For all the hoo-hah over threatened challenges to Seattle’s historic $15 minimum wage ordinance, there will be no minimum wage measures on the ballot this fall. Nada. Bubkes. Zilch.
Shortly after a group of local business owners calling themselves “Forward Seattle” announced a proposed charter amendment to instead raise the city’s minimum wage to $12.50 over five years, City Attorney Pete Holmes let it be known that voter-proposed charter amendments can only be run in odd-numbered years. Holmes is out of town and unavailable for comment, but a quick perusal of the city charter and the Revised Code of Washington suggests he’s right. Article XX, Section 2 of the charter states that amendments proposed by voters are to be ratified at “the next general municipal election,” while RCW 29A.04.330 clearly says that city general elections are to be held in “odd-numbered years.” And in case you think the intent is vague, Article XX, Section 1 makes a clear distinction from council-proposed amendments, which are to be ratified in the “next general state or municipal election.” There’s really no other way to read this language.
Which is really pretty amusing given how Forward Seattle’s home page makes a point of boasting: “We’ve met with experts, we’ve hired consultants, and we’re ready to make this happen.” Sounds like their experts and consultants owe them a refund.
Of course, I suppose this is also embarrassing for 15Now.org, which has been gathering signatures for its own impossible minimum wage charter amendment—but no more embarrassing than it is to all the political and business insiders who allowed $15 Now to bully them into compromise by holding an empty gun to their heads. A couple weeks ago the chatter in City Hall was that $15 Now would go to the ballot almost regardless of what the council passed. Didn’t anybody bother to read the charter and make sure the socialists had their ducks in a row?
I didn’t. But I’m just some dumb blogger, not one of the high priced consultants and attorneys that helped broker this deal.
Why Holmes never bothered to tell $15 Now that its charter amendment would have to wait until 2015, I don’t know. But with yesterday’s statement he kinda did $15 Now a favor. While Kshama Sawant and the rest of $15 Now’s leadership has already declared victory, there remains a lot of pressure from within the rank and and file of the organization to continue to the 2014 ballot with their more sweeping measure. But now we know that’s impossible. Divisive debate averted.
And in case you’re wondering, yes, it would be virtually impossible at this late date to go through all the procedural hurdles to file a city initiative and gather enough signatures to qualify for the November 2014 ballot without the implicit cooperation of the city council. Which nobody would get. So there will be no minimum wage ballot measures this fall.
As for yesterday’s other “news,” that HA namesake Tim Eyman has filed an initiative to the legislature seeking to preempt municipal minimum wage laws, well, who the fuck cares? Eyman files dozens of initiatives a year trolling for financial backers, and this one is weak even by his spindly standards.
The minimum wage is hugely popular statewide, last passing by a two-to-one margin in 1998, winning all 39 counties. So who would put money behind this dog? Not the Washington Restaurant Association, which I’m told tacitly agreed not the challenge Seattle’s ordinance in exchange for the longer phase-in and temporary tip credit. Longtime Eyman sugar daddy Michael Dunmire is dead. This isn’t part of Kemper Freman Jr.’s trains = communism obsession. AWB has been quietly advising members to distance themselves from Eyman’s antics.
Eyman is nothing without other people’s money, and his funding sources have been drying up. 2014 will be the first year without an Eyman initiative on the ballot since 2006. He’s a paper tiger. Good riddance.