What’s the Case FOR the Seattle “Head Tax”?

I’ve been fairly vocal in my support of the repeal of the Head Tax on social networks like Nextdoor; the first step is to get a referendum on the ballot in November.

I think giving the people a chance to repeal the Head Tax is the right idea. Our City Council has gone off the rails with this and it’s time we send a signal.

A neighbor on Nextdoor asked a great question of me today:  could I take the other side, and help better explain the arguments FOR the Head Tax (at least as I understand them?)

That’s a totally reasonable question.  In fact, it’s not only reasonable, but it’s an important exercise in thinking through where you come down on this issue.  I’ve always felt, and tried to impart to my kids, that we don’t really fully understand an issue or controversy until we can articulate the other side’s point of view honestly.

Easy solutions where everyone agrees don’t become controversies.

By the time something becomes a major controversy, there are usually honest, intelligent and well-intentioned people on each side of this issue.

I’ve posted the SEIU “Decline To Sign” Flyer on the Head Tax above, which I think has many inaccuracies, which I’ll get to in a future post.

But most honest champions of the Head Tax will make their case by saying:

(a) we must have affordable housing in any solution, far more than we currently have, and it’s expensive. And their underlying that view is generally that

(b) the funds for it must come from new sources, not existing ones. They will say that since

(c) Seattle has a highly regressive tax structure,

(d) asking businesses to contribute funding for this need is appropriate and less regressive, because

(e) business growth has been a primary driver of housing prices and

(f) thus homelessness. Many will also concede that

(g) our solutions tried thus far haven’t worked but that this approach is a new one that is likely to have better results. Since the petition basically says “let the citizens have a direct say,” some others may point out that

(h) we elected this City Council, they voted 9-0 and the Mayor has signed it, so let them do their job in representing us.

I think (a)-(h) each have valid challenges to the assumptions made, and over time I’ll address how valid each assumption is.

Kshama Sawant Uses Taxpayer Dollars for Her Political Movements: Not OK.

“I do not share the anti-business animus that I feel you are sponsoring…” Councilmember Sally Bagshaw, to Councilmember Kshama Sawant

For some time now it’s been rumored that Kshama Sawant was allowing city resources to be used to print out posters and signs for her various causes. It was good to see Councilmember Sally Bagshaw call her out.

Note that even though for months prior, her supporters called into question whether this was happening, Sawant doesn’t deny it:

Is this an appropriate use of city taxpayer dollars — to print out “Tax Amazon” signs?

 

Seattle Citizens Speak Out In Ballard

The Ballard Town Hall meeting on May 2nd 2018 may well be looked back upon as a sea-change moment for the city of Seattle. Many Seattleites like me have grown increasingly fed up with Seattle’s approach to homelessness, increasing taxation, lax law enforcement and general fiscal mismanagement at the City Council.

The Ballard Town Hall was well over an hour long. I’ve pulled twenty-some minutes that summarize the frustration and push-back. These people speak for many citizens:

Feel free to share or embed this video if anyone asks what some of us are so frustrated about.

Please visit KOMO News’s Facebook Feed for the full video.

@KOMO, I hope my excerpts are acceptable under Fair Use, but if not, please jot me a note on Twitter.

Also, readers — please be sure to view this excellent timeline from KIRO7 of the contentious Head Tax issue and the homeless crisis, and a recent story of how we got here.

Seattle Friends: Want Change? Join “Speak Out Seattle!”

Interested in seeing evidence-based solutions? Do you want to at least become more informed on the issues around accountable municipal government, even if you may disagree with individual positions taken? I strongly recommend you…

Join Speak Out Seattle! on Facebook
it’s free to join, free to leave

We need to organize a sensible new coalition of leaders to the City Council. More than just achieving the important Head Tax rollback, we need to start electing sensible, evidence-based moderates to the Seattle City Council who care about fiscal stewardship and evidence-based solutions.

This process begins with more citizens getting an information diet with the full picture, including a full understanding of problems inherent with our current strategy, past problems, and not just the same storyline we’ve heard from present leadership for the past several years about how we should approach municipal governance.

Speak Out Seattle! shares all kinds of information about city governance and gives you advance notice about opportunities to lend your voice.

From Speak Out Seattle’s “About Us”:

Speak Out Seattle! is a non-partisan grass roots coalition of individuals, business owners and neighborhood groups across the city dedicated to speaking out and advocating for effective, compassionate solutions to the challenges our city faces. We seek to make Seattle a better place for everyone. We give voice to those who feel their concerns are drowned out by paid advocates.

Obligatory Disclaimer

As with any group that I’m part of, I cannot endorse everything said or discussed, though I often strongly agree with the positions taken. I find it an informative group; in this age of social media, it’s vital to build an information diet from multiple perspectives. That’s why I also follow all Seattle City Council members on Twitter as well as several centrist, left-of-center and right-of-center news outlets.

Which Seattle Restaurants Have Had the Most Closures Forced by Inspectors?

King County’s Restaurant Inspection Grades, which is based upon the average of red-card violations in the past four inspections

I’m exploring the Python stack for data analysis and machine learning.

I know I’m late to the party, but have only recently discovered the impressive Jupyter Notebook (formerly IPython) data analysis platform and community. It makes “storytelling from data” easy. But doing so with ease requires fluency with a sometimes unintuitive yet very powerful syntax.

Today’s question: Which Seattle-area restaurants have been forced to close the most often by restaurant inspectors?

For this morning’s project, I headed on over to a local Starbucks, tapped into wifi, and downloaded the King County Restaurant Inspection dataset.

King County’s restaurant inspection policies are spelled out here, and violations generally fall into “red” (serious) or “blue” (non-serious) violations. Red violations can and often do result in forced temporary closure of the restaurant.

Now, for this SQL-guy, importing the data file into a database and doing a simple GROUP BY query would make this question easy to answer, but for my Python learning purposes, that’d be cheating. I want to learn a bit about data visualization and pattern recognition.

After a little bit of munging of the data, I came out with the list below, which shows restaurant name and the total distinct closure-worthy moments. Surprising to me that some were such repeat offenders. Really, Anjappar Chettinad? Inspectors forced closure five separate times?

From January 2006 until March 2018, there have been 181 distinct restaurant closures in the Seattle area by inspection.

Some, like Anjappar Chettinad Indian Restaurant, King Buffet and 663 Bistro, have been closed multiple times. You can see that the list of inspection-forced-closures is heavily weighted toward international (i.e., Indian, Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese and Mexican) restaurants, but also includes a few taverns, hot dog street vendors, delis and coffee shops.

Here’s a scatter plot of where these closures have taken place (as you can see, I haven’t yet gotten geo heatmaps sorted out yet — I’ll be exploring folium or other geo-plotters in the future.) But it seems to show that the major areas are South Lake Union and Queen Anne:

Pace of Closures by Year

Let’s see how closures have paced by year (2018 is partial, through mid-March 2018):

Interesting — what’s going on here? Why was 2007–2010 a down-period, particularly 2010? Was that a particularly careful, healthy year? That seems unlikely. Possible explainers: economic effects reducing inspections? Measurements not recorded in the same format? Or was something else going on?

Looking at total inspections by year, we can clearly see that it’s not because of cutbacks in inspections. Here are the total unique inspections (i.e., unique restaurant/date pairs) by year, through mid-March 2018:

So there’s a steady increase in inspections from year to year. Don’t know exactly why 2010 was such a closure-light year, or why 2008–2010 trended down; my current hypothesis is that there was a policy change, or perhaps less aggressive inspections, that made these more lenient.

Distribution of Grades

Just how bad is it, comparatively speaking, when you see a “Needs Improvement”, or even an “Okay” sign? You may have anecdotally noticed that it’s pretty rare when you glance at the door and see one of these two grades. Here’s a histogram — one per inspector visit — and the resultant grades assigned, since 2006 (1=Excellent, 2=Great, 3=Okay, 4=Needs Improvement.)

What I take away from the above is that “Okay” and “Needs Improvement” are real outliers.

For more info, you can check out the King County Restaurant Inspection lookup system here: https://www.kingcounty.gov/depts/health/environmental-health/food-safety/inspection-system/search.aspx#/

https://gist.github.com/stevemurch/ccac0123600cefdc7314d0524a449f8b.js

Restaurants that have an “Okay” Grade as of March 28 2018:

0          ANJAPPAR CHETTINAD INDIAN RESTAURANT
1                                 ARAYA'S PLACE
2                                    BIG BAZAAR
3                                   CASA PATRON
4                                  CHAAT N ROLL
5                                   CHINA FIRST
6                               CROSSROADS CAFE
7                                     FOODSHION
8                                  GALLO DE ORO
9                     GOLDEN INDIAN CURRY HOUSE
10                                   GREEK PITA
11             GREEN LEAF VIETNAMESE RESTAURANT
12                       HALAL MARWA RESTAURANT
13                                   HAWAII BBQ
14    HOMEGROWN SUSTAINABLE SANDWICH SHOP-KIOSK
15                        HUNAN CHINESE KITCHEN
16                              HYDERABAD HOUSE
17                             Hung Long Market
18                              ICHIRO TERIYAKI
19                                   J B GARDEN
20            KING'S CHINESE SEAFOOD RESTAURANT
21                                    LOCAL PHO
22                 LOTUS ASIAN KITCHEN & LOUNGE
23                          LUNCHBOX LABORATORY
24                        MARINEPOLIS SUSHILAND
25                             MIRAK RESTAURANT
26                              Niko's Teriyaki
27                         PABLA INDIAN CUISINE
28                          PEN THAI RESTAURANT
29                                 PHO VIET ANH
30                                    RUBY THAI
31                          SAIGON VIETNAM DELI
32                           SAM'S NOODLE HOUSE
33                           SEOUL TOFU HOUSE 2
34                               SUNNY TERIYAKI
35                         SUSHIMARU RESTAURANT
36                     SZECHUAN CHEF RESTAURANT
37                            THAI CURRY SIMPLE
38                                  THAI ON 1ST
39                          TIENDA LATIN MARKET
40                                  U:DON FRESH
41                                   UDUPI CAFE
42                                      YU SHAN

Restaurant name, total number of red-cards shown below.

More than one red card can and often is handed out per visit — so the number of actual closures is significantly less than the numbers below:

663 BISTRO 57
ANJAPPAR CHETTINAD INDIAN RESTAURANT 53
KING BUFFET 49
SPICED TRULY CHINESE CUISINE 32
ROYAL INDIA 30
UDUPI CAFE 24
SICHUANESE CUISINE 23
MIDORI TERIYAKI 22
OH! INDIA 21
CURBSIDE (KC225) 20
BIG BAZAAR 20
CAFE PHO II, INC. 17
GOLDEN DAISY RESTAURANT 17
ICHIRO TERIYAKI 17
BLUE FIN & SEAFOOD 17
GREEN LEAF VIETNAMESE RESTAURANT 16
BEBAS & AMIGOS 16
TOP GUN OF BELLEVUE 16
YU SHAN 15
BENTO BOX, THE 14
MACKY’S DIM SUM 14
KING’S CHINESE SEAFOOD RESTAURANT 13
HANABI SUSHI RESTAURANT 13
YOKO 3 13
SAIGON DELI 13
TERIYAKI BISTRO 13
FORTUNE GARDEN RESTAURANT 12
J B GARDEN 12
HYDERABAD HOUSE 12
HANAHREUM MART 11
HARBOR CITY RESTAURANT 11
YUMMY PHO 11
MAYURI FOODS & VIDEO 11
KABAB PALACE 10
SEADLE HOUSE 10
SILVER SPOON THAI RESTAURANT 10
SAFFRON SPICE 10
CAFE PHO 10
MEDITERRANEAN MIX 9
KUNG HO GOURMET CHINESE RESTAURANT 9
LA PINA/TRES HERMANOS 9
SEATTLE DELI 9
HONG KONG BISTRO 9
ASIA BBQ & FAST FOOD 9
SEOUL TOFU HOUSE 2 9
CEDARS BROOKLYN DELI 9
HUNAN CHINESE KITCHEN 8
MAHARAJA CUSINE OF INDIA 8
IKIIKI 8
TOULOUSE PETIT KITCHEN & LOUNGE 8
SKILLET STREET FOOD, LLC 8
FEAST 8
SUNNY TERIYAKI 8
MAZATLAN RESTAURANT 8
RANCHO BRAVO TACOS #1 8
LOTUS ASIAN KITCHEN & LOUNGE 8
TAQUERIA GUADALAJARA 8
PALACE KOREAN GRILL 8
LOCAL PHO 7
PARKSIDE DELI & SUNDRIES 7
MIRAK RESTAURANT 7
COUNTRY SIDE CAFE 6
FAMOUS RANDY 6
MUNCH BOSS (KC465) 6
IMPERIAL GARDEN & HAPPY TUMMY 6
13 COINS 6
THAI ON 1ST 6
THAI CHEF 6
SMALL FRYE’S 6
PIONEER GRILL@VARAMINI COMMISSARY 6
MUSTARD SEED CAFE 5
PHO TAI 5
CHU MINH TOFU & VEGETARIAN DELI 5
GRILL CITY 5
NORTHWEST CATERING #9 5
LA RIVIERA MAYA #2 4
GOURMET DOG JAPON 4
JEMIL’S BIG EASY 4
RAM RESTAURANT & BREWERY 4
PEOPLE’S BURGER@VARAMINI COMMISSARY 4
ROMIO’S PIZZA & PASTA 4
TAQUERIA EL ASADERO 4
DONA QUEEN DONUT & DELI 4
DRAGONFISH ASIAN CAFE 4
SAM’S NOODLE HOUSE 4
SAMURAI NOODLE 4
LA PLAYA MEXICAN RESTAURANT 4
HOMEGROWN SUSTAINABLE SANDWICH SHOP-KIOSK 3
HALLAVA FALAFEL LLC 3
N W HASIMO FAST FOOD AND DELI 3
STOPWATCH ESPRESSO 3
MANCHU WOK AT SEA-TAC 3
RACHA NOODLES & THAI CUISINE 3
SUBWAY #25524-O 3
EL CAMION 3
CHUCK E CHEESE’S 3
THAI CURRY SIMPLE 3
BIG BAWARCHI 3
AL’S GOURMET SAUSAGE #5 3
RAIN DOGS SODO, CART #2 3
LANPONI THAI RESTAURANT 3
PHO THU THUY 3
TAQUERIA EL CORRAL #1 2
BEST CORN #1 2
SUNSET FRIED CHICKEN 2
BOUMBA HOTDOG 2
GREAT WESTERN PACIFIC 2
MCDONALD’S SAMMAMISH #5523 2
YUMBIT (KC298) 2
DANTE’S INFERNO (1) 2
CAFE ZUM ZUM 2
MAIN ST GYROS 2
QDOBA #2618 2
HOW TO COOK A WOLF 2
OASIS TEA ZONE 2
Hung Long Market 2
I LOVE MY GFF 2
LUNCHBOX LABORATORY 2
CAFFE BEE 1
BLAZEN (KC547) 1
THAI 2 G0 1
THAI BISTRO RESTAURANT 1
CHIPOTLE MEXICAN GRILL #2228 1
LT’S FAMOUS BBQ 1
QUARTER CHUTE CAFE 1
BISTRO BAFFI 1
OSTERIA DA PRIMO 1
PHI KAPPA SIGMA 1
NEEMA’S 1
BENEVOR, INC 1
BEEZNEEZ GOURMET SAUSAGE (KC287) 1
TOSHI’S TERIYAKI 1
TUKWILA DELI 1
ART MARBLE 21 1
VOXX COFFEE 1
ANGELO’S PIZZA & PASTA 1
7-ELEVEN STORE #2361–27283C 1
WORLD WRAPPS — REI 1
MEDITERRANEAN KITCHEN 1
COWGIRLS ESPRESSO 1
CHURCH’S CHICKEN 1
GERALDINE’S COUNTER 1
RAM RESTAURANT & BIG HORN BREWERY 1
JUISALA 1
KFC #332 1
POTBELLY SANDWICH SHOP 1
KING OF PHO 1
SANDHU SHELL MINI-MART 1
Niko’s Teriyaki 1
HALLAVA FALAFEL 1
Genki Sushi 1
KIRKLAND AMERICAN LITTLE LEAGUE 1
PING’S FOOD MART 1
GARAM MASALA AND SPICES 1
CLASS ACT 1
FULL LIFE CARE 1
FREMONT HOT DOG 1
SUBWAY 1
LA RUSTICA 1
LA VITA E BELLA (KC222) 1
LADYBUG ESPRESSO 1
TACO GOL TAQUERIA 1
CROSSROADS CAFE 1
QDOBA MEXICAN EATS 1
COURTYARD BY MARRIOTT — STARBUCKS 1
COFFEE TIME 1
MARINEPOLIS SUSHILAND 1

Another question: What Seattle Zip Codes have had the most “type red” (serious) violations? I haven’t quite figured out how to display counts on a heatmap just yet, but it turns out the answer is 98109, which includes Queen Anne and South Lake Union:

Note that I haven’t yet divided by inspection frequency, that’s simply the nominal leader. It could certainly be because that’s where more restaurants are, or where more inspections have been scheduled. Will likely take a look at that in a future update.