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Wednesday, July 5, 2006


Posted by on July 5 at 16:45 PM

Last Friday, I slogged about a glossy 4-page brochure that the city produced to promote Mayor Nickels’s transportation levy: a $1.8 billion plan to fix up our basic transportation infrastructure (to be funded by a $195 on average property tax, a 10 percent tax on commercial parking, and a $25 per employee tax on businesses.)

My problem with the brochure was that it looked like a campaign piece. (It’s not kosher to campaign for or against ballot issues with public money from public offices.)


The brochure, about 2200 of them, cost $3,400.

And the mayor’s office told me I was being “ridiculous” for questioning the mayor on this. They told me the mayor has every right to tell the public how he wants to spend the public’s money. Nickels spokesman Marty McOmber told me: “The purpose [of the brochure] is to present the mayor’s views to the public on how the money should be spent. It’s responsible for him to put his views in front of the public.”

Right. But the $1.8 billion isn’t the city’s money to spend yet. That’s the whole point. First, Nickels needs to convince voters to give $1.8 billion over to the city. And that’s exactly what he’s doing with these flashy brochures. That’s called campaigning. And that’s why I’ve got a problem with it.

McOmber boasted that the mayor “isn’t shy about setting a sweeping agenda and letting voters know about it.” Okay. Unfortunately: It’d be one thing if the mayor was simply telling us what he wanted to do with money he’s got. (That, in fact, would be cool.) It’s another thing—and not cool— when, really, what he’s telling us he wants…is our vote. In short, the mayor isn’t telling us how he wants to spend the city’s money—he’s trying to convince the public to give him more money…and with neat-o “before & after” pictures to boot.

Unfortunately, the ethics office seconded the mayor’s office on this. They told me: “The mayor is allowed to tell the public how he wants to spend its money.”

Right, but…oh, never mind.

CommentsRSS icon

I would not call that campaigning-- I would call that legislating. Assessing what is happening in the City and coming up with the list of needs, then taking it to the next step would be proposing a package to get there. That's what I call proactive. And no, I don't work for the mayor but I admire him getting his ass in gear to get done what needs to be done. Getting the money is this anti tax climate is (way more than) half the battle in this era.

I just flat out disagree with Josh. You gotta identify the need and then go out and get the money.

I just want to put this out there : fuck the mayor taxing businesses 25$ per employee. Way to keep sticking it in small business' ass Nickels.

fuck you.

sorry, this just makes me very very crabby.

I remember from an earlier slog that this administration only polls for sound bites and not issues. So now it looks like it wants people to vote along the sound bite :"$1.8 billion plan to fix up our basic transportation infrastructure". Nickels team must be horrible torn-up that they can't tag a "you are with me or against me" onto this without coming across like Bush League Democrat (at least with those words in the public record and not by reading between the lines like me).

Crushing defeat, Josh!

Now get back to Darcy, Darcy, Darcy!

Hey Still Thinks Josh is Tall,

I know the names Josh & Eli aren't as commonplace here in Seattle as they are in New York, but you see, it's Eli who writes about Darcy Burner not Josh. So, there's Eli & there's Josh. Again, I know it's hard to keep such exotic names straight, but give it a try.

Oh Marty. Once a good reporter. Now a better paid shill. Too bad he's not the only one who felt that call to cross over...

That brochure didn't cost any $3,400 either. To print, maybe. How much staff time was spent on it? Just how many graphic designers does the city employ, anyways? Why?

I'm with Josh on this one. This smells rancid, like the butter in Nickels's neck creases.

I agree. Lets go back to a passive mayor who doesn't advocate and lets the council run the show. Yes, the time calls for Paul Schell. *shudder* If Nickels was weak we would all pan him then as well. Lets face it. We are just bitching for the sake of it.


the fee doesn't apply to small biz

Nickels's problem isn't that he is "strong" (nor was Schell's that he was "weak"). Strength in the service of a program is good; strength in service of nothing more than strength is stupid. Nickels reminds me more and more of Bush: he's good at politics but terrible at policy, because he doesn't give a shit about policy, only winning and consolidating power.

...or put another way, being "decisive" isn't a virture if your judgement is shit.

Will -
I'm not familiar enough with the tax to know what the cut off is for who gets taxed and who doesn't. All I hear is "25$ tax per employee" and boy do I get crabby considering all the other taxes and regulations and hoops business owners have to jump thru in this city. This city is most definitley anti business.

I think even for a larger company this is ridiculous because A. many larger companies provide incentives for carpooling or monthly buss passes already and B. the super large companies will find a way to get out of it anyway.

Either way, I'll vote against it. On the other hand, I'd be happy to vote for toll booths on I90 and 520...

Snacky –

Cut your whining. The $25 per head tax is eminently fair. Businesses are ripe for this tax. The FACT is that Washington is thirteenth from the top of the list of most favorable states for businesses from a taxation standpoint: What’s your proposal for raising more revenue – more sales taxes that the little guy has to pay? Sheesh . . ..

On a side note, I love how sales taxes are referred to as regressive, and that therefore they're bad. I actually find it appropriate that one pays into the system based on their consumption, rather than have their income proportionally siphoned off, right after the Feds have already proportionally siphoned off said income.

Thinking about it... $25 a head (per month, IIRC) will not break the backs of a business that isn't practically held up by economic glue and tape. Most coffeehouses would only have to pay about $300-400, if that, as would most smaller shops (assuming they're taxed; Will above said that smaller businesses would be exempt). A popular place makes that much in a day. Businesses that employ a bunch of part timers in lieu of a handful of full timers would likely suffer more, but at the same time, if said business pulls a reasonable profit, I can't imagine how it would break their backs. And of course, I'd imagine the large chain stores can afford to eat such a tax.

Whining about taxes is pretty commonplace. Seattle has a HUGE backlog of transportation maintenance needs. I admire the Mayor for actually trying to do something about it.

I am sick of the whole 'fill in the potholes' strategy to dealing with critical infrastructure needs in this city. We are a wealthy, vibrant city with a strong economy and we have a shitty transportation infrastructure.

With someone like Grace Crunican at the helm at SDOT and a Mayor who is willing to put his ass on the line to actually deal with real issues -- this City might have some hope after all.

Transportation maintanence backlogs might not be sexy but it sure is important to deal with it. I will be voting 'yes' on this.

Given that Mayor Nickels has squandered tens of millions of dollars of taxpayer money that should have gone to basic street maintenence on a useless streetcar for Paul Allen and to prop up planning efforts for a $4+ billion tunnel, my vote is a big NO.

The sales tax is regressive because the poor and most of the middle class spend everything they make. In fact, many Americans spend more than they earn. Witness the escalating personal debt in this country. Rich people have plenty extra to invest, rather than spending it on consumer goods (and the sales tax).

Anybody who thinks that the 25 bucks a head will be paid just by businesses is naive. The price of whatever goods/services the business deals in will be raised to cover the extra cost. From taverns to tech companies, they will be taxed and that tax will be “passed on”. People should be aware that ANY TAX levied by government, to businesses, is eventually going to be paid by them by higher prices on those goods/services. Another thing to think about is that companies who have high head counts will move away only leaving small businesses to make up the slack. $25 will then become $50 and so it goes. Boeing could just as easily leave as stay.

I just kind of wonder when enough will be enough.

Also, from what I know about the printing business, I'd guess that the cost cited for the brochure is for just the printing. The design of it was at least that much or maybe 200% more.

Before you accuse me of whining, why don't you walk a mile in some small business owner shoes?

I am not anti tax. In fact, I am pro tax. And I think those taxes should go to things like public transportation, funding for the arts, universal health care, and general overall taking care of the community. I think we should take more responsibility for our poor, our children and our elderly. I admire high tax countries because they have high standards of living and take care of their citizens.

But how does does something like a business occupation tax make sense? A tenant or owner pays for utilities, sewer, gas and maintenance on a building, yet they also have to pay a tax to do business in a location. Yes, you get taxed by just being there. Washington state has one of the highest (3rd?) minimum wages in the nation - which is fine, people should make a living wage - and many businesses offer health care to their workers. But you say, oh a cafe can afford the $300 to $400 a year it would cost. Do you own a cafe? Do you know that for a fact? Because that $300-$400 they make in a day that could cover that cost is not pure profit. Many business owners earn less than their employees and even in successful business, owners can pull down less than $20k a year. And that is a successful business making a profit and employing people who are generating money for the state in sales taxes, liquor taxes and all the other taxes you see taken out of your paycheck.

So unless you own a small business, don't talk to me about whining. And I guarantee you, Nickels just like any other fat cat Sonics owning vanity museum opening dickhead is looking for any tax break he can get.


Is it so hard to say "I was wrong?"

The sales tax is regressive because the poor and most of the middle class spend everything they make.

Is that extra 2 cents on the dollar really a backbreaker? I think the underlying problem in that case, then, is low wages, not an extra sales tax.

By your argument, an income tax, considered progressive, is just as backbreaking, because it eats at that itty bitty income of theirs.

Gomez, do you really not know what "progressive" means? As in, "progressively larger percentage"? If you're low income, you pay a low PERCENTAGE, not just a low AMOUNT -- actually, zero. If you earn more you pay a higher percentage. Income tax is much less harsh on the poor, who have very little disposable income.

I understand the technical meaning of the terms, but feel there's too much of an emotional attachment to each, giving each one a rep it doesn't necessarily deserve. You could argue that while the poor benefit from the lower terms of an income tax, it stunts one's economic growth as they increase their earnings.

How harsh is paying an extra 2 cents on the dollar, 10 cents a dollar compared to 8 cents? Is it really an economically crippling deal, relative to that person's income? Does Dad really have to work an extra hour of overtime to afford that can of beans with an extra sales tax?

Technically, such a tax is regressive, but its socioeconomic 'regressiveness' is far, far overstated.

Instead of filling *in* potholes, which costs money for labor and material, I've got a great idea--why don't we scrape the streets *down* to level the potholes out. We can then sell the surplus material to a place that needs roads and infrastructure, like Bellevue, and use the revenue for our tunnel.

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