King County moves ahead with plan to pay for your ballot stamps

(Image: King County)

In an effort to buttress sagging turnout — especially among populations most likely to be disenfranchised by voting barriers — the King County Council voted Monday to move forward with prepaid postage for 2018 elections in the county:

King County Elections Director Julie Wise cites two successful pilots conducted last year, the unwavering support of councilmembers and the overall community need for the approval of this request as proof that prepaid postage works and is supported by all as a means towards stronger voter participation.

“I am grateful to the Council for their unwavering support in giving me the tools I need to continue removing barriers for our voters,” said Director Wise. “Prepaid postage along with our ballot drop boxes makes it easy for everyone to exercise their civic right to vote.”

The postage decision joins the county’s ballot drop boxes added in 2016 to locations including Broadway in front of Seattle Central across from E Howell as part of a King County-wide effort to increase turnout. In 2011, Washington shifted to all-mail elections but the percentage of eligible voters participating in midterm elections fell below 40%.

The decision would make $381,000 available to fund the free postage for King County voters. Gov. Jay Inslee is considering an emergency request by Secretary of State Kim Wyman for $2 million to fund prepaid postage for mail-in ballots statewide this year.

Capitol Hill cat cafe credited with helping boost King County pet adoption

A sleepy moment inside Neko

King County says it has been able to boost its pet adoption rate to 92% thanks to partnerships with pet stores and a new trend of cat-focused businesses — including Capitol Hill’s Neko Cafe.

The adoption rate has risen from a sad 51% in 2003, the county reports.

“The latest milestone is the result of several strategies, including partnering with cafes and pet stores to make it easier to adopt cats, starting a new dog playgroup to help staff and volunteers better assess a dog’s behavior, revamping the volunteer program, and significantly increasing the number of pets that are licensed,” a King County announcement on the happy numbers reads. Continue reading

No New Youth Jail protesters shut down 12th Ave work site

With reporting by Alex Garland

Activists seeking a halt on construction of the new King County’s Children and Family Justice Center brought their protest to the work site Monday morning.

The construction site protest blocked work entrances at the 12th and Alder site and marked what organizers said was the beginning of a “People’s Moratorium on construction at the site.”

“We have fought this fight on many fronts -– in the courts, in county and city council chambers, in the press, and on the streets,” one activist said in a statement posted by a coalition opposing the new facility. “At every point, the county has refused to listen, so today, we’re stopping the construction with our bodies.”

The announcement did not describe the group’s plans for continuing to block the work site gates. Some protesters were chained together. Inside the fences, some work continued. Police were at the site and monitoring the situation with more units being dispatched in the area. Continue reading

King County votes for new oversight for construction-fueled 4Culture cash

The King County Council voted Monday to adopt “targeted oversight” of 4Culture, the county’s cash flush “cultural funding agency.”

“4Culture would still be responsible for the fiscal management of the agency such as approving contracts, large expenditures, grant awards, and adopting a budget prior to Council review,” an announcement from the council read Monday following the vote. “The legislation makes the Council responsible for approving 4Culture’s budget prior to the County transferring funds to 4Culture for the following year.”

CHS reported here on the so-called accountability measures some on the council have pushed for as 4Culture’s funding from the county’s lodging tax and “1% for art” program has grown.

Monday’s vote set off a stream of press releases from the council’s communications office as vying factions sought to make it clear that the vote was not unanimous:

Due to the “super majority” vote for the plan, it is unlikely King County Executive Dow Constantine to can veto the new oversight legislation, KUOW reports.

 

Protestors against Children and Family Justice Center block 4th Ave

A group of protesters targeting King County Executive Dow Constantine and the under construction 12th Ave Children and Family Justice Center blocked the street outside the county administrative building at 4th and James Friday morning.

Seven demonstrators including members of the Ending the Prison Industrial Complex activist group were locked together in a “moving blockade” with a large group of protesters also on the sidewalk and others waving flags to help block the street. Continue reading

With program growing by the millions, King County Council plans 4Culture ‘accountability measures’

You’ll find 4Culture at the core of many arts events and activities that CHS has covered over the years. It usually goes something like this, somewhere near the end of the story: “Funding for the event comes from King County’s 4Culture…” — sometimes the sentence continues with other funding sources. Often, it does not. Now, a public cry for help from a group of arts and 4Culture advocates has raised concerns about the future of King County’s “cultural funding agency.” Officials say the concern about a newly proposed ordinance is overblown.

Here’s the gist from the advocate site, advocate4culture.org:

The proposed ordinance allows council members
  • To veto the 4Culture budget, which determines funding for arts, heritage, preservation, and public arts
  • To hire and fire the 4Culture Executive Director
  • To nominate and directly appoint the majority of 4Culture board members without consultation
4Culture strives to distribute funds in the most strategic, meritorious, and equitable way possible, while acknowledging that improvements can always be made. The dismantling of 4Culture is not the best path toward progress, nor is it in the best interest of King County’s cultural and artistic health. We understand that 4Culture has always welcomed the chance to work with the King County Council to address its concerns. But this work must be undertaken with a shared understanding and appreciation of the effectiveness and efficiency that has defined 4Culture’s legacy over the past 15 years.

You can read the proposed ordinance here.

King County Council member Dave Upthegrove, one of six on the council listed as sponsors of the legislation, tried to address the concerns in a social media post: Continue reading

‘We need to act as cities’ — what Seattle can do about gun violence

In the wake of Sunday’s mass shooting in Texas, local politicians are joining the national chorus of voices — yet again — calling for substantive measures to address America’s gun violence problem. Seattle’s likely mayor-elect and former U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan called for municipal-level action on the issue in a statement made on Monday: “With no leadership from this Congress or our legislature, we need to act as cities,” she said.

But what does Seattle leadership on preventing gun violence look like? Local advocates for gun control and evidence-based approaches to reducing gun violence have a few ideas.

“There are a lot of things that can be done at the local level,” said Renee Hopkins, CEO of the Alliance for Gun Responsibility. “It’s really important that municipalities and counties are dedicated to investing resources into ensuring that the laws we know are effective are implemented.” Continue reading

Mayor calls for ‘second look’ at plan for new King County Youth Justice Center

Maybe taking the protest to Mayor Ed Murray’s North Capitol Hill neighborhood really did make a difference. When it comes to a proposed new youth jail at 12th and Alder, the mayor is now woke:

I have learned that since the passage of the County-wide levy in 2012, a consensus has grown among juvenile justice experts that incarceration is harmful and counterproductive. Incarceration decreases the chances of high school completion, increases risk of recidivism, and is associated with worse physical and mental health outcomes for youth. Due to the racial disproportionately that exists in the youth detention center, these injuries are concentrated in the Black community.

The Stranger broke the news Monday on a letter from Murray to King County officials calling for a “second look” at the controversial 12th Ave project.

“While I recognize that an immediate transition to zero youth incarceration is unrealistic, I have some concerns about the current plans for the detention facility given our joint goals of working toward zero detention,” Murray writes. “The landscape of research on best practices and intervention strategies points to mounting evidence against incarcerating young people that was not known at the time this facility was being planned. This new evidence, the continued decline of incarcerated youth in our community, and the need for considering public concerns all point toward reexamining aspects of this facility.” Continue reading

King County testing pre-paid postage for ballots

img_8920In 2016, King County Elections added heavily used ballot drop boxes including the one on Broadway in front of Seattle Central that collected 16,000 ballots in November. In February, elections officials will test another much-requested feature for Washington’s all-mail ballots — pre-paid postage:

We’re excited to announce that King County Elections is testing pre-paid postage for the February special elections in Maple Valley and the Shoreline School District. During last year’s General Election, we received some questions from voters about why we didn’t pay for the postage on ballots returned through the U.S. Postal Service. We have considered the idea in recent years, but before we can implement pre-paid postage, we knew we had to test it out first.

“This is something I’ve wanted to test since I ran for office,” Julie Wise, King County Elections Director said in a statement. “Pre-paid postage is another tool to remove barriers to voting and increase convenience – and this pilot will help us understand what it might look like for King County.”

Officials say they are testing the pre-paid ballot envelopes “to determine a number of things, including whether paid postage results in more voters returning their ballots.”

The county estimates the cost of of the tests will be around $21,000 $12,000 to serve the 64,032 registered voters in Maple Valley and the Shoreline School District. King County Elections is predicting a 30% voter turnout rate. The county is only charged for ballots returned through the U.S. Postal Service.

How much would it cost to deploy across all of King County? With around 1.2 million voters across the county, the math works out to around $400,000  $225,000.

Community Conversation — Veterans & Human Services (Free & Public)

In 2005, voters approved the original Veterans and Human Services Levy (VHSL) for a six year period.  Voters renewed the VHSL for another six years in 2011 to keep their neighbors connected to vital human services.

As the current VHSL nears its end in 2017, we want to hear from you as we plan for what a renewed Veterans and Human Services Levy could do if voters approve renewal in 2017.

At this community meeting, we will be discussing the services your community is providing well, understanding the gaps that exist, and considering your priorities going forward for veteran and human services.

RSVP For Free: www.caphillvhsl.eventbrite.com

Additional Feedback: www.kingcounty.gov/vhslevyinput