Seattle’s Income Tax on ‘the Rich’ Has Collateral Damage: The Poor | American Thinker

Source: Seattle’s Income Tax on ‘the Rich’ Has Collateral Damage: The Poor

 

Seattle’s Income Tax on ‘the Rich’ Has Collateral Damage: The Poor

Seattle’s City Council made national headlines earlier this year when it enacted a city income tax aimed at “high earners.” Immediately, politicians crowed that they had planted a flag of “resistance” to the forces of “Trumpism.”

In a court hearing last week, the city defended its war on wealth against several legal and constitutional challenges. The briefing from both sides exposes an inconvenient reality for the levy’s defenders: its real, ultimate victims aren’t necessarily the plutocrats they claim to be targeting. In fact, just the opposite.

Some background: there are few precedents from other parts of the country for a city income tax of any kind, whether aimed exclusively at the successful or not. But for the Evergreen State, it is definitely a first-of-its-kind gambit.  In fact, the city’s action was in direct defiance of the Washington State Supreme Court.  That court has repeatedly held that the state’s constitution — specifically, its mandate for equal treatment of all private property — prohibits targeted income taxes, like Seattle’s decision to impose a 2.25% tax on total income in excess of $250,000 per year.

The courts cannot overturn the constitution — so, what is Seattle’s strategy? It is to convince a court to redefine a person’s income as something other than property, such that income would lose its constitutional protection.

Seattle’s legal briefing argues that income does not look like a typical piece of property. For many of us, income flows in and out of our possession without us ever really having a chance to capture it or hold it for longer than it takes to write a check. Thus, the city concludes that income should not be characterized as property.

But, in making this argument, the city’s legal team painted itself into a corner. You see, not only has the Washington Supreme Court recognized income as a form of property, there are decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court that agree. Thus, the city, in an effort to win by any means necessary, refined its argument to point out that those cases involved income derived from assets like bank accounts or real property.  Seattle argues that income should only constitute property if an individual invests it in some hard asset, like stocks or real estate or a business. According to Seattle, the state constitution’s protection for property should not protect anyone who lives paycheck-to-paycheck.

The city’s argument in this regard is dangerously short-sighted. Ownership of the fruits of one’s labor is at the very heart of personhood. One need only recall Frederick Douglass’s account of being paid wages for the first time in his life: “To understand the emotion which swelled my heart as I clasped this money, realizing that I had no master who could take it from me — that it was mine — that my hands were my own, and could earn more of the precious coin… I was not only a freeman but a free-working man, and no master stood ready at the end of the week to seize my hard earnings.”

It’s no secret, though, that Seattle’s decision was spurred on by a sense of resentment against wealth and achievement. Indeed, supporters celebrated the proposal by waving “tax the rich” signs, while bill cosponsor, councilmember Kshama Sawant, declared that the decision to impose a “tax on Seattle’s rich” is part of a larger “battle” against wealthy citizens and is motivated by her belief that the “capitalist class” actively works to “undercut” the policies that she supports, and should be compelled to pay for them.

But at what cost?

The only way for the city to win this tax fight is to deprive the poor and middle class of the protections guaranteed by the state’s constitution. Doing so would have broad ramifications. Indeed, in the 1930 case, Culliton v. Chase (the very decision Seattle wants reversed), the Washington Supreme Court explained that, if income is not property, then “anyone can use our incomes who has the power to seize or obtain them by foul means.”

So, who has the most to lose?  The poor and middle class of Seattle and the entire State of Washington. Once again, a “progressive” plan turns out, in practice, to operate more like the Sheriff of Nottingham than Robin Hood.

Brian T. Hodges is a senior attorney with Pacific Legal Foundation.  PLF represents four Seattle residents in a constitutional challenge to Seattle’s income tax law.

Oil, coal train fines in Spokane go to voters | Spokesman Review

On the question of whether Spokane can – or should – fine the owners of rail cars transporting certain crude oil and coal through downtown, both sides say they’re on the right side of the law.

Source: Oil, coal train fines in Spokane go to voters with legal path unclear

Legal certainty is a trait shared by those on both sides of the debate over whether Spokane should impose fines on coal and oil trains rumbling through downtown.

The citizens’ group behind Proposition 2, which would fine the trains, argues that federal inaction has opened a window allowing the city to demand covered coal trains and the removal of combustible gasses from rail-carried oil they say could cause a fiery explosion downtown.

Their conclusion defies the opinions of two legal experts at City Hall, and the railroads and commodities groups have taken notice of the measure, spending tens of thousands of dollars on a campaign to defeat it at the ballot box.

Mayor David Condon, who has contributed his voice to the campaign against the proposal, said although he understands the concerns of citizens about safety, imposing fines ignored federal actions to make the shipments less prone to derailment as well as efforts to improve the emergency response.

“To me, it’s such an unfortunate way of going after concerns that are legitimate that our citizens have,” Condon said. “The effort, in my opinion, is misguided or misdirected.”

Supporters of the initiative, now dogged by allegations of campaign finance violations, insist their proposal is modest and would withstand a likely legal challenge. The union representing hundreds of local firefighters have endorsed their cause, saying a downtown derailment would be catastrophic.

“The initiative was born from what these guys in the community have been warning us about, for at least the past six years that I’ve been here,” said Todd Eklof, minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church and the main sponsor and spokesman for Safer Spokane, the committee supporting the initiative.

The question has split the Spokane City Council, seen by critics as an ideological monolith tilted toward the left. The proposal originated before the panel last year, with City Council President Ben Stuckart arguing the fiery explosion in Mosier, Oregon, necessitated local action. He later reversed course and said he preferred to work directly with the railroads and federal regulators to achieve change.

Citizens gathered enough signatures to put the question before voters this November in a subsequent petition campaign.

A total of $151,000 has been raised to defeat Proposition 2. Among the largest donors are Lighthouse Resources, a corporation that owns several coal mines in Wyoming and Montana, and the railroads BNSF and Union Pacific.

The citizen group supporting the ballot initiative have raised just over $6,000, mostly from individual contributions. The largest contributor is Mike Bell, who is also serving as Safer Spokane’s treasurer.

Stuckart said in light of recent rollbacks of some environmental regulations by the Donald Trump administration, including rules on leasing federal land for coal mining, he’s now leaning toward voting for Proposition 2.

“I haven’t seen anybody locally stepping up and doing the work, at the federal and state level, lobbying to try to change the rules,” Stuckart said. “Are we just supposed to sit back and take it?”

City Councilwomen Candace Mumm and Amber Waldref said they had concerns about a protracted legal battle if the measure passes. Both said they likely will vote against the measure. City Councilwoman Karen Stratton wouldn’t comment on how she will vote, but said she, too, expected a legal fight. Councilman Mike Fagan is an outspoken critic of the measure, while his colleague, Breean Beggs, helped draft the ordinance and has been its staunchest defender on the council.

The initiative’s opponents, including Condon, cite legal opinions from the city’s hearing examiner, Brian McGinn, and the City Council’s policy adviser, Brian McClatchey, that the measure would have a slim chance of surviving a legal challenge.

Both men identified different sections of federal law to conclude that an ordinance passed at the local level would be trumped by rulemakers at the national level, opening the city to potential litigation and courtroom costs if the commodities, railroad or someone else filed a lawsuit to block its enforcement.

Condon pointed to efforts underway at the federal level, including legislation introduced in Congress by Washington Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, calling for national standards on cargo volatility and increasing funding for firefighting training. The city also has eliminated vehicular at-grade crossings with trains to reduce the likelihood of collisions within city limits, the mayor said.

“That’s where I think we really need to focus our attention,” Condon said.

The ballot measure would also fine uncovered coal trains over concerns about dust scattering to the tracks and increasing the likelihood of derailments. Opponents, including Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich, have seized on the inclusion of coal cars as evidence supporters are seeking to change environmental policy, not protect downtown.

Initiative supporters say their specific requests that coal cars be covered and the oil extracted from the Bakken shale, an oil-rich patch in western North Dakota, be treated to reduce the vapor pressure, haven’t yet been addressed by federal rulemakers. They cite a 2000 case out of the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals to argue that in the absence of regulation, cities can step in.

Bell, the Safer Spokane organizer and treasurer, said if the legality already was settled, the railroads would have filed a lawsuit before voters weighed in.

“They’re spending thousands of dollars to fight this on the ballot,” Bell said. “Why haven’t they already filed suit?”

BNSF spokeswoman Courtney Wallace said the campaign was “an opportunity to educate people about the value of rail.” The railroads have stressed that emergency responders work with the railroads on exercises to respond to a potential derailment, and that track inspections in the Spokane area occur even more frequently than currently required under federal law.

The city didn’t make any pre-ballot challenge because the state values the initiative process, Condon said, and taxpayers may have spent money on legal proceedings that won’t be necessary if the measure is defeated.

“We’re an initiative state. We have a very low threshold for citizen’s initiatives. I think we’re very prideful of that,” the mayor said. “On the flip side, I think the citizens need to be aware of the legal ramifications of this, and the confusion it causes.”

If the ballot measure is successful, it may not be a clear-cut victory for supporters of rail safety, said Fred Millar, a Washington, D.C.-based rail safety consultant who formerly worked for the environmentalist group Friends of the Earth.

“I worry that the proposition, if it actually became enacted, would lead to a lawsuit very quickly from the railroads,” Millar said. “I think the railroads would win on federal preemption” – the legal doctrine that federal law supersedes state law. “I don’t think the city has a chance.”

Millar said that would lead to another legal decision that continues to give Congress and federal rulemakers more authority in regulating rail. Proponents would be better served pushing for additional transparency from railroads on the type of cargo traveling through the city and pushing for explanations of why Bakken oil must be shipped through downtown, Millar said.

Opponents warn that the initiative would have the effect of putting more oil cargo on the highways, where accidents and explosions could be more frequent than on the rails. They point to studies by the Federal Railroad Administration finding that trains are four times as fuel-efficient as trucks and from the Congressional Budget Office showing trains pose a lower accident risk than trucks on the road.

“I think the safety standards that are set by the federal government to our railroad carriers seem to be very high,” Condon said.

Stuckart and the initiative’s sponsors said oil companies are unlikely to abandon rail, because it ignores the higher cost of trucking the commodities compared to lowering the vapor pressure of the oil and covering coal train cars. Oil regulators in North Dakota say stabilizing oil in train cars would cost about $2 a barrel, or around 5 cents per gallon.

They also disputed the threat of legal action should scare voters from supporting the initiative.

“It’s not going to cost any police officers on the street. It’s not going to hurt our budget,” Stuckart said. “We deal with lawsuits all the time.”

Redmond Police Raid Pawn Shop | Redmond Public Safety

 

 

Redmond Police conducted a search warrant September 27th on a Kirkland pawn shop suspected of trafficking in stolen property.

The operation comes after more than two years of investigating illegal business practices at A-1 Cash Now Pawn Shop on 100th Ave NE in Kirkland.

Computers used to run the business were seized. The investigation is ongoing.

Lt. Erik Scairpon noted, “Bystanders were cheering for the Redmond and Kirkland Detectives who served the warrant when we arrived. One patron in the neighborhood said she was eager to be rid of the drug use, drug trafficking and thieving occurring in the parking lot.”

To protect the quality of life of residents in the area, the Redmond Police Department has made the investigation and prevention of property crimes a priority.

Pawn shops that receive stolen jewelry, electronics, gift cards and other goods perpetuate and encourage residential burglaries and thefts. This is part of our effort to make our community a great place to live, work and play.

Report: Irish police asked to investigate Ed Murray’s time in Ireland | MyNorthwest.com

Police in Ireland received a request to investigate whether any allegations were made against former Seattle Mayor Ed Murray while he lived overseas.

Source: Report: Irish police asked to investigate Ed Murray’s time in Ireland

[Editor’s Note: Given the avalanche of allegations against Murray, I’m sure it will not be a surprise to learn that there were allegations and the likely victim is a kid with either a checkered past or family instability. The mold has been cast.]

First responders heard about their own children’s school shooting through work radios | KIRO-TV

Some of the first responders who went to the high school shooting near Spokane, Wash., were parents of students at the school, Spokane Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer said.

One person was dead and at least three others were wounded after a shooter opened fire Wednesday at Freeman High School. Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich said at the scene that the shooter was in custody.

Source: First responders heard about their own children’s school shooting through work radios | KIRO-TV

$660M KeyArena deal submitted to Seattle City Council | KING5.com

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and the Oak View Group (OVG) have a formal agreement to build a $600 million privately financed arena at Seattle Center, with tens of millions more in transportation mitigation.

The deal calls for construction to begin next year and be complete by 2020.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), as it is commonly known, was formally submitted to the Seattle City Council on Tuesday morning in the Select Committee for Civic Arenas.

Source: $660M KeyArena deal submitted to Seattle City Council | KING5.com

Mayor Ed Murray resigns after Seattle Times reports new accusations | KOMO News

SEATTLE – Mayor Ed Murray abruptly announced his resignation from his post Tuesday, about two hours after The Seattle Times reported that his cousin said Murray had repeatedly molested him in the 1970s when he was a teenager. Murray’s cousin became the fifth man to accuse the mayor of sexual abuse. Earlier allegations of sexual abuse prompted Murray to drop out of his campaign for re-election but he had steadfastly refused to resign until now.

Source: Mayor Ed Murray resigns after Seattle Times reports new accusations

‘It’s never too late to say we’re sorry’: Seattle leaders respond to Amazon plans to establish second HQ outside its hometown | Geekwire

Amazon announced plans early Thursday morning to open a second headquarters “fully equal” to its Seattle home, calling on local governments across North America to submit proposals. The news immediately ignited speculation that the e-commerce giant is outgrowing its hometown and introduced questions about whether Amazon’s complex relationship with Seattle is to blame.

Source: ‘It’s never too late to say we’re sorry’: Seattle leaders respond to Amazon plans to establish second HQ outside its hometown

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