Morning Fizz

Friday Likes and Dislikes Featuring Lorena González and Rob Johnson

Outtakes from our interviews with city council race frontrunners, including their opinions on the transportation levy and HALA recommendations.

By Josh Feit September 4, 2015

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Conveniently enough for Friday’s regular Fizz LIKES and DISLIKES, we interviewed two more city council candidates at Seattle Met’s offices yesterday for our upcoming endorsements: Lorena González, the civil rights attorney who’s running for the open Position Nine at-large seat (we had her opponent Bill Bradburd in the day before), and Rob Johnson, the head of transit advocacy group Transportation Choices Coalition, who’s running for the U District–to–Sand Point District Four seat. Johnson won the top-two primary, knocking out longtime incumbent Jean Godden; Johnson is facing second-place finisher, all-star Democratic activist Michael Maddux.

As part of the interview we ran the candidates through a round of  LIKES and DISLIKES.

Here’s what they had to say.

1. Johnson LIKED the idea of allowing homeless encampments in single family zones, but noted he wanted the encampments to be near transit; nearly all of Johnson’s answers come back to transit.

Oooooh. Defying PubliCola’s party line, Johnson LIKED the hookah lounge crackdown noting he’s “a public health guy” and he supported the ban on indoor smoking. He added that “obviously the rollout was pretty shitty.” He said he’d have no problems with hookah lounges if they were legit private clubs: “We should ensure that hookah lounges become private clubs and operate the same as other private clubs that allow smoking whether it’s cannabis or tobacco.”

Johnson DISLIKES that 65 percent of the city is zoned single family (“Let’s build out the missing middle” of duplexes and triplexes”). He said he was disappointed that the mayor pulled back on the HALA recommendation to add flexibility for housing types. “I would have loved to see that discussion play out,” he said, adding that when he was knocking on doors in the immediate aftermath of the HALA recs, about half the people he talked to were “superexcited and ready to go” on the idea of upzoning or selling property. “I think that missing voice” didn’t get reported in the press. He also noted that he snapped a cell phone picture of a triplex that had been grandfathered into an SFZ in his district (fitting right in with the character) and showed it around to skeptics at the doors to try and pursue a conversation.

Johnson LIKED the Black Lives Matter protest at Bernie Sanders’s speech. “I like what they did,” he said, explaining that it’s important for people to be “confronted with realities they don’t have to see or hear or think about every day.”

Like or dislike that the landlord lobby, the restaurant owners’ lobby, and the chamber backed you with a major independent expenditure?

Johnson: “I like it, and the reason why I like it is because it demonstrates my ability to build coalitions. I don’t always agree with their politics all the time, but they still endorse me as candidate despite,” he said, telling the chamber he supported an ordinance to give retail and restaurant workers more advance notice of scheduling. “They still endorsed me as a candidate. I’ve always been up front with the people I work with whether you’re on the left or the right, and I think that independent expenditure is a reflection of my ability to build broad-based coalitions.”

When asked, Johnson told us he would turn over the questionnaires he filled out for all three bogeyman groups, so we could check out his answers.

Johnson LIKED the state legislature’s transportation package. He cited the nearly $1 billion in multimodal transit (“the highest it’s ever been in state history”) and said only 24 percent of the $16 billion package is for big roadway expansion projects. Mainly, though, he hyped the $15 billion for Sound Transit.

Johnson LIKED I-122 the ballot measure for $100 campaign vouchers to publicly finance candidates. He’s endorsed the measure.

Johnson didn’t have a take on the Department of Neighborhood’s decision to overturn the Pioneer Square preservation board’s decision to stop a condo development on Alaskan Way.

It wasn’t part of our official LIKES and DISLIKES questionnaire, but Johnson told us he LIKED lefty candidate Lisa Herbold’s call for legislation that doesn’t allow landlords to discriminate based on source of income—i.e., waiving deposits for Amazon employees and he DISLIKED Mike O’Brien’s recent suite of legislation to rein in pod apartment development and density in low-rise zones.

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2. González LIKES the proposed Ballard homeless encampment.

González DISLIKES closing down hookah lounges.

González “really LIKES” the HALA deal. “I’m doing a happy dance,” she said.

González LIKES the $930 transportation levy.

González was mixed on the recent smoking ban in parks. She said it was “nuanced for me,” explaining that the policy could disproportionately impact poor people and communities of color. “While I’m generally supportive of a smoking ban in parks, what I’m going to be paying attention to is how is it being enforced, where is it being enforced, and who is it being enforced against, because I am not going to be supportive of any policy that disproportionately impacts the poor or people of color.”

Asked if there was any way it wouldn’t (by the way, her opponent Bradburd DISLIKED the ban without any footnotes), she said: “Perhaps if they were having an enforcement strategy that didn’t focus solely on downtown parks, that would be possible.”

González LIKED the shared-parking idea presented by the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict.

González LIKED the Black Lives Matter action at the Bernie Sanders speech at Westlake applauding the activists for “engaging in a brave act of civil disobedience,” as she put it.

González DISLIKED that 65 percent of the city is zoned single family. As for the mayor pulling back on he full rezone, she said she understood, but added: “My hope is that we don’t lose sight of the fact that his recommendation was made. And helping people understand why preserving 65 percent of our land as single family zoning might not be sustainable."

Asked about the potential of a lefty push to challenge the deal from Kshama Sawant and council hopefuls Jon Grant and Lisa Herbold to expand the linkage fee, González wasn't interested. "I am more interested in upholding this bargain and the deal that was struck. There’s a lot of different stake holders. A lot of folks that I trust in the social justice groups have all come out in support of this grand bargain, and I’m going to stand with those folks."

González LIKED that the Department of Neighborhoods overturned the Pioneer Square Preservation Board's decision to stop a development on Alaskan Way.

And while it wasn’t part of our formal LIKES/DISLIKES questionnaire, González did make it clear that she DISLIKED mayor Ed Murray’s current labor enforcement legislation because a private right of action for employees to challenge employers on issues like wage theft was MIA.

“I think having a private right of action is absolutely critical. Making sure our penalties and remedies actually have teeth. It’s unclear to me whether or not he’ll be supportive of a private right of action.”

Indeed, UFCW Local 21 policy director Sarah Cherin sent a letter to Murray in late July demanding the change to his legislation.

Dear Mayor Murray,

We would like to formally respond to the recent discussions about the upcoming changes to labor standards enforcement. While we are encouraged by many of the proposals on the table, and appreciate your effort to ensure that the laws we passed are now actually being enforced, we are concerned about many in the business community and their claims that private right of action was an issue that was taken off the table in the IIAC discussions. We wanted to express in no uncertain terms that private right of action was never “bargained away” and is critical to any successful labor standards enforcement. 

Let’s be clear, not including private right of action in your recommendations to council is protecting businesses that have broken the law from being held accountable in a court of law. What these businesses are asking you to do is to protect them from the phantom specter of frivolous lawsuits by denying workers one of the most basic rights in our country—the right to have your day in court.

To set the record straight, private right of action is not something that we negotiated away during the IIAC discussion. If anything, almost all decisions about enforcement strategies were either not discussed or explicitly “punted” to the Labor Standards Advisory Group and future enforcement ordinances. As we understood it, nothing was off the table for the future discussions of how best to enforce these important laws. We know this because: 1) we have no document, or draft document that explicitly mentions private right of action being permanently taken off the table, 2) private right of action is a core enforcement strategy for most labor standards around the state and country and not something a labor coalition would bargain away, 3) there was extensive ongoing discussion about private right of action in the Labor Standards Advisory Group, which was documented in the report from that group; this discussion would not have occurred had this enforcement strategy been off the table.

Most importantly, private right of action is just good policy. Private right of action is a basic standard for almost all labor standards both in Washington state and federally. In fact, out of 22 local jurisdictions around the country that have raised minimum wages, only 2 have no private right of action. Some in business argue that a private right of action will lead to frivolous lawsuits. This argument is both ridiculous on its face and insulting to low-wage workers. Are the myriad of labor, civil rights, and environmental laws that currently include a private right of action clogging the courts with frivolous lawsuits? Do we not have a court system that is well equipped to divine the frivolous suits from those with merit? Do low-wage workers have an army of lawyers on retainer, just waiting for the chance to file frivolous suits against employers?

The truth is, the primary reason why employers are so opposed to private right of action is simply that this enforcement strategy holds wrongdoers accountable. Private right of action helps to ensure that all businesses in Seattle are held to the same standard. What are the motives behind passing some of the most important labor standards in the country and then not giving workers the tools to actually hold corporations accountable when they violate the law? Any enforcement law that does not include private right of action will allow those businesses that are breaking the law off the hook, and strip thousands of Seattle’s most vulnerable workers of the rights and pay that they deserve. 

Thank you, 

Sarah

3. Speaking of LIKES and DISLIKES and city council candidates, we missed this, but it has come to our attention that lefty city council member Mike O'Brien has endorsed West Seattle District One candidate Lisa Herbold; Herbold is the longtime aide of O'Brien's commie council bloc ally, retiring council member Nick Licata.

In an email invite to a recent Herbold fundraiser O'Brien wrote late last month:

I believe in transparent governance and a clean environment. For the last six years I have worked with Lisa Herbold at city hall, and I know she shares those values. As council member Nick Licata's legislative aide for the last 17 years, Lisa has been a steadfast champion of open and accountable government and affordable housing.

I've endorsed Lisa...

 

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