Study: Sodo arena has $732M in hidden subsidies for Hansen
Seattle taxpayers would end up subsidizing the proposed Sodo sports arena by nearly $732 million, according to an analysis by a Bellevue business valuation company. The group that commissioned the study said Tuesday that this situation would violate Initiative 91, which Seattle voters passed six years ago. The initiative states that the city must make a profit on any public investment in a sports facility. Seattle attorney Cleve Stockmeyer released the study, which was done by Bellevue business valuations company Private Valuations Inc. The study contends that the public-private partnership would net ArenaCo $731.8 million worth of tax breaks and services that ArenaCo wouldn’t pay for. “The deal boils down to special treatment for (ArenaCo) alone,” said Stockmeyer, who earlier sued to stop the proposed deal because he alleges it violates I-91. Puget Sound Business Journal, 11-20-13.
Kshama Sawant’s brash style catapulted her to victory
On the one hand: Sawant’s refreshingly blunt rhetoric about “corporate politicians” (career incumbents backed by wealthy donors)—combined with specific proposals to raise wages, lower rents, and tax millionaires—was exactly what catapulted her to a surprising victory. But the same cutting language a candidate uses on the campaign trail can come back and cut the candidate off at the knees once she’s elected. A few offensive statements from Sawant may be enough for critics to brand her as divisive and ideological. And being painted with that reputation would not only burden her as a council member, it would be used by critics to sink wage-reform legislation. On the other hand: Rough language should not be offensive to Seattle. It should be offensive if some folks attempt to undermine a candidate—and the voters who elected her—before her first day on the job. Truly offensive is fabricating umbrage over personality to distract from policy—a living wage that a majority of voters seem to support. The Stranger, 11-20-13.
And once she’s in office, what next?
While shocking headlines about Seattle electing a “radical” like Sawant probably moves papers in suburbia and raise eyebrows in middle America, Sawant’s campaign demonstrated that the bulk of her platform isn’t too far left of Seattle’s politics. She’s championed the fight for a $15 an hour minimum wage – an issue both Mike McGinn and mayor-elect Ed Murray eventually campaigned on (and that Sally Bagshaw has said she favors). She’s calling for more affordable housing in the city and wants all of Seattle’s workers to be able to afford to live here – a vision Nick Licata shares. She wants improvements in education and public transportation – things just about everyone seems to agree are necessary. But the continued characterization of Sawant as a fringe dissident denies the obvious: a majority of Seattle voters who cast a ballot this year have spoken, and they’re on board with the core tenants of her message – socialist or not. Seattle Weekly, 11-20-13.
Homelessness in King County: Blacks suffering the most
Homelessness is more than a poverty problem. It is also a color crisis. According to the United Way of King County, blacks occupy nearly 30 percent of shelter beds but comprise about seven percent of King County’s general population. Because homelessness is primarily an economic issue, it is no wonder that more than a third of African Americans are living in poverty and they make the lowest median household income. The statistics are daunting. But, numbers only tell part of the story. On the surface the cure for homelessness is more affordable housing and jobs. However, barriers like housing discrimination, less access to health care, over-representation in the criminal-justice system and higher unemployment rates make it more complex. Seattle Times, 11-19-13.
Backus holds 135-vote lead in Auburn mayoral countdown
Pierce County Elections reported no new votes in the Auburn mayoral race as of Tuesday afternoon. And when all 15 remaining validated votes in King County were counted Tuesday, Nancy Backus had picked up one more, extending her lead over John Partridge to 135 votes. The numbers show that as of Tuesday afternoon, time and the number of votes remaining to count in the close race to succeed Pete Lewis were about out. Backus, hoping to be Auburn’s first female mayor, had received 6,705 votes in the combined total of King and Pierce counties, 50.51 percent, to John Partridge’s combined 6,570 votes, or 49.49 percent. Auburn Reporter, 11-20-13.
It ain’t over: I-522 supporters lost the first fight to label GMO foods in Washington; now it’s on to Round Two
When the campaign to label genetically modified food in Washington conceded last week, Initiative 522 had definitely failed — 51 to 49 percent — with too few uncounted votes left to pull off a win. I-522 was leading in just seven counties, all on the western side of the state. The Yes on 522 campaign had been outspent 3-to-1. But as Sen. Maralyn Chase (D-32), one of the initiative’s legislative sponsors, says: “This is just the opening round.” Backers of GMO labeling are already vowing to return in 2016 with another ballot measure, and Chase and Rep. Cary Condotta (R-12) are preparing bills for the upcoming legislative session to keep the momentum for labeling alive. “I don’t think anyone should be disheartened,” Condotta says. “Forty-nine to fifty-one is not exactly a trouncing.” When the next legislative session starts this January, Chase says she’ll introduce legislation to “address the problems of the PDC [Public Disclosure Commission].” Condotta says he plans to address the possibility of transgenic salmon entering the Washington market. Pacific Northwest Inlander, 11-20-13.
State GOP chair Susan Hutchison cites ‘war on women’ in pay-raise spat
Susan Hutchison, the new chair of the state Republican party, gets a salary of about $75,000 a year — substantially less than the $95,000 earned by her predecessor, Kirby Wilbur. But when Hutchison tried last weekend to convince the GOP executive committee to boost her pay to Wilbur’s level, the conversation turned ugly and Hutchison’s request was rebuffed. Hutchison bemoaned the decision in an internal party memo. The pay for the Republican chairman’s position had been cut by GOP leaders — citing budget issues — at a meeting just before Hutchison’s election in August. But Hutchison argued that vote had violated the party’s bylaws and could be viewed as “discriminatory and vindictive” — and even play into the hands of Democrats who have talked up the GOP’s problems among female voters. Seattle Times, 11-20-13.
Yakima teachers want smaller classrooms part of union contract
Yakima public school teachers — protesting politely — told the school board Tuesday night that reducing class size is key to successfully negotiating a new contract, which teachers have been working without since August. A large number of Yakima teachers displeased with contract negotiations — ongoing since the spring — voiced their concerns to School District officials during public comment at Tuesday’s business meeting. Earlier, about 100 members and supporters of the Yakima Education Association stood outside the district offices with signs saying “I support the YEA bargaining team” and others referencing the more than $200,000 the district has spent the past two years on legal fees, much of which teachers say has gone to Seattle attorney Michael Rorick, who represents the district. For months, the district and the teachers have sought common ground on compensation, workload, and performance evaluations. But those in attendance Tuesday night complained about overcrowded classrooms. Yakima Herald-Republic, 11-20-13.
Sharon Nelson to replace Ed Murray as Senate Democratic leader
State Sen. Sharon Nelson (D-34) was selected Wednesday afternoon to replace Seattle Mayor-elect Ed Murray (D-43) as the leader of the minority Senate Democratic Caucus. Nelson, 62, a former bank executive, consumer-protection activist, and chief of staff to then-King County Council member Dow Constantine, was appointed to the state House in 2007. She was elected to the Senate in 2010, and this year served as the assistant ranking member on the Senate Ways and Means Committee and was the party’s go-to senator for this year’s capital budget. Murray resigned as Democratic leader shortly after defeating incumbent Mike McGinn. Murray said this week he will step down from the Senate Dec. 31. Seattle Times, 11-20-13.
Snohomish homeowners may not be forced to pay fees
City leaders in Snohomish vowed Tuesday to explore any legal means available to avoid pressuring more than a dozen homeowners to cough up thousands of dollars for unpaid building fees that the city neglected to collect years ago. The latest turn came when Councilman Greg Guedel suggested directing city staff to explore any insurance the original developer had when the affected homes in the Denny and Kendall plats were built five to six years ago. Guedel, who works by day as an attorney with a high-profile Seattle law firm, also suggested the city head to court to explore obtaining a judgment against the developer. The motion passed unanimously. Everett Herald, 11-20-13.
We have heard it before, but here it comes again—Harry Reid is set to go nuclear
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid appears set to go nuclear—before Thanksgiving. With Senate Republicans blocking a third Obama nomination to the powerful D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, a senior Senate Democratic leadership aide tells me Reid (D-NV) is now all but certain to move to change the Senate rules by simple majority—doing away with the filibuster on executive and judicial nominations, with the exception of the Supreme Court—maybe this week. At a press conference Wednesday, Reid told reporters he was taking another look at rules reform, but didn’t give a timeline. The senior leadership aide goes further, saying it’s hard to envision circumstances under which Reid doesn’t act. Reid has concluded Senate Republicans have no plausible way of retreating from the position they’ve adopted in this latest Senate rules standoff, the aide says. Republicans have argued that in pushing nominations, Obama is “packing” the court, and have insisted that Obama is trying to tilt the court’s ideological balance in a Democratic direction — which is to say that the Republican objection isn’t to the nominees Obama has chosen, but to the fact that he’s trying to nominate anyone at all. Washington Post, 11-20-13.
Pelosi: GOP should rethink food stamp bill after Radel scandal
Republicans should rethink their approach to food stamp policy after Rep. Trey Radel’s recent drug arrest, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Tuesday. Radel, a freshman Florida Republican, was arrested in Washington Oct. 29 for possession of cocaine. Pelosi characterized the scandalous episode as “really interesting,” coming “on the heels of Republicans voting to make sure that everybody who had access to food stamps was drug tested.” Passed in September, the Republicans’ food stamp bill generated the most headlines for cutting the program by roughly $40 billion over the next decade–a sharp contrast to the $4 billion cuts contained in the Senate Democratic bill. But there were other differences between the chambers’ approaches, including the House stipulation that beneficiaries of food stamps must first be drug tested. The Hill, 11-19-13.
3 signs that Obamacare is slowing health care spending
The three years since the Affordable Care Act passed—2011, 2012 and 2013—have seen the slowest growth in health care spending since 1965, when the statistic began being consistently tracked, according to a new White House report. That’s great news, but the source of that trend is important. For the last couple years, most experts have credited the Great Recession for much of the decline. It makes sense: When times are tough, people are going to do what they can to minimize spending on everything, including health care. At some point, the White House needs to prove that the law is achieving that objective. According to the report released Wednesday, they think they have the evidence to say it’s starting to. Talking Points Memo, 11-20-13.
Right-wing pension-cutters humiliated by their own survey data
Late last month, the Pew Center on the States began ratcheting up its now-infamous campaign to slash public employee retirement benefits. As damaging stories about its partnership with former Enron trader John Arnold swirled through the media, the organization convened a two-day conference for politicians, lobbyists and activists at the swanky Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Washington, D.C. With pension-slashing politicians like San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed (D) rallying the troops, the event’s goal seemed obvious: to reinvigorate the Plot Against Pensions and gear up for yet another push for big retirement benefit cuts in the upcoming state legislative sessions. Yet, there was one big embarrassing problem: When the organization released its new poll at the conference in support of its pension-cutting agenda, the survey data showed that the American public is powerfully rejecting the right’s anti-public-worker crusade. Salon, 11-19-13.
To Think About
Bob Ferguson: Washington’s political chess master?
Talk to Bob Ferguson, and it is rare that the game of chess doesn’t come into play. Friends and colleagues say “chess is central” to understanding Ferguson, the former King County legislator who is now ten months into his job as Washington State’s 18th Attorney General. He’s played the game since childhood, is a two-time state champion, and has the aura of intensity you’d expect from an internationally rated chess master. His proficiency is on full display when he describes how he operates: thinking several steps ahead, studying the opponent, working a detailed plan, and taking a calculated risk when the calculation looks good. Friends and colleagues expect him to run for governor some day. It can’t have escaped the chess master’s notice that the AG job has been a stepping stone to higher office. Crosscut, 11-20-13.