While the District 3 Seattle City Council race has been dominating the Internet around here, there are other important decisions to be made on November’s ballot. These include a potentially big upset in a County Council race, and a pair of statewide initiatives which would have far ranging consequences, arguably of more lasting impact than anything else on the ballot.
State voter pamphlets have already been delivered. Local pamphlets are due to be mailed October 15 and ballots on October 16. Election Day is November 5, ballots must be postmarked or placed in a drop box by then. Online voter registration is available until Oct. 28. In person registration is available up to and including Election Day, Nov. 5 at the county Elections Annex.
King County Council District 2: The County Council race pits a pair of Franklin High School graduates, from classes a couple decades apart, against each other. In the three-candidate August primary, political newcomer Girmay Zahilay received 56% of the vote to Incumbent Larry Gossett’s 37%. If those primary numbers hold for the November election, it would represent a generation change in county leadership.
Gosset, 74, has held the District 2 seat since 1993. He’s been a fixture in Seattle’s Civil rights movement since the 1960’s when he helped found the Black Student Union at UW and was a founding member of Seattle’s Black Panther Party. Gossett, among a long list of other accomplishments, was instrumental in King County changing its namesake to Martin Luther King Jr. (FYI, It had been named for William Rufus DeVane King, who was a slaveowner, and had been vice president for a few weeks before he died in 1853.)
Zahilay, 31, is an Ethopian immigrant who moved to Seattle when he was 4 and went on to Stanford and the University of Pennsylvania. He served as a White House intern (under Obama), and worked locally for law firm Perkins Coie. He’s also co-founded the Seattle chapter of Rising Leaders, a nonprofit which provides mentorship to underserved middle school students.
Both are focused on affordable housing, criminal justice and transit issues.
One large difference between the two could be surrounding the Juvenile Justice facility on 12th Avenue. According to the Seattle Times Editorial Board, Zahilay would like the county to divest itself of the facility and build several smaller juvenile facilities around the county. Gossett, while he’d like to see zero youth detained, would rather hold onto it for those who do pose a genuine threat to themselves and the community.
Referendum 88 (Affirmative Action): In 1998, Washington voters approved Initiative 200, which outlawed affirmative action in the state. Referendum 88 would re-instate a form of affirmative action. It would allow public institutions to consider race, sex, ethnicity, national origin, age, sensory, mental or physical disability, or veteran or military status as a factor when making decisions about public education (including college admissions), public employment and public contracting. Belonging to one of those groups cannot be the sole factor when making decisions. Quotas are forbidden.
It would also create a commission to enforce compliance and publish reports about the diversity of the agencies it oversees.
The state has some details, including the pro and con statements, which unless you’ve been living under a rock since the 80’s and missed the entire affirmative action debate, you can probably guess what they both say. You can also check the full text of the referendum – it runs six pages – for yourself.
Initiative 976 (Car Tabs): Tim Eyman has proposed this. If you’ve lived in the state for any length of time, that’s probably enough to tell you how to vote on it, one way or the other.
But in case you want the details, I-976 would cut Washington’s car tab fees to a maximum of $30. No matter the car, the fee would be $30. That number could only go up if approved by voters. It specifies that any future increases use the Kelly Blue Book value of the car (the state uses a different system to establish a car’s value, which often values a car for more than the blue book). It also eliminates the 0.3% state motor vehicle sales and lease tax, and removes the authority to establish a vehicle tax to support passenger only ferries.
If approved, all existing fees over $30 would go away. This would include the Sound Transit fees used to expand light rail, and do the myriad other things Sound transit does. Sound Transit would be required to pay off its existing bonds, if the bond terms allow it, and then the authority to impose those bonds would be revoked. Not to put too fine a point on it, but this would absolutely gut Sound Transit funding and do untold damage to the planned light rail expansion. But the cost of registering a vehicle would drop to $30, with a few exceptions.
The state Office of Financial Management estimates that if this is adopted, the state would lose $1.9 billion over the next six years. Local governments across the state would lose a combined $2.3 billion.
Seattle School Board: There will be three contested school board elections on this year’s ballot. A forth, the District 2 seat, has Lisa Rivera Smith running unopposed.
The candidate statements in each of the contested races read fairly similarly in terms of goals. All of them say they want to find ways to fund special education better. All of them want to work to address racial disparities and increase racial equity. They all really seem to like at least increasing the focus ethnic studies, if not requiring it. None of them say where they’re going to get the funding for any of these programs. Probably, it’s worth checking out the endorsements on their various pages on the voter’s pamphlet (or the links we’ll provide) to get a handle on the sorts of people who support their run; they can be pretty helpful, one way or another.
- District 1 is a race between Liza Rankin and Eric Blumhagen to replace retiring board member Scott Pinkham. Both have been active on their PTAs. Rankin works as a set designer and adjunct lecturer. Blumhagen is a naval architect. The race featured a five-way primary where Rankin got 41% of the vote and Blumhagen 39%.
- District 3 has Chandra Hampson facing off against Rebecca Muniz to replace retiring board member Jill Geary. Hampson is the outgoing president of the Seattle Council PTSA (the citywide PTA) and is a community and economic development consultant. Muniz was with AmeriCorps and says she’s worked to address systemic disparities in education. In the three-person primary, Hampson got 57% of the vote, while Muniz got 24%.
- District 6 features the only incumbent running for re-election. Leslie Harris, who had been on the board since 2015, is being challenged by Molly Mitchell. Harris works as a litigation paralegal. Mitchell is director of student support at Seattle Central. In the three-candidate primary, Harris received 55% of the vote to Mitchell’s 34.
Port of Seattle: There are two races for seats on the commission which administers the Port of Seattle. The body runs both the seaport, and Sea-Tac Airport. The job ends up being pretty far ranging, getting from the nitty-gritty of security and baggage lines at the airport, to finding ways to reduce emissions, to regional issues of managing the Northwest Seaport Alliance with the Port of Tacoma.
- The race for Position 2 pits Sam Cho against Grant Degginger to replace the retiring Courtney Gregoire. Cho worked in the Obama White House and is the founder of Seven Seas Export. Degginger has served as the chair of the state’s Public Disclosure Commission and as Mayor of Bellevue. The primary in this race had seven candidates, Cho got 31% of the vote while Degginger got 25.
- Position 5 sees incumbent Fred Felleman challenged by Garth Jacobson. Felleman was first elected to the commission in 2015. In his day job, Felleman is sole proprietor of WAVE Consulting, which has advised local and national marine conservation groups. Jacobson had been involved in government in Montana, and now works as an attorney of CT Corporation. In the three-way primary, Felleman got 72% of the vote, Jacobsen got 20%.
Director of Elections: Incumbent Julie Wise is seeking another term. She is opposed by Mark Greene, who has been called a “perennial candidate.” Here’s a quick look at their statements which you can also find in the voter’s pamphlet.
Medic One: A vote to renew the countywide property tax levy to fund Medic One services at a rate of 26.5 cents per $1,000 of a home’s assessed value. For a $500,000 the rate would be about $133 per year. For a $1 million house, the rate would be about $265 per year. The tax would last for six years.
Proponents say this is needed to fund Medic One ambulances across King county. There is, believe it or not, no organized opposition to the idea of paying for ambulances.
Unopposed races: John Wilson is running unopposed for County Assessor. John Chun and Lori Smith are also each running unopposed races for Court of Appeals judges
Constitutional Amendment: Under the current state constitution, the Legislature is permitted to change how it operates and bypass some checks and balances type stuff in the case of an “enemy attack.” If that sounds a little heavy on the Cold War drama, that’s because that provision was enshrined in the state construction about 60 years ago, so they were probably thinking nuclear war or Russian invasion or somesuch.
A proposed amendment to the state constitution would expand the definition of an emergency to include “catastrophic incidents.” It doesn’t go so far as to define what a “catastrophic incident” is, though proponents give examples like a major earthquake or a pandemic. Proponents say the government will need the added flexibility in dramatic circumstances that are far more likely to occur than an enemy attack. Opponents say the provision is too broad and unclear, giving the government free reign to take extraordinary steps with no input under nebulous circumstances.
The measure passed the Senate 37-11 and the house 91-7, indicating some bipartisan support. All of Capitol Hill’s legislators voted in favor.
Advisory votes 20-31: There are 12 utterly meaningless advisory votes on this year’s ballot, enjoy. In 2007, Initiative 960 mandated that if the Legislature were to raise taxes without a full statewide referendum, they must hold an after-the-fact advisory vote, just to see if the people like it or not. It did not mandate that anyone pay attention. The results of this vote will not change anything. If literally every voter in the state of Washington voted no on every one of them, the new taxes would still go into effect. So, go ahead, vote yes, vote no, skip them entirely, make a pattern on your ballot. It really won’t matter. In case you’re interested, the state voter’s pamphlet gives the details about each of the taxes. It also lists how every member of the Legislature voted on each of the measures. We’ll save you a little time, Capitol Hill’s Sen. Jamie Pedersen (D) and Reps. Nicole Macri (D) and Frank Chopp (D) all voted yes on every one of them.
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