Real Change’s Editorial Committee is a group of tireless advisors to the newsroom who critique each issue of the paper and suggest story ideas to our editorial staff. The committee includes volunteers, former and current vendors, and some who have experienced homelessness. At least one member attends weekly news meetings when the editorial department plans the upcoming issue. Their names are listed on the masthead (left).
Before elections, the committee makes endorsements on ballot initiatives. Nonprofits are legally allowed to endorse ballot measures, but not candidates.
This year, the Editorial Committee came up with these endorsements of three items on your November ballot. The group met twice, earlier this month, to discuss each item in detail, and members were asked how they thought you should vote.
A note about these three measures: Each ballot item the committee selected this year is a property tax. While it endorsed these measures, it noted that property taxes are regressive, meaning the taxes are harder on low-income people than they are on wealthier people. While many appreciated the work these initiatives may do, the members look forward to the opportunity to create a fairer taxation system to fund our community’s services.
— Aaron Burkhalter
Proposition 122 is a number of efforts to reform the electoral system in Seattle for the mayor, Seattle City Council and City Attorney positions. It’s a response to Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, in which the Supreme Court determined that money is speech. The rule requires that initiative signature gatherers wear signs if they are paid and bars organizations with city contracts totaling $250,000 or more from contributing to campaigns, among other new rules. If passed, it would also cap individual donations to candidates to $500, down from $700.
The cornerstone of this legislation is a new mechanism for funding candidates called “democracy vouchers,” which would provide each voter with vouchers valued at $25 each. Voters divide them among city candidates however they choose, giving all four to one or one each to four separate candidates who can redeem them for cash for their campaign. The effort is paid for with a property tax that will cost someone with property valued at $400,000 about $8 per year. The program is voluntary. Candidates who participate can continue to raise money, but must agree to lower caps on individual donations and total campaign spending. For example, a district city council candidate could receive no more than $250 from each individual (the current limit is $700) and could raise no more than $150,000.
The committee endorses a “yes” vote for this, as it gives people a chance to participate in the campaign process, allowing even voters who can’t afford to donate to a candidate the opportunity to provide up to $100 in donations.
However, some elements of the proposal concerned the committee. It taxes everyone to donate to candidates, which means their tax dollars could support candidates they oppose.
Also, as one committee member put it, it’s an affirmation of Citizens United in its own way.
“It is saying that money is free speech, that by choosing where your money goes, you’re choosing who’s going to be able to talk the most.”
But given the limitations Citizens United has placed on campaign finance reform, the committee endorsed a yes vote as this will improve the existing system.
Best Starts For Kids
Proposition 1 (King County)
Best Starts for Kids is a property tax that will raise nearly $400 million over six years to pay for early childhood supports to prevent people from needing stronger and more expensive interventions later. In short, the idea is that if the county invests in a child as a baby, perhaps it won’t become homeless later. It is a property tax that will cost the owner of a $400,000 property about $56 per year.
The funding will pay for youth and family homelessness programs, for support for expectant mothers, children and young adults up to age 24, and for community-wide social service strategies and data, and evaluation.
The committee supported the measure, noting that the Washington State Legislature has failed to provide adequate social services. As one committee member said: “It is a state responsibility, but if they abdicate that, we still have to take care of our own.”
The committee also appreciated that the proposal was based in research.
University of Washington and others have found that early investments in public health and social services can have life-long benefits and ultimately save the community money when later interventions are not necessary.
Let’s Move Seattle
Proposition 1 (Seattle)
Proposition 1 is a property tax that will generate $930 million over nine years. It replaces Seattle’s previous transportation levy and will cost the owner of a $400,000 property about $248 per year.
The tax will pay for a variety of transportation improvements, including seismic upgrades for bridges, light rail access projects, street maintenance and, most important to the committee, expansion of Rapid Ride bus services in several transit corridors across the city.
Some committee members were worried that the proposal did not have enough specific information about the projects and shared the concern expressed by the League of Women Voters earlier. But they ultimately voted in favor.
One committee member noted: “Yes, if this does fail, they can come back again, but they have to come back with less money to make it pass.”
The transportation improvements are needed and will make a difference, particularly for low-income people who rely on public transit.