Offering daily news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Canadian authorities lock down the heart of Ottawa after shootings on Parliament Hill

Authorities in Canada have locked down Parliament Hill, the heart of the country’s national capital, Ottawa, after a yet-to-be-publicly-identified assailant fatally shot a soldier guarding Canada’s War Memorial, then entered Centre Block and began firing at people there before being killed by security. Fittingly, the man who took the gunman down was said to be Parliament’s sergeant-at-arms, Kevin Vickers.

Canada's National War Memorial

Canada’s National War Memorial, as seen from the Peace Tower. (The Memorial is circled). The gunman began his attacks at the Memorial, fatally shooting a Canadian soldier before proceeding to Centre Block. (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

Centre Block, for those unfamiliar with Ottawa, is the most famous building in the Canadian capital. It is the equivalent of the domed Legislative Building here in Washington or the U.S. Capitol building in the District of Columbia. It contains the chambers of the Canadian House of Commons and the Senate. Its most prominent feature is the Peace Tower, which is almost one hundred meters tall.

Parliament Hill, in Ottawa

The image above depicts Centre Block, the most distinctive building on Parliament Hill, where Canada’s lawmakers conduct business. (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

Alarmingly, at the time of the attack, Canada’s political leaders were inside Centre Block for caucus meetings. Fortunately, none of them were harmed. Prime Minister Stephen Harper was taken away by the authorities to a secure location immediately following the incident. He was later telephoned by President Barack Obama, who offered any support and resources that the United States could provide.

The White House released a readout of the call, which said:

President Obama spoke by phone with Prime Minister Stephen Harper to express the American people’s solidarity with Canada in the wake of attacks on Canadian Forces in Quebec on October 20 and in Ottawa on October 22. President Obama condemned these outrageous attacks, and reaffirmed the close friendship and alliance between our people.  The President offered any assistance Canada needed in responding to these attacks. Prime Minister Harper thanked the President and the two leaders discussed the assault and agreed to continue coordination between our governments moving forward.

Speaking to MSNBC, Member of Parliament Charlie Angus said that had the gunman entered Centre Block an hour later, it is likely that the caucus meetings would have concluded, and that MPs would have been out in the halls speaking to the press.

It is not yet clear how the gunman managed to get into Centre Block. From having visited Parliament Hill in July, I can attest that entrances and exits to the building are monitored and guarded. All visitors are swept by security prior to entering Centre Block for guided tours, or to go up the Peace Tower.

A number of buildings in Ottawa remain on lockdown. Centre Block, East Block, and West Block are all closed to the public right now. West Block was actually already closed; it’s been undergoing renovations for months. The nearby U.S. Embassy, which is very close to Parliament Hill, was also sealed off.

West Block, under construction

West Block, on Parliament Hill, is shown undergoing renovations in July of 2014. (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

Ottawa is a charming city and a fairly safe place. I’ve described it to friends as a cross between the District of Columbia and London. Ottawa is actually home to more people than San Francisco, but it doesn’t feel like a large city at all. Partly that’s because it is much more spread out than cities of comparable size.

By afternoon, all of Canada’s major parties had issued statements in response to the shootings. Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s office said he would speak to the nation in a televised address this evening.

We extend our condolences to the family of the soldier who was killing and our sympathies to those wounded in the attack. Hopefully they’ll all recover.

Without Metro & Sound Transit, the Eastside’s traffic problems would be much worse

The Seattle Times is running a story in tomorrow’s print edition about the 48th LD state Senate race, which pits well-liked State Representative Cyrus Habib against Republican Michelle Darnell, an attorney. Habib, who captured over 63% of the vote in the August Top Two election, is considered to be a shoo-in, but that’s not stopping Darnell from campaigning (nor should it).

The Times gave both candidates an opportunity to speak to their views on the issues. On the topic of transportation (which is one of the top concerns of Eastside voters) reporter Lynn Thompson had this to say about Darnell:

She’s also critical of Sound Transit and Metro, which she said are too Seattle-centric and leave Eastside drivers stuck in traffic and spewing pollution. Instead, she said she’d like to see more private transportation solutions such as the vans and jitneys that move people around other cities in the world.

Sound Transit and Metro may be run from Seattle, but they are hardly Seattle-centric, as Seattleites would be the first to point out.

Darnell is clearly not very familiar with our region’s mass transit system, or she’d know that Metro’s planners care about seeing that the Eastside is well served.

Perhaps she’s unaware that both the Eastside and the south county got RapidRide lines from Metro before Seattle did. (The A line serves the south county; it opened in 2010. The B line serves the Eastside and opened in 2011. Seattle didn’t get RapidRide until 2012, when the C and D lines opened).

Sound Transit, meanwhile, is devoting considerable resources to East Link, which will bring light rail out to Redmond’s Overlake neighborhood via Mercer Island and Bellevue. Presently, the Eastside is well served by Sound Transit Express bus service. In fact, half of Sound Transit’s routes have terminuses in Eastside cities!

For the record, Michelle, these are the routes:

  • The 522, connecting Woodinville and Seattle via SR 522.
  • The 532, connecting Everett and Bellevue via I-405.
  • The 535, connecting Lynnwood and Bellevue via I-405.
  • The 540 and 542, connecting Redmond and Kirkland with the U District.
  • The 545, offering fast and frequent service between downtown Seattle and Redmond via SR 520. It’s easily one of ST’s most popular routes.
  • The 550, connecting downtown Bellevue and Seattle via I-90.
  • The 554, connecting Issaquah and Seattle via I-90.
  • The 555 and 556, connecting Issaquah and Northgate (these routes use I-90, I-405, SR 520, and I-5).
  • The 560, connecting Bellevue and SeaTac Airport via I-405.
  • The 566 and 567, connecting Auburn and Kent with Bellevue and Redmond’s Overlake neighborhood via I-405 and SR 167.

Is there room for improvement? Certainly. But the point is, the Eastside is not being ignored by Sound Transit or Metro. King County leaders made a deliberate choice to go to the voters of the whole county earlier this year with a request to approve badly needed funding for Metro and KCDOT – and that’s because they didn’t want to pursue a Seattle-first approach to protecting our bus service.

As for Michelle’s comment that she’d like to see more vans and jitneys… perhaps she’s unaware that our state has the largest vanpool fleet in North America. According to WSDOT, there are nearly 3,000 vanpools in operation as of last November. The program has been growing like gangbusters:

Since 2003, vanpools in Washington have increased by more than 85 percent – a net increase of more than 1,300 vanpools. In 2009 and 2010, vanpool growth flattened primarily due to the Great Recession. Since then a slow but steady economic recovery has spurred vanpool growth in the state. Increases in fuel costs and traffic congestion (especially in busy corridors) have also added to vanpool growth.

The Eastside is not without private transportation solutions, either. Eastsiders can choose to take a taxi, Uber, or Lyft. In addition, Microsoft operates its own private bus system to help employees commute to and from workThe Connector.

Again, there’s always room for improvement, but a major reason our traffic is lousy is due to the way the Eastside was built. Traffic is an inevitable problem of constructing auto-centric suburbs. Unfortunately, we’ve been doing this since the 1950s, so we’ve dug ourselves into a pretty big hole.

And we can’t seem to stop. King County has foolishly continued to permit auto-centric exurban development east of the Eastside’s inner suburbs.

Fortunately, cities like Redmond and Bellevue are increasingly growing up instead of out. The increased density will make it much easier to live on the Eastside without a car and make the build out of light rail more cost effective.

Darnell would do well to read an eye-opening text like Suburban Nation to understand the root of our traffic problems and why they’re hard to solve.

Republican Andy Hill a no-show at NARAL’s 45th District candidate forum in Redmond

Last night, NARAL Pro-Choice Washington held a candidate forum in Redmond to give candidates running for the Washington State Legislature in the 45th District an opportunity to share their views on women’s health and reproductive rights.

The six candidates seeking to represent the district in the 2015-2016 Legislature were all invited to participate, but unfortunately, only the Democrats (Matt Isenhower, Larry Springer, and Roger Goodman) showed up.

Topics discussed included the fallout from the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby ruling, the Senate’s repeated failure to pass the Reproductive Parity Act, and consequences for women’s health resulting from public/private hospital mergers or partnerships. But the Democratic candidates also commented on the absence of their Republican opponents, who were represented by empty chairs.

(Full disclosure: I am an officer of the 45th District Democrats, which is working to elect Matt Isenhower, Larry Springer, and Roger Goodman).

“It really speaks volumes that my opponent is not here,” Isenhower told the audience. “Again and again in the media, unfortunately, people refer to him as pro-choice. But my question would be, if he is pro-choice, why is he not here? Why did he not fill out the questionnaire for NARAL? Why has he not gone for endorsement for both NARAL and Planned Parenthood? Those things, those actions, speak a lot louder than any words I can say.”

Matt Isenhower next to Andy Hill's empty chair

State Senate candidate Matt Isenhower listens as State Representative Larry Springer speaks. Isenhower’s opponent, Republican Andy Hill, blew off NARAL’s forum for 45th legislative district candidates. (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

Isenhower could have been more specific and said, Again and again in the Seattle Times, unfortunately, editorial writers have referred to him as pro-choice – for it is Frank Blethen’s editorial page that keeps crediting Hill as having that stance.

Take the Times’ unsigned endorsement of Andy Hill, published earlier this year:

Hill represents his socially liberal district, supporting abortion rights, gay marriage and the state allowing students without legal residency status access to financial aid.

Or this blog post from editorial writer Thanh Tan last week:

But by trying to take out moderate, pro-choice Republicans such as incumbent Andy Hill for not being more assertive or rabid about supporting abortion rights, they risk affecting issues that go way beyond women’s health.

Or this column by editorial writer Lynne Varner from 2012:

Pro-choice groups need moderate Republicans, a growing group locally that includes not just Litzow but state Sens. Joe Fain of Auburn and Andy Hill of Redmond. Lawmakers may think twice next time about bucking their party to join a team that might bite them next election.

Actually, history has shown that when advocates of women’s health back Republicans, they get burned. Steve Litzow, Andy Hill, and Rodney Tom were in a position to bring up the Reproductive Parity Act in the Senate during each of the two sessions their caucus has controlled the floor. They failed to deliver.

The legislation could have passed with what Tom likes to call a “philosophical majority”, possibly even without Hill. But it was never brought to the floor for a vote. (It did, of course, pass in the Democratically-controlled state House.)

There is no evidence that Andy Hill supports reproductive rights, including a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy. Hill does not even advertise himself as pro-choice or pro-liberty. Instead, he has allowed (and perhaps encouraged) The Seattle Times to do that for him, while avoiding the issue on the campaign trail, presumably so as to avoid offending his base. Hill is trying to have it both ways.

I’ll add that there is no such thing as a moderate Republican, or a moderate Democrat, for that matter. The mass media loves the label moderate, but it’s useless. It doesn’t stand for anything. Progressive/liberal and conservative refer to a system of values, principles, and policy directions. Moderate doesn’t. There is no moderate worldview. There is no consistency to what so-called moderates believe.

Most of the time, when someone says moderate, they mean biconceptual. Biconceptuals are individuals or groups that use the progressive values system in certain areas of their political thinking, and the conservative values system in others. I can’t stress this enough: Biconceptuals are ideologically different.

And most people are, to some degree, biconceptuals.

Biconceptualism helps explains the phenomenon of strange bedfellows, which is when unusual coalitions form to achieve a common goal (for instance, reforming the NSA or preventing an expansion of gambling).

Frank Blethen and his editorial writers would have us believe Andy Hill is partially progressive. They can credibly argue Hill supports marriage equality, because Hill did vote yes on the bill that brought the freedom to marry to Washington. But again, there is no evidence that Hill supports reproductive rights.

As Representative Larry Springer explained when it was his turn to speak:

[Andy Hill] is in his leadership. He is one of the highest-ranking Republicans in the Senate.

He’s the Chair of the Ways & Means Committee. He has – I believe – a responsibility to represent his district, and to say to his leadership: We need to do this. This needs to come to the floor for a vote.

Springer added:

I have never, ever heard Andy Hill say “I’m pro-choice.” He waffles; he walks around that constantly. In fact, we had to… [looking at seatmate Roger Goodman] You and I had to bail him out at the town hall meeting in Sammamish three years ago because the questions were relentless. And he just wouldn’t answer, wouldn’t answer… and it was clogging up the meeting, so we said, okay, time to move on.

UPDATE, October 20th, 2014: After this post was published, Representative Larry Springer reached out to NPI to let us know that the town hall story he shared at the NARAL forum stemmed from questions concerning Andy’s position on marriage equality, not reproductive rights. Representative Springer checked with Representative Roger Goodman, and that was Roger’s recollection as well.

At the time, Andy had not taken a position on the issue and the Legislature had not voted on Ed Murray and Jamie Pedersen’s historic bill.

We regret any confusion (as does Representative Springer) and appreciate the clarification. If anything, this additional context indicates that Andy has a history of being evasive and ducking tough questions on multiple issues.

Now, back to the original post…

Springer’s opponent Brendan Woodward also skipped the forum, as did Goodman’s opponent, Joel Hussey. However, they are at least not using a major daily newspaper to suggest they hold a position they don’t really hold.

It’s too bad the Republicans chose not to attend. Had they participated, they might have learned something. They would have had to field tough questions, sure, but that’s what real leaders have to do.

As I said earlier, a number of important topics were covered, including the ramifications of the Hobby Lobby decision. The candidates even delved into topics themselves without being prompted. Representative Springer, for instance, brought up the importance of medically accurate sex education in his opening remarks.

These issues aren’t going away, and the incoming Legislature would be making a serious mistake if it does not address them in the 2015 session.

Vice President Biden visits Renton Technical College with Senators Murray, Cantwell

Vice President Joe Biden spoke at Renton Technical College today late in the morning. He spoke on the state of the middle class and the need for skilled workers in the coming years. He plugged community colleges as the most flexible educational institutions in the united states.

Biden said that we are no longer talking about outsourcing, we are talking about insourcing. He said that manufacturing jobs are coming back. Biden claimed that today there are 100,000 high tech manufacturing jobs going unfilled in the United States. He said that not all of these jobs require a PhD, or a four-year degree, or even a two-year degree. These are jobs that are requiring new skills and he said community colleges are working with local manufacturers in setting up specific training programs to fulfill manufacturing needs. He used a solar shingle manufacturer in Michigan as an example.

Biden said that according to a study that he directed for the President that 1,400,000 IT jobs, with a minimum salary of $59,000, will need to be filled in the next decade. He also claimed that we will need over 600,000 more registered nurses with average annual pay of between $65,000 and $75,000. Biden also stated that we need 1,200 more solar panel installers with a starting salary of $30,000 and 115,000 more electricians with an average salary of $50,000. He also claimed that there will be 1,500 more jobs every year in the aerospace industry.

Biden stated that the key to training people for these middle class jobs is the technical college. Then Biden also spoke about grants including PELL grants to help students pay for education. Biden also spoke about partnering with organized labor to use grants to set up apprenticeship programs, stating that it is the most direct path to train workers for these skilled jobs.

Changing his focus to energy, Biden pointed out that the U.S. is at the energy epicenter of the world now. He said that in this country, “we have more operating oil and gas rigs than in any other other country combined.” Biden said that North America will be energy independent by the year 2021 and the U.S. will be energy independent by 2025. However, it is the goal of President Obama and Vice President Biden to have exponentially growing renewable energy in the U.S.

Biden then spoke about the economy and how the economy is recovering from the worst recession, but then pointed out that the middle class is still hurting. There has been no real growth in middle class incomes. He said that a study has shown that middle class wages “have only gone up fourteen cents in that last fourteen years.” “The middle class is hurting” Biden said. To fix this, Biden described the plan to “create more pathways” for people to move up to these new higher-paying jobs.

Biden closed by leaving the podium, moving close to the audience and saying that one of the goals is to “change the psychology of the country”. He further explained his meaning saying that by training people with new skills, new entrepreneurs will emerge, resulting in more small businesses being created. Biden then left as he said “We can do this folks! We really can!”

Ridership on Sound Transit’s Central Link light rail line keeps climbing, defying naysayers

Back in mid-July, we at NPI joined with Sound Transit and many pro-transit activists to celebrate the five year anniversary of Central Link, which opened to the public on a sunny Saturday morning to thousands of eager riders.

More than sixty months later, Link is doing spectacularly well. Ridership just keeps going up, pleasantly exceeding even our own expectations. And it’s not a surprise why: People like the reliability and convenience of light rail.

From the Sound Transit August 2014 ridership report (PDF):

Central Link continued to see double-digit increases and set an all-time monthly record with total August 2014 boardings up almost 16% compared to August 2013.

Average weekday boardings stood at over 39,000 for the month of August, an amazing increase of 21%, while average Saturday boardings were largely unchanged due to startup testing in the DSTT [Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel] for University Link.

This is fantastic news. Total light rail boardings for the month of August surpassed 1.1 million. The Sound Transit systemwide total was nearly three million. Central Link is routinely performing above its targets, which is remarkable.

Prior to Central Link’s construction, critics of Sound Transit had harsh things to say about the project. They panned Sound Transit’s revised cost and ridership estimates, claimed buses and bus rapid transit were superior to light rail despite clear evidence to the contrary, and said the capital costs involved in laying track weren’t worth it.

They derisively referred to Central Link as a “train to nowhere”, especially after the airport segment was cut from the initial alignment (it was later restored).

Tim Eyman launched a statewide initiative to defund Sound Transit, which failed in Sound Transit’s jurisdiction but narrowly passed statewide. (The provision of the initiative intended to defund Sound Transit never went into effect, however, because the revenue had already been pledged to pay off bonds for light rail construction).

Ultimately, Sound Transit was able to overcome a torrent of vocal opposition and get Central Link built, fulfilling its promises to the people of Puget Sound.

It wasn’t easy. Even as construction got underway, critics were still attacking the project and declaring the system wasn’t needed. Well, not anymore. For the most part, they’ve gone silent. And that’s because they were wrong.

Sound Transit now has a well-deserved reputation as an agency that gets things done. Projects are thoughtfully and carefully managed. The dark days are a thing of the past. Last year, we were honored to have Sound Transit CEO Joni Earl speak at our 2013 Spring Fundraising Gala, which celebrated both the tenth anniversaries of NPI and of Central Link’s groundbreaking. Joni spoke to us about the agency’s turnaround (which she led) and the future of Sound Transit.

We have come a long way, but we have a long way to go still. People all over this region are clamoring for light rail. They naturally want Link to serve their neighborhood. Those who have access to Link now are very fortunate, and an increasing number are availing themselves of the opportunity to take the train.

The people of this region recognize that we need a people-centric transportation system, not an auto-centric one. As King County Executive Dow Constantine has said, Puget Sounders vote with their feet and their ORCA cards.

Our region has long needed a rail spine, and at last, we’re building one out. Central Link alone has been a tremendous success… but it’s only the beginning.

As Link expands north, south, and east, it will attract even more riders and take more cars off the road. University Link and Angle Lake Link are both nearing completion, which is a big deal. Construction is already starting on North Link (bringing light rail to Northgate and beyond), and will start soon on East Link.

Even as we look to the future, though, we shouldn’t forget what it took to get to where we are today. Let’s take a little trip down memory lane and examine what the critics were saying about light rail back in the early 2000s, before we had it.

Let’s start with former King County Councilmember Maggi Fimia:

It costs too much, it does too little, it downgrades express-bus systems… It draws construction resources from worthier projects. It breaks faith with taxpayers. It’s dangerous.

That quote is from an article published around the time of Link’s groundbreaking.

Of course, Link’s construction did not harm express bus service, other projects in Sound Transit’s pipeline, or break faith with taxpayers. To the contrary: it fulfilled a promise made many years ago. Link is not dangerous; it is safe and reliable.

Moving on to former attorney general and gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna, a longtime opponent of light rail, who was a thorn in ST’s side for years:

My prediction is that by the time we get this thing built or even under construction, Seattle is going to decide it wants to go with the monorail.

That was from an article published in September 2001, when Sound Transit was revising the alignment for what became Central Link.

McKenna turned out to be half right – Seattleites did vote to build monorail several times. But then, in 2005, they reversed themselves, shutting the effort down after its fiscal and management problems made Sound Transit’s look mild by comparison. Meanwhile, Sound Transit persevered and got Central Link built.

Seattle activist Elizabeth Campbell is among those who wants to resurrect the plan to build a monorail line between West Seattle and Ballard, which would have been the long-defunct monorail authority’s first project. She’s submitted an initiative to the November ballot to fund a study the idea, but it’s got widespread opposition.

Now for Bothell resident Douglas Pinnt:

I’d love to see them abandon the project. It’s an awful lot of money… You calculate how many people actually would ride the trains and it’s probably insignificant compared to rides on the buses. Think about the fact the Microsoft campus wouldn’t even be on the rail line: the most prestigious employer wouldn’t be served at all.

As ridership reports have shown, a significant number of people are already riding the one light rail line we have. Ridership is projected to significantly increase once additional Link segments open – including East Link, which will serve that all-important Microsoft campus through the Overlake Station.

It bears remembering that Central Link was and remains our starter line. It’s the beginning of a system that will carry a huge number of people once it is properly built out. Thanks to Sound Transit 2, we’re getting light rail to Microsoft.

Rome wasn’t built in a day either; this is a long-term investment.

Here’s West Seattle resident Eugene Bartol:

I’d really, really preferred it being successful, but I just couldn’t see it.

What about now, Eugene? Do you see why having a rail spine makes a great deal of sense? It’s reliable transit that you don’t need a schedule to ride. It’s a route that can’t be discontinued. It’s grade-separated, so it can’t get stuck in traffic. It has low operating costs. It can scale up to accommodate larger numbers of riders as needed. It can be built below ground, above ground, or at grade. Simply put, light rail is versatile and ideal for moving people through congested corridors.

Finally, we have this nonsense from Tim Eyman:

People outside Seattle shouldn’t be forced to pay for Seattle’s billion-dollar choo choo trains. Sound Transit admits it cannot proceed with its ‘train to nowhere’ unless hundreds of millions of dollars are paid by taxpayers outside Seattle. King County Executive Ron Sims, Sound Transit’s chairman, likes the status quo and doesn’t want anything to stop his gravy train.

Actually, under Sound Transit’s adopted policy of subarea equity, costs for Central Link were paid for by people who live in the area the light rail line serves.

Other rail projects have and are being financed the same way. For example, East Link is now being paid for by taxpayers in the East King subarea, which East Link will serve in a few years once construction has been completed.

Voters in Sound Transit’s jurisdiction have consistently voted to build light rail when it was on the ballot by itself (in 1996 with Sound Move and again in 2008 with Sound Transit 2). They’ve also voted down Eyman schemes to do away with it, including I-776 in 2002 and I-1325 in 2011.

The derisive “train to nowhere” sneers, once a staple of anti-light rail commentary, quickly went away once Sound Transit CEO Joni Earl announced an agreement with the Port of Seattle to build Airport Link and send light rail directly into Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Airport Link ultimately opened just five months after the rest of Central Link; its five year anniversary is in December.

The above quote from Eyman came from an op-ed that ran in February of 2003, about six months before NPI was founded. Eyman at the time was trying to launch a new statewide initiative to kill Central Link. Thankfully, it never got off the ground.

During the past decade, we’ve advanced the discussion around light rail to the point where the focus is on where it should go next and how we pay for it. That’s significant. It is worth remembering that at the turn of the century, there were plenty of people and organizations trying to dismantle Sound Transit and ensure light rail never got built. Nowadays, ST is humming along and in good shape.

Thanks to courageous leaders like Joni Earl and Greg Nickels, we moved forward instead of losing an opportunity to build a better transportation system for our region. Our challenge now is to keep moving forward. Tomorrow, I’ll talk about what needs to happen at the state level to make Sound Transit 3 possible.

American Academy of Pediatrics condemns Tim Eyman for use of obscene, violent image

Tim Eyman’s decision to use an obscene, repulsive image to illustrate a political attack email against King County Executive Dow Constantine (which I wrote about a few days ago) has drawn outrage and condemnation from many quarters, in addition to further cementing Eyman’s well-deserved reputation as a purveyor of destructive initiatives and practitioner of toxic politics.

But one organization in particular was incensed (and certainly has every reason to be): the American Academy of Pediatrics, which represents doctors specializing in children’s medicine. The AAP is a respected organization of medical professionals with chapters in all fifty states, including Washington. Today, the president of the AAP’s Washington chapter, Dr. Margaret E. Hood, sent the following letter to King County Executive Dow Constantine and Governor Jay Inslee.

Dear Executive Constantine:

I am writing to you on behalf of the nearly 1,000 Washington pediatricians who are members of the Washington Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (WCAAP), to express our outrage at the violent image included with a recent email sent by Tim Eyman to his supporters, legislators and the media.

Gun violence is a very real public health threat in our country. Firearm-related deaths remain one of the top three causes of death for American youth, and our state’s youth have not been spared: a child or teen is killed by gunfire every 9 days in Washington State.

In light of these facts, gratuitous use of an image of a woman holding a gun to a child’s head is shocking and abhorrent. As pediatricians whose mission is to ensure the health and well-being of children, we could not let Mr. Eyman’s communication go without remark. In closing we wish to go on record as strongly objecting to such inappropriate public use of this horrible image for ill gain.

Sincerely,

Margaret E. Hood, MD, FAAP
President, Washington Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics

Unfortunately, Tim Eyman has no regrets about using the obscene, violent image that Dr. Hood spoke of. KIRO 7 asked if he had any “moral compunction” about using it. Eyman replied, “I didn’t”. He ought to know better – he’s a father.

If Tim Eyman had any decency, he never would have used the image in the first place. If he had any shame, he would have realized immediately that he had exercised poor judgment, and apologized. But he lacks both.

Having worked against Tim’s initiative factory for over twelve years, I’m sorry to say that Tim’s ugly, stinky, and disgusting behavior does not shock me, as it did Dr. Hood and her colleagues. I wish it did. But this is what I’ve come to expect from Tim Eyman. He can turn on the charm in person when he wants to, but more often he acts like a child throwing a temper tantrum and hurling insults. And when he’s behind a computer screen, he acts like a troll. It’s sad.

Eyman clearly has a need for attention. If too much time goes by when he doesn’t appear in the news, he concocts a stunt aimed at getting coverage. There was a period of time when he was dressing up in costume for his media events – he’s appeared as Darth Vader, Buzz Lightyear, a gorilla, and a prison inmate.

I want to stress as much as I can that Eyman is only relevant because he has enablers – people and organizations who give him money, ink, airtime, and pixels.

There are a number of wealthy benefactors who have kept gears of his initiative factory lubricated with money: the late Michael Dunmire, Kemper Freeman, Jr., Great Canadian Gaming and other companies in the gambling industry, the Association of Washington Business, and big oil companies like BP and ConocoPhillips.

The latest Eyman benefactors are Republicans Faye Garneau and Suzie Burke of Seattle, who are under the sorely mistaken impression that Eyman is somebody they can work with and trust. (Eyman is attempting to launch an initiative that would overturn the the $15/hour minimum wage enacted in Seattle and SeaTac.)

But they aren’t the only ones.

Washington’s mass media is complicit, too, for repeatedly and indefensibly giving Tim Eyman a platform to attack our elected leaders from.

To KIRO 7’s credit, they have been willing to talk to us and other Eyman opponents when other reporters couldn’t be bothered, as has C.J. Douglas over at Q13.

But when Eyman circulates something that is obviously story bait and not news, we would all be best served if nobody touched it, not even honorable and professional journalists like KIRO 7’s Essex Porter. Our political discourse is already polluted enough. As Eyman is not willing to behave like an adult, he has no place in the conversation around budgeting, tax reform, or fiscal responsibility.

Frontier working round the clock to restore service to Redmond area after major outage

For the past few days, many homes and businesses in the greater Redmond area have been without phone, Internet, and television service after a construction crew working on a stormwater treatment project sliced through fiber and copper lines belonging to Frontier Communications when they dug in the wrong place. The damage caused was appraised by Frontier technicians to be very bad, and ever since Saturday morning, they’ve been working round the clock on a fix.

Service in many parts of Redmond and beyond have been restored, but there are still places where the outage continues, including the Thinkspace coworking community in downtown Redmond, which NPI belongs to.

Frontier, at the urging of NPI and other customers, has set up a portal to provide information about the outage and the status of repairs. Additionally, Frontier is hosting a community meeting to share information with its customers:

Frontier Services were impacted in Redmond, WA beginning Saturday, 9/20 when an outside construction crew cut through fiber and copper cables at 15802 Bear Creek Parkway, at the corner of Bear Creek Parkway and Redmond Way.  Frontier crews were onsite throughout the weekend [and] are working around the clock to restore services.

Full 911 voice services were restored by Sunday morning, and all FiOS services were restored 9/24.

Frontier will be hosting a community meeting today at 6:30 PM in the Auditorium of the Redmond Community Center located at 16600 NE 80th Street Redmond, WA. There is an informal Q&A from 3:30 to 6:30 PM, with the formal presentation starting at 6:30 PM.

Frontier announced a short time ago that it has restored FiOS service to all affected customers. FiOS is Frontier’s premier fiber to the premises (FTTP) offering, inherited from Verizon, which offers much faster speeds than DSL.

Crews work to repair damage to Frontier's lines in Redmond

Crews have been working around the clock to repair damage to Frontier’s network in downtown Redmond. Redmond Way was ripped open the night of September 20th to speed the effort along. (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

The repairs necessary to bring Frontier’s network back online have affected the city’s stormwater treatment project. The city announced yesterday that the work previously scheduled to take place this weekend had been canceled:

As the City of Redmond continues to work with Frontier to restore service, the closure of Redmond Way previously scheduled for this weekend, Sep. 26-29 will not take place until a later date, but significant weekday impacts through Sep. 29 will continue.

Construction of the Redmond Way Stormwater Treatment Facility project is underway with pipe installation and pavement repair. Visit www.redmond.gov and register to receive traffic alerts.

Detour signage is in place directing motorist to alternate routes. Access to local businesses and residents will be maintained.

Construction is weather dependent and closures or evening work may extend beyond current closure notices. Public notifications will be updated if changes occur.

According to Frontier, the prolonged downtime stemmed from the nature of the damage to its lines. From what we’ve heard, the fiber and copper cables weren’t just cut, they were pulled and ripped up, causing damage to the lines in other places. No wonder the repair job is taking a long time.

We’d still like to see Frontier reach out to its affected customers by email, which they haven’t done. Posting notifications on Twitter and redmond.gov isn’t enough. Frontier needs to be more proactive in managing this crisis, even though they didn’t cause it. The City, meanwhile, needs to undertake a full investigation to find out how this happened and how we can prevent it from occurring again.

Tim Eyman once again goes fishing for media coverage, using an obscene image as bait

Tim Eyman may not have an initiative on the ballot this year, but he has no intention of keeping a low profile this autumn, as he demonstrated yesterday when he went fishing for media coverage using an obscene image for story bait.

In an email to reporters sent yesterday afternoon, Eyman engaged in quite a show of psychological projection, accusing King County Executive Dow Constantine of trying to “blackmail voters” by telling the truth about the impact of his initiatives on Washington and King County’s vital public services. Eyman further attacked Constantine as crass, manipulative, and wrong – all words that effectively describe both his inappropriate behavior and his destructive initiatives.

Constantine had delivered a speech unveiling his proposed budget earlier in the day in which he explained, as I have written many times here, that the days of backfilling are pretty much at an end, and the time of reckoning is fast approaching.

Constantine sensibly wants to prevent King County’s already underfunded and endangered human services from being totally eviscerate, which is why he called for the repeal of Tim Eyman’s Initiative 747 during his speech.

I-747, which slapped an artificial limit on property tax revenue, has been slowly choking the life out of everything from rural firehouses to urban health clinics for over a decade… and by the way, that’s exactly what it was designed to do.

Eyman is very fond of the “death by a thousand cuts” approach, because it masks the awful consequences of his initiatives, making it easier for him to claim that we can starve our common wealth without any adverse effects on public services. As I wrote last month, he personifies greed better than anyone else in Washington State; he is the definition of a snake oil salesman.

Constantine’s courageous call for the Legislature to repeal I-747 got Eyman’s attention, as did his proposal to send King County voters a levy to fund early childhood and youth services next year. Prompted by Constantine’s speech, Eyman decided to go fishing for media coverage by sending out an attack email with a false, derogatory subject line (“King County Exec Dow Constantine: “Pay higher property taxes or I’m throwing kids with diabetes under the bus”).

Along with his screed, Eyman enclosed a disgusting image of a woman holding a gun to a baby’s head, which he obtained from the Huffington Post. (If you click through to the HuffPost story, you can see the image; I’m not going to post it here, as I have no interest in making that filth more ubiquitous.)

Initially, no one took the bait. Sadly, this afternoon, KIRO 7’s Essex Porter decided to nibble, and sought an interview with Constantine.

Constantine declined to speak with Porter on camera, telling the station, “I won’t dignify an email depicting violence against children with a response. That has no place in civil debate. The science, however, is clear: investing in healthy children and communities can help every baby born and every child raised in King County get a strong start in life and enter adulthood ready to succeed.”

Porter also contacted Eyman to ask “if he had any moral compunctions about using such a violent image.” Eyman’s response? “I didn’t.” No surprise there: this is unfortunately par for the course for Tim. He will do anything for publicity, including dressing up in costume or hurling put-downs at elected leaders he doesn’t like. After all, what goes better with destructive initiatives than toxic politics?

Tim Eyman’s entire political career could be aptly summed up in three words: ugly, stinky, and disgusting. By the way, those are precisely the words Eyman used to describe his own behavior twelve and a half years ago, after he’d been caught taking money from his supporters for his personal use and then lying about it.

Here’s the good news: From what we can discern, Eyman’s indefensible behavior is starting to catch up with him. I am increasingly encountering Republicans who are unwilling to defend or support Eyman. They’ve started to realize what we’ve known all along: Eyman is a no good, double-crossing, manipulative charlatan who should not be trusted or taken seriously by anyone, anywhere.

Redmond communications outage shows how vulnerable our critical infrastructure is

This morning, at around at 9:30 AM Pacific Daylight Time, a construction crew working on a stormwater treatment project in NPI’s hometown of Redmond, Washington accidentally caused a major telecommunications outage for nearly six thousand customers of Frontier Communications (including yours truly) when they dug in the wrong place and severed vital fiber and copper wires.

The outage, which is still ongoing, has resulted in a total, catastrophic failure of Frontier’s Internet, television, and phone services in the Redmond area. Affected households and businesses are not able to connect to the Net, watch any FiOS channels, or place calls (even emergency calls) through Frontier’s infrastructure.

Frontier has technicians onsite and is working as fast as it can to restore service. A Frontier spokeswoman said the construction crew that was at fault caused “considerable damage”. There is no estimate of when service might be back up yet, but Frontier says its own people are working “nonstop”. Earlier this afternoon they were pulling materials needed for the repairs, according to Frontier’s Twitter feed.

The City of Redmond has also acknowledged the outage on its website and on Twitter. City personnel are working with Frontier to figure out what went wrong and how to get service back up for the thousands of people affected.

The outage is more than an inconvenience, particularly for those without cellular phone service, since it prevents them from calling 911 to summon first responders in the event of an emergency. The outage has stretched on for eight hours already, and it might not be resolved for many more hours.

No doubt the city and Frontier will investigate, and try to figure out how this happened. If the construction company is at fault (and it sounds like they were) there should be appropriate consequences.

But regardless of what the investigation uncovers, this and other incidents demonstrate that our critical infrastructure is more vulnerable than we might think.

In this case, one misguided construction crew was able to knock out Internet, phone, and television services for a sizeable fraction of the population of Washington’s nineteenth largest city merely by digging in the wrong place.

It’s sobering to think about what might happen to our critical infrastructure in the event of a natural disaster like an earthquake, or a human-caused calamity, like a terrorist attack. We are not as prepared for such events as we ought to be.

To minimize telecommunication service disruptions, we should look at improving redundancy along with implementing better shielding to protect our core fiber optic cables from being cut, either accidentally or purposefully.

Washington does participate in the Call Before You Dig initiative, as do Montana and Oregon, but that effort could use more awareness.

A large amount of traffic flows over the publicly and privately owned trunk lines in this region and across the United States. Their integrity matters.

At present, I am staying connected to the Internet through NPI’s wireless provider, so it’s business as usual. But if we didn’t have that redundancy, it wouldn’t be.

Redundancy is a very good thing, and can guard against all sorts of problems… from data loss and hard disk failure to connectivity disruptions. We need more of it.

Scotland says no to independence, yes to the United Kingdom in historic vote

After months of campaigning leading up to an unprecedented, history-making referendum on their country’s future, the people of Scotland have said no to independence and chosen to remain a part of the United Kingdom, according to unofficial counts released in thirty-one of thirty-two local jurisdictions.

As of around 10:30 PM Pacific Time on Thursday September 18th (September 19th British Time), the vote against independence stood at 1,914,187 (55%) and the vote for independence was 1,539,920 (44.58%). Turnout across Scotland was well above eighty percent, setting a new record for a standalone election.

The Better Together (No) campaign clinched its victory with the declaration of the vote in Fife, where 44.95% of voters favored independence and 55.05% were opposed, almost exactly mirroring Scotland as a whole.

Scotland’s two largest cities were divided on the question of independence. Glasgow, the largest, voted for an independent Scotland, while Edinburgh voted to stay with the United Kingdom. Dundee City, North Lanarkshire, and West Dunbartonshire also voted for independence. But all the other councils voted no.

(The council of Highland, which is geographically very large but somewhat small in terms of population, has yet to report any results.)

Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond, the face of the campaign for independence, stood before his supporters in Edinburgh to concede and remind the U.K.’s federal parties (the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats, and Labour) that his constituents would hold them to their pledges to grant it increased autonomy.

“The unionist parties made vows late in the campaign to devolve more powers to Scotland,” Salmond noted during his remarks.

“Scotland will expect these to be honoured in rapid course. As a reminder, we have been promised a second reading of a Scotland Bill by March 27th next year… All Scots who participated in this referendum will demand that timetable is followed.”

A short time later, Better Together leader Alistair Darling stood before his exuberant supporters in Glasgow to thank them and celebrate victory.

“The people of Scotland have spoken. We have chosen unity over division,” Darling said. Addressing the elated Better Together volunteers, he declared, “You represent the majority of opinion and your voices have been heard.”

He was interrupted remarks several times with raucous applause. “We’ve taken on the argument and we’ve won. The silent have spoken.”

(The Scotsman has posted Darling’s remarks in their entirety.)

On news of the outcome, the pound sterling jumped dramatically against the dollar and the euro, reflecting a sense of relief from abroad that the United Kingdom would not be breaking up within the next year and a half.

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron has said he will address the nation shortly (he already called Alistair Darling to congratulate the No campaign), and Buckingham Palace has confirmed that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will issue a statement commenting on the results as well. The queen, who is supposed to be above politics, took no public or official position on the referendum, though commentators have suggested that Britain’s royal family was privately hoping for a no vote.

UPDATE: David Cameron has delivered a statement in front of Number Ten Downing Street, praising the outcome of the vote and promising to deliver on promises to grant Scotland more autonomy within the next year. He also stressed that the United Kingdom’s other nations (Wales, England, Northern Ireland) should also have a greater say in the management of their affairs.

Cameron also tweeted, “I’ve just spoken to Alex Salmond, congratulating him on a hard-fought campaign. I’m delighted the SNP will join talks on further devolution.”

Supreme Court finds Legislature in contempt for failing to fully fund Washington’s schools

This morning, the Washington State Supreme Court unanimously found the State of Washington – and more specifically, the State Legislature – in contempt for failing to comply with its earlier rulings in the McCleary case, which found that the state is not fulfilling its paramount duty under Article IX to make ample provision for the education of all youth residing within Washington’s borders.

In a five-page order, the Court reprimanded lawmakers for not making enough progress towards fully funding the state’s public schools during the past two  sessions, which featured a divided Legislature. Said the Court:

The State has suggested throughout these proceedings that the court may be approaching its constitutional bounds and entering into political and policy matters reserved to the legislature.

But as the court has repeatedly stated, it does not wish to dictate the means by which the legislature carries out its constitutional responsibility or otherwise directly involve itself in the choices and trade-offs that are uniquely within the legislature’s purview.

Rather, the court has fulfilled its constitutional role to determine whether the State is violating constitutional commands, and having held that it is, the court has issued orders within its authority directing the State to remedy its violation, deferring to the legislature to determine the details.

These orders are not advisory or designed only to get the legislature’s “attention”; the court expects them to be obeyed even though they are directed to a coordinate branch of government.

When the orders are not followed, contempt is the lawful and proper means of enforcement in the orderly administration of justice.

Despite finding lawmakers to be in contempt of its January order requiring that a plan for compliance be submitted by April 30th, 2014, the Court said it would wait to impose sanctions until after the 2015 legislative session, to give the Legislature one final chance to make progress on its own.

The question remains whether sanctions are immediately warranted. The State has assured the court that education funding is the legislature’s top priority and that the legislature is determined to (and the State expects it to) take meaningful action in the 2015 budget session. In the interest of comity and continuing dialogue between the branches of government, the court accepts the State’s assurances that it will be compliant by the end of the 2015 session.

Thus, the court will not presently impose sanctions or other remedial measures, and will provide the State the opportunity to purge the contempt during the 2015 legislative session by complying with the court’s order. If the contempt is not purged by adjournment of the 2015 legislature, the court will reconvene and impose sanctions or other remedial measures.

In a statement issued after the release of the order, Governor Jay Inslee acknowledged that there is much work to be done to ensure that Washington’s youth are getting the education they deserve.

“Today, the state of Washington has been held in contempt for failing to provide the Supreme Court with the education funding plan it has ordered,” said Inslee. “This unprecedented action by the Supreme Court is a critical moment in our history. No one should be surprised, yet no one should minimize the court’s order.”

“I urged lawmakers to act this year and agreed with the Court that we must do more to adequately fund education, which I believe is both a constitutional and moral obligation. The Legislature now must act before it adjourns next year or face the yet to be determined sanctions,” the Governor added.

“If we are to succeed now, we will need the help of everyone in Washington State, not just one hundred and forty-seven lawmakers, as we rise to the challenge to avoid the court’s pending sanctions. My budget team has been hard at work crafting a plan to submit to the 2015 Legislature. I look forward to input from all Washingtonians and, most importantly, action from the Legislature.”

The Legislature has proved itself to be very adept at speedily providing Boeing with tax breaks, but when it comes to funding education and other vital public services, lawmakers have done little more than repeatedly backfill and procrastinate.

In November of 2007, the Supreme Court did lawmakers and Governor Gregoire a big favor by striking down Tim Eyman’s Initiative 747 as unconstitutional. I-747, enacted in 2007, set artificial restrictions on property taxes which had been (and still are) slowly choking the life out of many of Washington’s public services.

Gregoire’s response to the Court’s ruling was to ask the Legislature to reinstate the initiative in a one-day special session, instead of pursuing real tax reform. A major opportunity was wasted, and to this day, the Legislature has simply left I-747 in place. Promises to take up tax reform later were not kept, just as we had foreseen.

The phrase actions speak louder than words has appeared many times in the ten plus year history of this publication, the Cascadia Advocate, and that is because it is the standard by which we at NPI hold our elected leaders accountable. Unlike the Seattle Times editorial board, which only offers lip service and platitudes for education, we at NPI are all about the action. Actions are what matter to us.

We can see from our actions as a state that we have deliberately and repeatedly chosen not to abide by the plan of government our founders gave us.

Opportunities to tackle tax reform have been wasted. Tough fiscal decisions have been put off again and again in favor of budgets loaded with Band-Aids. Recent proposals to put more money into public education and improve our schools have been rejected, both by legislators and citizens, while unconstitutional schemes promoted by Tim Eyman to prevent the Legislature from democratically raising revenue have passed on several occasions.

These and other choices that we have made to date are unacceptable.

What the Court said in McCleary, what it said in League of Education Voters, and what it is saying again in its order today is that we have a duty to live by our Constitution as a people. We cannot ignore our obligations, which were established by our ancestors to ensure that future generations of Washingtonians honor the progressive values upon which our state was founded.

There is a reason why every person elected to the Washington State Legislature, the Washington State executive department, or the Washington State Supreme Court is required to swear or affirm an oath to support the Washington and United States Constitutions prior to assuming office. It’s because these documents spell out our rights and responsibilities as citizens of this country and state.

Our plan of government is our highest law. It protects majority rule and minority rights. It calls for free elections. It demands that we not shirk from taking care of each other. It has served us well since statehood.

The Supreme Court is doing its job by upholding the Constitution and insisting that public schools be funded, so that Washington’s youth receive the education they’re supposed to. Now it’s time for lawmakers – including the people of Washington, in their capacity as citizen lawmakers – to step up and do their jobs.

If significant, substantial, and meaningful progress is not made within the next six months, the Court ought to begin imposing sanctions. There needs to be consequences for further inaction and procrastination.

In memoriam, thirteen years later

Today is the thirteenth anniversary of the September 11th attacks, which destroyed New York’s World Trade Center, damaged the Pentagon, and claimed the lives of thousands of innocent Americans. In honor of those who died that day, we’re republishing a poem that we post annually here on The Cascadia Advocate.

New York's Twin Towers

Two thousand one, nine eleven
Two thousand plus arrive in heaven.
As they pass through the gate,
Thousands more appear in wait.
A bearded man with stovepipe hat
Steps forward saying, “Let’s sit, let’s chat.”

They settle down in seats of clouds,
A man named Martin shouts out proud,
“I have a dream!” and once he did
The Newcomer said, “Your dream still lives.”

Groups of soldiers in blue and gray
Others in khaki, and green then say
“We’re from Bull Run, Yorktown, the Maine”
The Newcomer said, “You died not in vain.”

From a man on sticks one could hear
“The only thing we have to fear…”
The Newcomer said, “We know the rest,
trust us sir, we’ve passed that test.”

“Courage doesn’t hide in caves.
You can’t bury freedom, in a grave.”
The Newcomers had heard this voice before
A distinct Yankee twang from Hyannisport shores.

A silence fell within the mist
Somehow the Newcomer knew that this
Meant time had come for her to say
What was in the hearts of the two thousand plus that day.

“Back on Earth, we wrote reports,
Watched our children play in sports
Worked our gardens, sang our songs
Went to church and clipped coupons
We smiled, we laughed, we cried, we fought
Unlike you, great we’re not”

The tall man in the stovepipe hat
Stood and said, “Don’t talk like that!
Look at your country, look and see
You died for freedom, just like me.”

Then, before them all appeared a scene
Of rubbled streets and twisted beams
Death, destruction, smoke and dust
And people working just ’cause they must

Hauling ash, lifting stones,
Knee deep in hell, but not alone
“Look! Blackman, Whiteman, Brownman, Yellowman
Side by side helping their fellow man!”
So said Martin, as he watched the scene
“Even from nightmares, can be born a dream.”

Down below three firemen raised
The colors high into ashen haze
The soldiers above had seen it before
On Iwo Jima back in ’44

The man on sticks studied everything closely
Then shared his perceptions on what he saw mostly
“I see pain, I see 20 tears,
I see sorrow – but I don’t see fear.”

“You left behind husbands and wives
Daughters and sons and so many lives
are suffering now because of this wrong
But look very closely. You’re not really gone.

All of those people, even those who’ve never met you
All of their lives, they’ll never forget you
Don’t you see what has happened?
Don’t you see what you’ve done?
You’ve brought them together as one.”

With that the man in the stovepipe hat said
“Take my hand,” and from there he led
two thousand plus heroes, Newcomers to heaven
On this day, two thousand one, nine eleven.

— by Paul Spreadbury, dedicated to the victims of September 11th

Today is Internet Slowdown Day: We’re standing up for a free and open Internet

Today, thousands of websites around the world – ranging from those belonging to big firms like Netflix to small nonprofits like NPI – are overlaying symbolic spinning wheels of death on top of their content to raise awareness of the need for net neutrality, the principle that all traffic on the Internet should be treated fairly and equally. It’s part of a joint action nicknamed Internet Slowdown Day.

Why are we doing this and why is net neutrality so important? Well, without net neutrality, companies like Comcast, AT&T and Verizon would have the power to decide what traffic could have priority. They could set up express lanes on the Internet for delivery of content and charge for speedy access, for instance.

To understand what they have in mind and why it would be so harmful, consider how cable television works now. There’s all these tiers: Companies like Comcast decide what goes into each package they want to sell. They pick the channels and set the prices. It’s take it or leave it. Typically, three or four packages are offered (basic, expanded, and premium… or in Comcast parlance, Starter, Preferred, and Premier). Each package costs more and includes access to extra channels.

To show customers on the lower tiers what they’re missing out on, cable and satellite companies even make sure that their on-screen channel guides contain a complete listing of all the channels they carry. When switching to a channel that is not included in the package (for instance, HBO or Showtime), a message is displayed prompting the user to call in to upgrade if they would like to get the channel.

Comcast and its fellow cable giants want to be able to create tiers on the Internet, too, but differentiated by speed and reliability, as opposed to access.

It is unlikely we would see a censorship regime (there would be a huge outcry if the likes of Comcast tried to charge everybody a toll or fee to put traffic through), but we could see traffic to certain websites being given preferential treatment.

That would create a very dangerous, problematic precedent, because the Internet has been operating under the principle of net neutrality since its inception. Net neutrality is what makes the Internet so open and democratic.

If companies like Comcast could legally practice discrimination, as they want to do, it’d still be possible to get to NPI’s website, but it might not load as fast as the websites of Google, Amazon, Microsoft, or Apple, who have deep pockets and could presumably afford to pay for inclusion in the uppermost tier.

The debate over net neutrality goes far beyond best practices for network management, though. Tim Wu, who coined the phase net neutrality, explains:

Most people have a rough sense that net neutrality is about the rules for Internet traffic; but the precise debates about regulatory authority and the rules themselves are abstruse.

Net neutrality has seized the moment because it is standing in for a national conversation about deeper values.

It is, among other things, a debate about opportunity—or more precisely, the Internet as another name for it.

The Web’s famous openness to anyone with vision, persistence, and minimal cash recalls the geographic frontiers of earlier America and the technological frontiers of the twentieth century, as in industries like radio and early computing. As such, the mythology of the Internet is not dissimilar to that of America, or any open country—as a place where anyone with passion or foolish optimism might speak his or her piece or open a business and see what happens.

No success is guaranteed, but anyone gets to take a shot. That’s what free speech and a free market look like in practice rather than in theory.

There’s a lot at stake here. The Internet has served as a launching pad for thousands of ventures, from commercial to philanthropic to political, like NPI. Some, like Google and Amazon, have become Fortune 500 companies. The Internet is incredibly democratic; it was designed to foster two-way communication. It is vital that the principles on which the Internet was founded and continue to operate be enshrined into law, so that it remains democratic, open, and free.

We invite you to join us in standing up for the Internet today. Send an email, write a letter, or make a call to your U.S. representative and your U.S. senators, as well as the Federal Communications Commission. Add your voice to all the others calling for net neutrality. Together, we can beat the cable companies and their armies of lobbyists, and ensure the Internet is defended.

Tim Eyman wants $2.2 million for statewide initiative to repeal $15/hour minimum wage

Remember back in June when Tim Eyman filed a statewide initiative to prevent cities like Seattle from raising the minimum wage above the level set by state law?

Several media outlets, including the Puget Sound Business Journal, erroneously assumed – and then wrongfully reported – that Eyman was already collecting signatures for the measure, when in fact all he had done was attach his name to somebody else’s bad idea as a publicity stunt.

(As we subsequently pointed out, it’s actually not possible to begin collecting signatures for any initiative until it has been assigned a number, ballot title and ballot summary. That hadn’t happened at the time those reports were published).

The following day (June 5th), after reporters had noticed the initiative, Eyman sent out an email explaining that he was “doing research and development”.

Said Eyman:

As for [sic] our Fair and Uniform Minimum Wage Initiative is concerned, our goal is to illustrate to the small business owners and other concerned citizens a smart, effective initiative proposal that gives everyone in Washington a voice in the economic future of our state. For those interested, we have attached the final text for it.

Later in June, as it became apparent that Eyman’s I-1325 was headed for the dustbin and would not qualify for the November 2014 ballot, we began hearing that Eyman was approaching people opposed to the minimum wage increase approved in Seattle and SeaTac, and trying to involve himself in their efforts to seek its repeal. More recently, however, we received concrete evidence – in the form of a memo – that Eyman wants to spearhead a combined effort himself.

This memo, which The Seattle Post-Intelligencer‘s Joel Connelly reported on a couple of days ago, reads like a poorly written investment prospectus. Its target audience is representatives of lobbying groups and businesspeople with access to money. It asks for $1.1 million to qualify the aforementioned scheme to prevent cities from setting their own minimum wages as an initiative to the Legislature, and another $1.1 million to sell the initiative to the voters, assuming it gets on the ballot.

It begins as follows:

August 18th, 2014

To: Supporters of the Fair & Uniform Minimum Wage Initiative PAC
From: Tim Eyman

Here’s our situation in Washington state:

PROBLEM: The $15 minimum wage has been passed in SeaTac, Seattle, and Port of Seattle and continues to spread (Tacoma, Olympia, Bellingham, and other cities). The good guys have been fighting back city-by-city. They’ve failed every time. A legislative bill in Olympia on state preemption was introduced last session and it went nowhere.

SOLUTION: A statewide initiative to the Legislature has been already been filed by Fernando Neuenschwander of Seattle. The signature drive for it can begin immediately – its ballot title reads: This measure would require the minimum wage to be uniform and consistent statewide for the employees of all employers subject to Washington’s Minimum Wage Act, and prohibit any conflicting local minimum wage requirements. Should this measure be enacted into law? Yes [ ] No [ ].

Just to reiterate, the sentence “prohibit any conflicting local minimum wage requirements” in the ballot title excerpted above means prevent cities like Seattle and SeaTac from setting higher minimum wages. It is the latest in a long line of Eyman initiatives that assail home rule and local control.

It should be noted that in the case of SeaTac, the minimum wage was increased by popular vote, whereas in Seattle, public opinion research shows that the ordinance passed by the city council and signed by Mayor Ed Murray is popular.

Why, exactly, is Eyman so bent on overturning the will of the people (and the people’s representatives) in jurisdictions where he doesn’t even reside?

The answer is simple: He sees an opportunity to make a nice pile of money and get back in the business community’s good graces after burning them two years ago, when he reportedly used money intended for I-1185 to qualify I-517.

It is ironic that Eyman is seeking to profit from a running an initiative that would cut the pay of thousands of Washingtonians. If there is anyone left who still wrongly thinks that Tim Eyman is a champion for the common man, they ought to read this memo. Eyman is nothing but a charlatan. He masquerades as a populist in public while courting businesses and their lobbyists as clients.

And with this latest gambit, he wants to make big bucks while rolling back the hard-won gains of some of Washington’s lowest-paid workers. No inhabitant of the State of Washington personifies greed better than Tim Eyman does.

In the next part of the memo, Eyman claims that in order to be successful, he needs lots of money, and he needs it fast:

TIMELINE: We have from now until the end of the December to collect the necessary signatures (the public vote on it will be November, 2015). However, this signature drive has to be done quickly. The Seattle referendum failed to qualify because the business groups pushing it made a rookie mistake: their fundraising was deathly slow, putting the signature drive on a slow roll-out, giving the SEIU and other opponents time to counterattack with blockers (people who stand around the petitioner and scare away signers). That radically drove up their costs and eventually shut down their signature drive. Our plan is to have our signature drive start on September 1 and end on October 31. That gives opponents very little time to react. But since it is a “pedal to the metal” strategy, it requires all funding to be available upfront.

COST: $2.2 million. $1.1 million for the fall 2014 signature drive, minimum $1.1 million for the fall 2015 campaign.

Actually, the main reason the signature drive for the Seattle referendum ended in failure was that there were a very high number of invalid and fraudulent signatures submitted by the petitioners who were hired to gather the signatures.

The firm that employed those petitioners and was awarded the contract to run the signature drive for Forward Seattle is none other than Citizen Solutions, the troubled company operated by Eyman’s buddy Roy Ruffino, and the same that Eyman has used for years for his initiatives’ signature drives.

No doubt Eyman is planning to give Citizen Solutions the contract for the statewide initiative he is attempting to sell in this memo – or arrange for them to get it.

The memo provides no details on how the $2.2 million that Eyman is requesting would be spent. Tellingly, there is no budget and no campaign plan (which a true political professional would offer as part of a pitch to a prospective client).

And that’s because this is a scam.

$1.1 million is a lot of money – a lot more than would be needed to run a signature drive for a statewide initiative, particularly one that begins so far advance of the deadline to submit signatures and doesn’t face competition from other campaigns for petitioner labor. How do we know? Because we’ve been watchdogging Tim Eyman’s initiative factory and investigating the shady, underground signature gathering industry for over twelve years.

We know from talking to petitioners and crew chiefs involved with I-1185 and I-517 two years ago that they were only being paid a dollar a signature, and that was for a drive that didn’t start until springtime. Sherry Bockwinkel’s PDC complaint alleging lawbreaking on the part of Eyman’s I-517 campaign committee was even accompanied by signed affidavits attesting to this.

We can see from looking at PDC records that more than $1.2 million was spent by the I-1185 campaign. Of that, $1,173,324.99 went to Citizen Solutions.

But there’s no way that the signature drive actually cost that much.

Again, we know that petitioners were being paid $1.00 a signature by Rob Harwig, Citizen Solutions’ main subcontractor – ultimately, seventy-five cents for a I-1185 signature and twenty-five cents for a I-517 signature.

The Secretary of State reported that 320,003 signatures were submitted for I-1185. If, for the sake of argument, we assume the signature drive had overhead of twenty-five percent (twenty-five cents a signature) – which seems awfully high – we end up with a total cost of $400,003.75. Even if we assume there was an additional $100,000 in overhead, that still leaves over half a million dollars unaccounted for.

What happened to the rest of the $1,173,324.99? Where did it go? We know it didn’t go to the petitioners. Perhaps some went to the subcontractors.

But most of the money, we suspect, ended up in the pockets of Tim Eyman, Roy Ruffino, and Eddie “Spaghetti” Agazarm. It seems they all made out like bandits from that campaign. And now, they want to do it again.

No person or business who cares about what happens to their money should give Tim Eyman so much as a cent. Eyman has proven time and again that he is completely unworthy of anyone’s trust.

Twelve and a half years ago, we found out Eyman had been helping himself to his campaign’s bank account, taking donations for his own personal use, and then repeatedly lying about it. The Public Disclosure Commission investigated, concluded Eyman broke the law, and asked Attorney General Chris Gregoire to take Eyman to court, which she did. Eyman subsequently settled with the state, paying a $50,000 fine and agreeing never again to serve as campaign treasurer.

That incident should have ended Tim Eyman’s political career and scared off anyone from giving to him. But unfortunately, it didn’t.

Eyman’s fundraising did suffer, preventing him from qualifying an initiative to the ballot the following year (2003) but Eyman rebounded in 2004 by convincing the gambling industry to fund an initiative that would have legalized electronic slot machines outside of tribal reservations. It was soundly rejected by voters.

As the I-892 campaign was being waged, Eyman found a new wealthy benefactor who would go on to provide the vast majority of the money for his next five initiatives: investment banker Michael Dunmire. In 2010, with Dunmire unwilling or unable to continue providing more than three-fourths of the money Eyman needed to buy his way onto the ballot, he turned to the Association of Washington Business, which acted as a bundler for I-1053 that year and I-1185 two years later.

In between, in 2011, Eyman qualified an anti-light rail, anti-tolling initiative to the ballot with Kemper Freeman’s money, which voters defeated.

There have been two other notable instances when Eyman made pacts with other interests to spearhead ballot measures, using their money and resources and acting as the salesman. The first was in 2000, when, in addition to qualifying I-722 to the ballot (I-722 sought to impose restrictions on property taxes), Eyman worked with the asphalt pavers’ lobby to qualify I-745 for the ballot. I-745 attempted to redirect ninety percent of transportation funding to road-building and highway expansion. It was the first Eyman initiative to be defeated by voters.

In 2006, Eyman teamed up with fundamentalist theocons like Ken Hutcherson (the founder of the Antioch Bible Church) to push a referendum seeking to overturn Washington’s historic new law banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. However, it failed to make the ballot.

Remarkably, so did Eyman’s other scheme that year – Initiative 917, which sought to repeal vehicle weight fees enacted as part of the 2005 Transportation Package.

I say remarkably because I-917 was the second of the five aforementioned initiatives underwritten by Michael Dunmire and the only Eyman initiative to fail to qualify due to mismanagement as opposed to lack of resources.

Eyman had the money to buy his way on to the ballot (he had access to Dunmire’s checkbook), but inexplicably, he did not collect enough extra signatures to ensure I-917 had a cushion to offset invalid and duplicate signatures.

However, he claimed he had.

On turn-in day, Eyman announced he had submitted 300,353 signatures. But after tallying up the signatures on all the petitions they had – twice! – the Secretary of State said that only 266,034 signatures had been submitted.

The question now was whether enough of those signatures were valid. To find out, the Secretary of State was forced to undertake (at taxpayer expense!) a full check of all the submitted signatures, as opposed to a random sample check.

Eyman accused the Secretary of State of “pilfering” nonexistent petitions, ostensibly to shift blame away from himself and his associates. But no one bought this story, not even people sympathetic to Eyman’s cause. (Conservative talk show host John Carlson had to urge Eyman to stop making baseless allegations against the Secretary of State’s office, held then and now by a Republican.)

Eyman was forced to admit that neither he nor his associates had made photocopies of the petitions before submitting them, or kept any records that would authenticate his claims. They had weighed the boxes the petitions were kept in, but they wrote the numbers on the boxes, which were recycled. (Some professional!)

A few weeks later, we caught Eyman in yet another lie after we compared a letter Eyman had sent to his supporters in August trying to explain I-917’s problems with contradictory emails and public statements made at a press conference in June.

Given Eyman’s long history of lying, repeatedly flouting our state’s public disclosure laws, and running sloppy, unprofessional campaigns, he ought to have been reduced to a political pariah a long time ago. Sadly, he’s managed to keep his lucrative initiative factory going by persuading people to write big checks to him.

That didn’t happen this year, which is wonderful, but an Eyman-free ballot needs to become the norm, not the exception to the norm.

As I said above, no one, no matter their political ideology, should trust Tim Eyman or give Tim Eyman money to do anything. Anyone who has received this memo from Eyman, along with phone calls and emails asking for money, should politely respond with a strong, firm, “No thanks, Tim. We’re not interested.”

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