Morning Fizz

Darcy Burner Plays Sanders Role in Local Race as Democratic House Committee Funds Her Establishment Opponent

Democrats snub Burner, City Council backs hotel workers, and Burgess cites an iffy stat.

By Josh Feit July 26, 2016

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1. There seems to be a Bernie Sanders sorta storyline in Washington’s Fifth state Legislative District where left wing candidate Darcy Burner is running in the primary for an open state house seat.

While progressive groups such as NARAL, the Washington State Progressive State Caucus, the King County Young Democrats, the teachers union, the King County Democrats, and the Fifth LD itself have all given Burner their sole endorsement, the official house Democrats have gone all in for another Democrat in the primary race, Matt Larson.

Making its second $25,000 contribution to Larson late last week, the House Democratic Campaign Caucus Committee has now contributed a stunning $50,000 to Larson, the mayor of Snoqualmie. They have not contributed to Burner. Mark Mullett, the incumbent Democratic sate senator from the Fifth who has endorsed Larson, has also made two big contributions to Larson, giving $1,600.  Larson has racked up the lion’s share of endorsements from elected Democrats, including King County Executive Dow Constantine, U.S. representative Suzan DelBene (who beat out Burner in the 2012 U.S. congressional Democratic primary), King County council member Claudia Balducci, and Seattle mayor Ed Murray, plus a parade of area Democratic state reps, including state representatives Judy Clibborn (D-41, Mercer Island), Tana Senn, (D-41, Mercer Island), and state representative Roger Goodman (D-45, Kirkland).

Burner, who emerged in 2006 as a “netroots” progressive favorite in her race for U.S. congress, but lost to now U.S. representative Dave Reichert (R-WA, 8), ran and lost again to Reichert in 2008 and then came in third in the 2012 primary for the newly drawn First U.S. Congressional District. Her biggest donors are environmentalist donors like Peter Goldman and the teachers’ union.  

With all the musical chairs in this year’s election, the open house seat in the Fifth LD could be key to whether the Democrats stay in control in the house.

The Republican in the race, Paul Graves, is a Perkins Coie attorney and charter schools advocate.

2. The Seattle city council voted to send I-124 to the fall ballot yesterday. The initiative, being pushed by UNITE HERE Local 8, the hotel workers’ union, mandates protections against sexual harassment of hotel housekeepers, workers who are predominantly women. For example, the measure says hotels should install “Panic Buttons” in rooms. (The initiative also seeks to improve workers’ health care coverage and protect unionized workers when their hotel changes ownership.)

Council member Kshama Sawant, just in from protesting against Hillary Clinton in Philadelphia, had made the case earlier this month for simply enacting the initiative as a “councilmanic” bill without going to the ballot. Before voting along with the unanimous council yesterday to send the measure to the ballot, she repeated that wish, saying the council “had lost the opportunity to show the kind of leadership that these hotel workers have shown.”

The majority of the council, including the council’s other social justice leaders, Lorena González (who spoke candidly about her legal experience representing Latina hotel workers that had been victims of workplace sexual harassment) and Lisa Herbold (who lamented the fact that the hotel industry wasn’t voluntarily implementing policies to protect women from sexual harassment and had to be taken to the ballot box by “courageous women”), made it clear they wanted to give voters the right to weigh in.

One apparent red herring against the measure? The ACLU’s supposed concern that I-124’s mandate to keep a “blacklist” of abusive hotel guests raised civil liberties alarm bells. Council member Sally Bagshaw had raised that concern earlier this month, but the ACLU tells me they have not taken a position on I-124, adding “We have not seen or heard anything substantiating the idea that civil rights or civil liberties groups have concerns with the contents of the initiative.”

Bagshaw, who was out of town during yesterday’s vote, tells me “I had been told they thought the ‘blacklisting’ provision was a problem, and everyone is working on finding a solution.” She added that she supports I-124.  

3. City council member Tim Burgess has provided a stat in the debate to regulate Airbnb hosts to dramatize that the short term rental industry is cutting into the long term rental market, and as a result, squeezing rents: 12.8 percent of available units on the market are short-term rentals.

Asked how he got the figure—after all, Airbnb has pointed out that just 13 percent of their 2,900 hosts rent at off-site properties (about 300 units of the city’s 325,000 units)—Burgess’s staffer Nat Van Duzer explained that the 12.8 percent figure came from council legislative staff taking the number of  entire unit listings on Airbnb as the numerator and the number of vacant housing units from the census as the denominator. (“Entire units” or “whole units” are units with their own separate entrance, which makes them more likely to be housed in off-site properties as opposed to in the host’s home. Off-site housing is more likely in competition with long-term rentals than on-site rooms.)

In generating this number, however, the city is comparing the number of Airbnb whole home listings to the number of total vacant units in Seattle. This analysis assumes listings are either located in the city's vacant housing units, causing them to be vacant, or that they are otherwise kept from housing long-term tenants. Since the vast majority of Airbnb's listings are located in occupied housing units that have primary residents or in space that would otherwise not be on the long-term market (some are hotel rooms, some converted basements and attics, private suites in homes, and things like grandmother units), the comparison seems iffy.  

Again: Given that Seattle has between 300,000-350,000 total housing units, even assuming ALL Airbnb units were taken off the market, max 1-2 percent of housing stock would be impacted.

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