Proposition 1: Prop 1 would levy a tiny tax on Seattle property to allow for publicly funded city council races. And by tiny, we mean a $5.76 annual tax on a house with a taxable value of $350,000. Proponents like Jake Faleschini say Prop 1 will lessen the impact major donors can have on races in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, because to get access to the money, candidates would agree to limit how much they accepted in donations. They would also need to raise small amounts of money from hundreds of supporters, which would bar fringe candidates from storming the gates while allowing candidates with broad support to leverage their base.
Yet Faleschini admits Citizens United could limit its effectiveness. The ruling allows for unlimited independent expenditures in politics. Couldn’t a candidate agree to limit how much money he took, get the public dollars, then nudge donors over to an ostensibly independent group with a name like “People for Banning the Bums?”
“It was a dubiously and diabolically brilliant decision,” Faleschini admits. But given that this only applies to city council races, that’s not a huge concern. “We don’t see a whole lot of third-party expenditures for city council races.” And while he acknowledges that Citizens makes limiting money’s influence in politics difficult, he says that should be a call to action, not a call to give up.
“What can we do to create a system that is as fair and just as possible,” he asks. “How can we encourage lots of grassroots opportunity?”
Seattle Charter Amendment 19: Today, Seattle is one of three cities with more than 500,000 people that elects its city council members at large. The other two are Portland, Ore., and Columbus, Ohio. Columbus, like Seattle, is voting on whether to change to district races this year.
“Even Puyallup has districts!” says Amendment 19 backer Faye Garneau, who adds she has nothing against Puyallup.
The simple logic is that by electing members by district, the council will be more accessible to voters. It would also be more accessible to grassroots candidates, Garneau says. Voters have rejected creating city council districts many times before, but Garneau thinks the difference this time is having the district map already drawn so voters will know what they’re signing up for. According to the amendment, seven of Seattle’s council members would be elected by district and two at large.
Opponents argue that the plan would put most council members out of reach, since they would be elected by another district, and they fear that district-elected council members would feel obliged to favor their constituents.
“With districting, you get into pork-barrel politics,” says Marjorie Rhodes, who’s heading the No campaign with a dial-up modem and a land-line phone. “Let’s say one neighborhood wants more. Where is that going to come from? Another neighborhood? Will property taxes need to get raised?”
King County Charter Amendment 1: This amendment creates an office of public defense within the county, following a bunch of complicated stuff that pretty much made it a necessity.
Initiative 517: A Tim Eyman joint, this would help Eyman be even more Eyman by extending the amount of time people would have to gather signatures for ballot initiatives, expanding the rights of signature-gatherers (to the point, detractors say, of allowing gatherers to troll the aisles of your supermarket), and barring judges from blocking an initiative from being on a ballot, no matter how batshit crazy it is.