Monthly Archives: October 2017

General Election Endorsements 2017: A Radical Opportunity

In the battle for Seattle’s future, the radicals might just win.

After this year’s general election on Tuesday, November 7, two important things will be certain about Seattle government:

1) Seattle will have elected a new mayor.

2) Seattle will have the most progressive elected city council in its modern history.

Mostly due to the endless circus surrounding Seattle’s last elected mayor, the actual races in this year’s local election have had remarkably little buzz in the general public. Media coverage has been muted. Until very recently, visible reminders of an election such as direct mail, TV and cable ads, and yard signs have been bizarrely few in number.

Don’t let this fool you into not caring. A lot is at stake. Two pivotal contests will determine just how progressive our local government becomes. The mayor’s race features two wealthy white Democratic women: former prosecutor and US attorney Jenny Durkan and civic planner and activist Cary Moon. The citywide “at large” council position #8 features two grass roots activists, former Tenants Union director Jon Grant and labor organizer Teresa Mosqueda. Both are significantly more progressive than retiring councilman (and interim mayor) Tim Burgess, who held that seat for over a decade.

In both races, the candidates’ similarities mask important differences – and in both those and other, less well-publicized campaigns for city council, Port of Seattle Commission, Seattle School Board, and the state legislature, there is a collective opportunity for not just reform but radical change that Seattle hasn’t seen in anyone’s memory.

This opportunity may not last. Two years from now, in 2019, all seven district city council seats will be up for grabs. With the huge influx of new, often relatively young and affluent residents voting then, Seattle’s progressive gains of recent years could be reversed. Or, if those gains are built upon with a strong commitment to democracy and to economic, social, racial, and environmental justice, they could be the new normal which Seattle’s new residents cement into place for a generation. How the host of problems that have been worsened by Seattle’s extreme growth are addressed in the next two years will determine not just Seattle’s future, but the lives of people struggling to still call Seattle home right now.

So vote, dammit. And, remember the caveats I’ve added in each election for the 22 (!) years I’ve been doing this: what follows is just my opinion. Take it for what it’s worth, which is, well, one opinion. Do your own research. And don’t think for a second the job of changing the world, or even our city, will be over when you do. Social change comes from below. Voting becomes most powerful when people have already organized, not when we rely solely on the people we elect to act on our behalf.. Get out and make yourself heard all of the time, not just by mailing in a piece of paper.

As for which names to fill in the bubbles for…


Washington State Senate #45: Manka Dhingra
King County Executive: Dow Constantine
King County Sheriff: Mitzi Johanknecht
Port of Seattle #1: Ryan Calkins
Port of Seattle #3: Ahmed Abdi
Port of Seattle #4: Preeti Shridhar
City of Seattle Mayor: Cary Moon
City of Seattle City Attorney: Pete Holmes
City of Seattle City Council #8: Jon Grant
City of Seattle City Council #9: skip it
Seattle School District Director #4: Eden Mack
Seattle School District Director #5: Zachary Pullin DeWolf
Seattle School District Director #7: Betty Patu
Court of Appeals, Division #1, District #1, Position #2: Michael Spearman
Advisory Votes 16, 17, & 18: Maintained
King County Proposition 1: Approved


State Senate, District 45 For years, Olympia has been gridlocked – not least on budgets and education funding – by Republican control of the state senate. That could change with this election, for two reasons. One is Donald Trump. The other is a special election in this suburban Eastside district.

Republicans currently have a one-seat majority in the state senate – but this traditionally Republican-leaning district (which stretches from Kirkland to Duvall) isn’t what it was ten years ago, and in this special election to replace the late Andy Hill, the Democrats have a real shot at winning. Control of the state senate is at stake, which is why over $3 million, mostly from outside the district, has poured into the race.

Whatever you think of Democrats, giving them full control of Olympia (they already control the House of Represenatives and the governorship) would, at best, get things moving in a much less reactionary and constipated way. At worst, it removes the excuses of some of Seattle’s state legislative deadwood. It also makes far more achievable the state action that’s necessary for important local goals from better transit funding to progressive tax reform to rent control.

This is a big deal. Even if you don’t live in the district, you can still volunteer or donate to the campaign of Democrat Manka Dhingra.

King County Executive: Dow Constantine wants to be your next governor, following the path of former King County Executive Gary Locke. State Attorney General Bob Ferguson also wants to be your next governor, following the path of former AG Christine Gregoire. (Jay Inslee took the third common route, via Congress.)

Ferguson has been busy for the last couple of years making headlines by taking on well-chosen liberal bete noires like Donald Trump, Tim Eyman, and Comcast. Constantine has kept a lower profile, but he’s up for re-election this year. It’s a measure of his power and the quality of his performance as County Executive that he’s drawn no serious opposition. In the primary, permanent wack candidates Stan Lippman and Goodspaceguy lost out to a new wack candidate: Bill Hurt, a retired Boeing engineer who admits up front that “My candidacy’s an attempt to attract attention to my blog.” That blog is solely dedicated to trying to stop the eastern expansion of light rail, and the Seattle-based Scary Brown People who might then ride it. The Republican Party, which not long ago fielded competitive candidates for this position, didn’t even bother this year. He’s had his flaws (c.f. youth jail), but in general Constantine’s done a good job, and for all practical purposes he’s running unopposed. Dow Constantine.

King County Sheriff: Incumbent John Urquhart has had his own sexual assault scandal this year, along with accusations of gender discrimination, reprisals against whistleblowing subordinates, and suppressing internal investigations of accusations against him.

I’ve been a fan of Urquhart for years, dating back to when, as the media liaison for KCSO, he was a rare straight shooter willing to criticize his own when appropriate. He brought that attitude – at least publicly – to the sheriff’s office when he was elected as a reform candidate in 2012. In that role, he’s generally been a breath of fresh air compared to the cops-vs.-the-world cronyism of his predecessors, Sue Rahr and the execrable Dave “Goodhair” Reichert.

Prosecutors declined to pursue a rape allegation against Urquhart due to lack of evidence and an expired statute of limitations. Word on the street has been that at least some of the other accusations against Urquhart have been unfounded. But it’s likely that some aren’t. And it really doesn’t matter now, because they’ve reached critical mass. In the five years since Urquhart was first elected, it’s a new world, thanks especially to Bill Cosby, Donald Trump, and now Harvey Weinstein. One of the most important jobs of anyone leading a law enforcement agency is to build and maintain community trust. Urquhart originally won election on that basis, but he can no longer credibly be trusted. There’s just too many suspicions, and too much damage.

That leaves Urquhart’s challenger, Mitzi Johanknecht. Just because Johanknecht is a woman doesn’t mean she’s an improvement. (One need only go back five years, to Rahr’s reign as Sheriff, for a counter-example.) And Johanknecht’s positions on some issues, like her opposition to safe injection sites, are troubling. But she’s decent on other things (immigrant and gay rights, restorative justice), and unproven on KCSO’s long history of, er, “issues” with excessive use of force against non-whites. At minimum, she has a chance to be a leader in improving KCSO’s relationship with the increasingly diverse communities it sserves. Urquhart, at best, has squandered that chance. At worst, he should be nowhere near any position of power. Mitzi Johanknecht.

Port of Seattle: Commissioner, Position 1: For literally decades, the Port of Seattle has been one of the most corrupt and insular public agencies in the state. With its own, independent taxing authority, the Port has long been run as an obedient subsidiary of the industries it does business with: cargo companies, airport vendors, and (more recently) the cruise ship industry. Senior staff, immune to public oversight, have been part of the problem. A succession of CEOs arrive, fit right in with the culture, and make bank until they leave, usually under the cloud of scandal. And for far too long, the Port of Seattle Commission – the one piece of this cozy arrangement that is in theory directly accountable to the public – has also been dominated by interests that at best are only too happy to go with the flow. Port Commissioners get paid poorly for what is supposed to be a part-time job – so, as with Seattle’s school board, it usually attracts candidates who are either independently wealthy or who have a vested interest in goosing the profitability of one of the Port’s customers. Or both.

It’s impossible to understand Port Commissioner races without this essential context. As such, with the exception of occasional reform-minded people who sneak onto the commission, it’s impossible to give the benefit of the doubt to almost any incumbent in a Port race. If you’re not part of the solution at the Port, you’re very definitely Part of the Problem. And with three Port Commission seats up for election this year – one of them open, the other two with POTP incumbents – and with environmentalist Fred Felleman having been elected to a four-year term in 2015, in theory the Commission could get a rare reform majority this year.

In Position 1, the incumbent is John Creighton. He’s by all accounts a nice guy, who has traded on business connections and a wealthy family to win three terms on the Port Commission. His record during that time isn’t terrible…but he’s seeking a fourth term as already the longest-serving member of the commission, and a former commission president. He claims to want greater accountability at the Port – but in a dozen years, there’s little or no evidence he’s made that a priority. It’s time for fresh blood.

An unusual number of primary voters seemed to understand this. Despite his huge advantages in money and name recognition, Creighton won his primary by less than 4,000 votes (out of about 381,000 cast) over challenger Ryan Calkins. And that was the primary – which skews more affluent, more conservative, older, and whiter than the larger November electorate. That primary electorate was Creighton’s wheelhouse. This time, when it counts, Calkins has a strong chance to win.

That’s a good thing. Calkins has a good mix of economic and trade understanding, nonprofit and union experience, progressive values, and a commitment to transparency that would be a clear upgrade over John Creighton. Can he make that mix work to help reform the port commission? Let’s find out. Ryan Calkins.

Port of Seattle: Commissioner, Position 3: Here, the incumbent is Stephanie Bowman. She’s…adequate. At best. But like Creighton, she’s shown little inclination to interfere with business as usual at the Port. Her challenger, Ahmed Abdi, is the real deal: a Somali immigrant with not just an inspiring life story, but a community organizer for immigrants and economic justice. He’s got good priorities, calling out the Port for its opposition to paying workers a livable wage and for its notorious invitation to Shell Oil two summers ago (which Bowman supported). And an immigrant, non-white voice on the Port Commission would itself be a breath of fresh air. Ahmed Abdi.

Port of Seattle: Commissioner, Position 4: This is the one open seat race, made notable by the surprise candidacy of Seattle City Council veteran Peter Steinbrueck.

Like anyone else who’s been around local politics for a while, I know and like Peter. For a decade, from 1997-2007, he and Nick Licata were often the lonely progressive voices on a council that was far more corporatized than today’s (and that helped lay the groundwork for our current homelessness and housing crises). Four years ago, he ran an unfortunate campaign for mayor that never really took off due to the odd combination of Peter and establishment consultant Cathy Allen. His record on council wasn’t perfect. But he’s still a really good guy, and a civic treasure.

And he’s not the best candidate for this job.

Honestly, I don’t know why Peter is running. Both professionally (he’s a well-regarded architect and urban planner) and on council, he hasn’t shown any obvious past interest in the Port of Seattle. The port commission doesn’t pass laws; his budget and oversight experience would translate, but only if he were more familiar with the Port itself. What Steinbrueck has done is work as a lobbyist for the Port – and as such, his campaign has attracted the extensive financial support of a lot of the Port stakeholders least interested in cleaning house.

Steinbrueck is the marquee candidate, but his challenger actually inspires more confidence when it comes to public accountability, transparency, and change. Preeti Shridhar has been an administrator in the city governments of Renton and Seattle, focusing largely on environmental and diversity issues. She’s a better fit for a Port (and port workforce) that looks nothing like it did when Steinbreck was first elected to public office 20 years ago. Between her, Calkins, Abdi, and Felleman, King County has the best chance it’s had in decades to transform the Port of Seattle from a nest of corruption and cronyism into an agency that truly serves all of us in this region. Preeti Shridhar.

City of Seattle: Mayor: The fourth Seattle mayor this year – and sixth in the last eight years – potentially can be the first not just to be female, but to not be a puppet of the developers and other local royalty (*cough AMAZON cough*) who’ve been running our city of late. But only if that mayor is named Cary Moon.

The other candidate, Jenny Durkan, is herself local royalty in good standing: a former U.S. Attorney for Western Washington, backed by a family of wealthy movers and shakers closely tied to real estate interests. Durkan talks a good game on a variety of social justice issues, including housing, homelessness, police oversight, diversity, and more.

At the end of the day, though, Durkan is simply Ed Murray’s second term minus the creep factor. Durkan was the last of the primary’s 21 (!) candidates to announce, jumping into the race only once her friend Ed had withdrawn. She’s relied heavily on Murray’s donors (and even some of his political staff), as well as her own family’s money and connections, for what instantly became the business community’s campaign of choice.

Since she has no public office record of her own to cite, we can only go by her close ties to the local law enforcement and justice system and her financial backers to judge how much her progressive campaign rhetoric really means. At a guess, it’s likely to mean that if you did well under Murray, you’ll still do well with Durkan. If our city’s serious issues with affordability, inadequate infrastructure, rampant cronyism, and demographic upheaval are bothering you now, it’s not going to get much better under Durkan – and could get a lot worse. And honestly, the last three elected mayors in this city have all eventually fallen because, quite simply, they were bullies. Just because Durkan is a woman doesn’t exempt her from being bully #4. She has that vibe.

Moon does not. People who’ve worked with her on activist campaigns praise her ability to take charge, but also to listen respectfully to a variety of perspectives – and incorporate them. That’s leadership, and it’s an even better thing in a big city mayor when that leadership is not filtered through an ego the size of Texas. Durkan has drawn some support from people concerned about Moon’s lack of formal leadership experience – but the leadership style Moon has shown, especially during this campaign, is far better suited than Durkan’s to embracing the fresh approaches Seattle needs.

More importantly, Moon doesn’t owe an of the usual suspects. She’s been willing during the campaign to think outside the box on a number of critical issues, most notably by aggressively taking on the foreign real estate speculation racket that’s been enriching a lot of local developers – and helping to drive up local housing costs – since British Columbia imposed a tax on such speculation. Moon wants a similar tax here – and much, much more investment in affordable public housing not subject to market forces. That housing would be paid for by taxes on corporations and capital gains.

These are radical solutions, suitable for a city that has yet to even remotely come to grips with the sheer amount of wealth now in its midst. To make our city affordable for all, and to help it catch up for what was already a decade-long backlog in infrastructure work even before this decade’s population explosion, requires that our wealthier companies and residents be pulling their fair financial share, rather than simply counting corporate welfare from the city as yet another income stream.

Most importantly, the scale of solutions needed to meet challenges like housing, homelessness, transportation, utilities and other infrastructure, economic inequality, a still-troubled police department, the accelerating local impacts of climate change – and far more – require collaboration and crowdsourced solutions. On many issues, Seattle’s city council is about to have a consistent majority (see below) that will also be able to take on civic leaders who still think Seattle’s shining moment was hosting the World’s Fair. And that council will also be much, much more responsive than ever before to grass roots organizing.

Kshama Sawant’s election in 2013, and the activist army that has helped her win battles from minimum wage to rental reforms to money for public housing, has been joined by the overlapping but more diverse People’s Party army mobilized by Nikkita Oliver’s mayoral campaign. Interim council member (and People’s Party activist) Kirsten Harris-Talley collaborated with Mike O’Brien (who also endorsed Oliver over his old Sierra Club colleague Mike McGinn) in much the same way Sawant tag-teamed last year with Licata protege Lisa Herbold on housing funding increases – and if Jon Grant wins that seat, those alliances likely hold up. An active, insistent grass roots presence promises to be able to pressure at least one of the remaining five council members on any of a variety of issues. If Moon is in place as mayor, appointing department heads, proposing her own solutions, and signing off on council’s, it’s suddenly possible to imagine a very different and much more radically oriented city government.

There’s no guarantee, but it’s easy to imagine Cary Moon playing her part in that scenario. It’s impossible to imagine Durkan being that collaborative, much less that willing to take on local monied interests.

Some progressive supporters of other candidates in the primary have been inclined to dismiss this race as “two wealthy white women.” It’s true that they share those characteristics. They also both have opposable thumbs, own kitchen appliances, and (I hope) use their library cards. But in both their approaches to leadership and their actual policy positions, they’re very different. And those differences matter. We have an opportunity that almost never comes along in a major American city, but only if Cary Moon wins.

City of Seattle: City Attorney: Pete Holmes first won this office in 2009 with the then-radical notion (at least in white Seattle) that SPD had major problems and needed a lot more public accountability. In the years since, he’s largely followed through on that promise. He was also a strong line of defense against the worst of Ed Murray’s power grabs. His record hasn’t been perfect, but it’s been good far more often than not.

His opponent is a fallen angel who goes by many names, among them Beelzebub, Satan, and the Prince of Darkness. He is listed on the ballot as “Scott Lindsay.”

Normally, a sitting city attorney doesn’t draw a well-funded opponent, but the original logic behind Lindsay’s campaign was to win so that Murray, after his then-inevitable re-election, would have a reliable ally in the city attorney’s office. For the last four years, Lindsay worked as a public safety advisor to Murray – meaning not only that he was a key player in Murray’s efforts to thwart meaningful SPD reform, but that he also oversaw Murray’s sweeps of homeless encampments.

Those sweeps – extensive, frequently capricious, and often unlawful – regularly resulted in the city stealing whatever few essential possessions our city’s most vulnerable residents could carry with them, and dumping them in landfills. In that capacity alone, Lindsay destroyed lives. On the campaign trail, he has seemed to think this somehow recommends him.

How can you tell someone to go to Hell when he’s already Hell’s landlord? Pete Holmes needs to be kept. Scott Lindsay needs to be swept. Pete Holmes.

City of Seattle: City Council, Position 8: As with the mayor’s race,, superficially, the candidates in this key open seat race have a lot in common as progressive organizers. Both are good but have significant flaws. One of them is guaranteed to replace retiring ex-cop Tim Burgess, moving our city council even farther to the left.

Teresa Mosqueda is a labor executive and former organizer who authored last year’s successful statewide minimum wage initiative, and who (not surprisingly) has the strong backing of local labor. She’s run an aggressive, well-funded, well-organized campaign that owes a lot to the past campaigns of Pramila Jayapal. But as with Jayapal, I have my doubts.

In a city where labor unions have happily lined up behind the construction jobs that come with letting developers run the town, being a labor leader isn’t the good thing it should be on housing affordability issues. On arguably the single most important issue facing our city, Mosqueda appears to be little more than an establishment hack, happy to let newly built, expensive market-rate housing dominate our landscape. That’s too bad. She has a lot of qualities that recommend her, and on council she’d be far from the worst. (That would be Debra Juarez or Rob Johnson.) But it’s hard not to contrast her priorities on housing issues with those of her opponent, Jon Grant.

Grant did surprisingly well when he ran against Burgess, a powerhouse incumbent, two years ago – and he did so by becoming the first candidate for any local office to talk, and talk, and talk some more about the then-quietly exploding issue of rising rents. Last year, he filed to take on Burgess again, probably contributing to Burgess’ decision to retire – and he’s run a more balanced campaign that has forged radical alliances on a number of fronts along the Sawant/Oliver axis.

Grant’s potential flaws are personal. Even in 2015, there were criticisms that as Tenants Union director, he was aloof, arrogant, and eager to take credit for others’ achievements. This year those criticisms have been more widespread and extensive, spread in part by Mosqueda’s surrogates in labor. And those criticisms may well be true. But that doesn’t change the equation I outlined (above) in the mayor’s race. It’s much easier to see Grant responding to grass roots pressure – or leading it – than Mosqueda. And if both he and Moon can win, radicals in Seattle don’t just have friends in high places – they have memberships in winning coalitions.

It’s possible that Jon Grant is not a nice man. It’s more likely, though, that Mosqueda, a smart, personable establishment liberal, would simply continue other such liberals’ past mistakes. Jon Grant.

City of Seattle: City Council, Position 9: Two years ago, Lorena Gonzalez sailed to election in an open seat, largely on the strength of a compelling life story and the connections she made as Mayor Ed Murray’s personal attorney. The concern, as she joined the council, was that she would be a devoted ally for a mayor intent on undermining any council ideas he couldn’t claim credit for.

Instead, Gonzalez has forged a much more independent path. She’s been friendly to business interests in some cases, in others a fierce advocate for the dispossessed. It’s been so strong a performance that when Ed Murray dropped out of the mayor’s race, she could seriously, credibly explore a mayoral run after only two years on council. (She sensibly declined – she’ll have plenty of opportunities, and more experience, in the future – and Jenny Durkan jumped intp the mayor’s race instead.)

Instead, Gonzalez is likely to sail to city coujncil re-election. Her opponent, neighborhood activist and small business owner Pat Murakami, veers between sensible proposals and wild (and often bigoted) innuendo. Small business owners and neighborhoods have both been victimized badly by our city’s civic enthusiasm for big money. They desperately need a strong advocate on council. But Murakami isn’t suitable for the job. At all. Gonzalez, in her time on council, has been only too willing to let developers terraform the University District and South Lake Union with almost no meaningful commitment to affordability. She’s ambitious and beholden, and likely to coast to re-election. It would be nice to lodge a protest vote here, but her opponent is even worse. Skip it.

Seattle School District 1, Director District 4: As mentioned, for decades the Port of Seattle has been the local public agency that is the most corrupt, insular, and contemptuous of the public it serves. And for decades, the Seattle School District has given the Port stiff competition in all of those areas.

Like the port commissioners, Seattle’s school board members are (supposedly) part-time, grossly underpaid, and given wholly inadequate staff support. Like the Port, Seattle School District has had an all-too-frequent succession of chief executives who were cynical manipulators. Like the Port, Seattle Schools are unrelentingly hostile to the people most reliant on them, in this case teachers, support staff, parents, and especially students. Like the Port, Seattle Schools have a serious problem with racial equity – a especially serious issue in a district with a majority of non-white students. Like the port commission, the school board occasionally gets reform-minded members, but more often its overwhelmed board members get led around by the nose by senior staff concerned primarily with protecting their own fiefdoms. Nauseatingly, where the Port glories in its culture of corruption, Seattle Schools justifies every depredation as being “for the kids.” Bullshit.

Like the Port, Seattle Schools needs a thorough culture change. And that starts with its board members. And – just like the Port – this year’s slate of candidates has the potential to help make that happen.

For District 4, Eden Mack is a longtime education activist who has forgotten more education policy than most current board members know. Mack wants to prioritize racial equity. Just as importantly, she has the chops to get that done. Her opponent, Herbert Camet Jr., is a former principal with no clear priorities. He’ll be a trivia question by mid-November. Eden Mack.

Seattle School District 1, Director District 6: Zachary Pullin DeWolf is the clear choice here. A Native American activist, he’s been on the board of both the Seattle Housing Authority and Gender Justice League, and has a long history of fighting for racial and gender equity. He’s what our schools look like, and he’s what our school board should look like. Zachary Pullin DeWolf.

Seattle School District 1, Director District 7: Over the last decade, only one school board member has been consistently fighting, frequently alone, to get the district to improve its long-standing, shameful record of de facto discrimination against its non-white students. Betty Patu is an icon. We need her on the school board for another term. Betty Patu.

Court of Appeals, Division #1, District #1, Position #2 (I know, right?): Incumbent Michael Spearman has been a judge for three decades and has every endorsement that counts. His opponent, Nathan Choi, presumably is running for some compelling reason, but it’s hard to discern from any of his campaign materials or statements what that might be. Michael Spearman.


Advisory Votes No. 16, 17 & 18: Only the obsessively diligent need worry about the actual content of these measures, which are the utterly pointless “advisory” votes some idiotic Eyman initiative requires state government to put on the ballot every single time it raises a tax or fee. The legislature then completely ignores the results, which are always “maintained” anyway, largely because so many voters understand that this is a pointless exercise. (For a dude who claims to oppose government waste, Eyman’s initiatives sure waste a fuckuva lotta government money.)

But if you insist on judging the actual merits: #16 is an increase in the cost of commercial fishing licenses, and #17 removes a sales tax exemption for bottled water, reduces an exemption for biofuels, and adds sales taxes to online sales.

#18 is higher profile – this is the legislature’s Faustian bargain with obstructionist Republicans who’d been blocking the court-ordered mandate to adequately fund our state’s public K-12 schools for five fucking years. Finally, with the clock ticking in late June on a state government shutdown, they forced a compromise in which the money was raised by raising property taxes on more valuable properties – most of which are in the commie counties of Puget Sound, the ones that actually give a shit about educating kids.

All of these taxes are regressive AF, but changing the state’s antiquated tax structure is a much larger discussion for another time. For the moment, if we want to fund essential services, the legally available solutions are almost all regressive AF. And this is hardly the place for registering opposition to that, since the legislature would just interpret it (if it cares at all, which it won’t) as a general anti-tax sentiment. Maintained.

King County Proposition No. 1: This is a levy for veterans and social services, yet another in the endless string of city and county ballot measures for special levies to fund things that ought to be basic government functions.

It’s basically a shell game, wherein voters approve stuff it’s hard to argue against, while the more controversial public spending – like all that corporate welfare for developer and real estate interests – gets buried in annual general fund budgets.

Ya know what? The week this ballot got mailed out, our city was busy threatening to sweep homeless vets out of a makeshift encampment near the VA hospital on Beacon Hill. It’s almost like they wanted to remind us, just in time for this vote, that veterans in our society (and city) continue to get treated like crap. But we already knew that. Approved.

[Author’s note: I’m poor, permanently disabled, and dedicated (despite financial and chronic health pressures) to reporting and commentary from and for those of us fighting for our rightful place in a city that has increasingly turned its back on many of us.

If you find my reporting and commentary valuable – and would like to see me spending more time doing this and less time stressing over how I can pay for food, rent, and medical care myself – please consider donating whatever you can to help support my work. The PayPal button is on the lower right on’s home page. Many thanks for your help! – Geov Parrish]

What’s the Magic Number?

Reading the political Interwebz today has been profoundly depressing. It’s exactly the same talking points on all sides, with zero apparent chance anything at all will be done to prevent the next tragedy.

In many ways Barack Obama’s reputation as a humanitarian was… overblown. But increasingly over his two terms, and especially after Orlando last year, he fairly shook with the moral outrage that is the only sane response to these recurring horrors. It was far more sensible than the “thoughts and prayers” pablum coming from Trump and so many other Republicans today, while their political allies blame everything BUT a nation that allows weapons of mass murder to be sold in every strip mall. With such a stalemate, no meaningful political action is likely.

So what would it take for that dynamic to change? By both Nevada law and common sense, this was a terrorist attack. In 2001, a terrorist attack caused a Republican president to launch two trillion-dollar wars and completely.revamp and give more power to America’s domestic surveillance industry. So 3000 dead definitely counts on all sides as a big deal. Apparently a mere 59 dead (and 519 wounded, with both numbers still likely to rise) isn’t enough to count. Neither was 49 dead in Orlando, or 25 dead (20 of them schoolchildren) in Sandy Hook, or 32 dead in Blacksburg. That’s the four deadliest mass shootings in American history, all in the last 10 years. With many more “lesser” outrages along the way. Someone is likely planning the next one right now.

So how many people does some motivated nut job have to kill before the debate shifts? A hundred dead on some crowded downtown street? 500 killed during Monday Night Football? 1000 murdered in Times Square on New Year’s Eve? WHAT’S THE MAGIC NUMBER? I’d like to know, so that when “only” 25 or 49 or 59 die, we can save our outrage for another day when it might matter.

Or maybe it isn’t a number. Maybe the Vegas dead don’t count because what happens in Vegas stays there. And the 49 in Orlando didn’t count because they were queers, and the kids in Sandy Hook were too young to vote, and the terrorists responsible were all “just” Regular Guys With Issues, and none of them brought down iconic buildings in a global financial center. (Just like some hurricane victims are more important than other, less white ones.)

I hope not. I hope it’s just a magic number. Whatever it is, I want to know when this country will join the civilized world in getting serious about controlling the ownership of weapons of mass murder. Because the dead themselves really don’t care about these kinds of distinctions.