Morning Fizz

Is the King County Council Relevant?

Questions about the King County Council, the Seattle Times, and landlords.

By Josh Feit August 9, 2016

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 1. Remember when the King County council used to be important? Or, more to the point: remember the King County council?

I’m being flip; the county does do important stuff like oversee Metro and the criminal justice system and elections and wastewater and…and…?

But ever since county voters rejected the Metro funding measure in 2015 and Seattle voters had to swoop in to approve a bus service upgrade later that year—effectively bolstering the city’s role in defining Metro—the county’s political stature has receded. Simultaneously, the city, with its super progressive city council and get-shit-done mayor—passing cutting edge workers’ rights legislation, ushering through innovative affordable housing policy, and redoing city infrastructure with a human-scale agenda—is charting the region’s political course.

That’s the dramatic conclusion I’ve come to anyway after last week’s primary election results. Two popular King County Council members, Joe McDermott from West Seattle and Dave Upthegrove from Burien, ran for promotions—McDermott going for U.S. Congress and Upthegrove going for state public lands commissioner. And neither one managed to even make it through the primary. McDermott, who’s been on the county council for five years now representing much of the same district he would have been representing in Congress, lost to a first-term state senator and a barely-into-his-second-term, 32-year-old, state representative. And Upthegrove lost out to a relatively unknown executive director of a hippie environmental non-profit.

The days of the county council as a stepping stone—Greg Nickels ascending to mayor of Seattle, for example—seem to have been replaced by the county council as cozy pensioner seat. (Quick! Who’s the King County council member representing Queen Anne and Ballard?)

Yes, King County council member Claudia Balducci seems to be ascendant, though that’s mostly because of her role on the Sound Transit board pushing things like paid parking.

And yes, yes, King County Council member Rod Dembowski—one of Seattle Met’s 2015 power players—may be the King County executive one of these days. But like I said: King County?

2. The Seattle Times responded to my story about Times publisher, CEO, and editorial board member Frank Blethen’s email exchange with Port of Seattle CEO Ted Fick; the emails documented Blethen’s proposal to the port to spend $290,000 on what appeared to be an insert advertorial. Blethen’s pitch happened in concert with the Times’s editorial page campaign against the SoDo arena. The Port of Seattle is a major opponent of the SoDo arena.

Seattle Times spokeswoman China Davis told me the Times well-established history of opposing the SoDo arena should dispel any appearance that Blethen’s pitch was related the Times’s editorial page coverage.

She tells me:

Over the past five years Mr. Blethen has been working with many large employers, private and public, on innovative advertising, branding and public-service packages. To try to connect one of these efforts with Seattle Times opinion content is simply not accurate. 

The Times’ opinion concerning the arena was well established long before this package was proposed, and before Mr. Fick even joined the Port, as evidenced in a June 2012 editorial, “Sorting out the financial risks of the Sodo sports arena."

Fick took the Port of Seattle job in 2014.

I will say, if consistency is the metric for whether or not pricey advertising is related to editorial coverage, that raises a question about the $100,000 five-day, full-page ad deal the Times ran for U.S. senator Maria Cantwell during her 2012 reelection campaign.

The Times editorial page did not endorse Cantwell for reelection in 2006 , but changed their mind in 2012. They published their Cantwell endorsement in mid-October. Cantwell accepted the Times ad pitch in late September.

3. Speaking of the super progressive city council (or more specifically, emerging council star Lisa Herbold), the council passed Herbold’s legislation yesterday to bar landlords from “source-of-income” discrimination when accepting tenants.

The Stranger’s Heidi Groover has a report.

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