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Posts tagged as “Seattle”

First take/gun tax

Interesting Daily Beast article today on Seattle's new gun tax - a tax on gun and ammo sales, effective just about a week ago after it survived not long before a court challenge.

Many types of gun-related legislation on a local level runs into a buzz saw of legal problems, in Washington (and many other states) notably the state law (pushed through by the NRA) that local governments cannot regulate guns in any way. Taxes are a different matter, not subject to that kind of rule.

The taxes are not so large as to be intended to curtail gun or ammo purchases. They amount to $25 on each gun sold, two cents per round of .22 caliber ammo, five cents per round for other rounds.

They would provide money for research on gun violence, something Seattle has done on its own hook in the past but hasn't been followed up.

In some ways this isn't a huge deal. But as part of a series of national indicators that policy on guns actually may be amenable to some significant change, maybe it is. - rs (photo/Michael Saechang)

First take/supremacists

Turn over a rock around certain places in the Northwest and you'll see - white supremacists, usually scurrying away when the spotlight shines in their direction. But Sunday night in Seattle, that changed.

Back in and around the 80s, supremacists were highly visible and in the headlines. That was especially true with the Aryan Nations group in the Idaho Panhandle, which held cross burning events and occasional parades in downtown Coeur d'Alene. There were high profile criminal events around the region too. But we haven't heard so much of that in recent years. It's not that the supremacists aren't around, it's just that they've been keeping relatively quiet.

That changed in a big way on Sunday night. In Seattle's Capitol Hill area (generally a liberal redoubt), a crowd of (masked) supremacists took to the streets. Where they went, the sound of breaking glass was heard; in the area, a TV news van was trashed.

A counter-parade of anti-supremacists appeared soon after.

David Neiwert, a Seattle resident who has tracked supremacist activities for years, remarked, "Normally they’ve kind of hidden from view, but it’s becoming pretty obvious that white supremacists are feeling a lot bolder. After all they have a presidential candidate, obviously. I think they are feeling a lot more emboldened these days.”

So it would seem. The extremes are pushing ever outward, and where white supremacists were not so long ago beyond the political pale, they're now getting closer and closer to one wing of the political spectrum." - rs

First take/most expensive

No surprises here - in the list, that is, of the 10 most expensive communities to buy a house in Washington state. The Puget Sound Business Journal released its list of such places, and none of the places on the list are unexpected: Kenmore, Shoreline, Issaquah, Seattle itself, Edmonds, Kirkland, Sammamish, Redmond, Bellevue, Mercer Island. (No Medina?) What was a little striking in the accompanying pictures was the ordinariness of many of the houses - pleasant enough, but some looked like standard issue suburban tract houses, places you might expected to find in the 100K to 250K range, running instead in the high six figures or even beyond. And the averages are striking:: If you're thinking of moving to Redmond, for example, be aware the average home price is $767,603. It's enough to give you the sense of another incipient housing bubble. - rs

First take/endorsements

The view here for some years has been that newspaper endorsements tend not to be very decisive in most political races, with the possible and periodic exception of down-ballot races where few people know the candidates. Seattle's Crosscut site adds a new twist this: When two competing news sites endorse, which carries more weight? The question here concerns the city's newspaper behemoth, the Times, and the scrappy indie weekly, the Stranger. "The Stranger has positioned itself on the left, appealing to the young urbanists who live on Capitol Hill and Ballard and never missing an opportunity to insult the Seattle Times. The Times, meanwhile, continues to hold its ground as the voice of moderates — “socially liberal and fiscally conservative,” according to the editor of the Seattle Times editorial page Kate Riley. From the outside, it looks like something of an arms race between the two — with the papers both buying advertising space for elections-related Google searches." There's an argument that, when factoring in online analytics, the Stranger's endorsement, which is apt to be more emphatically stated and aimed at the gut, may actually be the more significant of the two. Read and see. - rs (photo/Jon S)

First take

From today's political roundup on Daily Kos: If you're a fan of the Little Perennial Candidate Who Couldn't (and we know there are lots of fans of that genre at Daily Kos Elections), here's a heartwarming story. Goodspaceguy is one of the best-known examples, perhaps thanks to his odd adopted name as well his decades of futile bids; he runs every year for something or other in King County, Washington, and he's finally managed to advance from the top-two primary into the general election, for the first time since Washington adopted the top-two system. (If you look at the sidebar in the linked article, you'll see that he did participate in several general elections as an independent candidate for King County Council, but that was under Washington's old electoral regime.) So who's the sad sack who managed to finish third, behind Goodspaceguy, in the election two weeks ago? It's John Naubert, who was so explicitly old-school socialist in his voter's pamphlet description that slightly more voters actually preferred Goodspaceguy's libertarian-meets-futurist-space-exploration-themed mumbo-jumbo. Don't look for his luck to continue in the general, though: The incumbent, Courtney Gregoire (who's ex-Gov. Chris Gregoire's daughter) took 83 percent of the vote.

A wheelie

This is the sort of thing you do if you're in trouble, in an election where the dynamic is different from the one before: You change basics about what got you this far. And if that sounds on its face like a risky maneuver, you're right.

Referencing here Mike McGinn, one of the two finalists for mayor of Seattle (and narrowly the first-place finisher in the primary). He has been until recently not especially well-known across the city, but what he has been most known for is opposition to the tunnel alternative as a replacement for the Alaskan Way viaduct. (His preferred options is improvements to surface roads.) The whole subject is highly divisive in Seattle, but that stand clearly is a big part of what got him to the finals against businessman Joe Mallahan, who like Mayor Greg Nickels is a tunnel backer.

The tunnel proposal has been backed not only by Nickels and state officials but by the city council, and it is on track for development. That has put McGinn in a problematic spot - should he throw roadblocks in front of an already-greenlighted project?

Today, in the wake of another city council action backing the tunnel, he decided no: He said he still thinks the tunnel is the wrong approach, but he would carry it out and see it through if he's elected.

As a political matter, this is problematic. How would you feel about this if you were an anti-tunnel (and environmentalist, most likely) activist who push McGinn with that as a key object in mind? How would you feel if you're relatively agnostic on the subject (as some Seattlites are)?

Mallahan's quick response shows he grasps the dynamic: "My opponent has spent the last eight months campaigning on one issue - stopping the tunnel and our economy from moving forward. Now he's changing his position because he's seen the poll numbers and is fighting for his political life. His flip-flopping clearly demonstrates that voters have a choice between a political opportunist or a principled leader and effective manager, like myself, to lead this city and our economy forward."

Chunnel

From early on, the Alaskan Way viaduct - or rather, whatever will replace it - has seemed to be at the core of the Seattle mayoral race. Now there doesn't seem much doubt.

Headlines last week seemed to raise the image of incumbent and outgoing Mayor Greg Nickels poised to push the tunnel project - backed by one mayoral runoff candidate, Joe Mallahan, and opposed by the other, Mike McGinn - as far as he could, maybe to a point of no return, before he leaves office. Nickels has held off on some other things in favor of his successor, but this . . . this would be a big one.

And McGinn is pouncing. He points out that the city's share of the tunnel cost is $930 million, and he's very pointedly asking Mallahan where the money will come from.

In this, there's some positioning. Both McGinn and Mallahan are Democrats with ties to various parts of the city's Democratic infrastructure. So check out McGinn's current front page on his web site: The lead item is about the "Battle for Seattle," a fundraiser, and goes on: "The Battle for Seattle (and King County). A joint benefit for Mike McGinn, Dow Constantine, and Pete Holmes. With music from The Presidents of the United States of America featuring Krist Novoselic." Constantine, recall, is running for (the nonpartisan office of) King County executive; he is a Democrat, and his opponent is widely perceived (or often described at any rate) as a relatively conservative Republican.

Getting the picture of how the framework is intended to be set up?

The non-contest

Joel Connelly's review (in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer) of the progress of the Seattle mayor contest is . . . there isn't much. The polling seems to be pretty consistent: The voters don't really think much of two-term incumbent Greg Nickels, but then they don't have a lot of use for any of his challengers, either. All their numbers are low, and no one has budged.

From the Survey USA polling summary (conducted last Thursday):

Today, Nickels takes 26% of the vote, up 2 points from an identical SurveyUSA poll released three weeks ago.
City Council member Jan Drago takes 15%, down 1 point.
Former Seattle Sonic James Donaldson takes 11% today, down from 14%.
Businessman Joe Mallahan takes 8%, up 1 point.
Community organizer Mike McGinn also takes 8%, unchanged from the previous poll.
Three other candidates combine to take 6% of the vote. 1 of 4 likely voters are undecided today, 13 days before ballots begin to be mailed in the all-mail primary.

So it looks like the predictable, Nickels v. Drago, predictable since a sole incumbent council member ordinarily will have an edge toward making the runoff (er, general).

All of which, in general, may give some comfort to Nickels, in that things are playing out conventionally, and none of his opposition really seems to have much traction. On the other hand, elections are mostly about incumbents more than they are challengers, and an incumbent falling far short of 50% in a multi-candidate gang run - if that turns out to be the case - could be in big trouble in November.

A rail day

rail transit

Seattle light rail kicks off/Sound Transit FlickR

SoundTransit has a big day today that, not so long ago, would have gotten its coverage via a ribbon-cutting ceremony and some video on local TV news. Well, okay, there's that too. If anyone notices.

The shot above comes from SoundTransit's comprehensive slideshow on Flickr. And there's much more, including a large collection of Tweets on (of course) Twitter.

It is a pretty big deal, the opening of light rail passenger service across a large large around Seattle - the most comprehensive light rail in the Northwest other than Portland's. And slated for further expansion.

Seattle v Tacoma, another round

tacoma

Central Tacoma/Stapilus

Some battles never end. Those between the Emerald City and the City of Destiny, for example. In modern-day style . . .

The Port of Tacoma tries to entice a key shipper away from the Port of Seattle.

The city of Seattle tries to lure away one of Tacoma's most prestigious businesses.

A solid rundown on the current state of the matter turns up in today's column by Tacoma News-Tribune's Peter Callaghan. Search for Seattle rebuttal (though Callaghan's take was pretty neutral) will get underway shortly . . .

Seattle v. Vancouver (BC)

A little compare & contrast never hurts when figuring out what works and what doesn't. Seattle and Vancouver have a light rivalry of a sorts - both have similar ideas about what constitutes civic virtue - that can make such a thing useful.

Knute Berger at Crosscut has a report on a meeting that put one up against the other, the spokesmen being Seattle council member Peter Steinbrueck and Vancouver council member Gordon Price - each speaking up for the other city. Some of the points of praise were interesting (and notably, the points of praise for Bellevue, which tends to get more than its due share of knocks from the other side of the water).

It's all worthwhile. Here's a slice for flavor:

Price praised Seattle as a "great American city," which made folks in the audience laugh, apparently thinking the word "American" was a qualifier, as "great for an American city." But Price, wearing an American flag tie, quickly corrected the impression. Vancouver, he said, has not nearly had the impact on Canada that Seattle has had on America, or Canada for that matter. Boeing, Microsoft, Amazon, Starbucks, Costco: these are Seattle originals that have been widely influential in a way Vancouver is not and never has been.

On the other hand, Steinbrueck rates Vancouver much higher on the livability scale, in part because the city's more consistent and integrated planning has resulted in a denser, more people-oriented city that is more family friendly than Seattle and has a larger slice of its middle class living in the core. In short, for all of Seattle's protectiveness on livability, Vancouver is doing a better job.

Spider to fly

Jan Drago

Jan Drago

You sorta get the feeling that the Greg Nickels forces have been preparing for this. In Crosscut, the headline was, "The Mayor 'welcomes' Jan Drago to the campaign," and you get the sense of a puzzle piece calculatedly falling into place. Even though this means he now actually has not a possible serious opponent, but a real one.

The Seattle mayor should, by rights, be in trouble. His polling borders on horrendous; the Seattle Times reported a couple of weeks ago that Drago is positioned to win by 21 points. Drago is no unknown; she's been on the council since she was first elected in 1993, longer than anyone else now on it.

And there are some structural reasons for thinking Drago might pull it off, including a primary contest which may favor her kind supporters.

But there's also no sense here that Nickles, twice elected (and the first time after two close and tough contests) is on the run. From Crosscut: "It's clear that Mayor Greg Nickels' political Swat team is trying to cut Drago down early in the campaign, before she can get much momentum. There's a press release a day touting Nickels' achievements in his most vulnerable areas: getting stimulus funds, getting favors from Olympia, the pesky snowstorm. The media is peppered with pointed questions to ask Drago: about her absenteeism (code for getting too old), her Nickels-like voting record. Nickels is playing a tough Hillary to Drago's Obama-like message of consensus. It's meant to rattle her (she is eminently rattleable) and to freeze Nickels' supporters from any thought of defection."

A challenger to a veteran incumbent ordinarily has to play one of two cards: Either make the case that a very different policy direction is needed (not useful here, because Nickels and Drago aren't far apart) or hammer the incumbent as too bad to keep in place (which would upend the consensus style Drago likes and which has helped her in the past). She has strategic options available, but they're apt to be unpalatable, and Nickles' people seem to have assessed as much.

Her problem, in other words, seems to be strategic more than anything else. It may be solvable. Should be fascinating to see how she tries to do it.