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.

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.”

State’s editorial boards continue to call on lawmakers to make “difficult choices” – without saying what those choices should be

Yesterday, while doing some weekend reading with the help of Pacific NW Portal, I came across an editorial by the Spokesman-Review which reminded me of at least a dozen different platitude-laden Seattle Times editorials I’ve read over the years that attempted to pass for insightful commentary on the state’s fiscal situation.

This editorial, “State’s fiscal choices far from easy“, begins with a lame joke, goes on to point out that Washington has many important public services and obligations that lawmakers (on behalf of the people they serve) need to figure out how to fund in the next biennium, and then concludes with the following pearl of wisdom:

The new Legislature will have some very difficult choices to make. As the political campaigns begin in earnest, voters should ask tough questions about how they expect Washington to meet all its obligations. Until this biennium, the answer was tuition increases at state universities. That’s the wrong answer for the state’s middle class, and the aerospace, and information- and biotechnology industries that are the key to the state’s future.

In my twelve plus years as an activist, I feel as though I’ve read this same editorial (in different incarnations!) a hundred times or more. It’s getting old. Really old.

What we need is not more tough questions – those are readily supplied at forums and candidate debates by the wisest and sharpest among us every election cycle. What we really need are tough answers.

We need candidates for Legislature to be frank and even blunt when talking about the budget and the fiscal outlook for our state. We especially need them to be candid and to reframe when talking to the state’s editorial writers, many of whom seem to be afflicted with a chronic case of Eymanism.

Eymanism, which gets its name from initiative promoter Tim Eyman (who has been selling the tempting notion of a free lunch to Washingtonians for years) is the false, totally erroneous idea that our obligations can be met and our underfunded public services protected and expanded without ever raising or recovering revenue.

Though Eyman belongs to the Grover Norquist school of thought, which holds that public services should be destroyed and government undermined wherever and whenever possible, he knows that Washingtonians like their public services, so he ignores that side of the equation as much as possible. And unfortunately, established media outlets let him get away with it way too frequently.

Retiring Senator Adam Kline, who has long been one of my favorite elected leaders, is one of the few who has had the gumption to consistently interrupt Eyman’s press conferences and demand that Eyman show him where the so-called fat is in the budget. Kline, in fighting form, would demand to know what cuts Eyman would make, and Eyman would demur, offering pathetic excuses and trying to return to his prefabricated talking points as fast as possible.

Kline would persist, badgering Eyman to the point where Eyman (who has a short fuse) would become very irritated. It was always great fun to watch.

The people who pen these unsigned masterpieces for the editorial pages of The Seattle Times, Spokesman-Review, and other papers deserve to be badgered by a reader with the courage and dedication of somebody like Adam Kline every time they generate one of these silly editorials that ignores the elephants in the room.

What are the elephants in the room? One of them, amusingly enough, actually uses an elephant as its mascot: the Republican Party. The other is Washington’s utterly broken, highly regressive, opaque tax structure.

Each stands in the way of what Washington’s editorial boards profess is necessary and desirable: strong public services and a budget that is fiscally responsible.

I mention the Republican Party first because it’s the elephant that’s standing in front, blocking access to the other elephant.

The Republican Party these days answers to right wing extremists. They’re in control; they dominate. They run the show (and to them, it is a show, sadly).

There used to be such as thing as progressive Republicans, but the Dan Evans wing of the party no longer has any power. Nowadays, there are unfortunately just two kinds of Republicans: Right wing extremists and enablers of right wing extremists.

Even many biconceptuals (people who use both the progressive and conservative value systems in different areas of their political thinking) recognize this.

In fact, it has become increasingly obvious to anyone who has bothered to pay attention to the 113th Congress and the last two legislative sessions here in Washington State, which featured a Senate controlled by the Republicans following a post-election power coup engineered with Rodney Tom and Tim Sheldon.

For the likes of Tim Eyman and his collaborators Don Benton and Pam Roach, the evolution (or devolution) of the Republican Party is a cause for celebration.

For pretty much everybody else, it is a lamentable, sad state of affairs, because what it means is that we no longer have a healthy two-party system.

Simply put, progress has become elusive without one-party rule.

Progressives can no longer collaborate across party lines for the good of all since there is no room for progressives in the Republican Party… or even anyone with progressive views on major issues (as naive Democratic defector Mark Miloscia will discover if he manages to win in the 30th LD).

This painful truth seems totally lost on The Seattle Times and other editorial boards, who seem stuck in another era. Just this weekend, the Times endorsed two Republicans for House in the 5th District, Chad Madgendanz and Jay Rodne.

Of Rodne, the Times wrote:

Rodne’s views on social issues — in particular, leading opposition to gay marriage in the House and vigorously criticizing Inslee’s decision to halt capital punishment — are discordant with The Seattle Times editorial board’s positions.

His opponent, Democrat Essie Hicks, a former small business owner and an education advocate, is better on those issues.

But her definition of the McCleary obligation — up to $7 billion more — and support for general “tax reform” suggests she’d be too free-spending for the 5th Legislative District.

That last paragraph, which I’ve boldfaced, speaks to everything that is wrong, or messed up, with newspaper endorsements today.

The Times claims to want great public schools. They regularly lament the underfunding of primary schools, secondary schools, and universities. But then they turn around and endorse anti-tax Republicans like Jay Rodne at election time. This Jekyll/Hyde like behavior is hardly new, of course, but it never ceases to be silly.

What do Frank Blethen and his editorial writers really want? The broken status quo, which people like Jay Rodne represent? Or courageous new leaders like Essie Hicks, who was clearly not afraid to walk into her interview with the Seattle Times and declare that we’re behind – really behind – on school funding?

What’s especially stupid is that the Times then tries to pass off its own case of Eymanism onto the voters by claiming that Hicks would be “too free-spending for the 5th Legislative District.” The implication seems to be that Hicks would not be fiscally responsible because she, unlike Rodne, wants to do something about the other elephant in the room, the one Rodne’s elephant is standing in front of.

Shame on the Times.

Real fiscal responsibility requires courage and foresight – the ability to think long term, to understand non-financial costs, and to appreciate systemic causation.

We have been procrastinating for years as a state and collectively pretending that we could have it both ways, but that’s just not going to work for us much longer. We’ve been backfilling for over a decade, and we’re about at the end of that rope. Lawmakers are running out of tricks and short-term gimmicks that they can use to pretend to balance the budget every two years.

Because Republicans are unwilling to raise revenue (even to ensure we’re honoring the explicit obligations contained in the plan of government our Founders gave us) and because they’re totally uninterested in fixing our broken tax structure, we’re stuck legislatively so long as they have veto power of some kind over the process, whether that’s control of one house of the Legislature, or the existence of an unconstitutional scheme like I-601 and its clones, brought to us by Tim Eyman, oil companies, Wall Street banks, and other powerful interests.

(Thankfully, the unconstitutional supermajority requirement from I-601 and its clones is gone; the state Supreme Court finally nixed it last year).

Now, admittedly, within the Legislature’s Democratic caucuses, on the subject of tax reform, there isn’t yet consensus on what to do or how to do it.

But at least Democrats, even the more conservative ones, are willing to have a conservation that goes beyond platitudes and lip service.

Aside from progressive publications like this one, that conversation sadly doesn’t seem to extend much further beyond Democratic and progressive circles. It needs to. Washingtonians need to understand the connection between the tax dollars they pay and the important, vital services they get in return.

If we want better public schools, better universities, better public transit, better police and fire protection, better libraries, better parks, then we must pool our resources and invest in those things together.

Taxes are like membership dues in society. Contrary to what Tim Eyman says, taxes are not bad. They’re not evil. They’re not an affliction. Rather, taxes are the means by which we get all of the good things that make our state and our region the great place to live, work, and play that it is. Of course, taxes should be fairly levied and consistently collected, and that’s not the case in our state now.

The system is rigged, and there are a lot of corporations that are cheating their way out of their obligations, wrongly thinking, “It’s just good business.”

No, it’s not. Where would the likes of Microsoft and Amazon be without the Internet, which came into being thanks to public research? Or our courts system (nine-tenths of the cases pertain to corporate law) which they rely on to adjudicate disputes over patents, trademarks, and sales or other agreements? Where would Boeing be without our publicly-funded airports, seaports, and highway system?

All the successful businesses in this state owe some of their success to the people of this state, who paid for the public services they have used, and continue to use, to make their money. They need to pay it forward and embrace, not dodge, their obligations. Mindsets about taxes in this state need to be changed, from the marble halls of the Legislative Building to countless kitchen tables to the C-suites in Seattle and Redmond, from can’t to can. Real, meaningful tax reform is not only achievable, it’s absolutely necessary if this state is to have a future.

And what does tax reform look like? Here’s a basic overview. We need to:

  • List all tax exemptions as expenditures in the state budget every two years so we can see what they’re costing us.
  • Sunset outdated, unnecessary tax exemptions that are not benefiting the public interest. If an independent review cannot provide ample justification, the tax exemption should be abolished and the revenue recovered.
  • Make the property tax geared more towards means/ability to pay, with a basic homestead exemption for Washington homeowners.
  • Completely replace the antiquated business and occupation tax, and partially replace the sales tax, with taxes on wealth.

If this state’s newspaper publishers want to use their influence to do some good before their business models become unsustainable, they should quit peddling platitudes on their editorial pages, and help breathe new life into our political discourse. Start by acknowledging that Eyman’s initiatives are not the answer.

It can be done: Peter Jackson is leading the way with his stewardship of The Herald of Everett, which seems to have largely cured itself of Eymanism.

The editors of the Seattle Times, Spokesman-Review, and others could certainly learn a thing or two from Jackson. And we wish they would.

School districts across Washington State lead a revolt against failed federal policies

At least 28 school districts in Washington State have chosen to fight back against U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s demand that they label successful schools as “failures” due to a law backed by George W. Bush. When the state legislature refused to tie teacher evaluations to test scores, Duncan revoked the state’s waiver from Bush’s No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law. The law requires all students in a school to reach a certain level of performance on a standardized test, and if even a single student doesn’t meet the mark, the entire school is labeled a failure.

Duncan required that school districts send letters to parents explaining that their child’s school was a “failure” according to this extremely narrow and misleading metric. But the 28 school districts have decided to follow Vermont’s lead and send their own letter along with the federally mandated letter, explaining that these schools are not actually failures:

But as those letters go out, many Puget Sound districts – including Tacoma – will also be telling parents that No Child Left Behind is “regressive and punitive,” and that their schools aren’t failing at all….

“Some of our state’s and districts’ most successful and highly recognized schools are now being labeled ‘failing’ by an antiquated law that most educators and elected officials – as well as the U.S. Department of Education – acknowledges isn’t working,” the superintendents’ letter says.

“Our bottom line: Your child’s school district is effectively addressing the needs of all students,” the cover letter reads.

The letter does not quite go as far as Vermont’s did, as it does not include a broad-based attack on standardized testing. But it’s a good start, as it signals Washington State schools will not simply roll over to Duncan’s threats, as he hoped they would.

In fact, Duncan’s demand is causing the revolt against teach-to-the-test policies to spread. Danny Westneat, a Seattle Times columnist who usually has his finger on the pulse of public opinion, wrote an extraordinary column applauding the 28 school districts and predicting an outright “revolt” against federal education policies:

That educators now must send out a million letters to families here telling them that all of the state’s K-12 schools are failing has got to be the lowest point yet in the drive to reform public education.

It’s definitely the most absurd point. But maybe it’s also a turning point….

How are you supposed to react, as a parent, upon receiving such a letter?

Many will ignore it (though at some schools they’ll be offering free private tutoring, so take advantage of that). Others may blame the state for not going along with a federal requirement to link test scores to teacher evaluations. But others may decide they’ve had enough of this federal “testocracy” once and for all.

Westneat quotes two leading education advocates, Rep. Chris Reykdal and Garfield High School teacher Jesse Hagopian, explaining how resistance to Duncan is a turning point:

“This is a big moment in the nation’s history,” lefty state legislator Chris Reykdal, D-Tumwater, predicted recently. “Our state is embracing our constitutional Tenth Amendment guarantee to administer our state’s education system. I strongly encourage federal officials to get back to empowering the states instead of coercing them.”

Garfield High School history teacher Jesse Hagopian was blunter: “(Secretary of Education) Arne Duncan has labeled my school — and every school in Washington State — a failure. Cue the revolt.”

States across America, red and blue, have been fighting back against Duncan’s flawed, failed policies. Washington is not the only state to lack an NCLB waiver, but it is the first state to have its waiver revoked. As Washington refuses to give in to federal pressure, it is giving hope and inspiration to other states that are considering doing the same.

Washington State Supreme Court agrees to hear constitutional challenge to I-1240

It looks like within a year or two, we should finally have an answer to the question, Does the Constitution of Washington State allow for charter schools?

That’s because the Washington State Supreme Court says it has agreed to take up a legal challenge to Initiative 1240, the charter schools measure narrowly approved by Washington voters in November of 2012.

The challenge is being brought by a coalition that includes parents, school administrations, community activists, teachers, and the League of Women Voters of Washington. They’re ably represented by Paul Lawrence of Pacifica Law Group, the attorney who successfully argued League of Education Voters v. State. (In LEV, the Court struck down the two-thirds for revenue requirement at the heart of Tim Eyman’s three I-601 clones, as well as I-601 itself).

Oral arguments have been scheduled for October 28th and will be shown on TVW. Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s office will be defending I-1240, as required by law.

In an interesting twist, the plaintiffs and the state will be arguing over whether charter schools fall under the definition of public schools, as opposed to whether public money can be used to operate schools outside of the purview of a school district, which was the focus of arguments at the Superior Court level.

King County Superior Court Judge Jean Rietschel partially invalidated I-1240 in a ruling last year, but left it largely intact, allowing implementation to go forward. Seems the Supreme Court has agreed to look at the initiative under a different lens. Usually appellate courts only consider issues raised at the trial court level.

The plaintiffs in the suit are looking for a decision that results in a determination that I-1240 doesn’t pass constitutional muster, which would prevent any more charter schools from opening and cut off any that have from public funds. That would be the best possible outcome. We at NPI strongly support this lawsuit and will be following the case throughout the next few months and beyond.

There are several provisions of the Constitution that refer to the management and funding of the state’s public schools, which include common schools. Among them are Article II, Section 28 and several provisions of Article IX.

Article IX, Section 2 states:

SECTION 2 PUBLIC SCHOOL SYSTEM. The legislature shall provide for a general and uniform system of public schools. The public school system shall include common schools, and such high schools, normal schools, and technical schools as may hereafter be established. But the entire revenue derived from the common school fund and the state tax for common schools shall be exclusively applied to the support of the common schools.

Because charter schools are operated by private institutions and not subject to the authority of a school district, they arguably cannot be considered part of the “general and uniform system of public schools” the Constitution requires.

Prior to the approval of I-1240 in 2012, Washington State voters had rejected charter school ballot measures by large margins. I-1240 was propelled by a slick, extremely well-funded advertising campaign, while the opposition did not receive the energy and resources of past campaigns opposed to charter schools.

If I-1240 is struck down, it would set an important precedent that would protect Washington’s public schools from future attempts to siphon their funding. That would be a big win for Washington’s youth, their parents, and teachers.

Lauren Bacall: 1924-2014

This week certainly is off to a pretty bad start. First, we lost the great Robin Williams, who tragically took his own life after succumbing to depression. Now we’ve lost Lauren Bacall, one of the finest talents of the last century and a stalwart progressive.

With deep sorrow for the magnitude of our loss, yet with great gratitude for her amazing life, we confirm the passing of Lauren Bacall,” announced the estate of Humphrey Bogart, which is run by Bogart and Bacall’s son Stephen.

The cause of death is said to be stroke.

Bacall, eighty-nine, was a lifelong New Yorker who starred in many films now regarded as classics. She was born Betty Joan Perske on September 14th, 1924, in the Bronx, and began acting on stage at a young age.

Introduced to cinema by Howard and Nancy Hawks, she adopted the stage name Lauren Bacall and rose to fame with her role alongside Bogart in To Have and Have Not, a wartime film that was released in 1944 and loosely based on the novel by Ernest Hemingway. Bacall and Bogart later fell in love and married; it was Bacall’s first marriage and Bogart’s fourth. They remained together until his death in 1957.

Bacall went on to appear in several films noir, including The Big Sleep, Dark Passage, and Key Largo. In the 1950s, she starred in Young Man with a Horn, How to Marry a Millionaire (with Marilyn Monroe), and Written on the Wind. She developed a reputation for being choosy and turning down roles she didn’t find interesting.

Beginning in the 1960s, she had fewer film appearances and more parts in stage productions on Broadway. She won two Tony Awards for her parts in Applause (1970) and Woman of the Year (1981). She did, however, participate in the films Sex and the Single Girl, Harper, and Murder on the Orient Express during these years, sharing the screen with the likes of Henry Fonda, Paul Newman, and Ingrid Bergman. She even collaborated with John Wayne for his final film, The Shootist.

Bacall was politically active throughout her life. In the 1950s, she campaigned for Democratic presidential nominee Adlai Stevenson; in the 1960s, she supported Robert Kennedy’s Senate campaign. She was also a fierce opponent of the politics of disgraced Republican Joseph McCarthy. In 2005, she gave a memorable interview to CNN’s Larry King in which she proudly identified as a liberal, remarking, “Being a liberal is the best thing on earth you can be. You are welcoming to everyone when you’re a liberal. You do not have a small mind.”

As mentioned, Bacall’s death comes just as people the world over are struggling to process Robin Williams’ sudden death.

“What a terrible loss for us all,” Barbara Streisand said in a statement mourning Bacall. “First Robin, who was a genius, and now Lauren. It was my privilege to have known her, to have acted with her, and to have directed her (in 1996’s The Mirror Has Two Faces). And most of all, to have had her as a wise and loving friend. She was an original. Even with all those great films… she will be missed.”

“Lauren Bacall’s life is a life to be celebrated,” agreed comedian and showrunner Seth MacFarlane, who also worked with Bacall.

“I am told her last performance was on ‘Family Guy.’ For that, we are forever honored and privileged. Thank you, Lauren, for teaching us all how to whistle.”

Bacall’s body of work was recognized several years ago by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which bestowed upon her an honorary Oscar at the 2009 Governors Awards. (Video of Bacall’s acceptance speech is on YouTube).

Lauren Bacall was one of the few remaining talents left from the golden age of film. Now she’s gone. She will be greatly missed. We at NPI extend our deepest condolences to her family and close friends.

 

Robin Williams, a legend: 1951-2014

It was with great sadness this afternoon that I learned that today we lost Robin Williams, one of the greatest comedians and actors of his generation, who was one of my favorites growing up and remains so today.

Williams, sixty-three, was found dead in his San Francisco area home after having apparently taken his own life. Paramedics arrived within just a few minutes of being summoned, but by the time Williams was discovered, he was already gone.

This is a devastating loss not just for cinema and comedy, but humanity. Williams brought so much to the stage, to the big screen, and to television, but he was also a great source of encouragement and wisdom for others.

Comedian Jamie Kilstein explains:

Robin Williams was maybe one of three people in this dumb #$%&@! business that believed in me and kept pushing me. He supported the show when no one would. He radiated kindness and I was comfortable the second I met him for the first time.

He called ME a few months ago to talk me out of MY DEPRESSION. That’s the kind of guy he was. Putting his #$%& aside for others. Our book that’s coming out is even dedicated “To Robin”. We just never thought it would be in his memory. I hope my dumb comedy brought him some joy and wish I could have done for him what he did for me.

He always told me to keep challenging everyone and “keep raising hell”. I hope you guys will do that as well. #$%&.

Williams brought so much laughter and happiness to so many people. He was very  generous with his sense of humor. He put people at ease. It’s very sad that he evidently reached a point where he couldn’t put himself at ease, where the pain and sadness he felt seemed too deafening, too overwhelming for him to continue living.

If only, in his darkest hour, he could have seen, heard, felt the love that is pouring fourth from all quarters now in the wake of his passing. There have been so many tributes posted already… on Twitter, on Facebook, on blogs, in forums. Like many Williams fans, we didn’t know him personally, but we knew him through his work, and we are grieved by his passing like his family and close friends.

To them, we send our deepest condolences.

President Barack Obama aptly summed up the breadth of Williams’ work in an evening statement mourning his death:

Robin Williams was an airman, a doctor, a genie, a nanny, a president, a professor, a bangarang Peter Pan, and everything in between. But he was one of a kind. He arrived in our lives as an alien – but he ended up touching every element of the human spirit. He made us laugh. He made us cry. He gave his immeasurable talent freely and generously to those who needed it most – from our troops stationed abroad to the marginalized on our own streets. The Obama family offers our condolences to Robin’s family, his friends, and everyone who found their voice and their verse thanks to Robin Williams.

Well said, Mr. President.

Robin Williams was so incomparable that many people, myself included, can reel off much of Williams’ filmography from memory: Aladdin, Good Will Hunting, Dead Poets Society, Mrs. Doubtfire, Good Morning Vietnam, Hook, The Fisher King, The Birdcage, Moscow on the Hudson, Insomnia. With the notable exception of Aladdin, many of these films were made before I was old enough to appreciate them, but I later discovered them through film analysis class, TV reruns, and Netflix.

One of the first Robin Williams films I remember enjoying as a child was Jumanji, made in 1995 and based on the children’s book by Chris Van Allsburg. Jumanji remains a classic for me today and I never get tired of seeing it.

Two years later, Disney came out with Flubber. I can still remember seeing Flubber for the first time. Its goofiness gave it an endearing quality. Critics panned it, but moviegoers liked it and it did reasonably well at the box office.

Another underappreciated Williams film is Bicentennial Man, a sentimental Disney flick that came out in 1999. Directed by Chris Columbus (Mrs. Doubtfire), it’s a story of an advanced android named Andrew that develops human-like intelligence and ultimately makes so much progress embracing the human condition that he is accepted as a human by humanity – just before dying.

Williams also has a great many television appearances to his credit. Aside from starring in Mork and Mindy, he has hosted Saturday Night Live many times, appeared on Whose Line Is It Anyway? when it was hosted by Drew Carey, and guested on shows such as Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.

Williams has yet to make his final appearance on the big screen. He will be in four films that are currently in post-production, including the third Night at the Museum movie (Williams convincingly portrays President Theodore Roosevelt in that series).

Williams is survived by his wife, Susan Schneider, and three children, Zachary, Zelda, and Cody, all of whom are in their twenties and thirties. Millions of fans are sharing their grief tonight. We’ve lost an outstanding talent and a fine man.

Rest in peace, Robin Williams. You’ll be sorely missed.

POSTSCRIPT: If you are struggling with depression, please, please don’t do what Robin did. If you feel like you can’t go on, talk to someone. There are people standing by day and night who are ready to listen and to help you.

In the greater Seattle area, you can call the Crisis Clinic at 1-866-4CRISIS (1-866-427-4747). There’s also the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255). That’s open 24/7.

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