Morning Fizz

Triad CEO Says Mayor Doesn't Get It

Last minute campaign calls, funding, and complaints.

By Josh Feit October 30, 2015

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1. There's plenty of last-minute money being spent in the final days of the election.

•After getting walloped with a $175,000 contribution to the no campaign from North Seattle property owner Faye Garneau this week (grand total now $325,000), the pro transportation levy side got a $30,000 infusion yesterday, including contributions from rich lefty Nick Hanauer ($15,000), the Service Employees International Union 775 ($5,000), and a personal contribution from mayor Ed Murray ($500.)

•The Seattle chamber of commerce political committee and the Seattle restaurant political committee spent about $20,000 each on "Get Out the Vote" phone banking for District One candidate Shannon Braddock and District Three Candidate Pamela Banks. Braddock and Banks are running against Lisa Herbold and Kshama Sawant, respectively, the populist lefties who give Seattle's business class fits.

2. It's worth noting that while Herbold is a key to Sawant's hopes of winning a council majority, Herbold, a longtime aide to Nick Licata, did not join Sawant at Sawant's press conference yesterday to call for Sawant's policy centerpiece millionaire's tax. Sawant, joined by three other council candidates, Jon Grant, Michael Maddux, and Tammy Morales, also called for the business "head tax," something she and Herbold's boss Licata have proposed many times. Herbold, who tells Fizz she supports progressive taxation like the head tax, explains that she couldn't take off work—she's still a Licata staffer—to do a campaign event. She also said she couldn't comment on the millionaire's tax—an income tax—until she had a better handle on the legal questions about the city's ability to do that.

Council member Tim Rasmussen, who has seen the city's legal opinion on a millionaires tax that he and Sawant requested, says Sawant is "misleading" voters by pledging to fund her policy proposals with a millionaire's tax.

3. This week's surprise move by Triad development to settle with the Tenants' Union over the group's lawsuit against Triad's development project across the street from city hall has put Mayor Murray in a tricky spot. After Triad developer Brett Allen (since fired) was caught trying to blackmail former Tenants' Union leader Jon Grant into getting the group to drop the suit, Mayor Murray publicly announced he would no longer work with Triad on the project. 

However, Triad has a contract to buy the land from with the city that's good until the end of the year. With the nuisance lawsuit out of the way now (several judges had ruled against the Tenants' Union, but the appeals were dogging the project), Triad is hoping to lock down funding and move forward.

The mayor's office told me the mayor doesn't expect Triad to make the deadline—Murray spokesman Viet Shelton noted that the firm still had to reach a deal with King County about the nearby bus tunnel entrance, go through some technical hoops with the city council, and also show evidence of secured funding. However, Shelton would not definitively say the mayor would stand by his pledge to find a new developer if Triad, indeed, checked off all the necessary boxes. Shelton would only say Triad's history (eight years now) of failing to get its ducks in a row made him confident the city would be moving on.

Here's the mayor's official statement:

“Today’s news doesn’t change my fundamental position from two weeks ago. I remain troubled by how Triad operates in our community. My administration inherited a contractual relationship with Triad, and eight years later there has been no visible progress on the project. In spite of today’s announcement, significant hurdles remain for Triad to meet their obligations under that contract. When this contract expires on December 31, I still have no intention of seeking an extension.”

However, Triad executive Fred Grimm told Fizz yesterday: "The city cannot just walk from the deal. While the mayor may not understand the city’s obligations, there are plenty of smart people working at the city who do. Presumably the mayor will be brought up to speed. We are confident that he will ultimately cause the city to fulfill its obligations."

Grimm added: "As the mayor fully understands, it is difficult to get financing if your permits are under attack.  Even though the courts have ruled in our favor every step of the way so far, we faced the very real possibility of having things continued to be delayed by further appeals until first quarter 2017.  Now that we have removed the lawsuit as an obstacle, we can get busy wrapping everything else up."

4.  An ethics complaint has been filed against council president member Tim Burgess. The complaint, citing several times when Burgess's twitter feed has taken sides on political campaigns—supporting last year's preschool funding measure, for example, or retweeting endorsements for himself and candidate Lorena Gonzalez—argues that because Burgess promotes his twitter feed on his official council website, he has violated the rules against public officials using public resources for electioneering.

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 Seattle Ethics and Elections director Wayne Barnett would not comment on the complaint, but did  point me to the commission's 2014 opinion on city officials' use of social media, which says: 

Elected officials and the City employees who answer to them may not provide visitors to City web sites, or recipients of City communications, with links to sites that contain campaign advocacy or information about how to contact or learn about campaigns. The public cannot be directed from official communications to sites that contain campaign advocacy posted by the official or an agent of his or her campaign.

The complaint was filed by Kathy Yasi, a Sawant supporter who has contributed the $700 max to Sawant's campaign. Sawant's ally, tenants' rights advocate Jon Grant, is running against Burgess.

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