Politicians with Zero Grassroots Support Aim to Curb Activities of Grassroots Supporters

Defending Mayor Ed Murray’s crusade to rein in the scourge of electioneering, his spokesperson says that his proposed ordinance is merely intended to remove “confusion” over what political activity is or is not prohibited:

When asked about the bill’s connection to Sawant, a spokesman for the mayor said, “There seems to be some confusion over whether or not political activity related to official events organized by city staff is currently prohibited.”

There certainly won’t be any confusion after this new language is adopted,” added the spokesman, Jason Kelly.

Uh-huh. Except, here’s the new language that’s being proposed:

No elected official, nor the official’s agent, shall engage in campaign activities at, or adjacent to, any official city public event that is organized by that elected official or any employee of the official’s office. The campaign activities may not occur during the event or at any time that attendees of the public event are present.

The glaring problem with this language is that it defines neither “official’s agent” nor “campaign activities”—and neither does section 2.04.300 of the municipal code that it amends. (Or “adjacent to,” for that matter.) Who exactly qualifies under the law as an “agent” of an elected official? I dunno. What exactly is a “campaign activity?” Beats me. If a Sawant supporter, on her own initiative were to pass out a Sawant campaign flyer on the steps of City Hall at a Sawant organized public forum, would that make Sawant legally liable for her actions? I guess that’s up to the courts to decide.

So much for removing any confusion.

Essentially, this ordinance bars Council member Sawant and her office from organizing any “official city public event” by attempting to make her legally liable for any action taken by one of her “agents” (whatever that means). And it pretty much only applies to Sawant, because she’s the only elected official who can claim any sort of meaningful grassroots support—a base that is at times unruly, undisciplined, and not under anybody’s direct control. Because grassroots!

I mean, seriously, if Sally Bagshaw were to organize a forum, do you really think she’d have to worry about overly-enthusiastic supporters showing up and violating section 2.04.300? I don’t think so.

Only Sawant needs to worry about involuntarily violating this ordinance because only Sawant has a large base of supporters enthusiastic enough to actually show up.

I’m not an attorney, but both the vagueness and broadness of this ordinance strikes me as unenforceable… though that doesn’t mean they can’t create a legal nightmare for Sawant in the process of trying. At the very least, this ordinance would produce an endless parade of bogus ethics complaints. At the very worst, it could ultimately prompt a legal challenge seeking to overturn Sawant’s reelection under section 2.04.500:

If the court finds that the violation of any provision of this chapter by any candidate or political committee probably affected the outcome of any election, the result of the election may be held void and a special election held within 60 days of such finding.

Unintended consequences? Maybe not.*

* Full disclosure: I enthusiastically  support Sawant. I mean, like duh-uh.

Collateral Damage

Aftermath of the MOVE fire

Thirty years ago today, on May 13, 1985, a part of West Philadelphia became a war zone. A group of radical residents called MOVE – who advocated a return to nature and strongly identified with their African roots – were holed up in their home on Osage Avenue in an armed bunker they’d built on the roof. Years of animosity had led up to this day. In a 1978 raid on their home, a police officer was killed (possibly by friendly fire) and several of their members were beaten by police and given long prison sentences. Since then, MOVE had been stockpiling weapons, terrifying their neighbors, and preparing for the next confrontation with police.

Before the raid that day, neighbors evacuated from their homes, many of them looking forward to finally being rid of this nuisance. But things would go a bit off the rails. Unable to raid the house or flush out the residents with normal tactics, Philadelphia police decided to do something a little more drastic.

They flew a helicopter low over the house and dropped a small bomb on the roof.
[Read more…]

Something, something Dori.

I hadn’t been doing much metacommentary lately. Mostly because the Senate Republicans seem to not be inserting random easily debunked facts into their press releases any more. But I went looking recently. I haven’t checked on Dori Monson in a while. Man, he’s really horrible isn’t he? If Rand Paul ever gets elected and puts us on the bullshit standard, Dori’s archives will be make us all rich. It’s tough to pick just one in the last few weeks, but I think this Seattle shouldn’t pay for transit because shut up that’s why piece was the low hangingiest fruit. In fairness it’s a write up on the KIRO website, so it’s someone else trying to sift through that bullshit.

Seattle’s mayor wants more taxes to pay for transportation.

Other than taxes, I’m not sure how one would pay for transportation. Private charity? If Dori is going to hold an on-air pledge drive to try to shame our city’s wealthy into paying for transportation, great! I’d still prefer taxes, but I guess getting things done is the most important part. What Seattle billionaire is going he going to get to pay for the Graham Street Station? None? Because he doesn’t mean that we should find another way to pay for transit, he just means that taxes are icky.

Mayor Ed Murray announced a plan to ask Seattle residents to approve a $930 million transportation levy on Wednesday. That’s $30 million more than what was originally proposed and shows the hypocrisy of Murray and city administration, KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson said.

Putting some money on the ballot is hypocrisy?

“It just continues the theme of too much is never enough,” Dori said. “They sold the last levy as essential.”

The last levy was essential! The rest of the county lost a shit-ton of transit, but Seattle didn’t do as bad. But those buses don’t run on our wanting them to run. Also, I’m not sure what that levy has to do with this one. Or does he mean the Bridging The Gap? The reason we keep having temporary levies is that they keep expiring. In theory so we can reassess our priorities and give voters a chance to weigh in.

The new proposal would not increase the cost to taxpayers, according to the city. The additional funding committed to transportation comes from the projected increase in assessed value due to new construction.

OK, so problem solved. This entire thing is pointless. Awesome! I’m going to go get some froyo or something. What, there’s more? Fine, I’ll keep making fun of it.

The revised property tax levy to Move Seattle reflects community priorities expressed in nearly 8,000 comments received during numerous public meetings, coffee hours and an online survey that followed the release of the draft levy proposal in March, according to the city.

OK. So they did an extensive process to find out people’s priorities and then they acted including with new money from growth that won’t cost the taxpayers more. It’s hypocrisy and too much?

“This levy reflects the needs of our communities and improves the day-to-day realities of getting around our city,” Murray said. “Over the past several weeks, the people of Seattle told us that safety is the top priority. We will invest more in transit reliability and access, improved connections to light rail, and making it safer for people of all ages to walk in Seattle.”

But won’t increasing property taxes make Seattle less affordable than it is now? Dori points out that Mayor Murray says he wants to find ways to combat income inequality and unaffordable housing, but he’s increasing property taxes.

Jesus Christ on the Cross! No. It won’t. Because (a) the whole new growth thing so the whole discussion isn’t relevant. But also (b) if you don’t have to drive as much or at all, it saves money. So even if you pay more in property taxes if you can afford not to drive as much, it saves on gas and maintenance, and parking, and if you’re less likely to be in a collision less insurance. Honestly, it’s not that difficult. And even if it’s not, you’re way more productive in transit than while driving. I’m writing this on public transit right now!

“I’d love to find out … Why he does things to make it worse,” Dori said.

Because it’s reasonable things that they community wanted based on nearly 8000 comments?

There’s another concerning fact about the property tax increase: It’s not just property owners that will vote on it.

Yes, the most tragic thing imaginable is that we let people who don’t own property vote these days.

“There are thousands of people who are in apartments who are property tax exempt,” Dori said. “They have no skin in the game. They can vote for higher and higher taxes and not be affected at all.”

So, wait? People in apartments are exempt? Didn’t we have several paragraphs about how it makes things less affordable to live in the city? Do. What? I. Sorry, I think Dori Monson’s logic broke my brain. I think I’m dumber fore having read it. Anyway, it also broke the brain of the person doing the write up, because this is how it ends.

“Strap in,” Dori added. “It’s going to be a bumpy ride.”

OK then. Solid ending.

Mayor Murray Solves Affordable Housing Crisis by Proposing Tighter Regulations on Electioneering

A couple weeks ago, an overflow crowd packed into city hall for a public forum on Seattle’s growing affordable housing crisis, hosted by city council members Kshama Sawant and Nick Licata. It was a loud, emotional, and politically charged event that clearly demonstrated to Mayor Ed Murray the need for bold and decisive action:

SEATTLE (May 12, 2015) – Mayor Ed Murray and Councilmember Tom Rasmussen proposed legislation today that would strengthen election and ethics rules. The legislation amends existing law to explicitly prohibit campaign activities at, or adjacent to, official City sponsored events.

“City Hall should be – and is – a forum for ideas and civic conversation, but taxpayer-funded events should never supplement or support outside campaign activities,” said Mayor Murray. “We need to ensure public resources are not being used for political purposes. Electioneering and fundraising have no place at, or during, City-sponsored events.”

Jesus. Could Ed and his allies on the council tie their undies any tighter in a knot?

To be clear, there was nothing unethical about that affordable housing forum. What some of Sawant’s colleagues are really upset about is that she has once again latched onto an issue that is turning out to be one of the most dominant issues in the 2015 campaign. But she didn’t do that through illegal electioneering. She did that by being in touch with actual working people.

I really wish my friends in the Democratic establishment would focus more on solving the problems that Sawant is attacking instead of focusing on attacking Sawant.

Drinking Liberally — Seattle


What’s there to talk about in politics? Shell Oil got the go-ahead from the feds to drill in the Arctic, but will the Port of Seattle give them a base? Another week, another batch of G.O.P. Presidential candidate announcements to ponder. And Jeb Bush would still invade Iraq…even “knowing what we know now.” Please join us for drinks and conversation at this week’s meeting of the Seattle Chapter of Drinking liberally.

We meet tonight and every Tuesday at the Roanoke Park Place Tavern, 2409 10th Ave E, Seattle. Our starting time is 8:00 pm, but some folks stop by earlier for dinner.

Can’t make it to Seattle on Tuesday night? Check out one of the other DL meetings this week. The Tri-Cities and Redmond chapters also meet tonight. On Wednesday the Bellingham chapter meets. The Bremerton, Spokane, and Kent chapters meet on Thursday. And next Monday, the Aberdeen and Yakima chapters meet.

There are 191 chapters of Living Liberally, including eighteen in Washington state, four in Oregon and two in Idaho. Chances are excellent there’s a chapter meeting somewhere near you.

King County Elections Director’s Retirement Sets Off Race for the Most Important Office Nobody’s Heard Of

King County Elections Director Sherril Huff

King County Elections Director Sherril Huff

One of the stoopidest, stoopidest things local voters have done over the 11 years I’ve been covering local politics is to make the King County Elections Director an elected office. This is a position that demands a professional who knows how run elections, not a politician who knows how to run for them. And while it is putatively a nonpartisan office, we all know that’s bullshit.

The last person we want running King County Elections is a director with a political agenda, allegiance, or ambition.

Fortunately, disaster was averted back in February of 2009 when the appointed director, Sherril Huff, won a special election against a six-person field that included the likes of Pam Roach and David Irons Jr. (Irons actually came in second!) And the reason why you’ve heard so little in the press about Huff ever since is that she has done such a damn fine job. Which is why it worries me to read the press release that Huff is retiring:

King County Elections Director Sherril Huff will not seek re-election as King County Elections Director.  She had planned to run for a second full, four year term but will now retire for personal and health considerations.  Huff, who has held the position since 2009, issued the following statement:

“It is with some sadness that I made this decision.  I love my job, my team of dedicated professionals, and the work we do to ensure transparent, efficient elections for the 1.1 million voters in our state’s largest County. I was looking forward to continuing this service, but after consulting with family, friends and colleagues, I am making the right decision to step down after this year.

I’m particularly proud of the advancements we have made in ballot tracking, improving technologies to speed counting and processing, and improving accessibility through vote by mail, drop boxes, multi-language voting materials, and other efforts to increase participation.

I know I am leaving the office in a strong position as a state and national leader, and will enjoy the remaining months in office.”

Huff deserves a ton of credit for restoring confidence in the office in the wake of the controversial 2004 election. So my hope is that Huff has a qualified deputy in the office who the political establishment rally behind awfully damn quick before politics and personal ambition have a chance to corrupt this race. I don’t want a political ally—I want an elections professional. And so should you.

Much to the Republicans’ dismay, Washington is a “voter intent” state; but there is still plenty of room for an elections director to suppress the vote in subtle and nuanced ways. We could tighten up on the signature verification standards, leaving thousands more “challenged” ballots out of the count. We could pull back on our multilingual voter outreach efforts, reducing turnout in immigrant communities. We could scale back on the number of drop boxes in communities of color and on college campuses. In the wake of several elections in which the late ballots broke hard to the left, our new elections director could support the Seattle Times’ incessant call for moving the ballot deadline from postmarked by Election Day to received by Election Day.

There is plenty of opportunity for mischief. Or, the new director could follow in Huff’s methodical footsteps by focusing on improving and speeding the elections process.

Low profile races like this tend to fly far under the radar—voter turnout for the 2009 special election in which Huff first won office was only 22 percent. But considering that fair and impartial elections are the heart of our democracy, in the long run this could end up being one of the most important races on the November ballot.

Open Thread 5/11

- Any civil libertarian who counts on gun nuts to stand with them against government authority is a fool.

So in a completely imaginary world where nearly half the jobs at the city are wiped out, pay is pretty equitable and the gender hiring disparity is pretty small! In the real world, meanwhile, pay isn’t equitable and the gender disparity is significant.

– God, how little sense of humor must Mike Huckabee have now if he was upset about Life Of Brian in his early 20’s?

Anti-vaxxers are more dangerous than you thought

– What the fuck, Rick Scott?

Happy Blogiversary to Me!

Darryl just called to remind me that today is the 11th anniversary of my very first post to HA:

[T]o those upstanding members of the political and media establishment who insist I cannot possibly expect to maintain my credibility as an activist while producing an irreverent and outrageous blog, the Goldy half of me respectfully says: “fuck you.”

Yeah, it’s been a weird 11 years. But rereading that post, I’m proud that I’ve always managed to remain true to myself.

Anyway, thanks for reading me all these years. That’s all any writer can ask for in life: readers.

Friday Night Multimedia Extravaganza!

Slate: What is Bastille Day?

Mental Floss: Why do things taste bad after brushing one’s teeth?

Kimmel: This week in unnecessary censorship.

Surveillance State:

Minute Physics: How to subtract by adding.

Congressional hits and misses of the week.

Obama marks 70th anniversary of WWII end:

Jon on Deflate-gate.

Haters Attack a Hate Group:

Reid on the “unconscionable” backlog of judicial nominees.

Slate: A brief history of Godzilla.

Senate Historian: How TV changed the Senate.

Ann Telnaes: What’s a “rough ride”?.

The 2016 Clown Parade:

Mental Floss: 20 facts about the Muppets.

David Pakman: School without sex ed has chlamydia outbreak.

White House: West Wing Week.

Sam Seder: Mitt Romney doesn’t know what “mass incarceration” is.

Jade Helm 15 and Other Conspiracies from the Lunatic Right:

Stop! Or the entire state of Texas will shoot.

David Pakman: Cop accidentally shoots his mother in church…at a wedding.

Money and Politics:

Mental Floss: Misconceptions about English.

Last week’s Friday Night Multimedia Extravaganza can be found here.

It Must Be Election Season

When even Bruce Harrell is being pretty badass. I know, he has always been pretty good on police accountability issues, but it’s nice to see him actually saying a lawsuit might be a good idea when police act unreasonably. And while it sure doesn’t take much for the police guild to act like they’re the most put upon people in the world, I’m glad he got under their skin.

Open Thread 5-8

- Congrats to the UK for keeping horrible people in office. At least they won’t have to form a coalition with even more horrible people.

– Sound Transit will miss Joni Earl when she retires.

Murray Releases Revised $930 Million Transportation Levy Proposal

Oil trains are ticking time bombs, and each one passing through a small town in North Dakota or a large city like Seattle is a risk to the people, the property, and the environment of that community. There is no safe way to transport this oil, and local municipalities should not bear the risk while the railways and oil companies rake in all the profit. We urgently need stronger local, state, and federal protections against these dangerous oil trains rolling through our communities.

– I liked reading about the end of the gray wolf in Thurston County, but what I’m most amazed by is an old newspaper using “xpedition.” Did nobody catch that, or was it proper?

Hillary as Nut Cracker

This happened in Washington state a bit over seven years ago:

This story was brought to mind as I was thinking about the upcoming election season—I guess the idea of Hillary bringing down a big slate of almost all males nutjobbers served as a vehicle to invoke the Hillary-as-nut-cracker metaphor, triggering the memory.

Hillary will, in fact, end up running against only one Republican. Even so, almost all the Republican candidates will be running as the anti-Clinton, besides trying to out-conservative, out-gun, out-god, out-science-deny, and out-homophobe the others.

It’s going to be entertaining. More so, if we can get some more televised G.O.P. debates.

And every time a Republican drops out, I’ll be hearing another nut being cracked….