Photo-edited flyers sent to voters in Seattle council race

SEATTLE — In the final days of the Seattle City Council race, thousands of voters are getting a controversial political flyer.

It shows a picture of a homeless person's tent in a city park, but the picture isn't real; it's digitally edited.

At Cowen Park in Seattle's Ravenna neighborhood, there were kids on the swings this morning and no tents in sight.

That's in contrast to a flyer supporting the City Council candidates endorsed by a political action committee called Moms for Seattle.

The flyer shows a tent just a toddler's distance from the swings and a pile of belongings in the background.

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"We don't need to exaggerate the crisis of homelessness in Seattle," said Heather Weiner, a progressive political consultant who's not working on any of the City Council campaigns.

"But lying about that problem, fearmongering, implying attacks on children or threats to children is Trump-like fearmongering," she said.

The images edited into the flyers come from an online database of stock photos, including the tent and the possessions in the background.

A second flyer features a hypodermic needle on a sidewalk. It's also a stock photo not taken in Seattle.

"It's illustrative of what's going on all over the city, and so they can't deny it," said Celeste Garcia Ramberg, a Moms for Seattle co-founder. Ramberg is a 30-year resident of Seattle with two children.

Asked if the flyer is fearmongering, she responded: "I wouldn't call it fearmongering, but certainly people are afraid. People are afraid for their safety. People are afraid to bring their children to the park."

A spokesman for her group shared the picture he took in June to create the flyer. It does not show a tent near the swings. He says there was a tent on the fringes of Cowen Park that day but he didn't photograph it.

"Actually, we could have used pictures, real pictures, that are so much worse," Ramberg said. Asked why the group didn't use real pictures, she responded, "We didn't want to exploit homeless people."

Weiner said, "If you have to exaggerate a problem to fearmonger and manipulate voters, that really questions what your real motivations are."

Ramberg believes the vocal critics are actually helping her make the change to the City Council. "Yeah, beautifully."

Ramberg says Moms for Seattle raised $185,000 to send out its flyers.  
    
The group itself is controversial, in part because one of its top five donors doesn't live in Seattle; she lives in Bellevue.