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Woman claims Seattle tax proposal runs afoul of regulation

(Seattle Channel)

The city has gone about raising property taxes all wrong, one Seattle resident claims.

Elizabeth Campbell has filed a complaint with the state which accuses city officials of improperly using a citizen method of getting a measure on the next ballot. That measure aims to raise property taxes to fund homeless programs. Mayor Ed Murray first announced the tax in his 2017 state of the city speech.

“If the city wants to raise taxes, they have a clear path for that,” Campbell said. “But Murray said he doesn’t want to trust the council; he wants to do it a different way.”

Related: Nick Hanauer pushed for $28 minimum wage

The Seattle Times recently reported that “superwealthy” entrepreneur Hanauer said that his think tank actually came up with the idea. Hanauer, a private citizen, then brought it to the city. The mayor then passed the idea along as a city effort. But Hanauer told The Seattle Times that the idea is a collaboration between his organization and the city:

Mayor Murray is a friend of mine, and it’s all connected. This is not a secret plot. It’s a group of citizen activists and leaders thinking about what to do.

Campbell, an adviser for Safe and Affordable Seattle, ran for mayor in 2009. She explained to KTTH’s Todd Herman Show that both private citizens and cities can put measures on the ballot, but she argues that there is a procedural line between the two.

Campbell points out, in a complaint to the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission, that the effort was really Hanauer’s idea. Yet, the city used its resources and people to back it.

“They started this last year … the citizen initiative process is the reserve powers of the citizens,” Campbell said. “Typically, if an initiative comes along, it’s a person, or a group of people in the public realm, or it’s like what we saw with Costco – to get liquor into their stores.”

“The minute they started doing that at the city – planning it, drafting it, putting together who will be involved, which is other contractors who get a lot money from the homelessness business – that was when they were supposed to register their political committee,” she said. “But they only registered in the last month.”

Campbell’s 20-page complaint lists a series of Washington state regulations, mainly addressing the issue of city vs. private ballot measures. For example, it is prohibited for a public office to be used to support or oppose a ballot. The complaint will have to pass through state Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s office first. That office will determine if it has any merit, initially. If the office finds that it has any basis, it will investigate further.

Campbell also sent her complaint to the Seattle Ethics and Election Commission.



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