(The following was originally published on the Freedom Socialist Party website.)
The August primary ballot in Seattle is full of lackluster Democrat candidates, many running unopposed. But it is well worth your while to pull out that ballot for two reasons: Jess Spear of Socialist Alternative is running to unseat Boeing’s errand boy Frank Chopp in the 43rd District; and there is an ominous effort to take the “public” out of Seattle Public Parks in the form of Seattle Proposition 1.
Please take a moment to read our recommendations and feel free to call if you have questions or want to discuss them further.
Su Docekal, Seattle Organizer
43rd District Representative, Position No. 2 – Vote for Jess Spear, Socialist Alternative
Just one candidate is running in the primary as an anti-capitalist. Therefore we only recommend voting for Socialist Alternative Jess Spear who is challenging Democrat powerhouse Frank Chopp for State Representative, position two, in the 43rd District.
Spear is a socialist who takes on both corporate parties with a platform that calls for taxing the rich, rescinding the $8.7 billion handout to Boeing, passing rent control, raising the state minimum wage to $15, expanding public transit, fighting big oil and coal, and more. It is refreshing to read her multi-issue program and it does a good job of championing working-class demands.
We support Spear’s candidacy, but given the Socialist Alternative (SA) track record, we have concerns about how vigorously its candidate will fight for these issues once elected. After Sawant’s election to the Seattle City Council, SA had broad support for the $15 Now campaign and its slogan of no compromise – but the party ended up making concessions before the battle had even begun and thus weakened its base among the poorest paid. If Spear is serious about taking radical demands such as the fight for $15 to the state level, then SA must incorporate the lessons learned in Seattle: The fight for a higher minimum wage must leave no one behind; only a broad, democratically run, united front effort can transform the strong public support for $15 and related issues into an unqualified win; and small business needs to be won to our side with concrete solutions.
Corporate interests used small business owners as their shock troops in opposing and then watering down Seattle’s $15 minimum wage plan. Spear needs to put forth specific demands to illustrate that small business woes are not the product of decent wages, but of state laws that favor giant industrialists. For instance: Eliminate the Business and Occupation Tax, which places an unfair burden on mom and pop stores, and institute a tax on corporate profits instead; replace the sales tax with a steeply graduated income tax that would benefit workers and small entrepreneurs alike; and institute a capital gains tax. See “The fight for $15 – what activists can learn from Seattle.” Finally, we said it during Sawant’s campaign and we say it again to Spear: you need to address issues particularly affecting women in your basic program. With all the debate in Olympia over reproductive rights, including access to the Morning After pill at pharmacies, this should be high on Socialist Alternative’s agenda.
Despite these shortcomings, a vote for Spear is a vote against the domination of the Demublicans who’ve given big business a free ride in Olympia. Make your vote count – vote socialist!
Seattle proposition 1, creating a new Seattle Park District – Vote to REJECT
The Seattle City Council is asking voters to approve this measure, ostensibly to fund parks. But Prop. 1 is not just another levy. It sets up a new “Seattle Park District” (SPD) that would forever remove the city parks system from public control and oversight. State law allows municipalities to set up such entities, but there is no mechanism for the voters to rescind it. Once established, the SPD would have total control over management of the parks and the ability to raise property taxes – without having to put it to the voters!
Even the Seattle Times, with whom we rarely agree on election recommendations, is alarmed by the new SPD’s lack of accountability:
“…Proposition 1 proposes a new, permanent taxing authority controlled by the City Council. Collections in 2016 would start at a total of 33 cents per $1,000 of a home’s assessed value, but the council could more than double that amount to 75 cents per $1,000, or $330 per year (for a home worth $440,000) — without ever having to check with voters.
Under state law, this district cannot be dissolved by a public vote. Neither would citizens be able to file initiatives against decisions they disagree with.
Though a 15-member citizens’ committee would ostensibly provide oversight, the real control is with the City Council. The parks district essentially creates a shadow city government, run by the same Seattle City Council with the same borders as the City of Seattle, but with vast new authority…”
Seattle’s public parks are a wonderful community resource – for those who can still afford to live here. Skyrocketing rents and property taxes are driving working-class people out of the city. Currently tax levies cannot increase property taxes by more than 1% per year without voter approval, but the SPD would allow the City Council to make an end run around the levy lid. At this rate there will be no one left in Seattle to enjoy our beautiful parks except the über rich.
This is a bad proposition any way we look at it. Prop. 1 gives the City Council broad authority to make home ownership more unaffordable than ever, while allowing officials to favor pet projects, developers’ schemes, and new projects while ignoring the enormous backlog on maintenance. A future City Council could also use the SPD as a vehicle to get rid of unionized Parks workers and recategorize them as SPD employees with fewer benefits and whistleblower protections. Prop. 1 is opposed by the League of Women Voters and a host of longtime parks volunteers and advocates with Our Parks Forever.
More than ever, we need public control of our resources, maintained by unionized and accountable public workers in a system where our votes count.