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Originally published April 8, 2014 at 7:39 PM | Page modified April 9, 2014 at 6:28 AM

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Youth board’s Prop. 1 video crosses city election rules

Teen members of the Seattle Youth Commission released a video in support of Proposition 1 to preserve Metro Transit funding against cuts that would make it harder to get to and from school. But it’s against city election rules for city appointees to use public resources for a ballot measure.


Seattle Times staff reporter

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Why do taxpayers need to pay for a mayor-appointed "youth commission" in the first place? Do we really need yet another... MORE
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Members of the Seattle Youth Commission on Monday released a video in support of Proposition 1, saying deep cuts to Metro bus service would hurt students’ ability to get to and from school.

To a soundtrack of moody piano music, the video shows Seattle students with hand-drawn signs identifying their bus route and how service to their high school would be reduced, rerouted or eliminated if the April 22 ballot measure doesn’t pass.

The narrator, a Roosevelt High School student, urges a “yes” vote for the measure, saying, “We could save Metro’s funding for the coming year.”

But the video likely violates Seattle ethics rules that prohibit any person appointed to a public office or agency from using public resources to promote a ballot measure.

Wayne Barnett, executive director of the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission, said he learned about the video Tuesday.

“I’ve reached out to the mayor’s office to schedule ethics training for the Youth Commission,” Barnett said.

A news release announcing the YouTube video was emailed to a lengthy list of media contacts Monday under an official Seattle Youth Commission logo.

“When we began making the video back in November, we hoped it would be an informative tool that would help students understand the upcoming bus cuts,” video editor and Youth Commissioner Sam Orlin said in the news release. “We still have that hope, and will be sending it out to students and teachers all over the district to raise awareness of the possible cuts. However, now that Proposition 1 is on the ballot, we also hope that the video will help show voters in King County how important Metro is to students.”

A spokesperson for Mayor Ed Murray said the city had no notice that the video was being released and has asked the Youth Commission members who produced it to take it down. The spokesperson also said that the commission accepted Barnett’s offer of ethics training. Youth Commission adviser Rahwa Habte couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday.

Orlin, a Sealth High School junior, said he was notified Tuesday by the mayor’s office that the video sent from his personal email address broke city rules.

“It’s an ethics violation. The video will be coming down. We shouldn’t have used the commission logo,” he said. He said he would remove the logo, and the line that says it was produced by the Youth Commission.

“The video will be back,” he said.

The video was removed from YouTube Tuesday evening.

Orlin said the list of media contacts was supplied for a different project by the previous commission adviser, Sol Villarreal, who worked for Mayor Mike McGinn. Orlin declined to say whether Habte knew about the video.

The commission has a regularly scheduled meeting Wednesday afternoon.

The Youth Commission is a group of 25 Seattleites ages 13 to 19 appointed by the mayor and City Council. The city website lists Villarreal as the contact for the commission. Villarreal’s city email refers youth-related inquiries to Habte, who was introduced in December as Mayor Ed Murray’s youth outreach manager. Habte is a former OneAmerica immigration-rights organizer and an owner, with her sister, of the now-closed Central Area Eritrean restaurant Hidmo.

The release also notes that the video is not the Youth Commission’s first foray into transportation issues. It says that in 2012, the commission urged the Metropolitan King County Council to accept changes to Metro that would benefit student commuters.

The commission also worked with Metro to align bus times with school start and end times in Ballard, according to the release.

Those are all good uses of the commission’s purpose of connecting youth with elected officials and educating them about government, Barnett said. They also don’t violate city ethics rules because they’re not advocating for a ballot issue.

Lynn Thompson: lthompson@seattletimes.com or 206-464-8305. On Twitter @lthompsontimes



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