Even if you don’t drive a car, you know gas prices are high right now in the United States. Some states have already committed to gas tax “relief”, either through temporarily lowering state gas taxes or direct payments to vehicle owners. The federal government has released reserve oil to try to lower prices. Even though retail gas prices aren’t strongly correlated to gas taxes and oil is a global market hard to influence, some kind of relief is seen as politically necessary because driving is seen as unavoidable. Why can’t we ask people to drive less and use transit or walk or bike? Because, as implied in a recent NYT article and claimed commonly elsewhere, it’s supposedly “infeasible” in much of the United States to live without a car.Continue reading “What if you didn’t have to drive a car?”
(Some) Seattle mayoral campaign websites need improvement
The Seattle mayoral primary is basically over. It’s pretty clear who will advance, even if the vote isn’t certified. So it might seem silly to go look at accessibility of campaign websites now. But some folks look at how much Andrew Grant Houston’s campaign raised and spent for so few votes and are concerned. I think folks should not be surprised or concerned: a relative unknown candidate whose young and not white, running in a crowded field with many big names, is sadly likely to earn a combination of enthusiasm (money! volunteers!) and few votes. Lots of folks told themselves something like “I really like Ace but he isn’t going to be top two, so I voted for <probably González or Echohoawk>”.
One reason AGH for Seattle spent so much money is something they highlighted early on: prioritizing accessibility and inclusion on their website. I didn’t really look earlier in the campaigns as I already had a good idea who was in my top 3-4 pretty early. But lots of voters do look at campaign websites. The AGH campaign’s prioritizing of accessibility and inclusion shows even in a very brief visit using VoiceOver on my iPhone. VoiceOver is a screen reader which in the past I’ve had to use to do most anything on my phone due to vision loss (much of which has been improved with surgeries). I am not the most proficient screen reader user but I can get by and still use it at times when my eyes are too tired or sore (or I’m sitting with a hot pack on my eyes for 10-20 minutes). Anyway, I “looked” at AGH’s website using VoiceOver briefly, and then the two other candidates who were in my top three and then the candidate who currently is leading in votes in the primary.Continue reading “(Some) Seattle mayoral campaign websites need improvement”
Primary Elections in Seattle & King County, 2021!
If you’re in Seattle or King County you might have noticed there’s an election! You hopefully already have your ballot as they were mailed out last Wednesday (if not, King County Elections can fix that). Here are my not very detailed preferences on various races. Note this isn’t all the elections on the ballot just the ones I’m voting on or care a bit about that I know anything about. This is not going to be long on explanation (well hopefully not) but a better place to dump my recommendations than a twitter thread. If you want longer discussions of candidates or other endorsement lists, my favorite sources are The Urbanist, the Transit Riders Union, 350 Seattle, or Publicola and even The Stranger is kind of okay.
I’ve mostly not been paying all that much attention (for me not very much) to electoral politics generally and even less so for non-Seattle races. That said, I’m getting the impression talking to friends who are paying more attention that there are a lot of incumbents being challenged by folks with really great backgrounds and experience who we haven’t seen in many similar roles so if I don’t mention something on your ballot, have a look at those endorsements links! You might find someone pretty awesome you weren’t expecting.
King County Council
One place where I think we could use some great incumbent challengers is King County Council. I have a great council person, Girmay Zahilay, in D2, but a number of the positions have been long filled by fairly timid (at my most charitable) members who don’t seem to want to really address problems. Fortunately we have some great challengers! In district 9 (parts of the east side and going to the southeast of the county), a fairly conservative incumbent has two really great challengers including Kim-Khanh Van who has a particular focus on how important housing and land use are to addressing climate change regionally and has strong ties in communities that often do not get much of a seat at the table in our region. Ubax Gardheere similarly comes from a background that are often gets name-checked as important, but not often given the stage, and has been working on equitable development in Seattle city government. While I can’t vote for either, they both definitely are the kind of people I was thinking of when I wrote “Stop Voting for White Men“: they are close enough to where I am on policy while coming with the background and experience that means they have worked twice as hard to get where they are and know how deeply important their work is and mean the ‘bench’ of people who will be running for higher offices will be larger and truly more diverse. The various endorsement links have recommendations on other county council positions but D9 is the one I’ve paid any attention to, so that’s all you get here. 🙂
King County Executive
I’ve been for Joe Ngyuen since he announced. I met him briefly at an event at Seattle U when he was running for state senator and liked him then. He won that seat with work: organizing and getting folks new to politics out for him, despite the establishment having already anointed a candidate for the open seat. On paper, a lot of our “progressive candidates” don’t seem very different, so one way I am using to think about my choices is: do they see the urgency? The incumbent has been in office for almost twelve years and we built a youth jail, still have massive amounts of criminalization county wide, a floundering “regional homelessness” organization, lots of sprawl and not enough investment in policy that will let people actually live in the region stably without increasing harm to the environment. Nguyen is running with a sense of urgency, so I’m voting for him.
Port of Seattle Commissioners
Technically this one isn’t on the primary ballot, but I am so glad we have good candidates for Port that I had to mention them! The Port of Seattle is fairly overlooked. It controls vast amounts of land, multiple shipping port facilities, the airport (obviously!) and has influence on so many things. In the past, the Port has been anywhere from corrupt to incompetent. The Port commission has often been filled mostly with folks who care primarily about whatever large businesses want, not what is really good for workers or the environment (or, to the degree they care, if it conflicts with what business wants, it’s usually the workers and the environment that get less). At the general, we have the chance to unseat two incumbents, both of which I’ve disliked and have voted against in the past due to being far too large business focused and not enough concerned about climate change. You can vote them out by voting for Hamdi Mohamed and Toshiko Hasegawa … soon. 🙂
County Ballot Measure: Best Start for Kids
You like kids and want them to do well in life? Then vote for this. Note that because our tax system is so messed up, this is really a renewal of an existing property tax levy that funds already highly successful programs.
You’ll have to read the endorsements linked above for ideas on school board. I just have very little opinions on school board. I am increasingly of the opinion that the way the school board and the district are structured makes it near impossible for them to effectively oversee the district and I just don’t have opinions right now on who would be better for each position. Sorry. 😦
Seattle City Attorney
Seattle is weird (for Washington cities) in that it elects a city attorney. Their office gives legal advice to the city, manages cases where the city is being sued or sues other entities on the city’s behalf, and decides on how to handle misdemeanor offenses (criminal violations are handled by the county). The incumbent has been … okay. But his priorities are not inline with where I am politically as far as what is justice: justice is not criminalizing poverty by putting people who commit minor offenses through the harms of the legal system (including up to a year in jail!). Justice is going after abusive landlords and employers and other larger interests that cause harm that the city has to make up for in other ways. The incumbent has done some of this but he also does absurd things like pushing to get Seattle out from under the consent decree the city has been under arguing SPD had improved enough to not need it (which lolwhut).
Fortunately, Nicole Thomas-Kennedy is challenging the incumbent with exactly the kind of platform I’d want. Vote NTK.
Seattle City Council, Position 8
Teresa Mosqueda is running for re-election. She is my favorite (sorry all my other favorites). She has gotten so much done. She didn’t let the head tax repeal stop her and got JumpStart passed which to be honest I think most others would have given up. There may as well only be Mosqueda on the position 8 ballot!
Seattle City Council, Position 9
Lorena González chose not to run again for position 9 in order to run for mayor, leaving us with an open seat. While I’d be happy with either Nikkita Oliver or Brianna Thomas, I’m voting for Oliver (I gave each one of my vouchers months ago). While you can read any number of longer endorsements that talk about what Oliver is about and why you should vote for them, I think the most important for me is that they have publicly evolved on a number of policies that matter to me in a way that I think is representative of how people should consider issues and learn, while still keeping their focus on building a real community for all that has been their focus for a long time. Vote for Oliver, but if not her, vote for Thomas. 🙂
I know you were just skimming down for this one. We are quite blessed with choice. Unlike the year of too many mayors where I thought a number of seemingly credible candidates were superfluous or really did not understand why they were running, the candidates I consider worth voting for I understand why they all ran (and even the ones I don’t want to vote for, I at least understand mostly). This race more than the others really makes me wish we had some form of ranked choice voting because then I would not be stuck with the problem where I’d be happy with three folks for sure but figuring out which one to vote for who has the “best” chance of advancing or of beating a likely more conservative candidate in the general is a fool’s game. Anyway let’s pretend I had ranked choice voting. If we did I would probably rank like this:
I would just not rank anyone else (note I gave Houston and González both one democracy voucher a while ago and hadn’t really looked at Echohawk at that point). Some might be surprised to see Jessyn Farrell not on this list, but she has publicly (and, in my opinion, incoherently) supported the so-called “Compassion Seattle” charter amendment which is some anti-homeless bullshit (this is a technical term, see House Our Neighbors for more) and even sent a mailer to our house promoting her support for it, so whether she means to or not, she is aligned with people who are more interested in not ever having to see people without homes than they are in helping them find homes.
So that leaves me with three who all have good to great positions and backgrounds and all that stuff. In keeping with the philosophy behind “Stop Voting for White Men” which is more around around voting for people close to me in policy who are underrepresented in government, then Houston is probably one of the less represented, at least in part because he is an actual renter in a city where the majority of people rent and are increasingly being driven out of Seattle to find cheaper rents. Almost no elected city officials are renters (I think none since González and Mosqueda have bought homes) and I wonder how far back we’d have to go to find a mayor that didn’t own (I would love to be proved wrong that there have been many recent mayors that didn’t own a home!)
Of course, we don’t have ranked choice voting so ultimately I have to fill out my ballot for just one. I have to decide to just vote my reasoned #1 or question which one I think will be “best” in the general. I hate that a lot. Can we just have ranked choice voting? But likely I’ll just vote my #1 because ultimately I think one of these three will advance to the general and the political hacks and wonks will count the votes for the other two as being part of their support base (which I hope turns out to be true!)
Anyway we really need ranked choice voting which the county council might put on a ballot … next year. Cannot come soon enough.
Writing the Mayor on Defund SPD again
I don’t have a lot of time or energy to write blog posts and I save it for dashing out emails to my elected officials. This morning the mayor of Seattle gave a press conference on what she plans to do in response to the Defund SPD (Seattle police department) movement demand which a super majority of the city council has voiced public support. At this press conference, she made a number of disingenuous claims but I was primarily incensed by the idea that there is “no plan” and the “activists” don’t want anyone responding to 911 calls.Continue reading “Writing the Mayor on Defund SPD again”
What defund the police means
I’ve not been great at writing much about anything lately, except to write to elected officials. So here’s what I wrote to the city council this morning about this issue. Our over-policing harms everyone but because of the way society operates and the reality of racism, overpolicing harms black people and anyone perceived as too different more.
Good morning councilpersons (and staff)!
I can’t call this morning and at this point I assume you’re just tallying!
Anyway defund the police sounds scary but what it really means is to take out of the hands of the police (and justice system and jails & prison) problems that don’t make sense for armed people to work on.
As an example, in January 2019, 6+ cop cars showed up to the Living Computer Museum. I work near by and saw the swarm of cops and wondered what could possibly be so dangerous there.
It turns out it was … a sleeping man who had broken in to find warmth. He was no danger and his “crime” was incredibly minor. We permit corporations and businesses to get away with far worse every single day. Nonetheless he was booked into jail and presumably charged with a crime. I doubt it helped him improve his life — and it could have gone a lot worse than it did. What if he had, when sleepy, moved in a way that any of the cops present had felt was threatening? He could be dead.
Cops are not social workers and are not the best choice for the vast majority of problems we use them as the primary presence of authority and social “leadership”, from homelessness, mental health crises, to drug abuse, to traffic enforcement and even gang activity.
So I stand with the demands of the protesters that we at least start with:
– Removing 50% of SPD’s budget. I believe an examination of what person hours are used on are overwhelmingly devoted to social problems that do not required armed agents of the state to address effectively.
– Redirect that money to community solutions like housing, health care access, trauma services and so on.
– Finally, the folks protesting must not be punished for their protesting.
Thanks for reading and write or call your city council (if in the United States) to ask them to reduce the scope of police work and bring more accountability. If you need a fairly quick read The End of Policing by Alex Vitale is a thorough but fairly short book. It’s a free ebook right now. You can get a quick taste in this NPR interview or this podcast episode.