I doubt that anyone who's not already a nerd about local parks funding really got what the SECB was talking about in the opening of our endorsement on Proposition 1:
Jesus H. Christ, when was the last time the phrase "public park funding" got this controversial in Seattle? People are muttering about dark conspiracies and unelected this-and-that, and it all revolves around this wonky proposition concerning a new way to pay the taxes that fund our parks.
But remember: This is about taxes and control over a local resource, so there's sure to be some drama. Y'know, the kind of drama that a scrappy little "no" campaign run mostly by retirees might pitch—some homemade signs, maybe an angry community council meeting or two. Or, you know, maybe a co-chair of the parks campaign getting into a shoving match with bar owner Dave Meinert—OH WAIT, WHAAAAT?
YUP. Don Harper, co-chair of the anti-Prop-1 campaign, got into a physical scuffle with Meinert at the door of a pro-Prop-1 press conference yesterday.
It was even caught on tape:
The scuffle is right at the beginning there, about the first 10 seconds. Harper is the guy with gray hair and greenish blazer, Meinert is the darker-haired guy in the doorway. Initial reports of the interaction were along the lines of "Whoa, some guy just assaulted another guy at a parks rally!" Meinert and Harper, as you'd imagine, each characterize their interaction differently.
"This guy, who was a pretty big dude," Meinert said after the incident, "just literally grabbed me and shoved me out of the way."
"But," he went on, "I was with my 4-year-old daughter, who almost got knocked over. There were people who thought I should call the cops. But I'm not really one to call the police." Was it perhaps just a misunderstanding? "It wasn't a small, like, 'Excuse me, I'm walking through a doorway,'" says Meinert. "The opposition was crazy. They were like these Tea Party–esque gray-haired protesters with signs, kinda shoving people around."
Did he chat with Harper afterward? "I just told him he should never ever touch me again, and that if I wanted to, I could kick the shit out of him and it would be legal. And that was really our conversation," he answered. Totally non-rage-y! (Again, I'd like to remind you, dear reader, that this is over PUBLIC PARKS FUNDING, fer chrissakes.)
Harper, of course, sees it a little differently. "I was just trying to go through a door," he says by phone. The press conference, hosted by the Prop 1 campaign, featured Mayor Ed Murray, former mayor Charlie Royer, city council parks chair Sally Bagshaw, and other bare-knuckle brawlers like that. It was scheduled to be outside Yesler Community Center, but when Harper and a group of protesters showed up, it was moved indoors, to a space rented out by the campaign. Harper says he got an e-mail invitation to the press conference, likely because he's a longtime parks advocate who's served on various committees, and he wanted to attend. Meinert was manning the entrance.
"I came forward and I looked right at him and I said, 'I have an invitation.' And he said, 'You can't come in.' And I said, 'I'm coming in.'" As Harper tells it, "It was one of those things. He pushed me, tried to keep me from coming in, and I started to fall back, kinda grabbed him, and got through, and luckily the KOMO reporter was there and was like 'C'mon, guys.'" He shrugs the whole thing off. "What did it last, we're talking two seconds, three seconds? Nobody got hurt, nothing happened." Sure, dude.
- City of Seattle
- HOW SHOULD WE FUND THE PARKS??? ARE YOU SOOOOO MAD YET????!!!!
After the initial drama, the handful of anti-Prop-1 protesters who made it into the room held signs and chanted, sometimes interrupting the speakers up front.
Other people were clearly taken aback by the whole scene. Michael Wells of the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce (which has endorsed Prop 1) characterizes the incident as involving "a chest-thumping guy thing, a little bit," and marvels at "of all things, a physical altercation about how we fund parks in Seattle!" Michael Maddux of the Prop 1 campaign asks incredulously, "At what point in the city has political discourse gotten to that level?"
Both Meinert and Wells were players in the $15 minimum wage debate, and both of them said this press conference was like nothing they'd seen before. "I've never been at a press conference like that ever," said Wells. "That was angrier than any of the minimum-wage stuff," Meinert concurs.
So! If you're keeping track: The highest minimum wage in the country = controversial. Switching our parks funding from a levy system to an ongoing tax = rage levels approaching HULK SMASH territory.
If you'd like a refresher on the parks district, we've got a handy-dandy one right here.