Yes on transit tax, yes on city’s preschool proposal, and other 34th District Democrats endorsement votes

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

It’s just a matter of weeks before your November ballot arrives – and it’s busier than you might think, as was evidenced when last night’s 34th District Democrats meeting in West Seattle, centered on ballot-measure discussions and endorsement votes, began with chair Marcee Stone-Vekich warning, “It’s going to be a long night.”

Here are highlights from the ensuing two hours:

PRESCHOOL PROPOSITIONS: There are two on the Seattle ballot, 1A and 1B, in one measure – you’ll be asked if you think either should be approved, and then, regardless of how you answered that, which one you would prefer. Each one had a presentation at last night’s meeting, followed by both sides sitting down as a panel to answer questions. We recorded video:

First, 1A, also known as Initiative 107 – website at – which was pitched by Roslyn and Vincent Duffy, the operators of a successful child-care company based on Capitol Hill, Learning Tree. While their company is non-profit, it’s still very costly to run. And state subsidies for low-income families are low. He believes the $15/wage will lead to center closures. Training is difficult to access, he says, and the field has high turnover – about a third every year. They believe the city proposal ignores the voices of experts. They say its curriculum is limited and that it could lead to a financial windfall for someone. “The city plan unravels our current system,” Roslyn Duffy alleged. Also speaking for Proposition 1A, Karen Strickland, state president for the American Federation of Teachers: “What we’re asking you to do is to take up a position of support, yes on the first question and no on the second one.”

For 1B, City Council President Tim Burgess spoke. 1B is the “Seattle Preschool Plan,” a property-tax-levy-lift first unveiled at an event in High Point earlier this year. Its pilot phase would “get us started on the path to offering high-quality preschool to all 3- and 4-year-olds in Seattle.” He said the plan was developed with input from education experts, national, state, and local. It would start with 14 classrooms in year 1 and grow to 100 in year 4, he said, going slow “to get it right.” Its site is He said it is backed by a wide variety of people and organizations because “for decades now, some of our children have been held behind,” a situation that “should shame all of us,” especially because “we know what to do.”

Questions started with State Rep. Eileen Cody, who pointed out that 1A has no funding mechanism – how would it be paid for? Roslyn Duffy said it was an incidence of proposing policy, and then funding would follow. $3 million is what would be needed for starters, she said, if it passes. Chris Porter asked next about plans for closing the achievement gap. Vincent Duffy said, “There are solutions for this problem without redesigning the entire system.” Councilmember Burgess said that the city program – which is voluntary – is focused on 3- and 4-year-olds, while the other proposal tries to address the entire range, birth to 12.

Other questions ranged from an exhortation for everyone to get together and address a variety of issues and “come back to us next year” with ONE proposal. They did try to work together, both sides said.

The two sides disagreed, as you can see/hear in the video, about how the issue got to the convoluted situation where voters will have to choose one or the other (or neither), and what the message to voters should be. The 1A supporters said they just think voters should show support for early education; Burgess said that in no uncertain terms, 1B “is a great plan” and should be passed to show that all children deserve high-quality early education.

ENDORSEMENTS: In the dueling-preschools measure vote, the 34th DDs endorsed the city-supported measure, Proposition 1B.

*They also endorsed the Seattle Transportation Benefit District Proposition, which would add a car-tab fee and increased sales tax so that Seattle could “buy back” the transit service inside its city limits that King County plans to cut. City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen spoke briefly before the vote.

*They voted to recommend “no” on gun-related Initiative 591. (The 34th DDs already have endorsed the other gun-related measure on the ballot, Initiative 594.)

*They didn’t support any position on Initiative 1351. Much emotion in the speeches for and against this – it makes a statement about class size, said supporters; there’s no funding, argued opponents/skeptics, so find the funding, bring it back.

Other items of business, and discussion, during the meeting:

SHOULD KING COUNTY JAIL HONOR DETAINMENT REQUESTS FROM ICE? County Councilmember Joe McDermott presented an update on the topic, telling the 34th DDs that the county will NOT honor those requests (ICE = Immigration and Customs Enforcement) without a federal judicial warrant, and he says that’s even a stronger stance than a proposal he introduced last year. He said that makes people feel safer talking to law enforcement, in any context/situation. (Added – here’s some backstory.)

DELRIDGE GROCERY: Board member Brian told the 34th DDs that DG is now planning to open its co-op grocery store in summer 2015 and now has more than 250 members. You can pay $25 for starters to become a member and keep making payments – you don’t have to pay the full $100 lifetime-membership sum up front – “anyone can be a member,” he said. There are three different levels of membership/ownership, he added. And he noted that people will be able to shop there regardless of whether they’re members, once the store opens. Will membership have benefits? he was asked. That’s not quite worked out yet. He said they have a project manager working with them now, and will start building out their reserved space on the ground floor of the DESC Cottage Grove Commons building once they hit a funding milestone. Find out more at

HIGHLINE PUBLIC SCHOOLS BOND MEASURE: The district south of Seattle is taking a bond to voters this fall for the first time in 12 years (see the full text here). Campaign chair Lois Schipper spoke of why the district needs the bond – it would rebuild and relocate Des Moines Elementary, “the last remaining elementary school that has not ben rebuilt,” would rebuild Highline High School, and two middle schools – the latter is vital because Highline is moving sixth grade to middle school soon. The new middle schools will be on sites known as Glacier and Manhattan. (We’ll have video of Schipper’s pitch a bit later today on partner site White Center Now.)

RECAP OF THIS YEAR’S GARDEN PARTY: This year’s Garden Party gala – a luau theme, at the TAF Bethaday Community Space in White Center (covered on our partner site WCN), the organization’s biggest fundraiser of the year – has netted more than $14,000, accounting shows so far.

ELECTED OFFICIALS AT THE MEETING: State Rep. Eileen Cody, State Sen. Sharon Nelson, County Councilmember Joe McDermott, City Councilmembers Tim Burgess and Tom Rasmussen.

For other toplines on last night’s meeting, check out the 34th District Democrats’ website at, where you can also keep up to date on upcoming meetings – second Wednesdays most months, 7 pm, The Hall at Fauntleroy – and other events.

18 Replies to "Yes on transit tax, yes on city's preschool proposal, and other 34th District Democrats endorsement votes"

  • Natalie September 11, 2014 (4:07 pm)

    What is “ICE”?

    • WSB September 11, 2014 (5:36 pm)

      Natalie – sorry, I forgot to go find the explanatory link for that before hitting “publish,” and failed to write out ICE before the abbreviation. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Fixing that paragraph! – TR

  • Jim September 11, 2014 (5:20 pm)

    Seems to me that the education should be a state issue. The City has plenty of other issues to take care of. Never been to one of these Dem meetings but is there ever a ballot issue they don’t endorse other then Tim Eyman ballot measueres?

  • Timing September 11, 2014 (5:22 pm)

    Keep on layering on those taxes! Don’t let the City of Seattle and Metro go into business together, bad idea at taxpayers and car drivers expense!

  • West Seattle Hipster September 11, 2014 (6:03 pm)

    It seems the only “accomplishments” achieved by our local politicians are through raising property taxes. How about coming up with some innovative and creative solutions? I have two:


    1) Implement a 5% tax on every latte sold in the city limits to help subsidize Metro.
    2) How about Sound Transit taking over some of the Seattle only bus lines? They seem to be just a bit more fiscally responsible than Metro is, lets see them operate some more routes.

  • WSEA September 11, 2014 (8:37 pm)

    Once everyone notices their 8-9% property tax increase for 2015 due to large assessments they may think differently. It may be the solution transit needs without further property tax increases.

    Find Yours:

  • Danno September 11, 2014 (9:44 pm)

    Tracy, how about just a link to 34D’s regarding what little happened and save the bandwidth. Seems that WSB is nothing but a 34D mouthpiece. At least newspapers put it on the editorial page, so as not to be confused with actual news.

    • WSB September 11, 2014 (10:12 pm)

      Sorry, Danno, we’ve had this conversation before, but – it’s the area’s largest political organization, discussing issues we’ll all be deciding, and so we cover them as well as other community organizations. We’re not advocating for, suggesting you support, or declaring we support their positions or any others, for that matter.

      P.S. Still hoping the 34th District Republicans might meet in either West Seattle or White Center sometime so we can cover them too – they meet in Burien, so best we can do is a standing calendar item. Looks like their website has been expanded, though. – TR

  • barry September 11, 2014 (10:14 pm)

    This city and state is so backwards moving. By increasing the tax rates because of revenue shortfalls, people spend less and less, which results in less tax revenue. FIND A WAY FOR PEOPLE TO SPEND MORE FREELY AND SEE THE TAX REVENUE REVERSE! You make it impossible for folks to spend, except for their staples and utilities. You’ve driven people out of the city because of silly parking fee increases, and have you seen tax revenue outgrow parking revenue? You’ve made gasoline usage excessive, so tax revenue decreases again and roads are in shambles. Find a way to lower the gas prices, increase usage and build back your tax revenue. Every time you tax, people will spend less to cover that new tax. FIX THE PROBLEMS!

  • Jim September 12, 2014 (7:26 am)

    What barry said. Time to get real.

  • Bob September 12, 2014 (8:53 am)

    And yet you’ll all still vote for anyone as long as they have a ‘D’ beside their name.

  • Joe Szilagyi September 12, 2014 (11:53 am)

    @bob If the other party ejected the terrifying anti-human and Christianist platform they might manage to accomplish something in this city on a rational fiscal platform. Unfortunately I’ve never in my life met anyone willing to do that.

  • Slick September 12, 2014 (12:17 pm)

    Somehow I don’t think the key here is lower gas prices. Private gasoline / auto use is subsidized enough as it is, I’m tired of paying for your car habit.

  • I Wonder September 12, 2014 (5:56 pm)

    Slick, its not about a gasoline habit.Its an example, but a valid one. If you starve the pig, then you have lower revenues for road repairs. Gas tax is a user tax. Shouldn’t they be encouraged to spend in order to generate the revenues instead of raising YOUR taxes?

  • Melissa Westbrook September 12, 2014 (7:19 pm)

    Councilman Burgess said this? “..some of our children have been held behind,..” Wait a minute, is he inferring that there was something deliberate on the part of either the school system or the city government he represents to “hold back” something other students were getting? Because while I agree that poverty is a HUGE issue for education, saying “held behind” implies an effort to do something to those children.

    To the City’s proposal, I’m voting no. The big reason is that the City – who wants to run public preschools and the unions – that are likely to supply the teachers – need to put forth a proposal together. If they can’t work together before anything is passed, what will happen if either one gets passed? (Or is the City not going to hire union members?)

    Other reasons I would vote no are myriad:
    – the heavy-duty pressure on Seattle Schools for space for these preschools (which require their OWN bathrooms and playgrounds) when SPS has NO space (ask WS SPS parents about this capacity issue) and no money.

    Parents with students in SPS, please understand that the district is devoting a considerable amount of time and resources around this effort. Why, when their state mandate (and under funded at that) is K-12? Should the district serve those kids first?
    – is this the best bang for the buck? Did the City consider funding full-day kindergarten (which the state currently does not)? Did they think about funding lower class sizes for K-3?
    – according to the City’s own expert, their preschool would be a “6-hour academic day.” That’s a mighty long day for little kids who mostly learn thru playing. Ask any early childhood expert if this is an developmentally appropriate idea.
    – data gathering. FFYI, both the federal gov’t and the state are creating prek-20 databases on all public school students. Why so much tracking of public school students? And who gets to see this data and why? What happens if there is a data breach? No answers to those questions.
    – While the emphasis should be on the work in the classroom, the City’s own costs show preschool teachers making between $30-60K while administrators making between $99K-$199K. They project 42 administrators, mentors, directors, etc by 2018. Why so top-heavy on administering this program?
    – for at least 5 years, there would be no inclusion of any other curriculum than the City’s (which they have yet to develop). That means no time-honored preschools like Montessori or Waldorf.
    – as someone else mentioned, why is the City trying to take on education? First, the City Council has now taken over Parks and now they say they have the bandwidth and the expertise to do preschool well? I have my doubts.

    The City and the unions should hammer this out BEFORE voters see it. There are too many unanswered questions.

  • WSB September 12, 2014 (7:45 pm)

    The entire preschool-measure-related discussion is on our video clip – sorry I didn’t log it by timecode, so I can’t say exactly where, but the 1A people spoke before he did, so at least 15 minutes in. – Tracy

  • Sarah September 12, 2014 (8:39 pm)

    Melissa I think you put forth a very good argument. I have been debating this all myself (as a 25+ yr early childhood educator) and it just doesn’t sound right. Why wouldn’t the City go to the people whose profession this is and ask “hey, we want to help make childcare better for all of the City’s children, how can we help you do that?” And then to use SO MUCH MONEY to serve so few, it’s just misplaced compassion. And I have to also agree on your SPS points. Isn’t the STate being sued because education is not fully funded? And aren’t we pretty much all in agreement that SPS is barely doing it’s job with K-12 and now we want to trust them with our little ones? Yeah-I’m not sure about any of it now.

  • Ken September 17, 2014 (6:51 am)

    If Burgess is “for” something I am automatically suspicious. Leave the 3 and 4 yearolds alone. Let them be kids for a couple of years before we try to stuff them into the regimented box that education has become. If you want to get parents back to work subsidize child care for the same age group.

    Eyeman californication initiatives have left the car tabs as the only avenue for a progressive tax but history has shown that we will not approve anything that involves a car tab hike. Perhaps because I see the vast majority of WS residents drive cars that cost more than their “craftsman” homes cost when they were new?

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