I spent two days in the jury pool at the Municipal Court of Seattle this month along with roughly 75 of my fellow city-zens.
I didn't get chosen to serve on a jury, so I spent two days sitting, waiting, reading and writing while most of the people around me were called down to a courtroom to do their civic duty.
At the end of the first day, I was one of the last to leave, and I found myself on the elevator with two others in the jury pool. One of them looked familiar.
By the time we reached the first floor and the elevator doors slid open, I was pretty sure I was standing next to Bob Ferguson, Washington State's attorney general. So, I asked him.
"Excuse me," I said. "Are you Bob Ferguson?"
"Yes, I am," he said.
Okay. Mystery solved. I told him my name and shook his hand.
"Thanks for doing what you're doing," I said. "You've made me feel proud to live in Seattle."
I don't remember exactly what he said, but he was kind and appreciative and we talked for another few seconds until we had walked out the courthouse doors and parted ways.
Ferguson has been our attorney general in Washington since 2013, but he really only jumped onto people's radar this past January when he blocked Don Trump’s first executive order attempting to implement a Muslim travel ban.
I remember finding out about that, finding out that Washington State's AG had taken it upon himself to be one of the first people in the world to stand up to President Trump in a meaningful, effective way. He certainly put his career on the line in doing so, but he did it anyway. He saw that what was happening was wrong, saw that he was in a position to do something, and he did it.
It's a good example to follow -- and, frankly, it was also very satisfying to see someone like Ferguson spending time on a jury, investing his time as a citizen and not leaning on his position to get him excused from service in the first place.
I came across Ferguson's name again today in The Stranger:
The largest for-profit thrift store in the world, Value Village—which is owned by Bellevue-based TVI—generates over $1 billion in revenue annually, but they donate just a tiny fraction of that to charity. And, over a decade, Value Village only paid charities for cloth donations, not for things like furniture and other home goods.
For this, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson is taking them to court.
In a complaint filed Wednesday in King County Superior Court, AG Ferguson alleges that Value Village has engaged in "widespread deception" through an aggressive ad campaign that misleads both buyers and donors into thinking that all donations and purchases benefit local non-profit partners. In, reality, according to a press release, "no portion of Value Village in-store sales benefits its charity partners, and contrary to Value Village's marketing, for years, some types of donations—including furniture and housewares—did not benefit charities at all. Others provided far less benefit than consumers were led to believe, or did not go to the charity indicated to donors. In many cases, the donations were in reality pooled and shared among multiple charities."
Compared to his work combatting the Muslim ban, this is small potatoes, but I find that I like this lawsuit. Ferguson saw a corporation cheating the system by lying to the people and preying on their goodwill (see what I did there?). So, he called bullshit.
Ferguson was named one of Time Magazine's 100 most influential people of 2017, but it seems like he's been playing Robin Hood for a few years now. He has fought for the rights of same-sex couples and filed several legal actions against the U.S. Department of Energy over mismanagement of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, our state's widely ignored nuclear disaster area.
Seattle Public Schools will be hiring a new superintendent in 2018, replacing the outgoing Larry Nyland. How do we find someone in the Bob Ferguson mold to fill that position?
Almost 25 percent of school-age kids in Seattle attend private schools, yet the movement to extend school choice to all families is constantly under fire. Our segregated schools reflect our segregated city, and our achievement gaps and opportunity gaps are some of the worst in the nation.
To make matters worse, we've known about these gaps for years now, and they're not getting any better. Some are getting worse.
No more Larry Nylands. No more Chris Reykdals. No more of our milquetoast (and often racist) school board leadership, or of having our city's conversations about education hijacked by affluent white folks who feel miffed.
We know what bold leadership looks like in Seattle, and we know what kind of impact it can have. If we don't find someone to lead our schools who's as brave as Ferguson has shown himself to be, who's as willing to put themselves on the line for the sake of true change, then we're just going to be asking ourselves the same questions again several years down the line, and we'll have several more years worth of kids who have been failed by the system.