The Worst of Politics in 2013
The News Stories That Made Us Cringe the Most Last Year
Regrettable moments in our personal lives can make us feel isolated, but the moments that bring us together are those that we as a society can regret together. In that spirit, here are Seattle's most regrettable news events of 2013.
• Last April, former city council member Richard Conlin imported a crew of "happiness experts" from New York City for his Happiness Initiative, which was supposed to—no joke—"make Seattle happy." It culminated in an event at City Hall that four people attended (regrettably, our reporters were two of them). The centerpiece was a board covered in sticky notes that featured things that make Seattle happy: "crab pot," "beautiful men," and "Starbucks samples." Because free food and eye candy—not living wages or affordable housing—are the keys to happiness. Conlin was not reelected by voters, a pain that he cured by gawking at Chippendale dancers and chugging free two-ounce samples of Mocha Frappuccino.
• Speaking of Starbucks, remember the Starbucks store that fired a part-time employee on food stamps for allegedly taking a day-old breakfast sandwich out of the trash? (We shit you not.) Or there's the Subway franchise owner who fired Carlos Hernandez, a strike leader fighting for a $15-an-hour minimum wage, for allegedly giving a free cookie to a child? (Still not shitting you.)
• All year long, the Seattle Times editorial page was a clown car of idiocy. For example, on August 23, editorial columnist Bruce Ramsey "burst out laughing" at Chelsea Manning's coming out as transgender. Since then, Ramsey announced his "retirement." The following month, the board said that the problem with downtown, where crime was down or steady overall, was people's feelings. "Perception is more damaging than data," they insisted, because emotions are more important than facts! That seemed to be a theme: On November 1, editorial board member Sharon Pian Chan illustrated the negative impact Sea-Tac's $15 minimum wage would have on immigrant-owned businesses by citing the Quality Inn Sea-Tac. But it turns out that hotel would be exempt from Prop 1's provisions. Whoops!
• In 2013, we regrettably witnessed the death of the Washington Dream Act (reforming immigration policy), the Voting Rights Act (empowering voters of color), and the Reproductive Parity Act (requiring equal coverage for maternity care and abortions). Why? State senator Rodney Tom—a Democrat who joined Republicans and became the majority leader—let all those bills die on the senate floor. Thanks, Mr. Tom.
• Even Jesus regrets that Mars Hill Church issued a statement last January celebrating a new parish's proximity to a hotbed of AIDS. As Pastor Tim Gaydos put it in an e-mail, "Being closer to Capitol Hill is a blessing as we are serving and ministering to those who are infected with AIDS on the hill." Asked what sort of HIV/AIDS outreach they were doing, church spokesman Justin Dean explained that congregants intended to teach the gay neighborhood's "AIDS victims" about Jesus and the congregation was "at the beginning stages of volunteering with the Lifelong AIDS Alliance." But it turned out Mars Hill Church hadn't filled out any volunteer application forms or undergone a screening process to affiliate itself with Lifelong AIDS Alliance. Not only was that regrettable, it's regrettable that the church—which doesn't allow gay members—thinks people can only find salvation in their deceitful rhetoric, bigotry, and misappropriation of Jesus to control their cultish society and promote their repressive political agenda.
• In March, the Catholic-affiliated St. Anthony's Hospital in Gig Harbor called police on a patient because a nurse smelled marijuana. Mind you, it was legal for the man, Matthew Zimmerman, to possess marijuana. In response to the experience, which Zimmerman called "upsetting and embarrassing," the hospital issued a non-apology, promising to "investigat[e] the situation further so we can ensure that future situations are handled in the best and most compassionate way possible." Which is to say, they couldn't even get their confession right, which is especially regrettable for Catholics.
• We're still cringing over the news coverage of socialist and newly elected council member Kshama Sawant, who is from India. KING 5's Linda Brill had a ham-fisted interview with Sawant, in which she offered gems like "What caste were you?" and "Will you end your sentences more quickly? 'Cause you are a talker." Then there was PubliCola reporter Erica C. Barnett calling Sawant a "class traitor" who couldn't possibly be a real socialist because her estranged husband works for Microsoft. Because a female candidate is judged on her husband's job? Yeesh.
• You know what else is regrettable? Lying to battered women to get a political edge. So it was particularly awful when ads from a PAC promoting Ed Murray's mayoral candidacy claimed the city's domestic violence office had been shut down. As DV experts attested, this sent a dangerous message to abused women: There's no help for you. But the office wasn't actually shut down, just renamed, and the rise of DV prosecutions cited in the ad was largely the result of stronger laws to prosecute abusers. In fact, under Mayor Mike McGinn, funding for the office that helps abused women increased. This smear was regrettable for everyone, particularly abused women who may not have sought help that was actually waiting for them.