Video: Three hot topics aired at 34th District Democrats

From this week’s June meeting of the 34th District Democrats, our video of the guest speakers on three much-discussed topics – income inequality, background checks for gun purchases, and the recent adoption of Singapore Math for the entire Seattle Public Schools district. The three clips, and our toplines from the discussions, are after the jump:

INCOME INEQUALITY: Seattle’s recent council vote and the state of efforts elsewhere, including Burien, comprised the discussion, with three panelists: Seattle Councilmember Kshama Sawant, Burien Councilmember Lauren Berkowitz, and Working Washington‘s Sage Wilson:

The discussion was wide-ranging and as much of a recap as a look ahead. Wilson said the idea of a $15-minimum-wage law was “so big and so impossible-sounding” at first, “kind of a crazy thing for someone to be asking for (but) I think in retrospect that turned out to be a strength” of the campaign: “The bigness of it has really paid off. … The level of public support is what is really quite extraordinary.” Berkowitz described her city as “really kind of behind” on the minimum-wage issue, and discussed work toward changing that. Third to speak was Councilmember Sawant, who said she didn’t expect to be here talking about a victory, but rather talking about still trying to get it passed. When fast-food workers walked out in 2012, “they didn’t know what was going to happen afterward,” she said. “… While fast-food strikes have happened everywhere, the first major $15 passage was in Seattle,” she noted, and asked rhetorically, why is that? She mentioned business owners’ “doomsday scenarios,” and “people using quasi-racist language” referring to immigrant workers, but “it was clear that the majority of people rejected that kind of anti-worker rhetoric, that kind of poverty-defending language.” She mentioned the polls showing a majority of Seattleites supporting the minimum-wage increase. And she added,
“However, I think it’s also important for us to recognize that the other component of the momentum … was the election of a socialist to City Council,” she said, referring of course to herself , and noting that the minimum-wage increase was part of her platform.

She says she thinks small businesses will feel better “when they see that nothing bad is going to happen out of it.” But she said the overall income issue is far from settled, mentioning the council vote days later on a raise for City Light’s top executive (she was the only “no” vote “because I don’t think $245,000 is an inadequate sum to live on,” drawing laughter).

Q/A followed – see our video for that.

INITIATIVE 594: Cheryl Stumbo, the former West Seattleite who survived the Jewish Federation shooting eight years ago, is the “citizen sponsor” for the background-check-requiring initiative:

She talked about what it took to recover – 20 surgeries over three years. “It’s not like in the movies – you don’t get hit by a bullet and fall backward on the floor, get taken to the hospital, they take it, they sew you up and you go back to work, that’s not how it works … gun violence is a serious problem in our city, in our state, in our country” and she finally decided it was time to take a stand. She is the citizen sponsor of the initiative. “We will make it so you cannot buy a gun in Washington legally if you have not passed a background check.” According to Stumbo, universal background checks are the one single thing that can be done to save lives, and that states with them have seen a drop in gun-related violence: “if you hear the gun lobby saying background checks won’t work, crimnals will find a way to get guns, don’t believe it.” After she spoke, the group voted to endorse I-594. (The 34th DDs’ endorsements page is here.)

SCHOOL BOARD MEMBERS ON MATH CURRICULUM: West Seattle school-board rep Marty McLaren and fellow board member Sue Peters explained the recent vote by 4 of 7 board members (including both of them) to adopt Math In Focus, aka “Singapore Math,” as the new districtwide curriculum – despite a committee’s recommendation to adopt another curriculum, enVision.

Peters noted that members of the public who weighed in had voiced a preference for “Singapore Math,” among other reasons. An argument against enVision, Peters said, was that it was text-heavy, which is a problem for English-language-learner students. They originally proposed “dual adoption” – allowing schools to choose either enVision or Math in Focus – but heard a lot of criticism that a dual adoption would be difficult, so they proposed MiF as the lone curriculum, and it passed. “This has been a long battle in Seattle,” she observed. “(Also) you may have heard this is more expensive … but the numbers are not in (yet).” McLaren brought up the reported revolt against the vote with schools possibly seeking waivers en masse – but she said they just got word that “no waivers have been granted.” Asked what criteria was used to choose the textbook, Peters replied, “The Math Adoption Committee did the best they could with the information they were given” but she’s not sure they were fully informed regarding board policy, especially regarding whether a “text-heavy” math curriculum would meet board policy.

Also mentioned at the meeting in both the announcements and the “good of the order” section – a major voter-registration drive under way; the West Seattle Democratic Women‘s June 26th meeting featuring a screening of “Inequality for All”; the 34th DDs’ plan to march in the Pride Parade on June 29th; State Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon‘s July 1st campaign kickoff, with State House Speaker Frank Chopp as a guest; and the upcoming Garden Party fundraiser, this year to be held at the Technology Access Foundation’s space in White Center’s Lakewood Park.

An August 5th election issue for White Center and vicinity was mentioned too – the North Highline Fire District’s “benefit charge” (explained on our partner site White Center Now).

The 34th District Democrats meet on second Wednesdays, 7 pm, The Hall at Fauntleroy, and are online at

3 Replies to "Video: Three hot topics aired at 34th District Democrats"

  • Lee June 15, 2014 (2:16 pm)

    Lame excuses by Ms. Peters and Ms. McLaren. The committee members didn’t have all the information? Why not? These people spent many, many hours to come up with the decision. enVision more closely matches what our students will be tested on. The teachers will once again be forced to cobble together a math curriculum to make sure the topics in the tests will be covered. And what programs will be cut to make up for the estimated $3.9 million difference?

  • onion June 15, 2014 (5:21 pm)

    Sawant: “I think it’s also important for us to recognize that the other component of the momentum … was the election of a socialist to City Council,” she said, referring of course to herself , and noting that the minimum-wage increase was part of her platform.”

    In a liberal city such as Seattle it can be hard to carve out a distinctive constituency. I suppose Sawant has done that. But I hope that her self-congratulating ego helps make her a one-term nuisance on the Council.

  • NotOnHolden June 15, 2014 (7:18 pm)

    Lee, my son used MIF at STEM for the last 2 years, he’s doing well enough on the tests that are taught to that he’s been invited to test for APP or whatever. He was also invited when he first came to Seattle and used Everyday Math, either way, MIF is not going to destroy math curriculum, it will only make it better.

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