Politics Bus Schedule
posted by June 28 at 13:34 PMon
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.