Link light rail stations and garages would use new surveillance equipment
By George Howland Jr.
In the first quarter of the next year, Sound Transit security staff will ask the Sound Transit Board of Directors to take the first step in installing artificial intelligence (AI) cameras throughout its Link light rail system of stations and garages. The Sound Transit Board of Directors will be asked to approve a Request for Proposals (RFP) from private vendors for the initial $979,200 purchase of the AI technology. There are no public meetings or public outreach planned in connection with this decision, according to John Gallagher, Sound Transit spokesperson. Branden Porter, Sound Transit’s System Security Manager, states the objective of the AI cameras is to save over $1 million per year in security costs. Sound Transit’s Gallagher stresses, “We’re not using these [cameras] in any way for facial recognition.”
Critics are not mollified by the promise. Shankar Narayan, Technology and Liberty Project Director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington (ACLU-WA), says, the use of AI cameras would force “people to choose between privacy and transit.” This controversy comes on the heels of Sound Transit, last month, releasing data that shows its fare enforcement results in disproportionate citations for African Americans (first reported by Erica C. Barnett and then The Seattle Times).
Voters in a tri-county region (roughly approximating King, Snohomish and Pierce counties) have approved an ambitious expansion plan of Sound Transit’s light-rail, express-bus and heavy-rail transit services. Sound Transit’s current light rail is 22 miles long and runs from the University of Washington’s Husky Stadium to Angle Lake, just south of Sea-Tac Airport. By 2041, Sound Transit plans to expand light raid north to Everett, south to the Tacoma Dome and east to Issaquah. There are also two planned expansions in the city of Seattle itself: one to West Seattle and the other to Ballard. Recently, statewide voter approval of Initiative 976 put Sound Transit’s funding into doubt. Currently, I-976 is facing a court challenge.
District elections have brought change, but it’s unclear what kind
By George Howland Jr.
On Nov. 5, there were seven Seattle City Council district seats up for election. Election night returns indicate that the labor/lefty coalition won four seats and the Chamber of Commerce slate won two seats. In District 5 (North Seattle), incumbent councilmember Deborah Juarez was endorsed by both the Chamber and the labor/lefty coalition.
If these results hold, it will be a major repudiation of the business community’s $4 million (with Amazon contributing $1.4 million) effort to make the city council more conservative.
Yet given the political positions taken by the apparent winners, it is unclear what the new city council’s direction will be on key issues such as homelessness, displacement, growth and tax and wealth inequality.
Let’s look at the districts one by one.
District No. 1 (West Seattle, South Park)
Incumbent Lisa Herbold held a small lead on election night 51-48 percent over a weak challenger Phil Tavel. In the August primary, C is for Crank’s Erica C. Barnett reports that Herbold increased her lead by 4.2 percent from election night to final results. Herbold looks safe.
Herbold is a neighborhood progressive, very much in the mold of former Seattle City Councilmember Nick Licata, her mentor. Earlier this year, Herbold introduced the most important anti-displacement legislation in decades: a one-for-one replacement requirement that any low-income housing that is destroyed by redevelopment must be replaced by the builder. The future of the proposal is, however, gloomy because of legal issues and a lack of support from other councilmembers.
On Marc Maron’s WTF, Maddow says she prays every day
On Monday, October 14, while appearing on Marc Maron’s podcast WTF, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow said that she is a practicing Roman Catholic. “I pray every day,” she said. “I doubt the Catholic Church is happy with me but too bad, they’re stuck with me.” [The discussion of religion begins at the one-hour, six-minute mark.]
The Rachel Maddow Show, which debuted in September 2008, is one of the top-rated cable-programs in the United States, attracting millions of viewers five nights a week on MSNBC. Maddow, 46, is an unabashed liberal who features in-depth news analysis on her program. She is a lesbian who, is partnered with Susan Mikula, an artist and photographer.
Maddow was raised in the Catholic Church. Despite the Church’s homophobia, she told Maron, she never experienced a crisis of faith or abandoned her religion. As a young woman, Catholicism was relegated to the background while she focused on her self-development.
The president’s totalitarianism has been constrained by U.S. institutions
By George Howland Jr.
There’s been some loose talk lately comparing President Donald J. Trump to Adolf Hitler.
First, Christine Todd Whitman, who previously served as head of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Republican governor of New Jersey, tweeted that Hitler “has nothing” on Trump. “Hitler took a long time to get where he was and he had to do a lot of other things. Trump is going much faster,” Whitman told New York NBC affiliate Channel 4, on Oct. 16.
Yesterday, Oct. 20, on MSNBC’s “PoliticsNation,” Beto O’Rourke, a former Democratic U.S. Representative and a presidential candidate, talked about Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric. O’Rourke said, “Outside of Nazi Germany, it is hard for me to find another modern democracy that had the audacity to say something like this and then this idea from Goebbels and Hitler that the bigger the lie and the more often you repeat it, the more likely people are to believe it. That is Donald Trump to a T.”
If we are going to be able to defeat Trump, we need to be clear about what is going on in our country. Much to my surprise, Trump’s efforts to subvert democracy and civil society have been defeated on many fronts. By contrast, Hitler quickly dismantled Germany’s constitution and destroyed the nation’s democratic institutions.
In the election for Seattle City Council District Two, the favorite prioritizes stopping displacement
By George Howland Jr.
Tammy Morales is Mexican American by birth, Jewish by choice and an organizer by vocation.
The Seattle City Council candidate for District Two (Rainier Valley, Beacon Hill, Chinatown International District) grew up poor in San Antonio, Texas. For the last 20 years, Morales, 50, has organized for economic justice in Seattle’s south end. Now she hopes to bring her perspective to city hall.
She won August’s seven-candidate primary with a whopping 50 percent of the vote—the kind of numbers that are usually reserved for incumbents. In Nov. 5th’s general election, she is facing off against Mark Solomon, 59, a crime-prevention coordinator for the Seattle Police Department. Solomon only won 25 percent of the primary vote, despite conservative and corporate groups spending over $100,000 to support him.
It’s very likely Morales will be celebrating on election night. If so, Morales would become the third Latinx woman on the nine-member city council in a city with a Latinx population of only 6.6 percent. Morales would be serving with sitting city council members Lorena Gonzalez and Teresa Mosqueda.
Morales says, “I do identify as Mexican American, not as Latinx.” She explains that it is probably her age that makes her prefer the former term. “It is part of who I am,” she says. Both of her parents are Mexican American, but she grew up living with her mother in a single-parent household. “I did not grow up speaking Spanish. I grew up hearing it. It was what the old folks spoke when they didn’t want us kids to understand.” She remembers sitting under her grandmother’s dining-room table, listening to the adults talking Spanish and trying to make out some juicy tidbits of gossip.
City council candidate (District 6) and former city councilmember takes responsibility for her past mistakes
By George Howland Jr.
Heidi Wills rang my doorbell.
Earlier this summer, I put up a Facebook post about Wills and Strippergate–a City Hall scandal involving illegal lobbying and political money laundering by Frank Colacurcio, a vicious gangster. Wills, who served one four-year term, 2000-03, as an at-large city councilmember, is currently running for city council in District 6 (Ballard, Fremont, Greenwood). On Nov. 5, in the general election, she will face off against Dan Strauss, a former aide to City Councilmember Sally Bagshaw. Strauss won the primary election 34 percent to Wills’ 21 percent.
In 2003, Strippergate was partially responsible for Wills losing her city council seat to David Della. In this summer’s Facebook post, I wrote, “I have never heard Wills adequately explain her behavior and demonstrate that her judgment has improved. To me, this is a necessary step before serving on the council for a second time. “
That same night, Wills was in my Phinney Ridge neighborhood ringing doorbells (at publication time, she says she had personally contacted 6,500 households). Wills’ social media person telephoned her to raise the alarm about my post. Wills decided to come over to my house–she had the address as part of publicly available voter lists–and answer my questions. Over a cup of tea, in my fortunately clean kitchen, we talked about her political past and how it relates to the present campaign.