Last Week in Politics

Top 10 Stories: City Light, Teachers Strike, and Paul Allen

Your weekly dose of top political stories.

By Grace Madigan September 4, 2018

1. Seattle mayor Jenny Durkan named her pick for the city's new CEO and general manager of City Light. Debra Smith comes from Newport, Oregon, where she most recently served as the CEO and general manger of Central Lincoln People's Utility District. The decision comes after a nationwide search to replace Larry Weis, who resigned in December. Seattle City Light has struggled this past year with several controversies, including customer service problems and complaints of workplace discrimination. 

2. The Washington Supreme Court ruled last week that the police reform measure, Initiative 940, will go on the November ballot—but not the amended version. The initiative aims to reform a 1986 law that made prosecuting police officers for use of deadly force nearly impossible. But conservative initiative peddler Tim Eyman challenged the process in which lawmakers passed it. 

The court ruled that lawmakers had violated the state constitution when passing the initiative and ordered the state to put only the original initiative on the ballot. The changed had been a compromise between activists and law enforcement. 

3. Last Tuesday, Seattle teachers and school staff voted to authorize a strike if school districts don't negotiate a contract by the first of day school. Members of the Seattle Education Association, which represents about 6,000 Seattle school employees, gathered at Benaroya Hall to approve the strike. Educators demanded a pay raise that reflects the cost of living. 

Labor and the Seattle School District reached a deal on Friday, which calls for a 10.5 percent raise for public school employees, five additional days of paid parental leave, and classified staff and office personnel. School will start as scheduled. 

4. The Seattle Police Officers' Guild agreed to a new contract with the city that includes accumulated pay raises of more than 17 percent for officers and sergeants. The Seattle Times reported that in exchange, the guild agreed to the removal of a strict legal standard regarding how officers can be fired for dishonesty and a narrower appeal process for officers who have been disciplined. Members of the guild will vote by mail to approve the proposed contract. 

5. The Seattle Times reported that Paul Allen—billionaire Seahawks owner and co-founder of Microsoft—donated to a group working to keep Republicans in control of the U.S. House of Representatives. In the past, Allen's political donations represented a more bipartisan leaning. In 2016 he donated $74,500 to federal Democratic candidates and $52,400 to Republicans.

Allen's representatives declined to comment on the reason for his shift in donations. This year, Allen donated $1.2 million to support Initiative 1639, which would impose more firearm regulations.

6. The Mariners are using their retractable roof as a reason to justify the $180 million in taxpayer money they're asking for. The team argues that it needs money to maintain the roof. The Mariners say the public's ownership of the ballpark is reason enough taxes should be contributed to its upkeep, while opponents say the team can afford to do it themselves. 

7. Seattle City Council member Rob Johnson wants to pass a new ordinance to save the city's treesCrosscut reported that Johnson's aides released their third proposal for how to update the city's tree laws, which remove several protections. Johnson's proposal would require property owners to plant trees to replace canopy lost from cutting down large trees, acquiring permits, and directing city-controlled tree planting to neighborhoods with large numbers of poor and minority residents.

Johnson hopes to push the ordinance through in time to request money for enforcement in the upcoming year's budget. 

8. The Stranger reported that Seattle is losing gas stations. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics quarterly census, there was a slight increase in the number of gas stations in King County, though that did not apply to Seattle. Gas stations often occupy space that's appealing to developers for apartments, since they're usually on land that's been upzoned. 

9. KUOW reported that Initiative 1634 gained the support of a coalition of minority grocery store owners. The preemption initiative aims to prevent laws like Seattle's soda tax, which went into effect in January.

Daniel Kim, a member of the Korean American Grocers of Washington, estimated that his sales dropped by 30 percent. The money from the tax will go toward healthy eating programs, early learning programs, and community college scholarships. Supporters of the initiative say they fear that food items could be next. 

10. U.S. District judge Robert Lasnik extended his court order that blocks a Texas-based company from posting designs for 3D-printable guns online until a court case is resolved. The case focuses on freedom of speech regarding the posting of the designs and export law, since the designs can be downloaded outside the U.S. 

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