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What we WON in the 2021 Leg Session 🎊

This post was written by Bus Staff

The  legislative session is over for this year, and we’re here reflecting on what we WON, and on the work that still needs to be done. First off, we’re proud of all the young people who called their legislators, showed up to testify, and advocated for policies they believe in. Our legislative system is tricky – it’s hard to understand, and it can really seem like a black box, one which has the potential to create transformative justice on so many issues, but often falls short of the values we believe in. We watched legislators make racist, hurtful statements on the floor and in committee. We also saw young people standing up for what they believe in, by waiting hours to testify remotely for Community College equity, or the Working Families Tax Credit. 

We have to celebrate the small wins, because even small wins are big wins. Check out some of what we won below. 

What we Won

😇  We restored Voting Rights to 26,000 of our neighbors in WA 

HB 1078 increases voting access by automatically restoring the right to vote to those no longer in community custody. Say thank you to Rep. Tarra Simmons.

📚 We invested in our Community and Technical Colleges

The Our Colleges our Future Act invests $33 million into our Community and Technical Colleges to add 200 new full-time faculty positions, increase mental health counseling, and add advisers. The bill also implements diversity, equity and inclusion plans and changes residency requirements so more undocumented students can qualify for in-state financial aid. Say thank you to Senator Marko Liias.

💸  We put $$ in the pockets of young people and working families 

The Working Families Tax credit will  provide a much needed income boost of up to $950 for nearly one million working Washingtonians. This tax refund will help support an equitable recovery for working families, college students, immigrants, and young folks without children. Say thank you to Rep. My-Linh Thai.

🤑  We taxed the rich and took a step towards a more just tax code

Capital Gains is a big deal. We made a HUGE step towards fixing Washington’s upside down tax code by passing a tax on extraordinary profits from the sale of stocks and bonds. This will only impact Washington’s wealthiest individuals and will help fund a just recovery that includes funding for childcare, early learning, and K-12. Say thank you to Rep. Noel Frame and Senator June Robinson.

We cut down transportation emissions and pollution

The Clean Fuels Standard makes a big impact on carbon emissions from the transportation sector, and is a common sense way to reduce carbon emissions and fight climate change. We’ve now joined Oregon and California in implementing this policy. Say thank you to Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon.

 🚔  We took a step towards de-militarizing police

A coalition of first term Black legislators successfully pushed police accountability measure HB 1054. This bill bans no-knock warrants and chokeholds, restricts the use of tear gas, and limits other tactics often used in police brutality cases. Say thank you to Rep. Jesse Johnson.

🗝  We banned for-profit private prisons

What!! After years of activism and hard work from advocates, the Washington State Legislature approved a ban on private, for-profit prisons. This means the Northwest Detention Center, the private immigrant detention center in Tacoma, WA, will be closed by 2025. We want to thank community leaders in the advocacy space, like La Resistencia, who have fought for this for years.

Where we Fell Short 

 😕  Making democracy more accessible 

Local Options for Ranked Choice Voting didn’t make it through. This bill would have given local jurisdictions the option to implement ranked choice voting, which is proven to make first time candidates, candidates of color, and woman candidates, more likely to run and win. We’re hoping to see this make it through the legislature another year. Stay tuned for ways to get involved!

Additionally, advisory votes will still show up on your ballot. Boooooooo. 

 😕  Police accountability to community

HB 1203 would have implemented Community Oversight Boards to hold police departments accountable across the state. The importance of this policy cannot be overstated – currently, police are held accountable only to their own departments. 

What’s next?? 💫

⏱ We’re looking forward to next year. The “interim” is where the magic happens – when legislators meet with constituents (that’s you!) and organizations like ours start to mobilize around policies that will make a difference to Washingtonians. Have a policy idea you think the Bus should work on?

 

 

How Democracy Vouchers Amplify Working Class Political Participation

By Linda Phan, Washington Bus Legislative Intern

As a low-income teenager involved in politics, I always struggle with supporting my favorite candidates financially when election season rolls around. In a capitalist society, there has always been a high correlation between money and winning. For me, if I want a candidate who advocates for affordable housing and financial literacy programs to support working class families like mine, how do I compromise my own meager earnings for the prospect of a brighter future with improved legislation?

My dilemma echoes that of other low-income Washingtonians. However, most of us can’t even worry about politics. The looming threat of unpaid bills and empty stomachs rivals the need for progressive candidates tenfold. When politicians are responsible for offering solutions to these problems, it makes sense for those directly impacted by said problems to be the most supportive of the candidates who promise to meet their needs. Yet, the financial and societal consequences of capitalism acts as obstacles in allowing marginalized people to participate in the political arena. 

Democracy vouchers are a resource that can mitigate the accessibility issues surrounding electoral politics. Democracy vouchers are available to U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals, or lawful permanent residents (“green card holder”) who live in Seattle and are over the age of 18. It only requires a quick sign up to receive them with the exception of registered voters, who receive them automatically. After signing up, democracy vouchers will be mailed out on a monthly basis. Each resident who signs up will be mailed four vouchers equivalent to $25. Each voucher can go to any candidate who qualifies for the program, and apply to all City elections. In the 2021 election, this applies to candidates in the running for Mayor, City Council, and City Attorney who stay under the respective spending limits of each race. Residents can even choose to give all of their vouchers to one candidate.

With democracy vouchers, voters who have trouble accessing political participation — Black and Indigenous People of Color, youth, immigrants and refugees, the working class, and more — are able to contribute to their favorite candidates’ campaigns regardless of wealth. While other access issues remain, such as the time needed to adequately research candidates, democracy vouchers are one step towards including marginalized communities in political decisions. In the future, I hope other governments follow Seattle’s example in supporting efforts to ensure that the ability to support campaigns is equitable and representative of all voters.

The Washington Bus Solidarity Statement

The Washington Bus joins with many across our state and country in calling for justice in response to the centuries of white supremacy and systemic violence against Black people in America. Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and George Floyd are the most recent names added to a shamefully long list of Black people and other people of color who have been murdered by police. Over the weekend in Seattle, we saw young people leading the disruption of police racism through protest — a physical manifestation of the collective grief, anger, and loss built up over generations of violence against Black and Brown people. These young Washingtonians risked their physical safety in putting their bodies on the line post-curfew; a curfew that was announced only 10 minutes prior to its enforcement. 

In response to young people’s outcries for justice and physical witness demanding swift institutional transformation, city, county, and state executive leadership chose to escalate by meeting protestors with police in riot gear and chose to militarize by bringing in the National Guard. Local and national news coverage focuses on the destruction of property and violent protests as the narrative worth highlighting; this is woefully inaccurate. Protecting property should never be the priority over the protection of human life and dignity. Systemic state violence against Black and Brown bodies is the true narrative. Racism kills. Sanctioned police violence must end. 

Any statement from elected leaders who are not calling for divestment from the police and military are perpetuating white supremacy.  As a non-Black led organization, we stand with our Black community saying that enough is enough. We demand change.

 As we commit to this change through a shift in our programs and strategies, we are calling on Governor Inslee, State Legislators, County Executives, Mayors, and City officials across the state to dismantle racist practices in all our institutions that they have authority over by following the demands of our Black communities: 

  • Remove policing from our schools and shift that funding to hire more counselors and mental health professionals for Black and Brown students.  
  • Prohibit any use of police funds for militarizing the police force.
  • Shift funds from city police departments, county sheriffs, and state patrol to public health, housing, education, and economic efforts focused on Black and Brown communities. 
  • End detentions and deportations that impact Black immigrants.  
  • Have City Attorneys stop the prosecution of protesters.

In Seattle, to promote accountability and transparency:

  • Cut the Seattle Police Department budget by 50%, and reallocate those funds to support Black and Brown led community police efforts. 
  • Withdraw the motion to terminate the sustainment plan of the consent decree from federal county.
  • Abide by the City of Seattle Policy accountability legislation as was unanimously passed by the Seattle City Council.
  • Stop fighting against the formed inquest process of King County
  • Require officers to show up to testify when summoned as a part of inquiries when an officer involved killing occurs. 

We are at a crossroads as a city and nation. We have the chance to be on the right side of history. We have seen in other cities that a world without police is possible, it’s already here, and it’s already working. Our work is to make it permanent. 

Where to donate (if you are able): 

Northwest Community Bail Fund https://www.nwcombailfund.org/

Black Lives Matter Seattle/King County https://blacklivesseattle.org/bail-fund/ 

WA-BLOC https://wa-bloc.org/donate/ 

Not This Time https://www.notthistime.global/donate-today/ 

 

Summer Fellowship is #HellaDigital

Summer Fellowship is #HellaDigital

Dear Bus Family and Friends,

As COVID -19 continues to reveal the deep inequities in our democracy, the Bus is doubling down on our efforts to shape Washington’s future. For this reason, the Bus Summer Fellowship is going digital! This year we will focus on transforming digital action into political action. 

Fellows will experience the same hands on democracy, community building, and social justice learning as always. Organizing our peers now means organizing rad online events, base building through social media, and throwing the most fun “couch parties” that have ever happened. Climate justice and housing affordability impact young people now more than ever, and Fellows will lead the charge on organizing their peers to uplift these core issues. We’re excited to transform digital organizing and bring it to the forefront of the Bus’ work with the help of a skilled class of Fellows, social justice experts, and our partner organizations.

Meeting young people where they are has taken on a whole new meaning in the time of social distancing. We can’t wait for you all to meet the Fellowship Class of 2020 as they take over the internet and advance progressive reform across Washington State. 

Best,

Mo Pannier, Leadership Development Coordinator

Leila Reynolds, Field Organizer

PS: Check out this video of our dear VoteBot going RemoteBot — enjoy!

Guest Post: 6 Things I Learned from Running a Fake Mayoral Campaign

Guest Post: 6 Things I Learned from Running a Fake Mayoral Campaign

This week’s special edition of Thirsty Thursday is brought to you by former Bus staffer, Candidate Survivor 2017 panelist, and current CID Public Safety Coordinator Sonny Nguyen. #knowledgeresponsibly

Everybody in this city is running for mayor. Back in May, after Mayor Murray withdrew his campaign for reelection, mayoral candidacies became more ubiquitous than fidget spinners. Seriously, from Larry “Oh Boy!” Oberto to the guy who Nazi salutes the city councilmembers, we have enough mayoral candidates in this city to fill a usually nearly-empty First Hill Streetcar.

Now, I am nothing if not a trendspotter. After much consideration, I decided I couldn’t be the only person in Seattle without a campaign launch party. Imagine the embarrassment! So, as anyone would do, I jokingly announced a write-in campaign to run for mayor.

Photo Credit: The Evergreen State College

At least, it started out as a joke. And then things got weird. Since then, it’s become a weird performance art piece about the state of municipal elections because I went to Evergreen and that’s just what happens for us. (I think my entire college was just an elaborate performance art piece about academia or something..)

Anyway, throughout the last two months of fake-campaigning for real-life mayor, here are the things I’ve learned about running for office.

1. Running for office is super expensive.

It can costs upwards of half a million dollars to win a mayoral race in Seattle. For those of us in student loan debt, that number looks like this: $500,000. Where does that money go? Campaign staff and consultants, mailers, facilities rentals for events, all kinds of stuff. In fact, filing to run for mayor can cost about $2,000 alone. Unfortunately, I did not have $500k waiting to be spent (see above re: student loan debt) but neither do most people running for office. That’s why we have programs like the democracy vouchers for use in municipal (i.e. city) races, to close the gap between people who have or can raise that kind of money and people who don’t have as much easy access to that kind of money.

Photo Credit: Fuse WA

(My only disappointment with the program is that Democracy Vouchers don’t come in lower denominations, making us mostly unable to make it rain stacks on candidates.)

Fortunately or unfortunately for me, I have years of practice living on a shoestring budget. I printed my hundreds of campaign stickers on Avery nametags that I got from Prime Now with a coupon code and gift card. I got over 100 bottles of beer donated to me for my campaign launch party. I borrowed a button maker to make campaign buttons. I printed my yard signs on the biggest sheets of paper my office’s printer could handle, and gluesticked them on to cut up boxes that once held ice cream sandwiches. All in all, I spent about $80 on my campaign materials, that’s a total saving so far of $794,657 compared to Ed Murray’s 2013 campaign.

 

2. I am excellent at campaigning.

I worked with the Washington Bus for about 10 years, so I knew my way around a campaign. I’ve spent many summers surrounded by stressed out candidates and campaign managers, and I’ve gotta say this was much easier than I thought. Maybe it’s because I’m not trying to win, but most of campaigning was just hanging out at events and being charming. Aside from filling out surveys and raising money, it’s pretty much just flirting with an entire city and I am an excellent flirt.

Photo Credit: CityArts

< But probably not as good a flirt as City Council Position 8 candidate, Dr. Hisam Goueli. Woof.

A lot of campaigning is learning how to make any conversation about you and what you can do. As someone who grew up in a household with seven other kids, this comes naturally. When you’re competing for attention with that many other people, you either learn to be proud of your own accomplishments or seek out new ways to gain external validation. And I ran a fake campaign for mayor, so you can guess which path I chose.

But this isn’t a blog post about my childhood development. This is a blog about Hisam Goueli’s delts. Or something.

 

3. Campaign events don’t need to be stuffy and boring.

Not every campaign event needs to be a no-host cocktail hour where strangers have to make small talk or a listening session in a rented conference room. And not every candidate forum needs to be the same questions with the same audience.

Were you at Candidate Survivor? If you were, I don’t need to explain this to you. If you weren’t, well, #vapeflute explains it all.

4. There’s no excuse for ugly campaign aesthetics.

Can we talk about this? Can we talk about how boring campaign materials look? My graphic design experience peaked at high school Yearbook Editor, and yet I must say I’ve got some of the best campaign materials of any candidate – real or otherwise. I made them on Canva! The free version!

(This post not sponsored by Canva. But it can be. Hit me up, Canva marketing team.)

 

 5. Seattle wants young progressive candidates.

You would think that with 21 people making it to the ballot, we would have enough variety in candidates to call ourselves covered for the mayor’s race. It turns out people were actually super stoked to hear my (fake) announcement. Before finding out it was fake, people were offering to host fundraisers and events for me, connect me to possible endorsements, and even pay my filing fee!

And only partly because I’m incredibly charming. It was mostly because Seattle needs more young progressive candidates. Yes, we have a few already in this race and in others this year. Still, I learned you can never have too many passionate young people with a vision for the city’s future.

All across the state this year, we’ve seen amazing young candidates running for office. From Seattle School Boards to Federal Way City Council and beyond, we’re running tough races to make a difference (and almost all of them real!). It counters the mythos that millennials are dispassionate selfish jerks who only care about MTV skinny jeans and killing the diamond industry by saying “Look. We’re here and we love our local communities and we have these great ideas about how to make it better. Also we apparently don’t by napkins and I guess that’s a problem.

A packed Neumos full of mostly Millenials, ready to meet their candidates instead of playing golf.

6. You should run for office.

I mean, why not? We’ve created this idea that a candidate has to know everything about everything, but candidates are real humans who are constantly learning about the issues and building teams of experts around them. You know how to do that. You know how to make friends, be charming, and speak from the heart.

There are people and organizations out there that will donate to your campaign. There are people and organizations out there that want to hear your ideas for improving your community. You can ask your county elections office what seats will be opening up next year and start planning now, or reach out to organizations like unions, churches, or Amplify for resources. Amplify, as stated on their website, “recruits, trains, elects, and supports progressive champions for state and local office in the Northwest, prioritizing people of color, women, young people, and LGBTQ candidates.”

Sure, I didn’t actually run for office this time around. The most important thing I learned, however, is that the idea of my candidacy isn’t absurd enough to be an obvious joke. It’s a plausibility, a possibility, and with each passing day, a growing likelihood. I know now more than ever that you don’t run for office because you think you’re the best person for the job. You run for office because you know that the communities you’re a part of and that you have connections with, they deserve a voice. You run because there are issues that need to be talked about and nobody else will start those conversations. You run because if you don’t, who’s like you that will?

So do it. Run a mayoral campaign on $80 or raise $800,000. Run for school board. Run for Insurance Commissioner (10 years in politics, still barely understand what the job does). Your community is waiting for you.

As more and more amazing young people run for office, I become more and more sure that together, #WeCanNguyen.

Candidate Survivor Recap!

Candidate Survivor Recap!

Over 400 audience members watched enraptured as the top seven mayoral candidates answered questions ranging from their policy positions to their smoking habits. It was a night that left people both informed, entertained, and probably a little stunned.

Photo credit: Darrion Sjoquist

Here are some highlights from the night:

Round 1: Lightning Round, Yes/No

The Executive Director of the Washington Bus, Emilio Garza, fired off question after question in a sixty second lightning round as each candidate tried to quickly come up with answers to questions such as, “Would you rather vape with Abraham Lincoln or farm peanuts with Jimmy Carter?”

In the final moments of the Yes/No and spectrum round in which candidates moved from one side of the stage to the other depending on their policy stance, Mike McGinn, the reigning Candidate Survivor champion, won cheers from the crowd when he gave his “explain” card to Nikkita Oliver to expand on her stance on one of the questions. Still, McGinn as well as Jason Roberts were eliminated in the first round.

Round 2: Talent Show

I guarantee nobody who came to Candidate Survivor thought they would see a candidate over sixty years old vape through a flute while two people in masks danced and his campaign manager rapped a revised Seattle-focused version of “Mask Off” by Future. But that’s what Bob Hasegawa did, all while wearing a fedora and sunglasses. #VapeFlute

Photo credit: Anthony Morrow

Jessyn Farrell played saxophone to Careless Whisper by George Michael, and replaced the original lyrics with her own lyrics asking the Stranger to endorse her as well as throwing jabs at the Seattle Times. Jenny Durkan impersonated Melissa McCarthy’s impersonation of Sean Spicer and mocked each candidate left on stage. Cary Moon made a PowerPoint as her self-proclaimed only talent and gave a “BED” Talk on how to run a mayoral campaign ending with a heartwarming message to just “Be Yourself.” Nikkita Oliver assured us through rap that “justice is just us being just.” At the end of the round, Durkan and Hasegawa were both eliminated.

 

Round 3: Serious Political Questions

In the final round, only three candidates, Nikkita, Jessyn, and Cary, had survived. The three panelists asked them serious political questions respectively tailored to each candidate.

Considering the dilemma people in Little Saigon face, Jessyn believed that more grassroots organizations should engage in community affairs. She also expressed her determination to represent marginalized groups regardless of white privilege, and use her background and experience to serve the city.

Cary, the urban planner and activist who is the largest donor of her own campaign, claimed that her wealth could save her time collecting donations and allow her to instead concentrate more on contributing to the city. Her proposal to collect real estate tax from non-residents and build four times more affordable housing won prolonged applause.

Nikkita was asked who would she nominate as the head of Seattle department of transportation if she was elected. She planned to work with her competitors and do a national search for suitable candidates. She also wanted to prioritize more urgent tasks and allocate the city budget wisely in order to pay for more homeless shelters.

In the final audience vote, Nikkita won Candidate Survivor.

Photo credit: Anthony Morrow

Candidate Survivor is a fantastic event which helps voters get to know their mayoral hopefuls in a fun and authentic way. It’s a great opportunity for people unfamiliar with local politics to get a rough picture of each candidate’s proposals and personalities… and maybe see a politician vape out of a musical instrument.

Check out the buzz from the event on The Stranger, Seattle Times, Seattle PI, and Seattle Met!

This blog post was written by Bus Duke Engage interns, Debra and Anqi.