News Nickels Campaigns on Your Dime
He’s at it again. The city’s department of transportation has produced a 4-page, full-color flier promoting Mayor Nickels’s $1.8 billion transportation levy. The flier is blatant campaigning (complete with before and after photos). Ethics rules (are supposed to) prevent campaigning from City Hall—that is, using public offices and public money to promote issues that are going before the voters.
And in fact, Nickels got dinged for electioneering out of his office during his 2005 reelection campaign. (He had to reimburse the city over $2,000.)
I talked to Seattle’s ethics director, Wayne Barnett, about the fancy new transportation levy promo fliers—the mayor’s money quote: “Every neighborhood in the city will see improvements. People will have a better experience getting around whether by bike, bus, car, or foot”— and Barnett says he knew nothing about them. That means, nobody ran this by the ethics office. (Typically, when Team Nickels gets called on this sort of chicanery, they do a whole song and dance about how they ran it by ethics first.)
I guess they’ve been getting away with so much campaigning out of Nickels’s office lately, that they didn’t feel like they needed to check anymore. Well, they should have. Look at this thing yourself:
Anyway, the city says they’ll get back to me on how much they spent on the brochure.
Team Nickels will argue that the four-page color brochure is “informational” not “promotional.”
But that doesn’t make any sense. How can they be giving info on something that won’t happen unless voters vote for it? In other words, Team Nickels is telling you what you’ll get… if you vote for it. And so, by definition: They are promoting an initiative.