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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Initiative 960: Unconstitutional, Unfair, Unsound (Part I)

Welcome to Part I of our pre-election special series on Initiative 960 (Unconstitutional, Unfair, Unsound).

Each post in this series will briefly focus on a different conflict between the language of Tim Eyman's right wing scheme to paralyze Washington and our state's constitution, which trumps any statute (whether it be a citizen initiative or a bill passed out of the Legislature) when there is a contradiction.

The main intent of I-960 is to give control over important budgeting decisions over to a minority of elected lawmakers, and it's this supermajority requirement that we'll be taking a look at in this installment of our I-960 series.

Yesterday I explained the proper use of supermajorities:
Our democracy rests on the foundation of majority rule with minority rights. When the will of the majority is thwarted, as Joel puts it in his column, our political system ceases to be democratic.

Supermajorities are only appropriate when required to protect minority rights - to prevent mob rule, or the tyranny of the majority. It makes sense to have a high bar for amending the state Constitution, the supreme law of our land.

Applying such requirements to lawmaking - in this case, critical decisions about raising revenue and funding vital public services - would destroy our tradition of majority rule and take aim at the very fabric of our democracy.
The supreme law of our state defines all the instances where supermajorities are required for the Legislature to take action. On all other occasions, the Constitution says that majority rule will prevail. Adding or subtracting exceptions in the Constitution may only be done through amendment.

The following table explains the meaning of the language (Fundamental Law) excerpts the actual text in the relevant section of the state Constitution, and highlights where Eyman's proposal is in conflict (As Illegally Amended by I-960).

Fundamental LawThe State ConstitutionAs Illegally Amended
Laws, including those that raise revenue for public services, are passed by simple legislative majority. This is an essential part of our cherished tradition of majority rule with minority rights. "No bill shall become law unless ... a majority of the members elected to each house be recorded thereon as voting in its favor."  

Ref: Article II, Section 22
"any action or combination of actions by the legislature that raise taxes may be taken only if approved by a two-thirds vote of each house of the legislature"

Ref: I-960 Text, § 5(1)

State courts in Alaska have interpreted the virtually identical language about majority votes in their Constitution to be both a floor and a ceiling, and it can be reasonably expected that courts here will do the same.

Floor and ceiling means that "majority" is an absolute definition: no bills can pass through the Legislature without a majority; while anything greater than a simple majority cannot be required to pass bills.

The language in I-960 calls for a two thirds minimum "yea" vote of all lawmakers to pass revenue increases; the state Constitution says such legislation may move out of the statehouse with only a simple majority.

If I-960 passes, a legal challenge will very likely be filed, and courts asked to affirm or concur with the floor and ceiling interpretation.

Article II, Section 22 exists to protect our republic against unfair, unsound schemes like Initiative 960. If majority rule with minority rights disappears, Washington State ceases to be a democracy where every citizen's voice is equal.

You can help prevent I-960 from ever having a chance to wreak havoc on our state and our communities by voting NO on or before next Tuesday, Nov. 6th.

Read the rest of the series: Part II | Part III | Part IV

In Brief - 2007 Halloween Edition

Here is today's quick news digest:
  • In honor of Halloween, People for the American Way has released a Right Wing Costume Kit... in case you need something you terrify your friends and family with. It includes printable masks of Ann Coulter, Bill O'Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, James Dobson, and Pat Robertson.
  • An Interstate 90 overpass is history after a careless truck driver totaled the structure with his oversize load. The state is demolishing the overpass, causing big headaches for drivers traversing Interstate 90.
  • A 5.6 magnitude quake struck the Bay Area yesterday but fortunately did not result in serious damages or injuries. This latest trembler is yet another reminder that the Left Coast is earthquake country - and we still have vulnerable infrastructure that needs to be repaired, retrofitted, or replaced.
  • State Representative Richard Curtis, R-Hypocrite, is resigning from office in the aftermath of reports disclosing that he had sex with a man he met in a Spokane adult video store while on a Republican Party retreat. Curtis' behavior puts him at odds with his public pro-discriminatory views about sexual orientation. Just how many closeted gay Republicans are there in this country, anyway?
  • The battle over Proposition 1 is getting expensive (as predicted). The Seattle Post-Intelligencer has published a final editorial urging voters to support Roads & Transit, which it correctly terms a "vital" investment.
  • The religious right's unease with the Republican field of presidential candidates is starkly highlighted in a new Pew poll.
  • Car-sharing companies Flexcar and Zipcar, the first of which has a strong Seattle-area presence, have agreed to merge (no pun intended).
Finally, here's a bit of Halloween comedy from Lewis Black - one of the greatest jokes from his career. You can also watch it at YouTube.
The worst thing about Halloween is, of course...candy corn.

Candy corn is the only candy in the history of America that's never been advertised.

And there's a REASON!

All of the candy corn that was ever made... was made in 1911.

And so - since nobody eats that stuff - every year there's a ton of it left over. And the candy corn company sends the guys out into the villages, to collect out of the dumpsters all the candy corn we've thrown away.

They wash it! They wash it!

I'll never forget the first time my mother gave me candy corn. She said, "Here, Lewis! This is corn... that tastes like candy!' [Takes it, eats it] ... This tastes like crap!. And every year since then, Halloween has returned, and I, like an Alzheimer's patient, find myself in a room, and the room has a table in it, and on the table.... is a bowl of candy corn.

And I look at it - as if I've never seen it before. Candy corn, I think. Corn that tastes like candy. I can't wait. [Takes it, takes a bite].

Son of a *****!
Have something to add? Please leave a comment.

NPI releases first 2007 general endorsements for municipal races in King County

The Northwest Progressive Institute is pleased this evening to release its first round of endorsements in King County municipal races for the general election, with a second round to follow tomorrow.

Due to time constraints, we have not supplied descriptions or selected notable endorsements for candidates we support in the following races (although statements explaining our rationale are forthcoming for Seattle, Bellevue, and Redmond races). We urge you to support these candidates.

County
City
  • Mayor of Redmond: Jim Robinson
  • Redmond City Council, Position #1: Hank Myers
  • Redmond City Council, Position #3: Dayle "Hank" Margeson
  • Redmond City Council, Position #5: Michallea Schuelke
  • Redmond City Council, Position #7: Brian Seitz
  • Bellevue City Council, Position #3: Grant Degginger
  • Bellevue City Council, Position #3: Valentina Kiselev
  • Bellevue City Council, Position #5: Claudia Balducci
  • Bellevue City Council, Position #7: Keri Andrews
  • Mercer Island City Council, Position #3: Maureen Judge
  • Seattle City Council, Position #1: Jean Godden
  • Seattle City Council, Position #3: Bruce Harrell
  • Seattle City Council, Position #5: Tom Rasmussen
  • Seattle City Council, Position #7: Tim Burgess
  • Seattle City Council, Position #9: Sally Clark
  • Auburn City Council, Position #7: Marjorie Lynn Norman
  • Burien City Council, Position #4: Stephen Lamphear
  • Duvall City Council, Position #6: Anne Laughlin
  • Federal Way City Council, Position #7: Hope Elder
  • Issaquah City Council, Position #4: Joshua Schaer
  • Newcastle City Council, Position #4: Sonny Putter
  • Shoreline City Council, Position #4: Doris McConnell
  • Woodinville City Council, Position #2: Randy Ransom
  • Woodinville City Council, Position #6: Liz Aspen
  • Kirkland City Council, Position #6: Dave Asher
  • Sammamish City Council, Position #4: Nancy Whitten
School Board
You can also take a look at our previously released endorsements in Port races and for/against 2007 ballot measures.

Rossi spokeswoman "can't confirm" how Dino will vote on SJR 4204

Last week, we challenged the press and our readers (if you see him!) to ask Dino Rossi where he stands on the major issues on our ballot this November.

Yesterday we got another non-answer from Dino's campaign, this time on simple majority for school levies. Huge props to Josh Feit of The Stranger for trying to pin Rossi down on this!
Yesterday, I asked his campaign if Rossi supported 4204, the ballot measure that would lower the threshold for passing school levies from a supermajority to a simple majority.

I got this response from his spokeswoman, Jill Strait: “While I can’t comment on how he will specifically vote on 4204, and he has yet to fill out his ballot, in general he is in favor of simple majorities for school levies as long as those votes happen in November elections, when the most voters are able to participate.”
What a coward.

Does he support SJR 4204 or not? It's a basic question with only two proper answers: YES or NO. It's a proposed constitutional amendment. Either we the people approve it or we don't. There is no third option.

Earth to his campaign: Forget sentiments and "in general" statements. Dino is a gubernatorial candidate. If he isn't willing to disclose how he's going to vote on these very important issues, he doesn't deserve to be governor. Being a leader means taking a stand. A candidate who can't divulge that information with the people he or she wants to serve isn't ready for public office.

Governor Gregoire has no problem sharing what she believes. We know how she feels about each of the ballot measures, and we appreciate her candor.

(Rossi is also apparently "leaning towards" Tim Eyman's I-960, based on an anecdote I heard from Rossi's press conference last Thursday, but again, hasn't given a definitive answer. If Rossi votes by mail and still hasn't filled out his ballot, he must really be out of it. I voted the day I got mine).

Josh did get Rossi nailed down on another important matter:
Rossi is definitive about expanding children’s health care. He’s a No.

It did take me a while to get an answer from him on the issue. (There’s a children’s health care expansion bill pending in D.C. that President Bush has already vetoed once—and now a new one is coming his way. If the bill fails it could undermine legislation passed in Olympia last session that expanded children’s health care coverage.)

Rossi supports Bush’s veto.

His campaign told me this morning that expanding coverage to 300 percent of the federal poverty level, which is what the federal bill (and our state bill) does, is the “wrong approach,” explaining: “the majority of new children that are going to be coming on are either illegal or they currently have health insurance from the private sector.”
Way to go, Dino. Joining Dubya in opposing healthcare for children. Good luck selling those values to the people of Washington State.

Exhibit A in why the Seattle Times' crystal ball can't be trusted

Two days ago, I published a lengthy takedown of the Seattle Times' Sunday endorsement of Tim Eyman's Initiative 960, intended to paralyze our government and put an end to democratic decision making.

In that post, I referenced the Seattle Times' recent history of making bad calls in its yearly recommendations to voters, and pointed out the obvious inconsistency of the editorial board's positions on I-960 and two constitutional amendments before voters - SJR 4204 (simple majority for schools) and SJR 8206 (the rainy day fund).

I wish I could discern what is behind the editorial page's wildly ridiculous shifts between progressive and conservative views on different ballot measures and issues, but other than musing over the possibility that the publisher (Frank Blethen) is dictating the outcome some of the time and leaving the editorial board to reach its own conclusions the rest of the time, I don't have many ideas.

When the Times recommends a candidate or a ballot measure it typically tries to justify its position by predicting how the policy will turn out or how the individual will govern once in office. The I-960 endorsement was no exception - here's a snippet from the editorial that contains sentences easily recognizable as predictions:
This is not a great solution, but it's about all the people can do by ballot. We think it [I-960] would have a wake-up effect on legislators.

Opponents say Initiative 960 would bind the hands of lawmakers too much. We don't think it does.
If you want to see evidence as to why you can't trust the Seattle Times' broken, erratic crystal ball, I present Exhibit A - two editorials from the October 4th and October 22nd, 2000 editions of the Times.

Both editorials concern a certain person named Dubya. Here's an excerpt from the first editorial, "The case for Bush".

Warning: The rest of this post may cause your head to temporarily explode.
GEORGE W. Bush did well. His father may have been weak on "the vision thing," but the son was strong. Unlike Vice President Al Gore, Gov. Bush expressed the central political idea that united his domestic policy agenda: The federal government should step back and "enable Americans to make decisions in their own lives."
Checking the fine print from the dead tree version (had to go to the library!), I found a disclaimer that cleared up the confusion that was suddenly threatening my sanity: Bush was only referring to imaginary U.S. citizens in this context, not Michael and Terri Schiavo or any other real American family.

It gets better:
Unlike Gore, Bush said he would not commit troops abroad without a clear mission, an exit strategy and the ability to win. He said he did not believe in "nation-building" as a reason to send troops into a country. He said the military had been weakened, and that he would restore it. Gore denied that it had been weakened, but given the military's well-publicized re-enlistment problems, he is not credible on this.

Nor is Gore credible on a host of issues. He is the expedient man, the candidate of demagoguery on Social Security and of theatrical sighs. He is so intent on making a point, he lacks the measure of unscripted grace that comes with a president secure in his own beliefs.
Before you pound your desk, please realize that there is a possible explanation for this: the editor was simply being mischievous with the names, and played a prank before sending the copy off to the printing press. You see, if you switch every mention of "Bush" and "Gore" in those paragraphs, you'll get a visionary passage from the future that makes much more sense.

On to the next editorial. This one is the actual "endoresement" (yes, it's misspelled on their website) from October 22nd, 2000:
The thread that binds last year's early endorsement of Bill Bradley for president to today's endorsement of George W. Bush is ethical behavior, as a candidate and as an opponent. Gore's attacks on Bradley during the primary debates were a glimpse of his hunger to win at any cost.
I'm, uh, starting to run out of excuses for these guys now.
Bush promises to bring a sense of bipartisanship to the White House and has shown that ability with Democrats in the Texas statehouse. Gore shares the blame for one of the most divisive and partisan periods in recent federal history.
Um...
The Texas governorship is sometimes a muted office, but what emerges about Bush in public forums is his natural embrace of diversity and education. He is not an artificial man.
Oookay.....
Bush understands, possibly better than Gore can ever know, the dynamics of taxes, regulations and enterprise that form a successful business.
Yikes....
This time and under these circumstances, we believe the overpowering need for integrity and civility in office, for a realistic balance between government and commerce, for a new, bipartisan era to confront the needs of the nation all point to the election of George W. Bush.
On an accuracy score of one to ten, with ten being the best score and one being the worst, I give the Times minus one hundred. This is beyond dead wrong...it's so overpowering in its blunders that it can cause mild dizziness.

The Times screwed up on everything.

This recommendation was so off the mark that Frank Blethen apparently had no choice but to okay the endorsement of John Kerry in 2004 to avoid the humiliation of having to justify the impossible. The Bush administration was such a disaster by 2004 that even federal estate tax repeal couldn't save a Dubya endorsement.

I see strong parallels between the Bush endorsement and the I-960 endorsement, namely backwards thinking and unbelievably silly statements.

Unless you look at the above excerpts and find yourself in agreement with them (you would probably be wise to seek medical attention if you do) ignore the Seattle Times' advice on Tim Eyman's latest ill-advised measure.

Instead, preserve our cherished tradition of majority rule and your right as a citizen to be equally heard in this democracy by voting NO on Initiative 960.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Joel Connelly: Eyman's Initiative 960 is a map to minority rule

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer's senior political columnist, Joel Connelly, turns in one of his finest efforts ever in tomorrow's edition of the paper:
Voters face a question: Do we second-guess all decisions made by these people all of the time ... and do it with a part-time Legislature?

A second key question: Should a minority (one-third) of the Legislature's membership be permitted to thwart the will of the majority of those freely elected to represent the people?

The best-known provision of I-960 would require a two-thirds vote in the Legislature, or a vote of the people, for any increase in taxes.
It's no exaggeration to say that I-960 is the first step down the dangerous path away from democracy. If a supermajority requirements can be imposed by statute on one category of bills, why not other types of legislation?

What about two thirds to decrease revenue? What about two thirds for environmental or consumer protection laws? What about two thirds for apprenticeship expansion? Two thirds for unemployment insurance reform?

How about two thirds for the people to approve any initiative or referendum? Does that sound fair and reasonable? Is that democratic?

Of course not!

(Incidentally, we've already got supermajority requirements for the passage of school levies, which we can get rid of this year by voting YES on SJR 4204).

Our democracy rests on the foundation of majority rule with minority rights. When the will of the majority is thwarted, as Joel puts it in his column, our political system ceases to be democratic. Supermajorities are only appropriate when required to protect minority rights - to prevent mob rule, or the tyranny of the majority. It makes sense to have a high bar for amending the state Constitution, the supreme law of our land.

Applying such requirements to lawmaking - in this case, critical decisions about raising revenue and funding vital public services - would destroy our tradition of majority rule and take aim at the very fabric of our democracy.

Starting tomorrow, we're going to take a look at how I-960 attempts to covertly amend our state Constitution in a short, pre-election week special series entitled Initiative 960: Unconstitutional, Unsound, Unfair.

Installments will appear daily through this Saturday and will also be prominently featured at Permanent Defense, our year-round campaign center which fights right wing initiatives and opposes Tim Eyman.

U.S. Supreme Court halts execution

Heartening news this afternoon:
The life of a Mississippi inmate who killed a woman after she left church choir practice 20 years ago was spared this evening by the Supreme Court, signaling that the justices may want to halt executions nationwide pending a challenge to the constitutionality of lethal injection.

Earl W. Berry, 48, was to have been executed in the state penitentiary in the Mississippi Delta town of Parchman. But his lawyers, having exhausted their state-court and lower federal court appeals, won an 11th-hour stay from the high court.

Barely a quarter-hour before Mr. Berry was to die, the Supreme Court granted a stay. The vote was 7 to 2, with Justices Antonin Scalia and Samuel A. Alito Jr. dissenting.
It is completely unacceptable that capital punishment is still legal in the United States. The taking of a life as a punishment for crimes, no matter how severe or serious, is always morally wrong. As Amnesty International says:
The time has come to abolish the death penalty worldwide. The case for abolition becomes more compelling with each passing year. Everywhere experience shows that executions brutalize those involved in the process.

Nowhere has it been shown that the death penalty has any special power to reduce crime or political violence. In country after country, it is used disproportionately against the poor or against racial or ethnic minorities. It is also used as a tool of political repression.

It is imposed and inflicted arbitrary. It is an irrevocable punishment, resulting inevitably in the execution of people innocent of any crime. It is a violation of fundamental human rights.
We applaud the Supreme Court for its action today: it was the proper call to make. We will continue to advocate for the abolishment of all capital punishment at both the federal and state levels.

Traditional media gets it wrong: money isn't everything.

Pop quiz: think about the Presidential campaign reporting you've seen, read, or heard in the past week, and answer this question:

Who's the presumptive Democratic nominee?

Ok, that was too easy. Hillary Clinton, of course. At least, everybody seems to think so, right? Well, maybe not. If you've been paying attention, it will be hard for you to not have heard about the Democracy for America poll, and the fact that Al Gore is handily leading that poll despite not being an actual choice in the poll (you have to write him in as an "other").

And no, this isn't another blog post about a potential Gore candidacy (no matter how much I might, ahem, personally hope for such a thing). It's about Hillary. Here's the thing. Hillary's the presumptive Democratic nominee, right? The news certainly keeps saying so. Thus, I'd expect her to be doing pretty well in the DFA poll. Moreover, if we're supposed to believe the analysts and conventional wisdom-makers in the media, we should expect the DFA poll results to closely mirror the amount of media buzz over the candidates generally, meaning I'd expect the results to be:

1. Gore
2. Clinton
3. Obama
4. Edwards
5. Richardson/Kucinich/etc.

But that's not what's happening. The results as of right now are:

1. Al Gore (26%)
2. Dennis Kucinich (24%)
3. Obama (18%)
4. Edwards (15%)
5. Richardson (5%)
6. Clinton (4%)

Now, a few things must certainly be said about these results. One, this is not a scientific poll, by any stretch of the imagination. But with that enormous grain of salt, I still find it terribly interesting and telling that Clinton is in sixth place. Sixth! Everyone talks about what a professional, polished candidate she is, how her team runs like a well oiled machine, how she's always on message, etc. And yet, she's in sixth place, polling at 4% (a number which, by the way, hasn't really moved in the past week or so). I find it equally meaningful that this is a poll of DFA supporters, whom one may presume to be more likely than average to participate in state primaries and caucuses. These aren't cold-calls to likely voters, they're self-selected, highly motivated, extremely-likely voters. This is absolutely not a result that would be predicted by what we hear in the traditional media.

Dear TM,
Money isn't everything. Let's start hearing more about issues than fund-raising.
Love, America.

We're in for an interesting primary season, folks.

Monday, October 29, 2007

In Brief - October 29th, 2007

Here is today's quick news digest:
  • Michelle Malkin goes after a company formerly connected George Soros but ends up highlighting more corporate conservative corruption.
  • U.S. District Judge Ricardo Martinez has ruled that Clay Bennett's Sonics ownership group (mostly comprised of Oklahoma businessmen) may not take its dispute with the City of Seattle before an arbitration panel. Bennett & Co. would like an early escape from their KeyArena lease.
  • The SEC is apparently no longer investigating Jones Soda.
  • Kudos to Mayor Greg Nickels and the City of Seattle for meeting Kyoto emission reduction targets. Emissions have fallen to 6.6 million metric tons since 1990 - an eight percent drop. It's good news, but the hardest part is still ahead of us - reducing transportation emissions.
  • ExxonMobil's long legal standoff to avoid paying a penny of the several billion dollars awarded by jury after the disastrous Exxon Valdez oil spill has reached the U.S. Supreme Court, which today agreed to hear the company's appeal.
  • One of Richard Pope's supporters, represented by the candidate himself, is suing King County Councilmember Jane Hague and her associates for defamation after being mentioned in Hague campaign materials.
  • Tom Tancredo says he won't run for reelection to the U.S. House of Representatives, regardless of how his campaign for the GOP presidential nomination turns out. Another retirement, another opportunity for Democrats to increase our majorities.
  • Michael Mukasey's performance during his confirmation hearings is leading to serious doubts about whether he is really qualified to be Attorney General.
If you have something to add, please leave a comment.

Seattle Times sinks to a new low in endorsing Tim Eyman's Initiative 960

As I noted last Monday in a lengthy post dissecting three of its editorials, the Seattle Times has opted this year to continue its tradition of publishing poorly justified endorsements in the weeks before the general election.

The Times has an extensive recent history of making bad calls, and that's why I wasn't surprised when the Times endorsed Dan Satterberg (for county prosecutor) John Marchione (for Redmond mayor) and no on Proposition 1 (Roads & Transit).

But like David Goldstein, I was surprised to learn during the weekend that the Seattle Times was endorsing Tim Eyman's Initiative 960.

(The intent of Initiative 960 is to mess with our republic by forcing the Washington State Legislature to operate under un-American rules. Initiative 960 turns our cherished tradition of "majority rule with minority rights" on its head by requiring two thirds supermajority approval for any increase in revenue.)

Why? I guess I gave the Blethens, James Vesely, Carolyn Kelly, Lee Moriwaki, Joni Balter, Lance Dickie, Bruce Ramsey, Kate Riley, and Lynne Varner too much credit. I doubted their willingness to get behind this undemocratic right wing scheme to handcuff representative democracy.

I just didn't think they could do it - it would be too embarrassing, too lamebrained, too unthinkable, too utterly insulting to readers.

But they proved me wrong.

The Times editorial board has apparently committed itself to publishing at least one endorsement each year that is so spectacularly awful that any reader need only look back into the Times archives for a few seconds to find an editorial with contradicting views. Last year it was the Mike McGavick endorsement.

This year, it's the Initiative 960 recommendation.

If the Times were consistently and unabashedly right wing, that would be one thing, but its editorial board professes to have progressive positions on issues like the climate crisis, our safety net (Social Security) media ownership, or...simple majority for school levies:
This page once again calls for a simple-majority vote to pass school levies.

Voters should approve the constitutional amendment, Engrossed House Joint Resolution 4204, on the Nov. 6 ballot. A "yes" vote would eliminate the tyranny of the minority, bringing school money measures around to the one-man/one-vote principle. Also eliminated would be the arcane requirement of minimum voter turnout: at least 40 percent of those who cast a ballot in the most recent general election. This prerequisite created an unfairly high threshold for approval.
Yes, only two weeks ago, the Seattle Times editorial board railed against the "tyranny of the minority" in urging voters to approve SJR 4204, a constitutional amendment to allow school levies to pass by simple majority.

The editorial board had the audacity to add:
Fifty percent plus one is how our democracy works.
And then, even more gallingly, just below its endorsement of I-960, the Times urged voters to reject the rainy day fund amendment, because....
Political savviness, however, does not lead to a recommended "yes" vote on Senate Joint Resolution 8206. The measure would automatically set aside 1 percent of state government revenue each year, or roughly $150 million. We are all for the savings account — yes, plenty of money in savings — but philosophically opposed to the constitutional lock on it.

[...]

Voters should say "no" because this measure binds future legislatures to the thinking of today and does so in an all but permanent way.

Anyone who believes in representative democracy — and in lawmakers in future years making important budget decisions based on what they know at the time — should decline this obviously tempting measure.

[...]

[T]oday's lawmakers should not be allowed to forecast or predict the problems the state might face in the future.
This is unbelievable, but then again...it's the Seattle Times.

David simplifies the irrationality beautifully:
So let me get this straight: fifty percent plus one is how democracy works, except when Democrats dominate the legislature, and if we believe in "representative democracy" we don’t want to bind the hands of future legislatures to a 60 percent supermajority, but we do want to bind the hands of the current legislature to a two-thirds one?
Out of curiosity, how do the folks at the Times reconcile their bold statements for SJR 4204 and against SJR 8206 with their feeble, pathetic endorsement of I-960?

Care to defend the double standard, Bruce? Lee? Lynne? Joni? Lance? Kate? Ryan? Jim? Carolyn? Robert? William? Frank? Any takers?

Would you please explain how you can be in favor of majority rule one minute and against it another minute?

Or how you can argue against an undemocratic prerequisite that amounts to "an unfairly high threshold for approval" one day, and then argue for the adoption of a similar (yet even more wide-ranging) prerequisite another day?

Or how you can support an initiative that amounts to a vote of no confidence in representative democracy in one endorsement, and then, a couple centimeters down the same page, philosophically oppose a "constitutional lock" because you believe we must have faith in representative democracy?!

The inconsistency is incomprehensible.

The premise of the editorial is the (flawed) conclusion that a wake-up is needed and I-960 is too gentle to cause much harm; therefore it deserves the support of the electorate. It's a stupid argument that disregards the facts, and as I just observed, completely contradicts the newspaper's reasoning in its other endorsements.

First, there's no need for a "wake-up". The Times itself notes that legislators haven't increased revenue on many occasions, and voters have recently rejected two right wing initiatives to repeal new or reinstated taxes, as well as dramatically expanding the Democratic majorities in the statehouse in last year's midterms, signaling their confidence in the Legislature's work.

Lawmakers have a responsibility to look after the common wealth. We elect representatives and senators to make decisions about investing in healthcare, transportation, and education. We have a deliberative legislative process that is open to public input. That's how our democracy works. As the Seattle Post-Intelligencer said when it endorsed NO on Initiative 960:
The system is never perfect; it's often fairly described as the worst around except for any of the alternatives. Representative government works best, though, when legislators feel a certain degree of confidence that they can, as they are elected to do, make decisions on the basis of their best judgment and study of what would be right for the state.
Second, there's nothing gentle about Initiative 960. It is explicitly designed to paralyze government, waste money, and clutter our ballots.

It is in violation of both the spirit and the letter of our state Constitution, and will likely be challenged in court a few days after the election if it passes.

The Times doesn't mention SJR 4204 (simple majority for public schools) in its I-960 endorsement. Of SJR 8206 (the rainy day fund), it says:
That measure amends the state constitution. It is a concrete dam. I-960 is an earthen dam, guaranteed for two years only. It will continue to work only if legislators don't erode it.
This paragraph doesn't make a shred of sense, and humorously, that's only logical, because trying to argue for and against something (in this case, majority rule) at the same time results in unintelligible gibberish.

How the Times editorial board managed this feat, I'll probably never understand.

It is bizarre that the Times would refuse to support a properly drafted, bipartisan constitutional amendment that puts aside money for emergencies (the rainy day fund), and defines the circumstances by which that money can be withdrawn.

The money saved under SJR 8206 can be tapped at any time by supermajority, and by simple majority during a crisis, whether that be a natural disaster or economic recession. The supermajority restriction, which is ordinarily in place, keeps the fund ready for use in real emergencies. SJR 8206 is an example of a reasonable, narrow, and warranted exception to majority rule.

Initiative 960, in contrast, may be proposed as statute, but it is really a constitutional amendment masquerading as an initiative.

It changes the meaning of the Constitution, just like SJR 4204 and SJR 8206, except it does so illegally.

The supreme law of our state defines all the instances where supermajorities are required for the Legislature to take action. On all other occasions, the Constitution says that majority rule will prevail. Adding or subtracting exceptions in the Constitution may only be done through amendment.

Respect for the state Constitution is not something that I-960's sponsors are concerned with or known for. Neither is integrity.

For almost ten years, Tim Eyman and his cohorts have done everything they can to undermine the people's trust in government, decimate the common wealth, and destroy the public services that enrich and protect our communities.

And despite his infamous reputation, the Seattle Times is saying, with its twin endorsements yesterday, that it trusts Tim Eyman, who has never run for public office and shuns accountability, more than it trusts our lawmakers.

Never mind that most of Eyman's recent proposals have been failures, and never mind that the public has recently vetted two of the Legislature's revenue bills: the increase in the gas tax and the restitution of the estate tax.

And maybe that is what this is all really about: the estate tax. Maybe this is Frank Blethen's way of pointing his middle finger at Olympia for having the courage to restore the tax after it was struck down in court, thereby preserving a progressive revenue source along with desperately needed education funding.

Of course, Frank and his allies had their chance to override the Legislature with Initiative 920, but perhaps Frank's still got the bitter taste of losing in his mouth, and views I-960 as a way to get even.

Newspapers across the state are endorsing NO on Initiative 960 because it's unclear, expensive, useless, and undemocratic. The Seattle Times endorsed yes because the people on its editorial board have no shame and no idea what they're talking about...their hatred of one policy has apparently corrupted their ability to reason.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

2007 Election Podcast Series: Strengthening the Snohomish County Council

This evening the Northwest Progressive Institute is pleased to announce the latest installment in our 2007 Election Podcast Series, a multimedia project intended to serve as a November ballot resource for activists and voters. The goal of this series is to examine key races and measures throughout Puget Sound and Washington State, featuring interviews with candidates, conversations with observers and citizens, roundtable discussions, and possibly even debates.

2007 Election Podcast Series

Audio will be distributed through our podcast, with transcriptions of each episode posted here on the Official Blog for those who would rather read than listen.

To subscribe to our podcast, plug our multimedia feed into your favorite aggregator - or click the below button to do so if you are an iTunes user.

Members of NPI - Northwest Progressive Institute - Northwest Progressive Institute

Our second episode in the series, and eighteenth episode overall, concentrates on Snohomish County, where two progressive champions - Mike Cooper and Brian Sullivan - are running for different seats to strengthen the Council's Democratic majority and make local government more responsive to the needs of the people. Click the "Listen" link to hear the episode in your browser, or read the transcribed episode below.

PodcastListen

Strengthening the Snohomish County Council

ANDREW VILLENEUVE: Hello and welcome to the Northwest Progressive Institute’s first podcast for October 2007, the second of a special series of Election podcasts focusing on the November ballot.

My name is Andrew Villeneuve, I’m the Executive Director for NPI, and I’m pleased to be your host for this episode. To reach us with your comments and suggestions, send a message to feedback (at) nwprogressive (dot) org. I will give you that information again at the end of this podcast.

I’m here with Mike Cooper and Brian Sullivan, who are running for different positions on the Snohomish County Council. Welcome to both of you!

MIKE COOPER: Thank you and thank you for having us.

BRIAN SULLIVAN: And thank you very much. I appreciate it.

ANDREW: I’d like to begin by asking you about the current situation on the Council – how many Democrats and Republicans are there now, and how will it look after you win - if you win?

MIKE: Well, that's actually a very good question. There are currently three Democrats and two Republicans on the County Council in Snohomish County. Two of those, one Republican and one Democrat, are going out of office and leaving the two seats that Brian and I are running for open due to term limits here in Snohomish County.

So, should be both get elected, given the conservative nature of the Democrat that occupies the seat that Brian's running for, if we both get elected, it'll be a four to one Democratic majority and a much more progressive majority in relationship to the environment and transportation-related issues, I think.

BRIAN: And other social issues, like mental health, and housing, and...I think both Mike and I look forward to working together because of our relationship both as seatmates in the state legislature and serving together in the state legislature, but also now serving at the local level.

ANDREW: Which of the current councilmembers would you say is progressive?

MIKE: Probably the most progressive (current) member of the County Council is Councilmember Dave Somers, who represents predominantly eastern Snohomish County - east of Monroe, out into the rural parts, up towards Stevens Pass. To a certain extent, [Councilmember] Dave Gossett shares some of the progressive values we care about. Councilmember [Kirke] Sievers, who's been there a number of years, [is] probably the most conservative Democrat, and certainly I wouldn't call either of the Republicans very progressive.

BRIAN: Yeah, I would agree with that, and think that there's big changes coming to the County Council on the progressive side. And I would just back up the statement that Dave Somers is probably is a leader right now, a representative of those values on the Council.

ANDREW: Could each of you briefly describe your background for us?

MIKE: Sure, you want to go first, Brian?

BRIAN: Sure. Well, my background is a long varied background, filled with public service, much like Mike's. You know, I grew up...my dad worked for a U.S. Senator, Mike Mansfield, we moved out here when I was four, he was a Kennedy appointment to run the...what today is FEMA, for Region Ten.

So I kind of grew up in the atmosphere where we sat at the dinner table and talked about if you got elected, how would you hold a district, as opposed to sports. And Walker Cronkite was daily on our agenda. I was elected to the Mukilteo City Council [when] I was twenty four years old. I was elected as Mayor of Mukilteo when I was thirty. I served eight years as the Mayor of Mukilteo. [The] population of Mukilteo was 2,000 when I started, 16,000 when I ended as the mayor.

And then of course, I went on to be elected to the state legislature...and served the last seven years in the state legislature. So I'm proud of my public record. It certainly wasn't for the money [chuckles], because there is literally no pay in all of those positions. And Mike, I know you've had a very similar background.

MIKE: I actually come from an interesting background, and I just want to preface it by saying some of the people who don't want me to be elected to the County Council call me "hyper partisan" and a "rabid, left-wing environmentalist." The interesting thing about that is that I got involved in the environmental movement after I was elected to the state legislature, not before.

In 1996, I got elected, was reelected four times, and then in 2004 gave up my seat in the state House of Representatives to run for statewide office [Lands Commissioner]. You don't get that taste out of your mouth once you've become involved (in elected office), and you also don't really get rid of the bitter taste of losing very easily.

So in 2005 I got on the county charter review commission (highest vote tally in the county!) which enabled me to be the chair of the charter review commission. [I] made up my mind during that time that I wanted to run for County Council. I knew that [Councilmember] Gary Nelson couldn't run for reelection.

And so I made up my mind to go ahead and run. Nothing made me happier...when I found out that Brian and I were both going to be running at the same time. We've got an interesting opportunity in this county because we not only served together in the Legislature when he broke the tie in 2001, but we chaired the same committee!

When I left the Legislature, Brian became the chair of the committee, the Natural Resources Committee, that I had chaired. It's going to be a joy to be up here in the county seat with Brian, and Executive Reardon, who I also served with in the House of Representatives, and...quite frankly, Republican John Koster served at the same time I did in Olympia. So it's going to be like the family will be back together again, just changing what we fight about.

ANDREW: I'd like to ask you about your vision for Snohomish County. Where do you see the county going, and what policies do you want to implement to make the county a good place to live?

MIKE: A lot of where we go, I think, depends largely on how the ballot measure on transportation [Roads & Transit] comes out in November. If that passes, the county's got an opportunity to move forward in a very progressive way on transit-oriented development and some of the kinds of things that relate to light rail. If it fails, the county really is back to square one in re-planning our transportation system in Snohomish County and how it's all going to fit together.

I have a vision of a county that really comes together around choices in transportation. And that includes our land use, that includes how we develop our parks and our schools, in addition to our strip malls and housing.

If we don't come together around choices, giving people the opportunity to walk, bike, ride the bus, ride the train, or drive their automobile, then we're not doing anybody a service in relationship to how we develop this county.

BRIAN: Both Mike and I honestly believe in the quality of life for Snohomish County, and...integrated transportation choices is certainly a part of it.

But Mike and I also come from a local background - Mike was on the Planning Commission of the City of Edmonds, I was the Mayor of Mukilteo for many years...we've dealt with the Growth Management Act, the onset of the Urban Growth Boundaries, how we integrate the environmental, or, Critical Areas Ordinances, for instance, with our planning processes....so we take a lot of experience to the county council.

But at the very top is that quality of life statement. It includes transportation, it includes growth, includes the environment, includes housing...

MIKE: One of the things (and Brian just mentioned housing) one of the things I think that's seldom discussed at the level it should be is the housing crisis that we're faced with in this county.

And I don't mean the housing crisis in relationship to people's inability to get mortgages on five hundred thousand dollar homes. I mean the housing crisis as it relates to middle income and entry-level income people trying to buy their first home or simply trying to pay their rent.

The discussion always revolves around land use, and what we really ought to be talking about is how we're going to make sure that people can rent or live in a home in this community, and slow down the phenomenon that's going on where mobile home parks are getting closed and getting turned into single-family, half a million dollar homes, and where moderately priced apartment buildings are being converted to half a million dollar condominiums.

If we don't stop that phenomenon, we're going to be in a situation here where homelessness continues to increase in the county, and our seniors, our disabled, and our low income working poor won't have the ability to have a place to live.

BRIAN: You know, Mike's absolutely right. We're expecting, in the next twelve to fifteen years, three hundred thousand people... new people... to move to Snohomish County. And...affordable and attainable housing, and housing for the homeless, is going to be critical and should be part of our planning process over the next couple years.

In fact, Snohomish County has a draft housing plan now which I've just picked up and I'm soon to share with Mike. Of course, like all programs, it's going to cost money, but I think if we're very progressive towards our housing crisis - which I honestly agree [exists] - we can get ahead of the curve...but we have to act now.

ANDREW: Brian, could you talk about your top priorities...once you're on the council, what are the first things you're going to do?

BRIAN: Well, the top two things that I've been wanting to work on, that I've talked about over and over again, and...quite honestly, is what Mike brought up earlier - one of them, anyway, and that's the housing crisis.

I really think we need to get ahead of the curve on affordable and attainable housing. We need to work out public-private partnerships...we need to pull everybody into the room.

That includes the realtors, the builders, the environmentalists, the activists...and we need to create an atmosphere so that we can start solving this housing crisis together - as opposed to, you know, sometimes in politics, the knee-jerk reactions. Another top priority of mine, of course, is mental health.

And...actually, when I was the Mayor of Mukilteo, [I] had worked on mental health issues in Snohomish County. Mukilteo is the site of a mental health facility that I supported [which] was very difficult to get past my constituents, but nonetheless, it was built, and then embraced by the community for its good work.

So...we have an opportunity to go forward on mental health, as opposed to what we've been doing for the last two decades, and that's going backwards. And that does mean, maybe additional funding, it means more programs, it means working with our nonprofit mental health organizations. So...those are really the two top priorities for me, along of course with growth.

MIKE: Brian really is - the nice thing about Brian and I is, we share a lot of common goals, and I think housing is a huge issue again that doesn't get talked about. But on a specific area of concern for me related to housing...the county went through some lengthy debates on what are referred to as "air condos".

On the surface, a good way to address the issue of density in the urban area...but there are some shortcomings as a result of what happened in the negotiations that took place between the planning commission, the county council, and the developers. And that relates to public safety.

I think we didn't pay enough attention to public safety. I'm going to ask the chair of the county council, whoever that is in January, to readdress that ordinance...make sure we talk more about our side rock requirements, our fire lane requirements, and in particular, whether or not we have fire safety sprinklers in those buildings.

And quite frankly, if I could have a dream ordinance pass, it's not one of the great things that I always talked about in the Legislature on the environment or on transportation....if I could pass any ordinance in this county, [it would be] to require every stick of new construction that's built in this county to have a fire sprinkler system when they're built.

Whether it's [a] single family residence or a whether it's warehouse. I spent twenty five years of my career dedicated to public safety. This is not something new for me. I worked on it throughout my career. But the one way to stop people from dying in fires...a fire doubles in size every two minutes. And you can save lives by having sprinklers so that that fire will go out before the people have to hear the smoke detector and before the fire department even arrives.

ANDREW: So what feedback have you received from Snohomish County residents on the campaign trail? What are people concerned about?

MIKE: When I talk to people on the street and [at] the thousands of homes I've doorbelled during this campaign, I think what they're most looking forward to is reduced traffic congestion.

Whether or not that's in the form of transit or some other thing...they consistently say, we want to see less traffic congestion. And they consistently say we want to see residential developments being built with infrastructure that goes with those developments. And that's probably one of the shortcomings of this county, is having an inability to require infrastructure.

But I think that what people are really are looking forward to is the opportunity to continue...and I say this, and some people think it's rhetoric...but I like to talk about the opportunity to provide the same quality of life that we had when my family came to this county in 1965. I just had a great opportunity last week to participate in United Way's Day of Caring, and go down to Meadowdale Park and do habitat restoration on a stream.

A stream that had fish in it in the 1930s that lost its fishery, that the fish are coming back in. And that's the kinds of things that I think that people care about that don't get talked about very openly....caring about those quality of life issues.

BRIAN: Well, you know, Mike and I both....between the two of us, have probably knocked on more than 25,000 doors. And I would agree - I think transportation is at the top of everybody's list.

But quality of life...which is really a broad term, but a necessary term, because it is about [for example] rehabilitating our streams - the big gulch project, down between Mukilteo and Edmonds, for stream restoration. Working hard to reduce noise at the county airport (at Paine Field).

And work to bring economic vitality yet maintain that environmental balance. Also, working with our schools and the school populations that we have related to growth. So...people move here for the quality of life. You know, they visit Mukilteo, they visit Downtown Edmonds, they visit Everett and the surrounding...Arlington, the beautiful farms that we have. And they move here for that.

And I think that's a big goal that both Mike and I are dedicated to meeting.

ANDREW: Can you tell our listeners where they can find more information about your campaigns?

MIKE: Sure. My website is www (dot) mikecooper (dot) org, and if you go to our website, you'll have the opportunity to click on contact, volunteer, give money, do whatever you want to do through that website. It sends an email right to me and my campaign manager, and I actually read every one of those, personally, so that's the easiest way to get a hold of us.

BRIAN: And mine is www (dot) vote (hyphen) briansullivan (dot) com. And...same thing as Mike, of course, there are plenty of links. You can donate online and contact our campaign. My campaign manager is Page DeChambeau, we both check email on a regular basis.

ANDREW: Great. Well, I want to thank the two of you for taking the time to sit down with us and talk about why you're running, and what you hope to bring to the county.

MIKE: Thank you.

BRIAN: And thank you! I appreciate it.

ANDREW: If you have questions about this episode or suggestions for future ones, send an email to feedback (at) nwprogressive (dot) org with your comments.

We hope you’ll join us again for our next episode in this special 2007 Election podcast series.

For the Northwest Progressive Institute, I’m Andrew Villeneuve. Thanks for listening.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Canadian group buys Puget Sound Energy

The state's largest utility will soon have new private ownership:
Puget Energy, the parent company, says the consortium is paying $30 per share, a 25 percent premium over Thursday's closing stock price of $23.95. The consortium is paying cash for shares.

The deal is subject to the approval of shareholders and regulators but the company expects it to close in the second half of 2008. The headquarters will remain in Bellevue. Steve Reynolds will remain as chief executive officer with current management and employees.

Puget Sound Energy has more than 1 million electricity customers and 721,000 natural gas customers in 11 counties, mostly in Western Washington.

The buyers' group is led by Macquarie Infrastructure Partners, the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, and British Columbia Investment Management Corporation.
The company is painting this deal rosily, which is typical for corporate takeovers or acquisitions. While those who are wary have good reason to feel that way, the Governor doesn't seem too concerned:
Puget Sound Energy has a long record of being a good corporate citizen and providing Washington with an essential public service. I believe the company will continue to reflect our communities' values and will be able to invest in meeting the energy needs of Washingtonians.
Let's hope so. Many PSE customers are still not entirely thrilled with the company's response to the Hanukkah Eve Windstorm last December.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Republican Bob Edwards tries to fool progressive Seattleites in Port hit piece

Entrenched Republican Bob Edwards' campaign to win reelection to his nonpartisan seat on the Seattle Port Commission hasn't been going so well. First there were the scandals (including the Dinsmore severance incident) and then there was his embarrassing showing in the primary, where he was bested by Gael Tarleton, who is now challenging him in the general election.

So Edwards and his consultant Michael Grossman, who are desperate to persuade people not to vote for Gael Tarleton, cooked up a hit mailing that tries to link Gael to the Bush administration and the Iraq occupation, via the defense contractor SAIC, where Gael formerly worked. (It's not the first time they've resorted to trickery - earlier this year they bought up a number of domain names, including gaeltarleton.com, hoping to obstruct her campaign).

Front of Bob Edwards Attack Mailer

The front of this mailer features a picture of George W. Bush standing on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln in 2003 with the infamous Mission Accomplished banner behind him. The only text on the front reads:
Gael Tarleton - Port Security from the Company that Bought You the Iraq War
On the inside flap, at the top, it reads:
Now SAIC Wants Gael Tarelton [sic] to Run Security At Our Port.
Under this headline, on the left and right:
[Vanity Fair Logo]

[Vanity Fair Article Headline]: Washington's $8 Billion Shadow

[Vanity Fair Article Excerpt]: Mega-contractors such as Halliburton and Bechtel supply the government with brawn. But the biggest, most powerful of the "body shops" - SAIC, which employs 44,000 people and took in $8 billion last year - sells brainpower, including a lot of the "expertise" behind the Iraq war.

by Donald L. Bartlett and James E. Steele | March 2007
-----------------------------------

[Edwards Campaign]:

Gael Tarleton was a Vice President at SAIC, one of the nation's largest defense contractors, who were responsible for planning and executing the war in Iraq. With millions of dollars in Port security projects on the line, now SAIC is trying to get Tarleton elected to the Port of Seattle.

Check the Sources:
(1) Vanity Fair 3/2007
(2) Center for Public Integrity
(3) Seattle Weekly 7/18/07
(4) Sound Politics 10/8/07
[Seattle Weekly Logo]

[Weekly Headline]: Port Commission Candidate Gael Tarleton's SAIC Backers Could Soon Be Asking Her For Business

[Excerpt 1, Vanity Fair]: Prior to the war, SAIC was awarded seven contracts, together worth more than $100 million, without competitive bidding.

[Excerpt 2, Center for Public Integrity]: Since February 2003, SAIC has been in charge of the Iraqi Reconstruction and Development Council, a Pentagon-sanctioned group made up of Iraqis that is effectively functioning as the country's temporary government.

[Excerpt 3, Seattle Weekly]: She once worked for one of the heavyweights in port security technology—a company that's had more than $7 million in contracts at the Seattle port in the past and may vie for more in the future. And her campaign has been generously supported by some of her former colleagues at the company.

[Excerpt 4, unSoundPolitics]: One finds that of the almost $157,000 raised by Tarleton that about $38,000 (or 24%) come from SAIC employees or retirees, as well as individuals living near SAIC offices in California and Arlington, VA.


The bottom of the front inside panel says in large type:
On November 6th, Say No to No-Bid Baghdad Contracts.
The other inside flap has a picture of Bob with a bright seaport backdrop and a fawning quote from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, which has unfortunately and indefensibly endorsed Edwards.

The back of the mailing has another picture of Bob, except this time shaking hands with Ron Sims, another fawning quote from the Seattle P-I, and a selected list of Bob's most impressive Democratic and nonpartisan endorsements.

So, what about all the shots at Gael?

First of all, any mailing that cites a right wing blog like Sound Politics as a source is not to be trusted by progressive voters. As to the various statements and inferences, they're all nonsense. SAIC didn't instruct Gael to run for Seattle Port Commission... she chose to do that herself, because she cares about our region and she has the background to be a competent commissioner.

Gael left SAIC before the Iraq conflict began and is not a proxy for the company or the defense industry. She is a progressive voice, a leader with a unique life story, and she brings a lot to the table.

It is certainly true that people from SAIC have contributed to Gael's campaign. But if you're running for office, who do you naturally turn to for help first? Your friends and family. That's what Gael did. If she didn't tap her colleagues she wouldn't be much of a fundraiser... and having a war chest is important to winning office. (Hopefully, in the future, we can change that by enacting clean elections legislation).

As for accusations about a conflict of interest, here's what Gael told Kristen Millares Bolt when the Seattle Post-Intelligencer profiled her:
Tarleton said she would recuse herself from commission discussions that veer into arenas involving SAIC's influence and she also said that she sold all of her stock in SAIC.

"Anybody running for public office has a duty to uphold the integrity of the office -- a major problem with our current commission," Tarleton wrote in an e-mail to her campaign base.

"It is also why I would recuse myself on any contracts related to SAIC or the UW. That does not preclude me from leveraging my experience to the benefit of King County taxpayers I seek to serve."
As open-minded progressives, we cannot automatically disqualify somebody like Gael from our consideration because of where they once worked.

What ultimately matters is trust. The question is, can we trust Gael to be a commissioner who looks out for the common wealth and guards the public interest at our Port? Gael has demonstrated that the answer is yes. She's made a promise to recuse herself when business deals involving her clients come up. That's reasonable, fair, and appropriate.

Although the mailing fails to mention this, SAIC has no current contracts with the Port of Seattle (something the Seattle Weekly admitted in its article). SAIC did have contracts with the Port between 2002 and 2004, but they were not for gigantic sums of money. The mailing also fails to mention what Edwards told the Seattle Weekly in the article that it cites as its third source:
Edwards, first elected to the post in 1999, says "I've tried not to pay too much attention to what [my opponents] are saying and doing. I'm sticking to the record of what I've done as Port commissioner," when asked about Tarleton's ties to SAIC.
Tried not to pay much attention?

Well, you obviously are now, Bob. And you're not sticking to your record, either, not with this dishonest hit piece you've produced that essentially implies you're a Democrat and pretends that you're progressive.

Several Democratic activists have confirmed to NPI that they received this mailing. Edwards' campaign apparently targeted Seattle's most liberal legislative districts (including the 43rd and the 36th) in a Rove-style attack. (Karl Rove is known for going after political opponents by taking aim at their strengths).

Bob Edwards, for the record, is a Republican. In the last seven years he has donated to the campaigns of Steve Forbes (2000), Slade Gorton (2000), and Alaska's Don Young (2005). (Curiously, he gave $200 to Maria Cantwell's campaign just after she won election in 2001).

It's no wonder the Washington State Republican Party is providing him with needed cash late in his campaign. The WSRP donated $5,342.40 in a "last-minute" contribution on October 19th, which the PDC received and filed on October 22nd.

As commissioner, Bob Edwards repeatedly voted with the majority bloc that rubber stamped the wishes of ex-CEO Mic Dinsmore, who retired from the Port of Seattle this year. Dinsmore's reputation was notorious for excessive perks, freebies for corporate clients, and involvement in commission elections.

Edwards' record is clear proof that he doesn't share our progressive values and doesn't take the role of the Commission as a legislative body seriously.

We can elect a progressive majority to the Seattle Port Commission this November, but only if we replace Bob Edwards with Gael Tarleton and keep port reform champion Alec Fisken in office. Together with Commissioner Lloyd Hara, the three of them would be a majority on the Port Commmission.

Fisken's opponent, Bill Bryant, is also (for the record) a Republican. Bryant has given generously to the campaigns of George W. Bush (both 2000 and 2004), Mike! McGavick!, Dino Rossi, Dave Reichert, Chris Vance, Diane Tebelius, Michael Crapo, and Mitch McConnell.

The Washington State Republicans have returned the favor by giving Bryant a check for the same amount they gave to Bob Edwards. We know who their slate is, and we know who our candidates are - Alec Fisken and Gael Tarleton.

It's time for reform and progressive leadership at the Port of Seattle. Vote for Alec and Gael on or before November 6th.

Rossi on Roads & Transit: Not sure how he's going to vote

Earlier this week, we challenged the press and our readers (if you see him!) to ask Dino Rossi where he stands on the major issues on our ballot this November. Josh Feit attended Rossi's press conference this morning and made a point of asking the presumptive GOP nominee where he stands on Roads & Transit.

The answer was a Rossi classic: a non-position:
Rossi also pledged to make relieving traffic congestion the number one priority of his administration. (At a press briefing afterwards, he would not say definitively how he was voting on the $17.8 billion roads and transit package, allowing only that he was a 'No' vote now, but could be convinced to vote 'Yes' if the evidence mounts that Prop. 1 would actually ease congestion.)

To quote a skeptical Democratic spin doctor: "So, he's reserving the right to flip flop? These are yes or no questions [on the ballot.]"
Those who vote by mail in Puget Sound have already received their ballots. Dino's a gubernatorial candidate. The voting has begun and he hasn't made up his mind about Roads & Transit? More likely, Rossi has a position (and it's NO) but wants to soften his stance by saying he could be persuaded to vote the other way.

That's not leadership, it's cowardice. Dino's got a week and a half left to make up his mind. There's been a conversation going about this for months. Where has Dino been? If he was following along, he'd know the case for Roads & Transit.

And he says his No. 1 priority is easing congestion...what a sham.

Republicans who support the package better get to work if they really care about Proposition 1 passing. Dino's the head of their party: his endorsement would mean something. If you take his remarks seriously, he's a potential convert.

No word on how Dino feels about Referendum 67 yet.

UPDATE: While expressing support for the idea of simple majority, Rossi won't take a position on SJR 4204, and likewise is "leaning" towards Initiative 960, but again, no solid position. Apparently Dino only pays attention to his own political ambitions. Those critical issues that face our state?

Eh, not so important.

Rossi makes it official: he's running

Saying his 2008 campaign would be "just like a Rossi family road trip" the state's 2004 Republican gubernatorial candidate declared his intention to seek a rematch with Governor Christine Gregoire in 2008.

Smiling in front of a crowd at an Issaquah theater, Rossi didn't waste time getting jabs in at the Governor, calling for a state government that "serves the people, not itself." How pathetic. Is that the best he can come up with?

I'll post a lengthier update when I have a chance.

UPDATE: KOMO today aired an interview with Rossi recorded yesterday by reporter and anchor Mike Dardis. Dardis, to his credit, came up with some really good questions in the clip I just watched on the 11 AM newscast.

Dardis noted that George W. Bush is extremely unpopular, the Republican Party's reputation soiled, and mentioned Dan Satterberg's comments about this "trickling down" to his race (Satterberg is the GOP nominee for King County prosecutor).

Of course, Rossi brushed off the question. He doesn't think it'll affect him.

KOMO has an article online summarizing the interview. Here's a puzzling excerpt:
He [Rossi] said he'll speak out against what he sees as Gregoire's biggest failures, including tax and budget policy, transportation, foster care, education financing, and dealing with criminals. He said he'll offer effective leadership on all those issues.
Um....what? Dino's either deluded or living in some parallel universe, because that's dishonest. Substitute the word "failure" above for "policies Dino doesn't like" and then the paragraph starts to make more sense.

One of the problems that Dino's right wing cohorts and friends have created for him is the initiatives they have run attempting to undo key legislation supported by the Governor. For example, they gambled that the people of Washington would support I-912 and I-920, repealing gas and estate tax revenue, respectively, but instead, voters vindicated the Governor, sanctioning her policies as popular.

In addition to her fiscal leadership the Governor has stood firm on equality, signing into law ESSB 2661, which banned discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and SB 5356, which recognized domestic partnerships.

The Governor has supported countless environmental protection bills, including clean cars legislation to attack global warming and reduce emissions. She has fought George W. Bush on health insurance for our children (SCHIP).

Forbes Magazine recently found that Washington State is one of the best places to do business in the country. It cited a more responsive state government as one of the reasons why. That's a credit to our hardworking Governor.

As AP reporter David Ammons noted in February of 2006, she has successfully brokered compromises and solved problematic disputes:
Gov. Chris Gregoire is turning out to be state government's negotiator-in-chief.

This past week, she cracked open long-stalled talks between doctors and lawyers over medical malpractice legislation. The two sides had been barely able to sit in the same room, but with Gregoire playing the peacemaker, they finally laid aside their rhetorical arms and agreed to deal.

The previous week, the governor brokered a landmark Columbia River water plan that had eluded negotiators for 30 years.
That's Gregoire's record. It's full of successes...victories for Washington families. If Dino Rossi thinks he can convince voters to believe those achievements are all failures, then the next thirteen months should be a lot of fun. Dino Rossi may still be living in 2004, as he demonstrated with his comments today and yesterday - but the people of Washington State are not. He's in for a rude awakening.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Dino Rossi: the GOP's sacrifical lamb

This cartoon, showing Dino Rossi as a lamb entering the Meat Market run by Washington state voters, is one of the funniest, sharpest, and best columns David Horsey has ever drawn - and you must look at it right now.

Dino's press conference is tomorrow - we wonder whether he'll have anything to say about pressing state issues like these:
  1. Dino, do you support or oppose the Roads & Transit package to attack congestion and build fifty miles of new light rail throughout the Sound?
  2. Dino, are in you in favor of Tim Eyman's unconstitutional Initiative 960, which aims to tie up our government and paralyze the Legislature?
  3. Dino, how do you feel about Simple Majority for our public schools (EHJR 4204)? Do you agree that it's time to remove this unfair supermajority requirement, or are you in lockstep with people like John Carlson and Ed Orcutt who have argued that a minority should decide the fate of levies that would fund education?
  4. Dino, what's your position on Referendum 67, a public vote forced by the insurance industry, which has spent millions of dollars trying to convince the public to repeal a consumer protection law passed by our Legislature? Do you side with the industry or do you side with consumers?
  5. Dino, how do you feel about renewal of our Medic One levy here in King County? Is Medic One a good program? Do you believe it could be a model for other municipalities throughout Washington State?
If Dino wants to be governor - if he wants Chris Gregoire's job - then he needs to be honest with the press and the public. He needs to let Washingtonians know where he stands on these and other critical issues.

True leaders don't hesitate to answer tough questions.

California wildfires: A light gleams at the end of a dark, smoky tunnel

Conditions are finally beginning to improve:
There were growing signs of optimism Wednesday in the battle against the Southern California wildfires -- the largest natural disaster in the United States since Hurricane Katrina.

Winds that blew as hard as 101 mph on Sunday dropped to 75 mph on Monday, 50 mph on Tuesday and continued to ease Wednesday.

As conditions improved officials allowed people to return to communities that had been off-limits because of intense flames and dense smoke.

Meanwhile, dry Santa Ana winds that have fanned the flames, changed direction and began blowing inland from the Pacific Ocean, increasing the humidity and easing the burden on almost 8,900 firefighters in the area.
A quarter of a hundred thousand homes remain threatened, and the fire danger is still very real, but the outlook is finally improving.

Evergreen State sending help to California

Yesterday I expressed my hope that more could be done to help California fight the out of control wildfires that are destroying neighborhoods and lives:
Bill Richardson has offered help on behalf of New Mexico - it would be nice to see California's neighbors and other states in the west come together to provide support for the firefighting and disaster recovery efforts.
Well, today...Washington State is responding:
Washington is sending dozens of firefighters and equipment to join in the struggle to control the Southern California blazes, with some crews en route and more expected to depart today.

The state Emergency Management Division reports that two strike teams — each with 21 people and equipment to fight structural fires — departed last night with firefighters drawn from King, Pierce, San Juan and Thurston counties.

These teams will be joined by four to seven more strike teams that will depart today, assembled from Benton, Clark, Kittitas, Grant, Snohomish, Walla Walla and Whatcom counties.

"We are proud of the men and women from Washington who stand ready to assist in battling this fire," said Gov. Christine Gregoire. "We wish these firefighters a safe journey, and, with their families, look forward to their safe return."
Excellent. Well done, Governor Gregoire. Our brothers and sisters in California are in need and we have a chance to come to their aid. It will take a huge effort to contain these disastrous fires. Every contribution helps.

If only we could send California the downpour that's sloshing Puget Sound today...

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

In Brief - October 23rd, 2007

Here is today's quick news digest:
  • The Alaska Democratic Party today launched a thorough, comprehensive website that profiles Ted Stevens' deep connections to corporate interests and makes a solid case for why he is embarrassing Alaska and needs to leave the U.S. Senate. You can see it for yourself at RetireTed.com
  • People for the American Way has managed to create what is perhaps the most hilarious parody of the year: Right Wing Facebook.
  • The Republican National Committee is on the verge of punishing states that have decided to hold early caucuses and primaries in violation of party rules by stripping the offending states of half their convention delegates.
  • Glenn Beck continues to make insensitive comments. Why CNN hasn't fired him, and why he ever had a show to begin with, is difficult to fathom.
  • Chris Dodd's heroic efforts to stop retroactive immunity for telecoms by threatening filibuster in the Senate for a corporate friendly bill are gathering momentum, with Senators Obama and Clinton offering conditional support for a filibuster in statements today.
  • The Mount St. Helens Coldwater Visitor Center is closing due to lack of funding. It's a perfect example of the George W. Bush legacy: billions and billions of dollars spent on a pointless foreign occupation with endless American casaulties while treasured National Parks and Monuments break down due to lack of investment. Our common wealth is suffering thanks to years of Republican neglect, but we can still restore it.
  • After deciding not to an appeal an European Union ruling that found it guilty of running afoul of antitrust regulations, Microsoft announced yesterday it would make significant concessions, including dropping the price it charges for interoperability information and allowing developers of open source software to have access for a one time of fee of around $14,300.
If you have something to add, please leave a comment.

California wildfires burning out of control

Half a dozen people are dead, thousands of homes have burned, and there's no end in sight as the southern California wildfires rage on:
Fires sprang up today in San Diego and Los Angeles counties, and more evacuations were ordered in Orange and San Diego counties. As many as 10,000 people sought shelter at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, where food and blankets were available, and there was entertainment for children.

Weary firefighters fought major blazes that have burned since the weekend in seven counties, and officials said containment was days away at the earliest.

In an area as large as Southern California, officials remained focused on how to cope with their individual disasters, and there was little information for the region as a whole. But most officials agreed that all of the numbers grew overnight. There were more fires, more evacuations, more damage and more fatigue among firefighters.
Federal aid is on the way following a disaster declaration by Dubya. Bush has scheduled a trip out to California for Thursday. (Fortunately for everyone, Brownie is no longer in charge of the Federal Emergency Management Agency).

Southern California Wildfires
NASA satellite photo of wildfires

The Santa Ana winds continue to pose a formidable obstacle to those trying to fight the fires, which have already burned an area the size of New York City. The weather, the loss of electrical transmission facilities, and the dry conditions continue to cause huge problems. It sounds like the region is overwhelmed.

Bill Richardson has offered help on behalf of New Mexico - it would be nice to see California's neighbors and other states in the west come together to provide support for the firefighting and disaster recovery efforts.

They seem to need all the help they can get.

NPI releases formal endorsements for 2007 ballot measures

This morning the Northwest Progressive Institute and Permanent Defense are pleased to formally release our endorsements for measures on this November's ballot. As regular readers know, we have have already published a particularly significant number of posts condemning I-960 and supporting Roads & Transit.

A summary of our positions is as follows:
  • Initative 960 (Paralyzing Government): A resounding NO
  • Sound Transit/RTID Proposition 1 (Roads & Transit): YES
  • Referendum 67 (Consumer Protection): YES
  • SJR 8206 (Rainy Day Fund): YES
  • EHJR 4204 (Simple Majority for Public Schools): YES
  • EHJR 4215 (Higher Education Investment): YES
  • SJR 8212 (Inmate Labor): YES
  • King County Proposition 1 (Medic One Renewal): YES
  • King County Initiative 25 (GOP attempt to change elections admin.): NO
See our 2007 ballot measures page for more information, including our rationale, the description for each ballot measure, and links for additional information.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Rossi rumored to be announcing candidacy for Governor this Thursday

According to a number of Dino Rossi supporters, the former state senator is planning to make an important announcement this Thursday:
Dino Rossi, who lost to Democratic Gov. Chris Gregoire by 133 votes in the 2004 election, will make a long-expected announcement Thursday that he's running against her again next year.

Jill Strait, who identified herself as a Rossi campaign spokeswoman, wouldn't confirm on Monday that Rossi is about to make his all-but-obvious candidacy public but other Republican sources confirmed it.

Strait said the Sammamish Republican will announce something at the Village Theater in Issaquah at 10 a.m. and at the Doubletree Hotel in Spokane at 4:30 p.m. The theater is in the 5th Legislative District that Rossi once represented in the state Senate and was where he also kicked off his 2004 campaign.

Afton Swift, who ran Rossi's 2004 campaign, will manage his 2008 effort. His 2004 fund-raising consultant, Amy Barnes of Fundraising Partners Northwest, is also expected back.

Many of Rossi's top 2004 advisers, including J. Vander Stoep, a lawyer and political consultant who was former Sen. Slade Gorton's chief of staff, are at the core of his new campaign, too.
Well, this is the biggest non-surprise of the year, although I did think that Rossi would wait until after the November election to announce. But since he appears to be jumping into the water as a candidate...we have some questions for him concerning issues very important to this state, questions that the people of Washington are now voting on.

We know where Governor Christine Gregoire Gregoire stands.

Where does Dino Rossi stand?
  1. Dino, do you support or oppose the Roads & Transit package to attack congestion and build fifty miles of new light rail throughout the Sound?
  2. Dino, are in you in favor of Tim Eyman's unconstitutional Initiative 960, which aims to tie up our government and paralyze the Legislature?
  3. Dino, how do you feel about Simple Majority for our public schools (EHJR 4204)? Do you agree that it's time to remove this unfair supermajority requirement, or are you in lockstep with people like John Carlson and Ed Orcutt who have argued that a minority should decide the fate of levies that would fund education?
  4. Dino, what's your position on Referendum 67, a public vote forced by the insurance industry, which has spent millions of dollars trying to convince the public to repeal a consumer protection law passed by our Legislature? Do you side with the industry or do you side with consumers?
  5. Dino, how do you feel about renewal of our Medic One levy here in King County? Is Medic One a good program? Do you believe it could be a model for other municipalities throughout Washington State?
If you've got questions about any issue that you feel are appropriate for Dino Rossi, gubernatorial candidate-to-be, feel free to post them in the thread.

If any of our staff get an opportunity to ask Dino one or more of these questions in person, we will - and we encourage you to do the same if you meet him.

An Open Letter to Al Gore

Dear Mr. Gore:

I scarcely know how to begin this letter. I am so afraid for my country, my world, and my children’s future that I am at a loss to know what to say first. So, I will give in to the compulsion of fear and say first what is foremost in my mind.

I want you as the next leader of the free world. I want you, Sir, as the first leader of the world. Not its first ruler, but its first true leader.

I have held dear in my heart these last seven years a secret hope that you would once again stand for public office.

Only in these last few months have I come to understand that I share this hope with millions, and in the sharing I have found gladness and yet more hope.

I have, with my huddled masses of fellows, consumed every scrap of news, every shred of speculation, as to whether you might fulfill that hope. Though the scraps and shreds are uncountable as the birds, none of them means anything. I am beyond, now, the point of knowing what to believe or even what to hope.

You don’t need me to rehash every argument and suggestion for you, so I will mention only one thing. Some point to your statements that dealing with global climate change is a moral issue, rather than a political one, as evidence that you won’t run. Some have pointed to your statements that you are engaged in the most important job of all, by implication making the work of an honest American President the second most important, as evidence that you aren’t interested in the Presidency.

To which I can only say this: climate change is indeed a moral issue, but it is also a political issue. Because politics should be at its heart about effecting true morality in the world, rather than about effecting the crass and venal policies of greed that have come to be associated with it.

If it were true that you had to choose between the first- and second-most important jobs, then of course, I would encourage you to pick the first. But Sir, you don’t have to choose. Unique among the growing billions who inhabit the Good Earth, you alone do not have to choose. You, Sir, can do both.

And imagine what our species could achieve in the beacon of your leadership.

We huddled masses, Sir, we yearn to breathe. And we yearn to do so freely. The fullest measure of my support awaits that single sentence only you can utter, one which will change forever the direction humanity takes into the future. I know now that millions of others are with me. And I am, with no trace of shame, begging you.

Jason Black,
Redmond, WA.



Want to write your own letter to Al Gore? Send it to:

The Honorable Al Gore
2100 West End Ave
Nashville, TN, 37203

Seattle Times continuing its tradition of publishing poorly justified endorsements

Last year, Frank Blethen and the Seattle Times editorial board were widely flamed and ridiculed for publishing a dishonest series of editorials endorsing Republican candidates - recommendations which claimed to be reasoned or researched opinions but instead suspiciously appeared to be based around just one criterium: estate tax repeal, which the Times also explicitly endorsed in the form of Initiative 920, defeated overwhelmingly by voters.

Readers with good memories can probably still recall last year's endorsements of Mike McGavick, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, and Dave Reichert, where Blethen saw fit to endorse only Republicans in the state's three competitive federal races.

The Times has continued its tradition this year, falling for Dan Satterberg's attestation that he is above partisan politics and wants the office of county prosecutor to be nonpartisan.

(Curiously, Satterberg is participating in a King County GOP event promoting his candidacy and that of Jane Hague's, recently in trouble for drunk driving, faking academic credentials, and running afoul of PDC regulations.)

The Times insists that Bill Sherman is "up against a wall of experience, and he does not make enough of a case to knock it down" - but Bill's campaign isn't just about experience, although he's got that.

His campaign is about new ideas - keeping what's best about the prosecutor's office while bringing it up to date with today's challenges. Satterberg, on the other hand, hasn't shown that fresh energy.

(In fact, he has dismissed or argued against the key positions and themes of Bill's campaign, such as an emphasis on environmental enforcement, support for an assault weapons ban, and a higher standard for dealing with corruption.)

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer recognized this and gave Bill its endorsement, because it's time for a new direction. Dan Satterberg gives us the impression that he is an extension of his former boss, and with respect to Norm's legacy, we don't want a prosecutor who tries to be Norm Maleng. We want a prosecutor who brings his or her own vision and the values of the people of King County to the office, and affirms that there are areas where improvement is needed.

The message of the Times' editorial is that it is satisfied with the status quo, not that Dan Satterberg will make a really terrific prosecutor.

The Times has also endorsed a "no" position on Proposition 1, the Roads & Transit package, because - as they unbelievably argue (emphasis mine):
We think what the people want is a plan to reduce congestion. Proposition 1 spends huge amounts of money to make congestion worsen at a slightly lesser rate.

Seattle may deny this, but the surest way to reduce congestion on roads is to build more lanes. So says a report issued by State Auditor Brian Sonntag last week, and so says human experience. New roads help.
This endorsement, and especially that bolded paragraph, has got to be one the stupidest things the Seattle Times has ever published. It isn't just wrong... it's totally absurd. Whoever wrote it has a terrible understanding of transportation issues. It's filled with so many recycled libertarian myths that it just might be a record-breaker for nonsense contained within a 750 word editorial.

What human experience actually tells us is NOT to build more lanes, because all bigger and badder highways do is create more sprawl, more traffic jams, and more problems. Go visit a place like Atlanta or Phoenix, where massive highway projects abound, and attempt to reconcile the Times' logic with reality.

You won't be able to do it.

We could double the size of every Puget Sound highway, and I guarantee you that as soon as it was done every highway would be just as clogged as before. Why? Because building highways encourages people to drive! Add more space for single occupant vehicles, and it will be filled. "Human experience" has borne this truth out, and nothing Brian Sonntag or the Seattle Times can say in any report or endorsement changes it.

This is why Proposition 1, the package before us, is structured around a fifty mile expansion of light rail, which does attack congestion. How? Light rail gives people a choice, a way of reliably getting to work every day. Because trains run in their own right of way, they never get stuck in traffic.

And because they run on tracks instead of roads, that right of way is guaranteed and unchangeable. Automobile traffic can't go on rails, whereas lanes built explicitly for buses can be converted.

The Times argues that "buses also reduce congestion if people will ride them" - and we don't disagree that bus service should be available, but buses are not a replacement for trains. So what about the people who don't want to ride a bus? How to you get them out of a car? What is Sound Transit doing about them?

It's doing the most sensible thing it can do - build a light rail system.

Trains can move large amounts of people quickly and easily, and they appeal to people who own cars and use them to get to work: research has proven this. Because people who won't ride buses will ride light rail, light rail has the effect of getting people out of their cars, making everyone's commute more reliable.

That's why Sound Transit is committed to building light rail. It is the heart of a functional transit network. Light rail doesn't destroy or compete with buses, it complements them. When Link is extended to the south, east, and north, Sound Transit and its partner agencies will be able to reallocate bus routes to serve even more neighborhoods, and assign new routes that run to the new transit hubs created by the construction of light rail.

An example of a hub incorporating nearly every mode of transportation is Tacoma Dome Station, which ultimately will allow people to transfer between automobile (park & ride) light rail (South Link) heavy or commuter rail (Sounder) streetcar (Tacoma Link) bus (Sound Transit Express) or bicycle (via bike racks).

The station will naturally serve pedestrians too, although there's not much of a point in walking there from downtown when you can ride the streetcar.

Give people choices... and you can get them off the road. It would be irresponsible, foolish, and unfair to continue to force people to drive their cars by spending money solely on highways. And allocating transit dollars only towards buses squanders the huge potential of rail which the Times fails to recognize.

The Times makes another mistake this morning in recommending (by what its editorial writer called a "razor thin" margin) John Marchione as the successor to Rosemarie Ives, Redmond's outgoing mayor, who has served sixteen years in that position. The better candidate, who the Times did not endorse, is Jim Robinson, a four term city council veteran with broad civic and business experience.

(The Times editorial board did better with its Redmond City Council endorsements, but that doesn't atone for its decision to go with Marchione in the mayoral race.)

Robinson, who shares our progressive values, has offered a refreshing campaign theme of people first leadership for our hometown. I've given my support to Jim - and this organization will do the same - because we know his priorities are sound and his leadership abilities are proven.

Other progressive groups supporting him include the Washington Conservation Voters, Cascade Bicycle Club, and the 45th District Democrats.

Not surprisingly, Jim is also the choice of Redmond's public servants, including the Police Officers Association and the City Hall Employees Association, who clearly trust Jim to be a competent manager and a levelheaded mayor.

The Times says Marchione "will bring public administrative expertise to the city's chief-executive job" which "gives him the edge" but they don't justify this argument. Jim has a B.A. in political science, masters in business administration, masters in international management, and has worked at Boeing for decades in three major divisions of the company. Jim has the expertise the job requires.

Jim's qualifications are solid, and his concern for Redmond's future paramount. It's why on the campaign trail he has been asking residents if they want a great hometown or just another employment center.

Jim is a firm believer in environmental protection, equality under the law, open government, healthy public services, and thoughtful planning. He supports Proposition 1 (Roads & Transit), as we do, because he understands how imperative it is that transportation choices be available to the people of Redmond.

The Times indicated in its endorsement that it was impressed with Marchione's Dino Rossi style budget from last December and approvingly stated that Marchione "wants to improve the business climate and is more averse to raising taxes".

Politicians across America like to brag about how they will strengthen the business climate while stressing their opposition to raising taxes, but the simple reality is that our common wealth is the key to having a great business climate.

Think about all the public infrastructure we have that supports our economy and the private sector: our interstate highway system, the courts (where nine tenths of the cases involve corporate law) the Internet...the list goes on and on.

Jim Robinson is a leader who is not unafraid to explore the possibility of raising revenue to keep Redmond's quality of life high and its business climate competitive. That courage sharply distinguishes him from John Marchione.

As for that budget that the Seattle Times seems to be impressed with...well, I'll let former city councilmember Tom Paine explain that. Here is his letter to the Redmond Reporter which just ran in last Wednesday's edition of the paper:
As a recently retired Redmond City Councilmember, I had the unique perspective of working alongside both of our mayoral candidates, and have the luxury of now being unencumbered by political cronyism. I was hoping for an honest campaign, but the residents of our city need to know the facts.

In recent campaign advertising, the Marchione camp has made, at minimum, misleading statements and, at worst, used outright deception about his qualifications.

Mr. Marchione's campaign claims he "Built Redmond City Council consensus to balance the budget" and "added 8 firefighters while maintaining the balanced budget."

Mr. Marchione may want to imply that he balanced the budget, but the fact is the law requires it. We can thank Olympia, not Mr. Marchione.

He claims he added 8 firefighters. What he doesn't say is that as Finance Committee chairman he ramrodded through a budget that paid for other priorities and put it on the backs of the voters to raise their own taxes to pay for needed police and firefighters. Will those be his priorities and his tax raising tactic as mayor too?

What Mr. Marchione also doesn't say is how he and his cronies protected $135 million dollars of unspent, mostly unencumbered taxpayer money in the city's capital budget, while forcing us to tax ourselves to have adequate police and fire protection. Why the big balance in the pot?

Long time council cronies want to protect their pet projects and keep on adding money to the fund. Yes, Mr. Marchione's budget even added to the pot, while he held police and fire hostage to our vote.

Mr. Marchione also claims that he "obtained a new source of water to serve Redmond." What he doesn't say is that he is Redmond's representative on the Cascade Water Alliance, a group the City Council as a whole agreed to join to protect our water availability for the long term future. It is the group's responsibility to get this water source, and according to the Seattle Times and other media, they still don't have it. His claim of being the person obtaining a new source is outrageous.

I know what I think of a candidate whose first steps in aspiring to be leader is to mislead and deceive the public he seeks to serve. That's why I support Jim Robinson for Mayor. Jim will fight insider cronyism and will keep Redmond a hometown we can be proud of.
The Times may view Marchione's budget and his conservative "we've got to live within our means" rhetoric with fondness, but Redmond is a progressive city and it deserves a leader who is going to be fiscally responsible as well as one who strongly embraces the values of its socially and environmentally concious residents.

You can learn more about that budget from Jim's frequently asked questions page, where he contrasts his approach with that of John Marchione's.

As for the Seattle Times, it appears the editorial board has no problem with the continued publication of poorly justified endorsements that ignore the paper's own prior editorial stances, the region it serves, and the facts in favor of right wing ideology and the whims of its publisher.

UPDATE: Apparently they've got even bigger problems than I thought - botching candidates' names!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Proposition 1 will bring transportation choices to Puget Sound

The Seattle Times recently published a story that shows that we are already altering the way we get around in the face of crippling congestion:
Data from several key traffic measures indicate that as traffic congestion worsens, many drivers may be starting to make significant changes in how they get around — including driving less and owning fewer vehicles.
  • The average number of miles driven per person in the Puget Sound area has leveled off, growing just 0.8 percent a year for the five-year period between 2001 and 2006 after rising as much as 6 percent a year for decades, according to a Puget Sound Regional Council report in August.
  • The number of new vehicles added each year to King County roads fell dramatically during that same period, from an average of 33,000 per year between 1980 and 1990 to just 11,000 per year between 2000 and 2006, according to calculations based on figures provided by the state Department of Licensing (DOL) in February.
  • The ratio of registered cars to drivers — which reached 1.5 vehicles for every driver in 1990 — also dropped significantly to 1.21 vehicles per driver in 2007, according to calculations based on figures provided by DOL in September.
When we talk about structuring investment to encourage transit use, libertarians frequently label such planning as “social engineering” (yeah, right - as if all the suburbs along I-5 have always been there - but of course they haven’t).

Decades ago the people of Seattle and surrounding towns got around by streetcar, bicycle, and wagons or carriages pulled by horses. Cars were a rarity - if you owned one, it was because you could afford one, not because you needed one.

Today is quite different. It’s different because we made the choice to build interstates, highways, and wide suburban boulevards. We sold off and dismantled our streetcars and subsidized (sometimes violently) oil drilling, here in America and throughout the world. Along the new interstates suburbs bloomed. From Normandy Park to Sammamish and from Northgate to Fife, we engineered a car-centric world.

As Walt Crowley observed, today we stand at the precipice of an equally monumental change. Roads & Transit represents the next stage in a shift from car orientated development to transit orientated development. It dramatically expands Link light rail and improves bus service (among many other things). It's not perfect. But it is our best chance to move forward.

Proposition 1 is a big milestone: the first big step along a path towards a transit friendly future.

Without options there is only so much that individuals can do - as anyone who has tried to commute by bus from the South End can tell you. Roads & Transit is a progressive answer to our transportation mess: give people choices, and we have the opportunity to cut down on emissions, reduce sprawl, and change the way we think about civic planning.

What the Sierra Club and others fail to realize is that decades of car-centric social engineering cannot be undone overnight. We're not going to solve the climate crisis by punishing people for driving their cars.

We've already got hundreds of thousands of people living in the suburbs and the exurbs, and they have to get to work, go to the store, and take their kids to soccer. Right now, in many communities, doing that without a car is nearly impossible. (If you don't live in Seattle, you can see for yourself - plug in a suburban address at WalkScore).

What can we do? We can vote for carefully thought out plan that is built around transit as the centerpiece, instead of more roads. We can support a package that offers targeted investments aimed at making our existing roads better, and we can support a proposal that puts meaningful transportation choices on the table for Puget Sound residents. A proposal that was built upon mountains of public input.

In doing so we can start a change no less momentous then the one that birthed, as Walt put it, "The ICE Age" (for internal combustion engine).

Rail transit spurs development along its route. Development that is based around new rail lines is sustainable, dense, and more affordable. Moving close to where you work is a great idea, but if you work in the concrete and steel jungle of downtown Seattle now, there's a good chance that is not an option.

With quality transit, living in a community like Federal Way no longer has to mean an expensive, congested, emissions generating commute to a job further north.

Instead it can mean a clean, quick, and comfortable ride in a train that reliably arrives and leaves the station on time, every morning and every evening, no matter the weather, no matter how bad the traffic on the highway is.

As the Times story pointed out, people are tired of long commutes, expensive gas, and losing time with their families. They want transit options, and they will use them - if they exist. Without Link, without Sounder, without ST Express, without the streetcars and HOV lanes, without improved pedestrian and bicycle access, those options won't be there. That's why we need to approve Proposition 1.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Blogworthy, October 19th, 2007

Here's the latest edition of our occasional review feature touching on news and developments that we couldn't get around to writing about earlier, as well as items we have accidentally overlooked.

Paula Hammond officially became the new Secretary of the Washington Department of Transportation this week following her appointment by Governor Christine Gregoire. Said the Governor: "We consulted with the top transportation and public officials in this state and around the country and found that the best candidate for the job was right here in Washington. Paula is a true leader with the vision to tackle Washington’s transportation challenges."

The Governor has been fairly busy this month, traveling the state to hear from citizens at town hall meetings, fighting George W. Bush's veto of SCHIP reauthorization, and announcing that Washington will join California in an expected lawsuit against the federal government to allow the state, along with 11 others, to require that all new automobiles sold here be "clean cars."

Meanwhile, the governor's office has hired Seattle consulting firm Cocker Fennessy to help find a new communications director to work through the 2008 legislative session and succeeding gubernatorial campaign. A couple local Republicans have predictably reacted to the news by spouting baseless accusations of corruption.

The Governor has also invited children to trick-or-treat at the Executive Mansion this Halloween, where she and First Gentleman Mike Gregoire will greet kids costumed as penguins (from the movie Happy Feet).

The traditional media and many conservative commentators have loudly emphasized a British high court ruling concerning Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth. Activist Stuart Dimmock had sued to stop the distribution of the film to British schools. Justice Burton, in rejecting the lawsuit, decided that the film differed from the International Panel on Climate Change on nine occasions and ordered that this be addressed in the guidance notes sent out with the movie. Unfortunately, the ruling has been misinterpreted and press reports have incorrectly stated that the justice found nine errors with the film.

Presidential hopeful Barack Obama appears to have thwarted a deal to allow a Senate vote on the nomination of Republican Hans von Spakovsky to the Federal Elections Commission. Spakovsky is the man who led the charge in Florida in 20000 to wrongly purge thousands of innocent voters from the rolls under the pretext of "cleaning up the records" to ensure felons were not allowed to vote.

New legislation has been introduced in the U.S. House that would close a loophole in the Clean Water Act that mining companies have been using to their advantage for some thirty years. The Clean Water Protection Act is short and sweet: with just a few lines, it clarifies the definition of "fill material" and puts teeth back in the Clean Water Act, originally intended to safeguard our rivers, streams, lakes, and other waterways. Pacific Northwest representatives supporting H.R. 2169 include Jay Inslee (WA-01), Adam Smith (WA-09), Jim McDermott (WA-07), David Wu (OR-01), Earl Blumenauer (OR-03), and Peter DeFazio (OR-04).

If you're represented by Brian Baird, Rick Larsen, or Norm Dicks, please call their office and ask them to sign on as a cosponsor of this bill.

The campaign to pass Simple Majority for Public Schools (Yes on 4204) gained additional momentum this week with the endorsement of several former Washington governors. Supporting the constitutional amendment to remove the unfair supermajority requirement in addition to Governor Gregoire are the Honorable Mike Lowry, Dan Evans, Booth Gardner, Albert Rosellini, John Spellman, and Gary Locke. You can see the full list of endorsing organizations at Yes on 4204.

After winning a special election in Massachusetts' 5th District on Tuesday, Democrat Niki Tsongas was ceremonially sworn in on Thursday in time to cast a vote for the SCHIP reauthorization bill that the House failed to pass over the veto of George W. Bush (falling short by just a baker's dozen of votes). We're pleased that Tsongas won, although we believe she could have waged a smarter campaign.

Our congratulations to Jim McCabe of McCranium.org for jumping into the water and launching a write-in campaign for Richland City Council. That's what crashing the gate is all about!

Read Jimmy's campaign announcement at McCranium and check out this story from the Tri-City Herald about his impromptu bid for office.

Finally, a quick summary of interesting news items:
Have something to add? Tell us about it in the comments.

Sound Transit's bond rating improves

We've repeatedly said that Sound Transit is one of the best run agencies in the Country. But you don't have to take our word for it - financial experts agree:
Sound Transit's stellar credit rating got stronger today as one of the nation’s two major independent municipal bond rating agencies upgraded its bond rating.

The improved rating, from Moody's Investors Service, is good news for the Puget Sound region’s taxpayers and signals Sound Transit's strong financial health. Specifically, it will lower Sound Transit’s cost of borrowing money, enabling the public’s investment in regional transit projects and services to stretch further.

[...]

The Moody's report states that the upgrade is based on "historically strong financial operations, fast-growing ridership on all transit modes, and the authority's importance to the strong service area that includes the state's most populous counties." The report was in connection with an upcoming bond issue for the current Sound Move program.

[...]

Standard & Poor's, the nation’s other major rating firm, has already granted Sound Transit’s senior lien bonds their AAA rating, the highest possible.
Moody's and Standard and Poor's recognize what we've know for sometime, Sound Transit is a reformed agency. They operate efficiently, responsibly, and transparently and their projects are on-time and on-budget.

This upgrade is good news for Roads & Transit, should voters pass Prop. 1:
The Sound Transit 2 financial plan anticipates paying cash for 60 percent of the proposed investments and selling bonds to cover the remaining 40 percent. Bonds sales would be about $3.9 billion out of the plan’s capital costs of $10.8 billion in 2006 dollars. This compares to buying a house with a down payment of around 60 percent, when most homeowners sign mortgages with down payments of 0 to 20 percent.

As a result of Sound Transit’s strong bond rating, the amount of interest Sound Transit would pay for debt service on future borrowing will be lower than most public agencies in the region.

Sound Transit borrows money at very competitive interest rates and uses 30-year bonds with terms similar to those used by other public agencies. For Sound Transit 2, the agency would issue 30-year bonds incrementally over the 20-year period for delivering the projects, paying off the last bonds, issued as late as 2027, by 2057.
If there is any one agency that's worked incredibly hard to earn taxpayers' trust, it is Sound Transit. Puget Sound voters can feel confident placing their hard earned tax dollars in Sound Transit's hands.

The Free Flow of Information Act could include bloggers

Bloggers are one step closer to having some of the same federal protections as journalists. The House of Representatives passed the Free Flow of Information Act Tuesday with a sure-to-be-tested veto-proof majority. According to Speaker Pelosi's website:
A blogger who regularly engages in journalistic activities – such as gathering and publishing news and information for dissemination to the public – and does so for a substantial portion of the person’s livelihood or for substantial financial gain would be covered by the shield as a journalist.
This is obviously subject to judicial interpretation, especially the "substantial portion" clause. We don't trust the Bush Department of Justice (if you can call it that) to make the correct judgements here.

Fortunately for NPI and the local netroots community, Washington is one of 30 states to already have a media shield law. It makes sense for this protection to exist at the federal level as well.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

NPI re-announces endorsements for 2007 Seattle Port Commission races

We're already on the record in support of both of these candidates, but today we're pleased to re-announce formal endorsements for Alec Fisken and Gael Tarleton, who are running to ensure reform at the Port of Seattle. Both candidates successfully made it to the general after each receiving the most votes in the August 21st primary.

Our statements for each candidate (the rationale, or explanation, for our stand) can be found at this page, along with a list of other notable endorsements.

Gael and Alec are true champions for progressive, Democratic values. We have an opportunity to elect a progressive majority to the Seattle Port Commission this year and we need both Gael and Alec to win for that to happen. Your help is needed if they're going to cross the finish line first.

Please volunteer for both Alec and Gael today - and don't forget to vote for them on your primary ballot if you're a King County resident.

Feel free to put this button on your own blog or website. We've added it our sidebar, if you look to the right.

Vote for Alec Fisken and Gael Tarleton

Windstorm hits Puget Sound

Today's anticipated afternoon windstorm has rolled into Puget Sound, and gusts have already forced the closure of the Hood Canal Bridge and caused numerous sporadic power outages around the region. Winds are currently averaging between 45-55 miles per hour in major cities such as Olympia, Seattle, and Everett.

30,000 Seattle City Light customers are without power. Thousands of Puget Sound Energy customers are also without power - more than 100,000 homes are without power as of this evening. Here's a map of the outages:

Power Outage Map

Strong winds are buffeting the State Route 520 bridge - nearly 60 miles per hour. The DOT may close the bridge, so keep that in mind. If you haven't left work and usually take the floating bridge to get home, your best bet is Interstate 90.

Windy Commute

Also note that the Department of Transportation says State Route 531 in Arlington is closed in both directions due to downed power lines and trees.

King County has closed the Factoria Transfer Station indefinitely for the same reasons. The Bellevue facility will reopen once power is restored.

The storm is striking further south than initially expected, causing outages throughout Olympia and Lacey, according to radio reports.

Wind moving into Western Washington

If you haven't started preparing for today's windstorm, now is the time:
URGENT - WEATHER MESSAGE
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE SEATTLE WA
11::55 AM PDT THURSDAY OCT 18 2007

AN INTENSIFYING LOW PRESSURE SYSTEM 130 MILES OFF THE WASHINGTON COAST IS FORECAST TO MOVE EAST NORTHEAST REACHING THE NORTHERN OLYMPIC PENINSULA LATE THIS AFTERNOON. THE LOW WILL CONTINUE TO TRACK NORTHEAST INTO THE INTERIOR OF BRITISH COLUMBIA THIS EVENING. THE STRONGEST WINDS ASSOCIATED WITH THIS SYSTEM ARE ANTICIPATED ALONG THE COAST AND NORTH INTERIOR TODAY. LESS INTENSE WINDS ARE EXPECTED ELSEWHERE IN WESTERN WASHINGTON AT THIS TIME. WINDS WILL DECREASE THIS EVENING ACROSS THE AREA AS THIS SYSTEM EXITS THE REGION.

SOUTHWEST INTERIOR-EAST PUGET SOUND LOWLANDS-EVERETT AND VICINITY-SEATTLE/BREMERTON AREA-TACOMA AREA-HOOD CANAL AREA-LOWER CHEHALIS VALLEY AREA-EASTERN STRAIT OF JUAN DE FUCA-WESTERN STRAIT OF JUAN DE FUCA-

WIND ADVISORY REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL 11 PM PDT THIS EVENING.

WINDS WILL INCREASE OVER MOST OF THE LOWLANDS THIS AFTERNOON, RIGHT AHEAD OF THE INCOMING WEATHER SYSTEM. SOUTH WINDS IN THE 10 TO 20 MPH RANGE WILL INCREASE TO 20 TO 30 MPH WITH GUSTS TO 40 MPH BETWEEN 2 PM AND 8 PM. STRONGER WINDS MAY OCCUR ACROSS HOOD CANAL WITH SPEEDS AT 25 TO 35 MPH WITH GUSTS TO 50 MPH. THE WINDS WILL DECREASE SIGNIFICANTLY AFTER 11 PM.

A WIND ADVISORY IS ISSUED WHEN SUSTAINED WINDS OF 30 TO 39 MPH OR GUSTS OF 45 TO 57 MPH ARE LIKELY. WINDS THIS STRONG CAN SNAP SMALL TREE BRANCHES...TOPPLE SMALL OR SHALLOW-ROOTED TREES...AND CAUSE LOCAL POWER OUTAGES. MOTORISTS...ESPECIALLY THOSE WITH HIGH PROFILE VEHICLES...SHOULD ALSO BE ALERT FOR SUDDEN...STRONG CROSS WINDS.
You can check out Pacific Northwest Portal's special Winter Preparedness section for links, tips, and instant forecasts.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Reichert chief of staff apologizes for misrepresenting third quarter numbers

Over the last few days there's been rampant speculation about Dave Reichert's third quarter fundraising reports, which as Dan Kirkdorffer detailed yesterday, have some very interesting oddities:
[W]hat has really struck so many observers in the blogosphere regarding Reichert's results is just how much it appeared he was spending as his cash on hand numbers, the number that ultimately will make the difference as the election nears, were continuing to lag Burner's. Going into the quarter he had $23,000 less cash on hand, but after Bush's visit and the end of the 3rd quarter, he had $41,000 less cash on hand.

Well it turns out that the main reason for that is the fact he recorded a huge $47,100 worth in refunds of contributions from individuals, and for the election cycle he has now refunded over $52,000 in contributions. For the entire previous election cycle Reichert only recorded $16,000 in refunds of contributions. My assumption is that these refunds are due to improper, or tainted contributions of some sort. I'll be interested if anyone can shed some light on them.
Reichert's chief of staff, Mike Shields, tried to explain what happened to the Associated Press in an article published after Dan's initial post:
Those refunds had to be issued because of mistakes in dividing the Bush money between Reichert's re-election campaign and the state Republican Party, which shared the more than $500,000 raised by the president.

The refunded contributions will be repaid, so Reichert is counting those contributions toward his third quarter total, Shields said.

Overall, Reichert has already cashed about $200,000 from the Bush visit to Bellevue, with more expected to roll in as officials continue splitting up the money, Shields said.
Shields told Seattle Times chief political reporter David Postman and other members of the press last week that Reichert's campaign had raised a total of $830,440 for 2007, with $340,800 in the third quarter, which included the Bush fundraising visit.

Today, however, Shields authorized a press release admitting he had misunderstood the campaign's actual numbers:

Mike Shields, spokesman for Friends of Dave Reichert, issued the following statement today:

"Late last week and earlier this week I made a mistake in representing the amount of money Friends of Dave Reichert (FDR) raised in the third quarter of 2007. FDR had to return some of the funds that were deposited in its account and I misunderstood the accounting surrounding those refunds.

"The correct numbers, as reported to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) show the Reichert campaign raised $294,888 in the 3rd quarter of 2007. So far this cycle the campaign has raised $766,703. The campaign has $339,460 cash on hand.

"I apologize for the mistake and for any incorrect stories that were written or broadcast because of it. I encourage media outlets to correct the record.

"I certainly did not intend to mislead anyone, especially in the full knowledge that the numbers are made public by the FEC.

"The discrepancy occurred because FDR used a credit card application while raising money for a Joint Fundraising Account in August which mistakenly put money into the wrong account. This caused $47,100 in electronic over-payments that had to be refunded in compliance with FEC law, all of which is detailed in FDR's FEC report. Returning over-payments is common practice in campaigns.

"In an effort to respond to early media inquiries about our soon-to-be public FEC report, I asked the campaign fundraiser and treasurer for an explanation of our numbers before releasing them. I misunderstood what they told me, which is entirely my fault, and gave incorrect information to the press. As someone who has worked with the media my entire career, I feel terrible that I made a mistake that led to erroneous stories being written and broadcast and I will ensure that figures are reported accurately in the future."
Oops. (Emphasis mine).

Looks like yet another sign that the Bush-powered Reichert campaign is sinking as Darcy Burner's people-powered campaign soars.

With $305,000 raised in the third quarter, Darcy bested Reichert's Dubya-assisted fundraising (without the advantage of incumbency!) and has more cash on hand than the Auburn Republican. That's impressive. Reichert supporters must be dismayed that an appearance by the figurehead of their party...the guy in that white house on Pennsylvania Avenue who's on television every night... couldn't bring in enough cash into Reichert's coffers to outperform Darcy and the netroots community. Ouch!

A huge kudos to Dan for spotting this error and forcing the Reichert campaign to admit the numbers provided to the media last week were incorrect.

Port of Seattle getting its winter holiday decorations ready early

I had a good laugh when I saw this:
Sea-Tac Airport Provides Sneak Preview of Festive New Winter Decorations At Seattle Design Shop

October 17, 2007 - Port of Seattle and Displaymaker Productions Inc. are providing a media availability to share the design and production of new decorations to be displayed this winter season at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

Following the recommendations provided by an advisory committee, the Port of Seattle approved the design concept of Displaymaker Productions, which emphasizes the use of light, colors and the beauty of the Pacific Northwest. In addition, environmentally friendly materials are a key concept in the design, as part of the Port's goal to become the cleanest, greenest, most energy efficient Port in the country.

The new winter decorations are scheduled to be installed at the airport in early November and to remain in the airport through mid-January.
Well, after last year's fake plastic tree fiasco...it's hard to blame them for scheduling media availability to show off planned airport holiday decorations!

We also applaud the goal to have a strong environmental ethic, but the Port of Seattle has a long, long, long way to go to get there.

Lousy weather coming our way

Time to batten down the hatches:
Seattle could be hit with a wild windstorm Thursday, but how severe the winds will be depends on where the storm goes on Wednesday, a National Weather Service spokesman said.

A high wind watch was issued for Thursday afternoon for the north and central coast of Washington, where winds are expected to be between 30 and 40 mph, with gusts to 60 mph.

"If the storm goes north toward Vancouver Island, we may not see anything out of the ordinary in Seattle," National Weather Service spokesman Johnny Berg said Tuesday evening, when the storm was about 1,300 miles off the Washington coast. "If it goes over the Olympics, we could see some good winds here in Seattle."
Governor Christine Gregoire's office has issued a statement encouraging western Washingtonians to get ready:
I urge everyone to take a moment today, before any fall or winter storms, to check their emergency supplies of food, water and batteries.

We learned from last year’s storm season that these storms can produce road closures, power outages, downed trees and flooding. We all should take steps to be prepared for these situations and lessen their impact on our families.

And, please, remember the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning from charcoal grills and generators. These devices must remain outside of homes or deadly carbon monoxide can build up and kill building occupants.”

Preparedness material is available in multiple languages on the state Department of Health web site.

Emergency preparedness information is available on the Washington Red Cross web site and the Washington Emergency Management Division web site.
You can also check out Pacific Northwest Portal's special Winter Preparedness section for links, tips, and instant forecasts.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Pacific Northwest shows why America needs universal broadband

The Center for Creative Voices in Media released a study entitled The Case for Universal Broadband in America: Now! last week that makes a key conclusion: broadband Internet access is a necessity for future, sustainable growth in this country. Bush's lofty 2004 "goal" of universal broadband in America by 2007 remains unmet like most of his other "goals" that make for great traditional media sound bites but are not actually administration priorities.

It is pleasantly noted that the report, which uses real people and their stories as examples, cites multiple instances here in the Pacific Northwest (2 examples from Oregon) where access to broadband leads to economic success both personally and collectively. We are proud that this region continues to act as a vanguard in this movement, setting the example that can be instantiated throughout the entire country with the help of responsible leadership. But we still have a long way to go.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Posting resumes

Due to a server software upgrade, no new posts have been showing on the blog since Friday morning (October 14th). Expect to see a few "backdated" posts appear shortly which didn't get published because of the maintenance.

Over $5,000 for Bill Sherman

After several days of blogging on behalf of Bill Sherman's campaign for King County Prosecutor, we're pleased to see that we've met our fundraising target: $5,000 to help Bill win in November. It's not a five or six digit number, but it's $5,000 more than Bill had before, and it will have an impact.

As of this morning, a total of $5,335 had been raised from 101 donors. Thanks to everyone who has donated or volunteered. It's still not too late to give to Bill!

The local right wing may sneer and jeer at us from time to time, but we're putting our money where our mouths are.

We've now successfully completed two drives in the last two months for outstanding netroots candidates - Darcy Burner and Bill Sherman.

And we're just getting started. We'll continue to help direct startup cash to great progressives who have taken the plunge and decided to run for office, both here in the Pacific Northwest and across the United States - from sea to shining sea.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Vote early and vote often for Bill Sherman - with your dollars!

Are you ready for a caring, pragmatic progressive King County prosecutor who believes deeply in protecting our communities and ensuring justice for all?

We are, and that's why we're proud to support Bill Sherman, the Democratic nominee for one of the most important executive offices in the county. As I noted yesterday, Bill is running in a tough campaign against Republican Dan Satterberg, and needs our help to win this November. The local netroots community has launched a fundraising drive to help Bill, and our goal is $5,000... by tomorrow.

Can you make a donation to help Bill's campaign?

We can trust Bill to bring his Democratic values and leadership to the office while ensuring that it remains a nonpartisan, impartial, and fair workplace that strives to treat everyone equally under the eyes of the law. As a current deputy prosecutor, former law clerk, university law review editor, aide to Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt, and attorney at Davis Wright Tremaine, Bill knows from experience the challenges of working with law enforcement and prosecuting cases.

He will do a superb job...and as recent polling shows, he can win this race.

If you'd like to learn more about Bill's candidacy and his priorities, we urge you to listen to this July 2007 episode of our podcast - a friendly debate between Bill Sherman and his Democratic primary opponent Keith Scully, moderated by our Events Coordinator, Rick Hegdahl. You can also learn more about Bill at his website.

By donating or volunteering to Bill, you're providing fuel for a people powered campaign that needs your energy and enthusiasm to be victorious.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Bill Sherman needs our help!

Back in the August primary election, Democratic voters in King County had the opportunity to decide between two excellent candidates each vying to be the party's nominee for prosecutor in the general election.

By a wide margin, they chose Bill Sherman, who has an extensive legal background and outstanding communications skills. As Bill's Democratic opponent told me a few days after the primary (with a smile) "I couldn't have lost to a better guy."

Bill is now facing off against Republican Dan Satterberg, who is already serving as interim prosecutor and wants to keep the office in GOP hands.

We think it's time for fresh insight, vision, and ideas. As the Seattle Post-Intelligencer editorial board said of Bill in its endorsement:
Prosecuting attorney, Bill Sherman makes the more compelling case. In Sherman, a Democrat, voters can pick someone who is well qualified, with diverse experience and possessed of a healthy interest in exploring new directions.

[...]

Sherman distinguishes himself with his ready interest in re-examining how resources are used and making sure a well-run office keeps up with the times.
Bill can win this race, but he needs our time, talents, and treasure to be successful. To help Bill's campaign, the local netroots community has launched a fundraising campaign to benefit Bill. Our goal is $5,000 by the end of this week.

It's not a massive amount of money, but every penny counts.

Will you join us in helping Bill cross the finish line first? Please donate to his campaign today. If you can't afford to help financially, consider volunteering. It's your contributions and commitment that make the critical difference. We've got a terrific Democrat at the top of our ticket - we just need to get him elected.

Transit Digest - October 12th, 2007

Here is the fourth edition of Transit Digest, our (almost) weekly Friday series covering brief transportation news items from the previous few days

Does your company offer transit incentives? Now is the time to find out:
There's a way to help the environment and save on taxes every day that you work. The mechanism - known variously as a commuter benefits program or a transit incentive program (TRIP) - was created by Congress in the 1990s to encourage the use of mass transit and van pooling.

It allows companies to cover up to $110 a month of a worker's commuting costs via bus, subway, train or ferry or lets workers take up to $110 a month in pretax money for that purpose. A similar amount can be contributed to each rider in van pools for six or more passengers. A related program allows $215 to be set aside each month for parking, including at park-and-ride lots that feed mass transit or van pool sites.

Now is a good time for consumers to take a fresh look at the transit programs because many companies make them available during their open enrollment benefit season each fall.
If your company doesn't participate in this project, ask them to. More information is available from the Association for Commuter Transportation.

Eight of nine King County Councilmembers endorse Roads and Transit: All the members of the county's legislative branch, save for Kathy Lambert (who unfortunately represents NPI's home district) endorsed the package:
We frequently disagreed as to what the right projects were and how to pay for them. After all, we represent very different areas of King County -- rural to urban to suburban. We knew that addressing our transportation problems was too important a task to delay. We shared our differences, expressed our points of view on behalf of our constituents, compromised where necessary, and arrived at unanimous agreement on a plan after attending dozens of meetings and reviewing thousands of public comments.

The result of that work is the Roads and Transit plan (Proposition 1), which will be on the November ballot. It is the first balanced transportation plan ever created for the Puget Sound region. Roads and Transit will build 50 miles of new light rail, replace vulnerable bridges, fix the worst choke points on our highways and build new bike and pedestrian paths across King, Pierce and Snohomish counties.
Republicans and Democrats from across King County recognize that this plan is our best chance to begin solving the problems facing our region.

Highway 2 work planned: The "highway of death" is getting some much needed improvements.
Gregoire said the road will be added to the state's traffic-safety-corridor list, which designates roads with the highest collision and fatality rates and makes them eligible for improvement. To start, the state will add signs alerting drivers to the dangers of the road.

It will also add 24-inch rumble strips — bumpy strips of pavement that cause noise and vibration when drivers drift onto them — along with reflectors and permanent, double striping next spring between Monroe and Gold Bar. A standard, nine-inch rumble strip will be added between Gold Bar and Stevens Pass.

Finally, the Washington State Patrol will put more motorcycle units along the route in an effort to reduce the number of drunken, sleepy and sometimes testy drivers traveling the road.
The highway inarguably needs to be improved. There have been 2,600 accidents on the road since 1999 with 50 fatalities. Good thing we rejected I-912 in 2005 - that money pays for safer roads.

The Alaskan Way Viaduct will close this weekend for full inspection: The state inspects the viaduct every three months to monitor the damage from the 2001 Nisqually earthquake.
Crews will close both viaduct decks on Saturday from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. from Spokane Street through the Battery Street Tunnel. Unlike previous inspections, the tunnel will remain closed Saturday night for corrosion testing.

On Sunday crews again will close both decks at 6 a.m. from Spokane Street through the Battery Street Tunnel. Because of an afternoon Seattle Seahawks game, the lanes will reopen early. The southbound lanes will open at 3 p.m., and the northbound lanes will open at 4 p.m.
The results of the inspection will be released on the 19th of October.

Weekend backups expected on I-405. Prepare for some backups on the Eastside as well this weekend:
Crews working for the State Department of Transportation will close two northbound lanes of Interstate 405 near Coal Creek Parkway this weekend for pile-driving work.

Engineers expect long backups on northbound I-405 between Interstate 90 and Renton, with the worst congestion Saturday and Sunday between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Saturday and Sunday, crews will close two northbound I-405 lanes from 112th Avenue Southeast to Coal Creek Parkway at 5 a.m. each morning. Crews will reopen one lane at 10:30 a.m. and the second lane at 12:30 p.m. each day.
Drivers are advised to take alternate routes or delay trips when possible.

Finally, if you missed Danny Westneat's column about light rail, read it now. He took the time to travel to the Rose City and experience its system. And surprise, surprise - he liked it a lot.

I have ridden on Portland's system, and agree completely with Danny's observations. The system is quick, reliable, efficient and a pleasure to ride. During rush hour the trains are packed, yet still operate on time.

As Danny notes, light rail also spurs growth. That's probably its biggest benefit. A light rail line anchors dense developments of workspaces and housing. Danny mentioned the condos going up along the line, but didn't mention what's happening in other areas of Portland. Up in north Portland, light rail is spurring the revitalization of a run down part of the city. Abandoned buildings are turning into restaurants and stores, and housing is being built at a record pace.

If you have spent time in Portland you know what I'm talking about. If not read Danny's column and get an idea. If light rail can work in Portland (and hundreds of other cities across the nation) it can work in Seattle.

Something we missed? Tell us about it in the comments.

Reactions to Gore's Nobel win

As progressives all over the United States and the world celebrate the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Al Gore and the IPCC, leaders and media outlets everywhere are reacting to the news.

First, an excerpt from a terrific Reuters analysis:
The Nobel Peace Prize he won on Friday was a blow to U.S. President George W. Bush and his widely criticized environmental policy and will long be savored by the man who lost the bitter 2000 presidential election by a whisker.

The honor was bestowed jointly on the former vice president and the U.N. climate panel for campaigning against the threat of global warming, in a not-so-subtle swipe at Bush, a latecomer to the battle against climate change.

It may also be interpreted as a part of an international backlash not only against seven years of what many see as environmental backsliding under Bush but also against his Iraq war policy and perceived arrogance in world affairs.

"The Nobel Committee's recognition of Vice President Gore shines a bright light on the most inconvenient truth of all -- the selection of George Bush as president has endangered the peace and prosperity of the entire planet," said fellow Democrat John Edwards, a 2008 White House contender.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi:
Al Gore sounded a clarion call that awakened the world to the very real threat of global warming. He has performed an invaluable service to humanity that is more than worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Through his ground-breaking film, 'An Inconvenient Truth,' his lectures, books, concerts, and many other activities, Al Gore has done more to educate the public on the dangers of climate change – and on the positive steps we can take to prevent it – than any other individual.

Vice President Gore’s public advocacy and the scientific efforts of Dr. Rajenda Pachauri and the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have opened the world’s eyes and removed any doubt that the climate crisis threatens our world and our children’s future.

The United States must now act. The New Direction Congress is completing work on a landmark energy bill that is our first step toward addressing global climate change. Soon after, the House will consider 'cap-and-trade' legislation that will greatly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. I hope President Bush will join us in our efforts and help the United States take a global leadership role in combating the climate crisis. We have no time to waste.
President Bill Clinton:
Al Gore has been warning and educating us about the dangers of climate change for decades. He saw this coming before others in public life and never stopped pushing for action to save our planet, even in the face of public indifference and attacks from those determined to defend the indefensible. ... I am thrilled by this well-deserved recognition.
Senator Chris Dodd:
As today's announcement confirms, reversing the effects of global warming is an issue of global justice and security. Al's tireless efforts to increase awareness of the threats of global warming have provided a powerful voice telling the world that we need to act now.
Governor Bill Richardson:
Vice President Al Gore has a remarkable record of public service. For over 20 years, he has been dedicated to fighting global warming for our nation and the world. His Nobel Prize is well-deserved. This prize is important, not only in recognition of Vice President Gore's extraordinary achievements, but also in acknowledgment of the importance of fighting global climate change
Chairman Howard Dean:
No other person has worked harder or done more to draw much needed attention to the crisis of global climate change, one of the most critical issues facing our planet. Future generations will thank him for his work to save our way of life.
Senator Hillary Clinton:
Congratulations to Al Gore for his well-deserved Nobel Peace Prize. His dedication and tireless work have been instrumental in raising international awareness about global warming.
The Secretary General of the United Nations:
Hailing the award of 2007 Nobel Peace Prize to former US Vice-President Al Gore and a UN panel on climate change, Secretary General Ban Ki Moon on Friday urged governments to build on the momentum they have generated by adopting a new set of binding commitments to contain greenhouse gas emissions.

Gore and the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) headed by India's R K Pachauri were awarded the prize for their efforts to spread awareness of man-made climate change and lay foundation for countering it.

In a statement, Ban paid tribute to Gore's "exceptional commitment and conviction, as an example of the crucial role that individuals and civil society can play in encouraging multilateral responses to global issues."

His spokesperson said Ban "rejoices with the IPCC, and its co-sponsors, the United Nations Environment Programme and the World Meteorological Organization."
I will post more reactions as we get them.

Al Gore wins Nobel Peace Prize!

CONGRATULATIONS to the greatest statesman in the United States of America!!!!!!!
The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded today to Al Gore, the former vice president, and to the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for its work to alert the world to the threat of global warming.

The award immediately renewed calls from Mr. Gore’s supporters for him to run for president in 2008, joining an already crowded field of Democrats. Mr. Gore, who lost the 2000 presidential election to George W. Bush, has said he is not interested in running but has not flatly rejected the notion.

Mr. Gore “is probably the single individual who has done most to create greater worldwide understanding of the measures that need to be adopted,” the Nobel citation said, referring to the issue of climate change. The United Nations committee, a network of 2,000 scientists that was organized in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environment Program, has produced two decades of scientific reports that have “created an ever-broader informed consensus about the connection between human activities and global warming,” the citation said.
Al's full statement:
I am deeply honored to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. This award is even more meaningful because I have the honor of sharing it with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change -- the world's pre-eminent scientific body devoted to improving our understanding of the climate crisis -- a group whose members have worked tirelessly and selflessly for many years. We face a true planetary emergency. The climate crisis is not a political issue, it is a moral and spiritual challenge to all of humanity. It is also our greatest opportunity to lift global consciousness to a higher level.

My wife, Tipper, and I will donate 100 percent of the proceeds of the award to the Alliance for Climate Protection, a bipartisan non-profit organization that is devoted to changing public opinion in the U.S. and around the world about the urgency of solving the climate crisis.
If Al would only do us the honor of running, we would be proud to support him in a second campaign for the presidency. Al Gore has more qualifications, experience, and vision than any other candidate in the entire field of Democratic hopefuls.

He saw the folly of invading Iraq years before many in the party did, has worked tirelessly to sound the alarm on the climate crisis, and knows how to tackle the enormous challenges our nation faces - like ensuring that all Americans have healthcare coverage.

Even if Al doesn't run, his legendary reputation and place in the history books is assured. The Nobel Peace Prize is his third major accolade this year alone, following two Academy Awards for An Inconvenient Truth last spring, and an Emmy for CurrentTV.

He also coordinated the Live Earth concerts this summer and released a new bestselling book, The Assault on Reason.

We are ecstatic that Al has been recognized for his efforts to make our world a better place for all humankind. He has truly earned this award.

We could not be prouder of him than we are today.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Huge 3Q numbers for Darcy Burner

Darcy Burner's campaign will soon release its third quarter fundraising totals, and the numbers, NPI has learned, are...to put it succinctly... huge.

We're talking $304,901 raised in the third quarter alone, for a total of $518,630 so far this year, with $370,228 cash on hand. Darcy has already raised over half a million dollars - and it isn't even 2008 yet!

The third quarter is normally more difficult to fundraise during because of the summer and holidays, but Darcy not only managed to top her second quarter results (close to $200,000), she increased her take by 50%, helped in part by the netroots-driven Burn Bush effort.

The Burner campaign is one of the hottest in the country. As Darcy gears up for Round 2 with Dave Reichert, his advisers must be realizing that they no longer enjoy the advantage in name recognition they did in 2006.

8th District voters have seen Darcy run before... and now they have a better chance to get to know her. As a mom and a businesswoman, Darcy can emphasize with the issues they're faced with every day: from figuring out how to get kids through college to ensuring access to preventative medical care.

Dave Reichert, meanwhile, has been a largely silent and ineffective member of Congress in his second term, occasionally making small noises, but failing to make progress on his constituents' priorities (like an end to the occupation of Iraq). His narrow escape last year demonstrates just how vulnerable he is.

Republican resources will be stretched thin in 2008 with Democrats on the offensive across the country. Reichert cannot expect an influx of GOP money to save him in 2008, and even if he does get it, his chances of losing remain high. Having proved her fundraising prowess in the midterms, Darcy will have even more funds available to fight back against Republican trickery next year.

In twelve months the voters of the 8th will have a second chance to elect a genuine, authentic progressive Democrat to Congress, someone who shares their values and understands the concerns of their families.

Roads & Transit opponents too confused to make a real case for voting no

With absentee ballots scheduled to start going out in just a few days, the number of stunningly childish attacks on the Roads & Transit package have increased dramatically, collectively reaching the level of a embarrassing temper tantrum, which is oddly both amusing and pathetic at the same time.

While local right wing bloggers continue to express their loathing, this morning's P-I features a Ted Van Dyk column filled with so much nonsense it's hard to contemplate how it all fits into 817 words, because just about every bit of it is ill-informed. It does not offer a rational argument against Sound Transit 2, which is the component of the package its author hates - Van Dyk admits he would support RTID if it were alone.

Van Dyk is obviously confused - very confused. He decided long ago he didn't like Sound Transit, so he sees what he wants to see.

He imagines light rail trains running on rails plated of gold (it's in the column title, folks! - "Stop light rail in its gold-plated tracks"). Most people would say that's only figurative language... but with Van Dyk, we're not so sure.

Ted probably thinks Sound Transit intends to serve caviar free to each passenger at all hours of the day, hand out Starbucks frappucinos to each rider when they board (on the town), and has plans to install huge leather couches inside of Link trains with flat screen televisions hooked up to satellite service...so Seahawks fans can watch NFL Sunday Ticket on their way to the game.

To most people that sounds totally ridiculous. Who'd want their tax dollars spent like that? But this is akin to what Ted Van Dyk sees when he looks at the plainly simple Sound Transit 2 proposal, structured around fifty miles of new Link trackage set to serve dozens of neighborhoods in congested corridors.

Ted doesn't see a working rail system that painlessly connects Seattle to the suburbs. He imagines something different, something stupendously wasteful, like what I described above. And that's why his column stinks. It is not a serious, thoughtful discussion about light rail. It's seething hatred shaped into words:
The Sound Transit portion of Prop. 1 is the most intellectually dishonest and cynical such proposal I have seen over a lifetime in politics and public policy. The public officials sponsoring it either do not comprehend or care about its Jonestown Kool-Aid implications for the region.
Yikes!

Whatever Van Dyk's drinking evidently has lead in it, because that is a crazy paragraph. How is a carefully crafted plan for good, reliable rapid transit, constructed on a huge foundation of public comment, "cynical"? If there's been any intellectual dishonesty in this debate, it has come from people such as Van Dyk, whose attacks have been colorful but ignorant.

Van Dyk's not the only one who is confused, though.

Looking over the thread attached to a Strange Bedfellows post about Roads & Transit a couple weeks ago, I came across this brilliant comment by an unregistered user urging other voters to reject the package. Here's the first part:
According to Randal O'Toole, The Thoreau Institute, there has never been a light rail system which has met its projected ridership or profitability. The systems do not go where people want to go and do not provide transportation when people want to travel.

The fixed locations of light rail absolutely prohibit and modification of the system at a reasonable cost when the demographics of the area change. Bus rapid-transit is a better way to go, because it allows the flexibility of using existing roads as alternate routes in emergencies and with changes in population.
The commenter is wrong about rail, which is actually versatile, flexible, dependable, and reliable. Light rail, in particular, can be built at grade, below ground, or above ground, as the Central Link system is. Of course light rail has a fixed alignment, and that is its strength: because it operates in its own right of way, it can't get stuck in congestion. Light rail isn't intended to exist by itself, it's supposed to be part of a larger transit network that helps get people where they want to go.

When roads are the only choice, everyone is forced to drive, and endless gridlock ensues. No matter how big the highways get, the gridlock remains the same or gets worse. This fact is irrefutable: it has been well documented over and over again.

If you've ever driven down a canyon interstate like I-680 in the exurban Bay Area, then you know what I mean: it's bumper to bumper bumpers even though there are at least six lanes on each side of the highway. And that's just one example. Planners in urban Georgia have stupidly continued to create and widen highways but Atlanta's traffic remains as snarled as ever. Go there and see for yourself.

Likewise, if you've visited a major city with a working rail system, you know how convenient and useful such a service can be.

Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat recently visited Portland, wrote a column about his experiences, and concluded that "we will love" light rail. It's one of the finest pieces he's ever written:
My worry has been about what we'll get for the money. You don't want to spend billions and end up with transit that dithers, stopping at red lights and halting about like a street trolley.

So I came to Portland to ride its 44 miles of light rail. To see what it's like. Portland's system is similar in technology and design to the 50-mile light-rail expansion plan King, Pierce and Snohomish counties are voting on in the Nov. 6 election.

It didn't take more than two minutes for me to be impressed. That's how long I waited to catch my first train in downtown Portland.

In two days of riding the rails, on 14 different trains, the longest I waited for one to come was eight minutes. That was at 11 on a Sunday night.

The longest any of my trains spent stopped at a station was 25 seconds — even when 75 rush-hour commuters tried to board a crowded train at once. I've waited much longer for a single rider to get on a Seattle bus, fumbling for change or arguing with the driver.
Portland isn't the only city with a working rail system, of course.

A few weeks ago, at the beginning of August, I flew to Chicago to attend the second YearlyKos Convention. After landing at Midway Airport, I collected my suitcase at baggage claim, bought a 7 day transit pass allowing unlimited trips for $20, and took a skybridge out of the terminal to the L station.

There I boarded an Orange Line train that rapidly took me to downtown Chicago, where I was able to get off about a block away from my hotel.

The trip took maybe twenty minutes during rush hour traffic. That's the beauty and simplicity of a rail system.

I can't wait for the day when I can get on a Link train in downtown Redmond and take it all the way to SeaTac Airport to catch a flight.

Link will connect major hubs together, serving major corridors and offering relief to commuters. It will interface with park & rides, Sounder commuter rail (a heavy rail system), buses operated by Sound Transit and its partner agencies, and streetcars such as Tacoma Link. Many of the projects in the RTID section of the package (the "roads" component) explicitly benefit Sound Transit 2.

Light rail will take people where they want to go. It will provide a choice and it will provide convenience. Sound Transit is not building light rail to make money, it's building it because it's an essential ingredient in a multimodal transportation system. Injecting profitability into this discussion is ridiculous, because public services are not moneymaking ventures.

Perhaps the real confusion of Roads & Transit opponents is well summarized by this last sentence written by the anonymous P-I commenter who groused about Link:
A NO vote on R-67 is the only rational choice for taxpayers who are already overburdened.
Wrong ballot measure, genius.

Help phone bank for Roads and Transit

The Roads and Transit campaign needs help with their phone banks. The fun starts on the 15th and goes through election day (no calls on Halloween):

You can contact Andrew Richardson for more info or to volunteer. Call the office at 206-381-1251 or send an e-mail to info (at) yesonroadsandtransit (dot) org.

Phone bank locations are as follows:

Seattle - Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday
1301 5th Ave., Suite 2500, 98101 (Rainier Building)

Bellevue - CH2MHill: Mondays & Wednesdays
1100 - 112th Ave. NE, Suite 400, 98004

Bellevue - MWH: Tuesdays & Thursdays
2353 - 130th Ave. NE, Suite 200, 98005

All phone banks take place from 6 to 9 PM.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Sounder packed like a can of sardines

Sitting on board Amtrak Cascades waiting to enjoy a congestion-free train ride south, I watched one of the morning Tacoma to Seattle Sounder trains come in, and man, was it packed tight.

It looked like there was hardly a spare bit of room on any car of the train - describing it as standing room only would be an understatement.

Sounder service is popular because (gasp!) people like commuter rail, which is something that the local anti-transit faction doesn't seem to understand.

Sound Transit has been expanding the service but it still can't meet demand - there simply aren't enough trains to accomodate everyone who wants to ditch a car and get out of traffic. Fortunately, there's something we in Puget Sound can do to ensure that Sounder is expanded: vote yes on Proposition 1 this fall, which includes funding for new Sounder stations, and paves the way for eventually adding more runs and trains (pending negotiations with BNSF).

Sound Transit 2 also extends Link to Tacoma, bringing light rail to neighborhoods not served by Sounder, offering more frequent service, and giving south sound commuters another way to travel through the busy Seattle to Tacoma corridor.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Blogworthy, October 9th, 2007

Here's the latest edition of our occasional review feature touching on news and developments that we couldn't get around to writing about earlier, as well as items we have accidentally overlooked.

Track athlete Marion Jones' career ended disastrously this week when the 31 year old athlete admitted to using BALCO steroids before and during competition in the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia. Jones has surrendered the five medals she won in Sydney to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, which intends to return them to the International Olympics Committee.

Jones has also agreed to "forfeit all other results dating back to Sept. 1, 2000" according to the Associated Press, which also reports that the IOC is "prepared to wipe her name officially from the record books, strip her of her world championship medals, pursue her for prize money and appearance fees and possibly ban her from future Olympics in any capacity."

MSNBC, the cable network and web venture between General Electric and Microsoft, announced on Sunday night that is acquiring Newsvine, one of the more prominent community-driven news and technology portals on the Web (perhaps the most famous and well trafficked of these is Digg). Newsvine will remain autonomous, but will share information and software with its new parent company, according to executives from Newsvine and MSNBC, who had been discussing a deal for several months.

There has been some rumor and speculation that the Federal Communications Commission will soon schedule its final public hearing on changes to media ownership rules in Seattle. (The fifth and most recent public hearing on the new rules was held in Chicago, Illinois on Thursday, September 20th, 2007).

Two FCC commissioners (Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein) have previously held hearings in Seattle on their own - without the other commissioners - but those weren't official, and the testimony received fell on sympathetic ears. (I liveblogged one of these unofficial hearings last year).

If the FCC were to hold an official hearing with all five commissioners present, it would be an extremely significant event - an opportunity to impress upon the majority that controls the FCC that Americans of all different political worldviews are opposed to the consolidation and concentration of media ownership. The commission hasn't made an announcement yet, but it likely will soon.

Frederick of Hollywood's campaign for President of the United States (if you can call it a campaign) has continued its plunge towards irrelevancy with his failure to excite or interest voters in Iowa. At a restaurant there, Thompson actually had to beg for applause in the silence following the end of his impromptu speech "about some things". Thompson was a bystander in tonight's GOP debate, which was dominated by rivals Mitt Romney and Rudy Guiliani.

New Mexcio's 2008 U.S. Senate race is getting more interesting by the day following the decision by incumbent Republican Pete Dominici to retire. Representative Heather Wilson (R-NM-01), who narrowly escaped defeat in last year's midterm elections, is already running, and Representative Steve Pearce (R-NM-02) is contemplating getting in as well, which would result in a primary on the GOP side while opening up two House seats for Democrats to target.

The mayor of Albuquerque, Martin Chavez, announced his intention to run today as a Democrat during a midday press conference. Don Wiviott, developer of several live-work unit projects in Sante Fe, is also running, having loaned himself nearly half a million dollars in startup cash. Meanwhile, the DSCC is reportedly pushing Lieutenant Governor Diane Denish (a progressive with statewide name ID) to get into the race. This one will be fun to watch.

The Simple Majority for our Schools campaign to approve EHJR 4204, the constitutional amendment to remove the antiquated supermajority requirement for school levies, has just launched a new television ad to explain to voters why 4204 is fair, reasonable, and necessary. The ad can be viewed on YouTube.

Yes on Roads and Transit debuts new ads

Keep Washington Rolling, the coalition campaign behind the Yes on Roads & Transit effort, has just rolled out two new ads refuting opponents' attacks on the package and emphasizing the need to invest now. The ads can be viewed at YouTube:
Proposition 1 took years and years to craft, incorporating thousands of hours worth of public input. With a heavy main course of transit projects and a side dish of road improvements, this package is just the hearty meal our region needs to move forward and tackle our congestion and traffic mess.

Michigan's primary gamble falling apart

So...how's that DNC rulebreaking working out for you, Governor Granholm?
Four Democratic candidates have withdrawn from Michigan's Jan. 15 presidential primary, undercutting the validity of the contest.

Barack Obama, John Edwards and Bill Richardson filed paperwork Tuesday, the deadline to withdraw from the ballot, said Kelly Chesney, spokeswoman for the Michigan Secretary of State's office.

A fourth candidate, Joe Biden, said in a statement that he was bypassing Michigan's primary, calling it a beauty contest.

"Today's decision reaffirms our pledge to respect the primary calendar as established by the DNC and makes it clear that we will not play into the politics of money and Republican machinations that only serve to interfere with the primary calendar," said Biden for President Campaign Manager Luis Navarro.

All of the Democratic candidates already have agreed not to campaign in Michigan because it broke Democratic National Committee rules when it moved its primary ahead of Feb. 5.

Other Democratic candidates had until the end of the day to decide if they'll stay on the ballot.
Michigan Democratic Party spokesman Jason Moon is correct in saying that "the monopoly that Iowa and New Hampshire have needs to end" but dismissing the hard work that the Democratic National Committee did to improve the presidential nominating process and instigating a free-for-all was not the right way to respond.

Markos says it's "ridiculous" that the candidates are "letting Iowa decide where they can travel and who they can talk to" - but we disagree. This isn't about Iowa. It's about whether our party's rules mean anything. (If they don't, then we're a pretty disorganized party - which is a problem that Markos and Jerome identified in Crashing the Gate last year).

The candidates are demonstrating their willingness to respect the guidelines established by the Democratic National Committee, and we applaud that.

As MichiganLiberal's David Boyle says:
If Mark Brewer [Michigan's Democratic party chair] can't change the plan and have a February 9 caucus, perhaps he should consider resigning from office. He messed up seriously by caving in and supporting the rule breaking early primary plan that defied the whole DNC and Howard Dean. (See my earlier diaries on this)

How does he look now? And how do John and Debbie Dingell look? And, I must say, Jennifer Granholm and Andy Dillon, who were seduced by Mike Bishop [Republican State Senate Majority Leader] into defying their own party's National Committee primary schedule?

I hope this all teaches the MDP [Michigan Democratic Party] a serious lesson; part of which is that they have done a terrible, terrible job for the Democrats, and the people, of Michigan. (Including wasting time on the early primary nonsense, rather than getting ready for the budget battle with the Republicans...)

Thanks to Barack, John, and Bill for upholding the integrity of the DNC primary process.
There's no doubt the nominating process needs to be improved, and Iowa and New Hampshire's dominance removed. But that is a discussion the whole country, including the Democratic and Republican parties, needs to have.

The real cost of Roads and Transit

There has been a significant amount of debate about the cost of the Roads & Transit package. Is it $17.8 billion, $38 billion, $47 billion, or $157 billion? My answer is $230, but I'll explain why later in this post.

Proposition 1 opponents have been throwing around the dishonest number of $157 billion. State Treasurer Mike Murphy has called this number (seemingly pulled from thin air by anti-rail zealots obsessed with attacking Sound Transit) "bogus".

Will at HorseAass made the observation that using the same math, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer would cost tens of thousands of dollars:
Using the same methodology reported in the P-I to arrive at the $160B cost figure for the joint ballot measure, the Seattle P-I costs a reader $60,000.

Here’s how it works: 50-cents per day for 6 days a week, plus $1.50 for Sundays. That’s $4.50 a week, multiplied by 52 weeks a year for $234 per year. But wait – those are 2006 numbers. Using MacIsaac's terms, you go back to what you’ve been paying since 1996 and go forward to what you’ll pay through to 2057. Using ST’s/MacIsacc’s/P-I’s annual inflationary factor of 5.2%, you deflate back to 1996, inflate up to 2057, add it all together and you get $60,075.37 – the true cost of the P-I to the reader. I like Joel Connelly, but he doesn’t seem like much of a bargain at that price, now does he? Curiously, the P-I does not use these figures to encourage purchasing their product.
The $157 billion number also makes the erroneous assumption that the taxes continue at full force, forever. But the law requires the taxes to be scaled back as projects are finished. The only way the revenues can continue is if the voters decide to authorize a new package.

The $17.8 billion number is how we have always talked about projects, and how we continue to talk about almost all of them - or example, the Evergreen Point (State Route 520) floating bridge, the Viaduct, and the recent Narrows Bridge.

$17.8 billion is how much Roads & Transit would cost if we could build it with no debt and no inflation. As far as I know, no package or mega-project in recent memory has been financed like that.

That's where the $38 and $47 billion numbers come in. The $38 billion represents the total year of expenditure (YOE) dollars for the package.

To arrive at that number, you estimate what the projects will cost in the dollars of the years they are built in.

For example, let's say you want to build a house ten years from now. If you could build it today, that house would cost $100,000.

To get the YOE dollars, you figure out how much the various materials and labor required to build your house will increase over ten years.

So if it's 5% a year, the YOE amount for your house is about $163,000. Of course, assuming equal inflation across all goods and services, that $163,000 will mean the same thing to you in ten years, as $100,000 means to you today.

Unfortunately, construction costs, especially the price of concrete, are soaring right now. That's why it's so imperative we act quickly - because it will only become more expensive to build later.

To get to $47 billion, interest on financing is added in. Going back to the house project, let's say over the next ten years you save $10,000 a year (we'll ignore interest on that). In 10 years, you'll have $100,000 in the bank, but remember, your house now costs $163,000. To build it, you have to get a loan for the remaining amount (40% is the amount Sound Transit is financing).

If we go by Sound Transit's ratio of debt service, that's the total amount you'll pay back compared to the amount you borrowed, of 2.2 to 1, which is typical for projects like this (home mortgages are in that range, while the junk bond-financed monorail program would have had a debt ratio of more than 5 to 1). So using that ratio you get a total payback amount of $138,600. We add that to the $100,000 you are expending from savings and come up with a total of $238,600.

So the $47 billion figure is simply the YOE dollars combined with the interest paid. It represents the total cost of the system, dollar for dollar, inflation and interest included. But if someone asked you today about the house you were going to build, would you tell them it's a $100,000, $163,000 or $238,000 house?

All this aside, the real number that matters to Puget Sound voters is the cost to their pocketbooks. What is the yearly impact on a family?

And the answer is $230 (not $2000, as opponents are falsely claiming – that level of taxation would require hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxable purchases a year, and ownership of two cars each worth fifty thousand dollars).

Since we are talking about fixed increases in sales tax and vehicle fees, while inflation will raise the amount of revenue collected, it will keep the proportion of income that people pay the same.

If today you spend $25,000 on taxable goods, you will pay $150 more in sales tax, or .6% of the total you spend. If in 2020 you are now spending $50,000, you'll pay $300, the same .6%. The vehicle fees work the same way.

For the typical family, the plan will cost about .4% of their annual income.

Whether we are talking about today, tomorrow, or twenty years from now, the net effect on families is the same.

So the question is, do Puget Sound voters want to pay a little over two hundred bucks more a year for safer roads, fifty miles of new light rail, better bike lanes, completion of unfinished HOV projects, new park and rides, and improved bus service? Is having more time to spend with your family, a cleaner region, and more transportation options worth the investment?

We say the answer is yes.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Amazon.com rolling out new virtual look

Browsing over to Amazon.com tonight to check on information for Apollo's Fire (which I blogged about earlier today), I was surprised to stumble across a new interface I hadn't seen before. It turns out Amazon.com is remodeling - trying out a new virtual look. Amazon has an overview of the changes, complete with a graphical guide describing the retooled layout.

I find the new design sleeker and more appealing - the "Cart" and "Lists" buttons are larger are more elegant, the search bar is more prominent, and hovering over the Amazon logo when not on the main page changes the graphic to read "Amazon.com homepage" which is a useful, though somewhat hidden, cue.

The new left navigation menu, which appears on the home page but hides under the "Shop All Departments" button on item pages, utilizes pop up menus for more compact browsing through different departments, though Javascript is required for the menu to work. (If Javascript is disabled, a plain listing that doesn't rely on scripting appears instead).

The following screenshots compare the old and new Amazon designs:

New Amazon Dot ComOld Amazon Dot Com


The new site design is on the left and the old is on the right. Click the thumbnails for a larger view. Here's how the company says it came up with the design:
We consulted the foremost experts in the field: our customers.

We traveled around the world, inviting customers like you to come and try out the new features and design. We listened to their feedback and made changes based on their opinions. Then we asked more customers for their advice, and we made more changes from their feedback. The design you see today reflects the input of many real-life customers of our U.S. and international websites.
My verdict: the site is definitely more usable, has a better color scheme, and improved navigation. You may or may not be able to see it in your browser if you head over there - Amazon says the new look is being selectively rolled out.

Columbian slices and dices Initiative 960

Chalk up another "no" endorsement against Tim Eyman's latest terrible idea:
Among its many flaws, Initiative 960 on the Nov. 6 ballot would seriously erode the representative form of government. Voters send legislators to the Legislature to legislate, and the lawmakers are rightly held accountable for their actions in subsequent elections. It's a fair and efficient system.

But I-960 would constrict their work by requiring a two-thirds legislative approval or voter approval for tax increases and majority legislative approval for fee increases. I-960 also would erect many other unnecessary hoops through which legislators would have to leap.
We agree, of course, and we're pleased to see this editorial is so cogent in its condemnation of I-960, which is such a lousy proposal that editorials against it, like this, are to be expected...even from papers with fairly conservative or right wing ownership. What was surprising, though, was this (emphasis mine):
The Columbian strongly recommends a "No" vote on I-960, joining a large chorus of organizations, public officials and other newspapers. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer was not exaggerating when it editorialized that I-960 "is for anyone who likes their constitutionally established representative democracy only when it is hogtied, caged and strapped in a straitjacket."
It's interesting that the Columbian's editorial writers referenced and incorporated the P-I piece from last Friday, which I described then as a "delicious" read because of its concise and powerful takedown of a complicated, messy, poorly drafted initiative.

You can help Washington State avoid an undemocratic, complicated disaster that would handicap our government by voting NO on Initiative 960 this fall.

Shelton based skydiving plane crashes in Cascade Mountains, wreckage found

Several parachutists are missing after authorities lost contact with their single engine Cessna aircraft on Sunday when it was flying near White Pass:
It was the last big dive of the jumping season, a "boogie" near Boise, Idaho, to cap another summer in the air.

But nine Snohomish-based skydivers and a pilot never made it home Sunday from the get-together.

Searchers scouring a heavily wooded area east of White Pass found the wreckage of the missing single-engine plane, according to reports from the scene. A hunter reported seeing a low-flying plane, then hearing a crash Monday night southwest of Rimrock Lake.

Late Monday, ground searchers reportedly found a debris field that is thought to be from the plane. There was no immediate word on the fate of those aboard it.
We offer our prayers both for those who died and for the survivors, if there are any, as well as the families and friends of the skydivers.

Jay Inslee headlines kickoff party for Apollo's Fire at Seattle University

Last night Jason and I had the honor of representing the Northwest Progressive Institute at a launch event for Apollo's Fire: Igniting America's Clean Energy Economy, a new book coauthored by our very own Representative Jay Inslee and Bracken Hendricks, a respected Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress. The book is a guided tour through many of the new technologies that hold the promise of solving the climate crisis and other environmental challenges.

It is filled with the optimistic, can-do spirit that John F. Kennedy brought to the space race in 1961 when he said:
I believe this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before the decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to earth.
Those 29 words, Inslee said during his twenty or so minute talk last night, made a huge difference in the Cold War-era space race. As Jay observed:
Think of what a courageous statement that was at the time. He [JFK] understood something about the American character...that's the spirit we seek to kindle with this book.

The intellectual fuel is ready for this fire to burn.
He added:
If the White House won't do its job on global warming, Congress will.
JFK's sticky idea - a very daunting challenge - became a reality just a few years later with the Apollo 11 landing and Neil Armstrong's first steps onto the moon's surface. In Apollo's Fire, Inslee and Hendricks talk about the need for a new Apollo project: a strategic initiative embraced by the progressive community and implemented by the federal government, that will bring America to the forefront of the environmental revolution.

The advantages of abandoning fossil fuels and adopting clean, renewable energy sources are significant. The Apollo project is not just about energy - it cuts across every major issue our country faces today.
  • America benefits economically from an investment in renewable energy with the creation of millions of jobs.
  • America becomes a healthier nation becuase there are fewer pollutants in our air and water. That means less sickness and disease.
  • A cleaner America means more sustainable ecosystems, greater biodiversity, and better protection of endangered species.
  • America's national security is strengthened because our country will no longer be reliant upon the Middle East for our energy.
  • America can become a world leader in helping developing nations invest in the same green technologies so the climate crisis can be averted.
Apollo's Fire is not a book that dwells in gloomy predictions of doom or disaster. It is a book that profiles the work of the many innovators and pioneers who are already working on the solutions that will be at the heart of the environmental revolution.

During his talk, Inslee also touched on three individuals who are each helping to create different green energy alternatives: one who is working on plug-in cars, one who is involved with the development of a new crop that can be used in ethanol, and one who is developing a new type of solar energy - thermal mirrors.

I haven't had a chance to read the whole thing yet, but we'll be publishing a review soon. In the meantime, if you want to grab a copy, head over to Amazon or Powell's - it is available now and makes a wonderful addition to your bookshelf. At Powell's you can order a presigned edition if you'd like.

For our Portland metro area readers, there's an event coming up at Powell's this Sunday, October 14th, at 7:30 PM, at Powell's City of Books (1005 W Burnside, Portland, OR 97209). For our Seattle metro area readers, mark your calendars for Sunday, November 4th, when there will be a panel discussion about Apollo's Fire at Town Hall Seattle, cosponsored by Elliott Bay Books and Seattle University. That event starts at 2 PM and will take place in the Great Hall.

Tickets will be $5 at the door.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Stay away from Blu-ray and HD-DVD

AfterDawn delivers a reminder of why the new Blu-ray and HD-DVD formats, which are loaded with digital restrictions management, are to be avoided:
People taking home copies of the new Blu-ray release from Fox, The Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, may be disappointed, depending on what model of player they have.

That's because of reports that are coming in, particularly on AVSForum, that neither Samsung's BD-P1200 and LG's BH100 (dual format) player can play the disc.

It's not surprising that this would happen as the BD+ protection used on the disc is very new. Players that have problems give the viewer a message suggesting a firmware update. This isn't exactly a surprising development with adoption of the additional DRM measures. However, it may highlight an inherent weakness in the strategy of protection that can be upgraded, therefore requiring mass player updates.

Right now few households have either a Blu-ray or HD DVD player, even if they do have an HDTV. That isolates the problem to a small number of mostly tech savvy A/V enthusiasts. These are the kind of people who typically don't have a problem with a firmware update. The same can't be said for much of the general public. What will their reactions be if they buy into Blu-ray and have similar problems in the future?
Unless you like being frustrated by incompatible discs and players, stay far away from Blu-ray, HD-DVD, and other formats that are built with DRM junk like the Advanced Access Content System or BD+.

NPI opposes the use of digital restrictions management to hinder consumers from completely legitimate use of purchased content such as movies, e-books, or music.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Explosion hits Atlas Foundry

Seattle media outlets are reporting that a powerful explosion hit the Atlas Foundry in Tacoma less than a hour ago. According to the city's fire department, it sent "flames and a mushroom cloud of smoke into the air":
The cause is not yet known.

The incident has triggered several road closures in the area. The southbound lanes of Interstate 5 are closed, just north of the exit to westbound State Route 16. Northbound I-5 traffic is stopped at 38th Street and eastbound SR 16 traffic is stopped at Union Avenue.
Hopefully no one is badly hurt.

Friday, October 5, 2007

P-I shreds I-960 in "no" endorsement

If I had to use one word to describe this editorial, which ran in today's Seattle Post-Intelligencer, it would probably be...delicious:
I-960 is the creation of an aggressively self-promoting political enterprise that runs on distrust of elected officials and distaste for taxes. The latest measure attempts to box in elected officials more destructively than ever, under an overarchingly cynical attitude of us (the public) against them (our legislators). That is the wrong starting point.

While properly stressing the need for effective checks and balances, our system of representative government presumes the public will choose a Legislature, monitor it and throw out or re-elect lawmakers.
You can smell Initiative 960 coming from miles away...and the odor is thickly rotten. This November, there's an easy way to prevent our state from being handicapped...an easy way to protect your rights and the rights of all Washingtonians to have a republic that is governed by a majority, not a minority.

Let Tim Eyman know you support effective government of the people, by the people, and for the people. All you have to do... is vote NO on Initiative 960, and tell all your friends and family that this proposal will be nothing less than an undemocratic, complicated disaster.

Transit Digest - October 5th, 2007

Here is the third edition of Transit Digest, our (almost) weekly Friday series covering brief transportation news items from the previous few days.

More environmental groups speak out in support of Roads and Transit: Most environmental groups in the region recognize the benefit Roads and Transit will have on the environment and more are coming on board every day. The Bicycle Alliance of Washington is the latest group to come out in favor of the plan. Gordon Black, Executive Director of the Bicycle Alliance of Washington, had this to say:
This package represents a significant investment to ensure that roads serve not just buses and cars but also cater to the growing numbers of bicyclists. When roads are more appealing to bicyclists, more people bicycle.
Also this week, Ron Brown, incoming board chair for Washington Environmental Council and a member of the Governor’s Climate Advisory Team responded to charges that Roads and Transit is bad for the environment:
Our fight against global warming from transportation is one of the greatest challenges that face our region. Building 50 miles of clean running, electric light rail is important to our region’s future and environmental sustainability,
Building light rail is good for the environment. Building more bike lanes is good for the environment. And ensuring that cars aren't idling in traffic spewing pollutants is good for the environment too.

Read all the endorsements here.

Bad news can be good news: The Seattle Times story "'Heartburn' over roads: State fears $1.5B shortfall" begins with the following:
Washington could fall about $1.5 billion short of what's needed to pay for state transportation projects over the next 16 years because drivers are expected to buy less gasoline than the state had forecast.

New state projections indicate rising gas prices will temper demand for fuel, and that in turn means less revenue from state and federal gas taxes. The trend is not expected to improve over time.
While revenue shortfalls present a problem, people using less gas is a good thing. As the article notes, this may mean the state will have develop new revenue sources, such as tolls, to cover the shortfall.

King County DDES wants more walkable cities: As part of the 4-year update to the King County Comprehensive Plan, the Department of Development and Environmental Services is proposing that the Plan be amended to allow more dense development in commercial centers outside of cities.
Proposed changes to the county's Comprehensive Plan would allow homes, stores and offices to be built in existing commercial centers outside cities — even if traffic already is bad enough to prevent development.

In White Center, the plan would allow far more intense development that could encourage creation of a pedestrian corridor.
Walkable neighborhoods are a great thing and are encouraged by fixed rail lines. Each stop along the line becomes its own core, with housing, retail, restaurants, and jobs. You can learn more about all the proposed changes and give your opinion at the following town halls:
Saturday, 1-3 p.m., Lake Washington School District Administration Building, 16250 N.E. 74th St., Redmond.

Oct. 11, 6:30-8:30 p.m., Cascade View Elementary School, 34816 S.E. Ridge St., Snoqualmie.

Oct. 15, 7:30-9 p.m., Courthouse Square, 19021 Vashon Highway S.W., Vashon.

Oct. 16, 6:30-8:30 p.m., Kentridge High School, 12430 S.E. 208th St., Kent.

Oct. 18, 6:30-8:30 p.m., White Center Heights Elementary School, 10015 Sixth Ave. S.W., Seattle.
Some voter guides are missing pro and con statements for Proposition 1: If you live in the following ZIP codes, your voters guide is missing the page for the Roads and Transit package: 98011, 98028, 98033, 98034, 98041, 98052, 98053, 98073, 98077 and 98083.

The print vendor the County used to print the guides has accepted responsibility and will be mailing a supplement to all affected residents.

Something we missed? Tell us about it in the comments.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

2007 Election Podcast Series: Keri Andrews on building a better Bellevue

This evening the Northwest Progressive Institute is pleased to announce a new multimedia project intended to serve as a November ballot resource for activists and voters. Over the next several weeks, the 2007 Election Podcast Series will examine key races and measures throughout Puget Sound and Washington State, featuring interviews with candidates, conversations with observers and citizens, roundtable discussions, and possibly even debates.

2007 Election Podcast Series

Audio will be distributed through our podcast, with transcriptions of each episode posted here on the Official Blog for those who would rather read than listen.

To subscribe to our podcast, plug our multimedia feed into your favorite aggregator - or click the below button to do so if you are an iTunes user.

Members of NPI - Northwest Progressive Institute - Northwest Progressive Institute

Our first episode in the series, and seventeenth episode overall, is an interview with Keri Andrews, a wonderful progressive who is running for Bellevue City Council this fall. Click the "Listen" link to hear the episode in your browser, or read the transcribed episode below.

PodcastListen

Keri Andrews on building a better Bellevue

RICK HEGDAHL: Hello and welcome to the Northwest Progressive Institute's first podcast for September 2007, the first of a special series of Election podcasts focusing on the November ballot.

My name is Rick Hegdahl, I'm Events Coordinator for NPI, and I'm pleased to be your host for this episode. To reach us with your comments and suggestions, send a message to feedback (at) nwprogressive (dot) org. I will give you that information again at the end of this podcast.

I’m here with Keri Andrews, who is running for Bellevue City Council. Welcome, Keri.

KERI ANDREWS: It’s good to be here.

RICK: So what prompted you to run for Bellevue City Council?

KERI: Well, I grew up here in Bellevue, and I am a small business owner here. I have a web development company and have been active in my community. I’m volunteering for the Children’s Response Center. We provide services for kids who have been sexually abused here in Bellevue. So, I’m very concerned about our community and I want to make sure as we’re growing that it’s going to be growing in a positive direction.

Most people don’t realize that the Bellevue City Council is dominated by Republicans. We don’t have a single member of the Bellevue City Council who identifies themselves as a Democrat.

RICK: Hm. A progressive, or . . .

KERI: Well, there are some who might consider themselves to be progressive—

RICK: Or say “progressive” when it’s convenient for them?

KERI: Right. There are different levels of conservative versus progressive, but none of them actually identify - go as far as identifying themselves - as a Democrat. We have one, Claudia Valducci, who identifies herself as “independent,” and I think that she does vote pretty progressively. However, we don’t have anybody who is truly a Democrat, and I think that that’s really not representative of our city that is much more diverse than that and really becoming more of a blue city.

I would like to add a different voice to the City Council and be able to represent Bellevue as a progressive voice.

RICK: How long have you lived in Bellevue?

KERI: I grew up in Bellevue. I went to Interlake High School, and for a few years I went to Sherwood Forest Elementary, which is now —

RICK: In my neighborhood —

KERI: — a big pile of dirt. [Laughs.] They’re rebuilding that.

RICK: I was amazed. I drove by there and it was gone.

KERI: Right. Yeah, exactly. So, you know, this is my neighborhood, and I want to make sure that as we’re growing that that’s taken care of. I’ve seen where Bellevue has been, and I want to make sure that where it’s going is going to be positive for everyone.

RICK: If elected, what will your top three priorities be?

KERI: Well the first thing that I would do is make sure that we get back on track with public safety. That is a really big pressing issue. I think that needs to be our top priority over other things. It concerns me when, in our city’s budget, we’re prioritizing other things over public safety.

Other things... that are more aesthetic, that help to make Bellevue pretty, but not make it run well on the inside. And, I think it’s important to make Bellevue an attractive place to live, but not at the expense of the safety of the people of Bellevue. So that would be my top priority.

I also want to make sure that we’re protecting our environment as we are growing as a city. Our impact on the environment is also growing right now. I want to make sure that that’s taken care of.

For instance, my opponent voted to reject the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement a few months ago, which is an agreement between many cities across the country — over 500 cities across the country — that are basically coming together and saying that yes, we are agreeing to do something to address global climate change. I think it’s very important for all cities, all governments to work together on this issue because nobody can do it just all by themselves. We have to work together.

If everyone believes that it’s not their own problem, it’s going to become everybody’s problem. So I think that that’s very important in making decisions as we’re moving forward when it comes to parks, when it comes to development, when it comes to transportation, to keep these things in mind—to keep in mind the impact on the environment. So that would be another priority of mine.

And along with that, I want to make sure that our neighborhoods are taken care of, and that we become more pedestrian-friendly as a city. I would like to see our city growing in a way that can accommodate for the needs of everybody who lives here, not just the people who are the super-rich.

It is a very diverse city. We have a broad array of different types of people who are living here from different backgrounds, different needs.

I want to make sure that we can accommodate for everybody, and that includes transportation, providing multiple different ways of getting around the city so that it’s not just driving. Because, as we’re seeing, people are moving here faster than we can build roads to accommodate for them.

I’m not saying that we need to completely abandon roads. I’m saying that we need to provide multiple options in order to get around. So, increasing bus service, increasing bike lanes, and sidewalks—it’s all part of being able to get around the city in the long term.

And our neighborhoods, as I mentioned before, I really want to make sure that our neighborhoods are not just being redeveloped into this plastic world —

RICK: Keep the character of the neighborhoods?

KERI: Exactly.

RICK: Yeah, there’s...even in my neighborhood, in East Bellevue, there’s more houses being torn down and rebuilt...which is good. It increases property values —

KERI: Sure.

RICK: But it also can push people out of the neighborhood because property values become so high, especially senior citizens who are, you know, having to pay higher property taxes because of that.

KERI: Well, and beyond just the character of the neighborhood, when there’s a big house that goes in next door and it is all the way up to the property line, and they’re getting around regulations for the height limit and setbacks, and these houses are blocking out the sunlight for the houses next door, killing their yards. That is imposing upon the —

RICK: The quality of life.

KERI: The quality of life of the person living next door. So it’s not even just a matter of wanting to keep the character of the neighborhoods, but just wanting to make sure that new houses that are going in aren’t taking away from the quality of life of the people who are already living there.

I think there are a lot of people who are concerned about the way that Bellevue is going. They’re excited, people are excited to see some of the changes until it affects them in their backyard.

RICK: Yeah, there’s an incredible amount of growth in downtown Bellevue which, you know, I read recently — I believe it was one of the local papers — that said that there’s more downtown growth than even during the dot com boom. I mean, just driving down Northeast 8th Street, hanging in downtown Bellevue, I counted fourteen construction cranes within a one square mile area.

KERI: And consider this. You know, I had mentioned the public safety issue. Just having finished just a matter of a couple of the high rises so far, the number of calls that the fire department has had to respond to in the downtown area alone has increased dramatically over the past twelve months.

Now, when you consider the new high rises that are going to go in that are being built right now, when those are completed, the number of calls are just going to jump through the roof.

And that affects Bellevue citywide, because when fire stations (which at this point, fire stations only have three firefighters per station). So, when —

RICK: On call? At any one time?

KERI: Yes. Yes. So if a fire station is responding to a call, that entire station [in] that entire little area is unavailable to respond to another call. So if the fire station that is closest to downtown Bellevue is responding to a call in downtown Bellevue, and then there’s another call also in downtown Bellevue, then they’re taking resources from other stations.

The station up at Crossroads can respond to calls in downtown Bellevue. So then that station is unavailable for calls. And so when we have this rapid growth in downtown, that doesn’t just affect downtown.

That affects the entire city because it’s pulling resources from other stations that should be there and available to protect that part of the city, and they’re not because they are dealing with issues in downtown.

And you also consider with these highrises, it’s not just a matter of how much time it takes for the firefighters to be able to get to the scene, but also how long it takes for them to get up to the victim in a highrise.

It adds several more minutes. So, if you are suffering from cardiac arrest, if every minute is going to count there, then if you’re up at the top of one of these high-rises, and it takes the firefighters ten or more minutes to get to you because of that, that’s a problem. That’s a problem.

RICK: Yeah, I wonder how, or if, in permitting all this highrise construction downtown, that those factors are being considered... because if you have a fire station that covers a certain neighborhood’s five square miles, or three square miles of coverage area, and the population, rather than expanding on the ground is expanding up into the air, you’re increasing population density without increasing the number of rapid responders for police and fire and ambulance service in those same areas.

KERI: Well, yeah, it’s definitely a factor, and the firefighters actually requested and were able to get a study that the city paid for, several years ago, that showed where the weaknesses were within our emergency safety here in the city of Bellevue and what improvements could be made. And Bellevue’s just been really slow in implementing those.

It showed quite a number of years ago that we needed a new fire station in downtown Bellevue. And this was just verifying what the fire department essentially already knew, was that we needed a new fire station right there in downtown Bellevue to serve the growth. And it is only now starting to be acted upon. It’s going to take another four years before it’s finished being built.

And so, by that time, we’re going to have so much new growth here in the city, so many new people either living or working here in Bellevue, that the improvement that we’re going to see compared to now when that fire station is done being built is going to be minimal.

RICK: So it’s going to lag behind. It’s like adding another lane to the freeway, by the time it’s done being built it’s already been over —

KERI: We’re playing catch-up at this point, so we need more than just a one-time fix; we need more than just a fire-station, we need to have an ongoing —

RICK: Moving ahead of the growth...

KERI: Exactly. We’re already behind at this point. We’re about ten years behind what we need to be, and as a result the City of Bellevue’s Fire Department is likely to lose their accreditation next year.

RICK: And so their liability is going to go up, which you know, if you take that same money that they’re going to spend on this liability and put it ahead of the problem, it could have not only increased response time and keep their accreditation, but rather than spend money on lawsuits because they’re not showing up on time, they could actually spend on new firehouses and equipment and staff.

KERI: Right. Right.

RICK: Is there any other places we can get more information about your campaign?

KERI: Yes. Please come to my website at www (dot) keriandrews (dot) com, that’s spelled k-e-r-i, andrews dot com, and there’s plenty more information on there and ways to contact me or donate to my campaign. So, thanks.

RICK: Okay. Well, good luck on your campaign and thank you very much.

KERI: Thank you.

RICK: We’d like to express our thanks to Keri for taking time out of her busy campaign schedule to speak to us.

If you have questions about this episode or suggestions for future ones, send an email to feedback (at) nwprogressive (dot) org with your comments.

We hope you’ll join us again for our next episode in this special 2007 Election podcast series.

For the Northwest Progressive Institute, I’m Rick Hegdahl. Thanks for listening.

In Brief - October 4th, 2007

Here is today's quick news digest:
  • Weeks after announcing he would resign, Larry Craig has defiantly decided to stay in the U.S. Senate despite losing an attempt to have his guilty plea thrown out. Craig hinted he may even run for reelection next year. Either way, he has already boosted the campaign of Larry LaRocco, his Democratic, people-powered challenger. Idaho Governor Butch Otter had been evaluating potential replacements for Craig but is powerless to anoint a successor unless Craig actually resigns.
  • KVI personality Bryan Suits bizarrely called Oprah Winfrey a Nazi on his radio talk show this week. David Neiwert at Orcinus has a must-read takedown.
  • With the 2008 U.S. Senate map already a disaster for Republicans, more bad news hit yesterday when New Mexico Senator Pete Domenici announced his retirement. The news means Democrats have yet another opean seat to contend for, and even better, Domenici's likely replacements are either Representatives Heather Wilson or Pearce. If they both run in a primary against each other, Democrats could aggressively target three seats in New Mexico. Even if they agree on who should run, there's still at least two solid pickup opportunities with no incumbent in the way.
  • Here's a shocking newsflash: Fred Thompson's campaign is so boring, lackluster, and half-hearted that people don't even feel like clapping for him.
  • Enjoy music videos? You'll get a kick out of this YouTube clip about the Bush administration and the occupation of Iraq. (Micah)
  • Larry J Sabato has posted a second diary at Daily Kos on the idea of a Second Constitutional Convention. The focus of this entry? Rebalancing war powers between the executive and legislative branches. It's worth a read.
  • The New Politics Institute (the other NPI, affiliated with the New Democrat Network, a resource for successful tactics) has released a number of reports on innovative technologies for campaigns and organizations in the progressive movement. They are: Go Mobile, Reimagine Video, Target Your Marketing, and Leverage Social Networks.
  • Bill O'Reilly has declared that Media Matters President & CEO David Brock is the "worst villain in the country". Nice of O'Reilly to demonstrate just how effective Media Matters has been as a watchdog of right wing media: they're on his nerves and he can't stop talking about them.
  • The American Prospect explains why having the presidential nominating process controlled by New Hampshire and Iowa is utterly ridiculous.
  • To send a message about the costs of the Iraq occupation, Democratic representatives David Obey, John Murtha and and Jim McGovern have proposed an income tax increase because "it is unfair to pass the cost of the war onto future generations". We agree Bush's borrow and spend policy is disastrous, but raising more revenue to continue the occupation is not going to bring our troops home. Democrats need to pin Bush against the wall to force a solution on Iraq, and they haven't done that yet. (Micah)
Finally, the Republican Party has somehow managed to come up with the most hilarious logo for its 2008 convention. Take a look:

2008 Republican Convention Logo

Now there's a wide stance for you! Markos adds:
In Minneapolis? Check.

Prison stripe-wearing? Check.

Starry eyed? Check.

As for the elephant humping the "2008"...

Are they going for a "Still screwing the country in 2008" theme, or is it a reference to hypocritical adulterers like David Vitter and just about the entire Republican presidential field?

All of the above? Check!

Apparently they ran out of space for a collapsing bridge.
More commentary from DailyKos can be found in this thread.

If you have something to add, please leave a comment.

Bill Virgin gets confused sometimes

Bill Virgin’s column today in the Seattle P-I trashing Roads and Transit achieves the remarkable feat of contradicting itself not once, not twice, but three times. That's a pretty impressive feat, if you ask me. Bill decides to begin with a delightful metaphor.
The 8-foot-tall steaming pile of elephant dung in the middle of Proposition 1 is Sound Transit's grasp for billions (the exact count of billions depends on who's doing the counting and what they're including) to expand the light rail system to, egads, Tacoma to the south, Bellevue and Redmond to the east and Lynnwood to the north.
Why eight feet? And why on earth would we want to build light rail to Tacoma and Bellevue, Redmond, and Lynnwood?

Absolutely nobody lives there, or ever travels there for any reason. Remember Redmond, by the way.... it's one of Bill’s contradictions.
Nor is that all. Did you know, for example, that there's a plan for yet another streetcar, this one to run from the International District up to Pill Hill and Capitol Hill? If it's hill climbing we're after, why not a cog railway? Or maybe we can ask Pittsburgh if they've got an extra incline they could spare.
Why not ask San Francisco? Or I suppose we could take a little trip back in time to when Seattle, hills and all, had a rather extensive street car network. The idea that street cars can’t climb hills is silly. They can and do. Not to mention that a route from the International District to First Hill can avoid many of the steeper grades.
The specifics of Prop 1 pose a huge dilemma for business owners in this region. Do they vote for the package, figuring that there's enough good in it to outweigh the gawdawful parts? Or do they reject it entirely, figuring the increased financial burden on businesses, their customers and employees (in the form of higher sales and motor vehicle excise taxes) is far worse than the congestion that won't be relieved?
The truth is that they support it. Almost every chamber of commerce has endorsed the plan along with many of regions businesses and employers. They don’t just support the roads portion, but the transit portion as well. You can read the whole list here. Bill, surprisingly enough, actually knows this. Emphasis mine:
Officialdom -- the governor, the Port of Seattle, the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce, among others -- is backing Prop 1 (not to be confused with a ballot measure in King County to renew a Medic One levy, also called Proposition 1). "The time is now. The longer we wait, the more expensive these transportation fixes become," the chamber's endorsement resolution says. "This is an issue of global competitiveness -- we will lose businesses, talent and economic opportunities to other more advanced regions if we don't provide reliable transportation now."

But officialdom has probably not had to drive every day past that elongated Stonehenge Sound Transit is building in the South End, marveling at the billions being sucked up in construction of light rail's first phase and the millions more that will be required in subsidies to operate it until the whole thing crumbles to sand eons hence.
Huh? I guess all the businesses who belong to the Seattle Chamber of Commerce (and almost every other local chamber) don’t count as businesses in Bill's mind.
(While we are on the subject of subsidies, let us deal with and dispense with for good the complaint that people have to subsidize the highway system even if they don't own a car. Yes, they do subsidize the road system -- as well they should. Unless they produce and dispose of everything they consume at home, do not travel beyond the boundaries of their property and have no expectation of having police, fire or ambulance crews show up in an emergency, then they do derive benefit from the highway system, and accordingly should pay.)
While we’re on the subject of driving past things, I suggest that Bill take a drive on I-90 out past Sammamish. He might notice a massive $178 million dollar interchange and fancy new road up to the Sammamish Plateau. A developer footed one-fifth the cost and I suppose in a few centuries the tax revenue generated from the people living up there, about six to seven thousand will cover the rest.

The role of government is to allocate resources. Sometimes I subsidize you, other times you subsidize me. It’s called having a society.
The objections to Prop 1 go well beyond the huge chunk of money going to transit instead of where it might do more good. They're also raised by what the mass-transit spending is for -- more fixed rail, instead of smarter, more flexible, more effective and less expensive options.

[...]

If Sound Transit is so enamored with rail, it ought to add whatever help it can to getting back in operation the Seattle waterfront trolley, which, aside from moving tourists, was helpful in getting spectators to and from Safeco and Qwest fields.)
So Bill's alternative to rail is...rail?

Having a waterfront trolley is nice, but it does not address the major congestion along corridors like I-90, I-405, and I-5. Extending Link light rail, while not cheap, will give commuters a quick, reliable, safe, and clean choice.
They might even talk with Microsoft about why the company set up its own bus service to move employees between its office campuses.
Just a guess, but I bet it’s because they recognize that people ride transit. If only light rail was going to Redmond. I thought I read that Bill mentioned the proposed extension to Redmond. Oh...that's right:
expand the light rail system to, egads, Tacoma to the south, Bellevue and Redmond to the east and Lynnwood to the north.
That's right, nobody goes to Bellevue, Lynnwood, Tacoma, or Redmond. Sound Transit just wants to build Link for fun.

Something for tourists to ride when they come here and decide to head out to the suburban wilderness beyond the Seattle city limits.
Between the attacks from the anti-tax crowd, the "cars are evil" cult and the mass-transit skeptics, Proposition 1 is increasingly in trouble. About the only workable strategy left to the coalition of Big Government (although Ron Sims has bailed), Big Business, Big Labor and Big Media is to proclaim, "If you don't vote for this, then we'll all hold our breath till we turn blue and you won't get anything ever and won't you be sorry, so there."
Not sure if you have been paying attention, Bill, but that isn't the strategy. The strategy is to explain how this plan benefits every community throughout Puget Sound, and assure voters that what is promised can be delivered.

If Bill has watched the television ads, then he knows that the campaign theme isn't "vote for this or else".

Would Bill prefer we not have a vote at all, or that the results just get ignored?

After reading this column several times, I still don’t quite get what his point is. He knocks rail, but argues that the Sounder and the waterfront streetcar are good alternatives. He says the new light rail won’t go anywhere useful, then argues that it should go places it is in fact going.

Finally, he argues that business have a hard time supporting the plan, while using a quote from the Seattle Chamber supporting the plan. Pretty baffling.

Virgin knows we need to do something...but he doesn't like this package. Well, what is his plan? Increasing bus service? Congestion pricing? Wider freeways? That's not going to cut it. The heart of this package...the component that boosts the effectiveness of all the other projects...is light rail. It is a proven transit solution. We can either put rail in now...or pay more to do it later.

We should have invested in mass transit years ago with Forward Thrust, but we didn't. It would be a disaster to make that mistake again.

General Wesley Clark's visit to Drinking Liberally Seattle

A couple of days ago, as Andrew mentioned in the Tuesday In Brief post, I had the opportunity to catch General Wesley Clark's book tour appearance at Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park.

About 200 people came to hear General Clark talk about his autobiography, which follows his life from Arkansas to his appointment as NATO Supreme Allied Commander - and his run for President in 2003.

After a 30 minute talk, he took questions and comments from the audience. They ranged from disdain Blackwater in Iraq to Donald Rumsfeld's disastrous job performance to wondering whether he might run again for President.

He was flattered but deflected that question by stating he fully backs Hillary for the nomination.

When the Q&A session ended, he signed copies of his new book and was available for pictures with attendees. Present were a group of Albanians who thought of the General as a God after what he was successful in achieving in the Balkans.

They were all smiles as they got a picture with their hero and thanked him personally for his efforts. He also took a few minutes to be interviewed by a local radio reporter. I was able to talk to his assistant Luther Lowe and ask him about
the possibility of the General visiting the Seattle chapter of Drinking
Liberally in Seattle, which meets at the Montlake Ale House.

He agreed and stopped by on his way to the hotel.

The General spent 20 minutes talking to the mostly surprised group of activists, many of whom have blogged about the experience. David Goldstein and Joel Connelly have blogged about it, and so has our executive director, as I mentioned at the beginning of this post. It pays to show up at Drinking Liberally!

Our sincere thanks to General Clark for being gracious enough to take the time to come to our weekly gathering.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Senators Murray, Cantwell, Wyden vote to end the occupation of Iraq

Kudos to the Pacific Northwest's Democratic senators (Maria Cantwell, Patty Murray, and Ron Wyden) for voting today to end the disastrous occupation of Iraq.

28 senators, all Democrats, voted for the Feingold Amendment (to safely redeploy American forces from Iraq by next summer), while 68 senators voted against. 4 senators did not vote. These were the Democratic senators voting yes:
Akaka - Hawaii
Biden - Delaware
Boxer - California
Brown - Ohio
Byrd - West Virginia
Cantwell - Washington
Cardin - Maryland
Clinton - New York
Dodd - Connecticut
Durbin - Illinois
Feingold - Wisconsin
Feinstein- California
Harkin - Iowa
Kennedy - Massachusetts
Kerry - Massachusetts
Klobuchar - Minnesota
Kohl - Wisconsin
Lautenberg - New Jersey
Leahy - Vermont
Menendez - New Jersey
Murray - Washington
Reid - Nevada
Rockefeller - West Virginia
Sanders - Vermont
Schumer - New York
Stabenow - Michigan
Whitehouse - Rhode Island
Wyden - Oregon
Obama surprisingly did not vote.

We were disappointed to see that Senators Tester and Webb voted against this amendment. That's not the courageous leadership we expect from them.

Governor Gregoire to Doc Hastings: Stand up for children's health care

Following Dubya's disgusting but expected veto of the SCHIP reauthorization bill (because costly foreign occupations are worth paying for, but health care for American kids is not) Governor Gregoire has dispatched a letter to entrenched Republican Doc Hastings, insisting he vote to override the veto.

Here's the complete text of the letter.
Dear Congressman Hastings:

With the President's veto this morning of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) reauthorization bill, I ask you vote to override the veto.

I do realize the partisan pressures you must have to support the President, but on this issue, many Republican members of Congress have supported the bill the President has now vetoed. I ask that you do the same.

Congress has passed a bill to reauthorize SCHIP that is critical for children and families in Washington state. We have been penalized for our efforts in the past and yet we have still managed to ensure that Washington families in need have the proper care for their children.

Among other things, the bill fully fixes our long-standing inequity for having been an early leader in children's coverage and it opens up a path to do in SCHIP what we are currently doing in our state with Medicaid - partnering with private employers to secure Employer Sponsored Insurance (ESI) for clients.

When you look across our state, many families most in need live in the 4th Congressional District. Specifically, I am sure you know that:
  • Of the 72,000 uninsured children in Washington from families with incomes below 300% of the federal poverty level (FPL), an estimated 11,000 (or 15.3%) are in the 4th CD,
  • USDA Economic Research Services estimates show that over 22.5% of Washington State's children living in poverty reside in the 4th CD; and
  • Over 21% of the children currently served through medical assistance programs reside in the 4th CD.
In Washington state, imagine a single mom or dad and two children. At 250% FPL, this mom or dad is making just over $43,000 a year working yard to provide for his or her children.

At 300% FPL, the parent would be reaching just over $51,000 a year. Rent, food, and child care consumes a tremendous amount of this very real family's limited resources, leaving very little available for health coverage.

In Washington State, the SCHIP program currently requires the parent contribute to the cost of the care if their income is between 200% and 250% FPL, thus we can ensure that children are accessing preventative and routine health services rather than relying on emergency rooms for very costly health care to our taxpayers.

And with legislation enacted last session to take our program to 300% FPL, we will continue to require parental contribution.

When the first SCHIP reauthorization bill passed the House on August 1, you said you felt that certain Medicare provisions in the bill unnecessarily pitted one vulnerable group against another - specifically, children and seniors.

Furthermore, there was the provision that would have adversely impacted Wenatchee Valley Medical Center, a physician-owned facility in the 4th Congressional District. As I understand for your statement from August 1, for those reasons and those alone, you cast a no vote.

On Tuesday, September 25th, you had before you a bill that dealt solely with children's health. All of the Medicare provisions that you objected to had been removed.

When you voted no, you said that "[we]e should first help the poorest kids we promised to ten years ago, not expand the program to the point that families of four earning $83,000 a year switch from private insurance to taxpayer-funded health care." The bill does not provide for coverage to families making at or above $83,000 per year, or 400% FPL.

In fact, the bill caps SCHIP allotments for states that may go to 300% FPL and requires states, if they wish to go beyond 300%, to submit a plan to address crowd-out.

Further, Washington state has been a leader in providing low-income children access to high quality health care services. Through hard work, we have managed to get to 91% of those at or below 200% FPL enrolled in programs - only one state, Vermont, has been more successful and reached 92%.

You also said, in voting against, SCHIP, that "[r]ather then making certain the poorest children get care, Democrats are pushing a Canadian-style government run health care system." The bipartisan, bicameral bill passed by Congress is anything but an entree into a single-player, "government-run" system.

Rather, SCHIP is a capped, block grant program and not an entitlement. Furthermore, new policies included in the SCHIP reauthorization bill move to cut adults - once allowed by waivers granted by the Bush administration - completely off of the program.

The private sector does, in fact, have a role in carrying out SCHIP (or Medicaid, for that matter) as the majority of care delivered in Washington state is through contracts with private managed care companies.

Reauthorization of SCHIP this year has been my number one federal health care priority for Washington and I am so proud of the work that has been done to craft a bipartisan bill that protects the health of our state's children.

We are so close to seeing the bill enacted, but it cannot happen without your help. Please use your next opportunity to vote on SCHIP to set the record straight and vote yes for the children and families on your district and our state,

On behalf of all our Washington children, please vote to override the president's SCHIP veto.

Sincerely,

Christine O. Gregoire
Governor
Perhaps presidential candidate Chris Dodd has summed up this situation the best:
This President's priorities are unconscionable. With the resources it takes to execute just over 3 months of the Iraq War, we could fully fund the expansion of health care for needy children that Bush vetoed. Indeed, today's veto is another reminder that this war is not only adversely affecting our security but also adversely affecting our other top priorities, and it's time for Congress to do what it must do to end it.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she is undeterred by the veto:
Today the President had an opportunity to sign a bipartisan bill that will bring health care to 10 million children in families struggling to make ends meet. Instead, President Bush used his cruel veto pen to say "I forbid 10 million children from getting the health benefits they deserve."

Despite the President's veto, we will continue to work with a bipartisan majority in Congress and 43 governors from across the country to increase support for SCHIP in the House so we can override the veto and provide 10 million children the health coverage they need and deserve.

The President chose to block a bill with strong bipartisan consensus—which has so much potential for good—to force Congress to mount a veto override effort. We remain committed to making SCHIP into law — with or without the President’s support.
The only way to put a stop to this administration's disgusting behavior is to fight back at every turn, every opportunity. Congress must override Bush's veto and pass SCHIP into law. The only response that Dubya respects is a show of force. It's time for the legislative branch to stand up and assert its authority, and time for representatives like Doc Hastings to prove whether they really mean what they say when it comes to protecting our kids.

Iranian university invites Bush to speak

Hm, I wonder what they could be planning in the country that has no gay people.

From the Washington Post:
After the controversial appearance of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at Columbia University last week, an Iranian university yesterday invited President Bush to travel to Iran and speak on campus about a range of issues, including the Holocaust, terrorism, human rights and U.S. foreign policy, the Fars News Agency reported yesterday.

The invitation from Ferdowsi University in the northeastern city of Mashhad asked Bush to answer questions from students and professors "just the same way" that Ahmadinejad took questions "despite all the insults directed at him."
The White House said that Bush would be willing to travel to Iran, but only other "different circumstances." Namely - a completely new government.
"President Bush looks forward to traveling to a democratic Iran, an Iran where its leaders allow freedom of speech and assembly for all of its people and an Iran where the leaders mourn the victims of the Holocaust, not call for the destruction of Israel," National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said.
So... right around Bush's third term? (Shudder...)

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

In Brief - October 2nd, 2007

Here is today's quick news digest:
  • Tomorrow's P-I has two good articles worth reading: Correspondent Chris McGann files a nice story about Peter Goldmark's 2008 campaign for lands commissioner, while columnist Joel Connelly writes about the end of an illegal "free parking" perk for Port employees. It's nice to see that new CEO Tay Yoshitani is going to insist on running a responsible port that serves our region rather than taking simply taking advantage of taxpayer money.
  • State Treasurer Michael Murphy today followed Governor Christine Gregoire in endorsing the Roads & Transit ballot measure (Proposition 1) declaring the package's financing to be sound.
  • King County District Court judge pro tem Richard Llewelyn Jones, who presided over a pretrial motion in Jane Hague's DUI case yesterday, has been suspended from the bench following the submission of a complaint by Hague's opponent, Richard Pope, the Democratic nominee for County Council (District 6). Pope saw Jones' name in the newspaper and recalled his history of criminal convictions, prompting him to voice his concerns. King County District Court chief presiding judge Barbara Linde acknowledged receipt of Pope's message today and put the matter in the hands of the court's personnel committee. Until an investigation has been completed, Jones will not hear cases, Linde confirmed.
  • 28 states, including Washington and New York, are suing the Bush administration for blocking expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Programs (SCHIP). Governor Christine Gregoire provided details of the legal action in a news release yesterday, and today, Governor Eliot Spitzer explained the reasons for the suit in a diary on Daily Kos today.
  • VoteVets has just launched a hard-hitting ad that directly takes on Rush Limbaugh for his contention that those who served in Iraq (but oppose the Bush administration's failed policies) are "phony soldiers." Featured is Brian McGough, who was wounded in action when he took shrapnel to his head as a result of an enemy explosive. The ad can be viewed at YouTube.
Finally, a reminder of why Drinking Liberally is a can't miss social event: Those who were lucky to be at the Seattle chapter's weekly gathering at the Montlake Ale House tonight were treated to an unscheduled appearance by former presidential candidate General Wesley Clark, thanks to NPI's events coordinator, who attended a Clark book signing in Lake Forest Park and convinced the General to stop by for a quick chat with the local netroots.

Clark spoke passionately and forcefully about D.C. Democrats' inability to stand up to the right wing on national security issues, predicting Congress would not interfere to prevent the Bush administration from beginning a conflict in Iran.

And he has a point: way too many Democrats rolled over and voted to authorize the invasion of Iraq several years ago.

The Democratic Congress has made real strides in several areas, but it has not shown the resolve the American people expected when they empowered the party in last year's elections. Part of the problem is the narrow majority Democrats hold in the Senate, and another part of the problem is the group of Democrats in the House (the Bush Dogs, as Matt Stoller and others have described them) who are sadly unwilling to challenge the administration and its loyal Republican allies.

Democrats who roll over need to be held accountable, and Democrats who make it clear they won't roll over - like Darcy Burner - need to be sent to our nation's capitol next year. The more Republicans we replace, the more we will have a Congress that is responsive to our nation's needs and to the American people.

If you have something to add, please leave a comment.

Crowley memorial service is today

If you want to help celebrate and commemorate Walt Crowley's legacy, please family, friends, and neighbors throughout Puget Sound for a memorial service at the Museum of History and Industry, located at 2700 24th Avenue E in Seattle.

The service runs from 4 to 6 PM.

Sound Transit Completes Major Link Milestone

On Friday Sound Transit completed the five mile light rail link from Tukwila to Seattle. With approximately 85% of the structure elevated, this five mile bridge was completed on-time and on-budget. The first phase of our light rail system is now 75% complete and scheduled to begin service in the summer of 2009. Direct service to the airport will follow by the end of that year.

Sound Transit is continuing construction of the Beacon Hill tunnel and is making progress up and down the line. The Downtown Seattle Bus Tunnel retrofit was completed last month, on-time and on budget.

Sound Transit is also in the planning phase for an extension of the line from Westlake to the University of Washington (known as University Link).

Sound Transit received a lot of criticism earlier in its history and some of it was certainly justified, but since then, the agency has undergone a complete reformation. Today’s Sound Transit is one of the most well run agencies in the state and enjoys solid approval ratings.

Projects are completed within the original expectations and the agency has dramatically improved its cost estimates and timetables.

Sound Transit has proven that it can deliver what it is promising to the people of Puget Sound in the Roads & Transit package.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Flexcar Delays Collection of Rental-Car Tax

In an email to their members and posted on their website, Flexcar announced today that they are delaying the collection of the rental-car tax.
Last month, we notified you that the Washington State Department of Revenue advised Flexcar that we must begin to collect the 9.7% state rental-car tax from our members on October 1, 2007. Since then, Flexcar and the Department of Revenue have been in discussions on resolutions to this issue. As a result, for the time being, we are deferring collection of the tax. We will be sure to keep you updated on any developments.
This is good news for those that make use of this great alternative to personal vehicle ownership. Car sharing is great way to conserve resources and should be encouraged, not punished.

We hope that the Department of Revenue recognizes the uniqueness of Flexcar and reconsiders lumping them in with car rental agencies.

Walt Crowely's last column says Roads & Transit is a tipping point

The late Walt Crowley penned an excellent column shortly before his death for this Sunday's Seattle Times on the end of our car centric age. In it he combined his exceptional grasp on history with his prophetic understating of things to come, as he painted us a picture of our transportation future.

Contrary to socialist propaganda and Hollywood myth, most communities blunder into the future, often stumbling backward, groping for a curb or handhold like a blind man suddenly thrust into a busy street in a strange city.Metropolitan Puget Sound is currently in the midst of entering its own future, along with the rest of Western industrial society.

It is crossing from one social and economic epoch into another. The past may be called the ICE Age, the "ICE" here being not continent-sized glaciers but the Internal Combustion Engine. This modern ICE Age is barely a century old, but it completely transformed the contours of our physical and cultural landscape.
We like to think that we can shape our destiny through dramatic acts of will. In one of his last written pieces, Walt grounds us in the understanding that change is messy, complicated, and rather unpredictable. However, with the perspective of history, the course can become clearer:
The border between the ICE Age and post-ICE Age is hazy and indistinct to those feeling their way on the ground, but it is appears as a bright, swift river to those watching from a little altitude.

Voters have been inching along the banks of this regional Rubicon for over a decade by approving Sound Transit in 1996, by gambling on an expanded monorail in 1997 (and ultimately folding a losing hand), by upholding higher state transportation taxes in 2005, and by sending Alaskan Way Viaduct planners back to the drawing board in 2006.

With each election, the public has backed a little further away from the automobile-driven imperatives that have shaped our transportation system and patterns of regional and urban development since the First World War.

The final fording looms just ahead: the Nov. 6 election on the Regional Transportation Investment District (RTID) plan for $18-billion-plus worth of transit and highway improvements over the next decade or more.
This is where Ron Sims, the Sierra Club, and others have been mistaken. As Walt notes, the future is not built “with a single heroic flourish, but incrementally through thousands of tiny gestures by individuals, corporations and governments”.

The Roads and Transit package, according to Walt, is critical to the shift away from the “ICE age” and toward a clean sustainable future
And so we stand in the last days of the ICE Age.

The future is visible in the distance — and in the not-too-distant past. Urban and regional planners have already drawn up the blueprints for denser downtowns, urban villages, close-in work places, streetcars, interurban trains, "mosquito fleet" ferries, smaller electric vehicles, bicycles and even people walking — not to attain their personal fitness goals, but just to get from point A to point B. Could horses and buggies be far behind? Don't laugh.

Passage of the roads-and-transit plan will not instantly unclog highways nor usher in some modern version of a 19th-century City Beautiful utopia overnight.

It will, however, mark a tipping point not unlike the predicted thawing of the polar ice caps, a one-way threshold of no return.

We will always need roads and highways, but once the momentum of transportation investment steers away from the gas-powered automobile in favor of transit and other alternatives, there will be no going back.

Once the ICE Age begins to recede, it cannot be reversed, and we will find ourselves delivered into the future.
Emphasis is mine. I don’t think anyone could have said it better.

Tackling the problems we face does not mean a wholesale rejection of the the kinds of projects we have historically built, but the beginning of a transition toward a transit based future.

We must remember that our car-centric society did not come into being overnight. As Walt says in the column, it was a series of small, and at times unlikely, steps over decades that got us where we are today. From Seattle’s first car in 1900, which happened to be electric, to the opening of the first floating bridge in 1940, we abandoned railways and embraced freeways. Perhaps a harbinger of change at the time was the opening of the Aurora Bridge in 1933.
Interurban railways were simultaneously challenged and displaced by county and state highways whose expansion accelerated after the federal government began funding road construction in 1916.

The death knell for rail was sounded in 1933 when the new Pacific Highway and Aurora Bridge opened without any tracks for local or interurban transit, although Seattle voters and commuters stood by their streetcars until the eve of World War II, despite the best efforts of car, oil and tire companies to bankrupt and derail street railways here and across the nation.
When I read this the first thing that came to mind is that today we are doing the opposite. From retrofitting I-90 for light rail, to ensuring that the new 520 bridge is ready for future rail use, we recognize that the automobile is not the future.

Just this year King County formed a ferry district to resurrect the mosquito fleet and I have gotten used to hearing neighbors and fellow citizens talk about the need for streetcars and light rail.

The future does not necessarily lie in adopting grand new technologies, but in re-embracing the past, albeit with modern touches and improvements.

Cars aren’t going away anytime soon, and buses need roads, but by investing in alternatives we can witness the birth of the post-ICE age.

After all, we know these alternatives worked before. If you get a chance, read the whole column - you won't regret it.