The "L" Word

The next entries into my #HALA series starts on page 21. This includes things like ADU/DADU stuff, adding a story to LR zones, and low-density housing options in SF zones. These 12 recommendations are, from what I can see, are what lead people to oppose all of HALA. I'll give them the attention they deserve....next week. 

As a break from the drab (seriously - traffic on the pages that just are fact-based, piece-by-piece examination of the recommendations is much lower than opinion posts), I decided I want to touch on the "L" in HALA - Livability. 

I get why this was included in the committee name. It's a great buzz word, after all! In politics, we use "livability" all. the. time. During the Prop. 1 campaign in 2014, for instance, part of our messaging was to note that parks and community centers are key to livable communities! And I wholeheartedly believe that. While there are some who think we should upzone everything and get rid of all design review and other regulations, I don't fall into that camp. One thing missing in East Fremont, for instance, is any public space or park. On a map, the neighborhood looks close to Lower Woodland, Troll's Knoll, Wallingford Playfield, and Gas Works.

But the reality is that this area is boxed in by Highway 99, Stone Way, Bridge Way, and NE 46th - none of which are particularly pedestrian friendly. So while I wholeheartedly support the proposed zoning changes in this area (especially with the proximity to 99 and the Rapid Ride routes), I also believe there must be a plan in place to provide that backyard for the existing and future apartments and condos that are moving in. 

Livability, however, is a very subjective term. It's a values-based discussion, where each of us comes to the conversation with our own set of values and beliefs about what is liveable for us. It's easy to attack someone when their values around livability are different, rather than try to acknowledge their perspective, and respectfully move forward with a conversation about what livability means to others. 

The first thing I think of around this is the ongoing debate around microhousing, with an exclamation "I would never live there," or "I don't know how we can say it's humane for anyone to live in such a small space!" 

With the average rent for a one bedroom apartment right around $2,000, and studios around $1,500, microhousing units provide an affordable alternative. I see these typically going for $700-1000 per month, and while they're small, they provide a roof over the head, a bathroom, a shower, and often are with great access to transit. So if you're making $36,000 per year - right around 60% AMI - you have some choices: get on a waiting list for an affordable unit, spend more than half of your take-home on rent for a small studio, or spend about a third of your take home on a marginally smaller microhousing unit. Or get stuck with a two-hour commute, or worse, end up homeless. 

What would I do? I would go for the micro unit. Some other people might choose the two hour commute. Others still would spring for the studio. Each of these is a choice, and my choice would be no less valid than your choice. But taking away that one extra option - the micro unit - has a real-life implication on people, and based on the idea of "I wouldn't, so neither should you." 

What we consider requirements for a livable community are similar. What I consider livable - sidewalks that aren't crumbling along major roads, parks and public open space, thriving bars and restaurants, access to good transit. 

But above all, I believe that livability must include access to safe affordable homes. As a matter of public policy, I would say we must make the public space - the back yard - a part of the plan. But I admit - I would willingly sacrifice a few trees to ensure more families have housing security, and to ensure we're seeing less suburban and exurban sprawl. I think it is great that some folks put solar panels on their roof, but that should not be used as an excuse to force more people into cars to commute because affordable options near transit and grocery stores are blocked. That has a much more adverse impact on our climate than a single property has a positive impact. 

This is part of the reason I hate the word "NIMBY." While there are those who want no change around them (I actually spoke with someone last night who said she thinks growth is fine, just not in her neighborhood, which is right on a Rapid-Ride line, because she doesn't want anymore people there), most people I know who get this term thrown at them are not opposed to growth or zoning changes per se, but also are concerned with their view of "livability." One person I spoke with recently described it like this: There are things about my neighborhood that I love, and I want people moving here to have the same love of the neighborhood, which is why I want to preserve as many trees as we can." But when you take that message and flip around and just shout "NIMBY!!!", you shut that person down, and lose a potential ally in building a more affordable and welcoming city. When you do that, you don't get to turn around and complain that that person didn't help out when you believed it was necessary. I mean, you can. Do what you want. 

With Livability being such a subjective call, it probably shouldn't have been in the name of the committee or the report. But it is, so as we move forward with implementation of HALA, I believe we should emphasize section L.1, and it's call for "consideration" of parks and open space. And have a meaningful conversation around tree canopy, what that means, and where we can all get to "yes." I also hope that there will be more of a concerted effort from the City to emphasize how we are going to address walkability, especially in our urban villages that have hostile walking conditions. 

I say this because I love my neighborhood. And I want to welcome new people into my neighborhood. And I want them to be able to experience the many things that make my neighborhood great - the ones that make it livable for me, and the ones that make it livable for others. And, frankly, I think that policy makers do, too. If we're willing to listen. 

#HALA Part 2 (Super Exciting Time!)

Today, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled in favor of the State of Washington in the Arlene's Flowers case. Not only did the Court rule that Arlene's violated Washington's Laws Against Discrimination by refusing public accommodation to a gay couple, but also the Court ruled that WLAD is Constitutional as written and applied. That has nothing to do with HALA, but some good stuff before I dive into the "L" section - Land Utilization Opportunities. 

For those reading at home: I'm starting today's piece on page 19.

L.1 - Prioritize Use of Public Property for Affordable Housing

Fun fact: the City (and State and County and Port) own a bunch of property. Which really, I guess, means that we own it. This recommendation encourages the city to lead (and encourage other government entities) on using surplus properties for affordable housing wherever feasible, and to use available proceeds from sales of unusable surplus properties to specifically fund construction and preservation of affordable homes. In addition, this recommendation specifically states that open space should also be a consideration (parks are, after all, the backyards of apartments and condos). By obtaining an inventory from all government entities of surplus properties, a coordinated effort to have more affordable housing built can happen, and we can preserve more public land for public benefit, rather than default selling to the highest bidder. 

L.2 Support Strategic Site Acquisition for Affordable Housing

Basically, this calls on the City to develop a strategy and funding for acquisition of properties specifically for affordable housing that are near transit hubs and light rail stations. After all, Light Rail should be for all income levels, not just the very wealthy. By acquiring land near stations, it can more readily be preserved for production of rent-restricted housing for low-income households that might not otherwise be able to afford to live in market-rate buildings near transit centers. 

And....that's it for the "L" section. General opposition to HALA means opposition to utilizing city-owned properties for affordable housing rather than selling to private developers for market-rate housing, and means opposing planning for site acquisition for affordable housing to be built near transit hubs. 

But this is too damn short, so on to "F"!

F.1 Provide Flexible Low Cost Loans

This has to do with some technical details around how the city provides loans for affordable housing construction and preservation, and also calls for allowing short- to medium-term financing to help with upfront equity investment needs. If I'm reading this right, this recommendation basically is all about allowing for more housing types to qualify for loans from the City for affordable housing production and preservation purposes. 

F.2 Develop a Credit Enhancement Program

I fell asleep reading this one, although it's a pretty dope idea. Basically using the City's credit rating to help secure loans for low-income development to decrease the cost of that development and maximize production and preservation of affordable homes. 

F.3 Explore Short-Term Lending

"Fund balances maintained across the City of Seattle could provide a modest resource for short-term lending at a low cost. The City of Seattle's Office of Housing currently has a program that authorizes use of certain fund balances for this type of activity, but the use of these funds is generally limited by the availability of take-out financing. In the event there is a rise in demand for short-term loans, the City should research and thoroughly understand the potential and limitations of this resource; for instance, the length of time such funds could be outstanding, the expected interest rates charged by different funds over time and the rough order of magnitude of fund balances that would be suitable for lending."

I have no idea what that means, but it sounds like it is recommending that the city, if the demand is there, study possibly expanding an existing program to allow for lending of fund balances for short-term loans, which I think means lending funds that are set-aside for something, but can't be used quite yet because the total amount isn't ready or the project isn't ready, similar to the revolving fund idea that was part of the most recent Housing Levy. Maybe? 

In sum - these five recommendations are part of HALA. Combined with the 10 discussed yesterday, we're at 15 recommendations that people who are adamantly opposed to HALA are adamantly opposed to. 

Of course, next up are the ones that I think most people think of when they think of HALA. Sections MF and SF. I'm also going to mix into this series a quick bit about the "L," and subjectivity around the term "Livability." Should be fun! 

 

#HALA

Since I've been on a tear recently regarding zoning and housing and HALA and this and that, and I haven't fisked something in a good long time, I decided I would fisk the HALA report! I may be wrong about what a lot of this means, but I may be right! Above all, any opportunity for our community to review the 65 recommendations that we are (apparently) either For or Against is good, right?

I'm going to do this section by section. Morsels are easier than the whole thing and all. But basically, when you see people stating, unequivocally, that they oppose HALA, here is what they are opposing. 

If you want to follow along, I'm starting on page 15:

R.1 - Partnership for Mandatory Inclusionary Zoning

This is now known as Mandatory Housing Affordability. Basically, this recommendation institutes a requirement that developers create a specific percentage of housing that is affordable to folks at 60% or below Area Median Income (AMI) on-site, or pay a fee-in-lieu, with those dollars being able to be leveraged against other sources to build near-site (in or near the same neighborhood). Put another way: Developer-specific funding for affordable housing

R.2 - Enact a Real Estate Excise Tax (REET) for Affordable Houing

Currently, the REET is 1.78% of the sale price for all property sales. It gets divvied up for capital projects for everything from roads to parks to fire stations. R.2 seeks legislation from the State allowing for an increase in REET capacity of 0.25% that would all go toward affordable housing. Put another way: right now, if a developer sells a property for for $2,500,000, $44,500 is due in REET. This change would mean they would pay $50,750 in REET, and $6,250 of that would be directed specifically to building and preserving affordable housing. 

R.3 Renew and Increase the Seattle Housing Levy

Done and done - with 70.6% of Seattle voters saying #YesForHomes! I was marginally involved. 

R.4 Renew and Expand the Multifamily Tax Exemption Program (MFTE)

This one has some more controversy. Basically, MFTE buildings set-aside a certain number of units that are affordable for folks at 85% of AMI for 12 years (or when they drop out of the program). The proposal would allow for buildings to go for up to 24 years, increase the set-aside percentage, include microhousing buildings, and make it easier to require more family size (3 BR +) units be set-aside. Some folks oppose the MFTE to begin with, and others (myself included) would like to see it a minimum 12 years, locked in on the property. Overall, the program has about 2,000 units supported in Seattle for folks at 85% of AMI. 

R.5 Establish a Local Voluntary Employers Fund; Explore Partnerships with Employers and Major Institutions. 

Basically the city working with big employers on providing housing affordable to folks who will be working for those big employers. With the big employers footing the bill. 

R.6 Expand the State Housing Trust Fund

This is basically something that we support every year. And with expansion, there is created more opportunity for affordable housing to be built in areas that don't have the commercial tax base for a Housing Levy (ie: Renton), but still have the need for affordable housing to be constructed and preserved. 

R.7 Reinstate the City Growth Fund

Basically setting aside a set amount of already incoming taxes to preserve affordable housing at risk of being lost due to growth. We had it from 1985-2002. This would bring it back. 

R.8 Establish a Supportive Housing Medicaid Benefit

This would have the State, through a provision in the ACA, allow for Medicaid payments for supportive services for very low-income folks, services that are shown to help prevent homelessness and provide necessary support to stay housed. 

R.9 Hotel Tax on Short-Term Rentals

Expanding the Hotel Tax to cover Air BnB. I think this has already been done. 

R.10 Explore a Social Impact Investing Model for Housing in Seattle

Making it easier for folks and large investors to help support low-income housing preservation, while still making a slight profit. Bellwether is doing it pretty solid

So that makes up the "R" section. Next up I'll go through the "L" section (page 19). 

 

Zoning, Anti-Trump, and Hypocrisy

Generally, I like to think of myself as pro-urbanism. The tenets, as I understand them, include focusing development near transit centers, and building out infrastructure that prioritizes pedestrians, cyclists, and transit. In 2015, I specifically used the term "Social Justice Urbanism" to describe my general philosophy: Yes, we need more types of housing, yes we need more affordable housing, but we also must be cognizant of the impacts of our growing city on communities of color that were all but forced into certain parts of the city and built strong communities regardless.

A part of this is because I believe we must be a welcoming region. In particular, we should be leaders for those facing real displacement - people fleeing war-torn countries, and looking to ensure their children have a better chance. The response of my city to the current administration's attempts to deny entry to our country based on peoples' religion is heartening, to say the least. As a community, we are making clear that we do not support putting walls up around our country.

Photo Credit: Rick Mohler to City Builders

Photo Credit: Rick Mohler to City Builders

Now, some of our neighborhoods? That's a different story. As the "worst city council member" in Seattle (according to some who comment on Crosscut), I have been paying attention to the HALA process. I also get around in District 4 (at least a little bit), and have seen the "No Grand Bargain" signs produced by the Wallingford Community Council. But something I'm seeing more and more of are these signs right next to signs directly or implicitly denouncing our current Administration and its policies against people (particularly black and brown people).

The message is clear: We support all of the liberal things, we support allowing refugees into our country, but we do not support anything that might let those refugees live in our neighborhood.

What's striking (unsurprising?) is that these signs are exclusively (or damned near) in the yards of people living on "Single Family" lots, or placed in public right of way. On its face, SF zoning is exclusionary. It literally requires that, for someone to live in an area, they have to be able to afford a single-family home on a decent-sized lot, typically 3,000-7,000 square feet. With the skyrocketing costs to purchase or rent, that means that working-class folks are no longer allowed in these neighborhoods. 

I often hear from folks in Wallingford specifically about how, when they moved in, it was a working-class neighborhood, and that housing was affordable. The idea seems to be that if we block any change from happening in the neighborhood, we can go back to the good old days when white, middle class families could afford Wallingford. The reality, though: those days are over. 

The fight against HALA has been fascinating to watch. There is this idea that long-term residents' opinions matter more than newer residents. That property owners have more at stake in the city than renters. That the idea is all about a big giveaway to developers, and that all developers are evil.

This all started when the recommendations were first released, and included recommending a pilot project allowing duplexes in triplexes in SF zoned areas. The opposition was immediate, and the proposal was scrapped without any public process

Next up: Queen Anne Community Council fighting against backyard cottages and mother-in-law apartments as part of a broader strategy to produce more low-density affordable housing. With the support of many of the same folks who opposed duplexes and triplexes, there has been success is slowing down this avenue to provide for more housing in a way that would keep the general aesthetic of a neighborhood. 

At the most recent hearing on the U-District rezone, speakers from Ravenna-Bryant and Ballard came out in force opposing allowing for greater building height and developer-paid affordable housing near a light rail station. The Wallingford Community Council sent a representative who actually spoke against developer-paid affordable housing. 

It is not uncommon that many of those who are opposing HALA (a) are offering no alternatives, and (b) make assertions that with the proposed HALA rezones in more dense urban areas, we will see a decimation of "naturally affordable housing," referring to buildings that are 20+ years old. One thing I notice: most of these folks are Single Family homeowners who have no direct experience with what is going on in the market right now. 

As a renter, I know that my housing situation may change with minimal notice. And recently, that happened. I found out that my home will see an annual rent increase of 10% if I sign on for a one-year lease. 30% if I don't. My building is over 20 years old. "Naturally affordable" only stays that way if we continue to construct homes that will become "naturally affordable" in time. Doing nothing means we all get priced out. The ongoing delay has priced me out of my home.

That's not to say I am without sympathy to those who fear the impacts of rezones. Dramatic change is scary. However, with many of the anti-HALA players having been fighting incremental change for years, I'm less sympathetic to the current "plight." Adding in that the proposed changes are far from dramatic, I call shenanigans.

(I do believe the city must stand firm with Mandatory Housing Affordability minimums that help to meet our need, while not making it impossible to deliver the total housing production required to match growth in our city (and lessen suburban sprawl). While some urbanists believe we should all be "upzone no matter what!", I do not fall into that camp. We have a disjointed revenue system, and this is using an option available to help us get closer to meeting our affordable housing needs without relying solely on regressive taxes. I'm also supportive of calls for planning to address transit infrastructure needs concurrent with zoning changes - TOD only works with good transit, after all)

There remains no reason that the city cannot effectively work with neighborhood partners on how our rezoning should work. However, that requires neighborhood partners who are coming to the table willing to actually work for more inclusive communities. The outreach that we have seen from the city and from city council members shows they want to be a partner. Yet, so often this work is derided as "not enough" - the city is going to doorbell every single SF house that is facing a rezone to LR1 to answer questions and get feedback, and that is considered "not enough" by some.  But we still do not hear what the rules of the game should be. We still do not know what the preferred outcome is - other than drowning certain neighborhoods in amber to prevent change from happening.

But let's consider consider what the actual effect of the proposed zoning changes are: converting LR1 to LR2 (both currently have 25' height limits, with 10' allowance for a roof), LR2 to LR3 (LR3 has a 30' height limit, with 5' allowance for a pitched roof), and some Residential Small Lot (1 home per 2,500 square feet, no height limit) to LR1 (1 home per 1,600 square feet with a height limit). This is the majority of the proposed changes in Wallingford. Nobody is forced to sell. And at "worst," a 25 foot house might have a 35 foot building with 6 homes next door. 

Frankly, I don't think that is the end of the world. And by expanding housing types and options - even as incrementally as HALA actually does throughout most of the impacted areas - we not only will ensure long-term, sustainable affordability for working class families across Seattle, but will actually ensure we are a welcoming and affordable city for young families, refugees, and the folks who do the work that make Seattle function. 

I end with this picture, which I found particularly interesting, considering that easing the ability to build mother-in-law apartments is a part of the HALA Grand Bargain. 

#Outrage

The Tort of Outrage is by far one of my favorites. The actions that would lead to a successful prosecution would be horrible - it's really a fun way of saying intentional infliction of emotional distress. But the most on-point court definition, in Reid v. Pierce County, quoting Browning v. Slenderella Systems of Seattle (quoting the Restatement (Second) of Torts), the Tort of Outrage requires conduct wherein "the recitation of the facts to an average member of the community would arouse his resentment against the actor and lead him to exclaim 'Outrageous!'" Reid at 201-202. Put more plainly, this tort requires behavior "so outrageous in character, and so extreme in degree, as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency, and to be regarded as atrocious, and utterly intolerable in a civilized community." Grimsby v. Samson at 59.  This makes me giggle. 

Outrage outside of the law, however, is both entertaining and frustrating. A blessing and a curse from being hyper-connected is that we can see everything that is going on in legislative bodies at all times. Most of us learned that Congress proposes and passes laws, the President enforces the laws, and the Judicial branch interprets laws and ensures they jive with the Constitution. Unfortunately (or fortunately?), most Americans' civics education ends here. The actual function of government is, of course, much more complicated and messy. 

For instance, while there are laws regarding Congress' duty on budgeting and providing means (fun fact: all revenue bills must originate in the U.S. House...sort of), the how is governed by the rules that Congress creates itself. Courts have no say over those rules - that would be a violation of the separation of powers. 

The United States Senate operates under its own set of rules. For all of the pithy back and forth we see from Democrats and Republicans, the Senate remains chummy, and for the sake of the institution, Senate leaders tend to stick with doing things how they have always been done. While it is not uncommon in the House, for instance, for Republicans to just not allow any Democratic amendments to bills to be considered, the Senate leaders typically hash out agreement over how many amendments each side gets to have considered. More often than not, these amendments are meant to embarrass certain senators, on both sides, with a full understanding that they will never actually pass. Hell, based on what I've seen, more often than not, these proposed amendments are poorly worded and don't do much of anything. 

Case in point - the Klobuchar amendment to S.Con.Res.3. For those who don't know, this underlying resolution is a budget issue, and begins the process of dismantling the Affordable Care Act. Every Democrat and Independent in the U.S. Senate voted against this resolution. Rightfully so. My thoughts on the ACA aside, absent a replacement, the actions by the Republicans on repealing the ACA with no replacement will lead to people dying. And the Republican Party doesn't care. 

The Klobuchar amendment, as written, would have added to the resolution an opportunity for the chair of the Budget Committee (Sen. Mike Enzi of WY) to have subcommittees consider, at his discretion, measures to be passed through the budget process (not the normal legislative process) that would reduce the prices of prescription drugs, without increasing the deficit. The amendment included re-importation from Canada as an exemplar. However, it did not require any action to be taken, and did not require any action that be taken center around a re-importation program (which, separately, has many issues of its own, and is in no way a permanent fix for skyrocketing pharmaceutical costs). 

What are some other deficit neutral ideas? We could go back to the 90's rules around advertising for pharmaceuticals. We could make changes to the patent system to discourage abuse by pharmaceutical companies. We could put restrictions on direct marketing to medical providers. We could loosen regulations on safety. We could eliminate steps on getting drugs to market. 

By allowing the committee to use the budget process, and avoid filibuster rules, this amendment, frankly, could have some terrible effects on safety of drugs, with minimal to no actual impact on cost. The vote was not a vote against a re-importation program. The vote was against an amendment offering up the opportunity for Republicans to push through something (perhaps a re-importation program) through the budget process and not traditional legislating. And because thirteen Democrats voted against this amendment to a resolution that all Democrats voted against (and would have regardless the outcome of this vote), there is internet outrage. 

Most people with whom I've engaged on this issue never bothered to read the amendment. Or called it a "Sanders bill." It was not a bill. It was not a plan. It was prime-sponsored by Sen. Amy Klobuchar. 

I get it - in Trump's America, we are in a post-fact world. However, I refuse to believe we have to give up the intellectual honesty, and give up on facts, to stir up our fellow liberals into a circular firing squad. This "controversy" has been nothing but that, and I fear the impacts this will have when we should be unified against a common enemy - the right wing and racists that have taken control of our country. 

That isn't to say people who wholeheartedly believe that a drug re-importation program is the way to solve prescription drug prices shouldn't lobby their legislators to actually come up with a plan. I would also suggest learning more about the efficacy of such a program, and the impacts that would have on our neighbors to the north (who, in theory, could very well just pass a law making it illegal to export pharmaceuticals, which would be smart considering the adverse impacts on supply a re-importation program from the United States, population 320 million, could have on Canada, population 35 million). 

But if we are going to get this worked up over something as non-consequential as Amendment 178, we're going to exhaust ourselves early. Personally, I'd rather save my energy for advocating for things that are real, and will actually have a positive impact on our communities, as well as against proposals that will have a devastating effect on our country. Thus, I reserve my outrage for a later time. 

#TrustWomen

Democratic Party re-organizations can be a spectacle to behold. During a Snohomish County Democratic Party re-org some years back, someone ran against the incumbent Chair, blaming him for the Iraq War. Four years ago, the King County Chair was elected by five votes - after not even running a campaign. This year, at the King County re-org, I was elected as Second Vice Chair with about 45 minutes’ notice about the nomination.

But nobody cares about that. Instead, the big drama this year involves a statement read on behalf of a state legislator about someone who was nominated for Chair.

Specifically, the statement expressed concern about the candidate due to an incident that occurred during the Democratic National Convention. Both folks were delegates for Bernie Sanders. And apparently a dispute occurred, leading to one - a male - being verbally aggressive, and grabbing at the phone in the hand of the other - a woman. Based on this, the legislator felt PCOs should be aware of this in advance of casting their vote for Chair. (an aside: the guy was never going to win. But that’s a different story altogether).

Throughout the Presidential campaign this year, Democrats (correctly) applauded women for having the courage to stand up and speak up about sexual assault and harassment from Donald Trump and Fox News executives. Considering that most sexual assaults and rapes go unreported, it is incumbent on us, as a society, to make women feel safe speaking out against sexual assault and rape, and sharing their stories. The same should be true for women who experience verbal and physical aggression that is not sexual in nature from men.

Our paternalistic society makes it uncomfortable enough for women to report assaults. Women are often asked “what did you do to prevent” the attack, and shamed and blamed. Hell, when I got my head kicked in for being a little too gay in high school, the sheriff responding asked if I thought I should “tone it down” to avoid future harassment. I can’t imagine what it is like for women, and am routinely disgusted by the stories we hear about how women are treated by law enforcement, prosecutors, and judges.

Following the KCDCC Re-Org, the legislator was both applauded and derided for having the statement read. She was told that the forum was not appropriate, and I even read someone say that since she didn’t call police in Philadelphia, it must not be an accurate representation of what happened. What many of them missed: following the remarks, the man proceeded to get into the personal space and yell at two other women at the meeting, with his finger all up in their faces. Point proven.

Some of the attacks on the legislator have focused on a line referring to the man as a “bomb thrower.” Being of Iraqi descent, this has been viewed as racist. Having been called a “bomb thrower” in the past (thanks a lot, Christian Sinderman!), I’ve always viewed the term to refer to rhetorical “bombs.” Considering the nationalism in our country, and in particular anti-Muslim rhetoric becoming more and more popular, I see how that was a poor choice of words, and the legislator has apologized for using that language.

However, I can say that the statement released in response by the KCDCC does not represent my values, and I am one of the dissenters among the elected officers. The correct forum to alert voters of misconduct from a candidate: wherever you can reach the voters. While the rules around a re-organization may be amended in the future to disallow someone to be nominated in order to just withdraw, those were not the rules in place during the re-organization. Should the man have been given an opportunity to rebut the statement from the legislator? Perhaps.

But at the end of the day, I believe we must trust women. As a Party, when we condemn women for speaking up, we send a message that I don’t want my daughter to hear. That process is more important than awareness. And absent any other forum by which a candidate nominated from the floor with no long-organized campaign exists, this is damn-well the correct forum.

I trust this will be a learning experience for our organization. I also hope it is a learning experience for all involved - directly or tertiarily - that how we treat women can (and should) have an impact on our political aspirations.

It's Re-Org Time!

I've read plenty of postmortems about the election. I've also been seeing some gloating from folks who believe that Hillary Clinton was not the top choice of Democrats, and had Sanders been the nominee, he would have won. Quick note on that: Hillary Clinton was the choice of more than 4 million more Democrats than Bernie Sanders. Hell, she was the choice of more than 2 million more voters than Donald Trump. So...the top choice of Democrats was, in fact, the nominee. And whether Bernie Sanders could have done better - who knows. Perhaps he could have picked up a couple rust-belt states, but there is no guarantee he could have won states like Nevada, Colorado, New Hampshire, or Virginia. 

But that's all noise. I'm an eternal optimist, and believe in looking forward at what can be done to change outcomes. Nationally, that means we must go back to having a 50-state strategy. And our next Democratic Party Chair should be someone who can forcefully push back against the GOP, and carry a message that candidates across the country can join in on. While there are instances where relying on candidates is kind of a thing (Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, for instance), the passage of ballot measures that basically make up our Party Platform should be a lesson - run on pay equity, minimum wage increases, sick and safe leave minimums, worker rights, etc. 

Locally, we should be doing the same thing. I recently signed on to a letter calling for a serious conversation and in support of a contested State Party Chair race in Washington. I did this because we continue to see failures in legislative races in Washington, and a lack of strategy between elections to build the Party and build a bench. If our current leadership is not up to the task of changing what is clearly not working, then it's time for new leadership. 

To me, that looks like having paid area organizers year round. Working with LD organizations and people who are interested in being more active in the Party, this is an easy way to keep our base active and engaged in a productive way at all times. This also means more ability to play in local elections - city councils and school boards - that create the bench for legislative races. 

It also means working with ally organizations and legislative caucus groups on a statewide message that our candidates run on. At the same time, being more active and engaged in messaging at all times. We see the GOP Chair in the news all the time, but rarely the Democratic Party Chair. And yes - the GOP Chair makes little sense, but exposure is a good thing, and a way to help build our candidates. 

Further, taking a stance on the issue that causes a fight every four years - the caucus. I'm on record as a supporter of the caucus system, but I also understand the frustration of Democrats who aren't comfortable going to participate in an arcane process. I'm also on record willing to compromise to keep caucuses for delegate selection, and do so with allocation based on primary results. 

Even more locally, there are LD and County Party re-organizations coming up. As Chair of the King County Young Democrats, I like to think I understand a thing or two about operations of a Party organization. (It also helps I've been on the Board of the 43rd District Democrats, and was Endorsements Committee chair of the County Democratic Party for two years). With the new infusion of activists - either due to Sanders, or in response to Trump - we are already seeing a lot of contested races. That's not necessarily a bad thing. 

But I do have a word of caution - be wary of over-committing yourself. And also be wary of the "throw out the bums" mentality that some might have. Because at the local level, not everyone we think is a bum is a bum. 

Success or failure of a local Party organization has a little bit to do with the Chair, but mostly has to do with the team. Each organization has a different structure, but generally includes someone to focus on fundraising, someone to focus on membership and PCO recruitment, someone to focus on communications, and someone to focus on tech. Plus - representatives to superior Party organizations (ie: each LD has two reps to the State Party and two reps to the County Party. The County Party has two reps to the State Party.)

I've been asked to run for King County Democratic Central Committee Chair and/or State Committee Member - Male. I'm not going to do either at the County level. There is no doubt that I don't get along well with the current leadership - I find them to be incompetent at times (how people don't understand their own endorsement processes and rules is beyond me), and slow to respond to racist remarks from executive board members. Plus, of course, the former First Vice Chair advocating for an island to ship folks experiencing homelessness off to, and what I believe was a weak response (plus the County Party arguing with me over Twitter that it was somehow my fault for pointing out this person's position that they ended up in the cross-hairs). 

But I think there have been meaningful steps to get better. While I still question the judgment of Chair Rich Erwin in who he picks as some of his closer advisers, I also recognize how he has grown in the position, and has continued to work to improve a broken system. His second year was miles ahead of his first, and with the right team, I believe he can be even more successful if he is re-elected - but that also comes with a duty to start putting more new folks into committee positions that matter. This is not an endorsement, but an acknowledgment - it's easy to ignore your critics, and it is easy to criticize. Rich has worked to recognize and grow from criticisms lobbed in his direction. 

My biggest differences with Rich (and probably anyone running for Chair) is my desire to basically break everything down. No more than four meetings per year, defer most other day-to-day operations to committees (with a budget approved by the full executive board), and focus on rebuilding trust with partner organizations and become a trusted place to contribute in order to influence local elections. Bickering over Roberts' Rules of Order, resolutions that go nowhere, or process doesn't help elect Democrats, after all. 

I'm looking forward to re-org for the County Party. And I encourage folks to learn more about the options, and talk with their friends who are PCOs and who have a vote to do just that. If you have an idea or something you want to know more about that might get you more involved - reach out to the candidates running. 

This is important because we will have legislative races next year that need your help. A sustained opposition to the incoming administration requires work at all levels, and to keep a safe place in Washington, we need to take back the Legislature and win more down-ballot races in 2017. 

And if you are just getting involved - don't take on so much you might burn out. We need you in 2017, 2018, 2019, and beyond. There's a lot of work to do in the coming years, and a healthy mix of the folks who have been successfully doing that work, along with new folks (and the old folks have to be welcoming to the new folks), is going to be vital to fixing systemic issues with our Party.