West Seattle, Washington
Those are the four candidates for 34th District State Senator who participated in Thursday’s forum presented by the West Seattle Democratic Women – from left, Shannon Braddock, Joe Nguyen, Sofia Aragon, and Lem Charleston. Here’s our unedited video of the forum, held at the West Seattle YMCA (WSB sponsor) in The Triangle and moderated by WSDW’s Rachel Glass:
11 candidates in all (listed on this King County Elections page) are running for the seat that Sen. Sharon Nelson is giving up; the field will be narrowed to two by the August 7th primary, for which ballots will be mailed July 18th.
The next announced forum in West Seattle is planned by the WS Chamber of Commerce, 6:30 pm July 19th at the Disabled American Veterans hall (4857 Delridge Way SW), with a focus on transportation and business issues; all welcome.
Will a new standard for excessive vehicle noise – distance instead of decibels – eventually lead to more police enforcement and a quieter Alki (and elsewhere)? The changes proposed by West Seattle/South Park Councilmember Lisa Herbold – who explained them at length earlier this month – won final council approval this afternoon. Discussion and voting started 35 minutes into today’s Full Council meeting:
You can find the full legislation here, along with one approved amendment – sponsored by citywide Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda, asking for quarterly reports on how the law is being implemented, so they could track any concerns or “unintended consequences.” That passed unanimously; the bill itself had one “no” vote, Councilmember Kshama Sawant, who expressed concerns that the change to a subjective enforcement standard could take an unintended toll on people driving noisy old cars, for example, because that’s all they can afford, though she said she agrees that people have a “right to peace and quiet.” So how long until this facilitates enforcement? Herbold said SPD had committed to a “robust” outreach/information campaign before starting. If you have questions, your next chance to ask police will be at tomorrow (Tuesday) night’s West Seattle Crime Prevention Council meeting, 7 pm at the Southwest Precinct (2300 SW Webster).
An expanded version of two expiring Seattle levies will be on your ballot this November. From the announcement of today’s unanimous City Council vote:
The Seattle City Council voted 9-0 to approve Mayor Jenny Durkan’s Families, Education, Preschool, and Promise plan to significantly increase the children in preschool, increase investments in K-12, and expand access to college for Seattle public school graduates through the Seattle Promise College Tuition Program.
With both the 2011 Families & Education Levy and 2014 Seattle Preschool Program Levy set to expire this year, Mayor Durkan proposed that the City renew and combine them through a new Families, Education, Preschool and Promise plan. Homeowners of a median-assessed-value property ($665,000 in 2019) would pay approximately $20 each month. For the first time, qualified low-income seniors, people with disabilities, and veterans with a service-connected disability will be eligible for an exemption. Following Mayor Durkan’s signature, the plan will be placed on the ballot for Seattle voters’ consideration in November 2018. …
… As proposed by Mayor Durkan and amended by the City Council, Mayor Durkan’s plan would make seven years of investments to:
Continue the pilot of the Seattle Preschool program and substantially increase the number of children in quality preschool from 1,500 in 2018-19 to 2,500 in 2025-26;
Increase K-12 and community investments in closing the opportunity gap, increasing teacher diversity, providing support services for students experiencing homelessness, and helping students most at risk of dropping out of school;
Continue our strong support for school-based health programs; and
Expand access to college for Seattle public school graduates through support for the Seattle Promise College Tuition Program, which would serve approximately 1,350 high school students participating in college prep and 875 Seattle Promise college students each year.
As of this fall, pre-levy vote, West Seattle High School joins Chief Sealth International High School and four other schools in what started as the 13th Year Promise program, a free year at South Seattle College (WSB sponsor). If the levy passes, all graduating public-high-school seniors in Seattle would be eligible for two free years at any of the Seattle Colleges, not just SSC. Meantime, for a comparison of the levy cost to taxpayers vs. what they’re paying now, it’s $9.36 more a month for that “median homeowner,” according to Councilmember Lorena González.
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
The result, on a second ballot, was a dual endorsement of Shannon Braddock and Joe Nguyen, who tied at 62 votes each in the runoff; she had led the first round with 57 votes – not enough for a sole endorsement – and he was in second with 39 votes,
We’ll add video highlights later (10:38 pm update – first ones added below), but first, here’s how the nomination process – including more than an hour of vote-counting – unfolded:
There was anger, chanting, shouting … and public comment on both sides. After a two-plus-hour meeting, seven City Councilmembers voted this afternoon to repeal the head tax they had approved less than a month ago (the “no” votes were Teresa Mosqueda and Kshama Sawant). In case you missed it, the Seattle Channel video is now available. Once public comment ended at about 1:11 into the meeting, West Seattle/South Park Councilmember Lisa Herbold was the first to comment pre-vote, starting at 1:14 in and continuing for seven minutes of near-fury. She refuted the claims that no progress is being made against homelessness, but said that progress is limited because more affordable housing needs to be built. She said the repeal vote “runs counter to my values as a person” but she felt compelled to vote for it because a majority of Seattle citizens believe homelessness has resulted from “government inefficiency.” “People say we are bowing to political pressure, but nothing could be further from the truth,” she insisted, saying a ballot fight between now and November would do more damage. She said she hoped the repeal would be a “temporary setback.” Other councilmembers who commented at length included West Seattle-residing citywide Councilmember Lorena González, who with Herbold co-chaired the task force that came up with the head-tax; starting at 1:38 in the video, saying “all the solutions (to homelessness) require new and additional revenue.” She said, “It gives me no pleasure to have to repeal this law because I think this law was well done” and vowed to “fight for solutions that will not tear this city apart.” She added that this is “a defining moment in the city of Seattle … and not a good one.”
12:49 PM: Just in from the mayor’s office:
Seattle Mayor Jenny A. Durkan and members of the City Council including Council President Bruce A. Harrell, Councilmember Sally Bagshaw, Councilmember Lorena Gonzalez, Councilmember Lisa Herbold, Councilmember Rob Johnson, Councilmember Debora Juarez, and Councilmember Mike O’Brien released the following statement announcing the consideration of legislation to repeal a tax on large businesses to address the homelessness and housing crisis:
“We know that there are strong passions and genuine policy differences between neighbors, businesses, community leaders, and people across our City on how to best address our housing and homelessness crisis. This crisis has been years in the making and there are no easy solutions. The crisis is tied to a range of complex causes, including lack of affordable housing, unmet mental health and substance abuse issues, and systemic racial disparities in our foster care, criminal justice and educational systems.
“In recent months, we worked with a range of businesses, community groups, advocates, and working families to enact a bill that struck the right balance between meaningful progress on our affordability and homelessness crisis while protecting good, family-wage jobs. Over the last few weeks, these conversations and much public dialogue has continued. It is clear that the ordinance will lead to a prolonged, expensive political fight over the next five months that will do nothing to tackle our urgent housing and homelessness crisis. These challenges can only be addressed together as a city, and as importantly, as a state and a region.
“We heard you. This week, the City Council is moving forward with the consideration of legislation to repeal the current tax on large businesses to address the homelessness crisis.
“The City remains committed to building solutions that bring businesses, labor, philanthropy, neighborhoods and communities to the table. Now more than ever, we all must roll up our sleeves and tackle this crisis together. These shared solutions must include a continued focus on moving our most vulnerable from the streets, providing needed services and on building more housing as quickly as possible. The state and region must be full partners and contribute to the solutions, including working for progressive revenue sources. Seattle taxpayers cannot continue to shoulder the majority of costs, and impacts.”
The signature-gathering drive to put the head tax on the ballot had been widely reported to have already gathered more signatures than needed.
1:01 PM: Here’s the announcement of a special council meeting at noon tomorrow to consider the proposed repeal. Here’s the agenda; its accompanying “fiscal note” points out that “… King County Elections will bill the City some additional cost for having the repeal measure on the November 2018 ballot. If the City acts to repeal this legislation without the referendum, these additional election costs will be avoided.”
1:49 PM: Both of the two councilmembers who did not sign on to the repeal plan have commented via Twitter. Citywide Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda issued her statement here, saying she will not support the repeal. Councilmember Kshama Sawant calls the repeal move a “backroom betrayal.”
Last night, we chronicled the City Council’s HALA Mandatory Housing Affordability upzoning public hearing in West Seattle as it happened – you can read toplines from all of the more than 50 speakers in that report here. This morning, our video of the 2+-hour hearing is ready to go, and we’re publishing it separately here since an unfixable technical glitch has cut off commenting on last night’s story.
In the video, you’ll see and hear city staffer Sara Maxana‘s presentation on toplines of the upzoning proposal, followed by each speaker stepping up to the microphone. City Councilmembers did not speak or vote – this was a chance purely for the public to speak. Four were present – District 1’s Lisa Herbold, citywide reps Lorena González (also a West Seattle resident) and Teresa Mosqueda, and Rob Johnson, who chairs the council’s land-use-related committees this year. No date is set yet for the council’s vote; the appeal of the HALA MHA Environmental Impact Statement filed by a citywide coalition of neighborhood groups is scheduled for hearings starting later this month.
6:03 PM: The first big West Seattle meeting about HALA (Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda) MHA (Mandatory Housing Affordability) upzoning was December 2016, “open house” style, centered in a crowded Junction restaurant. Tonight, a year and a half later, as the proposal inches closer to a City Council vote, a public hearing is under way in the relatively cavernous Chief Sealth International High School auditorium. It’s starting with a short refresher on toplines for District 1 (also presented to councilmembers yesterday) – here’s the slide deck:
We’ll be updating as this unfolds, and we’re recording video, as is Seattle Channel.
6:07 PM: Three councilmembers are here as the hearing begins – West Seattleites Lorena González (who has citywide Position 9) and Lisa Herbold (District 1 rep) and committee chair Rob Johnson. City staffer Sara Maxana is giving the presentation that will be followed by public comment. The slides she’s going through are the ones in the deck – if you haven’t checked yet to see what changes are proposed for your neighborhood, you can use this online map. Even if you have been keeping up with the proposal, you might consider reviewing the deck “At the end of the day, what this program is about is trying to get new income- and rent-restricted housing” for the city, Maxana wraps up.
6:15 PM: Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda is here now too. A group from the MLK County Labor Council is speaking first as the public hearing begins; Councilmember Johnson says about 40 people are signed up to speak. The labor group’s members say they are for the proposal because the area needs more affordable housing and their members can’t afford to live in the city. Next is Matt Hutchins, a West Seattleite who says he is “lucky” because he can live here, but he is worried about others who can’t. He’s also worried about whether he will be able to age in place, and whether his daughter will be able to live in the area where she is growing up. “Building more homes for people who need them is a fundamental societal necessity,” he says. “I want to keep West Seattle livable, affordable, vibrant, growing.”
Next, Delridge resident Kirsten Smith is first to speak for a group of architects who support MHA. Another member says they feel “more affordable housing” is needed. Yet another member says the city’s in a crisis and has only a “finite amount of land … we believe density is the answer and change needs to begin now.”
They’re followed by Laura Loe, who identifies herself as a “renter in the U District.” She reads a statement from someone else saying that there need to be apartments in 90 percent of the city.
The next man says that he agrees Seattle needs more affordable housing. He is concerned about parking availability in neighborhoods like Fauntleroy, where people park and catch Rapid Ride C Line. He would like to see more of an investment in infrastructure. He said increased density in Ballard has not resulted in more affordable housing. He gets the first major applause of the night and Councilmember Johnson tries to dissuade it – “if we get 30 seconds of applause after every speaker, we’ll be here all night.” Reply some in the audience, “That’s OK!”
He’s followed by a speaker who said that even “affordable” housing won’t be affordable for many. Next, a man who says he’s a 30-year resident and lives near Jefferson Square. “I don’t believe anyone here is against affordable housing – the concern here is responsible growth.” That draws more applause. “I am not against growth – I would like to see the council take their time,” he says, after a brief riff of complaining about traffic.
Next, Jill Fleming from Alki, who says she has lived in West Seattle most of her adult life. It’s a place where “you don’t have to own a McMansion” to have a view. She is supporting MHA because she thinks that means more will be able to afford to live here. She’s followed by an 11-year-old Junction resident who says there are no kids in the area and families need houses to live in. After her, Christy Tobin-Presser, who is involved with the Junction Neighborhood Organization’s appeal of HALA MHA’s EIS, says she’s concerned that the proposal would not add new residents but would replace those who live there. She tells the council they have a responsibility to those who live here as well as those who want to.
After her, a man who voices concern about displacement of people in current affordable units. He’s worried that building out the affordable units promised by HALA MHA will take too long. He’s followed by a woman who recalls the “crazy meeting” in December 2016 that we mentioned above. “For people who are making the decision … think of how you would feel if you were vilified (as) a NIMBY …I don’t like the way this is coming in and sweeping as if some people count and others don’t.”
Former Junction Neighborhood Organization leader René Commons is at the microphone next, holding a green I LIVE in West Seattle sign that we’ve seen around the auditorium.
That’s the Seattle Channel video of this morning’s City Council meeting recapping the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA) Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) toplines for District 1 – West Seattle and South Park – before tomorrow’s public hearing. No new info, but if you’ve lost track of where the plan stands, it might be a helpful refresher. Here’s the slide deck they used; here’s the online map that you can use to look up how your neighborhood might change under the proposal.
Basically, the plan would upzone all commercial/multifamily property in the city – and other types, within urban-village boundaries, while also expanding some of those boundaries – while requiring developers to either include a certain percentage of “affordable housing” or pay the city a fee in lieu of that. No date is set for the council’s vote on the plan yet, and the citywide appeal of the Environmental Impact Statement remains scheduled for hearings later this month. Tuesday night’s public hearing in West Seattle is at 6 pm (speaker signups start at 5:30) in the Chief Sealth International High School auditorium, 2600 SW Thistle, as previewed here last night.
Signature-gathering continues for the push to repeal the city “head tax” – we photographed petition circulators at the West Seattle Farmers Market on Sunday and have seen others at various locations. Tonight, perhaps the most unusual spot you’ll find signature-gathering: The weekly trivia game at Talarico’s in The Junction. From host Phil Tavel:
Tonight at Talarico’s trivia, due to popular demand, we will have the “Repeal the Head Tax” petition available for people to sign; even if you aren’t playing trivia … but really, why wouldn’t you come and play? Starts at 8:30, goes until 10. Prizes for top and bottom teams.
The repeal campaign has just over two weeks to gather enough signatures to send the referendum to voters, to ask if they want to keep or toss what the council and mayor approved two weeks ago. Its supporters, meantime, have a “decline to sign” campaign going.
Filing week is over. Here’s who you’ll see on the August primary ballot:
34TH DISTRICT STATE SENATOR – This is the position with no incumbent, since Sen. Sharon Nelson decided not to run again. 11 people have filed:
7 Democrats (Sofia Aragon, Shannon Braddock, Lem Charleston, Lisa Ryan Devereau, Joe Nguyen, Annabel Quintero, Lois Schipper)
2 Republicans (Darla Green, Courtney Lyle)
1 independent (Debi Wagner)
1 “no preference” (Hillary Shaw)
34TH DISTRICT STATE HOUSE – Incumbent Reps. Eileen Cody and Joe Fitzgibbon both filed to run again; neither has an opponent.
7TH DISTRICT U.S. HOUSE: This appears to be an all-West Seattle faceoff, with incumbent U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal the lone Democrat, repeat candidate and anti-immigration advocate Craig Keller the lone Republican, and nobody else filing.
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
It might have been the last time we’d talk to them as your 34th Legislative District trio: State Sen. Sharon Nelson and Reps. Eileen Cody and Joe Fitzgibbon sat down with us for a coffeehouse chat on how the session went, and what’s ahead next time.
Otherwise, “we don’t get together that often!” they laughed – and certainly there had been big news in the meantime, with Nelson deciding to retire from the Legislature.
So, we asked, what did they see as the biggest successes of this year’s session?
Here’s the fourth official announcement of candidacy we’ve received for the 34th District seat in the State Senate:
Today, Lem Charleston begins his campaign to bring years of community leadership, activism, involvement, and diversity to 34th Legislative District.
I am running to be your next State Senator because I am convinced we can do better. Senator Sharon Nelson did a great job with the tools she had available to her but we need to progressively move her legacy to the next level by doing more in and for our communities here in the 34th district.
I love having a family. I love being a devoted husband and father. I’m a proud union member, a community member, an associate chaplain with Seattle Police Department (SPD). I served my country in the United States Marine Corps. I don’t look like a regular politician because I am not a career politician. I have different experiences than some politicians. I have been working in aerospace for over 30 years. I worked in Everett for 25 years and I am now in Renton and a proud member of District 751 of the International Association of Machinists. I was a Union Steward in the International Association of Machinists for 20 years. I have been a minister since 1992 and was the Pastor at the United House of Prayer For All People, Seattle, WA until 2008. I had a pretty good career as a volunteer soccer coach in the West Seattle Soccer Club (WSSC) as well.
Right now there are ZERO African Americans in the State Senate and the 34th Legislative District has never elected a person of color. It’s time for realistic diversity. We have to work together and not just believe in the creed of this district, but bring that creed to fruition.
I’m running be your next State Senator because I believe we can do better because our community members and our city and State needs us to do better.
We have traffic problems, classroom overcrowding problems, bike lane sharing problems. We also have one of the highest homelessness rates in the nation. We have obscene housing prices, and the property taxes that go with them. There is gun violence that is leaving our communities with grief, anger, and fear like never before. We can’t remedy all these things in one day, but working together, looking at our problems and facing them one by one, for what they are, I am confident we will find a remedy to each and every one of them.
Housing: The 34th district is one that has millionaires on the beach on the west end, and people living on the streets on the east end of this district. We can do better. We need to find solutions that cure that disparity. Seattleites and many people throughout the region are working hard to solve this problem, and I’ll work hard at the state level to find solutions to these issues. Housing is becoming a state issue. The Stranger reported in 2017 that, ”The Seattle area is the ninth fastest-growing metro in the nation, gaining about 1,100 residents per week according to population estimates issued this morning by the U.S. Census Bureau.” It’s not my goal to simply have another food bank for the homeless but how about giving them the tools to start a business or get a job so they can get off the streets and be able to provide adequately for their families.
Education: Seattle needs stronger educational resources and we need our schools to be completely funded. The levy’s just don’t get the job done anymore. I’ll work to make sure they have the resources they need to serve all of our community members. A strong community that is built by the people who serve in it, live in it, and love it is bound to prosper. It is my goal to not only expose the achievement gap between white students and students of color as this is important, but to also partner with the appropriate people everywhere reasonable to remedy this problem.
Revenue: We need to stop giving tax breaks to huge corporations with no way to get that money back if they don’t follow through on the deal. And yes, we need to fix our broken and regressive tax system. Taxing big corporations in a fair and equitable manner in a way that will not cost the middle class living wage jobs. We all must research and study to find economic solutions to remedy our concerns so that we build a stable and collective balance, with these corporations and create income equality here in Seattle.
I believe we can do better because I have lived here in the 34th district for over twenty-one years. As a soccer coach, I watched the parents of kids playing soccer teach their kids how to win and how to lose, all with dignity and fairness. Those lessons we learn as children are the ones we need to apply as adults we need to understand our problems and wisely find remedies for them.
Lem Charleston was born in Seattle and has lived in West Seattle for over 21 years. He’s been a pastor and a minister in the community for sixteen years, a volunteer soccer coach for six years, and is currently serving as a volunteer assistant Seattle Police Department chaplain for the past twelve years. He’s been married for 21 years and he and his wife have two children attending West Seattle Schools.
The three candidates from whom we previously received announcements are Shannon Braddock, Joe Nguyen, and Lois Schipper. Official filing week is under way through Friday; here’s who’s turned in paperwork so far. The seat is open because Sen. Sharon Nelson has announced she is not running for re-election.
(Seattle Channel video of this afternoon’s council meeting – public comment at 17:58, tax items at 59:08)
Ample citywide coverage of the City Council’s final vote on the “head tax” this afternoon – but we’re noting it here anyway. For one, the two West Seattle-residing councilmembers – District 1’s Lisa Herbold and citywide Position 9’s Lorena González – led the task force that brought the concept to the council in the first place. From the official news release, details on the compromise that passed in a 9-0 vote:
… The amended proposal establishes an annual tax of $275 per full-time employee on the City’s largest businesses, those with revenues of more than $20 million (about 3% of all businesses). The measure would generate an estimated $47 million annually and end on December 31, 2023.
… Selected highlights of the amended ordinance include:
*Exempt Seattle’s small and medium-sized businesses, only applying to those with at least $20 million or more annually in taxable gross receipts as measured under the City’s existing Business & Occupation tax;
*Apply only to the City’s approximately 585 largest businesses, or approximately 3% of all Seattle businesses;
*Require large businesses to pay $275 per full-time equivalent employee working 1,920 hours per year (or about $0.14 per hour);
*Include an evaluation of the economic impacts, and an independent oversight committee; and,
*Exempt healthcare providers that provide at least 25% of their services to patients covered by Medicare and Medicaid as well as all hospitals. …
You can read the amended plan here. Here’s some of what’s happened in the hours since the council vote:
*Amazon said it’s “disappointed” and “apprehensive” (GeekWire.com coverage)
The tax starts in January. But first, as was noted in Q&A at Durkan’s news conference, a spending plan has to be finalized for the money it will raise.
Though five people participated in this past Wednesday’s State Senate candidates’ forum at the 34th District Democrats‘ meeting, we had only received official candidacy announcements from two. Now we have a third:
Public Health Nurse Lois Schipper formally announced she is running for the Washington State Senate. Schipper is a lifelong Democrat.
Schipper said, “Sunday is Mother’s Day. I want to serve in the Washington State Senate because I want to use my decades of experience as a public health nurse to give every mother the gift they most want on Mother’s Day – safe and healthy children.”
This Mother’s Day, Schipper reflects that her priorities in Olympia will always revolve around children and families: fully funding K-12 education, with an emphasis on special education and closing the achievement gap for low income kids and kids from communities of color; fighting the NRA to ban assault weapons and high-capacity clips; and cleaning up our upside-down tax system. “My work in our community has let me see that too many families are struggling,” says Schipper. “I want to take my expertise to Olympia to craft working solutions to these issues.”
Throughout her career, Schipper has led the fight to solve these needs and challenges, managing the King County Public Health Center that serves White Center and Burien. Earlier, Schipper was the first nurse in the 1980s supporting HIV-positive mothers and babies. Now, at Seattle Children’s Hospital, she leads a team helping non-English speaking families navigate the health care system.
“I think what I would bring to Olympia is my on-the-ground experience here in the 34th and in King County; working in the community, implementing programs, looking at what works, building teams across agencies,” said Schipper. “That’s the kind of work that’s necessary. I know how to bring diverse people – who often disagree – together to solve problems.”
Lois Schipper has deep ties to White Center – one of the most economically disadvantaged areas of King County. “Schipper deeply cares about underserved communities of color” according to Sili Savusa, executive director of the White Center Community Development Association. “Schipper understands what underserved communities need and she will deliver results in the legislature!”
In addition, Schipper served as PTSA president in both the Seattle and Highline School Districts, successfully leading school levy campaigns and serving as a PTSA legislative representative in Olympia.
John Welch, the former superintendent of the Highline School District, saw Lois’s efforts first-hand. “Lois got results through collaboration, perseverance and commitment,” says Welch, “I can’t imagine a more qualified and dedicated person to represent the 34th District.”
Schipper, who was a nurse in the Peace Corps, received her nursing degree from the Ohio State University and earned a Master’s Degree in Public Health from the University of Minnesota.
Schipper has been married to Mark Ufkes for 27 years and they have two sons who are both Eagle Scouts.
In Schipper’s own words, “As a public health nurse, I have dedicated my 30-year nursing career helping families and children live better lives. I want to bring my experience as a children’s health expert to represent you and your family in the State Senate in Olympia. The safety and health of children and families will always come first!”
The weeklong official filing period opens tomorrow. The two candidates from whom we previously received announcements are Shannon Braddock and Joe Nguyen. The seat is open because Sen. Sharon Nelson has announced she is not running for re-election.
A month and a half after 34th District State Senator Sharon Nelson announced she wouldn’t run for re-election, campaign season launched in earnest last night as five hopefuls appeared at the first major candidates’ forum. It made up the bulk of last night’s monthly 34th District Democrats meeting. From left are Lois Schipper, Sofia Aragon, Lem Charleston, Shannon Braddock, and Joe Nguyen. Topics included tax reform, health care, education funding, gun safety, and more. No endorsement vote yet; next week is the official filing week, so we’ll know then who else, if anyone, is jumping into the race.
Seven years after our state went to voting by mail, our county is removing the need for you to buy a stamp for your ballot. The announcement from the King County Council this afternoon:
No Stamp? No Problem! The Metropolitan King County Council today approved legislation allowing the Department of Elections to send voters postage-paid envelopes to return their ballots in this year’s primary and general elections.
“Increasing accessibility to free and fair democratic elections is central to all of our civic institutions,” Said Councilmember Dave Upthegrove, Chair of the Council’s Budget Committee and prime sponsor of the legislation. “This measure puts a ballot box at the end of every driveway, and I’m excited to be a part of its passage.”
“Voting is the foundation of our democracy. By eliminating the postage ‘poll tax’, King County is taking an important step to dismantle a barrier that keeps some from exercising their right to vote,” said Councilmember Rod Dembowski, co-sponsor of the ordinance.
Washington became a vote-by-mail state in 2011. While the Council and King County Elections worked to increase the number of ballot drop boxes available to voters throughout the county, approximately half of the ballots received are still sent by mail. Prior to today’s action all voters were personally required to place postage on their ballot.
In prior elections, when a voter forgot to place on stamp on a ballot, some post offices would send the ballot to King County regardless, but would charge the county $1.70—more than three times the current postage rate. Other post offices would not forward the ballot at all.
“We should be doing everything in our power to improve access to democracy countywide and I am confident that prepaid postage will go a long way towards doing just that by breaking down barriers to participation,” said Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles, co-sponsor of the ordinance. “I’m confident that our action today will result in prepaid postage on ballots being implemented statewide.”
“Prepaid postage has been proven to increase voting in a cost-effective way,” Said King County Council Vice Chair Claudia Balducci. “I commend our King County Elections Director for continually looking for ways to improve voter participation in our elections, which is so fundamental to our democratic form of self-government.”
The measure is widely expected to increase voter access and participation. Elections conducted a pilot project this winter, sending 65,000 voters in Shoreline and Maple Valley prepaid return envelopes. The percentage of total ballots returned by mail during the pilot was 74-percent. This was a vast increase compared to 43-percent participation in the 2016 General Election.
The legislation now allows election officials to send prepaid return envelopes to all voters, but with the US Postal Service charging King County a rate of 50 cents for those returned by mail. Wise and county election officials estimate a 10 percent increase in the number of ballots returned by mail rather than drop boxes with prepaid postage.
The legislation passed Council with a 7-2 vote. In support of the measure were Councilmembers Upthegrove, Dembowski, Kohl-Welles, Balducci, Gossett, McDermott and von Reichbauer. Councilmembers Dunn and Lambert voted in opposition.
Ours would be the first in the state to provide postage-paid ballot envelopes.
Three months after she joined the peace vigil/march in South Park, the mayor returns to SP tomorrow afternoon.
As part of her ongoing effort to bring City Hall to all Seattle communities, Mayor Jenny A. Durkan will host a roundtable with South Park community leaders to discuss ongoing and new City initiatives in South Park. Mayor Durkan will be joined by representatives of the Seattle Parks and Recreation, Seattle Department of Neighborhoods, Seattle Office of Sustainability and the Environment, and Seattle Police Department, who will be able to answer questions and provide resources to the community.
“South Park is a diverse and vibrant home to many young people, families, and small businesses, but it also demonstrates our City’s need for equitable investment in economic empowerment, public safety, and better basic services,” said Mayor Durkan. “Through collaboration with community leaders, we are going to tackle the tough challenges facing South Park and create more opportunity for our young people.”
She’s scheduled to be at the South Park Community Center (8319 8th Ave. S.) at 3 pm Thursday.
We’ve heard from another candidate who has entered the race for our area’s 34th District State Senate seat, open since Sen. Sharon Nelson is not running for re-election. Here’s the announcement from Joe Nguyen‘s campaign:
Joe Nguyen, a Senior Manager at Microsoft who was born and raised in the 34th Legislative District, announced he would run for State Senate. The son of Vietnamese refugees and father of two, Nguyen aims to succeed retiring Senate Majority Leader Sharon Nelson for the open seat. He is off to a strong start with an early endorsement from Senator Bob Hasegawa.
Nguyen’s involvement in the Seattle area is lifelong, multi-faceted and represents a lived experience that is deeply connected with the values of hard work and service in this community. His mother escaped Vietnam with his sister on her back – and floated for weeks in the Pacific until seen by a Coast Guard plane and picked up by a cargo ship. He was born and raised in White Center/Burien, where his parents settled.
At Microsoft, Nguyen is working to provide accessible job training resources that empowers all people
with the right – often new – skills needed to succeed in this rapidly changing, technologically dependent economy.
“As the father of two young children and husband to an all-star educator, there is no issue more important than education,” said Nguyen. “Our state should be a national leader, not only in providing the kind of education that sets our kids up for success, but in reducing inequity and disparity. Fully funding our state’s obligation for education is essential, but it is not enough. Our teachers need better pay and benefits; our kids need resources in the classroom and beyond – whatever it takes so all students arrive at school ready to learn and thrive.”
Nguyen serves as the Associate Board Chairperson at Wellspring Family Services, which partners with families experiencing homelessness. This year, he helped Wellspring promote and advocate for legislation that will incorporate training in trauma-informed child care for early learning providers in Washington. This legislation was signed by Governor Inslee in March.
Nguyen is committed to finding solutions, so our residents can afford to stay here. “Seattle grows more unaffordable every day. People are worried they will no longer be able to live in their homes because they can’t afford the taxes. Health care costs, property taxes and rents are rising faster than wages. Despite Washington having one of the fastest growing economies in the nation, many residents right here in the 34th, don’t have any access to that prosperity.”
Nguyen was appointed by the King County Council to the Community Advisory Committee for the Office of Law Enforcement Oversight (OLEO). He serves as a bridge between the community and the King County Sheriff’s Office in efforts to hold law enforcement accountable for providing fair and just police services to the public. “Along with law enforcement de-escalation resources and training,” Nguyen said, “Washington must implement solutions to decrease the epidemic of gun violence. There were nearly 700 firearm-related deaths last year in the state. We need stronger gun laws and policies to protect our children and save lives.”
Nguyen attended Highline Public Schools, John F. Kennedy High School in Burien, and graduated from Seattle University, where he was a two-term student body President. He lives with his wife Tallie, a former Highline Public School teacher who taught for a decade, and their two children near the West Seattle Junction.
“I am excited for the opportunity to amplify the voices and ensure a seat at the table for all our
neighbors, community members, business owners, teachers, immigrants, union workers and families that make our community such a special place to live.”
America is made greatest by its immigrants and refugees. If elected, Nguyen would be the first legislator of Vietnamese heritage in Washington and despite being one of the most diverse communities in the state, he would also be the first legislator of color from the 34th district.
One week ago today, four City Councilmembers, including West Seattle/South Park’s Lisa Herbold and WS-residing/citywide-representing Lorena González, officially unveiled their proposal for the so-called “head tax,” a business tax to raise money they say would be used mostly to build housing for people who are homeless. That was one day after Herbold and González had made their case to a gathering convened by the West Seattle Chamber of Commerce (WSB coverage here).
Three days after the proposal went public, there was an at-times-contentious three-hour public hearing at City Hall on Monday night:
On Wednesday, the council’s Finance and Neighborhoods Committee discussed the proposal, including a plan for how the money would be spent:
On Thursday, Councilmember González sent a survey to “business leaders.” One West Seattle recipient forwarded it to us anonymously. In the e-mail, González addresses the recipients, “In an effort to create an additional tool to engage with you regarding the proposed Employee Hours Tax/Payroll Tax, the Council has developed an online survey which allows business owners to give direct feedback to the Council and express any specific concerns.” Going through the survey, we note that it asks for opinions about housing and homelessness before asking for opinions on the potential head tax and the payroll tax that is proposed to follow it in three years. The survey is here.
Today in her weekly update, Councilmember Herbold went through a copious amount of backstory on the tax proposal and explanation why she supports it. If you aren’t already on her mailing list, you can read it on the city website. She wrote in part:
… The structural cause of homelessness in high cost cities like Seattle is that there is a growing unmet need for more affordable housing created when new workers, earning new high wage jobs, and low-income workers are in competition for limited housing. Lower income workers lose out and the result is that the explosive growth and rising rents that Seattle is experiencing has increased homelessness even as we, each year, exit more than 3,000 people out of homelessness and into permanent housing. A progressive tax on businesses most benefiting from this growth is our best option because we already rely heavily upon regressive property and sales taxes that hit everyone equally. …
Along with Herbold and González, the tax proposal is co-sponsored by Councilmembers Teresa Mosqueda (citywide) and Mike O’Brien (northwest Seattle’s District 6).
The next scheduled official discussion is back before the Finance and Neighborhoods Committee at noon Wednesday (May 2nd), with “issue identification” to be included; then the committee is scheduled to vote on it a week later, at 2 pm May 9th, including consideration of any amendments. If that schedule is kept, the full council would vote at 2 pm on Monday, May 14th. All three of those meetings would have public-comment periods; you also can reach councilmembers via e-mail or phone – contact info is here.
Since taking office five months ago, Mayor Durkan has made many who’s-staying-and-who’s-going announcements, but hadn’t said whether she would keep Kathy Nyland as director of the Department of Neighborhoods. Though Nyland – appointed almost exactly three years ago by then-Mayor Ed Murray – had a background in neighborhood-group leadership, she drew some fire for championing Murray’s plan to cut the city’s ties with neighborhood-district councils. This afternoon, Durkan announced that she’s moving Nyland out of DoN:
Seattle Mayor Jenny A. Durkan announced that Andrés Mantilla will serve as Interim Director of the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods, effective May 16, 2018. Mantilla currently serves in the Mayor’s Office as the Director of External Relations and Outreach. Kathy Nyland will continue working in the Durkan administration as a senior advisor at Seattle Parks and Recreation focused on community and neighborhood outreach.
“From day one, I committed to bringing City Hall directly to neighborhoods, and the Department of Neighborhoods plays a critical role in building strong partnerships directly where people live and work. Kathy has worked tirelessly to help communities across Seattle have a strong voice in their government, and her leadership has helped to foster more coordinated, citywide outreach on Seattle’s most urgent challenges. We will build on her important work to bring more equitable engagement to our neighborhoods,” said Mayor Durkan. “As we address growing disparities and make our City more affordable, Andrés will be instrumental in elevating the voices of community members throughout Seattle. His commitment to equity and communities of color will elevate the work of our City.”
Mantilla has deep roots in communities across the City. Prior to his role in the Mayor’s Office, Mantilla worked on community and small business outreach at the Department of Neighborhoods and Office of Economic Development as well as on the Community Outreach Team for Mayor Greg Nickels.
(WSB photo of Andres Mantilla: 2011, when he visited WS as a representative of the Department of Economic Development)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
“These are our neighbors.”
One of the participants in Saturday’s West Seattle Chamber of Commerce-presented forum on homelessness used that simple statement in the hope of debunking various myths about people experiencing it.
The almost-two-hours event also addressed frequently asked questions, such as where the city’s homelessness-related spending is going.
The speakers were, in order, Sola Plumacher from the city’s Human Services Department, which oversees its homelessness-related spending and initiatives; Michael Maddux, a local activist/advocate (who is also a City Council staffer but made it clear he was participating as a private citizen); Paul Lambros, executive director of nonprofit housing provider Plymouth Housing; Annie Blackledge, executive director of The Mockingbird Society, which is focused on ending youth homelessness and advocating for foster children. The Seattle Police Department was planning to send a speaker but canceled at the last minute. Introducing the forum was Chamber CEO Lynn Dennis; emceeing it, Chamber government-affairs chair Rik Keller. We recorded it all:
If you weren’t there and don’t have time to watch, here’s how it went:
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Though the details of a city “head tax” proposal haven’t been finalized yet, city councilmembers are trying to make the case for it, and that’s why two of them talked with West Seattle Chamber of Commerce members this morning.
West Seattle-residing Councilmembers Lorena González and Lisa Herbold co-chaired the task force that came up with the idea,
About 50 people were at the Disabled American Veterans hall in Delridge to hear them out and ask questions. And there were multiple mentions of the letter that Mayor Jenny Durkan has sent to the council, urging some caution:
The chamber offered the councilmembers a chance to speak beforetaking questions. Herbold opened by thanking attendees: