Tammy Morales: An organizer for economic justice

In the election for Seattle City Council District Two, the favorite prioritizes stopping displacement

Morales 1
As a child, Morales experienced housing insecurity

 

POLITICS

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.

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A punch against the gays

One summer night in Wallingford, near Dick’s drive-in

Blossom Boys
Members of Camp Blossom for Boys:  I am third from the left with long hair and a beard

MEMOIR

By George Howland Jr.

My boyfriend, Tommy, and I walked with arms around one another to the bus stop. It was the summer of 1979 and he was working graveyard at a print shop. We both had long hair and beards. My hair was blonde, and my beard was black; all his hair was brown. Both of us were way skinny. He wore jeans, a t-shirt and boots. I had on draw-string pants, a t-shirt and Birkenstock sandals with no back strap.

We were on North 45th Street, a main drag through Seattle’s Wallingford neighborhood, at the time a neighborhood of overwhelmingly white middle-class and working-class people.

I was living right up the street at Camp Blossom for Boys, an intentional community for gay, bi-sexual and straight men. I had spent 18 months putting Camp Blossom together as part of my effort to “fight the patriarchy” by changing men. Seven of us had rented a suburban looking house next to a gas station on First Avenue Northeast. Four gay men, two straight guys and me—the lone bisexual. Three of us were anarchists, one was an activist skeptic and the other three were gay guys who were curious about living with other men.

At the time, you didn’t see many gay couples in Wallingford. We didn’t care. We were proudly, militantly out.

I wore dangling earrings and androgynous clothing. The more stares I drew, the better. I wanted to confront people’s homophobia. I told everyone—my school district employer, my alternative public high school students, people that I met—that I was bisexual. The confrontations took their toll—my stomach was often convulsed with cramps.

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Patti Smith Revealed

Smith shows her familiar punk contempt and lays bare her sweetness at her Seattle performance

Patti Smith
Smith loves to insult her questioners (Wikipedia).

For the first time in my experience, Patti Smith was sweet to an audience member at Sunday’s October 6th’s performance in Seattle.

Usually Smith delights in grousing at her fans. In Q&A sessions, Smith cuts off questioners, calls them out for asking about stupid things or mocks them for their interest in her personal life. She delights in insulting her admirers and making them the butt of her jokes. Since it’s in keeping with Smith’s punk persona, the audience loves it.

Last night, standing center stage at a packed Benaroya Hall, with her long white hair, black jacket, pants and boots and a white shirt, Smith alternated readings Year of the Monkey, her new book, and performing acoustic versions of songs from throughout her career. When Smith reads, the lenses of her reading glasses magnify her eyes so much that she looks like Emma Thompson playing Sybill Trelawney in a Harry Potter movie. Tony Shanahan, her band’s bassist and keyboard player, accompanied Smith on acoustic guitar and piano. Smith also played acoustic guitar on two songs.

Year of the Monkey, Smith said, swirls around the illnesses of two dear friends: Blue Oyster Cult’s Sandy Pearlman and playwright Sam Shepard.

She remembered Pearlman’s odd gifts. “Once he sent me the whole [Richard Wagner’s] Ring cycle on vinyl. It was like 11 pounds. I never really liked the Ring. I still have it. It’s under my bed. I like The Hobbit better.”

About halfway through the show, she said wryly, “Now we’re going to have a mandatory question-and-answer session.”

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Be Strategic about Impeachment

If Senate acquits, Trump wins

Photo of Donald Trump
When deciding on impeachment, Ds must consider politics first (Wikipedia)

OPINION

By George Howland Jr.

U.S. House Democrats must be strategic about impeachment. Currently they have launched an impeachment investigation. If they impeach—similar to an indictment—President Donald J. Trump and then the U.S. Senate, controlled by Republicans, holds a trial and acquits him, the president wins. Trump will declare himself, once again, “completely exonerated.” This time, it will be true.

It is vital that those of us who are opposed to Trump do not fall into the same trap as the Gingrich Republicans did with former President Bill Clinton in 1998. The Rs allowed their visceral hatred of Clinton to overwhelm their tactical understanding of politics. Clinton was acquitted in the Senate and the Ds won seats at the ballot box. Trump is too dangerous for the Democrats to repeat that mistake.

In theory, the impeachment and conviction of a president should be about the rule of law. Given the threat that Trump poses to democracy, the Ds must choose their course based on politics. Democrats must be guided by which course of action will strengthen Trump’s re-election.

Currently, the evidence about Trump’s phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is enough to launch the impeachment investigation. It’s clear from the quasi-transcript released by the White House that the U.S. president leaned on Zelensky to investigate Trump’s most feared opponent in the U.S. 2020 election—former Vice President Joe Biden—and his son Hunter. (It’s also clear that Hunter acted unethically by taking a board slot at Burisma Holdings, for which he had no qualifications and was paid up to $50,000 a month.)

The evidence against Trump is not strong enough to move one Republican senator to the convict column. The Senate needs two-thirds of its members to agree to remove a sitting president. Currently, there are 53 Republican Senators, 45 Democratic and 2 Independent (Vermont’s Bernie Sanders and Maine’s Angus King, both of whom caucus with the Ds). The math is daunting.

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Heidi Wills and Strippergate

City council candidate (District 6) and former city councilmember takes responsibility for her past mistakes

Heidi Wills 2

 

NEWS

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.

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Happy Reads

I capture the castle 3

BOOKS

by George Howland Jr.

Since life is, by and large, tragic, it helps to have happy novels stacked by your bedside. When tired of being consumed by the grim realities of existence–global warming, poverty, war–and the great sorrows of literature–Anna Karenina, Middlemarch or Invisible Man, read something buoyant. There’s nothing wrong with works of art that don’t engender a major depressive episode. Novels with blithe romances are not necessarily Harlequins; funny books can rise above the sophomoric without becoming dark comedies; and a bildungsroman need not leave everyone’s entrails on the kitchen floor. We all need a restorative now and then, and uplifting novels are less expensive than cocaine, less anxiety producing than espresso and less fattening than tiramisu.

  1. David Lodge “Paradise News” (Penguin Books, 1991, $16.00)

Lodge’s greatest works are novels of ideas, flesh and bone. In this book, former Roman Catholic priest Bernard Walsh travels from the dreary English industrial heartland to Hawaii and comes to terms with family love, romantic love and the love of God. During his journey, Walsh provides a fascinating education about the revolution that occurred in 20th Century Christian theology. He explains how the simple homilies of sin, salvation, heaven and hell were replaced by Dietrich “Bonhoeffer’s ‘religionless Christianity,’ [Paul] Tillich’s Christian existentialism, or various types of Liberation Theology.” While this spiritual and intellectual transformation has caused Walsh to lose his vocation, it allows him to find his new life.

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Memories of a Luddite, Pt. 1

Deran Ludd, writer and activist, 1959-2018

deran
Ludd riffing on his choroideremia — a degenerative eye disease (Anonymous)

MEMOIR

by George Howland Jr.

A friend called with the sad news: Writer and activist Deran Ludd had committed suicide on September 9, 2018.

I only saw Deran dance once. It was 1977. Deran was frugging and laughing with Leslie Batchelder to the sounds of the B-52s “Rock Lobster.” The two of them were impossibly beautiful.

Deran had the delicate patrician features of the WASP elite. His hair was a little shaggy and he had on earrings that matched his blue eyes. His slim body didn’t hold my attention, it was his gorgeous face that I couldn’t stop looking at. My gaydar went off—but quietly. He seemed like a sweet, hippie boy.

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