The battle over whether or not taxpayers should continue funding the increasing costs of renovating the PacMed Center—an aging building in Seattle’s Beacon Hill neighborhood—continues between Republicans and Democrats in Olympia. As Shift reported, House Democrats are having a hard time understanding the maxim about not “throwing good money after bad” and included another $6 million in their 2015-17 budget proposal earmarked for the purpose of helping to pay for the growing costs of renovating the PacMed Center.
The description, “growing costs” is an understatement when considering the PacMed Center. The costs of renovating the building has more than doubled to $54.3 million (from the initial $24 million assessment) since the state leased it for more than 30 years in a controversial deal demanded by Democrat state House Speaker Frank Chopp in 2013. Chopp essentially told Senate negotiators that year that there would be no adjournment until he got his way on the building.
Poor excuses for the rising costs include “unanticipated” problems associated with the building, ranging from mold found behind walls to the need to comply with the most recent version of Seattle’s energy code. The difficulty with these excuses is that these problems should have been anticipated. The state should have taken into account the fact that it is dealing with a building that is more than 100 years old prior to entering into a 30-year lease.
Unfortunately, Chopp was running the show. So, the state bowed to his demands and made the deal—a deal that never made sense to reasonable objectors. The Seattle Times,
“‘The deal never made sense,’ said Rodney Tom, the former state Senate majority leader. He opposed the $20 million earmark for the PacMed Center during budget talks two years ago but said Chopp insisted it be part of the final budget package.
“‘Frank doesn’t care how much money it loses because all the money from the lease goes to Seattle social services,’ said Tom, a Medina Democrat who defected to lead a Republican-dominated Senate majority coalition until his term ended in 2014. ‘In the end, the Washington state taxpayer gets hung out with a terrible deal.’”
Chopp’s insistence over the deal begs the question of why he was—and is still today—so determined to fund the PacMed Center. A little digging delivers all the answers needed and insight into who really benefits from Chopp’s deal.
The taxpayer-subsided tenants of the PacMed Center include Chopp’s wife and daughter. Chopp’s wife, Nancy Long, is the Executive Director of 501 Commons, a non-profit that does back-office support for other non-profits. In December 2014, the new home of 501 Commons became the 11th floor of… the PacMed Center.
Chopp’s daughter, Ellie Chopp, is the Grants Coordinator at Pacific Hospital PDA. That means she has the privilege of spending the money raised by building. Essentially, Chopp makes sure he brings in taxpayer dollars and his daughter spends it.
Like so many other Democrats, Chopp’s determination is based on self-interest. For Chopp, the state’s 30-year PacMed lease is his friends-and-family plan. He is using taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars to pay for his “framily” plan, giving a whole new meaning to Sprint’s coverage options.