LETTER: ‘Secret Meetings and the Utility Tax!’

[EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is a Letter to the Editor, written by a Reader. It does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The SeaTac Blog nor its staff:]

Secret Meetings and the Utility Tax!

As we face one of the most important City Council election’s SeaTac has held in a long time, it is important that the voters understand what has been happening in the council over the past several years. While there have been lack of transparency concerns and there is currently an active item on the agenda dealing with transparency, every person in SeaTac has been impacted by the City Council’s lack of transparency. I am of course referring to the utility tax imposed on January 1, 2015.

Some people still ask how we got this new utility tax.  I think it’s important that everyone understands how this was a direct result from one of many secret meetings. The same type of secret meetings the council is trying to create more of under pending council activity.

From what I have learned, the new utility tax was conceived during a finance/budget ‘working group’ which was comprised of Tony Anderson, Barry Ladenburg and Pam Fernald.  Council Member Fernald’s participation would have been futile since she would be out-voted by Barry and Tony.  This working group we now learn was one of these ‘secret meetings’ since the public was not allowed, and the meeting dates/times/agendas were not publicly available.  Clearly this issue was carefully hidden from public scrutiny until it was too late to stop it!

We do know of at least two “secret” working groups; A Budget Working Group comprised of Tony Anderson, Barry Ladenburg and Pam Fernald and a Code Enforcement group comprised of Dave Bush, Kathryn Campbell and Terry Anderson.  Examining these two groups politically, it is clear in each case the makeup is two Democrat backed candidates and one Independent candidate (even though the council positions are supposed to be non-partisan.) The two independents regularly present, support and vote the constituent’s perspective as opposed to the others who religiously follow the party directives.  These were carefully lopsided groups, appointed by un-elected Mayor Mia Gregerson at her whim.

The utility tax was then presented at a council “study session” which was the first time the public heard of it, and the only way the public found out was by examining the study session agenda when it suddenly appeared just couple of days before that meeting (there was no formal announcement). Also, there was never prior discussion publically that there was a deficit in the budget that needed to be dealt with.

The way things work now, by the time an item makes it through the secret meeting ‘working groups’ and is presented at a ‘study session’ and  it’s put to a council vote the following week, and the current council majority regularly votes together so the item will pass.  Pam and Terry were the only two who opposed the utility tax, but it didn’t matter since they’re the minority.

You can read about the outrage this caused in the SeaTac Blog here:


and here:


and here:


And a wonderful article about disappearing transparency, here:


The utility tax was initially going to include water and sewer as well.  I was present at the meeting the night the water/sewer districts told the council that taxing them was illegal. The city attorney stood up and definitively stated that they had researched the issue and the city was well within their rights!

Later after passing the tax the water/sewer districts threatened to sue, because taxing them would be illegal and of course it was found the City Attorney was wrong and those utilities were exempt from the tax.  So now instead of taxing through the water/sewer districts, the SeaTac council majority is working to secretly add a ‘franchise fee’ which of course will be passed on to the citizens.  This is just a sneaky way to get around the ‘no tax’ law and will actually add a tax anyway.  These discussions are currently taking place in, you guessed it: secret working groups.

You can read about that here:


Please remind and educate your friends and neighbors about how these secret working groups are not good for the citizens of SeaTac, and how our new utility tax was a direct result. Our local government has no right to limit the transparency of what they do and how they do it! Attend the council meeting on September 8, 2015 and September 22, 2015 at City Hall at 6:00 PM and learn how your city council works! Citizens are also allowed to speak at these meetings. You can voice your opinion or ask a question, however the council rarely responds to the public at these meetings. Come to think of it, the council rarely responds to the public at all!

The upcoming election is an opportunity to put new people on the council who represent the residents of SeaTac and who will be a council for the taxpayer, not for a party for the entitled few! Seek out the candidates and ask them about their ideas and affiliations.  Notice that the current council majority are not only endorsing each other, but are also fully endorsed by outside special interest groups!  It will become quickly clear who the taxpayer’s best choice is! It’s time for a change from business as usual!

Joel Wachtel

[Have an opinion or concern you’d like to share with our Readers? Please send us your Letter to the Editor via email. Include your full name, please remain civil and, pending our review, we’ll consider publishing it.]


7 Responses to “LETTER: ‘Secret Meetings and the Utility Tax!’”
  1. jellybean says:

    Guess which SeaTac candidates are NOT independent thinkers?  Check their campaign address:

    1) Mia Gregerson: PO Box 297, Seahurst
    2) Sally Andrews: PO Box 297, Seahurst
    3) Dave Bush: PO Box 297, Seahurst


    • Michael T Kovacs says:

      Same gig 33rd legislative Democrats. Useless people. Monsters, lost world people.

      Thanks Jen for the heads up. Get rid of Julia Patterson monsters.

  2. Daryl Tapio says:

    It’s good to see more people getting involved in local government. Thank you Joel Wachtel for investing the time and energy to understand the issues and for writing this article. The shallow thinking and secret meetings need to be stopped in SeaTac. It is time for new leadership in the city. The election in November is an opportunity to get rid of mushy thinking and move the city forward. SeaTac could be a great city and a thriving community but the leadership for the last 20 years has turned it into a slum. SeaTac has a great location conveniently located to worldwide transportation and commerce. Elections matter.

    • Vicki Lockwood says:

      Joel, Jelly Bean and Daryl~
      Thanks to each of you for sharing your passion for getting SeaTac back on track as a City that acts in the best interest of it’s citizens! This election isn’t about personalities or pretty faces … it’s about track records, independence while simultaneously reaching a hand out to help others stand on their own, safety, law and code enforcement, fiscal responsibility and citizen involvement. This is our chance to take our city back from the big Pac Money that bought our elections in the past. Citizens, inform yourself on your choices before voting in November, share your knowledge with your friends and neighbors, and VOTE.

  3. Janice Taylor says:

    Great article and research, Joel. Thank you for the effort. I’ve also heard rumor the Seatac Council wants to raise property taxes by another 1%, the maximum allowed without putting it before the citizens. (That’s how we got the utility tax amount we did.)

    The problem as I see it is the majority of council want their champagne tastes financed on the city’s beer budget. According to Realtor.com the Seatac’s population is 27,016, median household income is $49,763 and average home price is $270,000. By contrast, Burien’s numbers are 46,819, $57,616 and $350,000 respectively. Seattle’s are 664,631, $79,292 and $499,950. Thanks to Council’s anti-business actions, we don’t have a good sales tax income like either Burien or Tukwila. (All eggs are in the airport basket.) Bottom line, Seatac does not have the income base and cannot continue to raid money from their few and already stretched-tight citizens.

  4. jellybean says:

    The current council keeps saying that ‘You know there were working groups, you know they were about solving the budget shortfall and you know who was there. you even know how everyone came down on the utility tax.”

    Who are they referring to when they say ‘you know’? The 200 people on a neighborhood website? The handful of citizens who go to the council meetings?

    What about the other 21,000 citizens! How did they know?

    We get flyers about recycling events, we get notices that there are no fireworks on the 4th of July, we even get the City of SeaTac activity guide every 3 months.

    How did the City of SeaTac notify ALL the citizens( BEFORE they figured it out on their bills ) that on January 1st, taxes were going to be added and what utility companies are involved?

    Can they provide ANYTHING that City of Seatac sent out BEFORE JANUARY 1, 2015 to ALL THE HOUSEHOLDS…ALL THE CITIZENS WHO WILL HAVE TO PAY.. that the City of Seatac was adding utility tax and what companies will be adding the tax? I BET THEY CAN’T!

    When someone knows something and that something was going to financially hurt families, families with children and that someone doesn’t care and they don’t tell the families, that someone is keeping a……secret!

    January 1, 2016 can’t come soon enough. out with the old, in with the new

  5. seatac says:

    john wyble of winpower strategies has been manipulating seatac elections since 2010. this is the guy behind mia gregerson, kathryn campbell, dave bush, sally andrews, and dozens of other corrupt politicians and political action committees (PACs) always running smear campaigns: