Tag Archives: King County

King County Elections wants pre-paid postage for mail-in ballots

Judge Judy shakes head rolls eyes

Just a thought: If you can’t figure out how to get a stamp and that’s the only thing that makes it “easier” for you to vote, you probably shouldn’t be voting.

From Seattle Times: King County voters might no longer have to worry about finding stamps for their ballots.

Prepaid postage for the county’s mail-in ballots could happen as soon as the Aug. 7 primary if the King County Metropolitan Council approves a supplemental budget request to fund the change. Adopting the request would cost about $191,000 this year and approximately $250,000 annually, said Julie Wise, King County elections director. The county will not be charged for ballots not mailed. Postage would run 50 cents per piece for the county.

Wise, who has worked for the elections division since 2000, has long wanted to send voters prepaid ballots. One of the first things she and County Executive Dow Constantine discussed after her election as director in 2015 was getting prepaid postage on ballots.

“The first thing he said was, ‘Let’s do prepaid ballots, but first let’s make sure this works, and we don’t negatively impact voters,’” she recalled him saying.

Wise moved cautiously to ensure a prepaid postage system could work. The first test happened last year with three special elections in Maple Valley, Shoreline and Vashon Island. She wanted to see how it worked with the post office, and if it increased voter turnout. Shoreline saw a 10 percent increase in voter turnout from its previous special election, going from 30 percent to 40 percent. Maple Valley went from 31 percent to 37 percent and Vashon Island from 46 percent to 52 percent. (Voter increase in one previous special election does not set a pattern.)

“I’m really excited with what we saw with the post office, but also with voter response,” Wise said.

King County Elections has been trying to make it easier for people to vote since the county adopted mail-ballot voting in 2009. The number of drop boxes, which don’t require postage, increased from 10 to 56. Ballots are provided in Korean, Spanish, Vietnamese and Chinese, and the county is partnering with the Seattle Foundation to educate voters throughout the county and increase turnout.

Turnout fluctuates depending what issues are on the ballot and if it is a presidential election year. In 2016, the last presidential election, 82 percent of registered King County voters cast a ballot. The 2016 primary drew 37 percent. With no presidential election last year, 43 percent voted in King County’s general election and 34 percent in the primary.

King County would be the first county in the state to offer prepaid postage for elections. Kim Wyman, the secretary of state, supports the idea but prefers to see the entire state implement prepaid postage at the same time, so all voters are given the same opportunity, and would want the Legislature to fund it, said Erich Ebel, communications director for the Office of the Secretary of State.

Prepaid postage ballots will be used countywide for the Aug. 7 primary if the County Council approves the budget request before May 3, when ballot printing begins.

DCG

Who often doesn’t make an $8M mistake? Seattle DOT “mislead” council about true costs of streetcar project

shocked face

From MyNorthwest.com: The Seattle Department of Transportation provided misleading information about the cost to operate an expanded streetcar network to the Federal Transit Authority and the city council, according to King County Metro.

A document obtained by The Seattle Times outlines a “concerning” situation.

SDOT appears to have ignored Metro’s estimated labor cost for streetcar O & M by $8 million and submitted information to the FTA and to the Seattle City Council that significantly underestimates the annual cost of operating the Seattle streetcar system when C3 is added.

“Metro’s Rail Section has communicated to SDOT information that contradicts published information about estimated labor costs for Streetcar operations staffing, but neither FTA nor the Seattle Council appear to be aware of contradictory information,” the document states.

Essentially, SDOT’s labor cost estimates were much too low. According to the document, SDOT assumed it would cost just over $16 million to operate the line. A total of $8.15 million was budgeted for staffing. Metro says more staff is needed to meet the expectations put in place by SDOT. It will cost an estimated $8 million more to pay for additional staff — raising total operating costs to $24 million.

Metro is concerned because it will be running the system.

It’s yet another black mark for the Center City Connector project that will cost an estimated $177 million. It will add a 1.2-mile streetcar tack that connects the line in South Lake Union and First Hill line.

The project broke ground last year. City leaders questioned the project just days before crews began their work. The concerns raised then are what sparked the financial report by SDOT that is now in question.

The price tag of $177 million was higher than initial estimates. Funding for the project includes a $75 million grant from the FTA, about $30 million from City Light for utility relocation, and $45 million from the city’s budget through 2020.

Actual ridership numbers are also in question. Currently under-utilized, SDOT projects the streetcar lines will get 22,000 riders per day in its first year of expanded service. By 2035, 30,000 riders will ride the streetcars.

DCG

As predicted: Seattle panel closing in on plan to fund homeless aid with “head tax”

government solve all problems

In January I told you how the City of Seattle, which has a major homelessness problem, created a 75-person task force to solve that problem. From my post:

“The mission of the task force remains fuzzy — with a stated goal of finding solutions to “root causes,” including a lack of affordable housing and gaps in the behavioral health, criminal justice and child welfare systems that jettison people directly into homelessness.”

The City of Seattle has already allocated over $37M to address homelessness and King County has budgeted over $195M for a grand total of over $232M. But it’s never enough.

As I stated in my January blog post, “The solution now? Form a large task force which, no doubt, will recommend more new taxes.”

And, of course, I was correct with my prediction.

From Seattle Times: A Seattle task force will start wrapping up its work Thursday, setting the stage for the City Council to pass a new tax on high-grossing businesses like Amazon.

Supporters and opponents agree the council will almost certainly greenlight some version of the so-called “head tax” next month and allocate the money to combat homelessness.

Exactly how much money the tax would raise, which businesses would pay it and how the dollars would be distributed are among the details still to be sorted out.

A version of the tax almost won approval last year, but the council narrowly voted for more process instead, punting the issue to a panel of citizens and experts.

That move put the idea on the political back burner, but not for long, because the council vowed to revisit it with recommendations from the community task force and adopt a head tax (also called an employee-hours tax) or something similar by March 26.

To keep the council on track, the task force must make significant progress at its penultimate meeting Thursday, said co-chair Tony To, the executive director of HomeSight, a South Seattle nonprofit.

Underlying the debate is the knowledge that rising property taxes are “really hurting” residents and that Seattle’s homelessness crisis is “worse than it’s ever been,” To said. “People don’t want to keep talking. They want to reach a conclusion,” To said.

The $25 million-per-year-proposal rejected in November — as the council finalized the city’s 2018 budget — would have taken 6.5 cents per employee, per hour, from companies grossing more than $10 million per year (about 5 percent of all businesses in Seattle).

Serving on the task force are people from various organizations — including nonprofits that build affordable housing — and walks of life, including people who have been homeless. Also taking part are Ian Eisenberg, owner of Uncle Ike’s pot shops; Tom Matthews, president of Walsh Construction; and Jesiah Wurtz, owner of Cafe Red.

Other businesses are sitting out the panel in protest. The Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, which represents 2,200 companies, including heavy hitters like Amazon, declined an invitation because its members saw no point in serving on a panel wedded to an idea they oppose, said Markham McIntyre, chief of staff.

Though the council resolution that created the task force leaves room for the panel to explore other “progressive” revenue tools, it says the recommendations should include an evaluation of a head tax capable of raising $25 million to $75 million a year.

“This is a sham process,” McIntyre said in an interview. “They have a predetermined outcome.”

Read the rest of the story here.

DCG

Liberal/Marxist logic: King County Executive says “fairness comes down to your ability to pay”

dow constantine

Dow Constantine: It’s not fair…

I’m so glad I moved out of Washington state.

From MyNorthwest.com: King County Executive Dow Constantine says Washington taxes are unfair and he wants to fix them.

“Now, what is fair depends on where you stand, obviously, but I would submit this: That fairness comes down to your ability to pay,” Constantine recently said at an event for the Sound Cities Association.”

“It’s not fair to expect those with limited means to pay a larger percent of the little they have to support our collective roads, and police, and transit that are essential for all of us, for a prosperous economy and a strong community,” he said.

Constantine was recently the keynote speaker at an event for the Sound Cities Association. Here, he laid out his argument that Washington taxes are not being collected fairly. In short, families at the lowest end of the income ladder pay a higher percentage of their income in taxes than those earning at the highest end. Also, households in a city like Seattle are paying much more than households elsewhere.

Constantine made this example:

It was mentioned that I live in West Seattle. My folks live in the house in which I was raised. It’s a modest house owned by two long-retired public school teachers. They get their pension; they get their Social Security. And the Legislature just handed them a big property tax increase on this little house in which I was raised.

They are going to be paying more for schools statewide, but my mom’s brother and his wife – my aunt and uncle – live down in Centralia. They are also long-retired public school teachers. They also live in a modest house they’ve owned for a long time.

Their school district is going to get subsidized by my parents and they are very likely going to get a tax cut. Even though they have the exact same income as my parents. That is clearly not fair.

You can see the data he presented here(A link to his web site that provides his full speech. It doesn’t include any links to hard tax data/analysis provided by a nonpartisan organization). His speech comes as Seattle is championing an effort for an income tax; the city plans to take its case all the way to the state Supreme Court.

Constantine’s speech, however, was short on specific solutions to the issues around Washington taxes. He did point out examples of “things that could be different.” He also said “no one is actively considering” an income tax (someone might want to point him to Seattle’s Supreme Court case). Also, in August, voters rejected Constantine’s proposed $469 million sales-tax hike (“Access for All”) to raise money for art, science, and culture programs.

Constantine suggested:

  • Recast the sales tax: Apply it to more types of sales, but at a lower rate. This is also done in Hawaii, New Mexico, and both North and South Dakota.
  • Tax capital gains — income that people don’t earn — as a way to offset property taxes.
  • Allow governments to tax app downloads (Constantine admits that the local tech industry might not be in favor of this).
  • Fix “our goofy B&O tax”: The state should tax based on value added — on each stage of production — which would ultimately be paid by the end user. Businesses are currently taxed on gross receipts whether or not they make money, Constantine notes.
  • Property tax relief for seniors, veterans and other homeowners based on income.

Constantine also expanded on what taxes should primarily be used for:

  • Ensure all children get a decent education and job training that allows them to do better than their parents.
  • Build transit and a power grid for a modern economy.
  • Provide access to health care for all.
  • “And so much more.”

DCG

Illegal alien charged in Tukwila murder had been on ICE radar for months

sanctuary now

This illegal alien had previously been deported four times and now sits in King County Regional Justice Center on a $2M bail.  Tukwila is in King County, which known for protecting illegals.

From KOMO TV: A Tukwila man accused of killing his cousin had been on the radar of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement for months.

Rosalio Ramos-Ramos, 37, was being sought by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) late last year and was almost turned over when an apparent lack of communication between police and Harborview Medical Center resulted in his discharge from the Seattle trauma hospital, Kent police said.

Chief Ken Thomas said police arrested Ramos-Ramos in October after he reported being involved in a sexual assault. Officers did not find any evidence of an assault, but found a drug pipe and a small amount of methamphetamine on Ramos-Ramos. They booked him into the Kent Jail in connection with misdemeanor drug possession, Thomas said.

Once at the jail Ramos-Ramos told officers he wanted to die then started fighting with corrections staff. Ramos-Ramos he said was taken to a nearby hospital then to Harborview for a head injury, according to Thomas.

While Ramos-Ramos was at Harborview police learned his identity. Thomas said officers were soon contacted by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE). “We initially did not reach out to ICE,” Thomas said. “They looked out at the booking log, saw he was in custody and they reached out to us.”

According to ICE, hospitals are “sensitive locations,” places they don’t take enforcement action unless exigent circumstances exist.

Jorge Baron, executive director of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, says he’s seen ICE take people into custody at hospitals. “The general policy of ICE about the fact there are some situations and locations where they’re generally not going to make arrests, but there are exceptions to that policy,” Baron said.

Kent police said they called Harborview daily to keep tabs on Ramos Ramos, but he was released without them knowing.

An ICE spokeswoman told KOMO over the phone Friday that the agency didn’t have information on the Tukwila man. When asked about why ICE didn’t put an officer at the hospital to watch over Ramos Ramos, she questioned why Kent police didn’t do the same.

Thomas told KOMO he has a small department and can’t take an officer off the streets for several days to watch over a man accused of committing misdemeanor crimes in his city. He said they promised to keep tabs on Ramos Ramos on behalf of ICE by calling the hospital. He said they planned to pick the man up once he was discharged and turn him over to the feds.

“I believe this person needed to be off the streets. He had been deported four times prior, he is a convicted felon and he’s a very violent person,” Thomas told KOMO during an interview on Thursday.

Harborview, in a statement, said they had no duty to give information to police over the phone. “When we care for patients who are incarcerated or under the custody of law enforcement, it is the role of the law enforcement agency to guard the patient while they are hospitalized. This particular patient was not under guard when he was released from the medical center last fall after five days of hospitalization. We also follow federal privacy laws that dictate the amount and type of patient medical information that we can release.”

King County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Scott O’Toole said in the second-degree murder charges he filed against Ramos-Ramos that the man has multiple aliases and birthdates. He told KOMO that the man’s green card appears to be fraudulent.

h/t Weasel Zippers

DCG

Seattle has a solution to their homelessness crisis: A 75-person task force

government solve all problems

The city of Seattle has a major homelessness problem. It’s so bad that the former disgraced homosexual mayor, Ed Murray, declared a State of Emergency on November 2, 2015. From my blog post in April 2017:

In 2016, the King County region saw an increase of 19% of our unsheltered population, the majority of those people residing in Seattle. In November of 2015, Mayor Murray declared a State of Emergency on Homelessness to bring light to this crisis and seek greater support from our state and federal partners. Mayor Murray has increased spending on homelessness intervention and prevention and the City of Seattle is now spending a record high of nearly $50 million dollars to address this crisis.”

The city has spent a lot of tax payer money to try and solve the problem. Here’s an example of what they’ve done to date:

Three years after the State of Emergency was declared and after all the hires and money spent, homelessness is still a major issue in the city.

The solution now? Form a large task force which, no doubt, will recommend more new taxes.

Jonathan Martin at the Seattle Times reports on the details of this new task force:

The number of people in King County who left homelessness for permanent housing has nearly doubled since 2012, but the overall tally of people who became homeless has risen more steeply — to nearly 30,000 in 2016.

That data, from King County, framed the launch on Monday of a sprawling new regional task force on homelessness to stop the descent of many into abject poverty. The 75-member group, called One Table, is the first evidence of regional collaboration between new Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and King County Executive Dow Constantine on the homelessness crisis.

The mission of the task force remains fuzzy — with a stated goal of finding solutions to “root causes,” including a lack of affordable housing and gaps in the behavioral health, criminal justice and child welfare systems that jettison people directly into homelessness.

At a news conference after the first meeting, Constantine said the task force was in response to a city property tax proposed, then withdrawn, last year by former Seattle Mayor Ed Murray for homeless services.

One Table, co-chaired by Auburn Mayor Nancy Backus, includes leaders from a business community that has objected to a rising tax level. But Constantine suggested its recommendations could include new taxes for homelessness prevention.

“We’re spending a lot of money now on crisis response (to homelessness), but on the prevention side, on the root causes, there is clearly still a gap in the resources available,” he said.

Durkan sounded less enthusiastic. “We can’t reverse engineer this — it’s not the taxes first, and then do the services that fit the taxes,” she said. “Let’s find the solutions, then scope the resource to fill that gap.”

Read the rest of the details here.

DCG

Utopia will be achieved: Seattle awards $34M to 30 agencies to end homelessness

seattle homelessness

Tax dollars required to end homelessness…

In a previous post, I told you about Seattle’s serious homelessness problem. From my post:

“In 2016, the King County region saw an increase of 19% of our unsheltered population, the majority of those people residing in Seattle. In November of 2015, Mayor Murray declared a State of Emergency on Homelessness to bring light to this crisis and seek greater support from our state and federal partners. Mayor Murray has increased spending on homelessness intervention and prevention and the City of Seattle is now spending a record high of nearly $50 million dollars to address this crisis.”

The city hired a “Director of Homelessness” to ensure that the City’s increased efforts were well coordinated and driving toward the greatest outcomes for those in need. The new Director of Homelessness was tasked with executing the Mayor’s priorities on this issue. In August 2016, the city hired George Scarola to fill this position, who makes $137,500 per year.

In 2016, the Human Services Division invested $55 million in homelessness services. That large amount of tax-payer dollars didn’t solve the problem so $34 million more is needed.

From MyNorthwest.com: Calling it a fundamental shift in the City of Seattle’s approach to homelessness, Mayor Tim Burgess says the Human Services Department will fund 30 agencies to help move people into permanent housing. Those agencies plan to use the $34 million awarded to move more than twice as many people into housing next year than in 2017.

“By moving people from living on the street to permanent homes, we provide them a springboard to better opportunities and a more stable life,” said Mayor Tim Burgess. “We are focused on the only result that ends homelessness: housing. We are holding our providers accountable to that same result. I commend HSD for their focus on results and accountability for public dollars.”

The goal is to move more than 7,000 households into housing in 2018, including 739 families and 1,094 youth and young adults. (According to the HSD 2016 report, there was 6,128 exits to permanent housing throughout King County. Yet in 2017 there was another 7,000 homeless? That’s an awful lot of new homeless households in one year. The numbers just don’t make sense to me.)

The city says the awards fall into seven categories: Prevention, Diversion, Outreach and Engagement, Emergency Services, Transitional Housing, Rapid Re-Housing, and Permanent Supportive Housing.

The Human Services Department received 181 applications from 57 agencies, according to the city.

According to the city’s annual point-in-time count, 8,746 people are homeless in Seattle, and there are 3,857 unsheltered people.

DCG