spot (church council leader and progressive activist reverend Sandy Brown is thought to be the frontrunner). While the crowded remaining field includes a batch of compelling candidates, Juarez's latest fundraising numbers—$15,625 raised in May (the most of all eight candidates in this race), $34,622 total raised (second to Brown's $58,118), with a leading balance of $22,337 (compared to Brown's slim $3,705)—leave her well positioned.
In West Seattle's District One race (another crowded field without an incumbent council member) rival legislative aides—King County Council member Joe McDermott aide Shannon Braddock and Seattle city council member Nick Licata aide Lisa Herbold—remain ahead, and neck and neck, in the nine-candidate contest. Braddock raised more in May—$17,660 to Herbold's $9,733 (the top two showings respectively in the field)—putting Braddock in the slight lead for total raised, $45,280 to $40,132. Meanwhile, Herbold, the populist to Braddock's mainstream Democrat, remains ahead in the final balance, $22,024 to $16,173.
2. "You haven’t lived in Seattle long," attorney and neighborhood activist Jeannie O'Brien, the president of the Lakewood Seward Park Community Club, wrote in a recent heated email exchange with Seattle Department of Transportation director Scott Kubly about SDOT's pending plan to redesign Rainer Ave. "I have lived in the Rainier Valley all of my life."
O'Brien was following up to an April community meeting in Southeast Seattle where Kubly was talking about SDOT's plans to redo a dangerous stretch along Rainier Avenue South where city data shows there have been 1,243 collisions in the last three years, 630 injuries (along with the shocking hit-and-run on nearby MLK Way South that injured seven-year-old Zeytuna Edo last September), and two fatalities—numbers that dwarf the crashes-per-mile data (above 250) at comparable throughways like Aurora and Lake City Way (around 150).
The plan—due at the end of the month—is to reduce the speed limit and turn four through lanes into two, with a third lane in the middle serving as the left-turn lane.
The latest argument against the urban upgrade on Rainier Avenue South—SDOT is also considering pedestrian improvements such as more crosswalks, intermittent transit lanes, and perhaps some protected bike lanes—is, according to O'Brien's letter: gentrification.
After pulling rank with her own status as a bona fide local, O'Brien asks Kubly to address whether or not Rainier Valley can expect gentrification along with SDOT's "road diet" (as these sorts of projects are known.) Her arguments, though, both frown on gentrification while simultaneously noting "concerns" about an economic downgrade.
Mr. Kubly – I appreciate your email response, but you completely missed my point. I was asking about economic impacts to communities after road diets. I was asking you if gentrification was a known outcome to business districts after road diets. If this is known to planners at SDOT, why hasn’t it been communicated to us? You were extremely defensive when I asked about gentrification, citing cases of cyclists being killed while bike lanes were being built and Zeytuna laying in the middle of Martin Luther King Way and then being in a coma for 30 days. These incidents have nothing to do with motorists driving recklessly on Rainier Ave.
If we can expect more gentrification after a road diet, this negates our concerns about businesses suffering economic impacts. This should have been the answer, instead of agreeing to monitor sales tax receipts. If you believe that gentrification follows a road diet, just say so. I’m sure it is difficult to acknowledge gentrification outcomes to us when many sections of Rainier Valley are rapidly gentrifying, and many low income residents are being displaced. Your failure to acknowledge gentrification generates more distrust in SDOT.
I don't know if it counts as gentrification—or if it will ease O'Brien's concerns— but an academic study of two recent SDOT "road diets"—one in Greenwood around the 85th Street business corridor and one at Latona and 65th, found they did "not have a negative impact" on either business district. In fact, the data for the Latona redesign showed that business district sales increased dramatically.