The mountain's out and the ballots are out, which means negative mailers funded by rich people are out, too. I'm particularly fond of the doozy pictured above, courtesy of People for Seattle, a PAC run by former City Council Member Tim Burgess and restauranteur Taylor Hoang.
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They're circulating a couple of mailers, including one with plenty of misleading claims about Council Member Lisa Herbold. But I'd like to focus on this one for the time being.
Running the mailer through a standard undergrad visual analysis shows a PAC run by a self-appointed champion of civil discourse using tents as shorthand for filth and squalor, and then juxtaposing that filth and squalor with photos of Zachary DeWolf and Council Member Kshama Sawant. The photos of the District 3 candidates play on the tropes of the angry brown woman and the shady Native American, adding an undercurrent of racism and xenophobia to the mailer's misleading portrait of the homeless crisis. Truly a classic move.
If he had the courage to pick up his phone, I'm sure Burgess would stand by the mailer's headline and insist his PAC is merely attacking the politicians' policy positions, which he believes will force more people into tents. But then he would only be insulting our intelligence. The head tax that the PAC rages against on the backside of the mailer would have raised money for shelter and permanent supportive housing. Some of the tents on that mailer might not have been there if the council stood by its vote to pass the tax, as Sawant and Council Member Teresa Mosqueda did. (Incidentally, Hoang said her and Burgess's decision to start the PAC was "not about the head tax," and now here we are.)
Anyhow, after ticking off tired attacks against Sawant, the mailer highlights criticism of DeWolf's year on the Seattle School Board, claiming he "often missed important meetings and rarely met with parents." In an email, People for Seattle cite Melissa Westbrook's blog to back those claims.
The attacks against DeWolf are particularly rich considering the fact that Burgess and DeWolf worked together on the Seattle Renter's Commission and, as DeWolf pointed out in an email, Burgess endorsed him for the school board.
In a statement, DeWolf called Burgess’s message "divisive" and defended his own record on the school board, saying he brought "Community Workforce Agreements to the district," created "more equitable policies to support our trans and queer and black and brown students," and "supported students and families experiencing homelessness."
For her part, Sawant is not surprised by any of this.
"The People for Seattle PAC, with its Orwellian name, is headlined by a who’s-who of big business leaders that opposed the $15/hour minimum wage tooth and nail, fought viciously against the Amazon Tax, and are now gearing up to fight against our rent control movement," she said in a statement, pointing out that the PAC has raised $5,000 from Amazon investor Tom Alberg, $3,750 from Alaska Airlines CEO Brad Tilden, and $2,500 from Seattle Hospitality Group and Space Needle owner Howard Wright III.
Sawant added that Burgess spent his time on council as "a loyal lieutenant for the Chamber of Commerce," bringing forward "anti-poor and anti-homeless bills such as the aggressive panhandling bill."
Honestly, I'm glad to see divisive mailers created by a politician who calls for the end of divisiveness in politics. The open hypocrisy is refreshing. With Burgess and his rich backers disseminating this negative material, and with Durkan out here red-baiting and dissembling on the sweetened beverage tax stuff, both are reminding Seattle of the emptiness of their demands for civil discourse.
Demanding civility is a rule corporate centrists invented to impose on their critics, one they're apparently not obliged to follow themselves. I only hope that voters have enough sense to see that.
In closing, it's worth noting that the "practical solutions" Burgess's PAC yearns for are actually just very lazy and embarrassing. Begging for corporate handouts and spending valuable time looking through the couch cushions to find $200 million per year for homeless services is neither "practical" nor a "solution" to the crisis. It's only easier to do all of that than it is to win a messaging fight against big corporations. Remember the Durkan texts to Nick Hanauer about repealing the head tax: "If we take this down, we can move to call the question on all the biz that say they are for solutions.” That's it. That's their big plan. Every candidate talking about "bringing big business to the table" is just saying they want big businesses to willingly fork over the cash to pay for a problem they helped create rather than pay a tax. They're never going to do that, as they've shown us time and time and time again.