Open Letter to Spokane Voters
Lorna and I have known Breean Beggs for more than 30 years.
We met him when he was a student at Whitworth College.
Since then he has been a force for good in our community.
Director of The Center for Justice, attorney for Otto Zhem’s family, effective City Councilman.
Today Breean is standing for election to Spokane City Council President.
He’s absolutely the right man for the job.
But the Realtor’s Association would rather have Cindy Wendle have her way with the city. And they’ve backed her with an obscene amount of money.
We have supported Breean with cash and in-kind donations of video production.
On Sunday, we shot a response ad to Wendle’s dystopian view of Spokane (that features stock footage she bought of a homeless camp in Baltimore). Check it out:
Breean’s thoughtful reply demonstrates the sort of honest, positive attitude that he has brought to government.
Lorna and I believe that this is an important race that will have a profound impact on the future of our home town.
For that reason, we are maxing out to Breean’s campaign with cash to buy more airtime for the new TV spot.
And I’m asking you to consider doing the same.
Breean’s up against a well funded machine.
Mount the barricades with me.
Please feel free to forward this email to right thinking people.
Director / DP / Photographer
T : (509) 327-9501
Keep to the high ground,
In Which City Do You Wish to Live?
Is your vision of a city a place in which you can choose to walk through tree-lined neighborhoods, where you can comfortably bike or walk to a park, where there are few neighborhood eateries and some basic shops, where, at least once in a while, you can see, wave at, and chat with your neighbors without making an appointment? Do you see value to a city with easily accessible shared natural areas like parts of Manito Park, Riverside Park, the trails on bluffs off the South Hill? Do you see value in a vibrant downtown with functional public transportation?
Or do you prefer a city designed for the fastest flow of traffic, a city to get through, into and out of, as quickly as possible, a city of broad roads with high speed limits separating enclaves with with gates, surveillance, and prominent signs declaring “Private Road, No Trespassing,” communities whose structure forces walkers and bicyclists onto the speedy thoroughfares?
I live in the City of Spokane because I much prefer the first idea of a city. Here’s the crux: You don’t get a city like that without planning for it, without envisioning routes for public transportation, without planting trees and public works that deal with runoff, without functional public works. A city like the one we live in does not happen without a plan. We have a vibrant park system in Spokane because of the vision and civic-mindedness of members of our community who, many years ago, brought in the Olmsted Brothers (the designers of many, many parts systems in U.S. cities, including New York’s Central Park) to provide the vision and layout.
We are at a crossroads in Spokane in the upcoming municipal general election that closes November 5th. We can thank the out of area and out of town money of developers and real estate interests for illustrating what is at stake. Spokane has a plan and they want to break it.
I leave you today with some thoughts I’ve gathered over several emails from a good friend and long time Spokanite who is well acquainted with city government:
There’s a simple punchline here. The Realtors want to reduce risk and build with a minimum of bottlenecks and regulations, and maximize profits. In order to do that, they want to push on the city and its taxpayers to increase infrastructure costs to the benefit of developers. In-fill is of no interest to the larger developers. One great way to destroy an urbanization plan is to keep everyone afraid of the downtown.
The Complete Streets initiative has been around for awhile, but I just look at all the opportunities to skirt it that seem to crop up. So many people just want to get across town as fast as possible, and don’t give a damn about sidewalks, streetlights, bike lanes and traffic calming. And no one wants to live and work next to an expressway. Its how urban areas decay at the cost of meeting the needs of suburbanites.
Ben Stuckart (candidate for Mayor), Breean Beggs (candidate for City Council President), Lori Kinnear (incumbent candidate for District 2, South Hill, Councilperson), and Karen Stratton (incumbent candidate for District 3, NW Spokane Councilperson) understand the vision of the Spokane I want to live in. Their opponents, funded by developers and real estate people with roots elsewhere, have a different vision, a vision they mostly don’t want to talk about. Instead they want to instill and ride a wave of fear of downtown in pursuit of a vision I reject. Don’t let them get away with it.
Keep to the high ground,
Mike Leach and Whataboutism
A headline in the online version of the Tuesday, September 17, Spokesman blares: “Mike Leach comments on California’s Pay for Play Act: ‘California has trouble keeping their streets clean … they ought to focus on that’“
According to the article, the comments on California’s streets by Mike Leach, the head coach of the WSU Cougars football team, went viral on the internet before he even left the podium from which he spoke. The comments that went viral had nothing to do with the issue on which he was supposedly commenting, a recent bill passed by the California legislature that would allow “amateur athletes…to profit from their name and likeness effective beginning in 2023,” if it is signed by California Gov. Gavin Newsom.
The effects of the bill, if signed, are likely worth some serious discussion, but not here. Mike Leach, by riffing on what he might have seen in a video on Fox “News” the evening before, changed the subject from college athletes to California’s streets and elevated a current partisan political issue above the subject at hand. Consider for a moment the inanity of bringing up any mention of California’s streets in a discussion about the earnings of college athletes.
The headline and Leach’s comments reminded me of Doug Muder’s essay on Whataboutism in the August 12 edition of The Weekly Sift, an email I receive each Monday that I highly recommend. Muder’s column is copied below.
Mike Leach, with the aid of Spokesman and the internet, demonstrates that Whataboutism is alive and well in the Inland Northwest. Don’t succumb to Whataboutist tactics. Don’t be dragged into the weeds to fight over a distraction from the topic at hand. Point it out and refuse to go there. That’s the higher ground.
Keep to the high ground,
Why Woodward and Wendle want it “Non-Partisan”
I understand the voters of the City of Spokane rejected Cathy McMorris Rodgers by a 14 point margin in the 2018 General Election. (See P.S.) Considering those 14 points, having “Favors Republican Party” as a label on the ballot in the City of Spokane ought to be electoral poison.
This was no more evident than in the Spokesman article by Adam Shanks that appeared Sunday, September 22, with the online title, Gov. Jay Inslee endorses Ben Stuckart, while Nadine Woodward bolsters support among business, law enforcement groups. In the face of Inslee’s unprecedented endorsement of Stuckart (for a non-partisan municipal race), Ms. Woodward is quoted, ““I’m running as a nonpartisan, that race is nonpartisan, so I have not sought out the endorsement of partisan elected officials. My priority has been to seek out endorsements of people who are involved in the issues that are important to me.” Whose endorsement might she otherwise seek? McMorris Rodgers? Matt Shea? Donald Trump? No, better for her not to go there…
Meanwhile, Stuckart has the endorsements of State Sen. Andy Billig and State Reps. Marcus Riccelli and Timm Ormsby, all Democrats representing Legislative District 3 (which largely overlaps the City of Spokane), and, “U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell has not officially endorsed Stuckart, but she headlined a campaign fundraising event for him on Friday.”
Nadine Woodward is just the most prominent among the slate of Republican candidates that wealthy interests, many from outside the City of Spokane, want to install as our city government. Woodward wants us to vote for her as the trusted non-partisan talking head on the TV in our living rooms. Woodward and her handlers really, really don’t want her Republican credentials front and center. The folks representing the Spokane GOP at the Interstate Fair, standing among their WeBelieveWeVote placards, apparently didn’t get the memo. When asked if they had any Woodward signs, they were anxious to reassure me that Woodward was “one of us” but that she was trying to keep it quiet for the purposes of a “non-partisan” election.
Cindy Wendle’s story is much the same. My friend and former neighbor, the one who asserted to me that Trump was a great President because “he moved the Embassy to Jerusalem” is related to Ms. Wendle. When I asked her about Ms Wendle, the first thought from my former neighbor wasn’t something about Ms. Wendle’s values or expertise, but rather, “She’s non-partisan!” How odd, thought I at the time, that a non-partisan candidate like Ms. Wendle should have her campaign paraphernalia prominently displayed at the Spokane GOP’s booth at the Spokane Interstate Fair while a staunchly Evangelical extended family member offers “non-partisan” as the first thing to be considered.
I want a City government that works in the best interests of the citizens of the City of Spokane, not a government stymied at every turn by Republican ideologues dressed up in “non-partisan” clothing whose elections have been bought by real estate special interests.
Keep to the high ground,
P.S. This general blueness of the City of Spokane precincts is visible on this map at FiveThirtyEight, after you enter “Spokane, WA” and click “Submit.” Seeing that blueness requires awareness of the boundaries of the City of Spokane, since the City is considerably bluer than its surround. The article, mostly based a study of the voting patterns within “Metropolitan Statistical Areas” (MSA) is also worth looking at more generally, but the text is a little confusing because it considers “Spokane” as the MSA rather than the municipal entity we are addressing here in this election. FiveThirtyEight (the number of electors in the Electoral College) is a polling aggregation website run by Nate Silver.
Tonight’s Ozzie Town Hall–Plus
FIRST: The Threats We Face Town Hall this evening with Ozzie Knezovich starts seating at 5:30. According to the email from the Republicans of Spokane County, an email I’ve copied at the bottom of this window, there are already 400 people signed up to attend. If you plan to attend and have not signed up I encourage you to try to do so here. If you read it is “sold out” please read the email I copied below for directions.
SECOND (A good alternative to Ozzie this evening): If you attended the Climate Rally downtown last Friday you saw a cadre of “Anti-Vaxxers” pushing a conspiracy theory-laced agenda with prominent signs. To me their message was out of place.
Tonight, at the Downtown Library from 7-9PM there is a free showing of the film, A Perilous Quest to Save the World’s Children, a documentary of the life of Dr. Maurice Hilleman, the microbiologist from Montana responsible for the development of more vaccines and for saving more lives than any other medical scientist of the 20th century. HIlleman’s story needs telling–along with the stories of Gallo, Sabin, Salk, and of the pioneers of microbiology of the 19th century.
Rumor has it the Anti-Vax crowd plans to protest the film, on what grounds it is hard to imagine. Do they consider a biographical documentary fake news? I have seen them in action testifying at Spokane County Health meetings. Those I saw were led by Rev. Ed Pace, the right wing pastor and one time City of Spokane Valley Councilman. I see the anti-vaxx protests as rooted in an anti-science, dis-information laced, right wing religious agenda.
Whether or not the protesters appear, the documentary should be well worth attending. Whichever event you attend it should be an interesting evening.
Keep to the high ground,
EVENTBRITE–update on the 6-8PM Town Hall on Tuesday, September 24, at Center Place Regional Event Center. Here’s the link to sign up: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-threats-we-face-with-sheriff-ozzie-knezovich-tickets-71158987447
A Message from Republicans of Spokane County:
Thank you for reserving your seats for The Threats We Face with Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich. We have had an incredible response with over 400 seats reserved.
This event is open seating so you might want to arrive a bit early but the doors will not open to the main event room until 5:30. You must sign in to enter the main event room. Tables with sign in sheets will be positioned at the entry doors.
If an attendee did NOT give their name and email at the time their seat was reserved there will be a separate table to sign in and ID may be required.
The event is scheduled for 2 hours, from 6-8, and there will be a Question and Answer session to follow as time allows. Press will be present.
If you have friends and family who would like to attend but seats are “sold out,” please let me know via email before Tuesday noon at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will manually enter them.
Thank you again for your interest, this promises to be an exciting and informative event!
Beva Miles, Chair
Trickle Down Housing
The Washington Realtors Political Action Committee (WA RPAC) under the chairmanship of Tom Hormel (Spokane Valley resident and member of the Governmental Affairs Committee of the Spokane Realtors Association [SAR]) made a huge financial bet in the City of Spokane municipal primaries in August this year. Mr. Hormel guided $175,000 (a quarter of all the direct candidate money spent in those primaries), in “independent expenditures” to support his slate of candidates: Nadine Woodward, Cindy Wendle, Andrew Rathbun, and Michael Cathcart.
Hormel’s explanation for directing this investment (two thirds of which was raised outside Spokane and Spokane Valley) toward propaganda (spent at a firm in Denver) to influence the Spokane elections? Here’s the official version of Hormel’s explanation found in the Spokesman [the bold is mine]:
The impetus behind the spike in campaign activity is addressing “a crisis with housing availability and affordability,” according to Tom Hormel, chair of the WA Realtors PAC and a member of the Spokane Association of Realtors’ government affairs committee.
“That’s why we’re playing big this year,” Hormel said. “We took an opportunity to change the face of the City Council to help get us out of this crisis.”
What altruism, right? Wait a minute. The Realtors (and builders) of Washington State are stepping in for the good of us all–and they’re going to make housing in Spokane more affordable??? Think about that. The WA Realtors PAC is a trade group dedicated to making the construction and sale of real estate maximally profitable for its members. If you have even a shred of doubt about the reasons for which WA RPAC exists and spends its money read the WA RPAC fundraising email I’ve copied to the bottom of this window.
Note the title of the “successful…campaign.” In that fundraising email touts: “Unlock the Door for Affordable Housing” I urge you to paste that title [with the quotation marks] into your web browser. The first eight hits in my Google browser connect to links with Seattle connections. There are several with links referencing the “housing crisis.”
The word “affordable” in Mr. Hormel’s quote is typical of Republican word-smithing. (See Don’t Think of an Elephant by George Layoff) The word “affordable” is meant to light up a frame in the mind of the listener that shines with the type of housing that might address the issue of homelessness, affordable apartments and small homes, a neat and tidy central city where everyone has a place to live. It is a lovely illusion. It’s what we all want, a comfortable, non-threatening city in which we can afford to live and raise our children. But is that the comfortable, in-filled, happy city the one most profitable for wealthy developers to build? Is it the one they will build if given unfettered control of city government?
WA RPAC’s “Affordable Housing” campaign theme has been around for a while, an advertising campaign likely hatched by consultants to NAR, the National Association of Realtors, a wealthy lobbying union representing developers and builders. It cannot be an accident that Nadine Woodward’s opening salvo in her campaign for mayor was to post the political video “Seattle is Dying” on her Facebook page, touting it to the local media with the paranoid fear that Spokane will come to look like the selected images in the video if she isn’t elected mayor. Ms. Woodward (as well as Wendle, Rathbun, and Cathcart, the developers slate of candidates) got an additional boost from a slickly produced local video,”Curing Spokane,” a video financed by local real estate developer, Larry Stone. Ms. Woodward immediately praised “Curing Spokane” and, no surprise, the video is featured on the Republicans of Spokane County website. Is this all a concerted effort to buy the Spokane election for the benefit of wealthy real estate interests?
WA RPAC interests want a Spokane City government that least regulates the building of maximally profitable tract housing with as much city-provided, sprawling infrastructure as possible, buildings that will house those who can afford it. The only nod to affordability will be an overall increase in supply on a sprawling landscape fed by congested freeways. We’re being asked to buy a concept that amounts to the housing version of trickle-down economics. (If you’re tempted by trickle down housing as a concept, ask yourself when the last time was you noticed landlords lowering rents because there were too many rentals and too few renters. Never?)
And the folks the videos depict as a blight on downtown? The solution these candidates offer is that we need to build a bigger jail somewhere else.
Are you feeling used and manipulated yet? We have to give Tom Hormel and the Washington Realtors PAC some credit. The money he and his PAC are wielding in the Spokane elections cries out for explanation. Why are monied special interests clothing their effort in “affordability” while trying to purchase Spokane City government? Why would a trade group invest so much to supplant knowledgeable elected officials dutifully working on local issues, supplant it with a slate consisting of two telegenic political newcomers who downplay their Republican ideology (Wendle and Woodward), a wealthy landlord (Rathbun, who is substantially funding his own campaign), and a “Spokane Association of Realtors Community Partner of the Year, 2016” political operative (Cathcart).
Were it not for Tom Hormel’s WA RPAC propaganda buy, we might have missed seeing the overall strategy.
Keep to the high ground,
P.S. If you can get past the bias of the headline, “Plan to redirect city funds from ‘Curing Spokane’ producer’s development project is ‘dead,’ Stuckart says,” by Adams Shanks in the September 17th Spokesman, I urge you to read it carefully. Larry Stone’s “Curing Spokane” video can hardly be anything but a plug for Woodward and company. Does Mr. Stone think that anyone who is paying attention believes his production of “Curing Spokane” is anything but political propaganda meant to influence the election in favor of candidates that will financially benefit Mr. Stone?
The following is copied and pasted from a September 14th Washington Realtors Political Action Committee fundraising email with the subject line “Did You Answer the Call?” asking for members to upgrade their PAC contribution to $50 from $35 [the bold is mine]:
Did you see our successful “Unlock the Door for Affordable Housing” Campaign? This State wide Campaign led to Legislation that:
· Decreased the Real Estate Excise Tax by 15% on all sales under $500,000- putting nearly $1,000 back in your seller’s pocket.
· Exempted REALTORS® such as yourself from a 20% increase in the B&O Tax – what comes off the top your commissions. Putting $250-$500 on average back into your pocket every year.
· Protected your Independent Contractor Status
· Beat back a bill that would have required an- in house transactions to involve attorneys for both the seller and the buyer at every step of the transaction
· Reformed Condo Liability Laws so that more affordable condominiums can be built
· Passed a bill that encourages cities to allow more density- things like accessory dwelling units, duplexes and triplexes in single family zones and more.
Last year we fixed the Hirst Decision that affected rural water rights for many property owners in WA State – this was a huge win!