SPD Investigating “Caller ID Fraud” After Anti-Parks Robocall Prompts Dozens of Residents to Call 911

If the No on Parks folks think it was just clever gamesmanship to spoof “911″ in the caller ID of their recent robocall, they’re gonna have to make their case to the police. From SPD Blotter:

Dozens of confused Seattle residents have called Seattle police over the last 24 hours after receiving hangup calls, which appeared as if they came from 911.

In fact, these calls—which appear on caller IDs as “911-9111″—are the result of caller ID fraud, or “spoofing,” and are not coming from SPD’s 911 Communications Center.

The 911 Communications Center is researching the origin of the calls and is referring the case to detectives for investigation.

SPD blogger Jonah Spangenthal-Lee confirms that emergency operators saw a surge in volume yesterday as worried residents called 911 in response to these spoofed caller IDs. He was not familiar with the apparent connection to the No on Parks campaign. But now SPD is. According to an internal email sent out to volunteers yesterday, No on Parks committee co-chair Carol Fisher claimed “100,000 robo calls went out today.”

So, hey, thanks, Carol Fisher, Don Harper, Jon Hansen, Faye Garneau, Alyne Fortgang, Jim Coombes, and the rest of you anti-tax lying liars for creating a public safety hazard in the service of spreading your lies.

“No on Parks” Campaign Uses 911 Caller ID to Hook Voters into Listening to Their Lying Robocall

If your phone rings today and you see “911-9111″ in the caller ID, don’t worry that it’s a reverse 911 call warning you about a toxic gas leak or an armed fugitive or something in your neighborhood. In fact, don’t pick it up at all. It’s just those lying liars from the “No on Parks” campaign attempting to trick you into listening to their robocall.

I’ve heard from several people who’ve picked up this call, initially alarmed that this might be coming from 911. One annoyed recipient posted a screen shot from his phone to Reddit. Pretty damn shady.

Also shady are the robocall’s now familiar claims that a Metropolitan Park District can “sell our parks, build stadiums, [and] fund development.” Bullshit scare tactics. All the evil that opponents claim the mayor and city council could do with parks money, they can already do now. But they don’t. Because they answer to voters.

But there’s one more subtle bit of trickier in this robocall. Near the end, before identifying who has paid for the call, the speaker says: “Join us, the League of Women Voters, and the Seattle Times.” Of course, that first comma can be read one of two ways—it could be understood to separate “us” from “the League of Women Voters,” or it could be understood to describe “us” as “the League of Women Voters.” The speaker glides through it in an intentionally* ambiguous manner.

Clever. But also incredibly dishonest. Just like the opponents entire lying lie-filled “No” campaign.

So don’t let bullshit win. Vote “Yes” on Prop 1.

UPDATE: To be clear, 206-911-9111 is not a valid phone number, and it has been suggested to me that such caller ID spoofing may in fact be illegal, punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 per violation. I won’t speculate further, but I’ve been told that this call went out to 100,000 voters, so if the courts were to interpret it as fraud, it could potentially add up to a $1 billion fine!


* And yes, the starting point is to assume that every detail in a political campaign is intentional. If it wasn’t, then the campaign’s Republican political consultant, Sharon Gilpin (who likes to tout herself as a “savvy political operative”), wouldn’t be doing her job.

Republicans demonstrate they are not ready to govern

Earlier this week, we learned this (my emphasis):

House Republicans want to use their final week in Washington before the August recess to send a signal that they are ready to govern.

As the country’s attention turns to the fight for control of the House and Senate, Republicans want to show they are capable of handling two of the nation’s toughest issues: the thousands of children crossing the border, and the veterans in need of healthcare.

“This is a crisis situation. We need to show that we can respond in a crisis in a thoughtful way,” Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) said of the effort to move a border bill.

Are the Republicans ready to govern?

By their own measure…apparently not:

House GOP leaders ditched their plans to vote on a border supplemental today after failing to secure the votes to pass it.

“We don’t think we have the votes,” said Kay Granger, R-Texas, one of the architects of the bill.

How can a party, whose fundamental philosophy is that the federal government is evil, ever be ready to govern?

They can’t…it simply doesn’t make sense.

If You Support Universal Preschool, Vote “Yes” on Prop 1

Contrary to the scare tactics being employed by opponents, Proposition 1 is not about “accountability” or “new stadiums” or “caged zoo animals” or “waterfront hotels.” In fact, the truth is, Prop 1 isn’t even really about parks. It’s about taxes. And to understand why it’s so important for Seattle to tap into the taxing authority available to a Metropolitan Park District (MPD), you need to understand the way property taxes work.

From a budget writer’s perspective, the property tax is the best tax ever, because if done correctly, it always brings in almost exactly the amount of money projected. That’s because, unlike the stupid, stupid sales tax, budget writers don’t actually set a rate and just hope the money comes in, they request a dollar value—for example, $47.9 million a year for the first six years in the case of the interlocal agreement that accompanies Prop 1—and then the county assessor adjusts the property tax rate annually based on current assessed value, and subject to statutory limits, in order to generate the requested revenue. If property values rise from year to year, the rate goes down; if property values fall as they did when the real estate bubble went pop, the rate goes up. But the MPD is almost guaranteed to generate that $47.9 million a year.

Over the long run, nominal property values will almost certainly rise. So while the voters guide projects an MPD tax rate of $0.33 per $1,000 of assessed value in year one, even a relatively modest 5 percent average annual rise in home values would leave the rate at less than $0.26 per $1,000 of assessed value by year six.

But unfortunately for city budget writers, as reliable as the property tax is, it is subject to two very important limitations. The first is known as the “statutory dollar rate limit”: the City of Seattle’s property tax authority is limited to $3.60 per $1,000 of assessed value. That is the maximum theoretical rate the city can levy without voter approval. But thanks to the second limit, known as I-747′s “101 percent limit” (or more accurately: “Tim Eyman’s Revenge”), the city’s actual regular levy authority falls far short of the statutory dollar rate limit.

Under the growth limit factor first enacted in the 1970s, and then punitively reduced to 101 percent under Eyman’s I-747 (and later reinstated by a cowardly legislature after the state supreme court tossed the initiative out), the dollar value of property taxes collected may not exceed 101 percent of the taxes collected in the highest of the three most recent years, plus an allowance for net increased property value in the district resulting from new construction.

I know—that’s very complicated. But suffice it to say that thanks to the 101 percent limit, revenues generated from Seattle’s regular levy generally don’t even keep pace with inflation, let alone rising property values. As a result, the actual maximum levy rate available to the city council has been steadily falling as I-747′s 101 percent limit has ratcheted down revenue growth.

Fortunately, state law does allow for 1 to 6-year “lid lifts,” enabling the city to raise revenues in excess of the 101 percent limit, but within the $3.60 statutory cap, subject to voter approval. That’s what the expiring Parks Levy is—a lid lift—as is the Library Levy, the Families and Education Levy, Bridging the Gap, and so on. When you add up Seattle’s regular levy together with its various lid lifts, Seattle is currently levying a combined rate of just under $2.91 per $1,000 of assessed value (although about $0.26 of this expires at the end of 2014 with the Parks and Pike Place Market levies).

Got it? Okay then, so why do we need the additional taxing authority of the MPD if we still have so much room available under the statutory cap? Why not just go to voters with another parks levy as the Seattle Times disingenuously contends? Because we don’t really have that much room.

First, remember how I said that a property tax almost always generates the revenue requested, if done correctly? Well, doing it correctly requires accounting for the possibility that property values might fall in the short term. Seattle property values fell about 12 percent during the real estate bust. Had Seattle been levying within 12 percent of its statutory cap it would have resulted in a budgetary disaster. So it would be imprudent to go beyond $3.20 per $1,000 of the $3.60 cap available.

Second, this limited cap space leaves little room to fund other pressing needs. For example, voters will be asked to approve a Preschool Levy in November, generating about $14 million a year in revenue. But it will eventually cost much more than that to fully implement the program. Likewise, our current Parks Levy was never enough to both operate parks and chip away at the growing deferred maintenance backlog. Even with the levy, we’ve been underfunding our parks for years. But to fully address parks via another lid lift would limit the city’s ability to adequately fund preschool and other pressing needs.

So if you really, really, support universal preschool, you should really, really support Prop 1.

That’s the primary attraction of an MPD: it comes with its own separate $0.75 per $1,000 of assessed value, meaning that we no longer need to pit parks against other crucial services like libraries, roads, and preschool in a competition for precious cap space. With the MPD, parks will finally have a reliable revenue stream sufficient to address its maintenance backlog over time. But the tax-averse amongst you can rest assured that for all the same reasons that the city can’t access its full $3.60 rate, the MPD could never access its full $0.75 either, even if the mayor and the council were the evil bastards MPD opponents make them out to be.

Finally, I want to address the opponents’ claim that “for a hundred years Seattle citizens have supported voter-approved levies that give each neighborhood a legacy voice” in blah, blah, blah. That’s bullshit. For a hundred years parks have been primarily funded through the city’s regular levy, which requires no direct voter approval. It wasn’t even until the 1970s, when a growth limit factor was first imposed, that a lid lift even became a thing. Indeed, the city’s first parks levy wasn’t passed until 2000, and the shift in funding to lid lifts didn’t take off until after 2001, when Eyman’s absurdly unsustainable 101 percent limit kicked in. Bond levies aside*, this voting on maintenance and operations levies for parks, libraries, roads, and whatnot is a relatively new phenomenon. And an incredibly stupid way to budget.

That said, the MPD won’t change how we fund these other services. While it would leave more room for other lid lifts to meet other pressing needs, these lid lifts would still have to go before voters.

Opponents present Prop 1 as some sort of sinister plot to privatize our parks and build stadiums for jillionaires. That’s crazy. Or incredibly dishonest. I’m not sure which is worse. But all it really is is a modest tax increase dedicated to parks, that provides an adequate and stable source of funding, while leaving voters the option to tax themselves to pay for other needs.

If you simply hate taxes (hello, Seattle Times) vote “No.” But if you support essential services like parks, libraries, preschool, and roads, vote “Yes” on Prop 1.


* There is also the option of rarely-used voter-approved “excess levies,” which get around the statutory cap entirely, but since they are limited to 1 year, they’re not really practical for dealing with anything but an emergency.

Open Thread July 30

- Jim McDermott’s editorial in The Hill: VA needs more primary care doctors

- I didn’t know anything about the Spokane sit-lie ordinance before this piece.

- The long history of hating and loving Boeing

- There are legit criticisms of Democrats, but hey lets vote for Rand Paul isn’t the answer to those criticisms.

- I only tweet emergencies. I guess I’ll have to change up my Twitter strategy.

- Those things can kill ya

Officer Who Wrote 80 Percent of Seattle’s Pot Tickets Has History of Treating Public Disrespectfully

Officer Randy Jokela

Once a dick, always a dick: Seattle Police Officer Randy Jokela

As was reported in The Stranger earlier today, 63 of the 83 marijuana tickets written up this year—a $55 fine for smoking pot in public—have been issued by a single Seattle police officer. And now the Seattle Times has identified that officer as none other than Randy Jokela, one of the few officers who treated me unprofessionally during all my coverage of the Occupy Seattle demonstrations. Here’s what I wrote on Slog back in November of 2011:

To be clear, most of my interactions with Seattle police officers during the Occupy Seattle protests have been friendly, respectful, and professional, but last night… not so much.

When I asked an officer what his scary looking riot gun shot, he repeatedly responded “flowers.” Ha, ha. And every time I struggled to get a close up shot of a gun (rain on the lens was fucking with my autofocus), another clown-cop, the appropriately named Officer Jokela kept jumping in the way, striking what he thought were comical poses.

… So far, Seattle has escaped the worst kind of police abuses we’ve seen in NYC, Oakland and elsewhere … but there are certainly some bad apples on the force who are just itching to lash out, and who seem to disturbingly enjoy their opportunities to do just that; it’s something their commanding officers and more responsible colleagues might want to keep an eye on…

Elsewhere in the comment threads on Slog, eyewitnesses also identified Jokela as the officer who gratuitously mocked a Coast Guard veteran after he’d been pepper-sprayed. Officer Jokela is clearly a bad apple with a history of treating the public disrespectfully. And it’s hard to imagine his commanding officers weren’t aware.

Perhaps if the SPD took such minor transgressions by their officers a little more seriously, they might head off the major transgressions before they occur?

Hooray for Twitter! But Let’s Not Forget the Impact of a Well-Read Blog

KUOW’s Austin Jenkins has a good piece on the role of social media in amplifying the controversy over NRA lobbyist Brian Judy’s offensively Godwinian comments:

Todd Donovan, a political science professor at Western Washington University, said he technology as the key driver here — from the recording device planted in the audience to Twitter as a means of quickly disseminating the audio and transcript.

“Think even just 10 years ago,” Donovan said. “You couldn’t probably do this much in a one or two day news cycle, right?”

Yeah, well, true, no doubt. But don’t forget the role of an independent media—like Horsesass.org—in putting legs underneath a story like this, a role I’ve been filling in one capacity or another since 2004.

When the rest of our local media decided to sit on a sexual harassment scandal involving Washington’s longtime Lands Commissioner, I’m the one who broke the story and quickly forced it to the front page. When in the midst of a close race for King County Executive, media insiders laughed about how his own mother wouldn’t vote for Republican David Irons Jr., but refused to explain to voters the reasons why, I’m the one who forced the issue onto the airwaves, changing the complexion of the final three weeks of the election. And even as President George W. Bush was thanking FEMA director Mike Brown for doing “a heckuva job” in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, I was exposing the cronyism that had led to his disastrously unqualified appointment—an exposé that Brown himself blamed for his demise:

When I was forced off the pages of The Stranger in the heat of the minimum wage debate, there were business owners who cheered at the thought that they had finally shut me up. But I wasn’t about to give them that satisfaction. And so I returned to HA, if only part-time, gradually rebuilding its audience and influence so that I could use my shitty little foul-mouthed blog to once again make a difference the next time an opportunity to make a difference came my way.

This was one of those opportunities. And it felt damn good to play my role.

Maybe a traditional news outlet might have done as well had the audio come their way, or maybe they would have soft-balled it or failed to see its significance altogether. For as I have repeatedly preached to my friends in the broader progressive community, you just can’t rely on the Blethen-controled “objective” gatekeepers at the Seattle Times, or the sound-bite-constrained reporters of broadcast news, or the access-obsessed insiders at PubliCola, or even my well-meaning but distracted and overworked (and occasionally fired) ex-colleagues at The Stranger to get your message out, and get it out right. You need bloggers like me working at truly independent but fiercely progressive media outlets like HA.

And we need you to help us earn a living wage.

Twitter and Facebook are great tools for amplifying your message—hell, that’s how I draw most of my eyeballs these days, now that I’m no longer sucking at Dan Savage’s swollen Internet traffic teat. But social media is nothing without the content to drive it. And so rather than continuing to spend the bulk of your communications budgets on media outreach—whatever the technology—I remain convinced that local progressive organizations would realize much more bang for their messaging buck by coming together and funding an independent local progressive media outlet of their own.

Goldy TV: Tune In to KING-5 Morning News for Some Groggy Primary Election Punditry

I’ll be joining anchors Mark Wright and Joyce Taylor tomorrow morning around 6:45 am (ugh!) on KING-5 Morning News to chat about next Tuesday’s primary election—which means I’ll have to set my alarm for before I go to sleep, so don’t expect the most coherent Goldy ever. Topics of conversation will no doubt include the raging Park District Death Match and the Republicans new campaign strategy of attacking Republicans, as well as the NRA’s “on your mark, get set, Hitler!” kickoff to their No on I-594 campaign.

So grab a cup of coffee, tune in, and then jump in to the comment thread where all the trolls will be taunting me about how fat, old, and bald I am. Fun!

“Mark Stands Up to Party Bosses!” (Paid for by Party Bosses)

It’s campaign mailer season, and as usual, hilarity ensues! But I’m particularly amused by the Washington State Republican Party’s strategy this year of running against itself.

First there was the state Senate Republican Campaign Committee’s bizarrely unselfconscious mailer accusing Democratic challenger Matt Isenhower of being a closet Republican who is “willing to say anything to get elected. Just like his mentors: George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.” I know—weird, right? And now there is this mailer lauding Republican Mark Miloscia for “[standing] up to the party bosses and the out-of-touch politicians”—a mailer entirely paid for by… wait for it… the Washington State Republican Party!

"Mark Miloscia stands up to party bosses!" (Paid for by Party Bosses)

Of course, what the WSRP is really congratulating Miloscia for is standing up to the other party’s bosses by, you know, switching parties. But this overt attack on “party bosses” by (literally) party bosses, would be kinda like McDonald’s urging Burger King customers to avoid eating artery-clogging, salt-laden, E. coli-ridden burgers. Hard to imagine that’s good for business in the long term.

Again, the Republican Party appears to have a branding problem when its best campaign strategy is to run against itself.

If Parks Opponents Are So Brazenly Lying about Their Math, How Can You Trust Any of Their Other Claims?

If there’s anything that pisses me off more than lying in politics, it’s a political lie that is easily refuted by math. Take, for example, this whopper from a recent No on Park District campaign mailer:

No on Parks Lies

“Your property taxes would increase by 20%!” Omigod, that’s awful! If my $4,448 property tax bill were to increase by 20 percent, it would cost me an additional $890! That’s outrageous!

But it’s also bullshit.

In fact, if Proposition 1 passes, my property tax bill would only increase by about 60 bucks. That’s because the current Parks Levy of $0.19 per $1,000 of assessed value would bump up to $0.33, a $0.14 increase. And $0.14 is only 1.36 percent of the total $10.29168 per $1,000 of assessed value property tax that most Seattle homeowners are paying in 2014.

That’s a 1.34 percent increase, not the absurd 20 percent that parks opponents preposterously claim.

And even if the mayor and the city council are evil bastards who are just totally fucking with us—as the parks opponents seem to imply—and they immediately levy the full $0.75 per $1,000 the RCW allows, your property taxes would still only increase by 5.4 percent. That’s not nothing, but it’s still far short of that bullshit 20 percent claim.

So how do these lying liars justify their lying lie?

Carol Fisher, vice chair for Our Parks Forever, said the group based its numbers on Seattle’s levy cap of $3.60 per $1,000 assessed value. The park district would, in essence, add a maximum of 75 cents to this cap, she explained, which is how the group calculated the 20 percent increase.

Except that’s not what their mailer says. “Your property taxes would increase by 20%!” the lying liars claim in big bold print. But it won’t. Because that’s just a big bold lie.

So if they’re lying about something as easily refuted as math, how can you trust any of the other assertions they make? (Hint: you can’t.)

Drinking Liberally — Seattle

DLBottlePlease join us tonight for an evening of politics over a pint at the Seattle Chapter of Drinking Liberally. With just a week to go before Washington’s primary, this is an excellent opportunity to discuss primary races with fellow liberals.

We meet tonight, and every Tuesday evening at the Roanoke Park Place Tavern, 2409 10th Ave E, Seattle. The starting time is 8:00 pm, but some folks show up before that for dinner.

Can’t make it to Seattle? Check out another Washington state DL over the next week. The Tri-Cities chapter also meets this and every Tuesday night. The Enumclaw chapter meets on Friday. And next Monday, the Yakima, South Bellevue and Olympia chapters meet.

With 203 chapters of Living Liberally, including eighteen in Washington state, three in Oregon and three in Idaho, chances are excellent there’s a chapter meeting somewhere near you.

McDonald’s Is a “Joint Employer,” Says National Labor Relations Board

It may sound wonky, but this is potentially big, big news:

McDonald’s Corp. says it has been notified by a labor regulator that it can be named as a “joint employer” for workers in its franchise-owned restaurants.

The decision by the National Labor Relations Board was being closely watched because it could potentially expose McDonald’s to liability for the working conditions in its franchisees’ stores.

This is, of course, the issue at the heart of the International Franchise Association’s hilarious lawsuit against Seattle’s new $15 minimum wage ordinance. The IFA alleges that Seattle’s minimum wage law (and other proposed laws like it) would illegally discriminate against franchisees. Franchisees are small businesses, the IFA argues, totally independent from the corporate brand, and thus should be treated just like any other small business.

But apparently, the NLRB disagrees.

Barring a dangerously radical Supreme Court ruling overturning a century of legal precedent, the IFA never had much chance of prevailing in court; the NLRB’s decision only makes it harder. But if it holds, the NLRB’s decision could have a much more far reaching impact. Labor organizers have long argued that franchisers like McDonald’s should be held accountable for the low wages and poor working conditions at their franchisees’ stores, because corporate HQ exerts so much operational control. An official designation of McDonald’s and other franchisers as “joint employers” could open the door to new legal and labor organizing strategies.

Don Harper, Jon Hansen, Faye Garneau, Alyne Fortgang, and Jim Coombes Are Shameless Lying Liars

I’m sometimes accused of being uncivil on my blog, I suppose because of my blunt political commentary. But you know what’s truly uncivil when it comes to politics? Lying:

Lying about Prop 1

Just say “NO” to giving Special Interests a blank check and power to sell or privatize our parks, build new stadiums, create parks for waterfront hotels, buy more caged zoo animals, or…?

I’ve no doubt that is effective political rhetoric, but it is the bullshittiest bullshit, everDon Harper, Jon Hansen, Faye Garneau, Alyne Fortgang, Jim Coombes, and everybody else who paid for this mailer aren’t just concerned citizens with whom I have a political disagreement. They are shameless lying liars, filling voters’ mailboxes with shameless lying lies (PDF).

No, Seattle citizens have not been funding our parks through voter approved levies “for a hundred years” as these despicable liars shamelessly claim; we’ve only been resorting to parks levies for the past decade or so. No, Prop 1 does not “remove all citizen accountability”; the parks would be run by the mayor and the council, exactly as they are now. And no, under Prop 1, your property taxes would most certainly not “increase by 20%.” That is a simply preposterous claim!

Honestly, fuck these people. Because there’s absolutely nothing civil about a political campaign built entirely on lies.

And vote “Yes” on Prop 1.

Full Audio of NRA Spokesman Brian Judy’s Godwinian Remarks

Because neither the NRA nor their spokesman Brian Judy have responded to press queries regarding the latter’s Godwinian/anti-semitic remarks, some of the media accounts have gotten all journalisty, resorting to “allegedly” and “reportedly” in describing the controversy, as if there was any doubt about who is talking or about what was said.

So in the interest of fending off any incipient conspiracy theories about how The Jews fabricated this whole thing as part of our dastardly plot to take away your guns, I’ve posted the raw audio of the July 23 “No on Initiative 594″ event—all 1 hour and 26 minutes of it. I don’t suggest you actually listen to it—I already excerpted too much in my 3 minute YouTube—but here it is to satisfy the skeptics.

The two speakers are Mr. Judy and his fellow NRA field representative Adina Hicks. They self-identify, and are identified by others as such. Also feel free to take a few minutes on the Google to confirm that this event took place when and where I said it did. (Hint: it did.)