About Steve

Steve Zemke is the Director of Tax Sanity – working for progressive tax reform, closing tax loopholes and creating a tax expenditure budget in Washington State. Tax Sanity’s website can be found at www.taxsanity.org. Tax Sanity also has a facebook page.

Steve is active on urban forestry issues and protecting trees. He was appointed by the Seattle City Council in Feb. 2014 to serve as a member of the Seattle Urban Forestry Commission in position #1 – Wildlife Biologist. He is the current Vice-Chair of the Seattle Urban Forestry Commission (2016)

In addition Steve chairs a Seattle based organization called Friends of Seattle’s Urban Forest which is working to protect Seattle’s urban forest by enacting a strong tree protection ordinance to protect trees on both public and private property. Friends of Seattle’s Urban Forest has a website at www.friends.urbanforests.org and a facebook page up called Friends of Seattle’s Urban Forest.

From 2010 to 2012 Steve was the Chair of the King County Democrats. Prior to becoming Chair of the King County Democrats Steve was involved for a number of years in running political and initiative campaigns; consulting and helping others develop strategy and message formation; raising funds; organizing grassroots efforts and media outreach; mobilizing volunteers and voters; developing and implementing a campaign plan; evaluating problems in campaigns and implementing plans to correct them; focusing and coordinating successful efforts to both startup campaigns and making needed changes to solve problems and overcome obstacles in ongoing campaigns and organizations; working to develop and implement both long terms goals and short term goals; and motivating others to get involved.

An Experienced Leader!

Director – Tax Sanity – Steve founded and is the Director of Tax Sanity. Tax Sanity is working to close tax loopholes and for progressive tax reform both in Washington State and nationally. Tax Sanity has a website up at www.taxsanity.org as well as a facebook page at Tax Sanity. Tax Sanity was the driving force in the 2014 Washington State Legislature to create a tax expenditure budget as part of the regular biennial budget appropriations bill. Legislation was Introduced in the House as HB 2721 with 25 sponsors and in the Senate with 9 sponsors as SB 6447. The bills was introduced in the 2015-2016 legislative session as HB 1239 with 26 sponsors and SB 5492 with 12 sponsors..

Vice-Chair of the Seattle Urban Forestry Commission (2016)  In 2009 Steve Zemke urged the Seattle City Council to form an Urban Forestry Commission to address trees issues in Seattle. Councilmember Nick Licata introduced an ordinance and the Council created the Seattle Urban Forestry Commission that same year. Steve Zemke was appointed to the UFC in late 2014 and was elected in Dec 2015 to be the Vice-Chair for the coming year.

Chair - Friends of Seattle Urban Forests: Friends of Seattle’s Urban Forest is the new name for Save the Trees -Seattle which has re-organized and is primarily focused on passing a new stronger urban forest and tree protection ordinance for Seattle. www.Friends.UrbanForests.org

Chair - Save the Trees – Seattle: Save the Trees – Seattle was the principal organization behind the effort to save an uncommon plant habitat – a madrone conifer forest area of about 120 trees that are 75 years old and over 100 feet tall located at the NW corner of the Ingraham High School campus in North Seattle. In the end the building design was changed and only 29 trees were cut down.

Save the Trees – Seattle  helped to pass an interim update to the current tree protection laws in Seattle. Steve was the first person to propose the idea of an Urban Forestry Commission for the City of Seattle. Seattle City Councilman Nick Licata championed the legislation and Seattle now has an Urban Forestry Commission to help protect our urban forest.

Steering Committee and Executive Board member (2016) and former State Field Director for WAmend (2015), sponsor of Initiative 735 urging Congress to amend the US Constitution to overturn the corporate Citizens United decision. I-735 will be on the Nov 2016 ballot.

Principal Blogger, MajorityRules.org: Majority Rules covers local, state, national and international politics from a progressive Democratic activist viewpoint. It’s intent is to inform and involve citizens in working for a more sustainable, open, just and democratic future.

Past King County Democratic Chair: Elected Chair of the King County Democrats at the 2010 reorganization meeting on December 4th, 2010 and served until Dec. 2012 . He worked successfully to increase the effectiveness of the King County Democrats as a potent force in King County politics and elections, including creating a new website, updating data services and activating new action committees for outreach to involve Democrats.

Co-Chair Legislative Action Committee of King County Democrats (2015-2016): representing 17 Legislative Districts in King County and Board Member King County Democratic Central Committee, help to draft legislative priorities for King County Democrats; work to develop public support for enacting state legislation; and increase public outreach and citizen involvement in the legislative process.

Owner, Third Planet Books: Third Planet Books sells books on Amazon.com and also wholesale. Third Planet Books is  associated with John Siscoe of Globe Books, a small mostly used bookstore  located at  218 1st Ave S in Pioneer Square in Seattle.

Campaign Director, Paycheck Protection Coalition: Helped set up state organization and field operations for signature gathering for minimum wage initiative campaign. Voters ultimately approved initiative on Nov. ballot

Owner, Pioneer Square Books: Pioneer Square Books was a general used bookstore located in Seattle’s historic Pioneer Square.

Owner, Public Interest Consultants: Provided consulting services for nonprofit and public interest groups, including management and fundraising, energy and environmental policy and political consulting.

Clients included:

  • League of Conservation Voters
  • Washington Citizens for Recycling
  • Washington Association for Children and Adults with Learning Disabilities
  • Ruthe Ridder for Assessor
  • Coalition for Campaign Finance Reform
  • Citizens United to Reform Spending
  • Common Cause
  • Citizens for Presidential Primary
  • Project Vote
  • National Wildlife Federation
  • Paycheck Protection Coalition
  • Citizens Toxics Cleanup Campaign
  • Citizens for Balance Growth

Campaign Director, Citizens for Balanced Growth: Ran successful campaign to place Initiative 547 -Keep Washington Livable! on the November 1990 ballot. While the initiative lost in the Nov. election, the next year the Washington State Legislature incorporated most of the provisions into the Growth Management Act they passed.

Candidate for Seattle City Council: Ran for open seat on Seattle City Council. Finished third out of five candidates in primary election.

Campaign Director, Presidential Primary Committee: Ran successful signature campaign to qualify Initiative 99 to the Washington State Legislature. Legislature enacted measure into law in 1989.

Campaign Director, Citizens Toxics Cleanup Campaign: Ran successful signature drive campaign to place Initiative 97 to help fund toxic waste cleanup before the Washington State Legislature. The 1988 Legislature proposed an alternative but I-97 was ultimately approved by the voters in Nov. 1988.

Executive Director, Don’t Bankrupt Washington: Dealt with energy and economic policy in Northwest on local, state and national levels including the Washington State Legislature, the Washington Public Power Supply System, the Bonneville Power Administration, the Northwest Power Planning Council, the US Congress, the Washington Public Utility District Association and Seattle City Council.

Executive Director, Don’t Bankrupt Washington Legal Defense Fund:
Set up organization, carried out Board policy and raised funds. Had administrative oversight on research contracts and grants for several major lawsuits involving NW energy policy issues.

Chairperson, Campaign Manager; Don’t Bankrupt Washington: Organized and ran successful statewide Initiative 394 campaign requiring a public vote before taxpayers and ratepayers could be indebted for bonds for large public energy projects. I-394 passed with a 58% yes vote despite a record amounts spent against it by the nuclear industry. I-394 helped to end out of control spending by the Washington Public Power Supply System which was trying to build 5 nuclear power plants in Washington State whose cost had spiraled from $4 billion to $24 billion before it collapsed. Only 1 plant was completed.

Environmental Researcher, Pacific Science Center: Helped research and develop exhibits on Environmental Monitoring and Coastal Habitat.

Chairperson, Campaign Manager, Citizens for Returnable Beverage Containers: Organized and ran initiative campaign for Initiative 61 to promote recycling by requiring refundable deposits on beverage containers. We lost on the ballot after a record $1 million campaign against us but some 10 other states, including California, Oregon and New York currently have such a system to promote recycling.

7th Congressional District Field Coordinator, Durning for Congress: Ran successful field operation to help Marvin Durning win Primary Election in Special Congressional race. Durning lost in the runoff.

Assistant King County Coordinator, Durning for Governor: Helped coordinate field efforts in King County in Governor’s race


University of Washington (Fisheries)
Graduate coursework in fisheries, limnology, and ecology

Activities and Societies:
Chairperson – Committee on Environmental Action
Advisor – Environmental Affairs Commission

Wesleyan University – MA, Biology

MA thesis – “An Analysis of the Chromosomal Protein Composition of Chromatin During Early Development of the Sea Urchins Strongylocentrotus purpuratus and Lytechinus pictus”

Activities and Societies:
Graduate Student President 1973-1974
Chairperson – Committee on Environmental Awareness

Case Western Reserve University – BA, Biology

past Board member – Cascade Chapter of the Sierra Club

past Board member – Washington Citizens for Recycling

past Board member – Northwest Progressive Institute

past Energy Coordinator – NW Office of Friends of the Earth