The Capitol Hill Community Council held an electoral forum for its monthly meeting Thursday night. The council invited representatives of five ballot initiatives to come speak (only four showed).
Rep. Brady Walkinshaw, who’s running un-opposed for Capitol Hill’s 43rd district seat, began the meeting by saying he was concerned about low public interest in the November 4th election. It was apt assessment given Thursday night’s meeting was primarily attended by speakers.
Below are CHS’s notes on the night’s discussions. We’re not sure they’re going to boost that “low public interest” but maybe they’ll help inspire a few extra ballots to be cast.
Gun control – I-594
- I-594 seeks to expand criminal background checks for gun purchases to all private gun sales, including gun shows and Internet sales.
- Rep. Brady Walkinshaw spoke on behalf of I-594, saying the best thing supporters could do was get out the vote. “This issue is really going to rise and fall with turnout,” he said.
- Walkinshaw said that when the legislature debated a similar measure it was the most-attended hearing in the legislature’s history.
- Also on next month’s ballot will be I-591, which would prevent universal background checks in the state that are stricter than the national standard, effectively preventing anything like I-594. While I-591 has polled favorably in the state, an April poll showed a majority of Washington voters would actually support both initiatives. If both issues were voted in, the State Supreme Court would likely have to settle the issue.
Schools – Prop 1A
- Prop 1A (aka Initiative 107) is a union-backed plan that seeks to regulate preschools under a new city program and ramp up pre-K teacher certification, pay, and training but with no dedicated funding source. Some pre-K educators would get a $15 an hour minimum wage starting in 2015 — about three years ahead of the city’s current minimum wage schedule. Prop 1A would also seek to cap preschool costs at 10% of a family’s household income. The measure mandates that a longstanding “provider organization” would facilitate the program and be directly involved with a new “professional development institute” to educate new and existing teachers.
- Heather Weiner from the group Yes For Success said pre-K costs needed to be controlled because the average working woman in Seattle pays half of her income on child care.
- Sarah Kerr, an early education teacher on Capitol Hill, said criticisms that 1A favors unions over workers were unfair. “I don’t think this is a union versus employer issue,” she said.
- Weiner said the 1A campaign, which got on the ballot through a citizen initiative, had a stronger grass roots backing than 1B. “We’re not disparaging (1B) … but 1B is being funded by very rich conservatives.”
- Opponents of 1A have claimed the proposition language is too broad and could leave the city on the hook for $100 million. Weiner said the measure would cost about $3 million a year and could be funded through general fund.
- Longterm, Weiner said the city could reach 1A’s goal of capping pre-K costs at 10% of income through a combination of different tax and fee increases, increasing state subsidies, and reducing insurance costs.
- CHS wrote about the measures here.
Schools – Prop 1B
- Prop 1B, backed by Mayor Ed Murray and the City Council, proposes a property tax increase to create a 4-year pilot program to provide tuition-free pre-K for a quarter of Seattle’s 3- and- 4-year-olds and make subsidies available for the rest. Under the mayor’s plan, the city and an oversight committee would implement and manage the program.
- Sarah Margeson from the group Quality Seattle Preschool said 1B was the most comprehensive of the two plans.
- In reposnse to criticisms that 1B does not move quick enough in getting more kids into pre-K classrooms, Margeson said a slower approach would allow the program to be more lasting. “You go slow to go big,” she said.
- A Seattle Public School teacher speaking in favor of 1B said attracting more teachers to early education is just as much about wages as a social perceptions. “There’s a lack of respect and professionalism for early childhood educators,” he said.
- John Bancroft, former director of Seattle Head Start, said 1B would not solve all the affordability issues, but it was a good start. “Sometimes the perfect is the enemy of the good,” he said.
Transportation – Prop 1
- Mayor Ed Murray announced in May that he would send a $60 car tab fee and .1% sales tax hike before Seattle voters to generate at least $45 million a year for a 8% boost to Seattle Metro services.
- The Capitol Hill Community Council has endorsed Prop 1.
- A representative from Yes for Seattle Transit said up to 16 routes around Capitol Hill could be improved or expanded. She also said Metro was on track to have a record breaking year in ridership.
Other vote on this fall’s ballot — like the Spear vs. Chopp race in the 43rd — weren’t on the Community Council’s agenda but you can weigh in on the CHS Primary survey, below. We left out the judges (sorry judges!) and the state advisory bills (sorry marijuana growers and holders of tribal property).
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