Week in Review: July 14, 2023 - with Lex Vaughn

Week in Review: July 14, 2023 - with Lex Vaughn

On this week-in-review, Crystal is joined by Founder and Editor of The Needling, Lex Vaughn!

They discuss a Hitler apologist on The Seattle Times Editorial Board, problematic items on display in a Seattle Police Department break room, complaints filed against Bob Ferguson’s opaque transfer of campaign funds, and WA Republicans wanting to make the long-term care tax optional. The conversation continues with Kshama Sawant’s push for a rent control trigger law, dueling tenant-protection laws on the Tacoma ballot, and former US Attorney Nick Brown’s entrance into the Attorney General race.

UPDATE: After the show was recorded, The Seattle Times fired David Josef Volodzko.

About the Guest

Lex Vaughn

Lex Vaughn is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and Founder and Editor of The Needling.

Find Lex Vaughn on Twitter/X at @AlexaVaughn.


Business Perspectives with GSBA’s Gabriel Neuman” from Hacks & Wonks

@finchfrii on Twitter: “Wonder why the Seattle Times endorsements are the way they are? Here’s a member of their editorial board:

@finchfrii on Twitter: “Do you stand by this, @SeattleTimes ? Are you keeping a Hitler apologist and genocide minimizer on your editorial board?

New Seattle Times Columnist Believes Hitler Wasn't as Bad as You Think” by Charles Mudede from The Stranger

Deep! Hole Seattle Times Editorial Board Writer Digs After Nazi-Apologist Comment Officially Reaches Hitler’s Bunker” from The Needling

Seattle police kept mock tombstone for Black man, Trump flag in break room, video shows” by Mike Carter from The Seattle Times

Complaint pushes for Ferguson to reveal donors of $1.2M in campaign transfers” by Jerry Cornfield from Washington State Standard

WA Republicans propose making new long-term care tax optional” by Claire Withycombe from The Seattle Times

Seattle Democrats Snub Sawant After Request to Endorse Rent Control Trigger Law” by Hannah Krieg from The Stranger

Tacoma voters to decide on dueling tenant-protection measures this fall” by Heidi Groover from The Seattle Times

Former U.S. Attorney Nick Brown launches 2024 campaign for Attorney General” by Andrew Villeneuve from The Cascadia Advocate

Former U.S. attorney Nick Brown announces bid for Washington AG” by Joseph O’Sullivan from Crosscut

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 the Friday week-in-review 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 officialhacksandwonks.com and in our episode notes.

If you missed our Tuesday topical show, I had a conversation with Gabriel Neuman, Policy Counsel and Government Relations Manager for GSBA, about the organization's work as Washington's LGBTQ+ Chamber of Commerce. Today, we are continuing our Friday week-in-review shows where we review the news of the week with a co-host. Welcome to the program for the first time, today's co-host: Founder and Editor of The Needling, Lex Vaughn.

[00:01:22] Lex Vaughn: Yay, I'm so glad to be here.

[00:01:24] Crystal Fincher: We are very big fans of The Needling over here, so really, really excited to have you on. And we have no shortage of topics to talk about this week. We will start with an odd development that was not on my bingo card, but we have evidently a newer Seattle Times Editorial Board member who is a Hitler apologist, genocide minimizer?

[00:01:53] Lex Vaughn: They hire him to make the rest of them seem less conservative - that's the only thing I can think of. And I can't believe that his comments have been online for almost a week now or so, and he hasn't just been fired - 'cause he's not apologizing and the way he tried to clean it up was so much worse. He had a follow-up tweet saying - I guess I should have said Pol Pot or Leopold II.

[00:02:19] Crystal Fincher: What did he actually say? What happened here?

[00:02:23] Lex Vaughn: I feel like it's important to look at the exact quote - which I should bring up. So first of all, he's taking on this tacky - or hacky - article about the statue of Lenin in the center of Fremont. And everybody has a moment when they move here when they're - Is that Lenin? I thought it was a fisherman at first, I'm - It couldn't possibly be Lenin. And there's always a moment when you're new here, you're - Explain. But I think people who've lived here for a long time are - I'm tired of explaining, figure it out - Google exists, dude. So first of all, just funny that he's even taking this really tired argument. And then the way he tackles it - to make it original - is to say, somehow, Hitler was better?

[00:03:13] Crystal Fincher: He's not a fan of Lenin, as many people aren't - I don't think that's a controversial opinion at all. However, he decided to make his point by comparing him to Hitler. His argument was - at least Hitler wasn't that bad. Then went into all of the ways that, in his opinion, Hitler wasn't bad. And like you, I feel like I need to pull up the exact words - because if I paraphrase, you're gonna think I'm exaggerating and it's that bad.

[00:03:41] Lex Vaughn: I have it in front of me. Okay, I guess what his intent was was to just illustrate how bad Lenin was, but no one usually tries to prop up Hitler in doing that. The exact quote from one of his tweets is, "Hitler only targeted people he personally believed were harmful to society whereas Lenin targeted even those he himself did not believe were harmful in any way."

[00:04:08] Crystal Fincher: Which is wild. So this is unfolding on Twitter - he shared his article, he's sharing this perspective on Twitter. And obviously Seattleites' jaws are dropping in unison and many replies back to him. But one of the replies was, "The big problem with genocide is whether or not you sincerely believe the people you're genociding are harmful to society." To which Josef Volodzko - is the reporter's name - replies, "I'm not talking about genocide." To which that man replies, "Is genocide not a key part of Hitler's 'targeting people,' bud?"

[00:04:44] Lex Vaughn: Oh my God.

[00:04:45] Crystal Fincher: To which he replies, "Yes, but I wasn't talking about genocide. Did you bother to read what I wrote?"

[00:04:52] Lex Vaughn: It's just amazing that the statement itself is so bad on its own. And then when you look at all of his replies, you're just - How does he think he's making this better? He's making it worse?

[00:05:04] Crystal Fincher: Just FYI to everyone everywhere - anytime you're talking about Hitler, you're talking about genocide - there's so many problems with this. But predictably, he has shared other very questionable opinions on his timeline. As a Black woman, I have frequently seen people minimize the American slave trade. A popular talking point on the West was - but other people did it worse. And so he has a tweet talking about - Well, the Arab slave trade was much longer and basically worse than the American one. And I have never seen people who have those two opinions and will share them with no nuance. If you're in an academic setting and you're studying it, obviously you're gonna talk about historical genocides and all of that - you can have those conversations in context. But here - the context you've heard, and there isn't much of it, and it's very, very troubling. And usually people with those two opinions, who especially are not afraid to share them publicly, have a whole lot of other troubling opinions there.

The bigger issue here to me, aside from the fact that it's wild that The Seattle Times is evidently fine with this perspective, is the fact that it's a relatively new journalist hired by The Seattle Times - moved here from, I believe, it was rural Georgia - hasn't been here for long, but somehow still made it onto the Editorial Board, which is just a very questionable practice by The Seattle Times in the first place. Do you want someone to be familiar with the area, with the people? - because this article is just so off. The reason why that Lenin statue hasn't been removed - and there have been efforts to remove it - is because it's on private property. Unlike a lot of other statue, monuments that have been removed elsewhere - those were on public property, so it does become a public concern to remove them. That's why the conversation has not been a conversation. Seems like he's trying to characterize the left as somehow loving Lenin in Seattle - that is not a thing - not a thing!

[00:07:03] Lex Vaughn: And there's just no better way to, I think, make yourself seem like a dumb transplant - 'cause it's a whole culture around that statue of - it's seen as this thing that just got shipwrecked in a part of the city. Nobody wanted it. Nobody asked for it. Just this weird, giant, heavy thing on private property that people have just decided to cope with the best way they can. As a former reporter at The Seattle Times, I know there's gotta be reporters who are very pissed off right now - I know that the Editorial Board did things that we even petitioned against when I was there. And it's so frustrating when the Editorial Board is destroying, or getting in the way of, the better work that the real journalists are trying to do at the newspaper. I've always found it ridiculous that so much money is even dedicated to that stupid Editorial Board - when you could be funding better reporting that actually makes your publication stand out and be valued here. That publication is surviving despite the Editorial Board, not because of it, and instances like this just make it - wow.

[00:08:14] Crystal Fincher: It is wild, it's a problem. And the premise of it doesn't make sense, and there's arrogance about it too - it's just so weird. And no one has to mount a defense of Lenin at all, period. We certainly don't need to mount a defense of Hitler to underscore that Lenin was harmful. So - What you doing, Seattle Times?

[00:08:37] Lex Vaughn: It's not even about, necessarily, a political disagreement. The logic of this guy is completely off. There's a line in the column about Lenin where he literally says - Do you think that statue would still be there if he owned even one Black slave? - you just moved to a state named after George Washington, who died with 317 slaves.

[00:08:59] Crystal Fincher: It makes no sense - completely out of touch, does not reflect the population here. Somehow they thought he would not only make a good reporter, but a good member of the Editorial Board. And we just talked about, on a recent Hacks & Wonks, how problematic - aspects to a number of the political endorsements made by The Seattle Times Editorial Board and the logic used. And wow, this helps to explain why it really, really damages the credibility - there is no apologizing for Hitler - that is never necessary, it is never appropriate, and he just found a way to double and triple down. The Seattle Times has been silent about it. Plenty of people have been contacting them, calling them.

[00:09:43] Lex Vaughn: Honestly, it's nothing, I think, that Editorial Board isn't used to. It's just they have this narcissistic idea that they're doing something brave. And they're actually just doing something very stupid by having people like him publish on their behalf.

[00:10:00] Crystal Fincher: This is certainly a reputational hit. I think lots of people don't see this as merely a difference of opinion, but a minimizing of genocide and some deep-seated need to find redeeming characteristics for Hitler. Someone was talking about - What about this about Lenin? And he's - Well, you know, Hitler fed hungry children and had a program for that - as a comeback.

[00:10:25] Lex Vaughn: At this point in time where, unfortunately, Nazi sentiment and racist sentiment is becoming sadly more overt and shameless - unfortunately, there are some conservative readers of The Seattle Times and that Editorial Board that think parallel to what this guy is saying in his tweets.

[00:10:46] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely, so we will keep an eye on that.

Also this week, The Seattle Times reporting side broke news that a tombstone for a man killed by SPD and a Trump flag was on display in an SPD break room. This was caught by officer-worn body camera footage and seen. And it just seems like an absolute mockery of the City and its residents, the reform process that has supposedly been underway - just terribly disrespectful and problematic. How did you see this?

[00:11:26] Lex Vaughn: I'm sure a lot of us weren't shocked that's the kind of interior decoration a precinct had, especially because we had six officers who were there at January 6th. A lot of us are already very aware and not shocked that there's some shameless white supremacy and racism within the ranks of the police department. And I think I'm almost frustrated - people acting surprised. Why isn't it being taken more seriously that there needs to be as little tolerance for - the tombstone, itself, is such a especially grim, violent thing - being proud of killing someone that lived here, that's really sick.

[00:12:08] Crystal Fincher: And keeping, in essence, a trophy - which unfortunately, is not unusual. We've seen this at other departments across the country. It's very troubling, it's very violent. It's not a healthy culture at all. And just in a larger conversation - one, it was pointed out by many people, you keep talking about the financial stuff, and wow - there's been lots of money thrown at recruitment efforts and salary efforts. And they're very well compensated - just another report came out recently about how many officers are clearing $200k/year. But this is why people are not joining the office - most people don't agree with this - this is disgusting. This is not within the realm of what the public wants from policing. And who wants to join this? This is toxic. This is the kind of culture - if you're celebrating your killing of someone, if you're maintaining a trophy and basically mocking it, that's not the protect and serve impression that people who want to help their community are going after. And so there has to be an addressing of culture here. We can't continue to ignore it.

The other thing that is so striking to me - and continues to be - is that it's like we forget what the structure of the City is. This is a department that Bruce Harrell is in charge of. He is the executive who is in charge of this department - the buck stops with him. There's a chief that answers to Bruce Harrell. The chief gave some nonsensical justification here, but Bruce Harrell doesn't appear to have even been asked about this, particularly with his pronouncements on the campaign trail before he took office and early in his term that he was gonna ensure that the culture was appropriate. And at times he made some weird statements in - making them watch a video and sign a statement saying that they agree to something else. Is this the culture of policing that Bruce Harrell is comfortable with? His silence would indicate that, but it would be nice if a member of our press would ask that question.

[00:14:20] Lex Vaughn: Mayor Harrell is so good at talking the talk and not walking the walk. We all know he's not gonna really do anything about it, but he's not even talking about it. In too many US cities, including Seattle - no one's gonna say it, but I think a lot of these political leaders are just - Yeah, cops are now a bunch of racists. Well, what are you gonna do about it? That's been something people are asking for. What they're not saying is they don't have the balls to really punish these people, or they don't wanna go through the process of punishing these people - which if we look at the City of Kent, they did fire a guy, right?

[00:14:56] Crystal Fincher: We had a literal Nazi cop assistant chief - and I say literal because it came with a Hitler mustache, and SS insignias on his office door in the department, and anti-Semitic jokes, really bad stuff. Initially, the mayor decided to suspend him for two weeks - that became public knowledge and then they asked him to leave - these contracts make it challenging to fire officers. They ended up paying him - I think it was half a million dollars - to retire. And it's a mess.

[00:15:31] Lex Vaughn: Even in that case, it's like that's the most accountability we could exercise on people - this is just a really large payout to get them to leave - wow, that's not an incentive. Aren't we supposed to create a lack of incentive for this? So that guy lost his job, but he got a nice severance package. And it's just too much of a pain to deal with the guild or the union behind him to just straight up fire him?

[00:15:55] Crystal Fincher: Like with many union positions, there are rules and regulations, there are protections and policies. And with police, there are so many establishing precedents for keeping people in problematic situations that it's now hard to fire someone for things that are justified. The officer who was reinstated for, I believe, punching a woman in the face and breaking her jaw in SPD - who was actually fired by Chief Diaz, but reinstated after arbitration. So these contracts and what is set up by them, and the precedent of letting things slide, only make things worse moving forward. But also, we have a lot of leaders who are afraid of - one, legislation, any legislation at all - and sometimes you do need to push the envelope 'cause sometimes those firings are still sustained. And you should try to sustain them because that's the right thing to do. But they're a very powerful political lobby and they use tactics on the ground to reinforce their political point - we just saw in the Chicago municipal election that the police basically threatened to walk off the job if the candidate that they didn't like was elected. Now the city was - No, we want that candidate and elected him. Of course that was an empty threat, right? And they've tried that before in New York when they did stop policing - crime actually went down, calls actually went down - that's an interesting thing to talk about at length.

But yeah, there are a lot of leaders who are afraid of taking them on. And even not taking them on, but just standing for some common sense reform. Even if you weren't saying - We don't want any cops. Just - Hey, we want some standards for ethics and behavior that we wanna stick by - that has not been received well. And they have gone after people, with their sizable war chests, who have tried to live up to their campaign promises to work on fixing the culture. And to have any hope of doing that - for those who think that's a viable option - if this is posted in the precinct, what message do you think that is sending to people who may not be comfortable with keeping trophies for people who are killed?

[00:18:11] Lex Vaughn: Even if you are a good cop in that office, you know what you're up against. And it's a popular phrase that all cops are horrible. But even when there are cops that do have integrity, that job is so much harder for them to do with integrity when they have to work with people like that. I'm very frustrated that there really isn't any true accountability for our police departments. And I think a lot of people underplay just how much sociopathy we're enabling with our own taxpayer money.

[00:18:43] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely. And how much we expect from everyone else - we expect minimum wage service workers to do a better job of deescalation than our highly paid police force - and that is backwards. We hold low wage workers to higher standards of behavior and accountability, and it just doesn't make sense. And we need to do better. I hope people ask Bruce Harrell what his plan is to deal with this and make it better. This is his responsibility. Ultimately, the buck stops with him.

Also wanna talk this week about a development in an ongoing story about our gubernatorial race that is shaping up - lots of people in there. This story concerns Bob Ferguson and donations that he received. So background, Bob Ferguson is our attorney general - is running for governor now. And had a bunch of donations over years - a couple million dollars in donations - to his attorney general race and campaign fund. Our campaign finance laws say that you are allowed to transfer money from one campaign to another if you get the permission of the donor. So lots of paperwork going on - lots of writing and tracking who said what, there's a big database there. And what actually came about is that the law - which has been in place this whole time, which hasn't changed - says that we have campaign donation limits. Our Public Disclosure Commission initially said - Okay, yeah, you can transfer things over - but didn't address the naming of donors or ensuring that in that transfer that people don't exceed the donation limit. 'Cause he already had people donate, and basically donate the maximum, to his gubernatorial campaign. They may have also, and likely there are people who - some of those same people who donated to his attorney general campaign.

[00:20:43] Lex Vaughn: So they might be able to double that.

[00:20:44] Crystal Fincher: So if they transfer that money over - yeah, then they essentially can give double the campaign contribution that they're supposed to give - that is against the law, but that wasn't made clear by the Public Disclosure Commission until recently. Now, when the Public Disclosure Commission announced - Oh, we're gonna clarify our interpretation of this law and we're gonna make it clear that people have to stick within the donation limits. And they said - And we'll do this at our next meeting - basically. So the Ferguson campaign said - Uh oh. Literally the next day after they announced it said - Oh, we're transferring this over now. It's technically before the deadline, so we don't have to abide by the disclosure for that meeting. So if you look at Bob Ferguson's campaign finance disclosure right now, there're about almost $1.2 million of this dark money. And when you compare that to the money that all of his opponents have - they don't have anything close, right? - so this is giving him a humongous fundraising lead, which in our current political system really matters and is a definite advantage. But it's likely that there are donations that are beyond the limit. The tricky thing here is the law - the actual law - has not changed, so this has technically been against the law the whole time. The tricky thing is the Public Disclosure Commission gave perhaps an incorrect or incomplete interpretation of this law - it's usually who people go to for guidance.

So there's a new complaint, basically asking Bob Ferguson to unmask his hidden donors - the donors that are not reported right now - to ensure that he is in compliance with campaign finance donations, because it doesn't make sense. And also, especially for someone who said that they aren't gonna take corporate gifts, that they aren't doing that - well, we don't know. We don't know what this money is - it is dark money. And Bob Ferguson has previously railed against and sued, for example, Facebook and Meta for lax campaign finance information collection and reporting, right? So this is an issue that he has engaged with before. And they do have all of the information to report. You have to do all of that work in order to get the authorization to transfer the money from the people, so they have the information. It's not like it's this big administrative burden to track this information down - that work was done in order to transfer the money. So the question would be -

[00:23:12] Lex Vaughn: Okay, so they flat out wouldn't be able to transfer that money without those donors signing that -

[00:23:18] Crystal Fincher: Giving their consent - right - so you basically have to contact the donor.

[00:23:22] Lex Vaughn: Why isn't that public record - just those documents?

[00:23:26] Crystal Fincher: No requirement for it, currently. I have not seen campaigns violate this honor system. Most campaigns do abide by the letter of the law. And really the Ferguson campaign is arguing - Well, we abided by the interpretation that the PDC gave us. And so at the time of the direction, we did what the direction said and no more - and that it should be legally fine. But certainly the spirit of the law here is a challenge, and they're going through court for the substance of the law. But I do think it's really interesting. And especially from someone coming from the position as the chief attorney of the state, that it seems like it would make sense to do this. It seems like it flies in the face of small-d democracy to do that, but there is an argument there and there was confusing guidance - you can't deny that - that happens sometimes. So the question is - The law hasn't changed this whole time and the law says what it says. So was he in violation of the law?

[00:24:27] Lex Vaughn: He's basically - I think I can get away with it, so I'm gonna try. Bob Ferguson has done some great things as AG - I like some of the things he's come out against and taken initiative on fighting, but there's moments where he's very disappointing as well.

[00:24:43] Crystal Fincher: To me, what I see from this is - there's just a lot that we still have to learn about everybody's records. We know who Bob Ferguson is in terms of his work as attorney general, certainly he has a lengthy record that we can examine in his time as attorney general. And I'm certainly, as someone on the left side of things - there's a ton that he's done that I've appreciated, that I agree with - lawsuits against the Trump administration and other federal actions that were egregious that he stood up against. And that other Western and Democratic attorney generals and governors have been standing up against. There's a lot more to do and a lot more that he's going to be responsible for as governor - and we don't know what that is yet. Similarly, we don't know what that is with a number of the other candidates. So I think a lot of this, especially the news about his touting the endorsement of former Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best, raised a lot of eyebrows - but that invited a lot of curiosity and questions from people, I think, and really underscored - we need to pay attention here. Though there may be a significant financial advantage, there may be more to the story. But similarly, there's a lot of other candidates and we have to figure out what's going on with them too. I just hope that people thoroughly examine who people's relationships are.

And part of that story is who people's donors are. One thing I can say - working in politics for 15 years now - is people's donations do have a stronger correlation than the promises they make on the campaign trail. So pay attention to who those donors are. But that advice, which I've talked about on the show plenty of times before in many different contexts, is more challenging when there's over a million dollars of dark money sitting there in a campaign - that just doesn't sit well with many people, I don't think. And it seems like there's an easy way to remedy that. I also - can it be that much money that's over the limit? It feels like you could still name who these donors are, and as long as they aren't contrary to anything that you've already promised - I'm not gonna take money from these types of interests - maybe a million bucks is over there. But even if it's a couple hundred thousand bucks that's over the limit, you still have a dominant financial lead. So why not do that? is the question I have, but we'll see how this continues to unfold.

I also want to talk about news this week that Washington Republicans want to make the long-term care tax optional. Now this long-term care tax comes about - lots of people have heard about it as Washington Cares - amid a long-term care, elder care crisis that we're really having. Looks like the majority of Americans are going to, at some point in time in their life - and a majority of Washingtonians - require long-term care. A lot of that is elder care scenarios, people falling ill for a period of time - people are living longer, and with that often came living with more ailments that required more intense care. But this is something that the majority of Washingtonians are anticipated to need, but that is really expensive and that is causing bankruptcies, it's causing financial hardship for a ton of people. And like many things like retirement and social security, like other insurance, when you know that it is likely you're going to incur an expense and you don't have the money saved up for it, you look at the population and it is going to be a financial crisis for most of the people it encounters, it then becomes in the interest of the state to take action to say - We need to make sure that this really expensive service that people need is going to be available to them.

Hence, the Washington Cares program and a tax, I think, that averages about $29 a month for someone making $60,000 - I think that was what I saw reported - we'll link the article in the show notes and the resources, obviously. But it is something that came about because of a need. And if you know people, as I do, who have required long-term care without the money and it has bankrupted them, or they've had to become a ward of the state to get into a nursing home or something like that - it's financially devastating and generationally financially devastating. And as we're talking right now - with as many people going through financial hardship, with inflation of so many other things, there are more people who are vulnerable to this. And so this initially passed, it then essentially repealed and passed in a more compromised version. But like many insurance programs, it requires that lots of people pay in in order to fund the benefits for everyone paying out. So what making this optional will do - and Republicans know this - is basically break the program.

[00:29:35] Lex Vaughn: Is this a thing where people get to opt out of certain payroll taxes? That whole concept to me is strange. Are there other optional payroll taxes?

[00:29:44] Crystal Fincher: Not really, especially for something like this where it is a state-funded benefit. Like social security, like other things, most legislation isn't just passed and then that's it. Many legislation goes through many tweaks over the years. Our favorite benefits and entitlements have, so there are likely to be other tweaks coming up to this. One that was just made, or that may be upcoming, is allowing benefits to be used if someone moves out of state, for example - so they're continually listening to feedback. But what is not workable - financially and just operationally - is just allowing people to opt out. Also, I think Senator Karen Keiser mentioned that it does not appear that they have the votes for this - it's more of an anti-tax talking point. And if it's Washington Republicans, they're gonna have an anti-tax talking point.

[00:30:35] Lex Vaughn: Yeah - you're in deeper in your knowledge of our state politics. What chance does this stand of happening? Are there enough people that would make that happen? What floors me sometimes, especially when it comes to state politics, is both houses are Democrat controlled. I know that Republicans do succeed in some of their missions like this, but part of me is - Why are we even worried about it? Who's gonna betray us?

[00:31:02] Crystal Fincher: Just looking at Senator Keiser's quote - this doesn't appear to have the votes. And now I will say that it did get repealed and basically redone because there were Democrats that had concerns - that they heard from enough people that they felt had concerns about it, that they did basically take another shot at it - and edited it to make it better and respond to some of the concerns that they had. Because what I don't wanna minimize, it's not $30 a month - this is something that is really, especially amid other inflation that we've experienced - although inflation is now slowing, post-Inflation Reduction Act actually, but it still happened. People still are under tight budgets. And so $30 a month can be felt by people. The balance is really what benefit are you getting from that $30 a month? And the evaluation here is that eliminating the chance for financial catastrophe and a loss of life savings, basically, later in life - or even just if you need some long-term care there is worth the benefit. That there are so many people suffering from that right now - that this would alleviate more harm than it creates, is really what the evaluation is. And frankly, that evaluation is the case for a lot of legislation and taxes or revenue that's gonna be raised. So I don't think this has a chance unless there were more Democrats that were going to be concerned, but I think that most concerns were addressed with this latest iteration.

And I do think that it's positive. People do require long-term care - how many people do you know that have been sick for extended periods of time, or that whether it's COVID or cancer - I think it's necessary, I support it, I think that it would be bad to repeal. But Washington Republicans are banking on something else - they try to run against this in prior elections and were not successful - I would anticipate the same thing happening. So I think Republicans are trying to spin up some fear from voters, and I'm sure they'll have some receptive ears from more conservative or traditionally anti-tax voters.

[00:33:12] Lex Vaughn: What we have seen, in a positive shift in the last few years in general, is nationwide Republicans had to give up on campaigning against Obamacare because enough time has passed that people of all political backgrounds have benefited from it. Maybe the Republicans who offered this up need to understand that more people are in favor of better healthcare coverage. And it's becoming a little more accepted that the whole community needs to step up and better fund a bunch of things like this.

[00:33:45] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely. One of the things that's making everything hard to afford these days is the cost of housing, the very high cost of housing locally. There's been talk from a number of people about the ban on rent control in our state and lifting of the ban. Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant has sponsored a rent control trigger law that basically, for Seattle, would enact some rent control measures if and when our legislature decides to end rent control. Councilmember Sawant wrote to members of our legislative delegation, including Representative Gerry Pollet and Senator Jamie Pedersen, asking for their support of this law. Got back some responses that were a little snarky, basically said - Now we ain't heard from you in all this time, and now you're calling up asking us to support this.

[00:34:39] Lex Vaughn: At the last minute - this is her trying to cram it in at the last minute.

[00:34:42] Crystal Fincher: Yes - Gerry Pollet saying - I sponsored legislation to do this - now that legislation didn't make it out of committee or have a hearing. Jamie Pedersen essentially chastised Councilmember Sawant for not working with them in other things that they passed. Councilmember Sawant responded by saying - Now, I don't know where you've been, but I have over several years been advocating for this, have passed resolutions in support of this, have previously indicated my support for a legislative solution to this. So I'm on record, have communicated before that I am supportive of efforts in the Legislature. And the reason why you didn't see me in the Legislature supporting your bill that you introduced, Gerry Pollet, is because you didn't even get it far enough to have a hearing. So there was no opportunity to weigh in - it didn't go anywhere. But you also failed to answer the question - Do you support this effort in Seattle?

[00:35:41] Lex Vaughn: Such a weird deflection.

[00:35:42] Crystal Fincher: Yes, so there is some acrimony between the sides there. I think Nicole Macri also weighed in and said - There does appear to be acrimony and I need to look more specifically at it. Clearly, we can look at this last legislative session and there were not enough votes, unfortunately, to advance renter protection rent control measures. We absolutely have to mitigate against rent increases, the high cost of moving and living.

[00:36:14] Lex Vaughn: And I mean - can we get real? The average Democrat was not really actively recruiting people like Kshama Sawant. Give me a break.

[00:36:23] Crystal Fincher: Yes, and Kshama Sawant is notoriously not a Democrat and very critical of Democrats for inaction on things like this. And she took the opportunity to be critical of Democrats in her communications here. Now, do I think that a rent control renter protection should pass? Absolutely. Do I think the ban should be lifted at the legislative level so that cities can choose to do what they feel is best? Yes. But it's going to be interesting to see how this proceeds. I would hate to see an effort that may have a chance get torpedoed because of personality conflicts.

[00:36:59] Lex Vaughn: Yeah, when we're talking about - yeah, something as critical as housing for people - get past all of this personality BS. Especially when you're all on the kind of left end of a political spectrum - focus on where you have common ground and get something done. I don't know who enjoys seeing unproductive arguments like this. To me, it highlights just how cowardly most Democrats are in Washington state when it comes to topics like rent control. And that it's still such a touchy topic here - because not to pull the California card, I'm from California - and there's a lot of really great rent control laws in California that I grew up with and had in the first cities that I lived in as an adult. And they were so prevalent that I thought everyone had rent control and I didn't get it until I left. And I can't believe that in 2023, you still got Democrats here in Washington state going - Oh, I don't know, I'll be called a socialist if I support this, I don't know. Ugh, Jesus - it's just pathetic that really the only person who's really forcefully, I think, promoted rent control is Kshama Sawant. And Democrats should be ashamed that - yeah, a socialist has led that, not Democrats.

[00:38:15] Crystal Fincher: Certainly at the local level. Yes, I think there are others who have indicated support of this over the years - and there are some more progressive Democrats who have been supportive and some legislation that was introduced to do this, but certainly the majority of the delegation does not agree or else this would be law right now.

Also, housing costs are a big topic for everyone across the state. The City of Tacoma just decided to put dueling rental protection initiatives on the ballot for November. I don't know if you've been following this, but there is an effort in Tacoma to pass some pretty comprehensive renter protections - allowing notice for people who are moving, capping late fees at 10%, providing rental assistance if - tiered rental assistance based on the amount of increase if someone can't afford it for moving into another location - extended notice. Now they've been pushing for this, they have had a lot of momentum behind this. However, there are a lot of landlords and interests who have been lobbying against this and basically lobbying the City to pass a watered down version of this. And what the City decided to do was not only put the more comprehensive version on the ballot, but also put the watered down version on the ballot - which would cap late fees, not to the degree that the other more comprehensive initiative would, it would provide for more time to notice, but doesn't have some of the really helpful provisions that some of the other legislation has there. And what a number of people are saying is by putting both on the ballot, you're really doing both to defeat instead of giving people a clear choice between - do you want to do this or not? It's much harder and it's a much more confusing set of issues to get your arms around and choose between them. And so this is not a move that a lot of people received with excitement and definitely feel that this hurts the prospect of anything passing. And then there are some who say - Well, people deserve a choice. How did you see this?

[00:40:25] Lex Vaughn: That's probably the desired effect of the people who volunteered the watered down option - is just to make it seem too confusing and get people to not do their research and go - I don't know - throw up their hands. 'Cause I think the more voters feel like they have to heavily research things, the more they feel - Oh, I don't know if I should even vote. Just your average humble person is - Oh, I don't know. I didn't do my research. I don't - it's probably not a big deal if I don't vote at all, 'Cause I don't know what this is. I'm not gonna research the difference between these two things. What was the ballot item in Seattle? I forget. I forget - it was like -

[00:41:06] Crystal Fincher: It was approval voting versus ranked choice voting.

[00:41:08] Lex Vaughn: Yes, that's the one - that's the one - that was so confusing. Even as somebody who thinks of themselves as pretty politically informed, at least more than the average person, I had to really spend an afternoon going - What? I had to do some homework to know what I was voting on there.

[00:41:28] Crystal Fincher: Yeah.

[00:41:29] Lex Vaughn: I guess this is a tactic, right? Where it's like - you're euphemistically giving people more options, but really you're just confusing people so much that they don't even wanna vote at all.

[00:41:44] Crystal Fincher: Confusion is usually not helpful for initiatives. Usually if there is voter confusion, they don't vote, they vote No on everything - that happens more than not. It's not like it can't be overcome, as we did see with ranked choice voting.

[00:41:59] Lex Vaughn: Yeah, people did get interested.

[00:42:00] Crystal Fincher: But it usually takes more money, more communication to do so - so the job did just get harder.

And in our last piece of news today, we have a new entrant into the race for attorney general to replace Bob Ferguson. Former US Attorney Nick Brown has announced that he is running. What is your read of this?

[00:42:23] Lex Vaughn: He follows The Needling, so he must be a good option, right?

[00:42:29] Crystal Fincher: I do have a better opinion of people who follow The Needling than those who don't.

[00:42:34] Lex Vaughn: Yeah, he's getting the real fake news.

[00:42:36] Crystal Fincher: State Senator Manka Dhingra has announced that she also intends to run. I made a comment in another publication that we do have a record to examine with Manka Dhingra - whether you agree or disagree with it, there is a record there to examine and that is a helpful thing. Nick Brown is largely an unknown for a lot of people - certainly has a record as a US Attorney, has been visible and active within Seattle - I've seen him in press conferences with Mayor Bruce Harrell talking about, and he's talked about - Hey, we can't arrest ourselves out of these crises, that type of thing. Now the policy, the politicians he was beside - effectively were trying to and continue to try and arrest themselves out of some things - but that wasn't his decision.

[00:43:26] Lex Vaughn: There's only so much he can do in that decision.

[00:43:27] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, so I'm eager to hear - and if you look at what he said when he announced, I'm certainly curious to learn more. He does seem to have a distinguished resume and although he hasn't been in politics and doesn't have a record there, that doesn't mean that you're not qualified and capable to run for office and have gained valuable experience in what you've done. So I just think there's a lot to be explored and I think it is healthy to have several options here.

[00:43:57] Lex Vaughn: Yeah, I'm glad to see him join.

[00:43:57] Crystal Fincher: Here we have two Democratic options. Because I do think that we should have a robust debate about what that role is, what it entails, and what our approach is going to be. So really just - I'm curious and will definitely be staying tuned.

[00:44:13] Lex Vaughn: Yeah, I think early on in some of these contests, it's - when you haven't done the complete deep dive on every candidate yet, you're kind of - Oh, it's good to have some options here. And I know that I personally need to do more research on both of them before I make a call on who I support. But yeah, it's good to have options. And I do think that - I don't know what will happen, but I honestly think that office, AG, is almost as important as the governor's office to me. 'Cause it's like they're really - they're interpreting the law and really holding people accountable, which is, I think, a huge deal. It's one thing to come up with laws and sign things, but it doesn't matter if no one's holding people accountable. I like that Bob Ferguson did go after some people pretty strong and I liked seeing it. And I hope that the next AG has that same fire 'cause we'll need it.

[00:45:11] Crystal Fincher: I agree. And with that, we thank you for listening to Hacks & Wonks on this Friday, July 14th, 2023. The producer of Hacks & Wonks, and really the wind beneath my wings, is Shannon Cheng. Our insightful co-host today is Founder and Editor of The Needling, Lex Vaughn. And if you are not following and into The Needling - woe to you, fix it, make it right. You can find Lex at @AlexaVaughn, that's V-A-U-G-H-N. You can follow Hacks & Wonks on Twitter at @HacksWonks. You can find me on all platforms, any and all platforms basically, at @finchfrii, that's F-I-N-C-H-F-R-I-I. You can catch Hacks & Wonks wherever you get your podcasts - just type "Hacks and Wonks" into the search bar. Be sure to subscribe to the podcast to get the full versions of our Friday week-in-review 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 resources referenced in the show at officialhacksandwonks.com and in the episode notes.

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