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Tom Shillue

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Councilmembers coordinated coverage of head tax with activist groups

Seattle Councilmember Lorena Gonzalez. (AP)

A coalition of the Seattle City Council’s most progressive council members gave talking points to hand-selected activist groups to help promote the head tax, emails reveal.

There’s nothing illegal or unethical about this but it does offer an interesting look at the inner workings of an anxious council rounding up support for a controversial tax.

On May 7, 2018, Councilmember Lorena Gonzalez emailed three council colleagues: Mike O’Brien, Lisa Herbold, and Teresa Mosqueda. She wanted to discuss “the two overarching narratives and messaging that I strongly urge us to utilize when speaking and writing about the business tax.”

The narratives include telling the public that businesses have a shared responsibility in addressing homelessness and that the head tax is a “common sense way” to attack the problem, without hurting citizens via new property and sales taxes.

Notably absent from this email list was Councilmember Kshama Sawant.

Herbold responded with a long list of organizations and activists she sent the talking points to:

I’ve sent this around to SKKCH, SHSC, TRU, EOI, UFCW, SEIU, Unite HERE & a request to Tarsi at Local Progress & Greg La Roy @ Good Jobs Now (possible national mobilization, a la – Seattle has been a beacon of progressive policy- we’re looking to support your efforts because if you’re successful we can use your wins to begin to address income inequality & rising cost of city services & burden of paying for those services that falls on medium and small biz, homeowners, & renters alike in the face of an economic boom that benefits only the few in other high cost cities)

Who else has lists? Should we ask Puget Sound Sage again?

Onward ~ Lisa

Gonzales jumped in with her own list of organization: “I can send to the Latino Victory Project (national), OneAmerica, Working Washington, Casa Latina, El Centro, etc.”

Some of the language from Gonzalez would be lifted word-for-word in a purported letter from WHEEL/Women in Black and republished on Reddit.

Mosqueda worried that they were “losing more and more of the narrative.” She suggested that the group “…go on a media offensive, proactively reach out to the press, talk about the importance of what we are doing, etc.” She asked if they should organize a strategy that is more “campaign-like.”

Dana Robinson-Slote, the Communications Director for the Council, was CC’ed on the email. She jumped in and disagreed because “The coverage has been solid,” before offering to line up interviews at the city hall during a midday break.

The council went on to vote 9-0, in favor of a watered-down version of the original head tax proposal, supported by this coalition of council members.

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