Election Guide 2016

The Endorsements

Our take on the 12 most important items on this year’s ballot—aside from, well, you know.

Soon it will all be over. We promise. And, actually, thanks to our mail-in ballot system, Washington state residents have the great privilege of ending this embarrassing election cycle so much sooner than November 8. Ballots are being mailed out this week; we suggest that you wait by your door, and as your democracy participation packet makes its way through your mail slot, catch it before it hits the ground, tear it open, immediately vote for Hillary Clinton, and feel proud that you did your part to steer the country away from four years of overtly racist, xenophobic, and misogynistic nationalism coordinated by an admitted sexual predator who does not understand how the U.S. government works. But before you hand your ballot to your friendly mail carrier, you will also need to grapple with all those down-ballot issues. To assist you we present these endorsements, informed by our own vision for creating a better world, country, state, and city. We have not filled out the entire ballot for you, instead choosing a dozen items we feel most strongly about—or wish to comment on. We considered a number of factors in our endorsements, but two guiding issues emerged as being of utmost importance: urgency in addressing climate change and a commitment to lifting up marginalized communities. We weren’t always able to serve both these aims—sometimes we had to make difficult decisions between the two—but in the end we believe this is the path toward a more equitable and safe future for ourselves, our children, and our grandchildren. Also, Hillary Clinton. Vote for Hillary Clinton. Please.

★ U.S. Senate

Patty Murray

We have to give Chris Vance some credit. In an election year that has reached new lows, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate has run a civil campaign focused squarely on the issues. His race has been that of a liberal Republican, focused on tighter accounting for Social Security and a measured critique of Obamacare that stays committed to the principle that all people in America should have health care. With Trumpism imploding, we can only hope that Vance’s style of politics comes back into vogue in the GOP. However, in this race, Vance does not succeed in making the case that we should replace sitting Sen. Patty Murray. She too has eschewed the firebrand style of politics for a far more collaborative approach. The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013, which Murray crafted with House Speaker Paul Ryan, established a framework that has helped end the brinksmanship budgeting that had been a hallmark of Congress in previous years, and she has continued to work with Ryan to craft budget measures that avoid partisan rancor. Meanwhile, Murray has worked to secure federal funds for light rail in Seattle and been a strong advocate for reproductive rights and a healthy environment. Vance would likely serve us fine in the Senate (for a Republican). But unfortunately for him, the job is already ably taken.

★ Governor

Jay Inslee

The governor of this great state has been less than impressive these past four years. Consider the revelations of management mishaps under his watch, which have put the state on edge more than once. Or ponder his inability to goad the legislature to fully fund education, casting him as feckless in the face of a slow-burning state constitutional crisis. And just think about how he failed to pass his signature legislation—a cap-and-trade rule—through even a majority-Democratic house earlier this year. The guv is something of a dud. So is it finally time for a Republican to take the seat in Olympia that has been blue for 30-some years? The answer is no. For whatever Inslee’s faults, former Seattle Port Commissioner Bill Bryant would be an even worse choice for the state. Consider Bryant’s stance on the environment: Though boasting a very real record of stewardship around Puget Sound, Bryant can see only as far as the horizon when it comes to environmental issues, and lacks the sense of urgency necessary for Washington to do its part in combating climate change. He opposes the Department of Ecology’s “Clean Air Rule,” which would regulate CO2 emissions in the state; he supported the docking of Shell’s Arctic drilling fleet at the Port of Seattle; and he has indicated conditional support of the since-scuttled Cherry Point coal terminal and the massive Tesoro Savage Oil Terminal. Inslee isn’t perfect—we wish he would get behind I-732—but he is resolute in his commitment to decreasing the flow of fossil fuels through the state. When it comes to education—the state’s primary responsibility—Bryant has done little to show that he is ready to lead the state toward a solution on McCleary, failing to exploit an opening from Inslee, who for the second election in a row has failed to produce a coherent plan of his own. What Inslee does have to show, though, is an impressive record of legislative cooperation that has led to education funding that in some ways goes above and beyond the requirements of McCleary. The one weakness of Inslee’s that Bryant has exploited is his management, pointing to the inexcusable series of slip-ups and obfuscation in the past year at Western State Hospital—which compounded previous criticism for mismanagement at the Department of Transportation and the Department of Corrections. The Republican candidate should be lauded for training our focus on these shortcomings. Still, it is Inslee who should be guiding the state through the next four years. We will be watching.

★ U.S. House—District 7

Pramila Jayapal

On the issues, there is very little daylight between the two candidates for the 7th Congressional District. Both Pramila Jayapal and Brady Walkinshaw believe in pushing reforms to our mental-health and criminal-justice systems, have fought for workers’ rights, and promote aggressive measures to battle climate change. But they approach their potential new gig very differently. Walkinshaw has touted his future role as that of a “federal partner” for his home region, one who would use the levers of power in D.C. to address issues specific to his constituency, in the form of transit funding, homelessness legislation, or measures to cap carbon. To prove his effectiveness, he points to the legislative success he has had in his two years in the Democrat-controlled state House. Jayapal has stated a commitment to her constituency, but she has also been cast as a change agent who can bring a more forward-thinking politics to D.C., one that can shape a new progressive era for the Democratic party and improve the lives of those across the country who for too long have been underrepresented in the halls of power, be they immigrants or women. To prove her effectiveness, she can point to 15 years of activism that gets results, starting when she founded Washington’s largest immigrant-rights organization OneAmerica, growing to include women’s rights, and finding more localized expression in Seattle’s police-reform and minimum-wage battles. Jayapal has also spent the past two years serving in the less-Democrat-friendly state Senate, where she has had some successes, though not nearly as many as Walkinshaw. In most congressional elections, Walkinshaw would be a great choice, and on the one big issue where the candidates disagree—I-732—we think Jayapal is wrong. Yet as our national politics has been infected with white nationalism and misogyny, Seattle should not deny the opportunity to elect a representative who will be a national leader in the fight for women’s and immigrants’ rights. Washington, D.C., needs Jayapal, and we should deliver.

★ 43rd Legislative District—Position 1

Nicole Macri

Let’s pretend we’re all single-issue voters. If you live downtown, in the U District, or anywhere in between, the most visibly pressing issue at the moment is homelessness. About 3,000 people live on Seattle’s streets. If you care about your neighborhood—including your homeless neighbors—this should be your single issue. And this issue needs a candidate who understands how poverty and housing work and a track record of solutions. Nicole Macri is that candidate. As the deputy director for the Downtown Emergency Services Center, she’s developed and supervised tools for moving high-needs homeless people into supportive housing. One example is 1811 Eastlake, an early example of the Housing First approach to homelessness. Macri is also the president of the Board of Directors of the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance, and has previously served on the Housing Levy Oversight Committee. “But, Seattle Weekly,” you ask, “what can the state do about homelessness? Isn’t that a local issue?” In fact, the state does a lot—for instance, it mandates that all counties conduct a One Night Count of homeless, providing crucial data. The state also runs the Housing Trust Fund and other funding sources for homelessness services. Macri says she wants to make it play an even bigger and bolder role. Because here’s the thing, single-issue reader: Homelessness is not a single issue. It’s inextricably tied to affordable housing, taxation and funding decisions, mental health, the War on Drugs, racism, and homophobia. These issues, all important in their own right, become even more critical in the context of a homelessness crisis, and they’re all issues that Macri has tangled with over two decades of administrative work and advocacy. Macri’s opponent, Daniel Shih, says all the right things. His policy positions are thoughtful and thorough. But the Eastlake plaintiff’s lawyer lacks experience moving the needle, citing as his bona fides an amicus brief filed with the state Supreme Court and a couple of board positions. In the face of a change agent like Macri, Shih comes off looking academic. And what we need—what the people living in tents all around the 43rd district need—is anything but academic.

★ Superintendent of Public Instruction

Chris Reykdal

McCleary is not yet a done deal, but it will get done. Right? The question, then, is what exactly does a fully funded Washington state school system look like? Both candidates for State Superintendent of Public Instruction are in agreement on a few core principles that we can get on board with. Both Erin Jones and Chris Reykdal want to decrease the volume of tests students are asked to take and end the use of testing as a graduation requirement. Likewise, both believe that student test scores should not be included in teacher evaluation. Both are proponents of maintaining high standards but allowing local control. And both recognize the need for greater opportunity for our students of color and other marginalized populations. But there are a few areas where there is enough difference that we can confidently endorse current state representative Reykdal to oversee the 400-employee, $9 billion (for now) agency. The first is in regards to style. While Jones notes that she voted against the ultimately failed 2012 state charter-school initiative, she has said she will accept the results of an ongoing court challenge to the new charter-school law passed earlier this year, whatever they may be. Reykdal, on the other hand, has taken this moment of legal limbo to voice outright opposition to privately run charters, voucher programs, and competency-based programs, noting that there is no clear evidence that they improve performance. Not only do we believe he is right, but we are heartened by his fighting spirit. Reykdal also has the right vision for the future. A former administrator for the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges, he says he is committed to reinvesting in our schools’ technical-skills curriculum. Like him, we believe that by moving away from the idea that our schools should be university mills alone, we will we able to increase graduation rates while also diversifying our in-state workforce. Finally, we would be remiss not to mention the candidates’ approaches to gender and sexuality instruction: Jones has stated that she thinks it inappropriate to teach elementary-age children about gender identity and sexual orientation. Reykdal disagrees strongly. And so do we.

★ Proposition 1

Sound Transit’s 25-year transit measure.

Yes

It’s very difficult to even fathom $54.8 billion, the amount of money that Sound Transit’s Proposition 1 proposes to spend on mass-transit services over the next 25 years. That money—$27.7 billion of which would come from new taxes—would build 62 miles of light rail across the region, from Tacoma to Everett to West Seattle to Ballard. It’s far less difficult to fathom $169, the amount by which the average taxpayer’s annual taxes would increase via property, sales, and car-tab taxes if Prop 1 passes; when you add the Prop 1 increase to previous Sound Transit levies that we are still paying off, the full tab comes to $629. We recognize that’s a lot of money, and at a time when the cost of living in Seattle is causing difficulty for many, we don’t endorse Proposition 1 lightly. But we do endorse it strongly. Very little of the frustration Seattle residents feel about transportation in this city—with gridlock, with parking—has to do with the supposed “war on cars.” Despite what you may have heard, we are currently spending billions on highway infrastructure; just last year, the state legislature approved a $16 billion transportation package, with the lion’s share going toward expanding highways. No, our frustration is due to our longtime unwillingness to fully commit to mass-transit systems in this region, which has effectively kept us in our cars even as our population has grown beyond what any amount of road infrastructure could handle. And it’s only going to get worse, with the region adding an estimated 800,000 people in the next 25 years. With previous Sound Transit measures, we have established an agency that, after a rough takeoff, has proven to be both trustworthy with our tax dollars and effective at delivering effective transit to its customers. Now it’s time to take it to scale. It’s a frustrating reality that the relief Proposition 1 will bring is decades out, with much of the light rail promised coming on line in the early 2030s. But to delay a fix because it’s not fast enough is oxymoronic. Let’s commit to the plan and vote yes on Proposition 1.

★ Initiative 124

Increase protections for hotel workers.

Yes

Hotel housekeeping is grueling work. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, hotel workers have among the highest rates of on-the-job injury of any group of workers. In Washington, they are among the least likely of all full-time workers to receive health insurance through their employers. Hotel housekeepers and room servers are also mostly women—the majority of them immigrant women of color—and as we’ve reported, the anecdotal rates of sexual harassment on the job are also horrific (“Hotel Hell,” June 15). Given all this, it only makes sense to support a citywide initiative launched by a local hospitality union that’s designed to address the above concerns. I-124 would limit the number of hotel rooms that housekeepers are required to clean per shift; install “panic buttons” so that all Seattle hotel workers have access to immediate help in the event of sexual harassment or assault; create reporting systems so that guests who harass workers repeatedly can be barred from hotels; require employers to pay a small monthly stipend to low-income full-time workers to help offset the costs of health-care premiums; and help protect workers’ jobs if a hotel is sold to a new owner. Critics of the initiative—largely hotel-industry representatives—call the measure’s stipulations overreaching and Draconian. They say many hotels already have these kinds of protections in place. They also point to I-124’s union-exemption clause: If workers belong to a union, their hotel will not be subject to some of the measure’s stipulations, to allow for freer collective bargaining. We ourselves recognize that the union exemption may be faintly disguised self-interest; employers might find the law onerous, leading them to encourage unionization in hopes of a better deal. But if the byproduct of passing I-124 is a stronger local union, so be it. We believe the result is a step toward justice for a long-exploited class of workers, union-backed or no.

★ Initiative 732

Place a tax on carbon in Washington.

Yes

Few who care about climate change deny how urgent the crisis is; the question remains how we can most effectively tackle it. I-732 would tax the use of fossil fuels (for most, that’d mean a slightly higher price at the pump and home heating costs), then return that money to taxpayers in the form of cuts in sales taxes, business taxes, and an as-yet-unfunded state tax rebate for low-income working families. It is, in short, a “revenue-neutral” carbon tax, an economic concept that has worked to reduce emissions in Vancouver, B.C., and which is now being implemented across Canada. The major environmental groups that oppose I-732 say it does not do enough. It relies on market forces to drive down emissions, rather than using the money from a carbon tax to invest in renewable energy. It does little for the low-income communities of color most affected by carbon pollution and climate change. They also point to suspicions that I-732 could become revenue-negative, rather than revenue-neutral, and cost the state money in the end. These are legitimate concerns. But we believe, like the Sightline Institute, an environmental think tank that closely analyzed the measure, that I-732 is revenue-neutral, “to the best of anyone’s ability to forecast it.” And as for the measure’s effect on low-income communities, reducing the sales tax and funding an unfunded state tax credit is nothing to sneeze at. But the real reason we’re voting for I-732 is that we believe this is not an either/or decision. It is not the only way to combat climate change in this state, and it will not be the last. We understand the fear that passing a revenue-neutral carbon tax now could eliminate the political will to pass a revenue-positive one in the future. But Washington state has rarely had the political will to pass any kind of revenue-positive tax increase; neither has the legislature demonstrated the will to pass state climate policy. Sure, I-732 is a compromise. It’s also a way to do something—now.

★ Initiative 1433

Increase the statewide minimum wage and require paid sick leave.

Yes

Paid sick leave should be a no-brainer—do you really want to incentivize your McDonald’s cook to come to work with the flu?—so let’s skip to the main course: the minimum wage. Recall that the #15Now movement secured a heightened Seattle minimum wage three years ago. We also already have sick leave. Consequently, I-1433 doesn’t directly affect Seattle workers. But it will influence the destinies of poor workers elsewhere across Washington—where, FYI, a basic living wage is, on average, $13.36 per hour for two working parents with one kid. The question Seattle voters must ask themselves is “Will the benefits of a mandated living wage translate outside our city limits?” There’s a strong argument to be made that while an economic powerhouse like Seattle has a big-enough profit margin to support a living wage, small towns in eastern Washington, where both the cost of living and the opportunities for business are lower, might have a harder time. The higher the minimum wage, the more expensive it is to do business. This theoretically leads to higher unemployment, which is already two to three times higher in rural counties than in King. These legitimate concerns are outweighed, though, by two considerations. First are the benefits of a higher minimum wage: All else being equal, workers who earn more than a poverty wage spend more as consumers, thus stimulating the economy to create more jobs and needing less taxpayer-funded welfare. Second is our moral obligation as a society to reduce poverty and oppose inequality. I-1433 would accomplish both these things, and enable ethical businesses to pay their employees decently without worrying they’ll be undercut by cheaper competitors. I-1433 protects workers, increases public health, and stands as a partial antidote to the incredible poverty and inequality that pervades our society. Vote yes.

★ Initiative 1464

Publicly finance elections and tighten transparency and anti-corruption rules.

Yes

It’s no secret that money and donor influence has corroded the integrity of American government. The United States Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, which found that corporations have a right to spend unlimited sums of money on elections, has become a euphemism for corporate overreach. But the rot is older than Citizens. A recent study of nearly 2,000 policy decisions between 1981 and 2002 found that “economic elites” strongly influence elected officials’ decisions, while ordinary citizens have “little or no independent influence on policy at all.” Translation: We live in a plutocracy where money talks. I-1464 alone will not solve this problem, but it is a big step in the right direction. It would close a loophole that allows political groups to launder their money through shell entities called political action committees (PACs), thus hiding the money’s origin from voters. It would also create a three-year waiting period before retired public officials could start lobbying their old offices, and lower the burden of proof for showing that a candidate illegally coordinated with “independent” PACs. But here’s the doozy: I-1464 would create a public campaign-finance program in which the government would issue “democracy vouchers” of up to $150 to qualifying candidates (Seattle passed similar legislation last year). How do they qualify? First, by getting at least 75 human individuals to contribute at least $10 each to their campaign (this is to weed out joke candidates) and second, by agreeing to limit other donations. The idea is to give candidates a financial stake in courting ordinary voters. The democracy credits would be funded by closing a tax loophole that currently allows some shoppers from other states to waive sales tax. By magnifying the fundraising power of grassroots candidates, democracy credits would make a small difference in big, well-funded elections and a big difference in smaller elections. I-1464’s other features would help keep those candidates honest once they’re in office. Vote yes for I-1464, because democracy matters.

★ Initiative 1491

Allow courts to revoke the gun rights of people at risk of hurting themselves or others.

Yes

This is common-sense gun legislation. I-1491 would create a civil process so that people who’ve demonstrated a clear risk of hurting themselves or others can’t buy or own guns for up to a year. It’s a simple, and crucial, method for preventing some of the most preventable forms of gun violence—those caused by people who’ve already demonstrated clear signs of distress. Hindsight is 20/20. But many mass shooters have indeed shown signs of violence before they’ve committed mass violence—Orlando shooter Omar Mateen, for instance, beat and abused his ex-wife. Also, far more people shoot themselves than they do others; nearly 80 percent of all gun deaths in Washington state are suicides, and, research shows, some 80 percent of people who attempt suicide exhibited warning signs beforehand. I-1491 would allow family members and police to act on that distress, and gather evidence to petition a judge for an “Extreme Risk Protection Order” hearing. Only after receiving a preponderance of evidence would a judge temporarily remove someone’s right to bear arms. Opponents of the measure argue that taking away a person’s rights before they officially commit a crime is an unsettling precedent. But the measure builds on a civil hearing process that already exists in Washington for victims of sexual assault whose assailants were not prosecuted (Sexual Assault Protection Orders function like restraining orders by requiring the offender to stay away from the victim). Plus, I-1491 does not, according to constitutional law experts, violate due process, because the maximum amount of time allowed between the seizure of someone’s guns and the civil hearing is two weeks. “So your guns are taken away for 14 days,” says Marilyn Balcerak, citizen sponsor of I-1491 after her son shot and killed his stepsister and then himself last summer. She believes she could sense the danger long before that. “Isn’t that worth somebody’s life?”

★ Initiative 1501

Amend the Public Records Act to settle a spat between SEIU and the Freedom Foundation.

No

This measure, written and sponsored by SEIU, purports to be about protecting seniors from fraud. But that’s not really the case. This is: In 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in Harris v. Quinn that caregivers who were receiving state Medicaid dollars for their work could not be considered state employees, and thus could not be forced to join state-employee unions. The liberals on the court rightly decried this decision, since it ignored the fact that caregivers’ wages are set by the states, and in states like Washington those wages were set through negotiations with a union. Thus, caregivers could legally not pay dues while still benefiting from the work of the union. Knowing that such freeloading cuts at the very foundation of organized labor, the Olympia-based anti-union group Freedom Foundation used the state’s Public Records Act to get the names and addresses of all home-health-care workers in the state represented by SEIU and informed them of their right to not pay dues. SEIU has a legitimate grievance with this situation. However, their proposed solution—I-1501—is ill-advised. I-1501 would exempt caregivers’ names and addresses from the public disclosure laws so as to prevent the Freedom Foundation from contacting them. The Pro-I-1501 campaign frames its initiative as a way to protect seniors (and their caregivers) from fraud; to that end, along with changing the PRA, it increases the punishment for bilking seniors. That’s a good talking point, but it’s also a smokescreen. Restricting the flow of state information to prevent people from knowing their rights is a dangerous precedent Washington voters should not be tricked into setting. Vote no, and let’s figure out other ways to help unions thrive in the state.

editorial@seattleweekly.com

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