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Thursday, June 28, 2007

Bus Schedule

posted by on June 28 at 13:34 PM

By Rebecca Tapscott

I’m out shopping at Loehmann’s with my girlfriend on my first day off as the Stranger’s news intern, when my cellphone rings. Caller ID: The Stranger. It’s Josh, asking if I can cover the Washington Bus Corporation…Group…no, well, organization thing…some “activate the youth event”…there will be cupcakes!

On first request, I’m not sold. Obviously no one wants to go, and as the young, politically inclined, unpaid intern, I’ve been chosen to do the dirty work. Upon further investigation, the event is walking distance from my house and I have no real schedule conflict. So, I call up high school friend Jacob for moral support, and we set out.

5:55: I arrive at the Washington Bus Project meeting at the Central District Senior Center having read Erica’s critique of the event and searched in vain for online literature. (It appears their website is “coming soon.”) We have low expectations… although, I am curious to learn what constitutes a “foam free” event, as boasted on bottom left corner of the event’s invitation.

5:57: We sign in, grabbing nametags and pins that read, “I’m on the bus.” My first impression of the event, upon entering the one floor, brick building, equates with a high school dance. There are folding tables set up on the sides of the fluorescently lit room with chips and dip, folding chairs, and a DJ spinning MTV’s latest pop songs in the corner. A few 40-year-olds stand around, dressed in various amalgamations of suits and denim. Yet, in less than thirty seconds, we are greeted by Washington Bus Campaign organizer Thomas Goldstein, who thanks us for coming and directs us outside to the deck for beer. (I wonder if he thinks we’re underage, but he has the courtesy not to ask.)


6:06: We each procure a cup of 1/2 beer, 1/2 foam (by now I’ve learned that the “foam-free” proclamation of the event was a reference to Styrofoam). With social lubricant in hand, we’re ready to mingle.

6:15: It’s hard to decide whom to approach, since in socialist fashion, everyone (including myself) is wearing a paper nametag and no other identification. I corner Sameer, who is standing behind the bar simultaneously looking official and trying to sort out the keg/foam problem, and begin a tirade of questions. He outlines the program for me, smiling broadly throughout a well-rehearsed response: We need to get the youth involved through cultural activities and voting. Use music. Politics is hugely important and we need a way to make it interesting.

6:23: Everyone is still milling around outside, and I figure now is the time to investigate Erica’s concerns. Between now and the beginning of the event at 7:00 I learn:

The location is proximate to the South side because:
Washington Bus Project is largely dedicated to mobilizing the youth and minority vote. The crowd is fairly young—20s to 40s, including the city council candidates. Although most of the group is white, there are a few minorities, mostly politicians or employees of the Washington Bus Project.

There are both cupcakes and beer, as well as toast with spreads and Odwalla.

The event hosted no Seattle candidates because:
1) They hoped to create a friendly event and avoid debates between competing progressive politicians. Also hoped to emphasize the Washington State aspect of the organization.
2) And, to pass progressive legislation in Washington State, we need progressive legislators in multiple districts—not just Seattle’s. Many Washington State races have a progressive candidate running against a conservative one—with the election of a progressive candidate in a traditionally conservative district, for example, Keri Andrews v. Phil Nobel in Bellevue, we change the political landscape of our state, and potentially the nation.


7:03: We are ushered inside for the event, which is introduced with 10 “you know you’re a progressive if” questions, including: #2—photos of Barack Obama excite you (a little cliché, in my opinion, but received noisy applause), #7—you run red lights to be carbon neutral (Paris should have used this argument in her defense), #9—you know when Paul Wells birthday is (no one did); and 10—you donate monthly to the Washington Bus Project (wait, isn’t this event geared towards youth?).

7:05: The four candidates take the stage. I realize that in the previous hour of mingling, three of the candidates introduced themselves to us. They are then asked a mix of personal and political questions (best Q/A by far was for Keri Andrews, candidate for Bellevue City Council. Q: What would your super power be? A: This might not be appropriate, but…the power to make things bigger or smaller.) We also learn that all the candidates are dedicated to the environment, limiting urban sprawl, the youth and firefighters.


7:29: The candidates are asked to mingle with the crowd and seek out the best question from the audience. We take this opportunity to slip out the door (even though the cupcakes remain confined to their pink boxes). On the way out the door we counted the names on the sign in sheets: 49 in total. Nonetheless, I wonder how many people were either affiliated with the Washington Bus Project, people employed to help put on the event, members of the press, or other unpaid interns, showing the support of their respective organization. Every person I met fit one of these categories.

7:31: I begin my walk home, (yeah, the location was good for me) feeling satisfied. The event was well organized and founded on hot-button progressive values. The turn out was decent, even if there were few unaffiliated community members. Nominally, the Washington Bus Project hasn’t been “founded” in Seattle yet, and hasn’t begun outreach, so although improvements could be made, I think Erica’s cynicism was premature. The question is what’s next? Unfortunately, with no website or contact information, it’s hard to say at the moment.

The Washington Bus Project is an affiliate of the Oregon Bus Project, which was established in 2001 and has been relatively successful at mobilizing the vote. As for the origins of the bus analogy, we’re all still a little confused. The incentive seems to stem from the plethora of puns that a bus derives, mostly focused around “driving” things, like change and votes. Getting onto the bus is also a favorite slogan, not to mention mass transit’s friendly relationship with the environment. Oregon Bus Project announces proudly that it does indeed have a real bus, and although Washington’s Project may be lacking a physical vehicle, they seem to be on the same ideological “boat.” With this unity, organization and enthusiasm, I’ll keep an eye out for future events.

RSS icon Comments



Posted by Mr. Poe | June 28, 2007 2:36 PM

Don't mind Mr. Poe, great job Rebecca :)thanks for the report :)

Posted by CodyBolt | June 28, 2007 2:38 PM

I stopped reading after the first two paragraphs. You can go ahead and ignore all of my comments from this point on, as they never actually have any direction, point, or substance.

Posted by Mr. Poe, Aka: Annoying Asshat | June 28, 2007 2:49 PM

nice review, i was disappointed at erica's preemptive panning of a fledgling political engagement exercise.

not all political events must have tits, ass, liquor and violence. usually one of the above does the trick.

Posted by josh | June 28, 2007 3:00 PM

I liked the Slog post a lot. Thanks. The opposite of everything Mr. Poe comments is true.

Posted by jamier | June 28, 2007 3:02 PM

Booze and cupcakes. Check! I should've been there. *sigh*

That said, good job on being informative. :D

Posted by Phelix | June 28, 2007 3:02 PM

thanks intern, a fair report i'd say, having been in attendance (friends help run the bus). it seemed to me like a decent start, though there is plenty of room for improvement.

erica, i'd agree, it seems like you were guilty of hasty cynicism here. it certainly isn't your job to promote every group that sends the stranger a press release, but if you are going to offer criticism, it should be informed (they did invite city council members and other seattleites, buses do run to the CD, and the locale is no better or worse than most political events--and is in fact a common site, given the ability to have beer and an awesome view). the group has a mission, to get youth involved in WA progressive politics, and while there are many routes to this goal, they chose this one. if you don't like it, show up and give feedback, or opt out. while i usually agree with you, it is lame to sit on the sidelines and levy complaints that aren't even on target.

*sidenote: if the unpaid intern had hung around awhile longer (though it was long and overly warm in the room, understandable she bailed), she would have gotten pizza, cupcakes and more beer, plus had the chance to see the very game jean godden share the stage with a hilarious look-alike, and find out that the group is buying a real bus to ferry doorbellers around the state to pitch in on the campaigns of young and progressive candidates.

Posted by shortbus | June 28, 2007 3:07 PM

Ouch. It's Barack, not Barak.

Posted by OBAMA08 | June 28, 2007 3:20 PM

Seriously, I was hoping for a report on the Jean Godden look-a-like contest. C'mon, Rebecca!

Posted by giantladysquirrels | June 28, 2007 3:22 PM

Giant Lady. Rebecca left at half-time. She missed the Jeans.

Posted by OBAMA08 | June 28, 2007 3:25 PM

Do you mean Paul Wellstone?

Posted by brb | June 28, 2007 3:28 PM

Yes, it was Paul Wellstone. And someone shouted 1944-- which is correct.

Posted by green leaf | June 28, 2007 3:34 PM

A few 40-year-olds stand around, dressed in various amalgamations of suits and denim.

I believe this refers to me, and I'm actually 33. Sigh. I'm fucking old.

Posted by Dean | June 28, 2007 3:41 PM

Wow, that event looks totally re-tarded. I just have one question: did the cupcake / beer combo give you gas?

Posted by erika | June 28, 2007 3:41 PM

A few 40-year-olds stand around, dressed in various amalgamations of suits and denim.

I believe this refers to me. I'm actually 33. Not that fucking old! Jeesh.

Posted by Dean | June 28, 2007 3:42 PM

Foam free. yah.

Posted by Will in Seattle | June 28, 2007 4:36 PM

Nothing says "yo yo yo what up my people, we be rockin' the youth vote in da howz" like a DJ working a room that's brightly lit with flourescent fixtures in a drop ceiling.

Cupcakes and beer. Urgle.

The important question is: what the hell IS it? Is it about buses, or is that just a metaphor? For what? Getting young people involved in politics? What kind of politics? Just "get out the vote"? Do they have an agenda, a slate, a point of view? A bus for what, exactly?

Lemme put it this way: were there ANY young people there at all who were being persuaded to vote (when?) who otherwise wouldn't have? Because it didn't look like the kind of thing that any young person would go to who wasn't already really into politics.

I mean, anybody can buy a keg of beer.

Posted by Fnarf | June 28, 2007 5:20 PM

Wow! This intern is so good... you should pay her!

Posted by liz elf | June 28, 2007 6:09 PM

Well, Fnarf, what's more progressive these days than preaching to the choir?

Posted by Roger Williams | June 29, 2007 3:00 AM

I'm 42, and I would NEVER attempt to combine traditional business attire with denim. I could pull it off in my 20's, no problem. But on a man of a certain age, it's nothing but toss-your-head-and-try-to-be-young.

Posted by catalina vel-duray | June 29, 2007 6:13 AM

Oh, and don't get me started on suits and baseball caps. Sad, sad, sad....

Posted by catalina vel-duray | June 29, 2007 6:15 AM

What's so progressive about Obama? He is a centrist. He is nowhere near Dellums or Wellstone in terms of progressive politics. Nothing wrong with the guy, but I wouldnt go around saying that he makes progressives' hearts beat faster. Standards for what is progressive is laxed in the Bush era.

Posted by SeMe | June 29, 2007 10:23 AM

Fun post! However, for those of us who are less in-the-know about civic goings-on, it would have been helpful if you'd explained at the beginning that this group is not actually affiliated with Metro, or busses (like you did in the final graph).
Why not the Washington Buss Project? (giggle)

Posted by zena | June 29, 2007 11:30 AM

I was there. I thought it was fun. I had a couple of beers and talked to the candidates. It was encouraging. I saw old people, young people, white people, brown people. The bus is a brand new organization here in Washington State. They're young and mostly volunteer-run. Their wheels are a little squeaky - hell, they don't even have wheels yet because they're still raising money for the bus. Why not try cutting them a little slack and let them get off the ground before trying to poo-poo them in your holier-than-thou-but-never-going-to-do-anything-to-change-anything-Seattle-know-it-all-attitude. Oh, and what the hell kind of comment is this - "Nothing says "yo yo yo what up my people, we be rockin' the youth vote in da howz" like a DJ working a room..." Seriously??? Wait, you're really serious? Where are you from??? Obviously you're from somewhere that doesn't appreciate the fine culinary pairing of cupcakes and beer.

Posted by leantotheleft | June 29, 2007 4:32 PM

Oh yeah, and I meant to say - good job overall, Rebecca. It's good you were there, but you should have stayed till the end. And, you should identify yourself as a reporter to people you talk to when you're attending an event as a reporter.

Posted by leantotheleft | June 29, 2007 5:05 PM

At the City Council Public Hearing Thursday night in Georgetown re: Zero Waste Strategy, guests enjoyed beer and cake.
I was at both the Derby and the Hearing -- because I'm really foam-free--- and I vote yes for the keg and cake combo.

Although there was also crostini, various tapenades and spreads, and All Purpose Pizza at the Washington Bus Candidate Derby. Just beer and cake in Georgetown though. What more do you need? Maybe some chocolate soy Odwalla...

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