Check out what and who you need to know to make your best decision.
In the next few pages, we’ll cover what’s going on politically at the CITY, STATE, and FEDERAL levels. We give you the info and you make the decision. Don’t forget to vote or register to vote with your county. For King County, go to: www.kingcounty.gov/elections/registration. People not currently registered in the State of Washington have until October 29, 2012.
CITY: HOT TOPICS
Closing of the Social Security Administration Office
The Social Security Administration offices in downtown Seattle and the International District each served about 150 people per day. But the SSA said consolidating the two saves money. Community leaders counter that doing so risks harming many people who rely on Social Security benefits. As of June 12, the new SSA office sits inside the Jackson Federal Building, a Level IV security building with metal detectors, where those entering are required to show state or federal picture identification and have their bags searched. Community advocates argue that the high-security building adds an extra barrier to disabled or mentally ill clients who do not have the resources to access lower-security offices in Kent, Burien, Bellevue and North Seattle.
SPD Use of Force
On July 28, the Seattle Police Department agreed to a series of reforms after the Justice Department alleged that officers in the city routinely used excessive force during even minor arrests, especially against minorities, reports the Associated Press.
A federal monitor will oversee the changes, which reach “into almost every aspect of how police officers interact with citizens, from casual contact to the use of deadly force,” in the words of the Seattle Times. Police officers also will have to file a use-of-force report when they point a gun at someone, something the department did not require in the past. The agreement calls for officers to look for ways to de-escalate confrontations and, within safe bounds, decrease their use of force.
High-profile incidents in recent years, including physical assaults on unarmed citizens has widened the gap and trust between the SPD and communities of color.
Under-Representation of APIs as Elected Officials, in Upper Management Roles and Within
the Seattle School District
More opportunities need to be granted to Asian Americans to pursue leadership roles in the private and public sector. As the fastest-growing ethnic group, a similar representation at influential levels of leadership should be made available.
Opinions from small businesses regarding the light rail along the MLK Jr. Way have been mixed. Some small businesses feel their sacrifices during construction haven’t generated more business since its completion. Transportation officials believe they’ve made public transportation accessible to communities that need it. The proposal to construct a light rail line through the International District’s 8th Street where a community clinic, a community center, a library, and education agency are located is deemed by neighborhood activists as a poorly planned idea and insensitive to the needs of those who visit the area for services. Transportation officials believe the route is the most efficient connection to the Charles Street Maintenance Facility.
The Redevelopment of Yesler Terrace, Impact on Little Saigon
The Seattle Housing Authority (SHA) plans to replace the aging housing buildings to construct a large, mixed-use development. The Little Saigon business district is located adjacent to the proposed site and neighborhood activists worry the development will raise living costs and rents in the area, and push out small ethnic businesses as the area “gentrifies” with a new development. Another concern is the development design, with its “high-rise style,” will diminish the cultural character of Little Saigon, a place that serves as the only cultural homebase for local Vietnamese Americans. SHA said it has conducted community forums and sought support for the development from the community.
This is a long-time issue for low-income and communities of color in Seattle. The Central District, Rainier Beach, White Center, and the International District have all sought to not only address its public safety issues, but change the perception that public safety issues are all those neighborhoods have to offer. Rainier Beach conducted a recent Art Walk, educating neighborhood stakeholders on the diverse identity of the area and its vibrant business district. Public safety programs within the C/ID work to empower its youth, elders, and businesses to be active in its neighborhood public safety concerns.
Parking Space and Fees
It’s pricey out there. In a recent article in the IE, we report that the parking rates in Seattle neighborhoods vary due to a population density-based formula developed by the City. However, the parking fees don’t take into consideration the socio-economic status of neighborhood residents, employees, the dependency of small businesses on street parking, and its proximity to two (soon to be three) stadiums.
On Oct. 2, the Metropolitan King County Council reviewed the City’s revised proposal for a new sports arena in Seattle and is likely to vote on the deal this month. Joe McDermott, chair of the budget committee, said Oct. 15 would be the earliest the full council would vote on the proposal to build a $490 million arena in the SoDo for an NBA team, and possibly an NHL team. The council members raised three concerns. McDermott wants transportation improvements in Sodo to include pedestrian access, particularly to the light rail stations. Julia Patterson wants to make sure the deal does not put arena-related transportation improvements ahead of those that have long been waiting in line when it comes to the city or county seeking federal or state funds. And several council members wanted to know if alternative sites outside Seattle would be studied as part of the project’s environmental review.
The stadium will have an impact on nearby neighborhoods, such as the ID and Pioneer Square: more traffic congestion, pollution, pedestrians bypassing ID restaurants for pubs, and unavailable parking for neighborhood patrons. Mitigation funds are under consideration to off-set adverse effects.
The City’s 2013-2014 Proposed Budget
On Sept. 24, Mayor Mike McGinn announced his 2013-2014 budget. Included were funds to hire more police officers, investments in high-capacity transit, more open hours for community centers, new investments in child care and family homelessness services, an increase in funding for human services providers to cover the costs of inflation, funding for a new Outreach and Engagement Team in the Seattle Police Department that will offer access to services and interventions for people in mental health crisis and other at-risk populations in downtown neighborhoods, $2.5 million for early learning, preschool, and K-Transition programs, over $1.2 million in Seattle’s Safe Routes to School and Neighborhood Greenways programs to help kids get to school safely, and $516,877 in support for immigrant and refugee families.
CITY: WHAT PEOPLE ARE TALKING ABOUT
“Locally, I know that OCA-Greater Seattle is concerned with the closing of the Social Security Administration office in Chinatown/ID.”
– Connie So,
a senior lecturer of American Ethnic Studies at UW
I think the economy is definitely a key issue in this election. With many small businesses in the community impacted by the sluggish economy, the question of which local, state, and federal policy direction will get us to more robust growth is central.”
– Quang Nguyen,
senior economic development specialist at SCIDpda.
CITY: KEY PEOPLE
Mayor Mike McGinn
McGinn won his mayoral seat in November 2009 and is most known for his support of replacing the Alaskan Way Viaduct with a surface street instead of the planned tunnel; and reducing car ridership and increasing bicycling, walking, and public transportation.
Seattle Department of Transportation Director Peter Hahn
Hahn, who headed Snohomish County’s public works department from 1992 to 2006, took on the job in early 2010.
Seattle Police Chief John Diaz
Chief Diaz is a 30+ year SPD veteran, sworn into office as the police chief by Mayor McGinn in August 2010. Before this, Diaz served as Deputy Chief overseeing the Operations Bureau, one of the department’s two main bureaus.
Seattle Public Schools Superintendent Jose Banda
Banda was appointed Superintendent of Seattle Public Schools in May 2012. He spent the past four years as Superintendent of the 20,000-student Anaheim City School District. Banda is fluent in Spanish and holds a Bachelor of Arts from California State University in Bakersfield and a master’s in Educational Leadership from Chapman University.
Seattle Housing Authority Director Andrew Lofton
Lofton is a former Deputy Executive Director of the Seattle Housing Authority, and became the agency’s Executive Director in September 2012.
A hedge-fund manager and stadium buyer.
The Seattle City Council and King County Metropolitan Council
The city and county legislative arms.
STATE: HOT TOPICS
Education and Tuition Increases
The average tuition and fees for an in-state student is $9,484 in the 2011-12 school year. That’s an increase of 15.7 percent from a year prior and 67.3 percent from five years prior.
Unlike most states, Washington doesn’t have an individual income tax; instead, it relies on sales taxes for much of its revenue. Income from that source slumped during the recession, so to make up for the shortfall, the state allowed public universities to raise tuition. Six years ago, it cost roughly $5,700 on average for an in-state student to attend a public college in Washington. Today, it averages around $10,000.
In June, the University of Washington announced a 16 percent increase in tuition and fees for the upcoming year, following a 20 percent increase last year. The state is covering just 30 percent of the cost.
Funding for Human Services (including culturally-competent services), Immigrant and Refugee Programs and Medicaid
State budget cuts over recent years have forced service agencies across the state to eliminate vital “safety-net” programs in human services. For the API community with a large immigrant and refugee population, this has been particularly damaging for agencies and the people it serves. Culturally competent health and mental services, citizenship programs, and translator services to name a few have been at risk.
The Romney/Ryan ticket has proposed a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, if they win their bid for the White House. In their proposal, federal support for health care coverage for low-income citizens would be scaled back, Medicaid growth would be cut in half, and the funding stream turned into block grants. Community advocates believe such measures would disproportionately affect communities of color and low-income people due to how each state would implement Medicaid, under their proposal.
Funding and Reform For K-12
According to Funding Washington Schools (FWS), Washington State can’t fund school districts at the level required to meet modern state standards and laws. Declining funding and increasing costs have led school districts to a tipping point. School districts are not adequately educating all students as required by law, and according to FWS, school districts are often funded through inconsistent, illogical and inflexible laws and policies.
The 2012 Governor’s Race
It’s a head to head match between Democratic Jay Inslee and Republican Rob McKenna. In the August primary races to reveal the state’s general election candidates, former Representative Inslee took home 47 percent of the vote compared with State Attorney General McKenna’s 42.9 percent. It is fixed to be one of the closest races in the country.
STATE: ON THE BALLOT
Referendum 74 – Marriage for Same-Sex Couples
Referendum 74 (R-74) is a Washington State referendum to approve or reject the February 2012 bill that would legalize same-sex marriage in the state. On June 12, state officials announced that enough signatures in favor of the referendum had been submitted and scheduled the referendum to appear on the ballot. If the bill is approved, it will take effect December 6, 2012.
Initiative 502 – Legalization of Marijuana
Washington Initiative 502 (I-502) “on marijuana reform” is an initiative to the Washington State Legislature, scheduled to appear on the ballot. As described by the Secretary of State’s office, the measure would “license and regulate marijuana production, distribution, and possession for persons over twenty-one; remove state-law criminal and civil penalties for activities that it authorizes; tax marijuana sales; and earmark marijuana-related revenues.”
Initiative 1240 – Charter Schools
Washington Initiative 1240 (I-1240) concerns creation of a public charter school system and is an initiative scheduled to appear on the ballot. Proposed charter schools would receive public funding but not be governed by local school districts. As described by the Secretary of State’s office, I-1240 “would authorize up to forty publicly-funded charter schools open to all students, operated through approved, nonreligious, nonprofit organizations, with government oversight; and modify certain laws applicable to them as public schools.”
Initiative 1185 – 2/3 Less Majority to Raise Taxes
As described by the Secretary of State’s office, I-1185 “concerns tax and fee increases imposed by state government.” This measure would restate existing statutory requirements that legislative actions raising taxes must be approved by two-thirds legislative majorities or receive voter approval, and that new or increased fees require majority legislative approval.
STATE: WHAT PEOPLE ARE TALKING ABOUT
“I think [Initiative 502: Legalization of Marijuana] would be a really great topic to cover, because it touches on racial disparities in the criminal justice system, ineffectiveness of current drug policy, new sources of revenue for the state, and redirecting limited law enforcement policies. [Also] My husband is and a public school teacher and we both worry about the impact charter schools [I-1240] will have on WA public schools.”
Liezl Rebugio, a community member
“Budget issues, including adequate funding (and revenue generation that is fair to the 99 percent, as well as the wealthiest 1 percent) to ensure health, behavioral health and human services (especially culturally competent and linguistically accessible community based services) for all who need them (including immigrants and refugees) are high on the list [of state issues this election season].”
Diane Narasaki, executive director of the Asian Counseling and Referral Service
“As a proud father of three children, my eldest daughter is a lesbian and has been in a committed relationship with her partner for years. I had the opportunity to walk my daughter down the aisle on her wedding day in Vermont. I would encourage our community to support Governor. Gregoire and the legislature by endorsing Referendum 74 to legalize same-sex marriage in Washington State.”
– Lloyd Hara, King County Assessor
STATE: KEY PEOPLE
Inslee was a Democratic U.S. Representative for Washington’s 1st congressional district from 1999 to 2012. He graduated from Seattle’s Ingraham High School, the University of Washington (Bachelor of Arts, Economics), and Willamette University College of Law.
McKenna is the Republican Attorney General of Washington and was elected in November 2004 for a term beginning in January 2005. He won re-election in November 2008 with over 59 percent statewide. McKenna is an Eagle Scout, was student body president at the University of Washington, and attended the University of Chicago Law School, where he was on the law review.
Local Asian American Political Figures
Rep. Bob Hasegawa, Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos, Seattle City Councilmember Bruce Harrell, King County Assessor Lloyd Hara, Rep. Paull Shin, Rep. Cindy Ryu, Senator Steve Hobbs, Bellevue Mayor Conrad Lee and Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland.
Secretary of State Candidates
Voters in Washington face a choice next month about who to elect to oversee the state’s elections. The position of secretary of state pits two longtime political players who are duking it out on issues from voter registration to citizen initiatives. Up for election is former state Rep. Kathleen Drew (D-Issaquah) and Thurston County Auditor Kim Wyman, a Republican.
Washington has gained its first majority-minority congressional district and Latino majority legislative district. The new 9th congressional district is just over one half minority at 50.3 percent and encompasses Southeast Seattle, Bellevue, North Tacoma and South King County. The final redistricting plan adopted on Jan. 1, 2012 also establishes four majority-minority legislative districts—the 15th in Yakima county and 11th, 33rd and 37th in south King county. A majority-minority congressional district is expected to boost minority political clout regionally.
FEDERAL: HOT TOPICS
After decades of failed attempts by a string of presidents and a year of bitter partisan combat, President Obama signed legislation on March 23, 2010, to overhaul the nation’s health care system and guarantee access to medical insurance for tens of millions of Americans, writes the New York Times.
The Affordable Care Act seeks to extend insurance to more than 30 million people, primarily by expanding Medicaid and providing federal subsidies to help lower-and middle-income Americans buy private coverage. It will create insurance exchanges for those buying individual policies and prohibit insurers from denying coverage on the basis of pre-existing conditions. In June 2012, the Supreme Court largely let stand the health care reform law.
The court’s decision did significantly restrict one major portion of the law: the expansion of Medicaid, the government health-insurance program for low-income and sick people. The ruling gives states some flexibility not to expand their Medicaid programs, without paying the same financial penalties that the law called for.
Abortion has been pushed front and center in the 2012 election after comments from Senate candidate and U.S. Rep. Todd Akin of Missouri that in cases of “legitimate rape” women are able to prevent themselves from getting pregnant. Both Democrats and Republicans have condemned the comments, with some Republicans even calling for Akin to drop out of his race (which he refuses to do).
Democrats, however, are attempting to use Akin’s comments not only against him in Missouri, but as an example of what the Republican Party stands for on a national scale. The latest focus on abortion has renewed accusations that there is a Republican “war on women” and the party does not understand the concerns of women voters, a bloc with the potential to decide the presidential election, reports the U.S. News and World Report.
Republicans say the Democrats are only using the issue to distract from the economy, which until now has been the focus of the election. While some agree abortions are permissible in cases of rape, incest, or when the health of the mother is jeopardized, Republicans stand by their pro-life views.
In this time of economic anxiety, the desire for a quick recovery can distract us from other issues crucial to society’s long-term well-being. There’s little conversation between the presidential nominees regarding the resulting effects economic policies will have on the environment.
According to the New York Times: “Mr. Romney is far more apt to talk about oil drilling than energy-efficient cars. He has presented a plan to open up more land and coastline to oil and gas drilling, grant speedy approval to the Keystone Pipeline to transport crude oil from Canada to the United States, end wind and solar power subsidies and curb regulations that discourage burning coal for electricity.”
President Obama is navigating between almost mutually exclusive political priorities: the anti-drilling demands of environmentalists and the need for more affordable gasoline and support for building the Keystone Pipeline. The Pipeline would transport Canadian oil through the nation’s heartland to the Gulf of Mexico. Unions, business owners and drivers are in support of this pipeline construction as it’ll add jobs.
The New York Times writes, “The result is a president who talks forcefully of the benefits of wind and solar power while also boasting about the amount of oil the nation produces under his leadership.”
President Obama and his campaign are aware that this growing frustration over gasoline has the potential to complicate an election year. If gas prices keep rising and voter unhappiness continues to build, look for the administration to find a way to accelerate the review process that would allow full construction of the Keystone Pipeline to move forward more quickly.
Immigrant Policies and Reform
From the time of the nation’s founding, immigration has been crucial to the growth of the United States and a periodic source of conflict. In recent decades, the country has experienced another great wave of immigration, the largest since the 1920s. However, for the first time, undocumented immigrants outnumbered documented ones. The number of undocumented immigrants peaked at an estimated 11.9 million in 2008.
In August 2012, the Republican party adopted a party platform on immigration that would require employers nationwide to verify workers’ legal status and deny federal financing to universities that allow undocumented immigrant students to enroll at lower in-state tuition rates. They call for tough border enforcement and oppose “any forms of amnesty” for undocumented immigrants.
By contrast, a new policy put in place by President Obama in June 2012 will allow hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children to obtain work permits and be immune to deportation for two years at a time. It applies to some undocumented immigrants not more than 30 years old who came to the United States before age 16.
According to the New York Times: “There has been no significant movement toward federal immigration reform since a bipartisan effort died in 2007, blocked by conservative opposition. But it has been the subject of a fever of legislation at the state level. It is yet to be seen whether this important issue will play a role in the November presidential campaign.”
The unemployment rate dropped from 8.1 percent in August to 7.8 percent in September, far exceeding expectations. For the first time in Obama’s presidency, unemployment was under 8 percent. Some critics of the numbers, in particular, former boss of General Electric Jack Welch, surmises the numbers were cooked up a month before the presidential election.
The Jobs Bureau said that more jobs had been created than it originally estimated. People with only high school degrees were finding jobs. The number of people who had been out of work for six months or more was at its lowest point in three years. But the country still has a long way to go. It will be interesting to see which presidential candidate has a better plan to lead the country out of the recession.
The Presidential Race
A close presidential race and vastly different points of view on the direction of the country makes it a tough run for the White House in November. Campaign funds are pouring into swing states and towards convincing “undecided’ voters that a certain candidate is their man for the Oval Office.
FEDERAL: WHAT PEOPLE ARE TALKING ABOUT
A tight presidential race
Who is still left out of the Affordable Care Act and if a Republican win will mean a repeal
Voter ID, voter rights, and the seeming effort to marginalize communities of color from voting
Why aren’t the presidential candidates talking about immigration reform?
Gas prices skyrocketing
Finding an independent/domestic source of oil without further harm to the environment
The unemployment rate improving and if it’s a sign of better times
The need to elect or appoint more APIs at the federal level