It’s time to sift through the junk mail, pull out that ballot, and make your voice heard.
This election offers the opportunity, depending on where you live, to re-elect a socialist to Seattle City Council; pass a $15 minimum wage law in Tacoma; and defeat numerous regressive tax proposals. Please read on for our take on the issues at stake.
We’ve also prepared a chart for easy reference that summarizes the measures in the order they appear on the ballot, lists who is for and against, and explains the FSP’s recommendations.
Seattle City Council, Position No. 3 – Vote for Kshama Sawant, Socialist Alternative
The FSP urges a vote for Socialist Alternative (SA) candidate Kshama Sawant, who is running for her second term on the Seattle City Council in the newly created District 3. Her victory two years ago showed clearly that working people are fed up with rising rents and stagnant wages, and are not afraid to vote for socialists. The FSP was one of the first endorsers of Sawant’s bid for city council and we again offer critical support to Socialist Alternative’s re-election campaign.
We’ve seen Sawant walk her talk on the picket lines with Seattle teachers and mobilize council support for their recent strike. Sawant is also calling for much-needed rent control and got a resolution passed in the council calling on the state legislature to allow Seattle to enact such legislation. Most recently, she collaborated with other council members and the Seattle Tenants Union to expose Columbia City slumlord Carl Haglund, which resulted in victories for tenants. Above all, Sawant continues to call for taxing the rich and overhauling our regressive tax structure. These positions have not made her popular with the developers or CEOs of corporate Seattle – and explains why realtors and developers are bankrolling her opponent, Pamela Banks.
It’s important to keep a socialist voice on the Seattle City Council. Sawant has used her seat to open the doors of city hall to residents protesting police abuse, rent increases and injustice on the job. Still, the Freedom Socialist Party has serious concerns that Socialist Alternative is moving away from its revolutionary roots and becoming primarily an electoral party, prioritizing popularity and electability over principle. Thus the contradiction of Sawant denouncing regressive taxes while repeatedly supporting measures such as the Seattle Parks levy and the current “Move Seattle” $930 million Proposition 1, which are piling astronomic property taxes on Seattle homeowners. Fully a quarter of Seattle homeowners are low-income, many of them elders who bought their homes before developers and house-flipping speculators sent prices soaring. Now they, along with working-class renters, are being priced out of the city.
The most disturbing example of Socialist Alternative’s opportunism is its refusal to support 15 Now Tacoma’s Initiative 1. This grassroots campaign collected enough signatures to put a $15-an-hour minimum wage on Tacoma’s current election ballot. Unlike the Seattle gradual phase-in law, Tacoma’s measure would raise all workers up to $15/hour immediately, exempting only very small businesses. SA has maintained a deafening silence on this class battle shaping up 30 minutes south of Seattle. In fact, it joined with officials from Service Employees International Union Local 775 – which is backing Sawant’s campaign – in supporting a negotiated phase-in compromise over the 15 Now Tacoma initiative.
Nonetheless, it is important to get out the vote for Sawant, who is bringing socialist ideas to the fore in our city and taking a stand against the corporate elite that runs Seattle. Drop by and pick up yard signs and flyers for Socialist Alternative’s campaign at our community center, New Freeway Hall, in Columbia City.
Two ballot measures that deserve your support
Tacoma Initiative 1, Raise the minimum wage to $15 Now – Vote YES
Rank-and-file workers and socialists in Tacoma initiated a 15 Now campaign last year and gathered the signatures needed to put it on the ballot. Initiative 1 would immediately raise wages to $15/hour, with annual adjustments for inflation and exemptions for small businesses with an annual gross income of $300,000 or less. The measure is supported by numerous labor organizations, including the Pierce County Labor Council, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 2, Puget Sound Carpenters Local 30, Teamsters Local 117, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 483 and SEIU Local 1199NW. The Pierce County Coalition of Black Trade Unionists has endorsed, along with an array of Democrats, socialists, church leaders and feminists. FSP has enthusiastically joined the fight with financial donations and doorbelling help.
After this initiative qualified for the ballot, Tacoma’s mayor and Chamber of Commerce added a competing measure for a $12-an-hour minimum wage to be phased in by 2018. Voters will first be asked whether they approve raising the minimum wage. Then – whether they answer the first question “yes” or “no” — they will have to select between the $12 phase-in and the 15 Now Initiative 1 options. For more background, read “Organizers in Tacoma, Wash., stick to their guns for $15 an hour NOW.”
If passed, Initiative 1 would be a huge step forward for workers not just in Tacoma, but across the country as well, setting a new standard nationally. This grassroots effort deserves your support, whether or not you live in Tacoma. 15 Now Tacoma needs doorbellers, donations and phone-banking help. Visit 15nowtacoma.info or Facebook.com/15NowTacoma, or call 253-213-7207.
King County Charter Amendment 1, Strengthen police oversight – Vote YES
This measure strengthens the civilian Office of Law Enforcement Oversight (OLEO) and its citizen advisory group by making them part of the County Charter, which can only be changed by a vote of the people. Amendment 1 also extends the power of OLEO to investigate use-of-force cases, and injects OLEO and the King County Executive into the role of bargaining agent, along with the county sheriff, for collective bargaining with police unions. The FSP gives this amendment critical support, because although it offers a little more recourse from abuse by county sheriffs, what’s really needed is an elected, paid, civilian review board, which is completely independent of the sheriff’s office and has actual enforcement power.
A slew of ballot measures that make our regressive tax system worse
Washington State Initiative 1366, Requires a two thirds vote to raise taxes or fees – Vote NO
Tim Eyman, the ever-ready balloteer, wants to slash state revenues again. I-1366 would either: 1) force the state to cut the sales tax rate by 1% without replacing the income lost that pays for education and social services or, 2) change the state constitution to allow a requirement that two-thirds of the legislature or the public must approve all tax raises. The State Supreme Court has already knocked out this two-thirds requirement in an earlier Eyman initiative. In reality it would block attempts to reform Washington’s regressive tax system, and enable a minority of conservative legislators to maintain corporate tax loopholes.
King County Proposition 1, Funds health programs and other services for children and families with a $65 million property tax – Vote NO
Labeled “Best Start for Kids,” this measure continues the trend of King County systematically cutting health, education, domestic violence and housing programs for poor communities from the basic budget and shifting that cost onto overburdened working class and poor homeowners. This levy would raise $65 million per year for six years ($390 million), at a cost to the average King County homeowner of $63 for the first year on a house worth $450,000, then rising up to $73.
Proposition 1 is backed by big names in the corporate foundation world, particularly the Bezos family of Amazon. A good chunk of Proposition 1’s millions will be handed over to unnamed non-government organizations (NGOs), which have no direct public accountability. Social services should be provided by public workers, not privatized, and have stable funding out of a healthy, county general fund. And this can be accomplished by taxing the billionaires.
Seattle Proposition 1, Raises $930 million for transportation through property taxes – Vote NO
“Let’s Move Seattle” is a massive property tax that supposedly will solve Seattle’s traffic jams. It is the largest levy in the city’s history. For nine long years, it adds $275 per year on a $450,000 home. This gigantic levy is so vaguely worded that money could very well be funneled into the over-budget seawall restoration or the Bertha boondoggle. What’s needed is a free mass transit system for Seattle’s entire workforce. Amazon, Vulcan and other huge corporations whose poorly planned expansion has gridlocked the city, should be paying for the roads and public transportation that get workers to and from work. Enough is enough.
Seattle Initiative 122, Public campaign financing – Vote NO
Public campaign financing and spending limits for Seattle electoral races are a good idea. Unfortunately, I-122 accomplishes neither goal, and needs to go back to the drawing board. The spending caps that I-122 boasts of are not real — if surpassed by one candidate, it’s lifted for all in that race. Voters would have access to four $25 vouchers to make donations to the candidates of their choice. However, the convoluted requirements set up by this measure would end up favoring established politicians who can get their campaigns up and running early and afford to hire a full-time accountant to meet the 24-hour reporting requirement. We also don’t like the fact that while election laws do not currently require reporting donations of $25 or less, each $25 voucher payment would be open to public disclosure – creating a database of voting preferences.
The FSP was able to benefit from public campaign financing matching funds when we ran Heidi Durham and Yolanda Alaniz for Seattle City Council in 1991. Alaniz went on to be the first socialist to make it to the general election. Although she did not win, the city establishment immediately eliminated the public financing, which was a small amount from the general fund and required strict campaign spending limits. I-122, on the other hand, is funded by yet another regressive tax, a small one of $11 per year for a home valued at $450,000. This measure misses the mark.
State advisory votes – nothing more than an expensive opinion poll
Thanks to another Tim Eyman initiative that passed in 2007, the state legislature is required to submit to a non-binding advisory vote any bill passed that closes tax loopholes or raises revenue. This means the following four “Advisory Vote” measures have already been passed, and your vote will have no impact. However, since your tax dollars are already paying for this opinion poll, here are our recommendations if you choose to participate.
Advisory Vote No. 10, Bill taxes oil companies for oil spills – Vote MAINTAIN
Advisory Vote No.11, Bill added an excise tax on medical marijuana patients – Vote REPEAL
Besides raising costs, the bill violates patient privacy and reduces the legal amount of possession from 24 ounces to three, making it easy to prosecute marijuana patients and others with a felony.
Advisory Vote No. 12, Bill added taxes to autos and fuel – Vote REPEAL
This is a very regressive tax because it hits all drivers, no matter what their income, with the same price increase in fuel, driver’s licenses and yearly vehicle fees to boost the state’s general fund.
Advisory Vote No. 13, Bill eliminated tax loopholes for software companies – Vote MAINTAIN
Again, please see the chart that we prepared, which summarizes the measures and recommendations in the order of their appearance on the ballot. If you would like to discuss the issues, or get involved in FSP’s campaigns or study groups, please call give us a call at 206-722-2453 or stop by our hall. And do visit us on Facebook and Twitter for news, views and upcoming activities.
Gary Tolman and Doreen McGrath
for Freedom Socialist Party, Seattle Local