Mar 13, 2021
This week Crystal and co-host Heather Weiner, local political consultant, dissect the news of the week, including:
As always, a full text transcript of the show is available below and at officialhacksandwonks.com.
Find out how to engage in Monday’s hearing on capital gains tax here: https://app.leg.wa.gov/CSIRemote/Testimony/Form?chamber=House&meetingFamilyId=28825&agendaItemFamilyId=141418&remoteLocationId=52&testify=False
Learn more about this week’s passage of capital gain’s taxes in the senate: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/politics/after-fierce-debate-washington-senate-approves-new-tax-on-capital-gains-by-one-vote/
Read Publicola’s coverage of tech bros advocating against capital gains, while receiving taxpayer funded paychecks: https://publicola.com/2021/03/02/capital-gains-tax-opponents-received-taxpayer-funded-aid/
Get into our state’s current upside down tax code here: https://crosscut.com/opinion/2021/02/can-wa-lawmakers-finally-flip-states-upside-down-tax-system
Learn more about Mayor Durkan’s rejection of FEMA funding here: https://www.realchangenews.org/news/2021/03/03/mayor-durkan-rejects-federal-funding-hotel-shelters-city-opening-new-permanent-vaccine
Read about King County expanding hazard pay to unincorporated areas here: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/health/king-county-approves-hazard-pay-for-grocery-workers-in-unincorporated-areas/
Follow continued vaccination efforts at the Washington State Department of Health website: https://www.doh.wa.gov/Emergencies/COVID19/vaccine
Learn about National Women’s Political Caucus of Washington trainings, including an upcoming training specifically for women of color running for office, here: https://www.nwpcwa.org/events
Crystal Fincher: [00:00:00] Welcome to Hacks and Wonks. I'm your host Crystal Fincher. On this show, we talk with policy wonks and political hacks to gather insight into local politics and policy through the lens of those doing the work with behind-the-scenes perspective on politics in our state. Full transcripts and resources referenced in the show were always available at officialhacksandwonks.com and in our episode notes. Today we're continuing our Friday almost-live shows where we review the news of the week with a cohost. Welcome back to the program friend of the show and today's cohost, local political consultant and wonderful, incredible woman, Heather Weiner.
Heather Weiner: [00:00:45] Hi, Crystal. So excited to see you. So much to talk about today.
Crystal Fincher: [00:00:50] Lots to talk about. There has been a lot happening and I guess we can start off by talking about - Hey! Capital gains passed through the Senate, it's moving through the Legislature, it's over to the House. This is a big deal.
Heather Weiner: [00:01:07] This is a really big deal. I mean, okay. Taxes - not that sexy, but boy is this exciting! Okay.
Crystal Fincher: [00:01:13] Taxes are hot.
Heather Weiner: [00:01:14] All right. Taxes are so hot. You want to, you want to get my attention, baby? Come over here and talk to me a little bit about progressive revenue. Look - here's what's happening. We have got probably the most movement that we have had in the last eight years from the State Legislature. They are finally finally listening when we say that Washington State is the worst - #50 in the country - when it comes to how we tax ourselves. We let the richest people get away with paying the least and we make the lowest income people pay the most - the highest percentage of their income in sales, property, and other taxes. So it is time to fix that. And it's also time to jumpstart our economy by putting a bunch more money in.
And here's how the Legislature says they want to do it. They want to tax the extraordinary profits that are being made on the stock market by the uber-rich - not your real estate, not your mom and pop small business, not even selling your yacht. If you sell a bunch of Amazon stock and you make - for every dollar over quarter million dollars. So quarter million dollars free. But when you start making money over a quarter million dollars, you've got to pay a modest tax of 7%. You would think though, that we were ripping people's eyelashes out because the amount of opposition that's coming out about this and hysteria has just been shocking.
Nevertheless, State Senate just passed it 25-24, over the last weekend. It was a very long Saturday for me. And there's going to be a hearing on it in the House on Monday.
Crystal Fincher: [00:02:50] Yes, there is. Lots of people organizing and planning on attending the hearing on Monday. We will include information in the show notes about - if you want to make your voice heard - now is as easy a time as it's ever been to participate in the legislative process from home. And you don't even have to testify. You can just say, you know what? I just want noted on the record that I agree with this. I'm holding a pro position. Really simple and easy to do. We'll include links for how to do that.
Meanwhile, we've got a hundred billionaires in the state who are just coasting and literally paying nothing. There is no income tax and so it is just letting people skate by.
Heather Weiner: [00:03:29] No, and right - and so they will tell you, Oh, well, we're going to move. We're going to go somewhere else. But that's not true. The data shows, I mean, look, 40 other states in the country already have capital gains tax, so where are you going to go? Idaho has a capital gains tax, people. Come on, we're letting Idaho beat us on this? So people saying that they might leave? No, not true.
So listen to this. The Washington Tech Industry Association, which is all the founders of all the big tech startups, they sent a letter signed by more than a hundred of these CEOs of these tech startups. I mean, these are companies that do really interesting things. Although some of them do things like trade Bitcoin. And what they said is, Ahh! You don't put a capital gains tax on us for childcare and early learning. It's gonna, it's gonna - we won't be able to bring smart people to Washington State for this. But it turns out PubliCola reports that over half of those CEOs scooped up federal taxpayer subsidies and money over the last year to subsidize their own freaking salaries. So here's what they're saying. No, no, no, no, no. We don't want to pay our share, but we'll be happy to take it.
Crystal Fincher: [00:04:34] As it has always been and using some of the old tired talking points that we're used to hearing whenever someone talks about raising the minimum wage, paying workers a living wage - that has been debunked and proven false every time it has happened. Seattle is actually the perfect place to look at, to see how the economy grows and expands when you pay workers more and you make sure people at the bottom are not neglected by people at the top - that we all have to pay our fair share.
Heather Weiner: [00:05:06] As studies show that you - for every dollar that the government invests back into the economy, pays off $3 for our communities, for small businesses, to keep people employed, and to keep consumers with money in their pockets. It's so much better than having that money being hoarded in - up at the top. When - where do they put it? They put it into, you know, real estate in other countries, they put it into REITs, they put it all kinds of places. No, that money needs to be flowing through the economy and helping us rebound from this recession. So how's it - is it going to pass? What do you think Crystal?
Crystal Fincher: [00:05:37] It is definitely gonna pass. They have the votes for it in the House. The big issue was the Senate, with capital gains. The House is more progressive than the Senate is. And it definitely took last election to get the Senate in the place, with a composition, to pass it. And it wasn't clear that it was going to pass until - really the last minute. This was not a vote that people knew which way it was going to go.
Heather Weiner: [00:06:03] It was a tough Saturday for me. I definitely had a bottle of wine out by about 9:00 PM after watching all that Senate debate. But let me just give a shout out to my friend, Crystal Fincher. Because Crystal, one of the campaigns that you worked on actually ended up being key. I mean, elections matter people. Crystal, you worked on Senator Nobles' campaign. And because we elected Senator Nobles and replaced a conservative, Steve O'Ban , that helped change the makeup of the Senate where we finally did have enough votes to overcome and get that through.
This is the first step though. Look, it raises half a billion dollars a year from these extraordinary stock market profits. That's only 7% of extraordinary stock market profits - is a half a billion. So raises half a billion dollars a year for childcare, early learning, and taxpayer assistance - low-income taxpayer assistance. And that's just the first step. We need at least another $2-3 billion a year before we can start doing things like really helping low-income taxpayers and small businesses by reducing B&O and sales taxes and other things. First, we got to get the money into the system. Very excited about this. This is groundbreaking stuff. Elections matter. Let's do it.
Crystal Fincher: [00:07:16] Elections matter. And I'm so thrilled to have Senator Nobles in our Legislature and to just watch her leadership - and make a difference on a very consequential vote that is going to help people who needed the most.
Moving over to the City and contrasting legislators and leaders coming through. One who has not been - who we've talked about on this program many times - Mayor Durkan. And this week and in "What is Mayor Durkan doing to antagonize people in the city and not meet basic needs of people? "
Heather Weiner: [00:07:52] WTFMD.
Crystal Fincher: [00:07:55] Is you know - we talk about funding being such a major problem. We talk about homelessness being such a major problem. She's talked about that and has talked about how we definitely need more funding. So it turns out FEMA's like, Hey, we have more funding over here. And Durkan was like, Nah.
Heather Weiner: [00:08:15] Doesn't want it.
Crystal Fincher: [00:08:16] Yeah. What is the deal?
Heather Weiner: [00:08:17] Has been making a ton of excuses - really just putting up a bunch of roadblocks to not taking this money for non-congregate shelter. That means for people who are homeless, who would normally go to be offered shelter where there's many, many, many, many people in the room that's not COVID safe. And so what we've been trying to do for the last year is to try to get some FEMA money in, to pay for motel rooms where people could have some shelter and still be safe from COVID. San Francisco has taken in this money. Other cities are taking this money. But for some reason, this mayor has been really highly, highly resistant.
And so I was really pleased to see that Council President González - now full disclosure, I do a little bit of work with her on her campaign - but in her official capacity, called BS on this, and I'm just not going to wait around anymore and just went ahead and went over her head. Whatever the Mayor said, and just went right to FEMA and had her own meeting with FEMA, and then released a statement saying, I'm not going to accept these excuses anymore. We can and should do this. We have got to do it. So let's see if that gets the gates open and that's going to be a lot of fun.
Crystal Fincher: [00:09:26] Yeah, certainly. And her other colleagues on the Council have signaled that they certainly intend to pursue this funding and that that's something that we should be doing. We just recently talked with Erica Barnett about this, of PubliCola, and she's done a lot of reporting. There's a lot of great information you can find on this subject there, but it really is confusing. I mean, Mayor Durkan seems to make these decisions that don't have a connection to the people of Seattle. And I just wonder, who is she listening to for this advice where she thought it would be a good idea to not get additional funding to address what she has called the top problem facing the city she is in charge of governing.
Heather Weiner: [00:10:09] Yeah, we have this double emergency problem of the pandemic, which is, you know, I know that we're all feeling very optimistic, but we are still in the middle of a massive pandemic. And the massive emergency crisis of the lack of housing for everyone who needs it in the City of Seattle. So how do we address that issue? Eh, ignore it. Don't accept money from the federal government. I just don't get it.
Crystal Fincher: [00:10:34] Yeah. I mean, it's really confusing. And it's infuriating because this is a problem that we all should be invested in solving. We have to get people off the street and into shelter, and then we have to get people into permanent stable housing. And funding is certainly an issue for this. And you know, a lot of it comes down to priorities, but we do need more money. And if someone is willing to say, FEMA is willing to say, Hey, we can help out with this. We have a national interest in solving this problem , as we do at all levels of government, then we should take that. For no other reason than that gives us more money to address this problem or other problems.
Heather Weiner: [00:11:17] Well, and you save lives. You're literally saving lives and saving money in terms of all the health care that needs to be done when people are outside, exposed to the elements, or exposed to COVID. Speaking of outside and being exposed, the other big news that's happening right now in the City of Seattle is the City Council passed a requirement that grocery stores like QFC pay their workers hazard pay. Just an extra $4 an hour, because they're having to pay for childcare while they're continuing to work. They themselves are under a lot of stress and they have been the frontline heroes - the grocery store workers have.
And Kroger, QFC's owner, instead of actually paying - not only do they sue to stop having to pay their own employees hazard pay. But then in retaliation, they close two stores in Seattle. They announced they're closing two stores in Seattle and blame hazard pay. They didn't just do that in Seattle. They just did it in LA this week - threatened to close two more stores. What a bunch of whiny bullies. What's going on there?
Crystal Fincher: [00:12:23] Whiny bullies and extremely disingenuous because this is happening in a backdrop of them being more profitable than they have been in quite some time during the pandemic. This has driven people to grocery stores because dining out is not as much of an option as it has been. People are buying more groceries. They're buying more at home, they're getting groceries delivered. And so they have seen windfall profits. This is not a situation where, as they've tried to spin it, our margins are razor thin and this is going to make the prices go up. They have been reaping profits during the pandemic.
That's one of the dynamics - that the rich have gotten richer during the pandemic. And people who were hurting are hurting worse. And so all we're saying is that it is not possible for you to reap these profits without the risks that these people are taking on the front lines, to secure all that profit for you. They deserve a portion of that. What you're doing is not possible without that. They are putting themselves and anyone else in their households at greater risk in order to provide a service to the public. You're reaping windfall profits - a tiny percentage of that can go to the workers who made this possible.
Heather Weiner: [00:13:36] Temporarily.
Crystal Fincher: [00:13:37] And they've said, yeah, and it's not even permanent. It's temporary. And they said, I know I am receiving a multi-million dollar salary. And I know that we are letting our shareholders profit from this. But we must draw the line at the workers who were on the front lines. We cannot give them just a few more dollars, but we just can't, we can't afford it. We can't do it. It's a slippery slope, all of those arguments. It's ridiculous. And so they have decided that they're going to try and play hardball and say, Well, we're just going to close.
Heather Weiner: [00:14:13] Yeah. And so they, you know, look, Kroger made a billion dollars more in profits last year. They doubled the profits they made during so far during the pandemic. They made so much money that they then did a stock buyback, which means they bought a bunch of their shares back at massive increase in price from their shareholders. And the CEO, this guy, McMullen - Rodney McMullen - just made - makes $21 million a year in salary alone. And yet does not want to pay hardworking QFC workers an extra $4.
Now despite this kind of intimidation and bullying tactics, the King County Council voted to extend hazard pay to stores in the unincorporated parts of King County this week, which is great. So that's like White Center, um, and some of the other unincorporated -
Crystal Fincher: [00:15:04] Skyway yeah.
Heather Weiner: [00:15:05] Right. And Burien has already passed this. I hear that Auburn is thinking about passing it. Bainbridge is thinking about passing it. Bellingham. So there's lots of other places that will continue to do this. What's QFC going to do? Close every single one of its Fred Meyer and QFC stores? Come on. This kind of corporate bullying is really going to weaken their brand and in the long run hurts communities that need these grocery stores.
Crystal Fincher: [00:15:29] Absolutely. And also we've seen PCC decide to make the $4 nationwide for all of their workers - and we can afford this right now, we've done quite well.
Heather Weiner: [00:15:44] Trader Joe's, which is a non-union grocery store has gone ahead and just given everybody across the country - all of their staff - hazard pay increases. I mean, come on.
Crystal Fincher: [00:15:58] You're listening to Hacks and Wonks with your host Crystal Fincher on KVRU 105.7 FM.
Heather Weiner: [00:16:08] All right. Well, which leads us now to vaccinations. I mean, so grocery store workers have been saying, we're on the front lines, we need to be vaccinated. Teachers are saying we have to be vaccinated before we go back to schools. But people haven't been talking very much about the people who've already been out there around customers without their masks on. And that's - restaurant workers.
Crystal Fincher: [00:16:28] It's restaurant workers. And we recently had some updates and guidance in eligibility. It was recently announced by Governor Inslee that all teachers and childcare workers are now eligible to receive the vaccine. They announced that coming up in the next, I don't even have the exact date, but couple of weeks that frontline workers are going to be eligible for that. So grocery store workers and others, and they will deserve to be. But one group that is left out are restaurant workers. And restaurants are one of the only areas where even when masks are required, it's acceptable for people to take them off as they eat, because you can't eat with a mask on. And they're expanding now - the capacity in restaurants for reopening. So we still have a large percentage of the population unvaccinated. The risk is very present and real. And there are areas where people can congregate in even greater numbers now without wearing a mask. Why are restaurant workers not considered essential frontline workers? I hope that changes fairly soon.
Heather Weiner: [00:17:35] Yeah, I sure do too. As someone who lives with two people in the industry - I have, my best friend is a chef. And her wife is a somm. And the somm lost her job in March - last March, has been unemployed for a year. And my friend Becky continues to go to work and is exposed on a daily basis. Yeah. Very important. Let's go to some good news.
Crystal Fincher: [00:18:00] Good news. Good news is good. There is a lot happening in terms of elections. And we've certainly seen calls and demands and the necessity to broaden the voices who represent us in public office. We just talked about Senator Nobles, the only Black woman in the Senate right now. There was not one before she came in - immediately prior. So having more representation, broader representation, and empowering more people - sharing power with a more diverse set of people is - just helps us to be better represented across the board. And we are certainly seeing, a greater percentage, in particular, women of color, running for office across the board, which is really exciting.
Heather Weiner: [00:18:52] Super exciting. It's amazing. I can't believe how many women of color are running for office in this year. And these are in municipal level elections - county and city level elections. But those are the jumping off places for a lot of people who then go on to run for Legislature or Congress. Here's where it gets hard - is when they start running against each other. Do you want to talk about some of the women of color who are running? Can we gossip about them?
Crystal Fincher: [00:19:17] We can, um, you know, lots of people are familiar with the women running in the City of Seattle. Certainly for Mayor, we have Lorena González, who's the sitting Seattle City Council President, who's running for mayor. Colleen Echohawk - also running for mayor.
Heather Weiner: [00:19:35] Smart, great woman.
Crystal Fincher: [00:19:36] Yeah. Teresa Mosqueda - running for her city-wide position for reelection. And then we have Brianna Thomas and Nikkita Oliver, who are running for the other city-wide seat, the one being vacated by Lorena González.
Heather Weiner: [00:19:53] So how do you - let's - how do you think this is going to play out with Brianna and Nikkita?
Crystal Fincher: [00:19:59] I don't know.
Heather Weiner: [00:20:00] Oh my gosh. Listeners, you should have seen her face - the way she just threw her hands up in the air. Oh my gosh.
Crystal Fincher: [00:20:06] You know, it is - I have deep respect for both of them, and have known Brianna for quite some time, have worked alongside Brianna. Have admired and respected Nikkita for quite some time. But as we said before, it is not a bad thing for people to run against each other. And as I talk about a lot of times, if you are in political spaces in Seattle, which is, you know - basically elects Democrats and people to the left of Democrats. If you have friends in that space, it is inevitable that you are going to have friends or people that you respect and admire run against each other.
But certainly with Brianna, she has a lot of experience within the system. But she very much came from outside. She was instrumental to getting the first $15 an hour -
Heather Weiner: [00:21:01] In SeaTac
Crystal Fincher: [00:21:02] - ordinance passed, in the country. In SeaTac, before there was the 15 Now campaign that I think people think about. Before it happened in Seattle, it happened in SeaTac.
Heather Weiner: [00:21:14] Yup. I worked with her on that campaign.
Crystal Fincher: [00:21:16] Yes, you did.
Heather Weiner: [00:21:18] She was ah-mazing. She was the grassroots person and she just organized the heck out of that. Door knocking - I mean, there's really only 7,000 voters in SeaTac and I think every single one of them knows Brianna.
Crystal Fincher: [00:21:29] I think so.
Heather Weiner: [00:21:31] Oh gosh, here she is at my door again. That's true. The other thing that Brianna did, has done, I mean there's so many things. She also worked on the Democracy Voucher campaign and now - which is one of the reasons why Nikkita , and Colleen Echohawk, and Lorena, and Teresa are all able to run - is because Brianna helped to pass the Democracy Voucher campaign, by working on the campaign before she ever ran for office.
Crystal Fincher: [00:21:53] Yeah. And you know, I think it's an example of people working often in service of the same policy and with the same goal, but working in and using different methodsand different tracks. Because, you know, Nikkita certainly has been a voice of moral clarity. They have been instrumental in the push to defund the Seattle Police - to reduce the funding. And that, that is a critical piece. We cannot maintain funding or increase funding and expect things to change. But also in not stopping the conversation at defund or not, which a lot of the opponents like to just put that as, Would you believe in defunding? And that's not, that's not even - like that's just the start of the conversation.
I think this is going to be a spirited and exciting time. And I also think the mayoral race is going to be really interesting and have some real substantive conversations. And two people who've done a lot of positive work.
Heather Weiner: [00:22:53] It sounds to me like what you're saying a little bit is , if you were to say what the main policy issues are that are going to be focused on during these campaigns.It almost sounds to me like you're saying, the big - the issue around police reform and the different ways to address police reform, are kind of symbolized by Brianna's - uh, you know, Nikkita has an abolitionist perspective and Brianna has a change the system, work within the system perspective. Uh, I'm probably misstating that. And then I would say between Colleen and Lorena, probably the biggest issue is going to be how to deal with homelessness. It's going to be really interesting policy debates. I can't wait to watch them.
Crystal Fincher: [00:23:31] Really interesting policy debates. And I am really wanting to hear - that there is, there is a lot of conversation to talk about how do you turn activism into policy? And that is not a simple and easy thing. And I think what we have seen in recent years is people who have been activists , and who have been on the front lines organizing and moving policy and campaigns elsewhere being elected into government, or being hired onto staff.
Heather Weiner: [00:24:01] Well, let's talk about some other cities, where there are people of - women of color running. Um, where else are they running?
Crystal Fincher: [00:24:07] Well, I mean, I will talk about the city of Kent where, there was a great South Seattle Emerald article, I think from this past Monday, about Dawn Bennett, who's running for mayor. Running as a challenger against an incumbent mayor. Satwinder Kaur running for reelection on the City Council and another familiar name, Brenda Fincher, running for reelection on the Kent City Council.
Heather Weiner: [00:24:31] Do you - is there any relation?
Crystal Fincher: [00:24:33] She is my mom. She is a wonderful, kind woman. She's much more kind and compassionate than I am. I am a fan of hers. But the progressives on that council are a minority. Um, and so it is notable and novel that we have three women of color running in the city of Kent. And races in the suburbs oftentimes solidify later than races in big cities. So we've seen like tons of announcements in the city of Seattle. A lot of times in the suburbs that - we don't have a firm idea of exactly who's going to be in until filing week in mid May.
Hamdi Mohamed is running for the Port of Seattle. Lots of excitement about her. Shukri Olow is running for King County Council District 5. In Tacoma, there are a number of candidates - Kiara Daniels and Anne Artman for City Council, Chelsea McElroy for the School Board. There - just a lot of wonderful women of color running across the board. A lot of great Black women running. So I'm excited to continue to see women who have been leaders in their spaces to grow their power, and to grow power within their communities.
Heather Weiner: [00:25:47] Amazing. This is great. And is there any kind of group that people can go to if they want to support all of these women at once? Like, is there - are there any PACs or anything like that they could contribute to?
Crystal Fincher: [00:25:57] That's a great question. I don't necessarily know that - there are a whole slew of PACs, obviously. Persist PAC, who I've done some work with, who supported Black women running for office last year and SeaTac City Council candidates running for office the year before - is going to be involved in these races. So certainly keep an eye on Persist. Opportunity PAC is another PAC that has been in the space. If people are interested in running for office, supporting people for office, there is a training with the Northwest Women's Political - National Women's Political Caucus of Washington for that, that I would highly encourage people to attend. That link will be on the website and in the show notes, so absolutely.
And just a really exciting time. So I'm really excited to see how these continue to unfold. You know, it is sometimes an uncomfortable feeling when two people you like and respect, or more sometimes, run against each other. But really it's a sign that power is becoming more accessible and more attainable and that we can have these debates. We, as you pointed out, I've talked a lot about us not being a monolith. Um, you can't lump communities of color together. You can't lump the Black community together as if we all have the same opinion. But our varied opinions are important and it's important for that to be part of the national discourse , because we are. We are here, we exist and that's an important element, as it is with all communities.
So, and that's pretty much our time for today. But thank you once again for joining us today. I always love when you're on the show, Heather.
Heather Weiner: [00:27:36] Aww, I love chatting with you and gossiping with you. It's just - I always bring myself a cup of tea for this cup of tea.
Crystal Fincher: [00:27:44] Always fun. And the gossip is top notch with you always.
Thank you to everyone for listening to Hacks and Wonks on KVRU 105.7 FM on this Friday, March 12th, 2021. Our chief audio engineer at KVRU is Maurice Jones Jr. The producer of Hacks and Wonks is Lisl Stadler. And our wonderful co-host today was Seattle political consultant, Heather Weiner. You can find Heather on Twitter @ hlweiner - that's W E I N E R. You can find me on Twitter @finchfrii - that's F I N C H F R I I. And now you can follow Hacks and Wonks on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever else you get your podcasts. Just type "Hacks and Wonks" into the search bar, be sure to subscribe to get our Friday almost-live show and our mid-week show delivered to your podcast feed. You can also get a full transcript of this episode and links to resources referenced in the show at officialhacksandwonks.com and in the podcast episode notes.
Thanks for tuning in. Talk to you next time.