Councilmember O'Brien left office on December 31, 2019. This website is for archival purposes only and is no longer updated.

Occupy my blog!

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Like millions of people around the globe, I have had enough of the growing income inequality and social inequity that the Occupy movement has been calling out and standing up to. The extreme gap between the rich and poor, particularly in the U.S., threatens the foundations of our democracy. In a country where corporations are now considered persons and money spent on elections is now considered protected speech, we have to question whether the basic principles of open and transparent governance, of fairness and justice for all, and of one voice=one vote will still hold true.

The gap between the rich and poor increasingly threatens our individual and public health too, as the most recent CDC report on Health Disparities and Inequalities documents.

So what can we do about it in Seattle? One thing we can all do is join the movement gathering each day at Westlake Park. But the City Council can also take action.

The state and federal governments play significantly larger roles in contributing to the vast income inequality than the city with their greater authority for things like setting tax policies, regulating businesses and setting basic standards for workers, but there is no question that city government plays a role as well.

So the City Council is thinking about what city government can do to  recognize and address some of the the social inequities the movement is highlighting. My contribution to this discussion is to focus on the areas of influence the city has, so I am working with my colleagues on the council to consider adopting the following:

A city  review of its banking, investment, contracting, electoral and tax policies and practices and ensure that public funds are invested in responsible financial institutions that support our community.

In this review, the city would:

  • Analyze policies to promote responsible banking with city funds and to ensure accountability and provide an incentive for banking institutions to invest more in our City, particularly with regard to  the efforts of banking institutions to stabilize the housing market.  This analysis should include options for changing city policy on where we deposit funds and investments.
  • Analyze feasibility of a city contracting policy that requires businesses to maintain a specific  maximum ratio of executive pay to line staff pay as a means of promoting equitable distribution of pay for businesses contracting with the City. (For example, if we choose 25:1 and the lowest paid employee at a contractor earns $40,000 per year, the CEO could make no more than $1,000,000.)
  • Request a report on all City-generated tax exemptions to examine the impact of lost revenue to the City against the economic benefit the exemptions are intended to bring to the City, particularly with regards to the impact tax exemptions have on job creation in Seattle.
  • Consider pursuing changes to State tax exemptions if they are not demonstrably meeting their intended goals of job creation, stimulating business activity, or having an overall positive impact on the State’s economy.
  • Consider pursuing authority from the State to implement a revenue neutral, city-wide income tax that would reduce the regressive burden of our tax structure based on sales taxes in favor of a progressive structure that more fairly allocated tax burdens along ability to pay.
  • Analyze how city election campaigns are financed, including understanding the impact of donations from corporations and possible ways to further restrict undue corporate influence.

So what do you think? Are we on the right track? What else should we be considering? Leave a comment here, on my facebook page, or email ( or call (206-684-8800) my office and let us know.

And, if you have some free time this weekend, head on down to Westlake and see for yourself what it’s all about. These pictures below are from last Saturday’s march and rally, taken by Josh in my office.


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Comment from Lanni Johnson
Time October 20, 2011 at 11:23 pm

it would be helpful to look at the points you make in your blog, but if you want to strike at the heart of the problem, start figuring out a way to get money out of politics. ows has published their first set of demands, they’re on the right track…

“While the presentation of a finalized Petition of Grievances to the three branches of government will be the ultimate product, The Action Plan is the core of this particular working group. The Action Plan is very ambitious and calls for the election of a National General Assembly to convene on July 4, 2012 in Philadelphia. ”

1. Implementing an immediate ban on all private contributions of money and gifts, to all politicians in federal office, from individuals, corporations, “political action committees”, “super political action committees”, lobbyists, unions and all other private sources of money or thing of value to be replaced by the fair, equal and total public financing of all federal political campaigns. We categorically REJECT the concepts that corporations are persons or that money is equal to free speech because if that were so, then only the wealthiest people and corporations would have a voice. The complete elimination of private contributions must enacted by law because it has become clear that politicians in the United States cannot regulate themselves and have become the exclusive representatives of corporations, unions and the very wealthy who indirectly and directly spend vast sums of money on political campaigns to influence the candidates’ decisions when they attain office and ensure their reelection year after year. Our elected representatives spend far too much of their time fundraising for the next election rather than doing the People’s business. The current system’s propagation of legalized bribery and perpetual conflicts of interests has reduced our once great republican democracy to a greed driven corporatocracy run by boardroom oligarchs who represent .05% of the population but own 38% of the wealth.”

i especially like #1.


lanni johnson

Comment from Lanni Johnson
Time October 20, 2011 at 11:24 pm

and please do allow me to thank you for your positive interest and participation in the movement, and your willingness to explore other ways.


Comment from Lanni Johnson
Time October 20, 2011 at 11:25 pm

dang, and i forgot the link! here ya go…

Comment from Tim Colman
Time October 20, 2011 at 11:45 pm


How about supporting a state owned bank?
See Yes Magazine

That would make a significant improvement in public finance and save taxpayers lots of money.

If North Dakota can do it, yes we can, too.

Comment from Bill Bradburd
Time October 21, 2011 at 2:06 am

We should revisit the creation of the special B&O tax category for Russell Investments (and other international investment businesses). This tax rate – the lowest Seattle offers – created for a billion dollar business is not appropriate. We should be encouraging businesses in Seattle that help us move to a more sustainable world.

It is a shame that Nickels and Godden pushed this through in their “enthusiasm” to bring them to Seattle.

BTW, the category doesn’t even show up on the Dept of Finance and Admin website, though I have asked that it be listed.

Comment from Bill Bradburd
Time October 21, 2011 at 2:08 am

Our Seattle Comprehensive Plan calls for loss of manufacturing jobs for the next 20+ years and targets the vast majority of growth in the finance, insurance and real estate industries – the same folks that got us into this mess in the first place.

Comment from Carlo Voli
Time October 21, 2011 at 6:12 am

This is wonderful, Mike. This is really walking the talk. It’s a lot easier to just put out a declaration of support and solidarity for the Occupy Movement. But what you are talking about will really make the difference we are proposing in order to actually change the system, rather than just protesting it.
This is really raising the bar as far as possibilities go, from not just asking and encouraging individuals to switch their financial accounts from huge, greedy and unscrupulous corporate banks to smaller financial institutions, such as credit unions and local banks that invest in the kinds of projects and systems we want to encourage in the more equitable, just, and sustainable societies we envision. But you are talking about a whole city in itself taking this kind of action.
My own suggestion would be to also take into account in the review process of potential new financial institutions the City will be choosing, that they are not supporting projects, ventures, and companies that are causing damage to the natural environment or contributing to climate change. As well as not associated with the defense industry.
Thank you so much and may your fellow city council members also see the light and support this, so that Seattle may become a model for lots of other cities to be inspired by and follow suit.

Comment from K-Man
Time October 21, 2011 at 9:12 pm

Start an income tax for Seattle residents and you’ll make it a goast town in a matter of years. The people who actually pay taxes are the people you want to keep in the city. It’s these ‘Occupy’ parisites that are the burden on the city, to the tune of $100K so far, and they have only been around for a month. Stop thinking of ways to punish the productive members of society and get people back to work. The entitlement folks won’t like to hear it but they are the problem, because they bring nothing to the table but an empty hand waiting to be filled up. Just listen to the demands… or did they decide on what they all want, yet??

Comment from Todd Bachelder
Time October 21, 2011 at 9:29 pm

25 to 1 for any excutive is outrageous! It’s time we the people get real. No one needs a mansion, when we have 7 billion people on this planet. The mansions that are standing right now have been paid for with money from those that barely survive. Where else did it come from?

Comment from gerard
Time October 21, 2011 at 10:20 pm

lets go a step further and ban all institutions from seattle city limits that operate ‘for profit’ or demonstrate ‘corporate greed’. You should also consider a yearly net worth tax of 10% on all the millionaires and billionaires making over $100k per annum. Reallocate the hoarded wealth, power to the people!

Comment from Mark
Time October 22, 2011 at 12:18 am

Mike, those are good points with one exception. The city income tax proposal. Frankly until the city cuts back on the discretionary stuff in place of the necessary in a down economy, no one is going to support an income tax, flat rate or otherwise. Things like the $10M bike bridge would be better spent elsewhere in a time like this.
If you implement an income tax you will make less money the next year. Because the people who make the money to pay your tax will leave the city. Also, if/once the city successfully implements an income tax, the county and the state will come looking for their cut of the pie.
Again I like your other points, but the income tax issue is a dead one already.

Comment from Jeff Koenen
Time October 22, 2011 at 4:25 am

How about returnig the portapotties to Westlake Park?

Comment from Matthew Lofton
Time October 22, 2011 at 5:41 pm

I knew stability for the first time in my life when my family moved to the greater Seattle area in 1972. We were fortunate to land a place in Section 8 housing, owned as an investment by Boeing employee’s, after a year’s wait. I lived in Section 8 housing until I left for college as did 2 of my 6 siblings. My mother and one of my brothers lived in Section 8 housing until their respective deaths.
There was no incentive for my family to move out of Section 8, other than making too much money to qualify. The apartments were relavtively new when we moved in, they were very safe and we had lots of new friends with which to play. Whom in their right mind would want to leave such and idealic existence. My sibs and I recognized living on welfare and Social Security death benifits was no way to live at all.
Employees of the largest employer in the State of Washington gave myself, my family and many of my friends a leg up. We used our inate determination, desire for success and need for SELF WORTH to get out. Earning a wage that forced us out was the best wage ever earned. About 6 bucks and hour back then.
It is very easy to say I don’t earn enough, it is easy to say there are no jobs I WANT or SHOULD HAVE TO DO, because I am entitled to better. REALLY, in my neighborhood of about 400 homes there are by last count 40 different yard mowing companies working. Most drive new vehicles and have all the latest equipment to do their jobs. Most are of Mexican or Latin descent and they always work with 2 or 3 people. These people are working daily, while the occupy Seattle people yell about being disenfranchised. They are disenfranchising themselves by refusing to take any job that pays. Work more than one job, for two years I worked 2 full time and one part-time job, so I could afford to move to California.
Living in Section 8 housing in the old days meant your family had to earn less than 9,500 dollars combined. Parents, kids all combined. No cable televison, no school sports where you had to pay for your own equipment, maybe a home phone, no car or a very cheap used car, used bike, maybe a gift or 2 for Christmas or your birthday. Lots of homework and reading time, though. Point being you want corporate America to redirect their weatlh, but you are not willing to redirect your spending. LOSE all but the basic necessities:Apple this or that; Blackberry this or that; Starbucks frappe this or that; leased this or that; smoked this or that; alcohol this or that; kids playing this or that year around; AP this or that.
As consumers you contribute to Corporate America, as rioters you contribute to the local economy when subversives break windows; however, you contribute to corporate America when you burn buses and cars. Wake up and smell the home brewed coffee. YOU people are your own worst enemies. McDonalds, Sears, KMart, Starbucks, Contemporary Security are all hiring. Make a buck, get back in the game and pay your share of taxes-yes, your share, because nothing is free in life.

Comment from Matthew Lofton
Time October 22, 2011 at 6:38 pm

Correction on my previous statement: Of the 8 children in my family 5 lived in Section 8 housing, of which 3 earned college degrees and 1 graduated from Beauty school. 4 of eight children earned college degrees. All have worked steadily from their early teens until now or retirement or premature death. Oh, and my wife graduated from SPU and I attended for 2yrs.; finishing elsewhere. All of my adult nephews and nieces on my side of my family are college degreed and gainfully employed and paying their share of taxes.

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