Welcome to Becoming a Citizen Activist BlogAfter writing Urban Politics on Seattle politics for over 19 years, I will now also be covering urban issues in other cities that could have importance to metropolitan areas in general. Seattle issues will still be covered in Urban Politics – Seattle, but will not come out as frequently as in the past. In a couple of weeks a searchable archive of all former Urban Politics will be available on a newly redesigned www.becomingacitizenactivist.org. If you do not wish to receive Urban Politics – US reply with “Unsubscribe UP-US” in the Subject Line.

All posts by Stephen Crane

Could Putin actually prefer Sanders over Trump?

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Written by Nick Licata


 

Sanders presents a more stable and predictable adversary but with a foreign policy similar to Trump’s.

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Bernie Sanders at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., June 2019
Carlos Barria / REUTERS

An aide to Joseph Maguire, the outgoing acting director of national intelligence, briefed the House Intelligence Committee on Feb. 13 that Russia was interfering in the 2020 campaign to try to get President Donald Trump re-elected. Separately, the Washington Post reported that U.S. officials have told Sen. Bernie Sanders that Russia is attempting to help his presidential campaign as part of an effort to interfere with the Democratic contest, according to people familiar with the matter.

A number of Democratic Party leaders believe that Sanders may be promoted by the Russians because he is seen as the weakest candidate that Trump could face, and hence could help assure his reelection. That rationale runs counter to polls which show Sanders beating Trump in some of the most important states. Axios reports that a Quinnipiac Poll last week (Feb 16th to 23rd) showed Sanders beating Trump in Michigan and Pennsylvania. A CBS News/YouGov poll had Sanders beating Trump nationally.

There is also a common belief that the Russians support Sanders because they believe it would sow more divisions within the Democratic party than supporting any other candidate. Concerns about such divisions are coming mostly from party leadership and as of now, not reflective of any rumblings from the general membership. However, there are two other reasons that could explain why the Russians could support Sanders.

First, between dealing with a mercurial, spontaneous decision-making adversary or one that is methodical and stable, Sanders would appear to be the safer bet in not pursuing aggressive military moves. Although he would not be as deferential to President Vladimir V. Putin as Trump, he conceivably could be a more reliable steady negotiator.

But there is a more important reason for the Russians to promote Sanders above the other Democrats running for president. And, it has nothing with him being a democratic socialist. It has to do with his approach to a foreign policy being more similar to Trump’s than any other Democrat.

Sander’s past foreign policy positions parallel those of Trump’s. Both were opposed to the US invading Iraq, although Trump’s claim is suspect given that two months before the war, in a Fox News interview with Neil Cavuto, Trump expressed neither support nor opposition to the concept of invading Iraq. Meanwhile, Sanders lead the opposition to the war in Congress.

They both have pushed for pulling our troops out of Afghanistan. Sanders in an op-ed in Foreign Affairs wrote: “Withdrawing from Afghanistan is something we must do,”. Trump ran as the only candidate in 2016, of both Republicans and Democrats, who would remove our troops from that country but in his second year in office, he increased US military presence there. Now, facing reelection, he has resurrected his original promise to pull them out. Is he concerned that if Sanders is his opponent, Sanders will hammer Trump, like he did Hillary in committing our troops overseas fighting an “endless war”? That attack will cut deeper into Trump’s base than all the impeachment coverage that the Democrats generated.

Trump in an address to military members in 2017 complained that Americans were “weary of war without victory” and with a “foreign policy that has spent too much time, energy, money, and most importantly lives,” on trying to rebuild countries. Because Sanders is not a liberal interventionist, he is the strongest Democratic candidate that can win a fight with Trump on the need to rebuild our nation first before pursuing military ventures. And, he can accuse Trump of having failed in his promise to do just that.

Sanders, like Trump, has argued that the US has wasted billions in taxpayer dollars, allowing competitors such as Russia and China to exploit the “forever wars” and expand their political influence. This approach reflects Trump’s “America First” policy that would end US involvement in pointless wars in the Middle East and elsewhere and instead invest that money in rebuilding America’s economy. Sanders could pull off diplomacy oriented “America First” approach without Trump-like blustering tweets that have generated far more media coverage than foreign policy gains.

Russell Berman of The Atlantic aptly pointed out that “The U.S. has now elected two presidents in a row who were, or claimed to be, against the war. Sanders is hoping voters decide to pick a third.” It worked for Barak Obama, distinguishing himself from Hilary Clinton by his opposition to the U.S.-led war in Iraq from its outset. It worked again for Trump who claimed to be against the war. Now Sanders is in a position to do it again.

It is insightful to note that 11 percent of Sander’s supporters in 2016, said they voted for Trump. Since it is likely that many of these folks were opposed to foreign military incursions, could there be a similar percentage of current Trump supporters moving over to Sanders if he is seen as being able to pull us out of “endless wars”?

Sanders is interested in avoiding military conflicts, but also in reshaping the military budget. He likely would challenge Trump’s massive expansion of our nuclear weapons program. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that Trump’s next biannual expenditure in this area would increase by $92 billion over the previous estimate of $400 made in 2017, which was already 15 percent higher than the previous 2015 estimate.

While much of this money purchases additional tactical nuclear weapons, in reality, they have been practically useless in achieving political objectives in military conflicts in Syria, Yemen, Iraq or Afghanistan. That funding could be diverted to building up our failing national infrastructure of roads and drainage lines, and pursue projects to build high-speed rail, and G5 network to catch up with other nations. These projects would provide jobs that voters of both parties would like to see. Let Trump defend spending billions on nuclear weapons while the country falls apart. Who is the strongest candidate willing and able to challenge Trump’s military budget as more lard than meat?

The Russians may still prefer Trump, but if there is a Democratic President, they may see Sanders as someone they can work within reaching agreements that Trump has been unable to achieve, like securing a lasting Iranian agreement.

More importantly, they need someone to revive their nuclear arms treaty with the US, which President Reagan created but President Trump ditched. Putin does not want to be dragged into another nuclear arms race. It didn’t go well for the Soviet Union; it busted their economy. It will not go well for Putin’s government either. He needs to negotiate with a national leader whose foreign policy is not erratic and tied too closely to that leader’s whims.

Could Putin be willing to see Trump dumped?

Trump’s Acquittal may Flip the Senate

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Written by Nick Licata


 

 

senate

US Senate in session

The Senate’s acquittal of President Donald Trump could flip the Senate to the Democrats.  That is because swing voters could be more negatively influenced by the Republican’s Senate trial than the Democrats’ House impeachment. Why is that?

Compare each party’s main critique of the other party’s performance. Republicans charge the House Democrats for not proving their case that Trump was guilty of abusing his power or obstructing congress. The Democrats charge the Republicans in the Senate for not allowing critical new testimony and previously denied documents to be shown in the trial.

For voters not glued to their TV, the positions come down to this: the Democrats could have done a better job, like pursing the courts to get testimony or documents, while the Republicans barred the Senate from receiving additional relevant information.

The Republicans have the weaker message in addressing the issue of fairness because it boils down to “the Democrats needed to do a better job”. That is a charge that all of us have been blamed for at some point in our lives. It is not unique; it is not a direct accusation of not being fair. The Democrats are accused of rushing the impeachment, but they are also accused of holding the impeachment too near the next presidential election. That’s a confusing attack. It undermines the Republican’s argument because they criticize the Democrats for taking either action, which in itself is not seen as fair.

On the other hand, the charge of not allowing witnesses who have spoken directly to the President is unique. It is simple to understand as a necessary condition for conducting a fair trial. The Republican’s defense of why testimonies were not necessary is fractured. Some like Senator Lamar Alexander, say no more information is needed. They admit that the President did try to get a foreign power to influence his election, but it doesn’t require his removal from office. It’s an explanation that undercuts the President’s position that he did nothing wrong.

Republican Senators will be heading into a quagmire of endless explanations of why they voted for no testimonies as more of John Bolton’s book reveals the President’s involvement. Plus, the courts will likely force the Trump administration to release more damaging documents. As the Republicans’ justifications become longer and more complex, the public will lose interest in the details and just remember what the Senate failed to do. A simple message always overshadows a complex one, particularly if a simple one is repeated and supported by a unified group.

As Chris Wallace of Fox News said, the Democrats “will be able to argue, … from now until November that this was a cover-up and that all the Republican senators who are up for re-election in 2020 were part of that cover-up.” The Democrats just need to remind the public that trials involve “critical” witnesses and the Republican Senators denied their appearance. That decision might have saved the election for Trump, but it might also help the Democrats flip the Senate.

The Democrat House Managers in the Senate Trump trial repeatedly stressed the need for Congress to check the growing power of a president. The Senate failed to do so, and in a caviler manner because they assumed that Trump’s support is critical for winning their primary elections. But his support isn’t a magic potion for winning their general elections.

Admittedly Trump’s rallies are huge. As the Iowa caucuses were about to begin, Trump visited the state. As reported by The Hill, Trump attracted 7,000 people in Des Moines, twice the size that attended Sen. Bernie Sanders’ rally in Cedar Rapids, which his campaign claimed was the largest held by any Democrat during this political cycle in Iowa.

However, Trump’s ability to get his candidates elected is limited. In the 2019 Alabama Senate Race, Trump supported Luther Strange in the Republican primary, he lost to Ray Moore, who Trump then supported. He lost to Democrat Doug Jones, the first Democrat to win a Senate race in Alabama in 50 years.

A more telling measurement of Trump’s limited ability to help Republicans is to look at Trump’s endorsements of Republican Governor candidates in 2018 and 2019. Seven of his thirteen endorsed candidates going for an open seat or challenging an incumbent lost in 2018. Last year he endorsed in only four governor races, his candidate lost in three of them.

In the 2018 US Senate races, he did well with incumbents, but horribly with challengers, only four of his 14 endorsed candidates won. In 2019 there were no Senate races.

The Brookings Institute also did a study of how candidates fared in 2018 for House and Senate races where Trump and Democratic politicians endorsed them. Brookings tracked the PVI (partisan voter index) for the states or districts involved. Trump supported candidates in heavy Republican-leaning districts that measured R+7.6 whereas Biden chooses districts that swung districts with roughly divided support between the parties. Trump’s endorsed candidates won 56% of the elections, Biden’s won 76%. This is a pattern that could be repeated in statewide races where the urban higher educated voters, who have been steady conservative voters, are upset with Trump’s imperial behavior.

The takeaway is that since 2018 Trump’s ability to sweep other Republicans into office does not match his power to attract people to his rallies. That’s because Trump is a unique phenomenon to watch, but not a force in persuading swing voters to vote for his candidates. It appears that congressional candidates will be judged more on how well they have served or will serve in public office than whether Trump endorses them.

There is another unintended consequence of acquitting Trump that plays to the Democrats’ advantage. It mutes Trump’s image as a victim, which has energized his base of supporters to come out and save him. Now that he is a victor, there will be some relief among his core support and hence they could be less motivated to mobilize folks to get out and vote.

Meanwhile, Trump’s acquittal should stimulate Democrats to mobilize voters to do what the Senate refused to do. The public is on the same page as the Democrats. According to a January 28, 2020 poll by Quinnipiac University, 75% of voters said to allow witnesses in the Senate impeachment trial and 53% said President Trump was not telling truth about Ukraine. Although this is a national poll for all registered voters, it does show that Democrats have the potential to sweep up swing voters in key states to support Senators who would act as a check on Trump from further expanding his executive powers. If the Democrats run solid candidates to beat incumbent Republican Senators, they can campaign on stopping a Republican Senate from appointing one or two more Trump adherents to the Supreme Court.

The Trump Senate trial has provided the Democrats a platform for carrying a simple message: the public needs a functioning Senate. One that is a real government watchdog – not a guard dog for their party leader.

Senate Republicans have more to lose than the Senate Democrats in the Trump Trial

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Written by Nick Licata


 

 

Realistically the focus for the Democrats should be to sway public opinion, more than persuading the Republicans to convict Trump

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House Managers of the Trump Trial walking to the Senate

Now that President Donald Trump’s Senate Trial has begun there are some critical points to keep in mind in evaluating both the process and the likely outcome. All analysis, up to now, is based on the very low probability that 14 Republicans would break party ranks to convict Trump on the two articles of impeachment (Abuse of Power & Obstruction of Congress).

It is not likely they will abandon Trump, despite two recent developments. The nonpartisan Congressional General Accounting Office concluded Trump violated the law by withholding assistance to Ukraine. And, Lev Parnas, an associate of the president’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani, said that Trump approved and directed public tax dollars to influence the election by asking Ukraine to investigate his potential main rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.

Republican senators won’t break from him because these “facts” don’t matter in their upcoming primary elections. It doesn’t matter if they lose liberal independents, they never had them, and in most states, they don’t vote in the primaries. As long as they can keep their core Republican primary voters, who are 90% plus behind Trump, they will win the primary.

But afterward, winning their general election could be severely jeopardized if the public perceives the trial as phony or not taken seriously by the Republicans. More importantly, the conservative independents, who are more Republican than Trumpites, could be swayed to vote for a Democrat who believes in the rule of law. That doesn’t mean those voters would necessarily go for liberal candidates, they could just sit on their hands and not vote. This is what makes the senate Republicans vulnerable, much more than their Democratic challengers.

For instance, there are 22 Republican senators up for reelection in 2020, while there are only 12 Democrats. Ballotpedia did an analysis of these races using the 2016 presidential election and race ratings from three of the top organizations analyzing the races (Cook Political Report, Sabato’s Crystal Ball, and Inside Elections with Nathan Gonzales) they identified 12 Republican incumbents and 5 Democratic incumbents as being potentially vulnerable. The Republicans have greater exposure.

The Democrats do not need to win the Senate trial by convicting Trump, no matter how much evidence that he should be. If the Republicans refuse testimony or admittance of documents, polls indicate that would alienate more voters than anything else. A poll taken ABC News and The Washington Post on December 10th, before the House voted for impeachment, showed 70% of

Americans believe that administration officials should be able to testify. That attitude crossed party lines; 79% of Democrats, 64% of Republicans and 72% of independents agree that Trump should allow them to appear in a Senate trial.

The struggle to control the trial’s image will not be a high drama TV event. The senators do not speak! Their questions or motions are submitted on paper to the presiding officer, i.e. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts. He decides whether to bring them forward. If he refuses, he can be overruled by a simple majority of 51 senators. Almost all of the TV political pundits have made much of the 51 vote rule, which allows the Senate to create their own procedural rules for the trial. It gives control of the trial to the Republican since there are 53 of them.

There is a slight wrinkle in that description because the Standing Rules of the Senate details the rules of order of the United States Senate. Normally it takes a two-thirds vote to alter any of the 43 standing rules that were last adopted in 2000. These rules could serve as a possible hurdle for the Republicans, and they may seek to alter them to protect Trump.

In the past, both Democrat and Republican Senate majority leaders had employed a “nuclear” option, by using just a majority vote to permanently alter the standing rules. Both actions had to do with eliminating the 60-vote rule for approving federal judicial appointments, including Supreme Court nominations.

This means that the Republicans probably could exercise that authority; with 51 votes they could do anything. But if they use this nuclear option, it would appear to the public as an excessive force in manipulating the senate trial to Trump’s advantage. That could be the straw that breaks the public’s back in seeing the Republican-run senate trial as a fair one.

Most dangerous to the Republican senators seeking reelection this November, is that this move could dampen the support of their traditional conservative constituents to get out and vote for their reelection. Interestingly, one of the few mentions of the two-third rule being needed to change the senate’s standing rules was brought up by Fred Lucas, a reporter from the conservative The Daily Signal, which is funded entirely by The Heritage Foundation.

The conservative tradition is to respect the law and procedures. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell rejecting the request by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to have four White House officials testify during the impeachment trial is going to hurt the Republicans more than the Democrats. When the Republicans realize that problem, they will offer to repeat the process that was used in President Bill Clinton’s trial; having off-site testimony videotaped and then selected portions shared with the full senate.

Having live testimony with cross-examining, would make for a huge TV audience, but given the character of those testifying, the spectacle would likely confuse rather than educate the public on Trump’s guilt. Plus, there is no telling what they will say. In the Clinton senate trial, all of those testifying had done so before, so it was known what they were going to say.

The Democrats should propose having Chief Justice Roberts make the final decision on what portions of the videotaped testimony should be shared. Although the Republicans could overrule his decision, that action will be remembered by the public long after what was said in the testimony.

The bottom line for the Democrats, and the Republicans as well, is that their behavior will be judged as much as President Trump’s. Since he will not be present, the actions of the House Prosecution Managers and the President’s Defense Team will receive the immediate attention of the public watching and the media personalities commentating afterward.

The Minimum Wage Could be Raised in the Majority of States – This Year

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Written by Nick Licata

rallycityhall
The 2020 new year marks a historic landmark for dramatically improving many people’s living standards by increasing the minimum hourly wage. According to David Cooper of the Economic Policy Institute, nearly 7 million workers will start the new year with higher wages. This is not due to Trump’s tax cut which reduced the corporate income tax rate from 35 percent to as low as 20 percent. That change resulted in doubling the number of companies paying zero in taxes, according to research from the Center for Public Integrity.
Instead, guaranteed higher wages was a result of citizens working in their communities to make local governments accountable to them. This year half of the states will have raised the minimum hourly wage, an effort that was led by 22 city and county governments, with states now trying to catch up.
The movement to raise the minimum wage to $15 first caught the nation’s attention when in 2013 the Washington State city of SeaTac, with a population of less than thirty-thousand, passed a citizen’s initiative establishing it. A coalition of unions, faith groups, immigrant and community groups came together, inspired by one-day walkout strikes by non-union fast-food workers in New York City in the late fall of 2012. They demanded better working conditions and a $15 minimum wage. Walkouts by fast-food workers occurred early the next year in cities like Chicago, St. Louis, and Milwaukee demanding a higher minimum wage.
SeaTac’s victory encouraged workers and citizens to mobilize in neighboring Seattle, with a population of over 600,000.  Astonishingly, within six months of Sea-Tac’s victory, Seattle became the first major city in the US to adopt a $15 minimum hourly wage for all employees, working part and full time, including those receiving tips.
Several books have described how this victory came about. My book, Becoming a Citizen Activist, begins with a glimpse of how the city council came to pass the legislation. More detailed descriptions of how the effort began in Sea-Tac and spread to Seattle are covered in David Rolf’s The Fight For $15 and Jonathan Rosenblum’s Immigrant Workers, Faith Activists, and the Revival of the Labor Movement.
The desire to raise minimum wages is not confined to large liberal cities. It crosses regional and political boundaries, uniting Grassroot efforts to challenge entrenched political parties who control the state governments. For example, look at how voters in both New Jersey and Missouri increased the minimum wage, overturning their governor’s and state legislator’s actions.
In November 2013, New Jersey voters effectively overrode Governor Chris Christie’s veto of the minimum wage bill the legislature had passed. The voters approved an increase through a ballot measure. These were not hard-core democrats since republican Christie and his lieutenant governor were re-elected with over 60% of the vote. In Missouri, voters passed a higher state minimum wage at the ballot box after state lawmakers nullified city minimum wage ordinances that had been enacted by local governments in Kansas City and St. Louis. Missouri is a trifecta state, where the republicans simultaneously hold the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers and since 2000, has voted 100% for a Republican presidential candidate. Raising the minimum wage once again was critical to voters who also voted republican.
These local and state actions have become necessary because congress, under the control of either the democrats or the republicans, has up to now, been unwilling or unable to increase the minimum wage. And it is about time that they act. The federal government last raised the minimum wage to $7.25 in July 2009, and since then its purchasing power has declined by 17 percent. This past July, the democratic controlled U.S. House of Representatives passed the “Raise the Wage Act of 2019”, a bill that would raise the federal minimum wage to $15 by 2025.
It has been sent to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, but he has denied it an opportunity to be voted on, along with a hundred other bills from the House of Representatives that have been referred to the Senate.
However, no matter what occurs in D.C. this November, organizing must continue at the local and state level. Below are some strategies to consider for doing so.
Five Critical Strategic Steps For Passing
Higher Minimum Wage Legislation at the Local Level.
First, Have dedicated staff –  there must be full-time staff working with community groups to provide them outreach services. Unions, like SEIU and HERE Unite, that have been in the forefront and others who are involved, may have paid staff to fill that role. Unions provided the organizational strength that allowed both SeaTac and Seattle to ultimately succeed. Meanwhile, the faith community’s organizations are more likely to provide a pool of volunteers to work with paid staff and reach out regularly to their membership.
Second, Do good research – it is critical to provide reliable data to the public. The executive director, John Burbank, and the policy director, Marilyn Watkins, of the local and nationally recognized think tank, the Economic Opportunity Institute, provided data to convince both politicians and the public that raising the minimum wage was good for the economy. On a national level, Economic Policy Institute’s David Cooper continues to track efforts to increase the minimum wage throughout the nation. That research does not end after legislation is passed, because those opposed to this type of government regulation will continue to site studies that could eliminate or hamper such legislation. Watkins’ article Poor research leads to poor findings on minimum wageprovides a perfect example of why such attention is needed, as she systematically dissects a study critical of increasing the minimum wage.
Third, Work with politicians – community groups need to identify and work with elected officials who are willing to champion, support or even discuss the need for increasing the minimum wage. Timing is important. If there is an election, use it to promote increasing the minimum wage. As a city council candidate, socialist Kshama Sawant built a grassroots $15 Now campaign and made increasing the minimum wage an issue that both Mayoral candidates adopted in the general election.
Even without introducing legislation, a local councilmember can hold public forums to get information out to the public and to other politicians. Ady Barkan, the founding director of the national network of one thousand elected municipal officials, Local Progress, writes in his book Eyes to the Wind, how Local Progress worked with me to bring national experts and councilmembers from other cities to a Seattle symposium to discuss how minimum wage legislation could help employees avoid poverty while expanding the economy. Three months later the Seattle City Council passed the legislation.
Fourth, Involve national groups – without the support of groups like Local Progress and SEIU, Seattle’s effort would have had to rely just on local resources. National groups are not going to win a campaign, but they can bring in resources, like speakers, national media, and critical strategic advice. If they can send a representative to your city, make it a media event by inviting the public to hear them. Also, line up interviews for them with reporters, bloggers, politicians and opinion leaders.
Fifth, Feed all types of media – use social media to broadcast events, solicit volunteers and educate the public. Use the radio to appear on talk show programs, all of them. It doesn’t matter if the host is a conservative, as long as you can get your message out, you will pick up some support. Meet regularly with bloggers to give them an inside look at what is happening on this issue and do the same with newspaper columnists and reporters. Don’t forget to reach out to the community, church, and any group that has an electronic newsletter.
To borrow from Eric Lou’s book title, You’re More Powerful than You Think. Now you just have to work with others to exercise that power to get your local government to raise the minimum wage.

Seattle’s Urban Light Rail Needed Transparency to Get Built

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Written by: Nick Licata


 

Back-on-track

 

I often read the inspiring tale of The Little Train That Could to my two-year-old granddaughter.  When she gets older, I should read her Bob Wodnik’s book, Back on Track – Sound Transit’s Fight to Save Light Rail, because like that children’s book it is inspiring.

Wodnik served as the senior communications specialist from 1999 to 2017, for the Seattle region’s bus-rail agency, Sound Transit. He tells the inside story of how transit advocates fought against an array of formidable critics to build the multi-billion dollar Link Light rail train network, now running from north Seattle to the SeaTac Airport far south of the city for a total of 22 miles.

The book is not an analysis of how this system compares to other options that could have been pursued. Seattle would have been the only city in the country with a major monorail system but after passing four ballot votes, it was defeated on the fifth, and construction never began. There have also been proponents for building an alternative Rapid Bus System, using dedicated lanes. But it never came close to a city-wide vote, despite the critics providing details and statistics on how such a system could work. And finally, some relied on just paving more roads instead of laying down rail – a solution attempted in other cities without lasting traffic congestion relief,  the roads just fill as soon as they are built.

But getting broad public approval for building an urban rail system is not an easy sell to the public. Approving a fixed-rail rapid transit for a city is one of the most contentious decisions that an urban populace can make. It is often rejected through popular votes, as has happened in Austin, Tampa, San Antonio, Nashville, and in Seattle, where it was defeated at the election polls in 1968,1970, and 1995.

Wodnik clearly reveals the internal problems that plagued Sound Transit’s initial debut. It struggled to gain creditability, after its massive budget gap was revealed, with some of the most influential regional players, like the Chamber of Commerce and the daily newspapers suggesting that the project was a loser. Public officials, both Democrats, and Republicans, including two former governors, Booth Gardner and John Spellman, two County Council members, Maggie Fimia and Rob McKenna, and two city councilmembers, Peter and I, severely criticized its management for lack of transparency.

The turning points for Seattle came in 1988 when a countywide advisory ballot to build light rail passed with 70% approval but with no costs attached, and in 1996, when the proposal, with costs, identified, passed in the three contiguous counties, King, Snohomish, and Pierce. Their county councils would have representatives on the newly created Sound Transit board, which had the authority to build light rail, commuter train and rapid ride bus lines for the region. The bus lines became the workhorses, out of the limelight but delivering early results. The commuter rail, although struggling for ridership, did not create opposition like the light rail system.

In a suspenseful tale, Wodnik details how it took 13 years to open Light Link rail, fighting off opposition from eight different organized citizen groups, seven lawsuits and often the two daily newspapers. They were accused of ignoring the poorest neighborhood in Seattle, the Rainier Valley when the light rail was to be on the surface and not buried in a tunnel.

On the other hand, they were also accused of mission creep as various interest groups argued for different rail alignments that best suited a business and residential community’s needs.  Such competing objectives, which is typical in other urban rail projects, it is a wonder how they succeeded? Wodnik attributes it to hard work, luck and a focused leader.
Sound Transit’s main challenge was getting out solid and consistent information to the public. People often support the idea of rapid transit, it’s in accepting the details and cost that dilutes that support; focus groups strongly favored Seattle having a light rail system, but not so much when the details were revealed.

The biggest revelation occurred at the end of 2000 when the newly hired and highly competent  Joni Earl was hired. The former city manager for Mill Creek, and a trained accountant, took only two months to discover that Sound Transit’s Link Rail cost estimates were a billion off and would take 3 years longer to finish the project than what was promised to the voters.

Multiple newspapers, including the Daily Journal of Commerce, skewered the agency for its arrogance. The Federal Transit Administration’s Inspector General undertook a two-year investigation to out any fraud that may have occurred, holding up a half a billion-dollar grant that Sound Transit desperately needed. No fraud was found, but public trust in the agency was not shored up until the agency opened up its first stage of light link rail, running from downtown Seattle to the airport in 2009.

Wodnik presents both light rail critics and advocates fairly. The core supporters, however, were not the often skeptical business leaders. Instead, all but one of the eighteen major players he lists at the front of the book, were Sound Transit employees and board members who believed that a public rapid transit system was desperately needed to meet Seattle’s tremendous growth. Between 1960 and 1990 the number of jobs in Central Puget Sound more than doubled, the population grew 82%, and the number of registered vehicles was increasing faster than the population.

Although Sound Transit’s Link Rail teetered on failure, it did get built. Although some critics might claim that was because big money backed the project, there was no evidence presented that building a light rail system was conjured up in some backroom deal. Instead, the increased traffic congestion in Seattle brought about a large public recognition that something had to be done to move people around in a better way. It’s a condition that other cities have also struggled with.

In the end, Seattle’s Light Link rail’s success came down to the critical need for competent management of a multi-billion dollar project. Wodnik strongly credits its CEO Joni Earl, for leading that agency through its rocky years to get Sound Transit back on track. Such leadership, and continuous public oversight,  is needed to bring an urban rail system into any city and to keep it accountable to the public.

Fired Prosecutor Is Trump’s Savior from Impeachment

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By Nick Licata


 

The Republican Defense of Trump Relies on a Ukrainian Prosecutor Removed from Office for Tolerating Corruption 

ViktorShokin

Prosecutor General of Ukraine Viktor Shokin – Wikipedia photo

President Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress have repeatedly asked Ukraine to open an investigation into their country’s corruption. Rather than work with, Ruslan Ryaboshapka, Ukraine’s current General Prosecutor, a position that is similar to our Attorney General, they have sought out a former prosecutor who was removed for refusing to pursue charges against individuals and corporations that had been identified by his own office as corrupt. Is there a gap in logic here?

That prosecutor is Viktor Shokin. He was appointed by the oligarch Petro Poroshenko who won the election for president as a reformist after the Euromaidan 2014/15 populist revolt against the government of President Viktor Yanukovych. Shokin was not a holdover from that corrupt government, so the expectation was that he would diligently pursue those who had bilked the Ukrainian people out of billions of dollars.

Although Shokin only served from Feb 11, 2015, until March 29, 2016, his term in office became controversial. He had come under repeated criticism within Ukraine for not prosecuting officials, businessmen and members of parliament for their roles in corrupt schemes under the former President Viktor F. Yanukovych.

That mounting dissatisfaction with Shokin was reflected in December of 2015 when the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, said there were no vigorous efforts to combat the kind of self-dealing that had occurred in the past. Meanwhile, Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, which props up Ukraine financially, said fighting corruption was so weak that “it’s hard to see how I.M.F. support can continue.”

Shokin was also implicated in tolerating corruption within his own department after troves of diamonds, cash, and other valuables were found in the homes of two of Mr. Shokin’s subordinates, suggesting that they had been taking bribes. When prosecutors in Shokin’s office tried to bring the subordinates to trial, they were fired or resigned, and there was no further inquiry. Shokin’s own deputy, Vitaliy Kasko, resigned in February 2016, alleging that Shokin’s office was itself corrupt.

Because Shokin was not investigating other serious signs of corruption,  foreign donors suspected their contributions were being stolen without restraint Americans provided them support. Vice President Joe Biden visited Ukraine in 2015 and 2016 to complain about the ongoing stalled efforts to fight corruption by the prosecutor’s office.

In his last visit, March 2016, Biden threatened to withhold $1 billion in loan guarantees if Ukraine failed to address corruption by employing a new more aggressive general prosecutor. The Ukrainian Parliament voted to remove Shokin by a comfortable margin that same month.

Given the breadth of Shokin critics, stemming from street demonstrations to the head IMF official, and in the end even his own deputy, it is puzzling why our President Trump, would go out of his way to describe him as a “very good” former prosecutor to the new Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky on his July 25, 2019 call.

Also, why would Congressman Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee, in December 2018, meet with Shokin in Vienna, 2 years after Shokin left the office. Nunes has denied that the meeting took place. Public records do show that Nunes traveled to Europe from Nov. 30 to Dec. 3, 2018, with three of his aides. U.S. government funds paid for the group’s very short four-day trip, which cost just over $63,000.

Shokin told President Trump’s personal attorney Rudi Giuliani associate Lev Parnas that he had met Nunes. Parnas is willing to testify under oath before congress of what he knows, but unless there was a third person present, who is willing to appear before Congress, it will be Parnas’s word against Nunes’s. Shokin has worked closely with the Russian government and they would not look kindly on him if he were to confirm anything that endangered Trump’s presidency.

Giuliani had previously met Shokin because he had started investigating Burisma as the former prosecutor-general. Nunes was probably encouraged by Giuliani to visit Shokin to gather some incriminating information about Hunter Biden. However, Shokin’s investigations were either dropped or dormant by the time he was fired.

His lack of pursuing an investigation of Burisma was noted by the Anti-Corruption Action Center (AntAC). Daria Kaleniuk a leader of AntAC told the NYT, “Shokin was not investigating. He didn’t want to investigate Burisma. And Shokin was fired not because he wanted to do that investigation, but quite to the contrary, because he failed that investigation.” Just before he was fired, Shokin’s office raided the AntAC headquarters, claiming that it had misappropriated aid money.

While there is no smoking gun or a tape recording of the Nunes meeting with Shokin, the likelihood of such a meeting makes sense. Parnas had worked with Trump’s former Campaign Manager Paul Manafort as a lobbyist for Ukraine at a time when Ukraine’s government was aligned with Russian interests under the former president Yanukovych. Parnas was also working with Giulani to push Ukraine to open an investigation on Hunter Biden since he was on the Burisma company board. Although Shokin has claimed that if he was still in office, he would have investigated Biden, he did not while he was the prosecutor.

It is reasonable to believe that Shokin would have told Parnas that he had met with Nunes since all three were trying to discover if Biden had participated in corruption. They were all on the same team.  Additionally, Nunes was about to relinquish his committee chairmanship to a democrat since they would be in control of the House of Representatives the next month. Interviewing Shokin may have given Nunes an opportunity to make one last media splash if Shokin had something valuable and newsworthy to share.

Republicans would surely have released any item that Shokin could produce that would incriminate Biden. They haven’t. But Trump and the Republicans still insist that he was fired because Vice President Biden demanded it. Trump accuses Biden of fearing that his son Hunter Biden could be drawn into some corruption scandal. He may have feared that but none of the three last general prosecutors have investigated Hunter Biden and all have said that they have had no reason to.

The bottom line is that Trump and the Republicans suspect that Hunter and papa Joe are somehow connected to corruption in Ukraine. However, the only prosecutor they trust for information is the only one that the Russians trust – Shokin, who was kicked out of office by a duly elected parliament – for being corrupt.

The 20th Anniversary of the WTO Battle in Seattle

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Originally posted at the Medium. Written by Nick Licata.


 

The freedom to dissent was tested as the US closed out the twentieth century with a demonstration that grabbed the world’s attention. Forty thousand citizens marched through Seattle’s downtown on November 30, 1999, to protest a meeting of the World Trade Organization Ministerial (WTO.)

Having decided to hold its third biannual meeting in the US, over forty cities competed to host it. Seattle beat out the others by promising to spend over $9 million, almost twice as much as the nearest bid from Honolulu. The City Council wasn’t asked to approve the offer because the Seattle Host Organization, consisting of members from the region’s major corporations and chaired by Microsoft’s Bill Gates, promised to pick up the tab, although they ended contributing far less.

This was to be the most important trade conference ever held in the US; the newly formed WTO was assuming powers that far outstripped its predecessors. In particular, it would not only continue to regulate manufactured goods, but services, intellectual property, and agriculture would be added.

More importantly, it would have the authority to require the elimination of local labor standards and environmental protections if they violated trade agreements. It was a wet dream for corporate leaders bent on expanding trade opportunities, and a nightmare for those defending worker rights and the environment.

Without firing a shot, the world was seeing the formation of a new international power. The context for Seattle’s WTO meeting was set, it would not happen without vocal and visible dissent from those affected.

To publicize our city council’s concerns with the WTO, I sponsored, and the council unanimously passed, resolution number 29926 in April, expressing the Council’s ability to regulate and pass laws regarding environmental protection and fair labor practices within its jurisdiction and that it opposed international agreements that could restrict that ability. It was a small attempt to support those opposing WTO’s growing power.

Just as delegates from the 130 countries and the several thousand media correspondents were preparing to attend, so were citizen activists. I met with Mike Dolan from Public Citizen; a Ralph Nader initiated organization, in the spring of 1999 to discuss how to create an open environment in which citizens could be heard. Dolan was building community support by acquiring venues to accommodate a huge number of open educational meetings.

Meanwhile, another organization from San Francisco, the International Forum on Globalization, organized two-day teach-in the pristine downtown Benaroya Symphony Hall. Each day more than 2,500 attendees packed the hall to listen to an analysis of how WTO was reshaping the world around profits, not human needs.

Opposition to the WTO came from three groupings distinguished by their tactics and objectives. By far the largest one was a precedent-setting alliance between organized labor and environmental groups, referred to as the “Teamsters and turtles” coalition, due to hundreds of protestors appearing in sea turtle costumes to protest WTO’s rules harming sea life. Labor leaders, for their part, wanted any new WTO trade agreement to set minimum labor standards in factories around the world, so as not to drag down labor agreements in the US.

Although they tussled over whether saving jobs or the environment was more important, they recognized that they faced a common fate of being sacrificed on the alter-of-trade if they didn’t ultimately shrink WTO’s authority. Their tactic was to organize and lead tens of thousands of demonstrators in a permitted march into downtown. I participated, walking alongside AFL-CIO President Sweeny and Congressman Dennis Kucinich, and a number of other labor and Congressional leaders who were present.

The second group, numbering perhaps a thousand, came together under an umbrella group, the Direct Action Network (DAN) whose publicized objective was to use non-violent civil disobedience (calling for no property destruction) to stop the WTO from the meeting. Their long-term goal was to create a mass movement to challenge global capital, “making a radical change and social revolution.” Their actions evolved from independent affinity groups that had been training for months on their tactics.

They arrived downtown hours before the mass march was to arrive. By forming large circles of protestors with arms interlocked with duct tape or bicycle locks, they successfully blocked major intersections. Delegates were unable to enter the Washington State Convention & Trade Center while buses and cars were suddenly diverted around the downtown retail core to avoid the protestors.

The third and smallest group, numbering a hundred at most, consisted of militant anarchists, referred to the black block. They systematically blockaded streets with newspaper boxes and smashed the windows of retail outlets owned by exploitive corporations. They also reached the downtown core before the mass march.

The media showered this group with attention while ignoring the anti-WTO forums. Throwing a garbage can through a store window certainly is more eye-catching than a snapshot of a room full of people listening to a lecture. But I couldn’t help but ask, which is better suited for building a lasting informed social movement for change?

As November 30, 1999 approached, public officials had recognized there would be thousands of protestors. Even President Bill Clinton told the workers at a Harley Davidson factory before heading to Seattle, “Every group in the world with an ax to grind is going to Seattle. I told them all, I wanted them to come… I want everybody to get this all out of their system…”

Mayor Paul Schell, a former war protestor himself, said Seattle would welcome all who came to protest peacefully against WTO. And I got the City Council, through a resolution, to request that the Mayor help accommodate all visitors arriving for the Ministerial, by encouraging “…organizations who are serving demonstrators coming to our community to explore opportunities to ensure adequate lodgings and homestays.” It was going to be needed; Mike Dolan informed me that there were 750 Accredited Non-Governmental Organizations actively recruiting people to attend the WTO ministerial.

I had attended a number of meetings between our police leadership and leaders of the mainstream protestor groups, to see if they could agree on how to proceed with the demonstrations. Representatives from both sides were cautious and the meetings were inconclusive. The reality was that dissent would be taking many forms and no amount of volunteer parade marshals could keep folks walking in a straight line down the road.

There was anger in the air that the City did not take into account. Our police showed pictures to the councilmembers of what happened sixteen months earlier at the WTO’s second ministerial conference in Geneva, Switzerland. Five thousand protestors gathered there, firebombing three autos and damaging other cars and stores. The Seattle police were scared but the mainstream protest leaders assured them they would lead a peaceful march.

As I walked down First Avenue with thousands of other protestors from the huge AFL-CIO rally held about a mile north of downtown, I felt that we would show the world how much opposition there was to WTO’s plans. At the front of the march were labor leaders and Congressmen.

When we reached the retail core, we were to proceed to a gathering spot and not continue to the Convention Center; however, some protestors emerged from the march and encouraged us to veer towards it. Confusion reigned and the march splintered into smaller streams of protestors.

Meanwhile, the DAN group blocked the main intersections and the black block faction attacked Starbuck and Nike stores, spraying graffiti on their windows that had not been smashed.

Perhaps stunned by the violence and not prepared for a strategic response the police initially failed to intervene with those smashing windows. The parades’ monitors took up protective positions outside some of the retail stores, fearing that the plate glass windows being shattered by handkerchief-masked anarchists would overshadow their own orderly protesting.

Even as the police began using tear gas to break up DAN’s circles to allow the WTO delegates to enter the Convention Center, a couple of blocks away from other protestors, many in costumes, chanted, waved signs and even danced in the streets. David Solnit, one of DAN’s organizers, described the scene as a festival of resistance, from which the labor leaders and congressional representatives quietly slipped away.

With the situation deemed dangerous for the upcoming visit of President Clinton, Mayor Schell declared a state of emergency and imposed a curfew on most of downtown starting at 7:00 p.m. The police moved into the crowds in late afternoon using pepper spray, tear gas, and rubber bullets to end the demonstrations and property damage.

Several hundred protestors were pushed up into the dense residential Capitol Hill neighborhood abutting the Convention Center. Not confident of securing downtown for the next day, Mayor Schell issued another emergency order establishing a “no protest zone” — in 25 blocks of downtown.

Governor Locke called in the National Guard, so that by daylight on Wednesday, troops lined its perimeter.   Police then used tear gas to disperse any crowds. More than 500 people, including downtown residents and employees leaving work, were jailed that day for not clearing out from the heart of downtown Seattle. In the evening, a smaller contingency of protestors returned to shout and throw debris at the police, who responded with concussion grenades and large quantities of tear gas, fearing they would be overrun. The firefighters’ union refused a request to turn their fire hoses on the protestors.

Although accusations were repeated in the media that firebombs and bags of urine were thrown at the officers, later investigations revealed that to be false. Wednesday evening, the protestors and the police were once again in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, infuriating residents, as their main retail street became a battleground.

Having lived on Capitol Hill for twenty-five years I walked the familiar streets talking to both police officers and protestors, in a vain attempt to lower the level of hostility. There was no room for any rationale dialogue in an atmosphere filled with fear and pepper gas. On Thursday, the President left and both the police and the protestors ratcheting down their confrontations while the WTO meeting petered out.

Did the massive and confrontational expression of citizen dissent achieve its objective? The massive outpouring of protesters did play the most visible role in stopping the WTO from reaching a new trade agreement.  However, it was also widely acknowledged that intense divisions among its delegates also contributed to that failure.

It remains as the only one of nine WTO meetings held up to 2013 that did not issue a Ministerial Declaration, perhaps because it was the only one that experienced massive citizen opposition. Other WTO Ministerial were held in places that did not allow or severely restricted demonstrations, like Dubai and Singapore, or were in difficult places to reach with few accommodations like Cancun. And, those that were held in Geneva never saw as many protestors as appeared in Seattle.

Supporters of WTO and those critical of the protestors, accused political leaders of inviting trouble when they encouraged citizens to Seattle to demonstrate their opposition. They ignored the basic principle of our American democracy, a strong faith in the right to assemble and protest.

Seattle, known as a tolerant city, was portrayed as naïve in expecting things to go peacefully. Perhaps, but more importantly, the City was not prepared for massive demonstrations. Review reports issued from the ACLU, the Police Department and the City Council all concluded that our police force was not properly trained for crowd control or for moving in quickly to isolate those destroying property.

While both DAN members and the police agreed in advance that their members would be arrested peacefully, the police relied on teargas and pepper spray to accomplish that task, which needlessly affected all those nearby. Perhaps the worse example of the police response was their pursuit of protestors up to Capitol Hill where uninvolved residents, business owners, and shoppers found themselves breathing in teargas or even arrested for being in the wrong spot while the police rounded up protestors. Those actions and the Mayor’s enactment of a no protest zone treated many citizens as criminals.

Eight years later in January 2007, a federal jury found that the city had violated protesters’ Fourth Amendment constitutional rights by arresting them without probable cause or hard evidence. Although the Council passed the Mayor’s emergency declarations, I and Councilmembers Peter Steinbrueck, and Richard Conlin voted against it.

After the WTO meeting ended, the city council held two public hearings to allow citizens to air their grievances. The first evening went from 4 pm to 1 am and the second one took almost as long, with over three hundred people testifying. Their complaints were similar to the emails I received; a few blamed the protestors for all the trouble but most were critical of the police response.

“Mr. Licata, they are smashing up downtown, you’re personally responsible since you supported them.”

“You welcomed the protestors, in Seattle 52 years, it’s become a sewer, why aren’t you in Westlake to quite these people down. Why wasn’t City prepared for anarchists? You expect taxpayers to pay for all this? I’d fine them, make them clean it up, and then cut their nuts off.”

“Yesterday Police let hooligans get away with too much. Today people with legitimate protests are being mistreated. Disgusted with the situation.”

 “I’m upset about Police actions downtown, throwing tear gas canisters at peaceful protestors all day; I’m a resident and taxpayer, and got a mouthful of it. I’m outraged that Police we pay to protect us would do this.”

“I was impartial about events before, but seeing what Mayor and SPD have done is wrong and illegal, going way too far, I hope there are repercussions for Mayor and the Police Department.”

“The Police action on Capitol Hill last night was like military action, it was indiscriminate, no reason for it. Whoever authorized it should be fired.”

Police Chief Norm Stamper resigned soon after the protestors and the WTO delegates had left town. Latter he said using tear gas was wrong and that there was a need to move away from paramilitary tactics in policing. Mayor Paul Schell lost his next election, failing to get past the primary, in part due to the WTO events.

The City Council formed a special WTO Accountability Review Committee, which convened three independent citizen panels and had staff review more than 14,000 documents accompanied by interviews with key individuals.

The Council then passed three separate pieces of legislation. The first (Ordinance 120096) required every SPD peace officer to wear a nametag on the outermost layer of the peace officer’s uniform since many accusations of police abuse could not be traced to any specific officer. The second (Resolution 30340) implemented a new process notifying the Council of any solicitation of major events and allowed them to formally review any requests made of the city. This would allow the City Council an opportunity to have a public process, if necessary, for evaluating the impact of a controversial gathering.  Lastly, the procedures used to declare and/or terminate a civil emergency were modified to allow greater Council control over how long one would remain in force.

The WTO meeting came to be known at the Battle in Seattle. Were the protests a legitimate expression of concern for our citizens wanting to protect their jobs and quality of life? Or as critics charged, were the protestors just hooligans and anarchists’ intent on destroying our civil society?

Observations from both the police and the media noted that the latter group made up less than a half percent of all who protested. Despite the critics who charged that Seattle’s reputation had been irreversibly damaged, overall holiday sales rose 6 percent in 1999 and Seattle has gone on to become one of the most economically prosperous cities in the country, while still promoting strong labor protection laws and environmental regulations.

All parties agreed that the public suddenly became aware of the WTO and its growing international power.  Despite the media’s attention on the vandalizing of property, a month later, in January 2000, a Business Week opinion poll found that 52 percent of Americans sympathized with the WTO protestors in Seattle.

What had been had been buried in the back pages of the business section had now emerged as an important topic of debate within our democracy. The massive turn out by thousands of protestors in Seattle, proved the effectiveness of citizens exercising their right to publically and forcefully dissent to alter the course of their democracy when it threatens their livelihood and quality of life.

Why Big $ is Pouring into Seattle Council Elections

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Seattle’s city council election this November has seen a record-breaking amount of funds being spent by Independent Expenditure Committees (IEs). Amazon’s $1.5 million contributions to the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce IE called Civic Alliance for a Sound Economy (CASE) drew national attention, with both Presidential Candidates Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders condemning it. But many folks don’t understand how Independent Expenditure Committees (IEs) influence our democratic process.

Normally candidates can receive no more than $500 from a single donor, person or business. If they take public funding through Seattle’s democracy voucher program, then that limit is $250. However, IEs have no limit on how much they can receive and disperse to support, or oppose a candidate, as long as that candidate does not have anything to do with the IE. Basically, wealth distorts a fair distribution of verifiable information to the voters. CASE and its allied IEs have mounted such attacks against candidates that are deemed too progressive. 

 

Most Of The IE $ Is To Halt The Council’s Progressive Agenda

Most of IE money is being spent with the express intent to stop the perceived leftward drift of the council. In the last 2 council election cycles, not including the 2017 race for just the 2 at large positions, IEs have crashed into our local elections in a big way. 

A review of data collected by Seattle’s Ethics and Elections Commission for the council elections of 2013 (4 at large races) , 2015 (7 district & 2 at large races) , and 2019  (7 district races), show that IE contributions went from less than $4,000 in 2013 (to 1 candidate) to $494,000 in 2015’s general election (an additional $300,000 spent in the primary), and now, as of Oct 21, about $6 million has been collected by all the IEs with over $600,000 of that still not spent. All of those reserve funds are in the anti-council IEs.

Some have argued that both businesses and unions have contributed substantially to IEs to shape the council’s policies. However,  a close review of how the money has been spent or earmarked for use this November shows that $4.4 million is for the Chamber endorsed candidates, which includes Amazon’s $1.5 million to CASE, the Chamber’s IE. 

As of October 21st, if you look just at the IE money spent for 3 progressive candidates, Herbold, Lewis and Strauss, the amount totals $488,000 with 76% of that going to just one candidate, Andrew Lewis, from the Unite HERE union. Councilmember Sawant has received just one thousand dollars in IE funds. On the other hand, the Chamber endorsed candidates, Tavel, Orion, Pugel, Pedersen, and Wills, have received a total of $1,585,700. 

But numbers don’t cover the entire story. For instance, in the Andrew Lewis vs Jim Pugel race, the IEs spent for each candidate, as of October 21,  about an equal amount. However, there are hundreds of thousand dollars still available to the pro-Pugel IEs to spend on him and other Chamber candidates, while the IEs supporting the progressive candidates appear to have little if any funds left. For instance, in the Herbold versus Tavel race, IE expenditures for Tavel have been 4 times greater than IE expenditures supporting Herbold, and Will’s IE support has been 11 times greater than Strauss’s IE support.

The chart below shows how the IE funds were dispersed as of October 21st.

 

CANDIDATE I.E. MONEY RECEIVED (10/21/19) in 1,000’s
District 1 – Herbold – incumbent   36.4        
District 1 – Tavel 151.8      
District 2 – Morales   17.2      
District 2 -Solomon   71.1
District 3 – Sawant – incumbent       1.0
District 3 – Orion –    280.7
District 4 –  Pedersen   173.2
District 4 –  Scott       1.8
District 5 – Juarez – incumbent     31.1
District 5 – Davison Sattler       0
District 6 – Wills   533.8
District 6 – Strauss     48.4
District 7 – Lewis   373.4
District 7 – Pugel   375.1

 

It should also be noted that one of the three unions IEs, the FireFighters PAC, has only supported Chamber endorsed candidates. And on the other side of the ledger, there are wealthy individuals, like Nick Hanauer, who support progressive candidates.

 

Two Reasons For The Rise Of IE Money

I believe there are two reasons for the rise of IE money flooding into our elections. 

One is that past ordinances have clipped the wings of businesses to conduct their operations by mandating requirements to address the working conditions of their employees, like increasing the minimum wage and requiring paid sick leave. In the case of landlords, they have been required to accommodate their tenants’ safety needs or lessen the burden of increasing rental costs. This last focus has resonated with tenants, who are the fastest-growing demographic in the city making up 54% of all households.

The second reason is that the process of running for council seats has been adjusted to allow a greater range of candidates, more women and those with modest means. Let me provide examples of both. 

The council over the past two decades has passed several ordinances that have resulted in a more responsive and accountable city council to working families. I assume that the two major contributors to CASE, Amazon at $1.5 million and Vulcan at $255,000, are most concerned about how future legislation will impact their ability to develop their downtown property and keep their operational costs minimal. 

However, the largest number of businesses affected by the council’s policies are the hoteliers, restaurateurs, apartment owners/developers and smaller property developers concerned about keeping their labor costs as low as possible. Associations representing these groups are the next largest contributors to CASE. 

Aside from corporations, owners and employees from both Amazon, Vulcan and smaller businesses have made huge contributions to both CASE and People for Seattle. The resulting combination has produced a formidable political force. However, a counter political force has also come to the fore through citizen initiatives pushing for electoral reforms. 

 

Expanding Tenant Rights

The law that began a series of other tenant improvements was passing the Rental Registration and Inspection Ordinance  (RRIO) in 2013. It helped ensure that all rental housing in Seattle is safe by requiring mandatory inspections for 250,000 renter households. Property owners helped draft it and the council passed it unanimously. 

In 2016, the council passed unanimously an ordinance that said renters could not be denied a rental application for counting income from a pension, Social Security, unemployment, child support or any other governmental or non-profit subsidy. A report to the city from the Washington Community Action Network helped its passage by showing that 48% of individuals who pay for rent with Social Security Disability Insurance or Social Security retirement income said that discrimination prevents them from having successful rental  applications.” The following year the Council again unanimously voted to create a Renters Commission to provide tenants political power within the city government to address topics ranging from housing affordability and neighborhood rezones to transportation and access to open space.

This year, 2019, the council mandated that all landlords were required to register with RRIO before a landlord issues an eviction notice and that they had to provide information on the rights and resources of tenants with notices to terminate a tenancy and an increase in rent.

 

Expanding Employee Rights

The first significant push for expanding employee rights began in 2011 with an 8 to 1 vote (Conlin – No) approving a Paid Sick and Safe Time Ordinance requiring employers operating in Seattle to provide all employees with paid leave to care for themselves or a family member with a physical or mental health condition, medical appointment, or a critical safety issue. Over 190,000 Seattle workers gained this coverage with its passage.

In 2015 Seattle’s Fair Chance Employment Ordinance went into effect which restricts how employers can use conviction and arrest records during the hiring process and course of employment within City limits.

The biggest employee gain also came in 2015. Seattle’s Wage Theft Ordinance went into effect protecting against wage theft by requiring employers to pay all wages and tips owed to employees, provide written notice to employees, and itemize pay information when employees are paid. Getting more attention Seattle’s Minimum Wage Ordinance which began April 1, 2015, that phased in the higher wage of $15 an hour over three to six years depending on the size of the company. 

Not as well known to the public, but in the long run as important as any ordinance passed was the council creating the Office of Labor Standards (OLS) in 2014. Its mission is to advance labor standards through community and business engagement, strategic enforcement and innovative policy development, with a commitment to race and social justice. 

The Secure Scheduling Ordinance, which passed in2016, established secure scheduling requirements for covered retail and food services establishments, and prescribed remedies and enforcement procedures. The law applies to retail and food services establishments with 500+ employees worldwide, and full-service restaurants with 500+ employees and 40+ full-service restaurant locations worldwide. 

The Domestic Workers Ordinance of 2018 was one of the last ordinances passed to protect employees. It made Seattle the first U.S. city to have a Domestic Workers Bill of Rights. This law gives minimum wage, rest break, and meal break rights to domestic workers. It is one of the most progressive pieces of legislation that Seattle has adopted, and it was not initiated by the city council, but rather it was a result of a direct vote by Seattle residents. 

 

Do These New Laws Appear To Be Too Radical For Seattle Voters? 

All but one of the above ordinances were passed while there was, and still is, only one lone socialist on the city council, Kshama Sawant.  The CASE and the pro-Chamber People for Seattle have campaigned against some city council candidates as being under her sway, and consequently, are socialist or something leaning that way. But for what reason? For passing the above legislation? 

When asked on a recent poll the open-ended question, “When you think of Seattle city government, who do you think of?” The term liberal came up at only 2%. Councilmember Sawant came up at 3%. The Mayor came in at 47% and the Council at 43%. These findings do not point to a conservative backlash. Sawant may have the most name recognition, a status I had for some time on the Council during my 18 years there. And neither of us had any sway on the other councilmembers because of that. It takes the hard work of talking to your colleagues and working with constituents to influence them. That’s what gets the vote, not some achieving high marks in name recognition.  

There is a certain irony that former Councilmember Tim Burgess, who founded and heads up the pro-Chamber People for Seattle IE, is opposing candidates based on their too liberal legislation, although he voted in favor of all of the above pieces of legislation. All but one of these ordinances passed unanimously by a council that had a majority of members receiving Chamber support in some fashion. 

 

Citizen Initiatives Are Bringing Out More Candidates And Money

I believe there is another reason for the attacks. There is a fear among the business community that future councilmembers will be even more aggressive in pursuing various kinds of government regulation or taxes to achieve public benefits. That fear was fanned with the passage of two public initiatives, which passed about the time as the above pieces of legislation were written and adopted. The initiatives reformed the electoral process to allow for greater participation. 

In 2013, with an approval vote of 65%,  Seattle voters approved Charter Amendment 19 – Council Districts which converted 7 of the city council seats to District Elections, leaving just 2 at large.  The first city council elections based on districts were held in 2015.

That same year, 2015, Seattle voters passed an Initiative – 122 levying a property tax of $3 million per year to fund the Democracy Voucher Program for the next 10 years. It passed with a 63% yes vote and began distributing vouchers in 2017.

The last major citizen initiative was not a vote on election reform, but it is a good indication that the public appears to be in line with the major thrust of the council’s efforts to meet the needs of residents. In 2016, the voters overwhelmingly, with a 77% yes vote, passed Initiative -124. It mandated increases in workplace safety for hotel staff, including the addition of panic buttons for all workers and improved health insurance. 

 

Electoral Reforms Brought More Candidates And More Money

These two electoral reform initiatives resulted in two new historical developments. First, more candidates have surfaced than ever before under at-large council elections. The 2015 elections, the first one that used district elections, resulted in 37 candidates running for the 7 district seats. In the 2019 elections when democracy vouchers were available for district candidates, 54 candidates ran for the 7 district seats. This trend will probably ease off, but certainly, there is more incentive to run for an office that can be partially publicly funded and with a limited geographical area to campaign in. 

Second, there was the unintended response of drawing more money into the campaigns, most of it from outside the district boundaries and most of it from wealthy individuals or businesses, with smaller amounts from unions. The total amount of money collected by IEs for the council races was $5.9 million, the total amount collected by all the candidate’s personal campaigns was $4.7 million. 

 

What Does The Most Recent Poll Tell Us?

This month a new poll was released by Crosscut/Elway with a lead in CrossCut reading that “More than two-thirds of likely voters said they want candidates elected who will take the council in a new direction.” That statement plays into the narrative that the council has gone too far in making changes.  However, a closer look at the survey’s numbers and crosstabs don’t necessarily support that conclusion. It all depends on how you slice the pie. 

For instance, the response to the question “Overall, how would you rate the job the

City Council is doing? Would you say…”  percentages responding for each response is shown below.

 

Good 26%
Fair 40%
Poor 29%

 

CrossCut combined Poor and Fair to get a 69% Negative position toward the council.  Why not include Fair with Good to get 66% to get a Positive attitude toward the council? Fair is between Good and Poor it could go either way or just call it neutral. 

Later in the survey, when asked to choose if the council direction should continue or change, the response was divided between the Negative and Positive. Since the Negative includes all of the Fair responses the percentage saying that there is a need for change is much larger coming from the Negative than the Positive. However, if the Fair had been added to the Good, it is possible that the response from the Positive folks would have been greater than those from the Negative folks. 

So, the assumption that the council needs to change direction could be coming from the Positive folks who want to see more progressive change, just as much as from the Negative folks, who would want to see less such change. I hope I didn’t lose anyone here. But as you can tell, even the simplest use of statistics can result in different conclusions depending on how you cut and slice the data. 

Two other findings identify what groups of Seattle residents are responding positively to the council’s agenda. Close to double the percentage of Renters over Home-Owners, believe that the council is doing a good job. Also, a consistent statistically significant higher percentage of those with income under $50,000 viewed the council as doing a good job than any other income bracket.  Both data points would indicate that the council’s efforts to raise the livability for Seattle residents who are on the lower end of the income scale are being recognized and appreciated. 

 

Homelessness Is A Lightning Rod For Political Change

Seattle’s political struggles will continue as long as homelessness appears as an unsolvable problem. The Elway/Crosscut asked those surveyed, “Which of these issues is most important to you as you decide how to vote in the race for city council?” Addressing homelessness came up on top, registering 3 times higher than housing density and five times higher than reforming the police department. And disapproving the current direction was twice as high as those approving of it.

I believe it is the unsheltered homeless that cause the most concern since they are the most visible. According to the 2018 count there are about 4,500 Seattle residents who are unsheltered homeless, which includes living in campers – about half of one percent of Seattle’s population. And, contrary to some claiming that Seattle’s policies attract many homeless here from out of state to get benefits, only 4% who were out of state residents have lived in King County for less than a year. Rather, economic hardship accounts for 55 % of those who are currently homeless, which is reported as having lost a job, been evicted or had medical bills. 

For a city with the third-highest median income in the nation, at $94,000, one would expect that we could figure out how to provide at least shelter for such a small percentage of people. It is that expectation that is being used against the most progressive councilmembers on the city council. 

For instance, district one Councilmember Lisa Herbold, who as a legislative assistant to me for 18 years, probably worked on more legislation than any other councilmember promoting housing for the homeless and fighting displacement of renters and homeowners from becoming homeless. However, we still have homelessness, which leads her current opponent to say, “I don’t see any solutions coming from Lisa … it’s about a city that is failing to step up when it should.” But her opponent and the other Chamber backed candidates have not proposed how to fund the additional resources to solve the homeless crises. 

A Downtown Emergency Services Center social worker put it bluntly in a CrossCut article,  “It’s not a question of managing resources, it’s that they don’t exist.”

Council critics argue that city government spending is inefficient in solving these human needs crises. But they fail to mention the number of new affordable housing units that have been created with efficient use of public funding assistance. For example, the 2016 city reported that the 2009 Housing Levy exceeded the goal of providing 1,670 additional units it promised to Seattle voters, by adding 2,527 affordable rental units and reinvesting in 400 existing units to keep them affordable to low-income families.

Seattle’s overall population has exploded, growing 20% from 2010 to 2018,  and while homelessness has also greatly increased, unsheltered homeless still remains well under 1% due to the council’s efforts.  But it does remain, and additional funds are needed to house these folks. The belief that we can solve the problem of housing the homeless without additional public funds, is not new. It was used to beat down the council’s proposal to tap a new dedicated revenue stream to provide housing for the homeless – the head tax. 

 

Corporations Bludgeoned The Council On The Proposed New Head Tax 

This was a tax that had previously been in force to pay for transportation needs. It was dropped mostly because its forms were confusing and time consuming for businesses. When it was brought back it was streamlined and projections showed that only the largest 3% of Seattle’s businesses would pay the tax, exempting those with under $20 million in taxable gross receipts. Keep in mind that the corporation’s opposition to the new tax was occurring at the same time that the Federal Tax Bill passed in December 2017 lowered the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%, a  tax cut of 40%.

As the Seattle City Council was unanimously passing a “head tax” ordinance, Amazon became the lead corporation to finance a referendum to repeal the legislation creating the head tax. The financial impact on Amazon was minimal considering its overall budget. The average salary for Amazon employees in Seattle is $158,851 per year. The head tax was set at $275 per employee a year, which would have amounted to a .2% increase in their payroll costs. Nevertheless, because of its passage, Amazon’s Vice President said all of its construction had been halted and clearly implied that the company’s future growth in Seattle could be seriously reduced unless the head tax was repealed. Then it plopped down $250,000 to provide the lion’s share of funding the referendum campaign. The tactic of writing a large check to get rid of a pesky political policy emerged again this year as Amazon became the largest contributor, by a factor of six, to create a new city council better aligned with its interests.

Wisely, the referendum campaign, titled No Tax On Jobs, never publicly attacked those who were homeless but instead attacked the council for not solving the homeless crises and for chasing businesses away. Polling showed that about a year before the council’s vote, 66% of the public supported an increase in taxes to help the homeless. So, the referendum campaign did not deny the need to help them but instead attacked the council for failing to meet their needs. After the referendum’s well-funded media campaign began, accompanied by paid signature gatherers to put the referendum on the ballot, public opinion flipped to 55% opposing an increase in such a tax. 

As a result, the council was told by supporters of the head tax that it would have taken several million to counter the corporate-sponsored referendum. Councilmember Lisa Herbold framed the tax as an unwinnable fight saying, “The opposition has unlimited resources and … the margin simply is too great to overcome…” She and other reluctant councilmembers voted to overturn the tax on big businesses, 7-2. 

From talking to referendum supporters, it seemed the main problem the council faced was a lack of trust in how the money would be spent, which is the classic conservative argument against any progressive measure. However, the latest Elway poll shows that the public seems to have drifted back to their original feelings since it revealed that 56% of the public supports a Large Business Tax for developing more affordable housing with only 40% opposed. 

 

This Election Comes Down To Trust

It is difficult to determine what the new council will look like because the Chamber IE  and its allied IEs are immensely outspending the candidates they are trying to defeat. It comes down to the voters deciding who to vote for, based on what they know about the candidates. Unfortunately, most of their information is being provided by the side with the largest media budget and now paid canvassers. 

For the first time in Seattle’s council elections, paid canvassers are being used to doorbell for a candidate, rather than rely on volunteers who believe in a candidate’s values. As of 2 weeks ago, CASE spent a half a million dollars paying for canvassers to support five of its candidates. That amount could easily be doubled before election day, given the hundreds of thousands of dollars CASE and its allies have in the bank ready to be used. 

On a side note, if I was on the council, to allow greater transparency in electioneering, I would introduce legislation that requires all paid canvassers to wear a very visible name tag saying, “I’M A PAID CANVASSER”.  Since this approach would not inhibit free speech, I believe it would be upheld in the courts if challenged.

This election is important, not just for who gets elected, but for how the use of wealth, both from individuals and corporations, is distorting our democracy. We can see how it is occurring on the national level, but it has now seeped down to local elections. I encourage voters to become familiar with what the council has done to date and to determine for themselves if the kind of legislation I listed at the front of this piece is helping Seattle move in the right direction. I think so and you may as well. 

Arts and Culture Issues Take The Stage for Seattle City Council Candidates

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Written by: Nick Licata

All seven Seattle City Council District election candidates have been invited to a
Cultural Sector Candidate

Monday, October 7, 6-8:30 p.m. at Seattle’s Town Hall, 1119 8th Ave

It is Free and Open to the public, doors open at 6 PM, the program begins at 6:30 PM with
closed-captioning provided.

Candidates Confirmed to Attend:
District 1: Lisa Herbold, Phillip Tavel
District 2: Tammy Morales, (Mark Solomon not   attending)
District 3: Kshama Sawant, Egan Orion
District 4: Alex Pedersen, Shaun Scott
District 5: No confirmation received from either candidate as of Oct 1
District 6: Dan Strauss, Heidi Wills
District 7: Andrew Lewis, Jim Pugel

Seattle’s council candidates have been struggling with a number of critical issues like homelessness, transportation congestion, and affordable housing zoning, to name just a few. But, far too often there is one issue that is only hastily touched on. That is the role that culture and arts play in our daily life in providing us the comfort, creativity, and enjoyment we need to sustain our resolve to tackle these other issues.

Everyone who values or engages with arts, science and heritage organizations in Seattle are encouraged to attend, to meet the candidates and hear their platforms. Arts organizations from every district will be attending. The following lead arts organizations from each district solicited attendance at the forum. They will introduce the candidates from the seven races. There will be time for short candidate statements and a brief, moderated Q&A with each candidate.

Seattle’s Youth Poet Laureate, seventeen-year-old Wei-Wei Lee who attends Nathan Hale High School, will close the Culture Forum with a poem. She was selected by poets from Seattle Arts & Lectures. BTW, Wei-Wei works with the City’s Civic Poet Anastacia Renee and will be reading at the upcoming Capitol Hill Lit Crawl which takes place Thursday, October 24, 2019, from 6 pm–9 pm, involving over 80 Pacific Northwest readers and artists.

District Arts Organization Captains/partners:

District 1: Zo Dunbar, Totem Star (Youth Performing Arts)

District 2: Donte Felder, ORCA K-8 (Theater Education). Beth Takekawa of Wing Luke may be a be co-captain, not confirmed.

District 3: Sharon Williams, CD Forum for Arts and Ideas (Arts & Humanities)

District 4: Julianna Ross, Sandpoint Arts and Cultural Exchange (Multi-disciplinary)

District 5: Kathleen White, Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra, (Youth Arts      Education/Music)

District 6: Alejandro Grahal, Woodland Park Zoo; Selby, Moisture Festival;

District 7: Ariel Bradler, TPS (Theatre Advocacy), and Bob Davidson, Seattle Aquarium, and Ellen Walker, Pacific NW Ballet (Dance)

The Cultural Sector Candidate Forum is hosted by Inspire Washington, a newly launched cultural sector non-profit that serves as a statewide force for advocacy and awareness of the cultural sector. The co-hosts of the Forum are KNKX and Town Hall with Woodland Park Seattle, Seattle Aquarium and Pacific Science Center as co-sponsors.

KNKX News Director, Florangela Davila will moderate the forum. Inspire Washington’s Executive Director, Manny Cawaling, will kick-off the event with a brief overview of the important issues facing cultural sector organizations in Seattle. Cawaling says, “The arts and cultural sector in this community and our state critically support our economy. Every person who attends a cultural event in Washington spends an average of $32 around the event, and the cultural sector employs almost 180,000 people. We account for 7.8% of the state’s GDP and move and inspire thousands of people.”

One final note. It is important to keep in mind that the Seattle City Council has often taken the lead in promoting cultural and artistic activities in Seattle. For instance, currently, Councilmember Lisa Herbold’s council committee has oversight on the arts.

An important development underway came out of a briefing in her committee on the Office of Arts and Culture’s efforts to create a Public Development Authority (PDA) to preserve cultural space in Seattle. Check out the briefing on the Seattle Channel. The agenda with materials is linked here. A Council vote will be needed next year to create a PDA, consequently, it’s important to have sympathetic councilmembers on the council. The cultural forum could provide an indication of which ones could be.

Debating Climate Change Has Limits – Let’s Start Talking About the Weather

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Written by Nick Licata

This piece also appears on Medium for easier reading and submitting comments


 

In a debate, one side wins and the other side loses. How many debates end with the losing side agreeing that they were wrong? It doesn’t happen. And that is why the climate change debate is not converting deniers into believers. Each side on this issue is focused on rolling over the opposition.

The recent national student walkout from schools to draw attention to climate change is certainly converting more youth and the college-educated people to become believers. But protesting as an organizing tactic has limited effectiveness, a strategy must employ multiple tactics to win over deniers or doubters. And, there are many. According to a recent poll taken by the Climate Mobilization Project, while 36% of the public believe that Climate Change is a serious problem, 36% of the population also believe it is a minor problem or is not worried at all. Consequently, we need to think about how to reach those folks and the other 28% who do not believe it is a serious problem.

One approach that should be pursued is to focus on something that is more mundane and not as catastrophic as earth’s destruction, let’s try talking about the weather. That is not an attempt to diminish the importance of climate change. Instead, it lends itself to having a discussion, not a debate, because everyone talks about the weather, republicans and democrats alike. And it impacts all of us. So, where does that discussion begin?

The starting point is recognizing that extreme weather is becoming more frequent. The statistics are there. For instance, in January 2017, NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said 2016 was the hottest year on record. It was the third year in a row to set a record for average surface temperatures, a continuation of a long-term warming trend.

But just laying out facts, particularly if they are not tied to personal experience, don’t carry much weight. Studies have shown that our beliefs more often stem from our personal experiences than from abstract concepts. Climate change believers need to talk to those who have had their job or quality of life negatively impacted by extreme weather conditions. Here are just two examples of how that can be done.

Montana has voted only once for democratic president since 1980, Bill Clinton’s first race in 1992. Barak Obama lost by 2% in his first race while Hillary Clinton lost to Trump by over 20%. However, during this same period, they have been represented more years in congress by democrat than republican senators.

This pattern indicates that Montana voters may not strictly adhere to the republican stance in denying climate change. Their democratic Senator Jon Tester addressed a Bozeman community gathering of 200 people in February 2017, consisting mostly of farmers and ranchers, to describe how climate change has resulted in Montana having less water availability, increased weed growth, intensified and more frequent drought.

By grounding the issue of how extreme weather conditions are impacting their jobs and daily lives, the denial of climate change begins to weaken. For instance, rancher Erik Kalsta who attended the meeting was quoted by the Bozeman Daily Chronicle as saying that he doesn’t feel that successful agricultural producers are totally in denial — they may not like the term, but they respond to the changes.

While Montana is a rural state with only 3 electoral votes, Florida is now one of the most urbanized states with 29 electors. Although registered Democrats have always outnumbered republicans, in the last 13 presidential elections, the Democrats won only five, including Barak Obama’s two victories. In the last 2 president races, the winner won by .9%  and 1.2%. This state could go to either party in 2020.

Florida has been identified as the most vulnerable state to climate change damage resulting from flooding and massive storms. In the last three years, Hurricane Irma in 2017 and Hurricane Michael in 2018 have battered Florida’s southeast and northwest, for a combined $13 billion in property damage insurance claims, excluding flood damage not covered by homeowners’ insurance. Regardless of party affiliation, residents and businesses were devastated in Florida’s republican oriented panhandle and the democratic leaning Miami-Dade region. Those losses do not begin to measure the displacement that occurred with each storm. Irma alone prompted evacuation orders for 6.5 million people in Florida, the largest evacuation in modern U.S. history.

People want immediate solutions, but they also do not want to keep paying more and more for catastrophes that can be avoided. The deniers argue that the weather always changes, so there is nothing to be done. Or they argue, it’s part of a historical regular cycle. They are falling into the same abstract talk that has burdened climate change believers; they are not recognizing that most non-engaged people are more concerned about how their lives are being directly impacted now and not how they have been in the distant past or will be in the distant future.

The dominant political response from both parties has been to provide financial assistance to the weather victims and to offer proposed adjustments in their physical infrastructures to limit damage in the future. Both approaches are expensive and will continue to grow in costs as increased massive storms and rising incidents of floods and drought become a reality as projected by scientists. The question of who pays for these additional costs, allows the discussion of climate change to move to identify who can do something now to reduce future massive costs going to taxpayers. And, that comes down to replacing carbon-based energy sources with renewable energy sources.

By addressing how to mitigate both the destruction of personal property and the taxpayer burden for covering those losses, a discussion can lead to figuring out who is benefiting by stalling or opposing this mitigation. The answer becomes readily apparent: those who have financial investments in the old technology that is dependent on carbon fuels, which hard data show has contributed to extreme weather conditions. Shouldn’t our political leaders be addressing the broader community’s interest in protecting their jobs and homes, than be concerned about protecting the status quo of those who are protecting their own interests first?

This is a message that could resonate with a broad swath of voters from republican states like Montana to purple states like Florida. It begins with a discussion about the weather, not a megaphone announcing impending doom.

We can do something about the weather! The question that needs to be asked by those who are ambivalent about the seriousness of climate change is, do you want to continue to live with more disruptions in your life?  Do you want your future to continue to be uncertain and pay more taxes for a never-ending stream of measures trying to reduce future damages? If not, then the other option is to recognize that we can create a better, more livable environment by altering our technology to lessen our carbon emissions. All that is stopping us from taking that approach is the will power to demand action from our government to represent the needs of the majority of people, not the minority who financially benefit from inaction.