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Hacks & Wonks

May 5, 2023

On this week-in-review, Crystal is joined by King Conservation District Supervisor and Seattle sportswriter and enthusiast Brittney Bush Bollay! They talk about several developments this week including Governor Jay Inslee and Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler announcing that they do not plan for reelection and the candidates that are vying to replace them, Gov. Inslee calling for a May 16th special session to address personal possession of controlled substances, a potential trafficking victim found in the Seattle hotel room of a Colorado Avalanche player, interests aligned with the Seattle Chamber fielding a message testing poll to raid the JumpStart Tax, and the King County Council shortchanging the Veterans, Seniors, and Human Services Levy on a 5-4 vote. 

As always, a full text transcript of the show is available below and at

Find the host, Crystal Fincher, on Twitter at @finchfrii and find today’s co-host, Brittney Bush Bollay at @BrittneyBush.


Brittney Bush Bollay

Brittney is a King Conservation District Supervisor and climate activist who is passionate about the role cities play in preserving the environment. They serve on the city and state boards of the Sierra Club and helped write the organization’s national Urban Infill Policy Guidance. In their spare time, they’re almost certainly yelling at sports.



Governing as an Eastern WA Democrat with Spokane City Council Member Zack Zappone from Hacks & Wonks


WA Gov. Jay Inslee won’t seek reelection for fourth term” by Jim Brunner, David Gutman, and Paige Cornwell from The Seattle Times


Early WA governor’s race skirmish? Campaign finance loophole scrutinized” by Jim Brunner from The Seattle Times


Washington Republicans believe governor's race is winnable” by David Hyde from KUOW


Longtime WA Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler will not seek reelection” by David Gutman from The Seattle Times


Inslee calls WA Legislature special session to address drug possession” by Daniel Beekman from The Seattle Times


Progressive Democrats Want to Compromise on a New Drug Law” by Ashley Nerbovig from The Stranger


Proposal to Make Public Drug Use a Misdemeanor Unlikely to Have Much Visible Impact” by Erica C. Barnett from PubliCola


New Drug Law Negotiations Still Messy” by Amy Sundberg from Notes from the Emerald City


Colorado Avalanche player involved in incident at Seattle hotel” by Matt Markovich from KIRO 7


Seattle Cop Mocks Trans People, Blames Jan. 6 Riots on Pelosi; County Council Plays It Safe by Proposing Flat Levy Renewal” from PubliCola


Find stories that Crystal is reading here



[00:00:00] Crystal Fincher: Welcome to Hacks & Wonks. I'm Crystal Fincher, and I'm a political consultant and your host. On this show, we talk with policy wonks and political hacks to gather insight into local politics and policy in Washington state through the lens of those doing the work with behind-the-scenes perspectives on what's happening, why it's happening, and what you can do about it. Be sure to subscribe to the podcast to get the full versions of our Tuesday topical show and our Friday week-in-review show delivered to your podcast feed. If you like us, the most helpful thing you can do is leave a review wherever you listen to Hacks & Wonks. Full transcripts and resources referenced in the show are always available at and in our episode notes.

If you missed our Tuesday topical show, I chatted with Spokane City Council Member, Zack Zappone, about his approach to politics and policy as a Democrat in a more conservative area of Washington state. Today, we're continuing our Friday almost-live shows where we review the news of the week with a co-host. Welcome to the program, friend of the show, today's co-host: King Conservation District Supervisor, Seattle writer and enthusiast, Brittney Bush Bollay. Hey.

[00:01:20] Brittney Bush Bollay: Hello, how are you?

[00:01:21] Crystal Fincher: I am excellent. I'm so thrilled to have you on the show. You are basically a Seattle celebrity when it comes to all things politics and sports, and bring the analysis and the fun to all of our favorite Seattle sports and sports stars. So I am so excited to have you on the show today.

[00:01:39] Brittney Bush Bollay: Well, thank you. I'm excited to spend my Friday doing what I do anyway, which is hanging out with my friends talking about politics and sports.

[00:01:46] Crystal Fincher: That's right. And one big topic that everybody has been talking about this week is that Governor Jay Inslee has announced that he will not be running for reelection. So as you think about Inslee's - I don't know - legacy, what he's known for, and what this election presents, what are your thoughts on what's going on with Inslee?

[00:02:07] Brittney Bush Bollay: It's funny - I actually got polled a few months ago on the idea of him running again. And I was really surprised that he would even consider it. Not because I think he's been a bad governor or ineffective or anything like that, but precedent - really, honestly - three terms is a lot. Four would be kind of gauche. Don't you think? It's a lot, it's time - it's time for someone else to have a go. So I think that he's had a solid legacy as a governor. And I think he's also, for the left wing of the Democrats, not gone as far as we would like on a regular basis. And I'm interested to see what the new candidates - what their angle is, what's their new message? What's their - are they gonna be running on a voice of change? I'm the new Inslee. It's exciting to see a fresh race shaping up with some good candidates and also some terrifying candidates.

[00:03:06] Crystal Fincher: You nailed it right there. Good and terrifying, as far as the candidates go. For the left wing of the party, certainly - and coming out of Seattle, where Seattle's no stranger to kind of nation leading or early legislation pushing for progressive solutions, certainly compared to the rest of the state and country. I do think that he has shepherded the state through - we just, through the pandemic that we had - an unprecedented crisis and against some really vitriolic pushback as one of the first states in feeling the impacts of COVID in the country, taking decisive action in pursuit of keeping people safe and following the CDC guidance. That was certainly there. Trying to navigate through the situation with schools and students - while certainly there's a lot to learn and a lot that can be done better, I think people were trying to do the best that they could at that time.

We've seen some recent - kind of, I think - what he would call crowning achievements. Certainly the Climate Commitment Act, which is a huge piece of environmental legislation that will be creating hundreds of millions and beyond dollars that hopefully will be reinvested in ways that spur a green economy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions and impacts. And we just saw him standing up for reproductive rights and purchasing our state supply of mifepristone. There've been a number of issues - certainly we're leading the nation in gun safety. So he has certainly worked in conjunction with the Legislature, our state's elected leaders, to get a lot of this done. He had a run for president. He does have some crowning achievements there, and some things that I think he can walk away and be proud of. And also there's the opportunity to do so much more.

And we'll see that from these candidates that we have coming up - some exciting, some intriguing, some terrifying. So we have Bob Ferguson, who's already announced. We have Hilary Franz, who's announced an announcement. And we have, evidently, Mark Mullet - moderate to conservative Democratic Senator, who said he's considering a run. And then some GOP candidates - one already announced, Semi Bird. I know there has been questioning about Jim Walsh, JT Wilcox. We'll see how this turns out. How do you see this race shaping up? Or what do you think are going to be the dividing lines in it?

[00:05:31] Brittney Bush Bollay: Honestly, I think Bob Ferguson's gonna run away with it. But I don't know - it'll be interesting to see who the second candidate is who comes through. I think the GOP candidates probably will just fight amongst themselves and get - if they can't work it out, then get little pieces of the various sort of right-wing voter bloc. I think Ferguson has a lot of respect. He has a lot of name recognition. He got a lot of fans for his standing up to Trump, and his helping the state navigate and protect people during that really scary four years. I think it's funny that he announced an exploratory committee, and then the next day was announcing endorsements. That was a little transparent - everybody knew, everybody knew. Hilary Franz has been pretty good in her role, but I'm interested to see what she - how she translates her more niche work that she's been doing with state lands, and what that looks like as she has to expand her platform into governor.

[00:06:36] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely. Also news this week that our Washington Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler is also stepping down. This is another statewide elected position. Now, Mike Kreidler has made a lot of unfortunate news for racist, sexist, other very problematic statements. He has been asked to resign by the governor, leaders on both sides of the aisle and in both chambers. He refused to do so, but has announced that he's not running for reelection. Patty Kuderer has announced that she is running for that seat. We'll probably - gonna see some others coming up before the filing deadline for candidates on May 19th, but it'll be interesting to see what this is. And it'll be interesting to see, in both of these races, in my opinion - looking at now versus - what was it 2012 - the last time these races were competitive, 2008 - somewhere around there. It's been a while.

[00:07:29] Brittney Bush Bollay: It's been a while.

[00:07:30] Crystal Fincher: I feel like 2012. But time is a unique construct for me at this point in time. But the world is very different than it was the last time these races were competitive for governor and for insurance commissioner. In that time, we've had a pandemic that has reshaped the way a lot of people think about and live their lives. We have increasing threats to democracy, attacks on people's personhood, attacks on just whether people should be able to freely live their lives as who they are. And a lot of troubling things happen. And I think there's gonna be much more of a conversation this time about how people use their power. And I think from both sides - both Republican and Democratic - if you're looking at the party's bases now, both sides have an expectation that leaders use their power in more definite and comprehensive ways than they did before. That some precedents may be limiting - following tradition and rules - we're seeing tradition thrown in the trash and rules broken right and left. And some people's literal survival may depend on really taking an affirmative stance and standing against hateful rhetoric, hateful policy - policy that is restricting, stripping rights, first and foremost, but also when it comes to the biggest challenges that we're facing. If it's poverty, if it's homelessness, if it's inequality - the insurance commissioner taking on issues like barring the use of credit scores for insurance pricing, which doesn't reliably predict what your insurance risk is gonna be. Or the governor taking steps to make sure we have access to abortion pills here in the state, if that is restricted on a nationwide basis. That those are things that maybe would have been viewed as extreme actions 10, 12 years ago, but today are viewed as necessary and welcome, certainly by this side of the base. If you're talking about Republicans, they are especially riled up that perceived overreach and all of the stuff that they say about the liberal stuff - we don't need to go into all of that - but it's gonna be interesting just to see what the fault lines of this are and how what sometimes used to be more narrow and targeted policy intersects with other policy and all of the issues that most people are dealing with now.

[00:09:55] Brittney Bush Bollay: And it's funny 'cause of course, the Republicans were the first ones to start to use and leverage the state legislatures for things that previously had been considered overreach. And now Democrats are doing it as a defensive measure, against those policies. Again, it's always every accusation is a confession. But it's really interesting to me - we're in a time where we're really re-examining sort of the idea of a state and the role of the state government, and sort of the concept of individual states and their relationships to each other has gotten very different as these policies - some states, for example, or one of the most conservative states in the country, in Idaho. And not only do we have to affirmatively protect our people here in Washington, but we have to think about the neighbors in the states around us and the people who are gonna need the help that they can't get in their locations. And how to welcome them, how to make sure that we're prepared to help them and make them feel safe. And that's something that I do think that Inslee has done a good job about. And the Legislature has, seems to have really been thinking about making sure that people who do need reproductive care, abortion access, gender affirming care, and things like that - that they can come to Washington, that they can be safe, they can get what they need. And I think that that's some creative governing - that I think is great. I think that's what we need to do in unprecedented times - is you have to use the office in unprecedented ways. Because at the end of the day, the role of the government - in my opinion - is to help people out where they can't help themselves.

[00:11:36] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely. Think you nailed It. And Inslee is still at work. And even looking at the work that they're doing - and it actually seems to be going well - they seem to be working well with partners in terms of right now, they're working on the freeway encampments and trying to move people into housing. Looking at updates from at least the King County Regional Homelessness Authority and the work that they're doing in partnership with the state, that seems to be actually going pretty well and getting good results - in working with the people at these sites to move them into shelter or temporary housing on the way to trying to find permanent housing. So Inslee is still at work, and he also called a special session for May 16th?

[00:12:23] Brittney Bush Bollay: I believe it was May 16th, yeah.

[00:12:25] Crystal Fincher: Yep, so coming up here - a special session to deal with the Blake fix, or what to do about the - once again, pending potential of not having any statewide drug law to address simple possession of substances. Now, certainly we've talked about many times before, lots of evidence points towards - one, the War on Drugs that we've undertaken is a failure. We've spent billions upon billions, if not trillions, of dollars worldwide, trying to eradicate drugs and drug use and have failed spectacularly to do that after all of the expenditures. And many places concluded - You know what? Treating drug use as a crime actually seems to be counterproductive, really expensive, really derails a lot of people, destabilizes lives. And what people really need is treatment for substance use disorder, not this punitive lock-them-up that doesn't address the root cause that landed them there. So they're gonna take this up. They had previously considered a bill that would have made substance use personal possession a gross misdemeanor, which is different than a simple misdemeanor. It can carry penalties actually worse than a low-level felony, but we'll see. They're saying that they're trying to work out a compromise, an agreement - what that is going to be, I don't know. Certain localities have said that they plan to move forward on recriminalizing if the State Legislature doesn't. And what they're saying is they want to avoid a patchwork of different laws and policies across the state. So it'll be curious to see what happens here. How do you see this?

[00:14:09] Brittney Bush Bollay: It's wild, isn't it - that when you take someone who's using substances, generally, to cope with trauma and then throw them in jail and further traumatize them, it's wild that doesn't solve the problem, isn't it? It's frustrating to me to see what I feel like is a rush to recriminalize a behavior that I don't think should be criminal in the first place. And especially when you consider - you've talked about this on here before - we all know it's not all drugs there's a war on, and it's not the same war on all drugs. And there's no war on alcohol. There's not really a war on marijuana anymore. It's the drugs that we've just decided are the bad ones. And it gets so tangled up - I think that people have a real morality ingrained in them around drugs. And again, around certain drugs, that I think it's really hard for people to escape, to analyze, to pull back from. Like I went through DARE, all of that, and we're taught - drugs are bad. And again, some drugs are worse than others clearly, because for a variety of reasons, we've just decided that. So I think it frustrates me that - I don't think we're seeing evidence-based policy proposals from a lot of people around this. And a lot of people seem really hung up on the idea - drugs are bad, we must punish them. And it doesn't do anything. It doesn't do anything except waste money and make more people sad.

[00:15:37] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely. And I've been particularly disheartened to see several legislators from King County - from areas where their population is ahead of where they are, their residents are ahead of where they are in terms of this policy. Their residents recognize that people need help and treatment over being thrown in jail. And lots of people are recognizing, who don't want to see people struggling with substance use disorder and all the consequences that that causes, and we're seeing more and more of that. And people going - Yeah, I don't want to see the consequences, whether it is losing property, losing a home, financial instability, criminal behavior, right? No one wants to see that, but looking at locking someone up - they're just going to get out. It's not like we're locking them up for life and - nor should we be. And then they get out, and if we want them to be able to build a life where they can sustain and thrive however they choose to, doing things like doing something that will lose them their job, that will cost them money that they don't have, that requires them to adhere to things that may not do anything to help their current situation, but could further destabilize them - is just not helpful to anyone. And it's really expensive to take care of from a societal perspective. It is actually less expensive to provide someone housing or to provide someone with treatment, than to jail them and then have them come out not healed and too many times wind up back in jail where it's really expensive yet again. So we just have to figure out a different approach. The current approach has failed, and we keep on trying to double down and triple down on that. And I'm particularly disappointed in some Seattle and King County representatives who are eager to double and triple down on seriously recriminalizing this possession - just doesn't make sense. But we will see what comes out of this special session.

[00:17:33] Brittney Bush Bollay: It's just so frustrating to me, 'cause it's just based on such a complete misunderstanding of why people are using substances in the first place. And when they get out of jail - like you said - nothing's changed, except that now they have more instability in their life and a harder time getting a job and finding somewhere to live and are probably further in debt.

[00:17:52] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely. Now this next item that we're gonna talk about is - I think people are still struggling to put together the pieces, but we just got some updates this week that have added a couple other elements. But it's really troubling. So - super exciting - the Seattle Kraken have started off playing the Colorado Avalanche in the playoffs, dominated that series.

[00:18:19] Brittney Bush Bollay: That part was fun.

[00:18:21] Crystal Fincher: Yes - won in seven - super exciting time for hockey fans in this town. But sometimes what comes along with major sporting events, especially during playoffs, are troubling activities surrounding that. And there was an incident related to one of the Avalanche players that happened in a Seattle hotel while they were here in town. Evidently as this happened - for some reason that we don't know - the Avalanche were looking for one of their players, they went into his room, did not find him in his room, but found a woman in the room that was under the influence of something - don't know, has not been determined, at least from the information here. Speculation has ranged from - was it close to an OD situation? Was she given a substance that she did not consent to? Those were all possibilities and called out. But in this - she was alone, she was heavily intoxicated - by the reports, very extremely intoxicated to a degree where she pretty much did not appear okay to go anywhere, do anything on her own for her own safety. But in talking to this person, she said she was from, came over from - she was Russian, but came from Ukraine - came here and someone, a bad man, took away her passport. Now for people who pay attention to trafficking, this is a huge red flag of - something isn't right here. This is something that we see often in human trafficking and oftentimes people forced into - whether it's in servitude, whether it's sex work - they're forced into these things, right? And so she was combative, she was not happy - which is not odd for someone who is a victim of this and talking to other unfamiliar men and heavily intoxicated. Turns out part of the Avalanche's security detail is actually Denver police officers who were involved in this. Call was placed to 911. They said, You can find her at the door. So I guess they just moved her to the door. Paramedics came and she was combative. Unfortunately it looks like they considered, according to KIRO 7 reporting, institutionalizing her in mental health hold in the hospital - paramedics inquired about doing that. And it is just really concerning to me that there is a situation where it looks like Denver police, who may have been off duty - but they're still police - were involved in, Seattle police were involved in, this woman who exhibited signs of being trafficked and who said that was just shoved out of a hotel and said come pick her up. And they seem to more seriously consider institutionalizing her than providing her the help and services she needed as someone who really looked like a victim of trafficking. How did you see this?

[00:21:21] Brittney Bush Bollay: It's weird. It's very weird. There's a lot of big holes in this story, aren't there? The team doctor made the call, but he said that someone else told him to make the call, but we don't know who. We don't know where they found the player. We don't know where the woman is now. It was like the middle of the afternoon, so it's not like they had probably been out partying late at night. Yeah, it's all very strange. And if you know anything about the NHL, you know that they're not good at this type of situation. There's been many a coverup and a bungled scandal in the NHL's history. There's not a lot of people to trust here either to handle this well or appropriately.

[00:22:10] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, it looks like there was - if, again, there's a lot of information missing - but also what we know is this player was rushed out of town that day. They now say that he's suspended or gone for personal reasons.

[00:22:24] Brittney Bush Bollay: Personal reasons.

[00:22:25] Crystal Fincher: No other information attached to that. No follow-up on what happened to this woman. I hope she's okay. I hope someone followed up to try and figure out - who is the person who took your passport, how did you arrive here? Is this part of a trafficking? It seems like this should be ripe for investigation. Nothing reported so far suggests that that's the case. So I hope we just didn't basically return this woman to her trafficker. But all of this is open and no comment about this has come from the Colorado Avalanche. It looks like they're just hoping to get away with not saying anything about this, particularly since their season is now over. But this is really, really troubling. And lots of people have heard many stories about how - even police - and it was a major detail that Denver police officers are here traveling with the team, and how often they fail people in these situations, how often they fail to recognize when someone is in need of help and not just a burden. And certainly this woman had been reported - she'd been combative - and it just seemed like they viewed her as a problem, whether it was a PR problem, or that they were just trying to get rid of her and get her out. And that was the exact wrong thing to be doing. If you're getting out, are you following up at the hospital? Are you investigating why she doesn't have her passport? Who is this bad man that took it? What is the connection to the Avalanche player? Is this a trafficking ring happening that they're ignoring, while saying that they're taking public safety seriously here? And as we all know in Seattle, the Seattle Police Department was caught not investigating sexual assaults of adults - what, last year, year before last - just made the decision on their own to stop investigating those crimes because they said they were short-staffed. Seems like if you were to prioritize any crime, it would be that.

[00:24:27] Brittney Bush Bollay: Especially 'cause that's the one that they like to dangle out a lot of the time when they're looking for more funding. They're like - well, what about the rapists, right?

[00:24:35] Crystal Fincher: While they're insisting on going to every overdose call, evidently, where - in most other cities - they're not needed for that at all, something that paramedics usually handle on their own. So it's curious how they prioritize spending their time, and who they're prioritizing spending that protecting and not protecting. I just am very troubled by this. And it just seems to be another coverup where - did we just, did we as a society really just fail this woman and however many more that are like her?

[00:25:10] Brittney Bush Bollay: And you would want to think that there would be procedures in place for this. And you would want to think that they would be followed by - procedures from the Seattle Police Department, procedures for the Denver Police Department, procedures probably in high-end hotels. They should be prepared for this sort of thing. And I know that they're private business and their personal interest is gonna be in making it go away, just like the NHL's interest is. So again, like you said, who's gonna protect this woman? No one seems like they're looking out for her right now. And yeah, I just really - I hope that she's not just falling through the cracks.

[00:25:44] Crystal Fincher: I hope so. And this happened a week ago - about a week ago, I think. So hopefully she's not lost at this point in time, but I hope this is followed up on. I hope - I have seen some Denver media demanding answers from the Avalanche. I hope that they continue to press that, and national media continues to press that. This is a big issue, especially because this is unfortunately common around playoffs, around big sporting events. We have a number of big marquee events coming to Seattle. So being very interested in making sure that this doesn't happen. If it is found, that it is investigated and figured out and broken up is really key and critical. And I hope they are paying attention to this. And that this is just another reason why it is critical to have people responding who are appropriate to the situation that's happening. I have to think that if there was someone more familiar, or whose job it was not to enforce or contain, but to help - but to recognize this and is there for potential victims of trafficking, to help them understand how they can get out, to help them with resources. Because people in this situation - notable they take the passport because you can't go anywhere, you can't do anything without that. You don't have ID. And usually people - she said that she came over from overseas - don't have a driver's license, don't have anything. So they are completely dependent on the person who is trafficking them, who is forcing them into situations that they have not consented to, that they do not want to be in, that they have to be in just to stay. And so if this person doesn't have their own money - usually no accounts, no money, everything is coming from that person - it wouldn't be surprising at all to see that this person wound up right back in a potential trafficker's hands. We'll continue to follow this if any other information comes out, but this is something that I just don't want to disappear and go away.

Other news this week is - so the Seattle Chamber is really actively message testing a plan to raid the JumpStart Tax. They are polling right now. And they've said that this is their intention, basically - a plan to revitalize downtown. And it's so curious because they were not supporters of this tax. They opposed this tax when it was being put together and being passed, but now they want it for themselves. How, what do you think about this?

[00:28:27] Brittney Bush Bollay: It's so - it's not even subtle. It just makes me laugh honestly, in a way, because like you said, they've tried so hard - everything they could to keep this tax from existing in the first place. And now that it's here, they're like - Oh well, since it's here, since you have this nice little tax file, what if I just take some of it? What if - and you showed me the questions on the poll and it's hilarious. What if we told you that Amazon and Starbucks are sweet baby angels and the Seattle Council is populated entirely with demons - would that make you oppose or support our position? They can't have it. Not that I am the only one who gets to say, but no. We've - this is a tax that was organized and pushed for by the community for very specific needs in the community. And I don't think that the Chamber can just waltz in and just take it for their own very specific ends that are different from the very specific ends that we already decided it was for.

[00:29:34] Crystal Fincher: Yeah.

[00:29:35] Brittney Bush Bollay: And what are they going to do? Are they going to reopen Gap? I don't know.

[00:29:40] Crystal Fincher: It is - it's interesting, but you can see some of the messages that they're testing. Some of the questions in this survey - I'll read them. This is one. Currently, officials claim that the City of Seattle is facing a budget shortfall of $225 million. Which of the following approaches to addressing the issue do you prefer? Some say the budget shortfall is driven by things beyond the City's control: declining tax revenues, inflationary pressures, dramatic increase in demand for city services. They need to say we need to find additional progressive tax revenue to maintain the current level of city services so our city's most vulnerable don't suffer. Others say tax revenues have been increasing, but the City is increased, but City spending has increased even faster and the Council still doesn't have an effective plan to address critical issues like homelessness and public safety. They say instead of taxing residents and businesses further, the City Council needs to be held accountable and deliver better results with the money they already have.

Now one, we've heard this used by some prior City Council candidates who are definitely anti-tax. It looks like they're testing that to do. They - I'm trying to find ones where they are like - Oh, businesses already pay so much. Microsoft and Amazon pay so many taxes. They're paying the majority of taxes and why would you want them to pay anymore? Now, obviously when you consider that those are among the richest businesses in the entire world - yeah, it makes sense that they would pay a significant amount of tax and that represents a tiny percentage. But you see them stressing the percentage of the City budget, the percentage of - that the flat dollar tax. So right now - Seattle businesses, large and small, already pay 64% of Seattle taxes, including JumpStart which brings more than a quarter of a billion dollars of new money each year and is the largest tax increase in the city's history. Further increasing taxes on businesses will push them to leave, creating an even bigger budget gap and shifting the tax burden to Seattle households. Then asking how convincing is this statement as a reason to oppose a further increase in local business taxes?

Right? So you can hear them basically say - Well, they're paying most of the taxes anyway, so they should get to decide how to use it and not the residents of Seattle. In fact, they shouldn't just get to decide, we should basically just hand it over to them to let them spend it. A rebate, in effect - they're asking for. Obviously this came into place because while those companies were becoming the richest in the world, the impacts of that in this community were felt - and they're both positive and negative impacts, right? It's not like people are saying there's never been any positive impact, but it is true that - wow, a lot of people, hundreds of thousands of people moved to the region. Because of them, that puts a strain on local resources, especially without - for so long, without them contributing to this tax. After the repeal of the Head Tax, they weren't paying hardly any taxes to the city that was enabling their meteoric rise - the talent provided by public education, public universities here, our infrastructure. They're finding talent here to the degree that they aren't finding it in other places, which is why they're coming here and relocating here. And I always laugh at the suggestion that raising taxes or more revenue will force businesses to flee because we have literally heard that for decades - with every increase in the minimum wage, with every single business tax, B&O tax - we've heard, Well, this is going to scare businesses away. This is going to really make the town go bankrupt.

And all that's happened is that more businesses have come, and the businesses that have been here have become more successful to a large degree if we're looking at large businesses. So there is a conversation to be had on - should we all sacrifice and continue to pay a disproportionate price societally compared to how much wealth we have or what income we make in comparison to literally the richest people and the richest companies in the world? Of course they're going to be paying a dollar amount that looks large, but what percentage of almost trillion dollar companies, hundreds of billions of dollar companies relying on our infrastructure, relying on our roads, relying on our utilities, relying on our education system and talent. Seattle said - absolutely yes, 100%. They are not currently paying their fair share and this represents it. And they're trying really hard to message against that and paying quite a lot of money to test this poll, to test their messaging, and really trying to hone in on what they feel will be most persuasive here.

[00:34:25] Brittney Bush Bollay: Yeah, and that right there tells you that they think it's a good investment for them. I feel sometimes like Amazon is this shadow extra branch of our government because of the gravity that they have in the City. And just - all you have to do for a certain portion of the voting population is say, Oh, Amazon's going to leave. And everyone's - Oh no, that can never, we can't do anything that will make Amazon mad. And it's frustrating, and it's inaccurate, and it creeps me out. I mentioned to you earlier - when I see Amazon ads now on TV, it's starting to feel like propaganda because they have so much sway.

The other thing that these polls and these narratives never mention is that there's a mayor and a whole executive branch in this town. And the City Council actually does not run the City by themselves. They don't even put the budget together by themselves. Obviously they do the final passage. They do a lot of editing. The mayor also has to sign it. And then the mayor and the executive branch have to take that money and they have to execute. They have to use it. And so it's not just these seven people's responsibility for everything that's going on. But somehow they're the only ones that ever get their fingers pointed - that get fingers pointed at them.

[00:35:46] Crystal Fincher: Oh yeah, and that's very intentional. Fingers pointed at them by the same parties that coincidentally are interested in dramatically reducing taxation for the richest companies in the world. It's all very curious. Also curious in this to me continues to be the representation that this is both big businesses and small businesses that are in favor of this. Usually in the case with these things, and especially for taxes like this, they're - like the GSBA, the Greater Seattle Business Association, was in favor of the JumpStart Tax - which is a chamber made up of mostly smaller businesses, right? The biggest businesses are part of the Seattle Chamber and driving that Chamber activity. You see other smaller chambers that are predominantly small businesses supporting this because it does include a lot of help for small businesses. But it's these gigantic corporations that are trying to steer the money away. And so this JumpStart Tax is popular in part because it actually is really going to the people who need it most in our community. It is going to small business owners who do need the help, who aren't able to just decide not to pay a lease without consequences, who can decide just not to pay their vendors without consequences, and wield their influence, and bully other people for lack of a better word. They're more at the whims of just rules and laws and the market. And they need help and they appreciate the help. They're suffering from rising rents and income inequality in the business world in a similar way that we're seeing it among individuals.

So it's going to be interesting to see how this plays out. I just think a lot of people are not prepared for the effort that's going to come to divert this JumpStart Tax revenue to downtown and, for a tax that the full city voted on and that really the full city needs to benefit from, and that several neighborhoods in Seattle need help. Are we once again focusing on downtown to the exclusion of other neighborhoods? Are we giving money to downtown to the exclusion of other neighborhoods? And certainly downtown is a vital economic engine. I don't think anyone is disputing that, and we need to do things to make sure that we are fostering business as well as - the end to that is part of that bargain is we want to foster business so that people can have good living wage jobs so that they can have a house and a home and build a life that they can. In the absence of that second part happening - it's not just we want a big business just to say that it's big, it's for the benefits that it brings to the community. Those benefits were not coming. And so this is the correction that Seattle residents felt was appropriate. And so that is - there's a target on it. They're going after it, and people better be prepared.

Also this week, we got news that the County, King County, voted to maintain the same level of the Veterans, Seniors and Human Services Levy. In a vote - they had a choice to say, Okay, we're going to maintain the same levy amount. Basically they put together a package and said - you're gonna get this housing help - all of this for Veterans, Seniors and Human Services - a lot of very crucial services for the community - helping people avoid homelessness, special services and providers that are crucial and necessary. I think most people agree with that. Unfortunately, because of inflation, because of all of these costs - what this money buys now, it buys so much less than it did before. And so we're looking at not getting as much as most people would have hoped. And so they were also considering raising, really by a couple cents, per value assessed. I think total, they estimated it would cost the average person $17 per year to say that would actually provide the level of services that we feel is necessary to help in this situation and not the trim-back-austerity light.

And this is yet another example, in my opinion, of a short-sighted decision. One - just politically - people don't make decisions on taxes and going, Okay, this is 0.012 of my assessed value property, but this is 0.014. And man, that difference between 0.012 and 0.014 is untenable. People don't vote like that. They don't vote like that. They vote on the tax overall, and do they feel they're gonna get their money's worth? And so just putting the tax on is the big thing. Unless you're doubling or tripling - that's gonna cause a conversation - but modest increases are, people just flatly do not make decisions like that. We can say that confidently with tons of evidence. But what does happen, unfortunately, in situations like this - especially with the renewal - people pay for something. People are fine paying taxes if they feel that they're getting value for their dollar. The problem becomes when they feel like they're getting short-changed or they're not getting value for it. And so right now, for the same price, you're saying - and again, a price that they aren't very sensitive to - you're saying, Okay, you're gonna get less. It's not gonna do as much. And so then the next time that we go to renew this, people are gonna have gotten less. People are gonna see less help, less change, and they're gonna feel like this tax is less justified. So it actually makes it harder to pass next time.

And then when you shortchange this, or when you know you're going in with less funding than it really needs and that you can get - when you leave money on the table, you also leave helping people on the table. And you build the case by helping lots of people in your community. That is your case for reelection. Fewer people are going to be helped. There are people attacking - Hey, you're spending this money and we aren't really seeing the difference. You can spend large sums of money because if it's going to help people, that is the justification, that is the value, and people feel that value. But without doing that, then the tax starts to feel burdensome to more people. And the people fighting against that, who would fight against any tax - the people who are most opposed to this, generally are opposed to all taxes - and it's not an issue of two tenths of a percent or whatever, or cent. It's just different.

So I'm frustrated to see members that voted for this lower amount. It ended up being a 5-4 vote. It looks like Dave Upthegrove was actually the deciding vote against going for the full amount needed in this levy. And he and some other suburban members said that they - think he said - I don't have any problem with this politically, I just don't know that with some of the pressures that this could pass, that people would pay for it. And that is just not consistent with all available data. And it's just a shame to see money left on the table that could help people, and that could provide value for the money that we're spending. When we have a constrained ability to raise revenue - and especially when some of the options aren't that great - we have limited options for progressive revenue, few options. In those situations and even across the board, it's - yeah, we are asking more from some people, but hopefully the people who need it most are the ones getting helped. And the value is delivered to them first, and we don't burden people who can't absorb it comfortably. But we'll see. How did you feel about this?

[00:43:20] Brittney Bush Bollay: You know, it's - going back to these messages that we hear over and over again - that every time there's a levy, and there's always a levy, we hear - Oh well, people are getting levy fatigue. They're getting taxation fatigue. If we keep raising the property taxes, people are gonna stop voting for it because they just, they're tired of it. Which is, as you just said, it completely contradicts the actual messaging or the evidence about why people vote the way they do. And so it's, again, it's just tiring to see us shoot ourselves in the foot, on the basis of a non-evidentiary-based supposition. And so not only are we - we're quitting before we even have a chance to lose is what it feels like. It feels like they're not even gonna try to do the full amount 'cause they've just decided that they can't. And so not only are we denying ourselves that potential opportunity, but then we're locking ourselves in to this lower rate as well. It's not like this is something that we can re-examine every day. So I guess frustrated too - for one word, frustrated - yeah, let's do more. Who doesn't wanna help veterans and seniors? Come on, man.

And I think that Seattle and King County - we really like to think of ourselves as the kind of place where we help each other out. And I think people - you said people do vote for that. When I was, when we were working on the Transit Levy a couple of years ago, we found people really were compelled to help people who couldn't afford transit get transit - because they understood - it gets them to work, it gets them to the doctor. It makes people feel good. They wanna do that.

[00:45:04] Crystal Fincher: It reduces my traffic.

[00:45:06] Brittney Bush Bollay: Right - let people do that. Let people help each other, man.

[00:45:12] Crystal Fincher: I wish, I just wish more people understood the value proposition of taxation and how important it is to provide value. And that when you cut back on what you're going to provide - and this is applicable to Sound Transit, this is applicable to school levies and things, we've talked about this before. One time I wound up chairing a school levy because of this issue here - of the higher versus lower amount thing. Again, the issue here isn't tax versus no tax. It's tax at one amount, tax at a tiny bit above that other amount. And people just don't differentiate between that amount. So go for what you know is going to deliver the value necessary and the value intended, instead of saying - Sorry, we're just gonna have to do a lot less. When people look at their own personal finances, they make these judgments all the time, right? And if they feel like - Okay, yeah, I think that's good. I think that'll help. Okay, that's fine. But if it's - This isn't helping much, I don't know that this is gonna do much - then no, they're not as inclined to do it. And making these decisions repeatedly, as you said, just locks us into lower rates and into funding that we know is not going to provide the relief that it's intended to.

And when people feel like they've been bamboozled - like we do with the Waterfront, like we do - Hey, I thought I bought this other thing and you delivered something completely different. Hey, I thought I was buying the same amount of things that I did before for the same price, but turns out you cut back. People notice that - that they will notice and feel that more than they will notice and feel the incremental difference in the tax amount. And I just wish more electeds understood this. We would save ourselves a lot of peril.

[00:46:59] Brittney Bush Bollay: And I think that a long term degradation of trust in government has very, very serious consequences that add up over time far more than incremental taxation increases do.

[00:47:11] Crystal Fincher: I agree. Delivering what people expect, also the implementation of stuff - we've talked about before - getting the implementation right are absolutely critical, especially for the advancement of progressive policy.

With that, I will thank you for listening to Hacks & Wonks on this Friday, May 5th, 2023. The producer of Hacks & Wonks is Shannon Cheng. Our insightful co-host today was King Conservation Supervisor, Seattle sports writer and enthusiast, fashion maven, Brittney Bush Bollay. You can find Brittney @BrittneyBush, that's two T's in the middle. You can follow Hacks & Wonks on Twitter @HacksWonks. You can find me on Twitter and Blue Sky and Mastodon - finchfrii everywhere. You can catch Hacks & Wonks wherever you get your podcasts - just type "Hacks and Wonks" into the search bar. Be sure to subscribe to get the full versions of our Friday almost-live shows and our Tuesday topical show delivered to your podcast feed. If you like us, please leave a review wherever you listen. You can also get a full transcript of this episode and links to the resources referenced in the show at and in our podcast episode notes.

Thanks for tuning in - we'll talk to you next time.