Hey Bus fam! It’s Mehar, the Bus’s newly hired Development Organizer. I had the lovely opportunity to have a conversation with Tim Lennon, our c3 Board President. Tim has been a dynamic organizer in the Bus community since the organization’s beginning in 2008. He will sadly be stepping down from his role in the coming weeks, so I wanted to highlight his experiences at the Bus as well as give a HUGE thank you for all of his work. We are so grateful for the time, energy, and passion that Tim has put into this organization; his efforts to build youth power have been instrumental to our success over the years. Scroll down to read more about Tim’s time here at the Bus!
Mehar Singh: What originally brought you to the Bus? And how have you evolved alongside us?
Tim Lennon: I first worked with the Bus in 2008 when I worked for a partnering grassroots organizing org putting together lobby days to advocate for change in Olympia. I fell in love with the energy and smarts of the youth then, and I’ve been continuously bowled over by the power of youth advocacy and engagement to make change ever since. I’ve been a volunteer, a donor, led organizational partnerships, and for the last 5 ½ years I’ve been a member of the c3 Board.
Mehar Singh: In your personal opinion, why is it important to contribute to organizations like the Washington Bus?
Tim Lennon: The Bus puts youth in the driver’s seat. Whether it’s through leadership development programs like the Fellowship or internships, through high school and college organizing and voter education efforts, or other programs, the Bus asks youth what changes they want to see and gives them the tools to effectively advocate to make that happen. Donating time or treasure to the Bus is investing in the next generation of local leadership. And the return is almost instant: a better educated youth electorate that votes at higher rates than their peers elsewhere and, critically, knows that the vote is just the beginning of making lasting progressive change. Some of the youth we serve go on to lead their own successful organizing efforts, work for electeds, and even run for office themselves! All of the youth who get on the Bus become more active and engaged members of our community and power progressive change in their hometowns, counties, the state house and beyond.
Mehar Singh: Tell me about one of your favorite memories with the Bus!
Tim Lennon: There are too many great times to recount!! I loved working with the Fellows to encourage voter registration at music festivals and other events. Working on Candidate Survivor events over the years was wild, too. More behind-the-scenes I’m really proud of the work we’ve done on the Board to support the unionization of the staff, and to shift our leadership structure to a Co-ED model that has added stability, diversity, and some amazing talent to the org and really strengthened us in all kinds of ways.
Thank you, Tim, for all of your incredible work! We wish you the best in your future endeavors.
By Mehar Singh
As a Wintern at the Bus, I had the opportunity to choose bills that I care about to follow this legislative session. I picked HB 2124, extending bargaining rights to legislative workers, because I believe that all workers deserve the right to unionize. Additionally, I have personally worked on several campaigns where I’ve been overworked and mistreated for little to no pay. I also picked SB 5612, giving domestic violence victims the opportunity to speak during trial, because all too often the law sides with the abuser rather than the victim.
In addition to tracking these bills, the other Winterns and I had opportunities to sign in pro/con, submit written testimonies in support or against, and testify live in the legislature for the bills we were tracking. We also shared these opportunities with friends, family, and the broader Bus community to increase participation in the legislative session. I had an incredible experience testifying for HB 2124 in the legislature; I felt like I really made a difference speaking about my personal experiences with campaign work in front of WA State legislators.
We had two big wins here at the Bus this session; we were able to help pass HB2124, giving legislative workers the option to collectively bargain, and SB 5583, ending prison gerrymandering! Huge kudos to the Bus team and the other Winterns for getting these bills passed- I’m so excited to participate in future legislative sessions moving forward!
Bus Wins and Legi Awards!
As Mehar mentioned, we have two big wins to celebrate from this Leg Session: SB 5583, Ending Prison Gerrymandering at all levels, and HB 2124, supporting legislative workers in the fight for collective bargaining rights. These bills survived an arduous process from start to finish of the legislative session that not all of our bills were able to contend with. Our Key Priorities on our agenda included 11 original bills in three core areas: Protect the Vote, College Equity, and Tax the Rich, Fund the People. As the session progressed, we also worked on and supported legislative workers fighting for collective bargaining rights and economic justice. We’re so excited to keep working on these issues next year on a variety of fronts from Democracy Vouchers and campaign finance reform, enhancing automatic and online voter registration, free community/technical colleges, a Billionaire Wealth Tax, Guaranteed Basic Income and so much more.
Beyond those key bills, Winterns went above and beyond, tracking and testifying for bills across a wide spectrum of their own interests.
By the Numbers:
- Lobby Day / Week of Action
- 20 volunteers
- 4 Days of 5 events
- 7 lobby meetings that volunteers led and participated in
- 10 additional lobby meetings over the course of session
- EveryAction Advocacy Forms: 154 letters sent to legislators by constituents
- Testimonies: 13 (11 live + 2 written)
- Sign-in pros: Over 300 sign in pros over the course of the legislative session
- Winterns: 4
- Total bills tracked by Winterns: 26
- “Through the winternship, I learned a lot about the process of creating change through legislation, such as key people to talk to and how I can work with community members (such as volunteers) to garner a larger support network. It also made me more confident to speak on issues I care about. I’m currently in an immigration rights class that is working with the organization La Resistencia to help fight for immigration rights and to abolish ICE. I think I can definitely take some of the skills and knowledge I’ve acquired about creating change and apply it to this movement.” – Mia, 2022 Wintern
- “I completed this internship with newfound knowledge of the legislative process and knowing the importance of community organizing, and how to do that virtually! Giving my testimony during the bill hearing also taught me to summarize my stance and the most effective way of getting my point across while stressing the importance of the issue. I am excited to pursue future internships since my experience has been so great with the WA Bus. I want to use the same professionalism and compassion expressed by everyone here at future opportunities and throughout my studies. I plan on staying involved by joining local organizing efforts and continuing to educate myself and others on issues that impact our community. ” Ezza, 2022 Wintern
- “The biggest skills that the winternship gave me were in terms of how to approach something that looks so large and scary like the legislative session. It seemed quite intimidating at first but during the winternship I was able to learn how to approach it step by step. So not only did it prepare me to heckle legislators for many legislative sessions to come, but I also saw how to break it down for someone else who is completely new to taking action with the government and I am excited to introduce my family and friends to ways that they can take action through things like phone banks, email writing, or testifying at a public hearing!” Asma, 2021 Fall Intern and 2022 Wintern
- “The Winternship has shown me just how easy it is for young people to become involved in political processes- I feel more empowered and prepared to be involved in future legislative sessions. I will carry the confidence and communication skills I learned during the internship with me throughout my future organizing!” Mehar, 2022 Wintern and new Development Organizer
- “I keep coming back to the Bus because work is so important, youth engagement is so important, and the Bus makes it so easy to get involved!” -Clara Prizont, 2022 Volunteer
- “I always look forward to meeting with Washington Bus volunteers, and this year did not disappoint! It was awesome to hear directly from young people about what bills they think I should lead on and where I can be supportive. Thanks for helping me to elevate YOUR voices in the legislative process.” Representative Noel Frame (36-Greenwood)
We also want to give some shout-outs to some of the AMAZING Legislators from this session! We have folks who championed a whole swath of different bills and issues, some in their first term or even first session! First up, we have MVP for our core issues this Session:
MVP for Protect the Vote: Senator Trudeau (27th-Tacoma)
Freshly appointed Senator Yasmin Trudeau came into this session swinging with two phenomenal Democracy access bills we championed with her– 5583 (Ending Prison Gerrymandering) and 5584 (Ranked Choice Voting Local Options)! It was amazing to get to meet with her and talk about these issues, and see all of the other important issues she was fighting for this year (from expanding healthcare coverage to include donor human milk, to making rent payments more accessible, to allowing minors experiencing homelessness to be able to consent to healthcare). Thank you Senator Trudeau!
MVP(s) for Tax the Rich, Fund The People: Representatives Frame and Berry (36th-NW Seattle: Queen Anne/Greenwood)
First term Representative Liz Berry and (future Senate hopeful) Representative Frame, both from the 36th, came out swinging this year as strong champions for our economic justice bucket, Tax the Rich, Fund the People. Representative Frame, a long time champion of progressive revenue, continued to champion her Billionaire Wealth Tax through the Senate with the help of Senator Hunt. While it did make some progress this year with an outstanding hearing in the Senate Ways and Means Committee, we look forward to hopefully working with her next year in the Senate to lock it down! We also had a wonderful time meeting with her and her staff for our Lobby Day! She was a strong champion on the Tax Structure Work Group through the legislative session and the senate companion for her diaper subsidy passed!
Her seatmate, Representative Liz Berry came out with a bold plan on the Fund the People end of things by introducing a Guaranteed Basic Income through the Evergreen Basic Income Trust! It was a stretch in a short session but we can do hard things, we’re excited to help bring this back, too, next year! This year, Representative Berry did an amazing job passing bills on environmental protections and gun legislation, including banning Forever Plastics and High Capacity Magazines. She also banned Ghost Guns and guns in election centers, polling places and school board meetings.
MVP(s) for College Equity: Representative Slatter (48th-Bellevue) and Senator Randall (26th- Bremerton)
Thank you to Representative Vandana Slatter for championing 1659 (Higher Education Grants) which powered through session this year and came thiiiiiiiiiis close to passing! She Chairs the College and Workforce Development Committee, so has also helped move other college bills through session. Not only that, but we really appreciated the opportunity to collaborate with her in our work for Communities for our Colleges!
Senator Emily Randall also Chairs the Higher Education and Workforce Development committee and has been a champion for students, including funding scholarships for apprenticeships this year. She also championed a pay transparency bill as well as one that made it illegal to pay people with disabilities less than the minimum wage. We also loved meeting with Senator Randall for our Lobby Day to talk about our excitement for Slatter’s 1659!
Honorable Mentions for Legislators Leaving
We’re so sad to see that some amazing and strong champions in the legislature will be moving on and wanted to offer a big shout out and our deepest thanks!
Thank you to Representative Kirsten Harris-Talley: we appreciate you trying to resurrect your local options bill after it died on the senate side this year, we appreciate you making hard votes on police accountability, we appreciate your support of legislative workers rights, we appreciate you meeting with us during our week of action, and we appreciate you being transparent about everything that went down and why you’re not seeking reelection.
Thank you Representative Jesse Johnson: we appreciate you joining us for our Lobby Day and and the insight you shared with our young volunteers on the inner workings of the legislature, thank you for speaking up on overwork and burnout, thank you for being a champion on gun safety and violence prevention, and thank you for fighting for youth experiencing homelessness.
Thank you Senator Mona Das: we appreciate you being an Affordable housing MVP by fighting for Missing Middle housing near transportation and MFTE conversions, and passing affordable housing incentives. We appreciate you taking the time to meet with us for Lobby Day and talk to young folks about access to college. We thank you for speaking up on how hard it is for people without access to wealth to participate as a legislator. We appreciate
Thank you to everyone who has stepped up to serve, and to represent their communities, and we send you with the warmest wishes on the next part of your journey.
Hi Bus fam! I recently had the pleasure of chatting with Tiffany Mendoza, one of our BFF’s who has been on the Bus since our organization’s inception back in 2008! As a fairly new member of the Bus family, I love getting to know the folks who have contributed to our organization’s amazing journey. Thank you Tiffany for our wonderful conversation, your dedication to The Washington Bus has made a tangible difference in our community and has been personally enlightening to learn about! Scroll down to check out some of our chat’s highlights.
Fernando Barceló: I’m curious, what originally brought you to the Bus? And how have you evolved alongside us?
Tiffany Mendoza: I grew up with the Bus in some way: I led a voter registration drive at University of Washington and partnered with the Bus for the first Trick or Vote in 2008! When I returned to the PNW a couple of years later, the Bus was a great tool to connect with volunteer opportunities and meet new people across the sector. I was able to build partnerships with the Bus – collaborating with the fellowship program three different times – and was even part of the board. My relationship with the Bus has evolved over time, but it has always been a place to continue growing community for me.
FB: In your personal opinion, why is it important to contribute to organizations like the Washington Bus?
TM: Building power and change goes beyond any one election cycle – it takes vision and consistency. Oftentimes, progressives say that we need more opportunities for young people, especially from diverse backgrounds, to have a role in our movements for change. The Bus provides the space to build community and collective power to ensure that there is a robust pipeline in Washington’s progressive sphere.
We have witnessed how much can be accomplished when young people help to drive the agenda, including policy and electoral wins. That doesn’t come from nowhere, it is important permanent infrastructure. The question is will there be investment to ensure that we meet the multifaceted needs of this time.
FB: What are some of the latest news you have heard about the Bus?
TM: The Bus has grown up from a scrappy startup organization and with that comes important foundational work. I’ve been proud to see the Bus thoughtfully figure out how to sustain itself and ensure its stability through structures like the new Co-Executive Directors model and by investing in staff.
This has allowed The Bus to have consistency for its continued success while experimenting with how best to reach out to young people, meet them on their terms, and build power with them across Washington State.
FB: Lastly, could you recount a personal story you have with the Bus?
TM: There are a lot of memories associated with the Bus. From the fun events like Trick or Vote and Candidate Survivor to meeting some of my closest friends through volunteering.
The summers of 2013 and 2014 hold special memories for me because I got to partner deeply with the Bus fellows. In those summers, we went door to door in impacted neighborhoods, did a phone bank survey of over 3,000 young people of color and held a concert event (Beat the Heat) in Bellevue to hear about the impacts people are feeling from climate change. It was a precursor to incorporating environmental justice in mainstream platforms. The Washington Bus has always been a leader in building progressive change through youth leadership development!
Tiffany Mendoza (right). Trick or Vote: Get out the voter canvass in support of Marriage Equality (Ref 74). Circa 2012.
Tiffany Mendoza (center). Day of action with Washington Bus Fellows, Washington Environmental Council & Power Past Coal. Doing a door to door survey of precincts near the train rail lines in Kent to hear about the impacts more coal trains would have on overburdened populations. Circa 2013.
By Angee Pogosian, Washington Bus Legislative Intern
Senate Bill 5096, which concerns a tax on capital gains, has been signed into law. I know what you’re thinking, “another tax?” Let me tell you, I’ve got a cracked windshield, a constant burden of not knowing how I’ll pay for college, and a friend who just Venmo requested me $5 for coffee. If any of this resonates with you slightly then rest assured this tax does not impact you financially; in fact it benefits the vast majority of Washingtonians. Before we get into how this can be, let’s go over the bill.
Senate Bill 5096 will impose a 7% tax on excessive capital gains of $250,000 or more. Capital gains are the profits made on the sale of investments such as stocks, bonds, and real estate. For example, say someone bought 150 shares of Amazon stock prior to the pandemic for $270,000 ($1,800 per share). During the pandemic the value per share went up to $3,500. If that person were to sell all their shares of Amazon, they would have a profit (capital gain) of $255,000. Who is able to spare $270,000 to invest to begin with? Not me, and probably not you. Only the wealthiest Washingtonians are able to afford large investments, giving them the opportunity to become richer during a global pandemic. Meanwhile working families across the state struggle to afford basic needs like housing and childcare. We must invest into our communities; we can do so when the rich pay their fair share.
Yes, this tax is fair. Washington State has the most upside down tax code in the nation. Working people pay proportionally more in income tax than their wealthiest counterparts. Gaining upward mobility and building wealth is increasingly challenging for poor people. Financial literacy is generally not taught in our public education system for working to middle class families to benefit from. Wealth is reproduced generationally from knowledge and resources that are passed down. Investing is a privilege which is becoming one of the few ways that wealth can be accumulated at all.
The revenues made from this tax would fund the Washington State Education Trust, childcare, and the Working Families Tax Exemption. When families are able to access quality education, childcare, and their basic needs, they are more likely to progress socio-economically for themselves and their posterity. Investing in our low and middle income communities benefits everyone, as families will have more money to circulate into the local economy and stabilize their lives. We appreciate Representative Frame for sponsoring this bill, and all the young people who worked hard to get it passed.
This opinion piece was written by Annalisa Mueller-Eberstein and does not necessarily reflect the beliefs of the Washington Bus or Washington Bus Education Fund. Annalisa Mueller-Eberstein (she/her) was a Washington Bus Fall 2020 Intern and is currently enrolled as an undergraduate student at the University of Washington planning to pursue dual degrees in Materials Science Engineering and International Affairs. Originally from Kirkland, WA, Annalisa has a passion for working with the environment and her local community—volunteering with and participating in organizations to help achieve her goals. Outside of work and school she enjoys playing with wires, rollerblading, and watching YouTube.
Every study group, town hall, club meeting, the same opening question, “Why do you care about saving the environment?” There is something inherently wrong with this question–save. Save has too much of a positive connotation. We cannot come in as saviors since we were also the destroyers. Save is too meek, passing off the blame to an unseen third party, refusing to acknowledge how much man-made damage has occurred and how much needs to be done to reverse those effects. We must not so much ‘save’ as resurrect our planet, humanity’s mothership in a vast and mostly uninhabitable universe. We must take immediate action to act as a greater force in the opposite, pushing back against the decades of mistreatment that has turned our tiny blue dot gray with smog and smoke.
Recently, the spotlight has sporadically pointed towards environmental issues but not the prolonged attention an issue of this scale deserves for its effects are far-reaching and complex. Tension and stagnation in the Middle East? Lack of accessible water because of drought. Wildfires across the Americas? Changing weather patterns because of the greenhouse gas effect. Anthrax in Siberia? Melting permafrost? We need drastic change with monumental shifts in mindset and policy. We need everyone building from the ground up to create tangible collective impact. We need nested systems putting the environment first, ensuring the needs of the current generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
During a workshop integrating social and economic needs into a 2020 Sustainability Plan for the City of Kirkland, we took a ‘Sustainability Yoga’ break which yielded a rather entertaining quote:
“Please enter chair pose. Hand outstretched. Look to the right, look to the left. There is no one there. You are in a single-occupancy vehicle. Feel that burning in your thighs? That’s called… shame.”
Which brings us to Washington state and HB 1204/SB 5256, also known as “Clean Cars 2030” or the “Clean Cars Bill.” The bill would require all passenger cars and light-duty trucks to be electric in order to be registered in Washington starting in 2030 with exemptions for some emergency and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles. Transportation is Washington’s largest individual source of carbon emissions, and according to the Washington Department of Ecology, motor vehicles release roughly three million gallons of petroleum annually into the Puget Sound Basin. The bill was drafted by Representative Nicole Macri (D-Seattle) with assistance from Coltura, a Seattle-based environmental advocacy nonprofit focusing on the transition to electric vehicles.
The Goals of the Clean Cars Bill:
- Increase cheap, clean, renewable electricity produced in-state
- Incentivize private-sector investment in new EVs and charging stations
- Increase opportunities for lower-income Washingtonians (used EVs are cheaper to maintain than vehicles reliant on fossil fuels)
- Reduce carbon emissions and air pollution
Now back to the big picture. We must work for our future. We must work for our planet. After all, we are all in this together, part of the grand musical of life where everyone must play their part, contributing their fullest for humanity’s sake. A beautiful planet for humanity to live on complete with clean water, air, and soil. These are simple requests and the fact that we cannot guarantee they can be fulfilled for the majority of the population now, much less in fifty years, is a frankly terrifying problem we need to solve together.
We can (almost) all agree on that, yet very few of us have been carbon neutral, even fewer have been carbon negative. My suggestion is we all become carbon negative. If we wish to have lives comparable to now with sunshine to bask in, trees to scamper up, and chicken noodle soup to soothe the soul, we must act now, shifting our ways of thinking and common practices to fulfill a larger goal. Homes will need to become smaller, meat less common, and agriculture more sustainable. However, that is a small price to pay in comparison to the billions in capital and people lost to natural disasters and the side effects of warming temperatures. Time to look into local food sources, vegetarianism, mass transit, shorter showers, composting, and follow through.
More Information on Clean Cars 2030:
Clean Cars 2030 Fact Sheet: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1a2lRHBGDhNccoMMBWVbFJTEap20FkP_1/view
Clean Cars 2030 FAQ: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1HLLi9bMYsS_3Wyq0J8TF1tbJQVwkQpwU/view
This opinion piece was written by Annalisa Mueller-Eberstein and does not directly reflect the beliefs of the Washington Bus or Washington Bus Education Fund.
Annalisa Mueller-Eberstein (she/her) was a Washington Bus Fall 2020 Intern and is currently enrolled as an undergraduate student at the University of Washington planning to pursue dual degrees in Materials Science Engineering and International Affairs. Originally from Kirkland, WA, Annalisa has a passion for working with the environment and her local community—volunteering with and participating in organizations to help achieve her goals. Outside of work and school she enjoys playing with wires, rollerblading, and watching YouTube.
How much research do you really do into the candidates on your ballot? Now, how much do you do into the advisory votes, plebiscites, and referendums? When you see a phrase like “shall King County Charter Section 895 concerning mandatory inquests be amended,” how much do you really understand? (King County Charter Amendment 1). Research into candidates is already difficult to initiate, research into the processes of inquests (judicial inquiries) and taxes regarding heavy machinery is even more difficult with its classically boring subject matter and lack of human connection.
Fun fact, Napoleon was made emperor by a plebiscite in 1804. A plebiscite (pleh-buh-sait), also referred to as a referendum, initiative, or public vote, is defined as a vote by which the people of an entire country or district express an opinion for or against a proposal. Here are the practices in Washington (plebiscites mentioned from the 2020 ballot):
- Referendums: laws put on the ballot for the people by the legistors
- Referendum 90: statewide vote on whether or not Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 5395 mandating comprehensive sexual education should be implemented
- Propositions: mainly concern funding for public projects like transit or schools
- Seattle Proposition #1: concerns increasing funding for transit
- Initiatives: issues directly put on the ballot by the people
- Amendments: directly impact the rules governing a state, county, or region
- King County Charter Amendment #5; vote on whether the Sheriff will be an elected official again rather than chosen by the County Council
- Advisory Votes: requires any tax or fee increase that’s passed to appear in the voters’ pamphlet and on the November General Election ballot
- A result of a Tim Eyman initiative several years ago
- Basically a public opinion poll that costs the state and counties more than $500,000 each election
One’s first instinct is usually to try to spend less money which means it is natural for one to instinctually vote to repeal any new taxes they see on the ballot, as evidenced by the fact that every advisory vote on the Washington statewide ballot in 2020 received a majority vote to ‘repeal’ rather than ‘maintain’. Part of the issue is that people do not read into the voter pamphlet or explanatory statements. Another issue is that even if they do, they may not completely understand what is written or the description may leave out something vital. For example, initially, I thought the state funds referred to in the proposed Constitutional Amendment on the Washington State ballot would only be invested in government bonds and general funds; however, the actual text allows for investment in specific private stocks as well, relying on the general upward trend of the stock market to cancel out any economic downturns.
The Founding Fathers made the case to avoid uneducated voters, and I have to agree that representative democracy is favorable to direct democracy where expert opinions are overlooked in favor of political agendas or misinformation. I realize in today’s political climate, expert opinions are often disregarded, but one issue at a time. This situation is not unique to Washington State or even the United States.. In Australia, for example, in 2017, the question of whether Australia would support same-sex marriage was put to the people as part of a mailed national survey. This begs the question, why are some people’s rights up for election? If no single group of people should be explicitly targeted in politics in general, no group’s rights should be put up to the general public to decide on. That is just so sus.
Direct democracy has its place in hearing the people’s opinion, and the fact that the road is open for motivated citizens to put something on the ballot is good; however, one must avoid becoming too reliant on furthering popular sovereignty rather than implementing needed change. If a school needs more money to rebuild and provide supplies to students, a majority vote shouldn’t be able to prevent that. Also, plebiscites have an unfortunate connection to authoritarian regimes trying to legitimize their regime. This comes from the fact that many authoritarian leaders will substitute an opposition party by pretending to give power to the people to voice dissent or enact change.
Remember Napoleon’s ‘election’ in 1804? Records show he won 99 percent of the vote, but some sources also show that there was doctoring of the votes in the army and one has to wonder what would happen to those who voted no, especially after witnessing the destruction and death in the French Revolution. Either way, with 99 percent of the one million voters behind him, Napoleon could show that he was unanimously supported and begin consolidating power into his office. A more recent, yet still slightly suspicious situation occurred in Crimea in 2014 where the official result was a 96.77 percent vote for integration of the region into the Russian Federation with an 83.1 percent voter turnout while previous polls indicated support levels of between 30 and 45 percent.