City politics, vaccination status, and the Kraken prep for play, this week
Bill Radke discusses the week's news with PubliCola's Erica Barnett, the Kitsap Sun's Josh Farley, and KUOW's David Hyde.
We’re in the thick of this year's local elections, and with November looming, that means it’s ad season. A recent attack ad against Bruce Harrell is making the rounds, claiming Harrell accepted nearly $100,00 from Seattle’s top Trump contributor. KUOW's David Hyde is following the story: did Gonzalez see it before it ran? Could she have stopped it? What does she say about it? What does Harrell say? What evidence is there to suggest how it will play with voters? A recent mailer from King County Councilmember Kathy Lambert is also causing a stir after drawing condemnation from fellow councilmembers for its racist imagery. Lambert is a 20-year incumbent and is facing a closer race than usual, and her mailer features Councilmember Girmay Zahilay holding marionette strings connected to challenger Sarah Perry, and called the council member a socialist. Zahilay -- the only person of color on the county council -- endorsed Perry alongside three other members of the council, yet Zahilay was the only one pictured. In response, Zahilay wrote: “I wonder why she singled out and used her only Black colleague’s face for fear mongering on the East Side.” How does Zahilay feel about being called a socialist? And how have Republicans responded to this? What do we know about how voters responded? Her backers? Also, any other races that have caught your eye, or you think is worth paying attention to at this stage? In the last bit of city news, Mayor Jenny Durkan released her final budget, which posits a confusing approach to homelessness. The budget would send money to the new homelessness authority while ramping up funding for the parks department, which is in charge of encampment sweeps. What have we deciphered as to why the mayor is proposing this shakeup in homelessness funding? What does it change? And with a new mayor on the horizon, how likely is it that these decisions will have an impact?
In more news, a deadline is quickly approaching for state and city employees: get vaccinated, or get fired. An emergency order by Governor Inslee requires state employees to be fully vaccinated by October 18th -- that means you need to have received your second shot (or single shot if it’s Johnson and Johnson) by October 4th, just two weeks out from the 18th. For many employers, it’s turned into a bit of a waiting game. Employees aren’t required to show proof of vaccination until the 18th, so organizations are waiting to know how many people they’ll need to replace. That includes the Seattle police department. As of Tuesday one third of their officers had yet to show proof of vaccination. On a city level, Mayor Dukan’s office told the Seattle Times that city employees had submitted 9,020 vaccination confirmations and about 700 exemption requests, describing the data as preliminary. Seattle has about 12,000 employees. The city reached tentative agreements with most labor unions last month, but not with the Seattle Police Officers Guild. In an email last Friday to rank-and-file officers, Police guild president Mike Solan said SPD had “sent out conflicting information to our members regarding the COVID-19 Vaccination Verification Timeline.” Does this silence from SPD officers necessarily mean non-compliance? Is this part of a larger negotiating strategy by SPOG? Is the fact that people haven’t submitted yet even actually a bad thing? After all, they haven’t reached the deadline for doing so. What’s the impact of having employees wait to submit their vaccine information? Plus, there’s one person Washington residents, or at least Cougars fans, are keeping an eye on. WSU coach Nick Rolovich announced in July that he wouldn’t get the Covid vaccine. He also said he would comply with Inslee’s vaccine mandate. But he has yet to say what complying actually looks like. If Rolovich is aiming for an exemption he would have needed to submit it by the beginning of this week. As of now we have no information on if he’s actually done that. Why are we keeping such a close eye on his decision? Does it matter if Rolovich is keeping this info to himself? And even if Rolovich is exempted from getting vaccinated, can he still do his job while unvaccinated?
Also, if you own a car and have driven around Seattle, you’ve probably been honked at. But apparently that’s more likely now than it was previously. A new poll by PEMCO insurance shows a majority of surveyed Washington and Oregon residents are “embracing the horn as a tool of communication.” According to the poll, 68% of drivers think it’s ok to honk now, compared to 46% in 2017. Are you honking on the road? Do you mind when people honk at you? Does this signify any loss of “Seattle culture”? With more new people comes less of an adherence to polite driving?
Three new light rail stations opened last weekend, ushering in a new era of commuting in town. Have you taken a ride yet? The opening has been long anticipated by many and marks the first means of rapid transit between north and south Seattle, which, as KUOW reported, is bringing both excitement and concern. What impacts will these new stations have on their outlying neighborhoods? Aside from the fresh coat of paint, the new stations are also nice to look at. The University District station features color coded light installations to help guide riders, and includes a video-based art installation on its walls. Roosevelt and Northgate stations also feature prominent artwork, and Sound Transit spent $2.5 million to make sure the stations felt pleasant to wait at. This stands in stark contrast with south Seattle stations, which feature small platforms and few restrooms. Why are some stations ‘fancier’ than others? Is it fair to compare north-south? Do we need ‘fancy’ light-rail stations -- that is, what’s the utility?
And lastly, after the Mariners endured another disappointing (though thrilling) playoff miss, and with the Seahawks making inconsistent strides, Seattle sports fans need a rebound. They’ll get it this week when Seattle releases the Kraken against the Las Vegas Golden Knights in the first regular season game in franchise history. So far the Kraken have set records for jersey sales and drawn strong pre-season crowds in Spokane, Everett, and Kent. So is Seattle becoming a hockey town? Or Washington a hockey state? Speaking of Climate Pledge Arena, the official opening for the remodeled arena won’t be for another couple of weeks, meaning Seattle won’t be able to enjoy a ‘real’ home game until October 23rd, giving the season a somewhat awkward launch pad. To this point, the Kraken have a road heavy schedule at the get go (Tuesday's game will take place in Las Vegas). Do you have plans to go this season? Who's feeling the hype? How will the new Kraken-Canucks rivalry will compare with Sounders-Timbers-Whitecaps? Do rivalries make the region feel more connected?