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District 2 Candidate Tanya Woo: “We need Action, Not Performative Politics, Not Virtue Signaling” In The City Council

Tanya Woo

By Connor Nash

It was a warm summer evening at Hing Hay Park when I interviewed Tanya Woo, who is running for District 2in the city council elections. Tanya is there with members of the Chinatown International District Community Watch (CID Watch), a group she created three years earlier. The CID Watch was formed in response to the 2020 George Folyd protest when many non-peaceful agitators vandalized buildings and businesses in the CID.

The CID Watch was started to support businesses and community members as they went through the whirlwind that was the pandemic and the 2020 summer protests. Now the CID Watch mainly works within the CID’s encampments; distributing aid, de-escalating situations, and treating suspected overdoses.

Woo also organizes the community through the CID Watch. Most notably, the CID Watch successfully protested the expansion of the SODO Services Hub, which the county canceled.

For this biweekly meeting of the CID Watch, the group went to the encampment on 12th Ave S and King St, the new location of the 12th and Jackson encampment cleared in early 2022. During my time with CID Watch, the group distributed water and snacks, checked to make sure an individual was still breathing, and Woo guided a man (high on fentanyl) out from the middle of the street.

My interview with Woo focused on the Chinatown International District, the major infrastructure investments being planned, and the public safety problems facing the neighborhood. I also asked if the city and county are doing enough to help the CID, and what she would do if elected to the city council.

My first question is what is your elevator pitch on why you are running for District 2 City Council?

“Oh, that’s a good question. Well, I think short of it is Chinatown International district got named top 11 most endangered neighborhoods in the nation. And this was not an overnight event, this was years and months in the making. Seeing all these changes in the last three to four years, especially during the pandemic, COVID racism, and [with] pandemic hate.

“This neighborhood has been a microcosm of all the challenges that South Seattle has been facing. We have encampments. We have open-air markets. We have gentrification displacements and lack of housing. So all of these things I think are applicable to South Seattle.”

A flashpoint in the CID is the new ST3 station going through CID. Do you support the 4th Ave option or do you support the North/South option? And Why?

“So you have one group saying that to place the station here would gentrify… the entire community. Now the other group is saying if we don’t place the station here then you are denying transit to an entire community.

“[There are] pros and cons to both. And the one thing that I would like to hear more [of] are mitigation efforts from the city and the county. Everyone talks about placing things near here and taking things away from the community. And putting these kinds of projects near the community, but no one talks about investment in the community.

“And another thing that is missing from the plans is that it’s not just CID that’s affecting, but everyone along Line One. Othello station, Columbia City station, the outreach, and engagement have not been done for the rest of the communities along Line One.

“The short answer is, I remain neutral because I see how divided these two options are with the community and I believe we should build bridges and work together. We need to talk to people, everybody who has been affected, and gather more data before making a decision.”

Can we talk about the perception of public safety in the CID? What would you do to solve those public safety perceptions/concerns?

“I think public safety, especially in the CID, is a result of a lot of disinvestment [from] the city and the county. You know, the community has come up with all these solutions, at one point we had four patrol watch block groups patrolling this area.

“The community is really good at coming together and coming up with solutions for itself.

“We have like four different neighborhood plans that we just want funding for and multiple proposals on how we want to see public safety in the CID. That included ambassadors and social workers, and we just need that investment by the city.

“There are business owners that would love to see more community service officers come in. They usually operate from 8-5, it would be possible for them to come in the evenings and on the weekend.”

So if you were elected you would be more of an advocate and a voice for those plans?

“So this community watch group is a successful model and many other neighborhoods reach out to us and ask how they can implement something similar in their neighborhoods. We do a lot of translation services and we know the neighborhood, we know who does what, and what people need. [We are] familiar and see the same people and built that connection and relationship of trust.

“So as a council member, I would support and find a way for these programs to be funded. Because they’re doing work in the community. There are a lot of great programs, like REACH, LEAD, Co-Lead and Just Cares put a lot of great work into the communities. They need to be funded and supported.

“We saw in the last budget cycle that LEAD and Co-LEAD we underfunded by $8 million and ended up finding funding elsewhere. How do we divert money from programs that have proven results?”

This a loaded question, but a proxy for your overall positions on public safety. Would you say the Seattle Police Department budget is too high, too low, or just right?

“I think, first and foremost, we need alternatives but we need SPD because [of] my work in the Community Watch. We come out here and we are able to de-escalate fights without having to call the police.

“But there was one time that we were out in the encampments and there were shots fired. We don’t have the training to attend to that, so for that, we need the police. We called the police, they came in 10 minutes, and they were able to arrest someone who was selling drugs, and had cash, and guns in their car at the time.

“We also don’t want officers to go out to calls that they don’t have training. So we especially like the social worker, officer combination [and] being able to have a social worker come out without having to go through the police.

“But we also need policing alternatives…and we see that this community has a great model on how we can do that. We just need more city and county support.

What are your thoughts on the city’s response to 12th and Jackson? And what would you do if you were in the city council?

“I think we definitely need alternatives to policing. Social worker teams. I think community-based solutions similar to what is going on with the 3rd Ave plan. We need something similar to that. And I just feel like most of the small businesses feel like this area of downtown has been forgotten and left out. So it would be great to have more engagement with the city. More investments. And funding all of the neighborhood solutions.

“The community has been proposing and we haven’t made any headway.”

What are your thoughts on the Little Siagon park that is set to be built, but has been delayed many times?

“I attended someone of the meetings where the park was being reviewed and it is quite interesting with the process of sightlines. Making sure that there aren’t places where people can hide and people can feel safe. And how do we stop people from sleeping and congregating in these areas and doing drugs? And that is being built into the park.

“But I think we run the risk of what we see in Hing Hay Park. During COVID people were living there, there were tents and it was unusable by the rest of the community. And I think having an expanded park ranger program would be helpful. Having a park concierge there. And that has been successful.

“So I think the expanded park ranger program and more investment in the community spaces would be helpful, in terms of community safety.”

What do you think of the job Councilmember Morales has done representing District 2 and the CID?

“I will talk about the city council as a whole. I feel like –”

But you are running specifically against CM Morales, not the whole city council.

“I can talk about the contrast between my approach and my opponent’s approach. My opponent wants to defund the police. I don’t feel like that…that ideological experiment did not work. It just made everything worse.

“Things didn’t get better. We need action, not performative politics, not virtue signaling. We need someone to go in there and act.

“Not only bringing up police alternatives but also making sure our police are supported, there’s reform and culturally competent training.

“The other contrast is that people in the city council feel like we should leave people that are un-housed where they are. Well, unfortunately, having the CID having the two largest encampments in the city, we’ve seen too many unhoused neighbors die. It is not humane to let people live outside. It is traumatic and we need to make sure that services are currently being offered. That people going out there are building trust, de-escalating techniques. And able to build relationships to bring people inside.

“I feel like we need to be able to hold our city council members accountable. There needs to be more transparency and accessibility….We need more engagement with government processes.

“With the SODO shelter expansion, we brought seniors, business owners, and non-English speakers to the city and county because people wanted to be heard, they wanted to be involved, and they wanted to be engaged. I think that is something that’s been lacking.”

Do you think that has been lacking in CM Morales? Do you think she has been engaged with the community?

“I think that’s another big contrast. We have feet on the ground, we see what’s happening on 12th and Jackson. We are in the encampments….and we see a lot of policies without our input. And that has to change. I think we need to bring it down to the neighborhoods and community and really listen to people. And implement all these plans that the community has suggested.

“We always ask the youth what they want to see and they say ‘We want basketball, after-school programs. We want more community programs like they were before COVID.’ And that hasn’t been done yet and yet we still keep asking ‘What do you guys want?’”

Photo Courtesy of Tanya Woo Campaign

Sawant Released Past Solidarity Fund Annual Reports; She Failed To Meet Campaign Promise 8 Of 9 years In Office

Kshama Sawant Seattle

After “multiple pauses” and an impromptu interview, Councilmember Sawant updated the Socialist Alternative site with her donations in 2021 and 2022. A win for financial transparency! The site also reflects the Councilmember’s current salary of “over $140,000 a year” AND pledges to only keep $50,000 of that in solidarity with the average worker.

In another win for financial transparency, we have confirmation that Councilmember Sawant met her campaign promise for 1/9 years in office. We now know that only 68.8% of all donations made by the Kshama Solidarity Fund went to organizations financially connected to the Sawant household.

Financial Transparency Issues

But in a step backward for financial transparency, the Socialist Alternative site no longer shows the Councilmember’s post-tax income nor the annual solidarity amount. Screenshots of the Socialist Alternative site pre and post-update are below.

Screenshot of SA site 3/4/2023

Screenshot from SA 3/8/2023

Although not found on the Socialist Alternative site anymore, a table with the council member’s salary, estimated donation goal (based on worker’s salary of $40k), and the amount actually donated can be found below. Salary information comes from the most reliable source Wikipedia, and donation goal estimates are calculated using the linked site.

YearSalaryEst. Donation GoalActual donations

The Councilmember said that she would only accept an average worker’s salary of $40,000 in 2022, once in March at a Starbucks workers rally and in a June profile in Salon magazine. But the update to the 2021 and 2022 said that she would only accept $50,000. A table with that donation goal can be found below for those years.

YearSalaryEst. Donation GoalActual donatations

In total, Sawant donated over $357,000 over her tenure to organizations both financially connected to her household and not.

Solidarity Fund in 2022

Before the site update, the Councilmember had a remaining balance of $101,000 yet to be donated. As of today, the balance is down to $46,744. Even though the 2021 donations were severely under the donation goal (only $27,231 donated), the massive donation total of nearly $100,000 in 2022 covered that, and more. A screenshot of Kshama Solidarity fund donations in 2022 can be found below.

Screenshot of 2022 Kshama Solidarity donation report.

The Councilmember was extremely philanthropic to workers throughout the United States in 2022, the only year she met her campaign promise. The Solidarity fund gave $20,000 to Amazon Labor Union, $6,000 in direct donations to Starbucks unionization efforts, and $2,020 to MN teacher’s union.

Three “donations” stand out, two donations to the Socialist Alternative totaling $42,000 and one “donation” for $5,264 labeled “IRS Tax Payment.” Paying your taxes can further social justice and worker movements. Sometimes. But I think even the IRS would agree that paying one’s taxes is not a donation to social justice movements. It’s something that everybody is legally obligated to do.

Next, the $42,000 given to Socialist Alternative is in line with the thousands donated to her political party, but this is a complete escalation of this trend. In her nine years in office, Councilmember Sawant has donated $130,786 to the Socialist Alternative, the most for any organization.

Donations to Socialist Alternative account for 36.6% of all donations made by the Councilmember during her tenure in office

15 Now continuing to receive donations

2021 has an interesting donation as well. The Solidarity Fund donated $4,800 to 15 Now, the nonprofit created by Calvin Priest, Sawant’s husband. 15 Now has been administratively dissolved and inactive since June 2019, according to the WA Secretary of State. Since June 2019, Councilmember Sawant has donated $12,000 to 15 Now.

In total, the Councilmember donated $105,050 to 15 Now during her tenure in office, accounting for 29.4% of all donations made.

Screenshot of WA SOS site

Financial Transparency questions remain

The March 2023 update to the Socialist Alternative site has answered some questions, failed to answer others, and created a whole new set of questions.

Questions Answered:

  • How much Councilmember Sawant donated in 2021 and 2022.

Questions Not Answered:

  • Do massive donations made to 15 now, Socialist Alternative, and Tax Amazon create financial conflicts of interest or other ethical problems?
  • What were the causes of the “multiple pauses” in updating the site for the past two years?
  • Why did the Councilmember fail to meet her campaign promise 8/9 years in office?

New Questions:

  • What is the $5,264 “IRS Tax Payment” and why was it labeled as a donation?
  • What was the $42,000 Socialist Alternative donation used for?
  • Why update the site not reflect the Councilmember’s current post-tax income and annual solidarity amount?

I hope that I can get these questions answered directly and honestly by the Councilmember or her team in the future.

– By Connor Nash

Sawant Denies She Failed To Donate The Majority Of Her Salary To Social Justice Orgs But Her Website Says Otherwise

Sawant Councilmember In Seattle

By Connor Nash

*A summary of Councilmember Sawant’s donations is at the end of the article*

On March 4th, Councilmember Sawant launched the Workers Strike Back movement. The rally had many guest speakers; Amazon union organizer Griffen Ritze, independent journalist Nick Cruise, supporters of Seattle’s caste discrimination ban, and members of Socialist Alternative. After the speakers and a donation drive that garnered $41,000 were over, the Councilmember was ready to speak.

The Councilmember was introduced by one of her council aides who touted her boss’ accomplishments. The aide emphatically affirmed that Kshama Sawant only takes $40,000 of her salary and donates the rest of her six-figure income to social justice organizations.

When Councilmember Sawant took the microphone, she gave the same speech she’s given for the past decade. How the Democratic establishment has been sold out to big business, mentioning the failures of AOC and the Squad, and how capitalism is destroying America. Just your everyday Sawant speech.

Once the rally was over, I asked the Councilmember questions in response to her aide’s claim about her salary, and to follow up on my previous article. I said the Socialist Alternative site does not reflect her only taking a salary of $40,000. I asked if she believed she followed through with her campaign promise when she only donated $4,473 to Social Justice Orgs in 2021 (per the Socialist Alternative website).

Councilmember Sawant responded, “That’s not true.”

I asked if she made donations in 2021 and 2022. And why has the Socialist Alternative website not been updated since 2021?

The Councilmember walked away while directing me to speak with a Socialist Alternative member.

A Workers Strike Back volunteer chimed in, “We’ll update it. We make donations all the time.”

Calvin Priest, the Councilmember’s husband, seconded that statement, “Yes, we made donations.” When responding to the Socialist Alternative website not being updated in two years, Priest said, “That doesn’t mean we don’t make donations. And there have been pauses in updating multiple times.”

Councilmember Sawant told Priest they were leaving, ending the impromptu interview.

Although the Councilmember wants to believe my statements are false, the Socialist Alternative website backs me up while contradicting her. Below is a screenshot of the Socialist Alternative website from March 4th, 2023 showing the Councilmember only reported $4,473 in donations for 2021. A “2021 donations are still being updated” message is at the bottom of the page.

Screenshot from Socialist Alternative website

The “pause” on updating the website may show a lack of motivation by the Sawant team to prove she is still following through on her campaign promise. But this lack of financial transparency contradicts the values of the Kshama Solidarity Fund.

“Seattle City Councilmembers received over $117,000 a year –  the second largest of any city council in the country. Inevitably, such a salary removed Councilmembers from the realities of life for poor and working people.

“I take home just $40,000 per year. This amount is roughly the full-time take-home pay of an average Seattleite. The remainder of my salary goes to a Solidarity Fund to help build social justice movements.

“Towards the end of each calendar year, and more regularly as needed, I will give a full account of my income and how my Solidarity Fund is being used.”

Screenshot from Socialist Alternative site.

The Socialist Alternative site states they would give annual accounts on how the Kshama Solidarity Fund donated funds but failed to meet the last two annual reports. The site also claims that Seattle council members make $117,000 a year, but that was in 2014. Councilmember Sawant made $145,157.04 in 2021, according to Tacoma’s The News Tribune.

The Councilmember’s aide said they will update the Socialist Alternative site with all of the donations Sawant has made. Maybe an update to the site will also include the Councilmember’s current salary and the annual fund amount needed to have a take-home pay of $40,000.

Or maybe the “pause” on financial transparency will continue.

Kshama Solidarity Fund Facts, as of 3/4/2023

The Councilmember’s yearly donation goal is $42,000. The remaining balance rolls over to the following year.

“Sawant-connected orgs” are organizations with a direct financial connection to the Councilmember. Includes donations to 15Now, Socialist Alternative, and Tax Amazon.

2014 Donations
Total amount donated$35,145
  Total donated to Sawant-connected orgs$29,500
  Total donated to non-Sawant orgs$5,645
Remaining balance$6,855

2015 Donations
Total amount donated$37,600
  Total donated to Sawant-connected orgs$29,250
  Total donated to non-Sawant orgs$8,350
Remaining balance + roll over$11,255

2016 Donations
Total amount donated$40,675
  Total donated to Sawant-connected orgs$25,325
  Total donated to non-Sawant orgs$15,350
Remaining balance + roll over$12,580

2017 Donations
Total amount donated$31,759
  Total donated to Sawant- connected orgs$25,325
  Total donated to non-Sawant orgs$6,434
Remaining balance + roll over$22,821

2018 Donations
Total amount donated$21,424.53
  Total donated to Sawant-connected orgs$18,000
  Total donated to non-Sawant orgs$3,424.53
Remaining balance + roll over$43,396.47

2019 Donations
Total amount donated$38,974.85
  Total donated to Sawant-connected orgs$31,920
  Total donated to non-Sawant orgs$7,054.85
Remaining balance + roll over$46,421.62

2020 Donations
Total amount donated$24,518.30
  Total donated to Sawant-connected orgs$17,200
  Total donated to non-Sawant orgs$7,318.30
Remaining balance + roll over$63,903.32

2021 Donations
Total amount donated$4,473
  Total donated to Sawant-connected orgs$0
  Total donated to non-Sawant orgs$4,473
Remaining balance + roll over$101,430.32*

*I wanted to take this opportunity to make a correction to my previous article. As of 2021, the total amount donated by the Kshama Solidarity Fund is $234,569.68. The total amount donated to non-Sawant organizations was $52,733.68. The total yet to be donated as of 2021 is $101,430.32.

– By Connor Nash

Seattle Council Follow-Up

Washington State Transportation Tunnel Failure

To Emerald City Journal:

I just read your good article you wrote about the tunnel.

I wrote a letter that went to every city council member the morning they were supposed to get the real “scoop” from DOT. Well they got the real scoop except it was the kind you need a scoop shovel to get rid or and it “stinks”. Not one member on the council responded to me after the meeting. Can you imagine them sitting there listening to State Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson, spinning a story that would make a normal persons head spin but the Council Members didn’t argue with her. She says its too late to stop work on the tunnel because the tunnel is 70% complete (yes seventy). It would take a really good liar to be able to make a statement like that at this point. Why didn’t they stand up and declare the meeting over? Is this an insult to the taxpayers of Seattle and to the businesses that have been ruined during this last year of digging. Well I cant use the word digging because Bertha cant dig. What will it take to stop this nonsense? They cant drain the sound, and if they dig beside it they will hit water so they can never pump enough. All the politicians think is how to PUMP MORE MONEY into it, not water out of it.

The council hasn’t made a big deal of any of it publically. The money for the tunnel is gone on south and north portals and a pit to reach Bertha. How can you call this even a start on the tunnel? Its just a big gamble(but they already lost the money). Lets say they ever get the pit dug. Will the land around the pit hold up when they bring in a crane or cranes big enough to lift the front end of Bertha out or will we have Bertha and a crane or two to bury? Readers speak up now or forever hold your peace. Email and every member will get a copy. Flood them with e mails not water.

A gambler can quit anytime he wants. If he has lost his pay check, he still is better off to walk away before he puts the title to his car or house in the pot for the last game. It makes good photo ops for the Mayor. Maybe Obama can send Gruber to give a speech saying Taxpayers are too stupid to understand how good this is. See my letter to the council below or here.

Update: Unfortunately, there has been no response from the City of Seattle Council as of 3/13/15. We are sadden to say the least. We continue to see the failed tunnel project move forward. Each day wasting more and more money which could have been spend on our education system, roads, or new options / roads to fix the mess this project has created. One thing we will never see is the Council admit they made a mistake with this project. They will continue the effort and talk less and less about all the money being dumped into it. When it finally is completed they will praise their hard work and how successful it was. It’s a complete failure and catastrophe. As news continues to come out about the tunnel (Alaska Way Viaduct Project), more and more injuries are being reported now. Medical / compensation claims are at there highest at over 1$ million dollars since 2012. According to an AP news report, there were more claims in 2014 then the last two years combined. The machine continues to sit with no action. It is believed that the machine will start running again in August 2015. The Seattle Council members fail to listen about all the wasted money. Aborting this project is the right action.

Letter To Council About Failed Tunnel Project (No Response)

Seattle Council Email About Tunnel Project Failure

Subject: Tunnel

Hate to say,” I told you so”, but the Tunnel mess is really coming to light. How many more billions are you going to pour down the sink hole? We could have had a nice flat surface road or a new viaduct by now but you have an endless pit. I wrote before that I thought digging a tunnel thru fill dirt right along the sound was about as stupid as anything you could dream up. The DOT, The Tunnel Partners have lied to you repeatedly. Why will you believe tem this morning when they come to assure you everything is “hunky dory”. You should invite former Governor Gregoire to come. How many times did she stand with a straight face and say, the tunnel will be built under budget and NOT ONE COST OVERRUN WILL BE PAID BY TAXPAYERS?

You have heard from strategists, planners, managers, and experts, but mostly from LIARS. This was a boondoggle from day one. You had 1.4 billion to build the tunnel. 1 billion is gone and you are not only at square one but worse than when you started. What are the odds of it ever getting built? I would say zero. If you think spending 400 billion more to try to keep from losing the 1 billion you already lost, you should definitely listen to Kenny Rodgers sing, The Gambler. That’s all you are doing now.(gambling) No one knows how much water you need to pump, The space where you pump water has to be filled with something. Do you want to keep on til the historic buildings start to shift and crack? Do you want to wait til the viaduct falls over because of your digging? Do you want to keep on til the pressure sends dirt up thru the hole you are trying to dig to repair Bertha. You have squandered enough money to build a new house for every homeless person in Seattle. You have squandered enough to repair every street in Seattle. On and on and on.

Take a special vote of the people of Seattle and especially the businesses that have been ruined by all this digging. Is was in insult for the Mayor to take advantage of King Street falling apart for a photo op. He doesn’t have a clue(neither does anyone else) why it is happening. Maybe you need to bring “Patty and Maria” for a photo shoot and have them promise all sort of Federal Funds. Remember Federal funds, County funds, City funds all come from the working peoples pocket. The money to build the tunnel is gone. Time to admit defeat. Give Bertha a burial and let some other fools a hundred years from now run into her when they try to dig again. Stop this madness and stand up for the people who voted you in to speak for them.

– That was my letter to the Seattle Council. There has been no response thus far.

Letter To Seattle Council City Light CEO

Seattle City Lights

My letter to the Seattle council….

Sounds like someone got their wires crossed at City Light. Please delay your vote on the stupid stupid raise for the CEO of City Light. He was already getting a whopping 245,000. He is the highest paid city employee. What on earth can make him worth that? Now you want to give him a raise of almost $120,000. What are you thinking about, when we have no money for things the city needs you raise his pay to $364,000. That was all the information I have read or heard about and it was a shock. Completely out of line. He could fall off a light pole tomorrow and city light would go on just fine without him. Of course he doesn’t climb poles, or change bulbs or do anything we really need. He spins tales for the city and the Mayor. If he can go someplace for more pay, we city light customers will come help him pack. Remember you are representing the people of Seattle and there is no way you can think this is right or fair.

That was bad enough, but thank goodness for the Times article today (Sunday June 15) by Jim Brunner we learned there is something very wrong going on. People can stand to be screwed over, they can stand to be taxed unfairly, but one thing almost NO ONE can stand is a liar. Then top it off with a cover up. Have you taken some lessons from Susan Rice? She is the second best liar I have ever heard of. Obama is the number one. They sent her out to spin the tale of a video causing the Benghazi disaster AFTER it was well known by everyone that it was a terrorist attack. But wanted to keep it covered up so Obama could win a second term. Now she was back telling more lies that the deserter had served with dignity and distinction. She is trying to make Obama look good and facts or the truth has nothing to do with what she says. So City Lights Chief of Staff Sephir Hamilton hired a firm to clean up the CEO’s image online. The only thing that should be online about Jorge Carrasco should be the TRUTH. Nothing taken away, nothing added. They call it a reputation-management service. The clear negatives by blanketing search results with positive content. In other words if the CEO has done some things he would like to keep covered up, just write something positive instead. If Mayor Murray is so hell bent on quality leadership he should not even be considering someone who is trying to cover their tracks.

Wait on your vote until you are sure (not just what the Mayor tells you) what it is he is trying to quash. Or is he being given a whopping raise a/k/a a pay off to promote the City’s green program. If the green program is so good it will make it by showing the people its good, not paying a CEO bribe money or pay off to promote it for you. The more lies and cover up’s the worse it will get. So don’t vote on the raise this morning.
Thank you

Councilmember Nick Licata responds and does a very good job of explaining his point….

I too am troubled by the City Light CEO salary hike approved by the Council majority and have shared my concerns on the my Urban Politics blog and below.

To recap, the City Council voted 6-2 (Myself and Sawant opposed and Harrell was absent) last week to raise the City Light General Manager and CEO salary range by 45 percent, setting a new maximum of $364,481-per-year up from a $250,750 top-end salary. The Council vote paves the way for the Mayor to pay the highest paid Seattle city employee even more. The Mayor has said he will give General Manager and CEO Jorge Carrasco a 24 percent bump from his current salary of $244,954 up to $305,000.

Council proponents argued that Carrasco is underpaid in comparison to leaders of other publically owned utilities. Their conclusion originates from city staff analysis showing we pay our top City Light post less than other governments pay their utility heads. Past city staff studies reached the same conclusion. However, the relatability of the other salaries has been challenged because some utilities included as comparables in the staff analysis oversee multiple utility services, like water, while City Light just handles electricity. Regardless, on the surface, it would seem that one could justify the raise—albeit a very large raise on top of a very large salary when compared to what Seattle pays other city employees.

Councilmember Sawant and I raised objections of two kinds. First, and most obvious, is that in comparison to other City Light employees’ salaries, the General Manager and CEO’s new salary is out of line and sends the wrong message to our employees and the public. The big ticket salary basically says that CEOs of large corporations deserve a salary commensurate with whatever the market will bear, and that City Light must be a large corporation with its over 2,000 employees and budget of more than $1 billion. In other words, if other CEOs receive huge salaries, the City must offer the same to attract top talent.

Unfortunately, this trend has gone on for some time. In 1965, CEOs made more than 20 times what an average worker was paid. By 2012, that ratio was more than 10 times as skewed: CEOs made 273 times the average worker that year. I don’t believe that the Council, representing taxpayers, must conform to this pattern. By doing so, we contribute to the very problem of income and wealth inequality that now plagues our nation and undermines our economic stability. As workers are paid less and less, they have less to spend to keep our economy functioning smoothly. What’s more, workers are being pushed out of Seattle. Relative to wages, housing costs have become unaffordable. The irony is that since President Ronald Reagan embarked on a philosophy of letting the unfettered market determine what is fair in the 1980s, laborers have enjoyed an ever smaller share of the productivity gains their hard work produced. American workers are not being adequately compensated for their efforts.

The second objection raised is more to the point here in Seattle. Our city government has kept a tight lid on wages for average city employees. How can we fairly bargain with our employees after giving such an ostentatious salary increase to one individual? The Council and Mayor’s pay hike for the City Light General Manager and CEO justifiably creates hard feelings among our employees and sets up a very poor example for evaluating and rewarding performance.
It’s this last point that I most underscored during the meeting Monday. First, a little background—Carraso was confirmed in February 2004, and, that spring, a survey was conducted of City Light employees. It had been scheduled before Carrasco became the head of City Light. A report was issued on the findings, and four significant problems were identified:

• A troubling lack of confidence in the executive management
• Poor communication among the various levels within the utility
• Lack of adequate staffing to provide high-quality service
• A sense that quality and process improvements were not a priority

Another survey was taken in 2007 to see if these problems had been addressed during the first three years of Carrasco’s leadership. To assure that the survey was measuring the same concerns, 29 of the 50 questions asked were pulled from the 2004 survey, either exactly or using very similar language. More than three-quarters of City Light’s workforce responded to the survey, roughly the same rate as in 2004. The Council’s Central Staff reviewed the survey and concluded that the 2007 survey averages were statistically indistinguishable from those of the 2004 survey.

A staff report to the Council concluded, “ …the most striking conclusion to be drawn from the new survey is how little things have improved in the three-plus years since the first survey was done. In key areas – leadership, communication, and staffing – in which City Light did poorly in 2004, there has been no improvement.” Though some improvements were noted, the report said scores for key areas remained “at a level the survey developer would describe as a failing grade.”

The Council acts as the board of City Light, and I believe that we (and I include myself) should have required—at a minimum—that another survey be taken. We did not. There has not been another survey conducted since 2007. I asked the Superintendent at a June 9, 2014 meeting when another employee survey would be done. He said one will be done this year. However, our Central Staff know of no such effort.

So the bottom line is: why are we boosting the pay range for the City Light CEO when we have no evidence comparable to a survey showing employees believe that there has been improvement under Carrasco’s leadership? Carrasco has told me that he solicited input from employees when drafting a new City Light strategic plan City Light. I’m glad, they certainly should be involved. But that is not the same as a thorough review; that is not a survey showing how things have gone since 2007.

Unfortunately, we heard news recently that raises concerns things may not being going so smoothly at the utility. Thanks to the investigative reporting of Seattle Times reporter Jim Brunner, it was revealed to the Council and the public that City Light entered into a $47,500 contract with marketing firm to engage in an “action plan” that included creating positive blog items and stories about City Light’s green image.

City Light has made strides with its sustainability programs—that is not to be challenged. But isn’t it more important to spend funds to assure that we have a well-run, efficient and responsive public utility? The money would have been much better spent on addressing the problems that were identified 10 years ago, reiterated in the 2007 employee survey and, for all we know, might still exist.

Thank you for taking an interest in our city and for taking a moment to share your thoughts with me.



Seattle City Councilmember Nick Licata

Seattle’s $15 Minimum Wages – Passes

Seattle Minimum Wages Increase to 15 per hour

On Monday, with a 9-0 vote, the Seattle Council voted to pass and increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour. This makes the minimum wage in Seattle the highest in the nation. The wage increase will be slowly phased into Seattle over the next several years. Smaller businesses will have even more time to phase in the increase. The mandate mentions that large enterprises, those with over 500 employees, implement a $15 minimum wage by either 2017 or 2018. Conversely, smaller businesses, those with fewer than 500 employees, are required to meet the $15 minimum wage standard by either 2019 or 2021.

The City of Seattle obviously supports the new law because the tax revenue is massive. They essentially double what they bring in now per individual minimum wage paycheck. It is an easy way to steal more taxes from the people.

So where do we go with this news? I guess businesses no longer need to hire high school kids or dropouts…. when they can get college grads for $15 per hour. Hell, educated kids from Tacoma would probably even commute to Seattle for this kind of money. It’s a smart move by the Seattle Government to grab additional taxes. As a new hire, you don’t really need to go to college anymore or need a skillset. With that in mind, the government doesn’t really care just as long as they are automatically taking from your paycheck. No need to go to college anymore and you can be lazy. You’ll get paid the same so who cares? You might as well get a $15 – $20 per hour job and figure out the college thing later.

Why stop at $15 lets make it $20 per hour which is 40K per year. If we are going to go big – why not go really big? Seattle leadership knows to slowly rob people of their paychecks so the pain is less noticeable. Since people are making more now, let’s continue to raise the already high rents in the neighborhoods. Landlords are going to love this! People are making more now, so it only makes sense to me. Since people are making more, the City can charge a little extra on parking tickets or add a few more traffic light cameras. As a blue state, the democrats are pros at robbing people of their money and taxes.

All of this is an excuse to take more money from your paycheck and at the same time create an excuse to raise the prices of other things around the city. It’s all about getting money back into the system and nothing to do with you. It appears to me that Seattle leadership continues to run the city into the ground.

If we want to make a change, there should be a $15 MAXIMUM wage for Congress and the Seattle Council members. One step forward and two steps back with this requirement.

Seattle 15 per hour wages

What are the disadvantages of increasing the minimum wage?

Raising the minimum wage is a topic of heavily debated between the lawmakers and businesses. While increasing the minimum wage aims to provide workers with a livable income, it also poses several potential disadvantages and unintended consequences. Here are some commonly cited drawbacks of a higher minimum wage:

1. Increased Costs for Businesses:

  • Higher Operating Costs: Small businesses, in particular, may struggle with the increased costs associated with higher wages.
  • Inflation: Some businesses might raise their prices to compensate for increased labor costs, contributing to inflationary pressures.

2. Unemployment and Reduced Hiring:

  • Job Loss: Some employers might reduce staff numbers to maintain profitability, leading to unemployment.
  • Hiring Freeze: Businesses might decide to pause hiring, affecting job market fluidity.
  • Automation and Outsourcing: Employers may opt for automation or move jobs overseas where labor is cheaper, reducing local employment opportunities.

3. Reduced Hours and Benefits:

  • Employers might cut workers’ hours or reduce non-wage benefits such as healthcare and paid time off to offset increased wage costs.

4. Impact on Less-Skilled Workers:

  • Employers may become more selective, preferring employees with more skills and experience, leaving less-skilled or inexperienced workers struggling to find employment.
  • This could particularly affect young people and those with lower educational attainment, potentially exacerbating inequality.

5. Potential Decline in Business Formation and Survival:

  • Increased costs might deter entrepreneurs from starting new businesses, impacting innovation and economic diversity.
  • Existing businesses, especially small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), might face sustainability challenges, leading to business closures.

6. Distortion of Labor Market:

  • It could distort wage structures, causing dissatisfaction among more skilled or experienced workers earning similar wages to less-skilled workers.
  • Some argue that a higher minimum wage might discourage workers from acquiring additional skills or education, impacting productivity in the long run.

7. Impact on Competitive Advantage:

  • Countries with lower minimum wages might have a competitive advantage in labor-intensive industries, potentially leading to a decline in such industries in countries with higher minimum wages.

8. Mismatch between Local Economies:

  • A uniform minimum wage might not consider the varying living costs between regions, leading to imbalances and inefficiencies.

Balancing Perspectives:

While the aforementioned points illustrate the potential disadvantages of a higher minimum wage, balancing them against the advantages, such as poverty reduction, increased worker productivity, and stimulation of economic growth through increased consumer spending is essential. The overall impact of raising the minimum wage often depends on how well the policy is designed and implemented, considering the specific economic context and conditions of each locality or country.

You can make your own decision on this topic. One thing we do know living in Seattle, is that leadership will continue to raise taxes and request more money from you.

Seattle Ride Sharing Rules Coming Soon

Seattle Ride Share Sevices

December 13, 2012 the City of Seattle Council held a public meeting regarding ride share services. These new services are popping up everywhere now and the taxi drivers are getting mad because they are offering a lower, faster, CHEAPER, and in reality better service.  They are saying they can’t compete and they are not safe ect.  Some of these new services include Sidecar, Lyft and Uber for example. However, city taxis of course are regulated by the city and they want the new ride share services to be also. I certainly can understand that frustration if I was an owner.  The city is holding them back.

As I’ve mentioned several times now on the Emerald Journal when an opportunity presents itself for more tax revenue the Council with certainly take you up on that opportunity. Here is another example of how these services are deemed “illegal” and we need to come up with a “fair” solution to regulate and tax them appropriately.

Seattle talks a big game about wanting riders to share, use buses, bikes, ect but when something new and innovated comes around and provides a real service of doing just that – they are quick to knock it down.  These services are really innovated and have the business down not like the old taxi systems in place.  These companies use apps on their phones, easy to use, and much cheaper.  It’s sad but the reality is that it’s all smoke and mirrors with the City of Seattle Council to make the public opinion positive about them and what they do for the city.

The City is proposing an annual license fee of $50,000 for these companies. Well that sounds “fair” to me (not). That sure is horrible for these companies and obvious sign the City Council is all about regulation, control, and revenue. It’s not about better air, less traffic, or anything like that – it’s about revenue first.  This effort pretty much puts them out of business and/or makes it extremely difficult to do business here in Seattle.  I thought the goal was to increase transportation and encourage great ideas to solve the traffic, parking, air, car issues in Seattle.  This move in licensing just kills that effort.

If they really wanted to solve this problem they would simply lower the regulations on Taxi owners and let them all compete evenly. The best service will win over the public. That would just be to easy, however, and would limit the cash flow and regulations which the city would never agree to. Sad but true. Take note just another case of grabbing more cash and not really caring to come up with innovated solutions which are available right now.

Next time you vote to support those businesses or public transportation just remember the City killed these cheap innovated companies so they can continue to control and regulate this area.

Smoking Marijuana In Public – $27 Fine

Seattle Marijuana Smoking Fines

In and effort to keep control over the industry and increase revenue if necessary the Seattle Council passed a law which would fine for smoking in public.  Sure it’s not much but still a behavior by the City of Seattle that really wasn’t necessary.  It just proves when there is an opportunity to make a few more dollars they will take that opportunity to make a fine/tax out of it.  At his point, what is the big difference between cigarette smoking in public and marijuana smoking in public – absolutely nothing.

A law (unlike smoking) voted on by the people and all the City Council can do is come up with new laws and regulations to fine this cash cow as much as possible.

When Nick Licata (Council member) told the public this is now going to be the law (passed by the Council), he also mentioned that the police would be “giving warnings”.  Isn’t that a great line to calm the public so there is no uproar.  I would love to see how many warnings they give out compared to how much revenue they bring in from this great news.

Seattle Taxi Drivers Losing Business

Seattle Taxi Drivers
Local Seattle taxi drivers are angry. The complaint comes from the new rideshare type companies in Seattle. Taxi owners feel they are stuck because their prices are controlled by the City of Seattle while these other type of transportation services are not. Mike Judd, the owner of Yellow Taxi, has a good point in my opinion and he says, “These guys don’t have business licenses, the drivers, they don’t have proper insurance, they’re doing a tremendous bite into our business and undercutting our rates that are regulated by the city and undercutting the safety of the public…” I do agree with that for the most part. I don’t agree with the public safety. Taxi’s are no safer than any of the other newer transportation options available. Common Mike Judd we all know how these Taxi drivers drive around town lets be real.

The Seattle Council has a meeting scheduled tonight with the committee on taxi for-hire and limousines. Who knew there was a committee to handle Taxi’s! Sounds like more wasted money to me. None the less, that is the situation for now. What I find most interesting is that in public, TV, and in ads they push and encourage more options for riders. They want the public to use the other public transportation options available. They want people to rideshare to work. Leave your car at home and ride to work or ride the bus – we have all seen this type of propaganda. EXCEPT – when they start to lose money because they are overpriced and new companies/solutions are readily available. That is NOT ok with the City and they must be shut down or highly regulated quickly.

What happened to capitalism and entrepreneurship? These companies have found a solution that a lot of Seattle residents are embracing. The demand is high and this is what American is about. It’s about being creative, finding a new solution, and that includes competitiveness for businesses. They are considerably less and easier to work with. You can order a ride from you mobile phone! Some of these newer solutions just ask for a donation for the driver. Another named UberX charges similar rates as the taxi’s but doesn’t require tips. These are just creative options and in my opinion the more options and competitiveness the better.

It’s a shame I feel the City is going to side with the taxi drivers on this one due to the money and regulations involved for the City. I feel, however, if the taxi drivers would actually clean up their acts, lower their fees, and COMPETE they actually may do quite well. With the monopoly in place there are no reason to do anything. They can continue to be rude, blow off pickup times, keep their cars filthy, and continue to only shower once a week. Why change anything when you’re the only option available? Time for a change and time to allow entrepreneurship to grow. This is supposed to be America after all.

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