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 yesforearlysuccess.com – 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 qualityseattlepreschool.com. 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 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 delridgegrocery.coop.
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 34dems.org, where you can also keep up to date on upcoming meetings – second Wednesdays most months, 7 pm, The Hall at Fauntleroy – and other events.