May 19, 2024 8:47 pm

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A look back at 2023: Top political stories

To continue with the Lynnwood Times’ Year in Review series, the Lynnwood Times is highlighting the top 2023 political stories. From the disqualification of leading GOP Presidential candidate Donald J Trump from two state primary election ballots to a change in Snohomish County Sheriff, sex in a U.S. Senate Hearing Room to the expulsion of Goerge Santos, to accusations of discrimination by Lynnwood Councilman Josh Binda against fellow council members, 2023 will be a year to remember!

House passes resolution condemning antisemitism on university campuses

The United States House of Representatives passed HR 927 on December 13, condemning antisemitism on university campuses and the testimony of university presidents in the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.

The resolution passed with 303 yeas and 126 nays with all nays but one, Rep. Thomas Massie (KY-4), coming from Democrats.

WA SOS monitoring legal developments of Trump’s eligibility for ballot

Washington Secretary of State Steve Hobbs are monitoring legal developments that concern Donald Trump’s eligibility for the ballot for potential applicability to Washington. The Office of the Secretary of State and county elections offices will continue to prepare for the March 12 Presidential Primary as Washington law directs.

Colorado court disqualifies Trump from ballot, US Supreme Court next

In a 4-3 decision, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled December that former President Donald J Trump is disqualified from holding the office of President under Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. This section of the constitution contains a “disqualification clause” that kept former Confederate officials from gaining power in government during the reconstruction period following the U.S. Civil War.

Colorado Republican Party Chairman Dave Williams announced that the party will utilize a caucus system to circumvent the ruling to remove 2024 Presidential candidate Donald J Trump from the Primary GOP ballot.

Secretary of State for Maine unilaterally disqualifies Trump from Primary Ballot

The Maine Secretary of State, Shenna Bellows (D), unilaterally ruled on December 28 that the 45th President of the United States and leading GOP Presidential nominee, Donald J Trump, is disqualified from the state’s 2024 Primary Ballot under Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment.

In a twist reminiscent of the Colorado Court ruling disqualifying Trump from that state’s ballot a week earlier, Maine Secretary of State Bellows in her decision “suspended” the enforcement of her ruling until the courts weigh in or the five-day timeframe to appeal expires.

The position of the Secretary of State in Maine is appointed by the state’s legislature and serves 2-year terms for a maximum of four terms. Maine has a Democratic triplex, according to Ballotpedia. In Maine, the Democratic Party controls the offices of governor, secretary of state, and attorney general.

Low introduces bill to increase penalties for animal cruelty

Representative Sam Low (R-Lake Stevens) has pre-filed legislation to strengthen penalties for the most egregious acts of animal cruelty in Washington state.

The bill seeks to address a significant hole in current law, where judges have wide discretion in sentencing for certain forms of animal cruelty, leading to inconsistencies and potentially insufficient penalties for heinous acts.

House Bill 1961 would rectify this disparity by reclassifying all forms of Animal Cruelty in the First Degree (RCW 16.52.205) as an Offense Seriousness Level (OSL) III crime. As it stands, only the act of animal cruelty involving sexual conduct is classified as OSL III. By standardizing penalties across all forms of Animal Cruelty in the First Degree, the bill would establish a clear and consistent sentencing framework for judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys.

Statewide bill introduced to outlaw public drug use exposure of fentanyl and meth

House Bill 2002 would make it a gross misdemeanor—or a class C felony if a minor is involved—to knowingly or intentionally exhale the smoke of fentanyl, methamphetamine, or their derivatives in a public space within 10 feet of another person, or within an enclosed public space with another person.

The landmark bill, introduced by Representative Sam Low (R-Lake Stevens), comes after numerous incidents of hospitalizations throughout 2023 due to fentanyl exposure including a Mill Creek case that left a 1-year-old baby dead.

Capitol Police investigating sex tape filmed in Senate building

U.S. Capitol Police are investigating an incident involving a sex tape filmed in the Senate Judicial Committee Hearing Room by a junior legislative aide to Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD). The alleged staffer in the video, Aidan Maese-Czeropski, 24, has since been fired.

The video was filmed in the Hart 216 room which typically hosts Senate Judiciary business. The room held U.S. Supreme Court nomination hearings; Senate intelligence hearings; and the historic 9/11 Commission. The romp occurred between the seating locations of Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) and Chris Coons(D-Delaware), according to Politico.

Jim Smith departs in legislative ‘blaze of glory,’ Sutton’s call for audit passes

In their final meeting of the year, outgoing Lynnwood City Councilman Jim Smith successfully pushed forward and postponed four new motions for the incoming council. This effectively gets these items on the agenda for the new council to discuss and take action on.

The first motion brought forward by Councilman Jim Smith tasked city staff to draft a proposal for senior home/housing to bring to council for voting. This postponement passed 4-1-2 with Hurst voting no and Altamirano-Crosby and Binda abstaining.

The second was to allocate $25,000 in ARPA funds to subsidize rent for the non-profit Lynnwood Alano Club. The motion was postponed like the previous one, in a 6-0-1 vote with Binda abstaining.

Smith then proposed the elimination of the 6% water/sewer tax that was vetoed by former Mayor Nicola Smith in May of 2020, with this postponement passing 5-1. Hurst voted no and Binda abstained.

The final motion by Smith was for city staff to bring forward an ordinance to eliminate the $40 car tab tax. This postponement passed in a 4-3 vote with Hurst, Binda, and Altamirano-Crosby voting no. The council passed a similar ordinance last year, but were unable to overturn Mayor Christine Frizzell’s veto.

New home costs may soar an additional $9,000 next year because of new statewide policy

The Washington State Building Code Council (SBCC) on November 28, adopted rules restricting the use of natural gas/propane appliances to adhere with lawmaker’s goals of building zero fossil-fuel greenhouse gas emission homes and buildings by the year 2031. The new effective date for all building codes is March 15, 2024.

If passed in its current language in the 2024 Legislative Session, Washington households would have to convert all current natural gas appliances to electrical by 2050.

Embattled New York Congressman George Santos expelled from Congress

In December, the United States House of Representative voted 311 (yeas) -114 (nays) – 2 (present) to expel Representative George Santos (R-NY03) from Congress for misusing campaign funds for his own personal use.

The vote comes after the House Ethics Committee chaired by Michael Guest, R-Miss. released a scathing report finding substantial evidence Santos broke federal laws and misused his campaign for his personal benefit.

Santos survived two previous attempts to expel him from office. There are no restrictions barring Santos from running for reelection or another seat in Congress in the future.

Lynnwood holds candlelight vigil for people of Acapulco, Mexico

Lynnwood City Council Vice President Julieta Altamirano- Crosby led a candlelight vigil in front of City Hall Thursday, November 16, for the people of Acapulco, Mexico, affected by Hurricane Otis on October 25.

Hurricane Otis is the strongest hurricane to hit Mexico’s Pacific Coast in history with record-breaking winds reaching 165 miles-per-hour, decimating the city’s buildings, cutting electricity and communication, bending metal street signs, and unleashing massive flooding that has left the resort city in a state of chaos spurring looting and leaving billions of dollars in damages.

Allegations of discrimination against The District Director and Board Chair

Citizen Action Defense Fund launched an investigation into alleged discrimination of Lynnwood Public Facilities District (PFD) board member Vivian Dong by Board Chair Mike Miller and Executive Director Janet Pope for their treatment of the newly appointed board member during Lynnwood Luau on August 19.

In a shocking decision, the Lynnwood PFD (otherwise known as The District) unanimously approved a vote of no confidence, back in July, of Dong, for her support of Olympic Spa, which is a District business currently entangled in a legal battle regarding a Human Rights Complaint.

The Lynnwood City Council rejected reappointing Vivian Dong and Mike Miller to the Lynnwood Public Facilities District (PFD) board in a 4-2 vote during their October 9 business meeting. The PFD, a public entity that receives over $1 million of taxpayer monies annually, oversees the operations of the Lynnwood Event Center.

General Election Recap

In addition to Snohomish County receiving a new Sheriff, Susanna Johnson, the county also welcomed a new Mayor of Arlington, Don Vanney, and new Edmonds Mayor, Mike Rosen.

The City of Lynnwood added Nick Coelho to Position 4, and David Parshall to Position 7.

Mukilteo City Council added Mike Dixon to Position 5, and Donna Vago to Position 6.

Gloves are off as Alderwood Water District race at boiling point

Leading up to the General Election, Mike Pivec, former Alderwood Water & Wastewater District employee who ran for Commissioner Position 3, alleged incumbent Jack Broyles Jr. is actually a resident of Alaska. However, the Snohomish County Auditor’s office has dismissed these claims citing a lack of evidence.

The decision came at a hearing on September 5, signed by Snohomish County Auditor Garth Fell. In Snohomish County, Commissioners must have been residents of the county for at least two years, may not be county employees or public officials, and no more than two can be from the same political party.

Biden issues executive order on AI safety and security

President Joe Biden signed an executive order (EO) in October to build U.S. capacity to evaluate and mitigate the risks of artificial intelligence (AI) systems to ensure safety, security, and trust, while promoting an innovative, competitive AI ecosystem that supports workers and protects consumers.

The EO establishes new standards for AI safety and security, protects Americans’ privacy, advances equity and civil rights, stands up for consumers and workers, promotes innovation and competition, advances American leadership around the world, and more, according to the White House.

Public Records lawsuit filed against Seattle for withholding texts and emails from press

On October 20, the Citizen Action Defense Fund (CADF) filed a lawsuit against the City of Seattle for its failure to provide public records pursuant to a request made by unDivided Media LLC and podcast host Brandi Kruse regarding a controversial vote by a Seattle Councilmember.

On June 6, 2023, Councilmember Andrew J. Lewis voted to reject a proposal by the city attorney to prosecute drug offenses. His vote was contrary to statements he’d made in support of the measure just hours before the vote took place. On June 21, 2023, in an effort to ascertain whether special interests influenced his vote, Kruse filed a narrow public records request, seeking text messages, emails, and phone calls to and from the Councilmember over a ten-hour period prior to and after the vote.

Snohomish County invests in 360 new child care slots thanks to ARPA funding

Snohomish County Executive Dave Sommers announced the county’s investment of $7.6 million from its American Rescue Plan Act dollars to fund nearly 360 new child care slots fulfilling one of the key priorities community members identified in the countywide Pandemic Recovery Roadshow. These dollars are expected to fund access for high-quality child care benefiting families over the next 20 years.

Snohomish County is one of the worst areas for child care access in Washington State, comparative to the number of children who need them, according to Somers. An estimated 80% of residents live in an extreme “child care desert,” Somers said during Thursday’s presser. According to Child Care Aware, there are 62 slots of child care in the county for every 100 infants, toddlers, or preschoolers which is far below the state average of 79 slots per 100 children.

NAACP investigation targets Sessions and media in Binda discrimination case

The Snohomish County National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) released their initial findings of its ongoing investigation of alleged discrimination toward Lynnwood City Councilman Joshua Binda on Thursday, July 20, in front of Lynnwood City Hall.

In its findings, the organization alleged that fellow Lynnwood City Council President Shannon Sessions targeted Binda discriminatorily and several media outlets published false information about the 23-year-old city council member. Their evidence was allegedly gathered using public records requests, internet searches, and interviews. NAACP just received a second installation of public records it plans to review.

NAACP alleged that Council President Sessions created a hostile work environment for Binda by reestablishing the Board of Ethics in response to his campaign controversy, obstructed city staff from fulfilling their responsibilities when Binda sought travel plans to D.C. for the National League of Cities conference and led an effort to politicize a city process outside of the control or influence of the Lynnwood City Council.

Superior Court Judge accepts Binda recall effort, decision now falls on voters

Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Marybeth Dingledy found sufficient reason to recall Lynnwood City Councilman Josh Binda for misfeasance, malfeasance, and violation of oath of office at a 9:30 a.m. hearing on Tuesday morning, June 27.

The charges accepted by the judge include violating Lynnwood Municipal Code (2.94.030.B) by using the city’s email system to send and receive “numerous” emails on behalf of his private business, arranging speaking engagements with school districts, and entering City Council Chambers after hours to film a promotional video promoting these engagements. These incidents took place from December 2022 through January 2023.

FBI Director says COVID-19 “most likely” originated from Wuhan lab

FBI Director, Christopher Wray, told FOX News that the COVID-19 pandemic “most likely” originated from a Wuhan lab during an interview in February.

The reveal came just days after the U.S. Department of Energy concluded “with low confidence” a Wuhan laboratory leak was the cause of the outbreak, according to a classified intelligence report recently presented to the White House and congress, CNN reported.

According to the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, who first reported on the Department’s findings Sunday, the decision was based on new intelligence although the details of that intelligence has not been revealed.

Somers delivers a message of economic vigor at the State of Snohomish County address

Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers delivered the State of the County address at Boeing’s Future of Flight Tuesday, April 11—the first in-person State of the County in three years—discussing public safety, the drug epidemic, housing, economic development, transportation, and disaster preparedness.

At the top of the county’s list of priorities is public safety, with over 75% of its general funds allocated to law and justice agencies. Last week the county successfully advocated for the state legislature to grant Snohomish County a ninth District Court Judge—the first expansion of the court in 25 years. This addition, Somers added, will increase the speed in which new and queued cases are processed.

New laws that went into effect in 2023

The following new laws went into effect July, 2023:

  • SB-5599: Supporting youth and young adults seeking protected health care services
  • HB-1750: Promoting water safety education
  • SB-5072: Advancing equity in programs for highly capable students
  • HB 1020: Designating the Suciasaurus rex as the official dinosaur of the state of Washington
  • SB-5028: Revising the process for individuals to request name changes
  • HB 1002: Increasing the penalty for hazing
  • HB-1110: Increasing middle housing in areas traditionally dedicated to single-family detached housing
  • SB 5583: Improving young driver safety
  • HB 1696: Concerning stalking-related offenses
  • SB-5355: Mandating instruction on sex trafficking prevention and identification for students in grades seven through 12
  • HB 1177: Creating a missing and murdered indigenous women and people cold case investigations unit

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