How I’m voting in the August 1st primary

Sol Villarreal
Jul 25, 2017 · 6 min read

Regardless of how you choose to vote, please remember to send in your ballot by next Tuesday!


There are a lot of great candidates for mayor this year — I think Mike McGinn, Nikkita Oliver, Jessyn Farrell, and Cary Moon all have what it takes to lead our city, and I would be thrilled to see any of them win the general election in November.

Of the four, though, I’m going to be casting my vote for McGinn, for a few reasons:

1. I know he shares my values on the issues that are most important to me: housing affordability, urban density, and mass transit. I’ve seen firsthand his ability to move the ball down the field in each of those areas, and I like the ideas he’s putting forward in this campaign to address each issue.

2. I know how good he is at going out into communities who aren’t represented in the decisions that are being made about the future of our city and helping them get better access to political power, which is one of the things that I care most passionately about when it comes to government generally and local government specifically.

3. I saw those values put to the test over the course of four years working closely with him in the Mayor’s Office from 2010–2013, in a variety of different contexts (cabinet meetings, one on one conversations, community events, and over 150 town halls and neighborhood visits in every part of the city, etc), and I was extremely impressed with how much he grew as a mayor over the course of those four years without ever compromising his values. It’s a testament to his character that I respected him even more on our last day in office than I did on our first.

I’m excited to see what McGinn would be able to do with another term, which is why I’ll be casting my ballot for him for a third time this week.

City Council Position 8

There are several good candidates in this race, too, but the one who stands out for me is Hisam Goueli. I met Hisam several years ago when we were both taking improv classes at Unexpected Productions in the market ; I was really impressed by him back then as a charismatic guy who seemed to be amazing at everything he did (physician, comedian, local actor), but I’ll admit that when I saw that he was running for City Council I initially wrote him off as a long-shot candidate.

Then I heard him speak at the 43rd District Democrats endorsement meeting, and I realized that it might be time to add “City Council candidate” to the list of things that Hisam is amazing at, a feeling that’s only been strengthened since then by listening to him side by side with the other candidates in the race.

One of my foundational beliefs about American democracy is that it’s at its best when it includes the greatest possible diversity of voices and ideas, and Hisam not only comes to local politics from a very different perspective and life background than any of the other candidates currently in the race, he also speaks about the problems our city is facing in a different way, with a combination of humility, compassion, and laser-focused policy acumen that’s rare to find in any candidate, let alone someone making his debut on the local political stage.

I don’t believe in symbolic votes or protest votes or any of that — I take my civic duty to vote for the candidate that I think is best qualified for the office very seriously, and in this race I believe that candidate is Hisam Goueli.

City Council Position 9

I’m voting for Lorena González, hands down — she’s quite possibly the best local politician working today, and if Seattle is lucky she’ll decide to run for mayor at some point in the not-too-distant future.

King County Proposition 1

This is a tough one for me. I love our local arts scene, and I’m on the board of a small non-profit theater in Green Lake that would stand to get a small amount of money from this levy if it passes, but I fundamentally disagree with both the way it was structured and the process through which it was put together. In a nutshell, “Access for All” would disproportionately benefit our region’s largest arts organizations while disproportionately harming its lowest-income residents, and the fact that the campaign largely focuses on the initiative’s relatively small amount of funding for educational programs and small arts organizations tells me that they know the way in which the funding is actually being used isn’t something that our region would support. If you want more, continue reading below.

King County Proposition 1 is the result of a years-long lobbying process by the region’s largest arts institutions (think Benaroya Hall, the Pacific Northwest Ballet, etc) to convince the state to give counties the ability to tax themselves to fund local institutions dedicated to science and the arts (museums, theaters, etc). Every other county in the state has the option to use property taxes, which are the most equitable form of taxation available to municipalities under state law, or sales taxes, which are the most regressive; in King County, however, which is where the effort to pass this law was centered, we’re limited to using sales taxes, which disproportionately impact the lowest-income members of our community.

The $65 million per year that would be generated by the tax would go overwhelmingly to provide more funding to the largest, most established arts organizations in the county. Those with either annual budgets over $3 million or annual budgets over $1.25 million plus 50,000 annual attendees would distribute 70% of the funds among themselves, with those proceeds by design going disproportionately to the largest organizations within that group (using a formula of budget size plus attendance numbers) and providing up to 15% of each institution’s annual operating budget. 10% of the levy’s overall funds, plus 20% of the funds that the big organizations receive, would go to the educational benefits for public schoolchildren that the campaign emphasizes so heavily; roughly 8% would go to 4 Culture; and roughly 12% would be distributed via competitive grants to arts organizations with budgets under $1.25 million and fewer than 50,000 annual attendees.

The problem I have with this initiative is that the broad framework of the state law was created with very little input from the low-income communities who will pay for it most disproportionately or the smaller theaters in the region that have also suffered greatly with the broader downturn in attendance and funding for the arts in recent years. The group of large-organization representatives who created the initiative worked with 4 Culture to start reaching out for local feedback only last year after the broad outlines of the program (which, naturally, heavily favor them) were already in place, and although many of the suggestions that they heard from that outreach process — which are detailed in lines 48–75 of the full initiative text — focused on making “equity, inclusion, and access” the “guiding principles” of Access for All, in the initiative as it exists the guiding principle is clearly supplying additional operating revenue for the largest arts institutions in our region, and that’s being accomplished in a way that disproportionately impacts the lowest-income residents of our region. I had the opportunity to voice my concerns directly to the creators of this initiative at one of the community meetings last year, and their response was basically that they didn’t think voters would care. I certainly do care, though, and I don’t think I’m the only one.

I would love to be able to support a new levy to create a pot of equitably raised money (from a property tax increase, for example, which is also imperfect but better than a sales tax) that local arts organizations could use to increase access to the arts for every resident of King County. Proposition 1 is not that levy, which is why I’ll be voting against it.

Other races

There are lots of good candidates running for the school board and the port commission this year, too; I pay much less attention to those two areas and I haven’t invested a lot of time this year in looking into those races specifically, but I would encourage you to read more about them in your local election guide of choice.

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