Morning Roundup

Former Ed Murray Spokesman Reportedly Accused of Sexual Harassment in 2016

Your local politics morning digest.

By Hayat Norimine April 24, 2018

SEXUAL HARASSMENT IN THE WORKPLACE: BENTON STRONG, once a spokesperson for former Seattle mayor Ed Murray, is the focal point of BuzzFeed report on how the Center for American Progress in D.C. failed to act when one of its own female employees brought a sexual harassment case in the workplace forward. 

Strong—who worked for the Center for American Progress shortly before he joined the city—had been accused by a junior female staffer known only as "Mary" that he sexually harassed her, which included sending her texts late at night saying he wanted to perform oral sex on her and making comments about her body, BuzzFeed reported.

In a statement to BuzzFeed, Strong didn't deny the accusations, apologized, and said the mistakes "helped me to grow and change in these last two years." After Murray's resignation, Strong took a job at the Seattle Office of Sustainability and Environment—and resigned after BuzzFeed contacted him and the city about its story.

With Jenny Durkan taking over the mayor's office, the timing worked out well for Strong when it had seemed like his lost position was part of a reshuffle.

Housing for all coalition sweeps head tax budget committee hearing oeddd3

Activists supporting more revenue for homeless services hold signs against the city's sweeps at a 2017 public hearing. 

HEAD TAX: SEATTLE CITY COUNCIL held a tumultuous public hearing on the employee hours tax Monday night. After a warning, council member Sally Bagshaw—over protests from Kshama Sawant—promptly kicked the public out of the council chambers when they began chanting, let them back in a handful at a time, and asked that they exit through the other doors separate from the rest of the public. 

This quickly backfired when those signed up refused to speak or give their testimony and demanded that the rest of the public be let into the public hearing. Bagshaw ended up letting the crowd back in after Lorena Gonzalez asked that they open the doors. 

"I am really genuinely interested in hearing from folks, even those that I disagree with," she said. "I can't in good conscience sit here and allow folks on the other side of the wall to feel like they were excluded." When the crowd returned, Lisa Herbold said that chanting was part of their First Amendment rights but asked that they not do it too long so they could get on with the testimony.

What did the public actually have to say? Here are some notable quotes on both sides: 

"Seattle is not a tax poor city. ... You have an opportunity to decide whether you want to make addressing this a priority with the abundant resources that you already have." -Seattle Chamber CEO and former Tacoma mayor Marilyn Strickland

"We're not really hitting the mark with $75 million. We need the revenue that represents that crisis. I know that a lot of small businesses struggle to just have the workers be able to afford to live in the city. This is a really important push for affordable housing." -Shirley Henderson, co-owner of Squirrel Chops in the Central District

"We're not a small business. We are a low-margin business. ... We would ask that you consider exempting all health care providers." -Lloyd David, executive director of the Polyclinic, who said the tax would make the Polyclinic choose between reducing care to underinsured patients or living wages

"We care deeply about this issue. ... This proposal exempts small businesses from paying the tax. It will not exempt small businesses from the impacts of this tax." -Jon Scholes, CEO of the Downtown Seattle Association

"This needs to happen. ... If we were to spend every penny perfectly, it would still not be enough." -Jon Grant, former city council candidate and ex-Tenants Union director

Saying this is a regional problem "is called punting. Our neighbors deserve better than that." -Tiffany McCoy, Real Change lead organizer

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