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.

Washington’s Senate Republicans pass bill transferring education funding to highways

Proving once again that their Fund education first rhetoric is nothing but a false front, Republicans today pushed a bill through the Washington State Senate that transfers sales tax revenue collected on transportation projects out of the state’s general fund and into its highway fund. Since the general fund principally pays for our schools and universities, the bill would effectively take money away from education and put it towards laying asphalt instead.

The final vote on SSB 5990 was twenty-six to twenty-three, with all Republicans voting aye and all Republicans voting nay. The bill now heads to the House, where it will hopefully receive the full and complete burial that it deserves.

The roll call was as follows:

Voting Yea: Senators Angel, Bailey, Baumgartner, Becker, Benton, Braun, Brown, Dammeier, Dansel, Ericksen, Fain, Hewitt, Hill, Honeyford, King, Litzow, Miloscia, O’Ban, Padden, Parlette, Pearson, Rivers, Roach, Schoesler, Sheldon, Warnick

Voting Nay: Senators Billig, Chase, Cleveland, Conway, Darneille, Fraser, Frockt, Habib, Hargrove, Hasegawa, Hatfield, Hobbs, Jayapal, Keiser, Kohl-Welles, Liias, McAuliffe, McCoy, Mullet, Nelson, Pedersen, Ranker, Rolfes

Prior to the vote on final passage, Senate Democrats tried to get the bill amended to prohibit it from taking effect until after the McCleary case has been fully resolved.

The Senate Republicans voted the amendment down, drawing a pointed rejoinder from Democratic Senator Pramila Jayapal of Seattle.

“How can the Republican majority claim education funding is their top priority, and yet blow a billion dollar hole in already limited resources?” said Jayapal, who offered the amendment with fellow Democrat Rosemary McAuliffe. “This is bad for our kids, bad for our infrastructure, and it is simply irresponsible governing.”

“Legislators on both sides of the aisle came into this session in agreement that our top priority must be meeting our moral and constitutional obligation to our kids while also ensuring that we maintain the other essential services that the state provides, from funding higher education to safety net services,” Jayapal added.

“Without any agreement on where the dollars will come from to fund the needs we currently know we have, this bill gives us an even more giant problem to solve. The readiness to forgo such a reasonable compromise on something that would ensure that we fund both education and transportation makes me question how willing the Senate Republicans will be to come up with balanced solutions on education funding and the state budget in the weeks to come.”

Today’s action by Senate Republicans reminds us of a speech that Patty Murray used to give, back when she was running for reelection to her third term in the United States Senate. Denouncing the actions of the Bush administration and the Republican-controlled Congress, she’d declare: They’ve got the wrong priorities!

Eleven years later, not much has changed. When Republicans hold power, they either govern irresponsibly, or not at all. Our country and state suffer as a result.

The Washington Supreme Court has already held the Legislature in contempt of court for failing to comply with its orders to fully fund our public schools. Senate Republicans have now thumbed their noses at that order by indefensibly voting to take money away from our schools and earmark it for new pavement. Because, as far as they’re concerned, nothing is too good for our cars. Never mind our kids.

VICTORY!!! FCC votes to adopt strong Net Neutrality rules to protect the Internet

Organized money may be an increasingly powerful force in America and American politics, but today, organized people beat organized money to secure a historic, vital victory for Internet freedom in the United States of America.

Just minutes ago, the Federal Communications Commission’s Democratic majority voted to adopt strong net neutrality rules that will keep the Internet open and free for years to come. The FCC’s order emphatically codifies into law the principles that the Internet was founded upon many years ago.

The new rules, which classify broadband like the public utility it is, explicitly bar service providers like Comcast and Verizon from blocking, throttling, or prioritizing Internet traffic in exchange for money or consideration of any kind.

  • No Blocking: Broadband providers may not block access to legal content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices.
  • No Throttling: Providers may not impair or degrade lawful Internet traffic on the basis of content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices.
  • No Paid Prioritization: Broadband providers may not favor some lawful Internet traffic over other lawful traffic in exchange for consideration of any kind—in other words, no “fast lanes.”

The Commission’s two Republican members predictably voted no, after voicing their dissent on behalf of the Republican Party’s corporate masters.

But they were soundly rebuffed by Democratic FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler.

I am incredibly proud of the process the Commission has run in developing today’s historic open Internet protections,” Wheeler said in his statement. “I say that not just as the head of this agency, but as a U.S. citizen. Today’s Open Internet Order is a shining example of American democracy at work.”

Acknowledging the more than four million Americans who wrote in to the FCC – nearly all of whom called for strong net neutrality rules – he added, “It should not be surprising the public engaged like never before, because the stakes of the debate before the Commission have never been higher.”

Today, we better enable millions to tell their stories, reach their potential and realize their American ideals,” said Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, who stressed that reclassifying broadband as a utility will not cause problems for ISPs.

“Lest we forget, over seven hundred small broadband providers in rural America offer broadband Internet access pursuant to the full panoply of Title II regulation,” she reminded her colleagues. “They contribute to universal service and, amazingly, the sky has not fallen and things are okay. We have not regulated their rates, and I am unaware of any stream of class action lawsuits. Even so, the item does assert primary jurisdiction to reduce such concerns.”

“Sustaining what has made us innovative, fierce, and creative should not be a choice — it should be an obligation,” agreed Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel.

“We also have a duty—a duty to protect what has made the Internet the most dynamic platform for free speech ever invented. It is our printing press. It is our town square. It is our individual soapbox – and our shared platform for opportunity. That is why open Internet policies matter. That is why I support network neutrality.”

“We cannot have a two-tiered Internet with fast lanes that speed the traffic of the privileged and leave the rest of us lagging behind. We cannot have gatekeepers who tell us what we can and cannot do and where we can and cannot go online.”

“And we do not need blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization schemes that undermine the Internet as we know it.”

As expected, the FCC’s vote was immediately met with the promise of a legal challenge from the lobbyists and lawyers who represent the likes of Verizon and Comcast. Publicly, the telecommunications lobby is suggesting it is ready to go to court again, and confident that the courts will overturn the rules.

Privately, the telecommunications lobby is seething. After all, this wasn’t supposed to happen. The FCC’s previous attempts to protect the Internet, which produced weak net neutrality rules, ended in failure because Verizon contested them in federal court and won. The courts made it clear to the FCC that if it wanted to use its authority to protect the Internet, it needed to adopt a sound regulatory framework. And that’s just what the FCC has now done.

The delicious irony is, Verizon, AT&T, and Comcast’s greed helped pave the way for today’s great victory. They didn’t want even weak net neutrality rules on the books, so they took the FCC to court and got the rules championed by previous Chairman Julius Genachowski thrown out. That forced the FCC to reconsider its approach.

Genacowski blew an opportunity to stand up to the telecommunications lobby and adopt strong net neutrality rules during his tenure as Chairman.

That legacy will instead belong to Tom Wheeler, who summoned the courage to stand up to the very lobby he used to work for. (Wheeler previously served as President of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association and CEO of the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association.)

Thanks to Wheeler, who listened to the voices of the American people (ably channeled by President Barack Obama last November), we have stronger rules in place… rules that have a much better chance of surviving legal scrutiny.

Words can’t describe what a huge victory this is. Other champions for net neutrality have called it unthinkable and unimaginable. The FCC has been on the wrong path for so long that it seemed like strong net neutrality rules were an impossible dream. But we’ve got them. They’re here. They’re real.

This victory belongs to those who never gave up – to those who were determined to make what seemed impossible possible.

We at NPI are can-do people; we always have been and we always will be. We reject cynicism. Negativity and bitterness do not yield meaningful progressive change. We have always believed that strong net neutrality could happen and needed to happen. And now that is has, we rejoice in our success along with the many other wonderful organizations that have worked on this noble cause for so long.

We are particularly grateful for the work and advocacy of Sir Tim Berners-Lee, John Oliver and the writers of Last Week Tonight, Tim Karr, Craig Aaron and the team at FreePress, Fight for the Future, Becky Bond and the team at CREDO, Democracy for America, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, MoveOn, Mozilla, Reddit, Tumblr, Daily Kos, and Color of Change. All those people and organizations had a hand in this victory and we are very appreciative of their efforts.

Internet Freedom Day is here… let’s celebrate!

U.S. Representative Derek Kilmer to speak at NPI’s 2015 Spring Fundraising Gala

Tonight, we are very pleased and excited to announce that U.S. Representative Derek Kilmer will be the opening speaker at our seventh Spring Fundraising Gala, which will take place April 10th at the Mercer Island Community & Event Center.

U.S. Representative Derek KilmerFirst elected to the U.S. House in 2012, Congressman Kilmer represents Washington’s 6th Congressional District, which includes the Olympic Peninsula and most of the Kitsap Peninsula. It is a beautiful district, home to rugged mountains and majestic beaches, many of which are protected as part of our nation’s sixth most-visited national park (as of 2014).

Prior to his election to Congress, Kilmer represented the 26th District (south Kitsap and north Pierce counties) in the Washington State Legislature, most recently as a state senator.

Representative Kilmer has already distinguished himself in Congress by working on legislation to mitigate the corrupting influence of money in politics.

As his office explained in a news release published back in January:

From his first days in Congress Kilmer has been a strong proponent for campaign finance reform. The Close the Floodgates Act was originally introduced by Kilmer in December.

Kilmer is a sponsor of the DISCLOSE Act to bring transparency to the election process by uncovering campaign-related spending by outside groups and corporations and an amendment to the Constitution to overturn Supreme Court decisions on campaign finance and clarify the role Congress plays in setting limits on campaign financing.

He’s also pushing for Congress to take up and pass the Government by the People Act to magnify the impact of small-dollar contributions.

Representative Kilmer has also been a dependable advocate for Native American tribes. Following his arrival in our nation’s capital, he introduced the Housing Native Heroes Act (to help homeless Native American veterans) and the Adoption Tax Credit Tribal Parity Act (to allow families who adopt Native American children with special needs to receive a tax credit that other families are already eligible for).

Following his reelection to Congress, Representative Kilmer was named to the House’s powerful Appropriations Committee, which his predecessor Norm Dicks (often jokingly referred to as Washington’s third senator) served on for years.

Representative Kilmer is a funny and engaging speaker, and we’re delighted to have him as part of our speaking program this year. We hope you can join us on April 10th. If you haven’t yet bought your ticket to our 2015 Spring Fundraising Gala yet, we urge you to do so now using one of the buttons below.

A household ticket admits all the members of an immediate family and is a good value if you plan to attend with your spouse or children. (The gala is a family-friendly event, and young people of all ages are welcome!).

These are our ticket rates:

  • Individual ($70, admits one person)
  • Household ($100, admits an entire family)
  • Living Lightly ($25, for students and activists on limited incomes)

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Click above to buy a ticket using a credit card.

Here’s what else you can expect at our 2015 Spring Fundraising Gala:

  • A full dinner buffet with vegetarian and vegan choices
  • Beer and wine selections from our cash bar
  • Opportunities to mingle with fellow activists and elected leaders
  • A chance to win a scrumptious dessert for your table at our second annual Dessert Dash, organized by our Host Committee
  • A family-friendly atmosphere

If you’d like to RSVP for the gala on Facebook, you can do so here.

Students who want to volunteer to help put on the event can get in the door free. If you’re interested in volunteering, please get in touch with us.

In the weeks to come, we’ll be sharing more details about our 2015 gala, including the names of our other speakers. We hope you’ll help us make our biggest event of the year a success by buying your ticket and committing to attend.

See you on April 10th!

Port dispute at an end? ILWU says tentative agreement reached on new contract with PMA

A dispute between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA), a group of West Coast terminal operators, is at an end following successful negotiations on a new contract, the parties say.

“After more than nine months of negotiations, we are pleased to have reached an agreement that is good for workers and for the industry,” said PMA President James McKenna and ILWU President Bob McEllrath in a joint statement (PDF). “We are also pleased that our ports can now resume full operations.”

No details are being released at this time.

ILWU locals have already begun communicating the news to their members.

“Tonight, the ILWU and PMA reached a tentative agreement on a Coastwide Contract,” one local (Local 13, based in Southern California) announced on its website. “There will be more information relayed to the membership by the Coast Committee, Negotiating Committee and your Local Officers as soon as possible in accordance with the Coast Longshore Division By-Laws.”

The San Francisco Chronicle quoted ILWU spokesman Craig Merrilees as saying, “The agreement was unanimously approved by the negotiating committee — and they’d go to work tonight if they could.”

Elected officials hailed the announcement. Nearly every statement we’ve received thus far begins by calling the settlement “great news”.

“This is great news for the parties involved in the negotiation and a huge relief for our economy – particularly the countless American workers, farmers, and businesses that have been affected by the dispute and those facing even greater disruption and costs with further delays,” said White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest.

“Helping resolve this dispute has been a top priority, and last weekend the President directed Labor Secretary Tom Perez to travel to California to meet with the parties to help them reach a resolution because further delays would have been harmful to these workers and the economy.”

“The President was kept updated on the negotiations over the past several weeks, including receiving an update last night from Secretary Perez. The President is grateful to Secretary Perez for his hard work bringing about a successful resolution to this dispute, and for the help of federal mediator Scot Beckenbaugh.  And he calls on the parties to work together to clear out the backlogs and congestion in the West Coast Ports as they finalize their agreement”

“This is great news for businesses and port workers all along the West Coast,” said Washington Governor Jay Inslee in a statement sent to NPI.

“I want to thank the ILWU and the PMA for finding an agreement in principle tonight to settle the dispute that was damaging Washington’s economy. I also want to thank President Obama and Labor Secretary Perez for stepping in and helping get the parties to reach an agreement. I expect we will soon see Washington’s ports once again playing their essential role in our economy.”

Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia voiced similar sentiments.

“Getting this deal done means our ports and our national economy will start moving again. This settlement is great news for our west coast ports, our local workforce, and businesses around the country,” he said.

“I want to personally thank the President and the Secretary of Labor for their effective intervention and leadership in helping the parties reach a resolution. I also want to thank my colleagues, the port city mayors, for their persistent engagement in this process, and the shippers and dockworkers for reaching this agreement.”

“Washington state’s ports play a critical role in creating jobs and growing the local economy, so I am glad that this agreement in principle was reached tonight to keep workers on the job and provide certainty for families and businesses,” said Washington’s senior U.S. Senator, Patty Murray. “I appreciate the commitment of the ILWU and the PMA to stay at the table and keep working until they reached an agreement, and I am very thankful to President Obama and Secretary Perez for their work helping the two sides come together to get this done.”

Media reports suggested that the final sticking point between the PMA and ILWU concerned provisions in the contract related to arbitration. Apparently that question has been settled to the mutual satisfaction of the ports and the union.

The agreement must be ratified by the ILWU’s membership as well as the PMA before it becomes final. The ILWU, founded in 1937, represents over thirty-seven thousand workers in the Pacific Coast states as well as British Columbia, Canada.

This post will be updated with more reaction as we get it.

Tables at NPI’s 2015 Spring Fundraising Gala to be named after great progressive leaders

Late February is the time of year when many Northern Hemisphere dwellers like to say that spring is right around the corner. For those of us living west of the Cascades here in the Pacific Northwest, it feels like spring has already arrived, with the unusually warm temperatures we’ve been experiencing. The other day, my thermometer registered sixty-eight degrees Fahrenheit!

Real spring is not far behind: The vernal equinox, which is considered to be the first official day of spring, is only a month away. Our 2015 Spring Fundraising Gala is also fast approaching; it’ll take place just seven weeks from today.

Putting the gala together requires a lot of preparation, and the team at NPI has been hard at work getting everything ready for a great evening, including the Dessert Dash. That’s perhaps the most fun part of the event.

During the Dessert Dash, tables compete for the opportunity to visit our desserts table first, which is filled with delicious sweets.

Last year, the desserts table included a rhubarb pie baked by First Lady Trudi Inslee (whose pies are quite renowned!), several delightful confectioneries made by Montlake Mousse, and an array of home-baked treats.

There was something for everyone to enjoy – and there will be again this year, too.

We will also be adding individual servings of gluten free desserts, so that table runners can bring back a tasty treat for anyone at their table with a gluten or wheat sensitivity. (The dinner buffet will also have vegetarian options.)

As we were working on preparations for the Dessert Dash, we got to thinking, wouldn’t it be nice if the tables had names this year?

After all, number systems can get boring.

So we’ve decided to give our tables names this year. Every one of our tables will honor a great American progressive who has worked to make this country a better place. Our initial list of progressive activist leaders consists of six men and six women, including men and women of color.

During their lives, these progressives worked on a diverse range of noble causes, from environmental protection to civil rights to economic justice.

We are proud to honor them. Here they are!

  • Martin Luther King, Jr.: A man who needs no introduction to any of us. MLK is one of the greatest civil rights leaders in human history.
  • César Chávez: Cofounder of the National Farm Workers Association (later the United Farm Workers). Perhaps the country’s best known Latino civil rights activist, he helped improve working conditions for immigrant laborers.
  • Harvey Milk: A pioneer for LGBT rights, Harvey Milk was the first openly gay American elected to public office in the United States (the San Francisco Board of Supervisors). He is known for his Hope Speech.
  • John Muir: Founder of the Sierra Club and an ardent conservationist. His writings and activism continue to inspire us to protect our wild and majestic places more than a hundred years following his death.
  • Scott White: A former co-chair of the King County Democratic Legislative Action Committee, state representative, and state senator who died far too young. A staunch advocate for transit, Scott represented the best of us and was one of the first legislators to sponsor NPI’s Spring Fundraising Gala.
  • Warren Magnuson: Maggie, as he was nicknamed, served three decades in the U.S. Senate, representing Washington State. His legacy includes the Magnuson Amendment, which protects Puget Sound from oil supertankers, and the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
  • Rachel Carson: Author of the classic book Silent Spring and considered by many to be the mother of the modern environmental movement. Her work showed Americans that pollution kills.
  • Rosa Parks: Widely acknowledged as the First Lady of Civil Rights, Rosa Parks’ refusal to move to the back of the bus in 1955 was a defining moment in the effort to desegregate America.
  • Ruth Fisher: A legendary Democratic state legislator who believed in multimodal transportation and authored the legislation that created the Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority (Sound Transit). Without Ruth Fisher, there would be no Sound Transit and no Link light rail system.
  • Lynn Allen: One of NPI’s founding board members, who we tragically lost to ovarian cancer four years ago. A tireless champion for improving the well-being of our region’s rural communities.
  • Margaret Sanger: The creator of the organization that eventually became Planned Parenthood, and a courageous advocate of access to contraceptives for pregnancy prevention.
  • Ida B. Wells: A gifted investigative journalist and early women’s rights leader who documented lynchings during the Gilded Age and Progressive Era.

We will be announcing our first gala speaker next week. Until then, you can buy a ticket at our special early-bird rates. There are three ticket rates:

  • Individual ($70, temporarily discounted to $55; admits one person.)
  • Household ($100, temporarily discounted to $85; admits an entire family.)
  • Living Lightly ($25, temporarily discounted to $20; this rate is for students and activists on limited incomes.)

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We do offer complimentary tickets for NPI members who are willing to donate labor to the event. If you wish to volunteer, contact us and let us know.

We hope to see you on April 10th!

Bellevue Mayor Claudia Balducci announces campaign for King County Council, District 6

King County suburban politics got a lot less boring today with Bellevue Mayor Claudia Balducci’s announcement that she is giving up her seat on the Bellevue City Council to challenge Republican Jane Hague for King County Council’s 6th District.

The 6th District encompasses Kirkland, most of Bellevue, Mercer Island, part of Redmond, the Points communities, and Medina. Data shows it votes heavily for Democrats in federal level elections, as well as state level elections. But it has been represented by Hague, a Republican, for decades.

The Democratic Party has long been interested in capturing the 6th, but has not been able to field a formidable candidate.

Two cycles ago, in 2007, the party didn’t have anyone lined up to run, and so, when perennial candidate Richard Pope put his name forward for the Democratic nomination at the last minute, he ended up as the only candidate with a D next to his name on the ballot. The King County Democrats subsequently found a candidate they liked to run as a write-in, Brad Larssen, but Pope defeated Larssen in the primary. He went on to lose the general election to Jane Hague, 57% to 39%.

(2007 was the last year that Washington held an actual primary for state or local office, as opposed to the Top Two system we have now).

In the weeks leading up to the general election, Hague suffered a round of bad publicity when it was reported that she had been arrested for driving under the influence. But as the Democratic Party didn’t have a respected candidate running against her, it didn’t end up weighing her down much.

In 2011, the party did field a challenger… lawyer Richard Mitchell, formerly counsel to Governor Chris Gregoire. Mitchell ran a credible campaign and even picked up the early endorsement of The Seattle Times, only to lose the paper’s support for the general election following his decision to send out misleading attack mailers against Hague. He finished with 45.62% of the vote, to Hague’s 54%.

Balducci is unquestionably a formidable candidate. She has been elected to the Bellevue City Council several times – and Bellevue makes up a significant portion of the 6th District. She has experience serving on the Sound Transit Board of Directors. She is well versed in regional politics. She has already has raised $15,000 to start her campaign, and secured the early endorsements of Congressman Adam Smith, State Senator Cyrus Habib, and State Representative Ross Hunter.

“We live in a dynamic, diverse, and growing region,” Balducci said in a press release. “It’s time for new leaders who reflect the priorities and potential of the Eastside. In my experience as a local official, transit leader and mom, I’ll bring new ideas and energy to the Council, helping to make sure our voices and values are reflected in critical areas of policy and planning.”

Hague has indicated to Kirkland Views that she plans to run again, and told the Seattle Times today she is “excited” about the prospect of facing Balducci.

We’re excited, too, because this means that Seattle won’t be the only jurisdiction with competitive races in 2015. The special election in the 30th District for state representative and the race for King County Council’s 6th District look like they will be the marquee races outside of Seattle this year.

Balducci’s decision to run for King County Council will actually result in two competitive Eastside races, not just one.

That’s because she has to give up her position on the Bellevue City Council to run. Open seats tend to attract candidates, as we are already seeing in Seattle this year.

Three other King County Councilmembers are also up for election this year. All of them are Democrats: Larry Gossett, Larry Phillips, and Joe McDermott. They represent districts that are considered safely Democratic, so even if any were to retire, the political makeup of the Council would not change.

Officially, the King County Council is nonpartisan, but unofficially, it’s still as partisan as it always has been. There is no taking partisanship out of politics – anyone who has an opinion they want to defend can be considered a partisan.

The new, extreme Republican Party has arrived in Washington State

Last week’s announcement from a group of State Senators of a new transportation package has dominated the political news in Washington State. NPI founder Andrew Villeneuve explained the numerous flaws of this proposal here on the Cascadia Advocate. But it’s also worth taking a step back and examining what this proposal means for the future of our state – and of its political leadership.

Its unveiling ought to be interpreted by Democrats as a sign that the new Republican Party – much more extremist, power-hungry, and determined to destroy Democrats rather than govern effectively – has finally arrived in Washington State.

For the last thirty-five years, the Washington Republican Party has been a largely Reaganite party: deeply anti-tax, skeptical of new regulations, and strongly backed by social conservatives. As with Reagan himself, however, these Republicans have often been willing to make deals as needed, as long as doing so did not force them to fundamentally compromise their core beliefs. You could talk to these people. Let’s not romanticize them: it was not a friendly or reasonable party.

But it was a group that could exist as a minority party in a blue state without seeking to destroy everything in its path in their pursuit of power.

Outside of Washington State, this kind of Republican Party had already been replaced by the modern unyielding Republican Party – a party far more extreme and even less interested in compromise.

Whereas President Reagan and Republicans of his era were willing to cut deals as needed, the 2010s Republican Party sees no need to do so.

They believe – correctly, as it has turned out – that the way to get their policy goals implemented is to destroy the Democratic Party, seize all the levers of government, and just do it themselves. Why cut a deal now when refusing to deal will produce big wins at the next election and eliminate the opposition?

When this modern Republican Party controls only part of government – the situation we see now in Washington State – their sole interest is to undermine Democrats in order to win total power on their own.

This was the playbook that congressional Republicans used to undermine Democrats, especially President Barack Obama, after the 2008 election.

President Obama believed that he was still dealing with a Reaganite party, a party with which you could cut a deal.

As he learned the hard way, the modern Republican Party is not interested in cutting deals with Democrats. They opposed Obama from day one, rallying their base to resist every single Democratic proposal – even those, like the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, that had been invented by Republicans themselves. They have become much more extreme than anything we see in the Democratic Party.

This no-holds-barred opposition crippled the federal government. The results have been ruinous for America. But they have been an unquestionable success for Republicans. They reversed the results of both the 2006 and 2008 elections by seizing not only the U.S. House of Representatives in 2010, but winning a significant number of state legislatures and governor’s offices.

Where those gains gave Republicans total control, as in Wisconsin or North Carolina, they unleashed a radical, extremist agenda that rolls back the political and policy gains of the 20th century. In every single state where this far-right agenda was implemented – with Pennsylvania being the sole exception – voters returned those same extremists to power in the 2014 midterms.

That 2014 election, in fact, saw Republicans make even greater gains. Democrats had what was one of their most catastrophic elections in decades, losing not only the U.S. Senate, but also losing governorships and state legislative houses in deep blue states like Illinois, Minnesota, Massachusetts, and Maryland.

In Washington State, Republicans tightened their grip on the state Senate and came within just a few seats of taking the state House.

Judging by the playbook they’ve used in other states, and in Congress, we can expect that the next steps here in Washington State will be for the Republicans to focus on undermining remaining Democratic power, grinding government to a halt and denying Governor Jay Inslee and House Democrats victories in order to make them look ineffective ahead of the crucial 2016 election.

Which brings us to the Senate transportation plan.

It is not intended to be a viable transportation package, though Republicans will surely be able to live with it were it to pass. It is really a trap, a “plan” whose primary purpose is actually to divide and then conquer Democrats, turning the blue coalition against itself ahead of the 2016 election.

This should be obvious from even a cursory glance at the proposal. It does not offer Sound Transit enough revenue to both finish the spine from Everett to Tacoma and build rail to a new Seattle neighborhood, whether it’s Ballard or West Seattle. Rather than unite city and suburb in support of rail, it divides them.

The plan divides urban and suburban Democrats in other ways, offering funds for suburban megaprojects but refusing to add any more money for the State Route 99 deep bore tunnel. It divides environmentalists, urbanists, and unions by including poison pills that would divert revenue from sustainable transportation to highway projects if Governor Inslee were to adopt a low pollution fuel standard, as well as undermining prevailing wage rules and other worker protections.

The revenue sources are themselves designed to undermine Democrats. Sound Transit would have to get voters to approve three different revenue sources in order to build their new projects. Rather than charging polluters, as Governor Inslee has proposed, the Senate plan would raise the gas tax to pay for projects.

That may seem like a welcome change from the Reaganite era anti-tax ideology of Washington Republicans. But in reality it’s part of a national effort to hurt the poor and the middle class – as well as weaken Democrats.

This week, The New York Times examined how Republicans in states across America are raising taxes on the poor while cutting them for the rich.

This is the same game Washington Republicans are playing, having vowed to block any new taxes – like a capital gains tax on the rich – but instead proposing to raise gas taxes, which are borne more heavily by the poor.

The gas tax proposal is not just regressive – it’s also crafted to hurt Democrats. In 2014 Republicans picked up several blue state governorships by running against gas tax increases, particularly in Maryland.

Republicans also used the gas tax as an issue in their successful bids to pick off four Democratic members of the Washington State House.

Republicans are therefore laying a trap for Democrats, particularly Governor Inslee, by proposing a gas tax increase. As we saw in California in the late 2000s, Republicans will force Democrats to make concession after concession in order to agree to provide the votes to pass a package.

But when it comes time to vote, Republicans will only offer the absolute minimum number of votes necessary to pass a plan – forcing all Democrats to vote yes, while most Republicans vote no and then attack the plan on the campaign trail.

Observers will note that State Senator Andy Hill, a possible candidate for governor in 2016, was nowhere to be found at the Senate press conference last week announcing the transportation package.

Many Democrats understandably pine for the good old days, when Republicans were ideological but still somewhat reasonable – people whom you may not have agreed with, but with whom you could still sit down and hammer out a deal.

But those days are gone, and they are not coming back, at least not anytime soon. Democrats need to learn that the way to get good policies enacted, and to win elections, is to accept that modern governance is defined by constant partisan warfare – and then commit to winning that war.

Democrats and their coalition members should unite in opposition to the proposed transportation plan, attack its weaknesses, and drive down public support for it. Several Democratic senators, led by Pramila Jayapal and Kevin Ranker, seem to understand this, and came out in opposition to the Republican plan.

House Democrats should get to work crafting a transportation plan that meets the needs of their members and the state’s progressive coalition, as well as appealing to voters in swing districts. Whether or not Senate Republicans would support such a plan should be a distant concern – since the only way to get Senate Republicans to vote for it is to scare them into doing so.

Education, the other big battlefield of the 2015 session, will play out the same way. Republicans will offer a plan that undermines and divides the Democratic coalition, with an eye toward defeating Democrats in 2016.

Democrats will need to respond with a plan that funds their McCleary and smaller class size obligations without giving in to Republican poison pills.

For example, rather than try to avoid the voter mandate in I-1351 to shrink class sizes, Democrats should wholeheartedly embrace it, propose a progressive way of paying for it, and hammer Republicans for opposing smaller class sizes when they inevitably reject the funding source.

Too many Democrats across the country have been slow to learn the lessons of this new Republican Party. The best way to think about them is the way Kyle Reese described the cyborg from the future in 1984’s The Terminator:

Listen, and understand. That terminator is out there. It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.

That is how the modern Republican Party thinks of Democrats.

The only response, as distasteful as it may be for some, is for Democrats to do all they can to keep Republicans out of power… and govern the state themselves, like reasonable, sensible adults. Washington State Democrats should show the rest of the nation how it can be done. The 2015 session is the moment for Democrats to adapt to the new reality – and then thrive in it.

Senate Republicans unveil pavement-heavy transportation plan laden with bad provisions

Washington State’s Senate Republican caucus held a news conference in Olympia this afternoon to take the wraps off of a transportation plan that’s somewhat better than what they belatedly offered last year, but still pavement-heavy and laden with a number of provisions that are completely unacceptable.

The Republican-backed proposal, pushed by Senator Curtis King (who negotiated some details with Democratic Senators Marko Liias and Steve Hobbs) would raise the gas tax more than eleven cents over three years. That, coupled with increases in vehicle fees and the sale of bonds, would raise around $15 billion for the state treasury. Much of that sum would be spent on highways.

A significant chunk would go towards modernizing the Seattle portion of State Route 520, which runs through the Montlake and Portage Bay neighborhoods of Seattle. The North Spokane Highway would get close to a billion dollars. And a whopping $1.24 billion would be wasted further widening Interstate 405.

But the biggest project of them all would be the expansion of SR 167 and SR 509 in the south Sound. Close to $2 billion would be allocated for that project.

Over $8 billion would be spent on new pavement, while $1.3 billion would be spent on maintenance. Smaller sums of money would go towards environmental mitigation, ferry terminals and operations, and pedestrian/bicyclist safety measures.

Authorization for Sound Transit 3 is also included, which pleased King County Executive Dow Constantine, the Chair of Sound Transit. However, like us, Constantine is opposed to some of the provisions in the plan.

“We are still reviewing details of the Senate proposal, but at first glance it appears to have many of the important elements we’ve sought from the Legislature: Preservation and maintenance funding for our deteriorating roads and highways, increased local options for cities and counties, and multi-modal investment,” Constantine said in an evening news release.

“In particular, I am pleased to see the necessary funding authority that will allow people in the Central Puget Sound region to seek future expansion of light rail, although not in the amounts that are needed to meet the mobility needs of one of the fastest-growing areas of the nation.”

“At the same time, unfortunately, some parts of this proposal appear fundamentally inconsistent with our values of protecting the environment and upholding the rights of labor. These components are neither needed nor helpful in keeping our region moving, and I cannot support them.”

Several Senate Democrats also weighed in. Kevin Ranker, Pramila Jayapal and Cyrus Habib jointly released a statement outlining their concerns.

Ranker’s statement ended with a sharp and clear declaration: “As it is currently constructed, I will not be able to support this plan.”

We urge all members of the Senate Democratic caucus to follow Ranker’s lead. If Republicans are insistent on bringing what they’ve rolled out today to the floor without major improvements, every Democrat should vote no.

Here is a summary of the flaws with the Senate Republicans’ proposal:

  • It would shift money currently going to education to highways. Senate Republicans are again proposing that sales taxes collected on transportation projects go into the state’s highway fund, instead of to the general fund. This would significantly worsen our education funding shortfall (which everyone seems to agree is the state’s most pressing problem). House Democrats have previously gone on record saying it’s a bad idea, and we’re adamantly opposed to it.
  • It doesn’t put any money towards a new Columbia River Crossing. The bridge that carries Interstate 5 over the Columbia River to Oregon is decades old and in need of replacement. Washington and Oregon’s department of transportation came up with a plan to replace the bridge (and, questionably, all of the interchanges near the bridge), but that fell apart thanks to Senate Republicans, who scuttled the project to prevent TriMet from bringing light rail across the river.
  • It would hinder Jay Inslee from tackling pollution by inserting a poison pill for transit funding. Senate Republicans have included language that would redirect state funding vanpools, rural transit, special-needs grants, and pedestrian/bicyclist safety measures to highways in the event that Governor Jay Inslee pursues stronger fuel standards for vehicles to fight pollution. This stupid and shortsighted language is a nonstarter.
  • It leaves Sound Transit short of what it needs for ST3. Sound Transit is asking the Legislature for new revenue authority so it can place a Sound Transit 3 package before voters in urban King, Snohomish, and Pierce counties in 2016. The Senate Republican plan gives Sound Transit some of the authority it is seeking, but not all of it, which would hamper the agency’s efforts to put the best possible plan before voters.
  • It weakens our prevailing wage and worker protection laws. Washington has long had rules requiring that people who work on public works projects be fairly compensated. They must be paid what is known as a prevailing wage, defined by Labor & Industries as “the hourly wage, usual benefits and overtime, paid in the largest city in each county, to the majority of workers, laborers, and mechanics.” Senate Republicans want to change the rules to make fewer workers eligible to receive a prevailing wage.

These flaws, coupled with a project mix that is heavy on new pavement, make the Senate Republican plan untenable and unworthy of passage.

We have a huge transportation maintenance backlog in Washington State that this plan does not adequately address. Our first priority needs to be replacing and repairing crumbling infrastructure, especially our structurally deficient and functionally obsolete bridges. Besides, building new highways and widening existing ones won’t reduce congestion. It’ll make it worse. The end result of adding lanes and highways will be more sprawl, longer commute times, and bigger backups.

To those unfamiliar with the phenomenon of induced traffic, this may sound counterintuitive, but adding highway capacity actually makes traffic worse. This is because drivers respond to the laying of new pavement by driving more.

We have been pointing this out for ten years here on the Cascadia Advocate, frequently excerpting from a chapter of Suburban Nation that contains an excellent primer on induced traffic written by authors Andres Duany, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, and Jeff Speck. From Chapter 5 (The American Transportation Mess):

The mechanism at work behind induced traffic is elegantly explained by an aphorism gaining popularity among traffic engineers: “Trying to cure traffic congestion by adding more capacity is like trying to cure obesity by loosening your belt.” Increased traffic capacity makes longer commutes less burdensome, and as a result, people are willing to live farther and farther from their workplace.

As increasing numbers of people make similar decisions, the long-distance commute grows as crowded as the inner city, commuters clamor for additional lanes, and the cycle repeats itself. This problem is compounded by the hierarchical organization of the new roadways, which concentrate through traffic on as few streets as possible.

They go on to say:

While the befuddling fact of induced traffic is well understood by sophisticated traffic engineers, it might as well be a secret, so poorly has it been disseminated. The computer models that transportation consultants use do not even consider it, and most local public works directors have never heard of it at all.

As a result, from Maine to Hawaii, city, county, and even state engineering departments continue to build more roadways in anticipation of increased traffic, and in so doing, create that traffic. The most irksome aspect of this situation is that these road-builders are never proved wrong; in fact, they are always proved right. “You see,” they say, “I told you that traffic was coming.”

Suburban Nation was written in 2000, and even then, there was plenty of data showing that building new highways and widening existing ones does nothing to reduce congestion. But nowadays, we have even more.

Adam Mann wrote a story for Wired last year about induced traffic, and he talked to two researchers who looked at increases in road capacity in U.S. cities between 1980 and 2000, and miles driven in those cities in the same period.

They found a one-to-one relationship:

If a city had increased its road capacity by 10 percent between 1980 and 1990, then the amount of driving in that city went up by 10 percent. If the amount of roads in the same city then went up by 11 percent between 1990 and 2000, the total number of miles driven also went up by 11 percent. It’s like the two figures were moving in perfect lockstep, changing at the same exact rate.

It is time we learned our induced traffic lesson, and changed our transportation focus. Spending money trying to make gridlocked highways like I-405 move by adding lanes will not work. It’s an exercise in total futility.

We would be better served by putting dollars into our chronically underfunded ferry system, badly needed repairs to our existing highways, new bridges that can withstand earthquakes, and more mass transit so that people aren’t forced to drive to get where they’re doing. We have a growing maintenance backlog, and it would be irresponsible for the Legislature not to address it.

It’s very unfortunate that Republicans are willing to raise revenue to lay asphalt all over the place (their plan could be called Wealthcare for Washington’s Automobiles), but not willing to raise revenue to amply provide for the education of Washington’s youth, as Article IX of our state Constitution requires.

“I don’t know what message that sends to the Supreme Court,” House Democratic Majority Leader Pat Sullivan told The Seattle Times. “We’re willing to support billions of tax dollars for transportation while we’re not funding education?”

When I read that, I thought, At last: We’ve got at least one top Democrat starting to ask the same questions we’ve been asking for years.

The answer to Sullivan’s question is that the Supreme Court will not be pleased if it sees that the Legislature authorizing billions of dollars in highway projects while failing to invest in Washington’s schools as it has been ordered to do.

Senate Republicans have made it plain they don’t care what the Court says or does. They seem to relish the prospect of forcing a constitutional crisis.

The Court’s decisions have had a different effect on Democrats. On both sides of the dome, Democrats have responded to the Court’s decisions in League of Education Voters, McCleary, and In re the Detention of D.W. et. al. by finding their courage.

That’s important, because historically, neglecting education while periodically approving funding for new highway projects has been a bipartisan tradition. And not just around here. From Chapter 7 of Suburban Nation (The Victims of Sprawl):

It is true that the United States has the most luxurious road system in the world. We build magnificent new highways at a cost of $30 million per mile, and every cloverleaf is more generous than the last. We happily spend twice as much per capita on transportation as do other developed nations. Nothing seems too good for our cars.

Meanwhile, more and more of our children attend school in fields of prefabricated portable barracks with air-conditioning backpacks, surrounded by chain-link fencing. It is difficult to be encouraged by what this says about our national priorities.

They add:

It would clarify matters if Americans would think about schools, town halls, libraries and our civic buildings as vertical infrastructure, to be financed out of the same purse as our horizontal infrastructure. Such buildings are not mere luxuries but investments in community-making that evoke identity, pride, and participation in public life.

A society’s civic buildings are ultimately as important as its roads, and we should not use the table scraps of public funding to construct them. Most Americans would tolerate aging asphalt and fewer new lanes if they knew that their children would not be educated in the equivalent of trailer parks. Unfortunately, this choice is not offered.

To us, the Senate Republican transportation plan, which only a road warrior could love, seems like something that belongs in a bygone decade – perhaps the 1980s. It’s not anchored in reality. In reality, building bigger and wider highways doesn’t relieve traffic congestion. We know this. The evidence is in. It’s time our elected representatives recognized it and understood it.

A plan that principally proposes to improve mobility by adding lanes and constructing new speedways for cars is not a plan that we should be considering.

Philadelphia selected as host city for 2016 Democratic National Convention

It’s official: the Democratic Party has a host city for its next quadrennial meeting. Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection, will serve as the gathering place for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, which will be held the week of July 25th, 2016, following the Republican National Convention Cleveland. (Typically, the party that holds the White House schedules its convention to follow that of the party that is contending for the presidency.)

“We’re going to have a great time together come July 2016 in Philadelphia — and many more details are coming soon,” Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz said in an email to the Democratic Party’s mailing list. “But there’s plenty of work for us to do before we reach Philadelphia, and Democrats will need your help to keep the White House blue.”

Separately, in a news release distributed to the national press, she said: “In addition to their commitment to a seamless and safe convention, Philadelphia’s deep rooted place in American history provides a perfect setting for this special gathering. I cannot wait to join Democrats across the country to celebrate our shared values, lay out a Democratic vision for the future, and support our nominee.”

“The City of Philadelphia is excited and honored to be selected as the host city for the 2016 Democratic National Convention,” Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter said. “We believe that it was our proven track record of hosting big events safely and efficiently with a dynamic team of top-tier professionals to organize and manage a conference of this magnitude, paired with our City’s tremendous amenities, its accessible location and historical significance, which made Philadelphia the ideal choice for the 2016 Democratic National Convention.”

Philadelphia is already set to welcome Pope Francis this September for the World Meeting of Families. It has previously hosted six Republican National Conventions (the most recent in 2000) and two Democratic National Conventions (in 1936 and 1948; the party won the White House in both of those years.)

The other finalists were Columbus, Ohio and Brooklyn, New York. Columbus had been lobbying hard for the convention and was really hoping to land it, so the disappointment is being felt more acutely there. (The Columbus Dispatch already has a story up lamenting the city’s highly touted yet ultimately unsuccessful bid.)

Logistically, Philadelphia may well have been the safest choice. As mentioned, it has hosted national party conventions before, and it definitely has the infrastructure to house and move all the delegates and media (there is a subway system and plenty of hotel rooms). Columbus lacks rail transit, though its organizers did a good job playing up the city’s strengths in their marketing and lobbying.

The Ohio Republican Party immediately attempted to make fun of the Ohio Democratic Party following the announcement, sneering, “Ohio voters take note: the GOP wants your vote. The Democrats … not so much.”

That’s ludicrous, of course: Democrats will spend a massive amount of time, talent, and treasure attempting to win Ohio next year, just as they did in every single one of the last few cycles. We pointed out to the Ohio Republican Party on Twitter that they have lost the last five states they held conventions in (Tampa in 2012, St. Paul in 2008, New York in 2004, Philadelphia in 2000, and San Diego in 1996).

Moreover, in 2012, the Democrats lost North Carolina, the state they chose for the 2012 DNC. The data simply does not support the assertion that a party is better positioned to win a state by holding its national convention there.

Philadelphia is a city steeped in history, and it ought to make a nice gathering place for the Democratic Party as it meets to nominate a successor to President Obama. People there certainly seem excited about hosting the Democrats. Congratulations to the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection on its selection!

NBC’s Brian Williams suspended for six months; Jon Stewart to leave The Daily Show

Today, something remarkable happened: The host of a fake news show made real news by announcing his departure from the program he has helmed since 1999, while the host of a real news show was suspended by his network for faking details about his experience as a war zone reporter over ten years ago.

Who would have thought that Brian Williams – for years the face of NBC News – would be exiled from the anchor desk for six months by his network’s executives on the same day that Jon Stewart revealed his plans to leave The Daily Show?

Stewart, at least, is going out on his own terms, and at the near peak of what has been an incredible run at Comedy Central as the host of its flagship program:

Mr. Stewart, whose contract with Comedy Central ends in September, disclosed his plans during a taping of the program on Tuesday.

Saying that “in my heart, I know it is time for someone else” to have the opportunity he had, Mr. Stewart told his audience that he was still working out the details of his departure, which “might be December, might be July.”

“I don’t have any specific plans,” Mr. Stewart said, addressing the camera at the end of his show, at times seeming close to tears. “Got a lot of ideas. I got a lot of things in my head. I’m going to have dinner on a school night with my family, who I have heard from multiple sources are lovely people.”

“I’m not going anywhere tomorrow,” Mr. Stewart added, “but this show doesn’t deserve an even slightly restless host, and neither do you.” Comedy Central did not elaborate on the future of the show, except to say that it “will endure for years to come.”

I cannot imagine The Daily Show without Jon Stewart. After sixteen years, he has come to personify the show. Correspondents have come and gone, with many going on to have successful careers in television and film (Steve Carrell, Stephen Colbert, Ed Helms, John Oliver, Larry Wilmore) but Jon Stewart has continuously been a reassuring presence behind the desk of Comedy Central’s premier program.

It was tough to lose the Colbert Report back in December, but Jon’s departure from The Daily Show will be tougher still. I didn’t expect Stewart to remain host forever, but I also wasn’t anticipating that he’d leave this year. He’ll be stepping away in the midst of a presidential campaign, just when this country needs him the most.

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart helped me and a great many other progressive activists get through the Bush error. In the wake of the September 11th attacks, when Bush and Cheney exploited a nation’s fears to wage war on false pretenses, Jon Stewart was a voice of sanity speaking truth to power through comedy.

More recently, Stewart has done more than anybody else, with the possible exception of David Brock and Media Matters, to hold the Fox Noise Channel accountable for its lies and right wing propaganda. Stewart’s team of writers and artists at The Daily Show have produced a countless number of excellent montages exposing Fox as the giant cog in the Republican Noise Machine that it is.

They may say they’re just trying to entertain us, but we here at NPI consider their body of work to be a public service as well as great comedy.

If I had to pick one word to describe the impact of the The Daily Show is, it might well be therapeutic. It’s no fun feeling frustrated and outraged all the time, nor is it healthy. Evening after evening, Jon Stewart has softened the blow of bad news with an incredibly funny monologue. His show has been a great way to end the day.

Long-running Daily Show contributor Lewis Black once explained during one of his standup specials for Comedy Central why comedy is so valuable.

“All you have to do is look at our enemy,” Black declared. “That’s a group that does not have a sense of humor. That’s a group that has just… snapped. And that’s what happens when you don’t laugh. You get all wound up in what you’re believing in and nobody’s going, ha-ha, and you’re… you’re screwed!”

Those words still ring true today.

Stewart may be incomparable, but he can’t be irreplaceable if The Daily Show is to continue. Who will Comedy Central bring in to fill the giant shoes Stewart is leaving behind? One name I’ve seen thrown around a lot is Amy Poehler, formerly of Saturday Night Live and currently the star of Parks and Recreation, which is in its final season at NBC. I could see Poehler, who used to anchor Weekend Update on SNL, as the successor to Stewart. But the show won’t be the same without him.

Comedy Central at least has time to figure out Stewart’s exit and plan the future of The Daily Show. NBC News, on the other hand, is simply reeling from the scandal that has enveloped Nightly News anchor Brian Williams.

The network’s news division, which is used to reporting the news (not being the news) announced today that Williams has been suspended for six months without any pay. It’s unlikely we’ll be seeing much of him during his network-imposed exile. But, as they say on Broadway, the show must go on. Someone will have to present the news, and that person, at least for the time being, will be Lester Holt.

During Williams’ leave, the network will continue its internal investigation of his conduct, though its executives say they believes he deserves a second chance. NBC News President Deborah Turness explained NBC’s decision in a memo to staff:

As Managing Editor and Anchor of Nightly News, Brian has a responsibility to be truthful and to uphold the high standards of the news division at all times.

Steve Burke, Pat Fili and I came to this decision together. We felt it would have been wrong to disregard the good work Brian has done and the special relationship he has forged with our viewers over 22 years. Millions of Americans have turned to him every day, and he has been an important and well-respected part of our organization.

As I’m sure you understand, this was a very hard decision. Certainly there will be those who disagree. But we believe this suspension is the appropriate and proportionate action.

Poynter’s Al Tompkins posted some analysis earlier today which examines why NBC decided to suspend Williams instead of fire him.

A suspension gives the network time to assess the damage Williams has done to his credibility. It also gives the network time to see if possible successors, like Lester Holt, can attract enough viewers to keep NBC from slipping out of first place in the evening news race. If not, NBC can rotate in other temporary replacements until they find a good fit.

Then, in mid-August, when TV news viewership is at its lowest, Williams could come back to work. There would be time to react if there is audience blowback before the fall season and the November ratings period.

If NBC News’ internal investigation finds that Williams faked details while he was in New Orleans covering Hurricane Katrina in 2005, or fudged other stories, then he may not be brought back at all. And it’s hard to fathom what other news organization might want to employ him.

It’s been sad to watch Williams’ career implode the last few days. But Brian brought this on himself. He didn’t have to embellish and falsify his experiences in Iraq.

There’s been some joking on social media that Williams could succeed Stewart as the host of The Daily Show, but that won’t happen. The Daily Show has thrived (and won twenty Emmys) thanks to the comedic brilliance of its host and writing staff. Comedy Central will most likely be seeking out a proven, available talent like Amy Poehler to carry the program forward into its next era, while NBC tries to keep its lead over ABC and CBS’s evening news broadcasts with Lester Holt as anchor.

Hearing on SB 5375 turns into The Pam Roach Show – with special guest Tim Eyman

It's the Pam Roach Show, with the Incredibly Obnoxious Pam Roach!

Yesterday morning, as some readers may have heard on Twitter, I made a special trip down to Olympia with the intention of testifying in favor of Senate Bill 5375, one of the Northwest Progressive Institute’s priority bills for this session.

I was hoping to be able to explain to the Senate Government Operations and Security Committee than SB 5375 is a thoughtfully-crafted bill modeled on successful legislation passed in Oregon that is designed to stand up to constitutional scrutiny.

But I never got the chance.

Republican Pam “Who Moved My Flowers!?” Roach refused to allow me and many others (including a representative from the Secretary of State’s office!) a chance to testify in favor of SB 5375, after seemingly losing interest in repeatedly attacking the bill with fellow Republican Don Benton and their mutual friend Tim Eyman.

Senate Bill 5375, prime sponsored by Democrat Marko Liias of the 21st Legislative District, would subject the signature gathering industry to badly needed oversight and accountability. As in Oregon, paid petitioners would be required to register with the Secretary of State’s office, but their personal contact information would be exempted from public disclosure, so as to protect their privacy.

Senate Bill 5375 was one of eight bills that was supposed to receive a public hearing yesterday. I say supposed to because Roach turned what was ostensibly a meeting of the Senate Government Operations and Security Committee into The Pam Roach Show. I have to say, I’ve been in politics for thirteen years now, and rarely have I seen a public hearing devolve into such a farce. Roach’s behavior was absolutely outrageous and unbecoming of an elected official.

I’ve seen Roach in action before, so I was expecting a lively and contentious hearing. But again, this turned out not to be a public hearing at all. It was The Pam Roach Show, starring the incredibly obnoxious Pam Roach.

It is no exaggeration to say that Roach dominated the proceedings. Instead of listening (which is the point of having a public hearing), she talked incessantly. She contradicted her colleagues after they asked questions and, from the beginning of the committee meeting until the end, editorialized in response to nearly everything said by everyone who spoke.

Perhaps most shamefully of all, Roach used her perch at the rostrum to gloat about her successful reelection campaign last autumn in front of a panel of four people from the Washington Food Industry Association and the Northwest Grocery Association, two of NPI’s coalition partners from the NO on I-517 campaign.

For those unaware, most of Washington’s retailers backed another Republican, Cathy Dahlquist, for Roach’s seat last autumn in the 31st Legislative District… but as Roach tauntingly reminded the panel from the rostrum, “I won.”

(As an aside, I want to point out that NPI, unlike many other organizations active in Washington state politics, does not endorse candidates for office or participate in electioneering activities for or against any candidate. We do take positions on ballot measures and participate in ballot measure coalitions.)

I suspect the only reason she scheduled a hearing on this bill and invited WFIA and NWGA’s panel to step forward was so she could interrogate and belittle them.

To say that she was disrespectful would be a big understatement.

I mentioned earlier that the Secretary of State’s office, which supports SB 5375, was not allowed to testify. Ordinarily, when a representative from the executive branch is present, the chair asks that individual to speak right after the committee staff and prime sponsor do. That’s the usual protocol. It’s what the fair-minded Sam Hunt (Roach’s Democratic counterpart in the House) would have done.

But Roach had no interest in hearing from Kim Wyman’s staff.

Roach made sure the discussion kept veering off-topic, which is exactly the opposite of what a committee chair is supposed to do.

Roach suggested that WFIA and NWGA’s support of Dahlquist stemmed from her refusal to grant a hearing to a bill similar to SB 5375 last year. She argued that bill’s death in her committee wasn’t her fault because he hadn’t been asked to give it a hearing (which is untrue), but then admitted she didn’t like the bill.

And, as mentioned, when she got bored, she decided to simply move on and prevent anyone else (including me) from contributing their perspective.

Roach did read my name and NPI’s name off the sign-in sheet, so I’m guessing the committee staff report of the “hearing” will at least reflect that I was there.

Of course, as she read NPI’s name, Roach could not resist making a condescending remark: “Northwest Progressive Institute – don’t know what that is.”

(Roach had made a similar derogatory comment earlier, after one of four members of the WFIA/NWGA panel introduced himself, leading Marko Liias to interject apologetically and say he was familiar with the company and its stores.)

A total of eight bills were supposed to be heard yesterday, but the committee only got through four, because Roach decided to abruptly shut down the proceedings and walk out, leaving behind a packed room of stunned citizens and lobbyists.

TVW has the entire hearing archived on video, but of course, there’s a lot of context missing, because much of what you see is Pam Roach talking.

TVW’s footage runs an hour and thirty eight minutes and thirty five seconds (close to one hundred minutes). I decided it would be interesting to find out about how much of the time was taken up by Pam talking, so I watched the hearing all over again – with a digital stopwatch. I kept the stopwatch running as Pam spoke or engaged in crosstalk and paused it whenever she temporarily relinquished the floor.

According to the stopwatch, Pam Roach was speaking or engaged in crosstalk for close to thirty eight minutes of the one hour and thirty eight minutes of footage. In other words, she was talking for more than a third of the time.

Watch the footage on TVW, and you’ll see Pam interrupt people over and over again, either to disagree with them, or tell them to hurry up, or tell them she doesn’t understand what they’re talking about.

If Roach was really concerned about time management, as she claimed to be, she would treat everyone the same, and show restraint so as to allow people who had traveled to be there to share their perspective to participate.

But instead we saw how she has a massive double standard.

Roach told the League of Women Voters’ Kathy Sakahara, who spoke earlier on a different bill, to keep her remarks brief and concise and not repeat what the bill’s sponsor Andy Billig had said. NPI Advisory Council member Steve Zemke, who asked Roach to be allowed to speak for just a minute on that same bill after not being able to add his name to the sign-in sheet, was denied the opportunity, with Roach dismissively declaring, “We’re moving on.”

Yet Roach gave Tim Eyman as much time as he wanted to denounce SB 5375, and even when Eyman was repetitive, she didn’t cut him off. In fact, she asked him at least twice whether he had anything more to say.

And of course, Eyman being Eyman, he gladly went on reciting his talking points, many of which he created years ago to oppose initiative reform bills that contained flaws SB 5375 doesn’t have.

Marko Liias tried to get Roach to bring up the Secretary of State’s representative, but as the footage shows, she refused, leading Liias to lament that the committee wasn’t going to get the opportunity to ask the Secretary of State about signature fraud, the cases the Secretary of State has referred to the State Patrol, and the State Patrol’s difficulty investigating those cases.

When Senator Liias further stated that he resented not being able to address comments Don Benton had made earlier against the bill, which he felt were tantamount to Benton calling him a liar, Roach slammed the gavel, stood up to put on her coat, and walked out, leaving half of the bills on the agenda hanging.

Again, as I said earlier, this was easily one of the most poorly and unfairly run meetings of a legislative committee I have ever witnessed. It was a joke.

It is very ironic that Pam Roach and Tim Eyman spent so much time glorifying the First Amendment, considering that many people who had come to speak were not allowed to say anything at all. That includes Toni from the Secretary of State’s office, Steve Zemke, myself, and people who had come to speak on the four bills Roach didn’t get to at all thanks to her terrible time management and short fuse.

Pam Roach never should have been entrusted with jurisdiction over a committee begin with, but Republicans were desperate for power at the end of 2012, and they needed her vote to engineer the coup with Rodney Tom and Tim Sheldon.

Republicans have a two-vote majority now, but where Roach goes, Don Benton follows (and vice versa, as we saw on the first day of session) so Republicans have left her in charge of the Government Operations and Security Committee.

What we saw yesterday is a disturbing example of how Republicans govern. We can expect more of this if Republicans win control of the state House in 2016 and retain control of the state Senate, as they are attempting to do.

We at NPI have always believed in standing up to bullies like Pam Roach, so we will be asking the Senate to investigate what happened yesterday.

And later today, in a follow-up post, I’ll be critiquing and responding to some of the more egregious comments made by Roach, Benton, and Eyman. I wasn’t permitted to address the committee yesterday, even though I was prepared to be respectful of others’ time, so I’ll be doing my best to correct the record from here.

Fortunately, neither I nor anyone else at NPI needs to go through Pam Roach when we want to publish something to the Cascadia Advocate, or to Permanent Defense. These are our projects and publications, through which we exercise our First Amendment rights, and we’ll continue to use them to educate the public, reframe the debate, confront intolerance, and fight injustice.

SB 5375 would bring needed accountability to Washington’s signature gathering industry

Editor’s Note: The following are the remarks I prepared as the basis for my spoken testimony in favor of SB 5375. This bill was supposed to be heard by the Senate Government Operations and Security Committee today. I never got a chance to testify in favor of SB 5375 because committee chair Pam Roach refused to allow me and others (including a representative from the Secretary of State’s office) to speak. Read more about how the hearing turned into The Pam Roach Show

Good morning, Madam Chair and members of the committee:

For the record, my name is Andrew Villeneuve.  I am the executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, based out of Redmond. I’m pleased to be here today on behalf of our team to express our strong support for Senate Bill 5375. We’d like to offer our profound thanks to Marko Liias for sponsoring it.

We believe this bill does two very important things: it protects workers who gather signatures on petitions from unscrupulous employers looking to exploit their labor, and it protects the public by deterring signature fraud and harassment of citizens by untrained workers, which are growing, documented problems.

If this bill were an attack on the people’s right to make laws, as has been argued here this morning, we would not be supporting it.

The initiative, referendum, and recall are useful tools for bypassing a gridlocked Legislature, and they have been used for that purpose many times, such as when the voters created the Public Disclosure Commission in the 1970s.

We want to see the initiative process strengthened and returned to the people. It belongs to the citizens of Washington, not to out of state corporations.

Data compiled by the Secretary of State’s office shows that we have a growing signature fraud problem. Large batches of fraudulent signatures have been discovered on petitions year after year.

On August 16th, 2013, the Everett Herald ran a story on our growing signature fraud problem. The Herald’s Eric Stevick reported:

Getting to the truth has been elusive.

Bob Calkins, a spokesman for the Washington State Patrol, said some investigations have run into dead-ends.

“Not only were the signatures fraudulent, but the identifying information about the signature gatherer was fraudulent and we were never able to run that down to an individual person,” he said. “So those other cases we were unable to take forward for prosecution.”

Over the past few months, our team has had several conversations with the Oregon Secretary of State’s office, which implemented major reforms to their initiative process several years ago. Oregon now requires paid petitioners to register and pass a background check. They also adopted a law to stop the abusive practice of ballot title shopping… repeatedly filing multiple iterations of a measure in attempt to get a good ballot title. These reforms have been very successful.

In fact, the Oregon Secretary of State’s office tells us that over the course of the last two cycles they’ve actually had an uptick in the number of grassroots style petitions.

There was, of course, some grumbling when Oregon put its new laws into effect, but that’s since dissipated. The freedom to petition remains alive and well in the Beaver State today. The public can have more confidence in Oregon’s process.

Washington has a strong tradition of open, transparent government. It’s why we require professional lobbyists to register with the state and disclose their dealings with lawmakers. People who are being paid to lobby Washingtonians in their capacities as citizen lawmakers should likewise be required to register with the state. To protect the right to freely and anonymously petition, this bill exempts petitioners’ personal information, including contact information, from public disclosure. It strikes the right balance between transparency and privacy.

Oregon’s experience shows us that subjecting the paid signature gathering industry to oversight and accountability results in a stronger initiative process with more grassroots activity. That’s exactly what we need here in Washington. This thoughtfully crafted bill is ready to become part of the Revised Code of Washington. We urge you to pass it out of committee with a “do pass” recommendation.

House Transportation Committee narrowly advances HB 1180 – after watering it down

This afternoon, the House Transportation Committee reported out House Bill 1180, one of NPI’s priority bills for this legislative session, with a “do pass” recommendation… but not before adopting a Republican-backed amendment that substantially watered down the bill for no good reason.

In its now-amended form, HB 1180 would grant new revenue authority to Sound Transit and King County to fund transportation projects. The original bill, prime sponsored by Jake Fey of Tacoma, would have also given this authority to Snohomish, Pierce, and Clark counties, but an amendment adopted in committee just prior to the vote on final passage stripped these counties out.

Sound Transit wants the new authority so it can go to voters in 2016 with a Sound Transit 3 package that would expand Link light rail and Express bus service. We strongly believe voters should have the opportunity to decide in 2016 whether they want to increase our investment in mass transit, and are supporters of this bill. (I testified in support of HB 1180 last week on NPI’s behalf.)

As a consequence of the passage of the amendment, one Democrat representing a county now excluded from being granted the new revenue authority voted against advancing the bill out of committee… Jim Moeller. That resulted in the bill passing by the narrowest of margins… one vote. The final roll call was thirteen ayes to twelve nays. All of the Republicans voted nay.

The Legislature’s website has not yet been updated to reflect the proceedings of today’s executive session, but it soon will be, and when it is, I’ll update this post with links to the amendment and the roll call vote.

UPDATE: Here is the roll call vote.

Majority Report: The substitute bill be substituted therefore and the substitute bill do pass
Signed by Representatives Clibborn, Chair; Farrell, Vice Chair; Fey, Vice Chair; Moscoso, Vice Chair; Bergquist, Gregerson, McBride, Morris, Ortiz-Self, Riccelli, Sells, Takko, and Tarleton (all Democrats)

Minority Report: Do not pass
Signed by Representatives Hargrove, Assistant Ranking Minority Member; Harmsworth, Kochmar, Moeller, Pike, Shea, Wilson, and Young (all Republicans except Moeller)

Minority Report: Without recommendation
Signed by Representatives Orcutt, Ranking Minority Member; Hayes, Rodne, and Zeiger (all Republicans)

We’re not sure why Ranking Member Ed Orcutt’s bad amendment to exclude Snohomish, Pierce, and Clark counties received the support of any Democrats. Perhaps Transportation Chair Judy Clibborn figured that adoption of the amendment would result in at least one or two Republicans deciding to give the bill a “do pass” recommendation. If so, she was mistaken.

The Democrats got played.

HB 1180, we understand, now heads to the House Finance Committee, chaired by Representative Reuven Carlyle. Perhaps Carlyle’s committee can scrap the amendment and restore the bill to what it was. This may actually be necessary if the bill is to pass the House; if Democrats like Jim Moeller aren’t willing to support HB 1180 in its current form on the floor and Republicans don’t pony up any votes, it will not receive the constitutionally-required majority it needs.

Raspberry Pi Foundation unveils new Pi that’s six times faster, will support Windows 10

Three years to the month after launching the first Raspberry Pi microcomputer, the Raspberry Pi Foundation has unveiled a new Pi that uses a more modern processor and has twice as much memory onboard. The Raspberry Pi 2, as it’s being called, will sell for $35, just like its predecessors (the first generation Model A and Model B), but it is unquestionably a better value, due to its improved specs.

We at NPI were among those who bought a Raspberry Pi when it first went on sale. Though the software has improved by leaps and bounds since the early days, we’ve always wished the hardware was better.

At last our wish has been fulfilled – and sooner than we thought.

After boosting the memory on the Model B from 256 MB to 512 MB in mid-2012, the Foundation maintained that no further upgrades to hardware were planned, at least not in the short term. From the Raspberry Pi FAQ, circa December 2013:

When will the next model of the Raspberry Pi be released?

As of the end of 2013, there are no immediate plans for the next model; possibly a new model will be released in 2-3 years, but this is not a firm time frame. A new model would inherently undo much of the community work that has been done to date on the Raspberry Pi, which would be counter-productive to our educational aims. We concentrate our engineering effort on making the software that runs on the Raspberry Pi faster and better all the time – which is why you should always be running the most recent firmware. Minor hardware revisions, such as bringing out i2s on the Model B rev. 2 board, will occur on an as needed basis and have no set timeframe or schedule.

Here we are just a year or so later, and we’ve got the Model 2. How did the Foundation manage to produce a new Pi while maintaining the backwards compatibility they’ve insisted was so important to them? Turns out Broadcom, the makers of the system on a chip the Pi uses, were willing to lend a hand:

Nonetheless, there comes a point when there’s no substitute for more memory and CPU performance. Our challenge was to figure out how to get this without throwing away our investment in the platform or spoiling all those projects and tutorials which rely on the precise details of the Raspberry Pi hardware. Fortunately for us, Broadcom were willing to step up with a new SoC, BCM2836. This retains all the features of BCM2835, but replaces the single 700MHz ARM11 with a 900MHz quad-core ARM Cortex-A7 complex: everything else remains the same, so there is no painful transition or reduction in stability.

Because the new Pi’s processor has four cores that are each 200MHz faster than the original Pi’s processor, the increase in speed is sixfold. There’s twice as much memory too, as previously mentioned. The new P-I unfortunately doesn’t come with support for USB 3.0/3.1 or gigabit Ethernet, but a future Pi well might.

The new Pi will support Ubuntu as well as Microsoft’s Windows 10 operating system, which will delight anyone who has tried to get Windows to work on the Pi. The Foundation has always advised against this in the past. From the old FAQ:

Will it run WINE (or Windows, or other x86 software)?

Wine Is Not an Emulator. Some people have put Windows 3.1 on the Raspberry Pi inside an x86 CPU emulator in order to use specific applications, but trying to use a version of Windows even as recent as Windows 98 can take hours to boot into, and take several more hours to update your cursor every time you try to move it. We don’t recommend it!

Will it run the Windows 8 ARM edition?

No. Even if Microsoft decided to devote all its resources to getting Windows 8 on the Pi it would not work. The Raspberry Pi lacks the minimum memory and CPU requirements, it runs on an version of the ARM processor that is not supported by Windows 8, it lacks the appropriate axis sensors… the list goes on and on. The Pi will not run Windows 8.

But the Pi 2 will be able to run Windows 10. From Microsoft:

We’re excited to announce that we are expanding our Windows Developer Program for IoT by delivering a version of Windows 10 that supports Raspberry Pi 2. This release of Windows 10 will be free for the Maker community through the Windows Developer Program for IoT.

Windows 10 is the first step to an era of more personal computing. This vision framed our work on Windows 10, where we are moving Windows to a world that is more mobile, natural and grounded in trust.

With the Windows for IoT developer program we’re bringing our leading development tools, services and ecosystem to the Raspberry Pi community!

We see the Maker community as an amazing source of innovation for smart, connected devices that represent the very foundation for the next wave of computing, and we’re excited to be a part of this community.

We are excited about our partnership with the Raspberry Pi Foundation and delivering a version of Windows 10 that supports Raspberry Pi 2, and we will be sharing more details about our Windows 10 plans for IoT in the coming months.

Windows 10 will also be a free upgrade, at least in the first year of availability, for people running Windows 8 and 8.1 now. In making Windows 10 upgrades free (as in free beer), Microsoft is following in the footsteps of Apple, which decided to stop charging for OS X upgrades in 2013 when it released Mavericks.

Neither OS X or Windows is free as in free speech, however. Both operating systems consist of code that’s proprietary, or closed source. The various operating systems that the Pi has run since its inception (including Raspbian) are open source, meaning that anyone can see how they work and modify them to their heart’s content.

Owing to its nature, free software cannot be pirated like Windows or OS X. Anyone who wants a copy of a libre OS like Ubuntu or Debian can freely and quickly get one. Copying free software is not only legally allowed, it’s encouraged.

Contrary to what you might think, free software can actually be sold (and sometimes is), but its purchasers then have the option of redistributing it gratis, if they wish. If they didn’t have this freedom, then the software would not really be free.

We at NPI are firm philosophical believers in free software, and we’re proud that our online presence is powered exclusively by a free software stack. While it’s nice that Microsoft is supporting the Raspberry Pi (just as it supports Drupal and WordPress), we’ll continue to principally power our Pis with free software.

Congratulations to the Foundation on the launch of the new model. We’re anxious to put it to the test and see what it can do.

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