Read a Pacific Northwest, liberal perspective on world, national, and local politics. From majestic Redmond, Washington - the Northwest Progressive Institute Official Blog.

Friday, November 30, 2007

McCarthy would have loved SB 1959

Oh yeah, this slipped under the traditional media radar too:

The Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007, a.k.a. Senate Bill 1959. This masterpiece sailed through Congress in October (only six nays — three R, three D, Kucinich among them) and is currently in front of the Senate Homeland Security Committee.

The bill would establish a commission similar to Joseph McCarthy's House Un-American Activities Committee and could potentially make any sort of political dissent or controversial religious display illegal. Even thinking about such things could get you in trouble.

In short, this outrageous Act is a yet another attempt to generate fear in the minds of the American people, another disgrace to the Constitution, and you can thank Rep. Jane Harman of California for sponsoring it.

Hyperbole? Well, you decide. Here's a chunk:
(2) Violent radicalization. — The term "violent radicalization" means the process of adopting or promoting an extremist belief system for the purpose of facilitating ideologically based violence to advance political, religious, or social change.

(3) Homegrown terrorism. — The term "homegrown terrorism" means the use, planned use, or threatened use, of force or violence by a group or individual born, raised, or based and operating primarily within the United States or any possession of the United States to intimidate or coerce the United States government, the civilian population of the United States, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.

(4) Ideologically based violence.— The term "ideologically based violence" means the use, planned use, or threatened use of force or violence by a group or individual to promote the group or individual’s political, religious, or social beliefs.

899B. FINDINGS.

The Congress finds the following:

(1) The development and implementation of methods and processes that can be utilized to prevent violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism, and ideologically based violence in the United States is critical to combating domestic terrorism.
And if you really want to stir the bile, here's the whole thing.

Go ahead, read it. Then drive a truck through the loopholes and use your Disney-like imagination to interpret the strategically vague parts. It'll be quite a trip.

And after you read it, congratulate yourself, because you've probably done more for your civil rights than your congressperson.

"Force or violence." That phrase should stand out for anyone with any street smarts. See, they can interpret that however they see fit. They don't specifically say "bodily harm" or even "personal property damage". And "force" doesn't have to be physical, either.

Enforcement? They can contract that out. Big surprise. It's paragraph after paragraph of Orwell's greatest fears plopped in front of hundreds of millions of people looking the other way. Orwell even made up a word for it: Thoughtcrime.

It is still possible for the Senate to kill this craziness, but the lopsided results in the House don't exactly engender optimism. But it can be filibustered if enough sane people in D.C. are paying attention.

See Philip Giraldi's excellent analysis and commentary for more background on this disaster in the making.

Meanwhile, you can make a difference by contacting your legislators and kindly requesting they yank their heads out of their Deep South. Be polite, of course. But do contact them and urge them to read the text. S1959 must be stopped.

By the way, the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee?

Joe Lieberman...

In Brief - November 30th, 2007

A note to our readers: This post marks the beginning of a new format for our In Brief feature. Starting today, In Brief posts will be divided into three parts, focusing on local, national, and international news, including politics, business, sports, technology, weather, or other categories. We hope the new format is more insightful, organized, and comprehensive than the old jumbled style.

With that introduction done, here is today's quick news digest:

In the Pacific Northwest

PinPoint Accucast RealFeel WildGuess forecast: You will get snow this weekend. Or rain. Or both. At some point. The forecasts I've seen are more timid than our Democrats in Olympia this week.

UPDATE: Well, we do have one bold and principled forecast for our readers, courtesy of our friends at West Coast Weather:
Forecast for Saturday [for central Puget Sound] is 1 to 4 inches of snow starting in the afternoon on Saturday
There you have it. That sounds clear and unwavering.

Although this week's Democratic capitulation to deluded libertarian interests in Olympia was disappointing, there are plenty of positives that came out of it, right? Our schools, for example...oh yeah, they're still underfunded, too. But our transportation infrastructure...uhh...Well, okay, but we still take care of rich people. Our Executive Director have covered this issue far better than I could in this post, but the problems with reinstating I-747 is that it gives Tim Eyman and his malformed initiatives more credibility than they'll ever deserve.

More bad news from Oregon: Even though Beaver State voters recently decided to amend the horribly conceived Measure 37 a few weeks ago, local officials in Marion County are still issuing construction permits for large subdivisions on farm, forest, and groundwater limited land, even though the development they're permitting will become illegal on December 6th, 2007.

HineSight has the whole story.

Across the Nation
  • Trent Lott resigned this week. Lott, who won re-election to the Senate only a year ago, resigned most likely to evade the new lobbying law that will go into effect at the end of this year (i.e., the new law keeps legislators from capitalizing, as it were, on their status as lobbyists or consultants, for at least two years after their terms end). This is the same guy who loudly praised the late, racist Senator Strom Thurmond as he longed for a return to the Good Ol' Days of segregation and misogyny.
  • There were more Republican presidential debates this week, too, and Mike Huckabee came out smelling like a ... rose, I guess. The YouTube-sponsored debate, heavily orchestrated by CNN, managed to avoid any substantive issues, and highlighted a pointed religious-test question that Huckabee managed to dodge completely. This, apparently, is a skill that gets pundits all dewy-eyed.
  • Right now there remains a standoff in Rochester, NH, between a disturbed guy with a bomb (we must assume) strapped to his chest in Hillary Clinton's campaign headquarters there, and local and state authorities. Two hostages have apparently been released, but more remain. Negotiations continue....UPDATE: The situation has been resolved.
Around the World
  • The Decider “hosted” Middle East peace talks in Annapolis, MD this week. He raced through his introductions of Ehud Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas, butchering both their names, and hung around for an astounding three hours while the principals bickered for nine over tiny things, like, oh, killing each others' citizens from now until the end of time. The Decider doesn't have that sort of mental stamina, so he cut out early. I'm sure there were better things to do. These talks, of course, are expected to fail.
  • Kevin Rudd became Australia's new Prime Minister as John Howard had his rear end handed to him, along with his hat and coat, on his way out the door. Rudd wasted no time today in letting his country know that their combat troops in Iraq would be removed by the middle of next year.
  • Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez is urging his countrymen to approve a constitutional amendment that will, among other, things, abolish presidential term limits and end the autonomy of the Central Bank. A paranoid Chavez, who fears opponents may try to "sabotage the vote" through violent protests, is threatening to cut off oil shipments to North America if he suspects U.S. involvement. Chavez acts and speaks as arrogantly as George W. Bush. Those two definitely deserve each other...
If you have something to add, please leave a comment.

Would you like some light ready-to-melt snow with your December?

The last month of the year is upon us, and it's coming to our region in style:
[There is a] chance of snow on Saturday afternoon and evening for the Greater Seattle area with snow totals from 0.50 to 3 inches. On Sunday the snow will change to rain but there is a chance of some snow accumulations early on Sunday before the snow turns into rain. [There will be] heavy rain for Sunday afternoon, evening and into Monday.
Thanks to our friends at West Coat Weather for the update.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Not so fast, Mr. Speaker

Summarizing a discussion he had with Speaker Frank Chopp this morning, Seattle Times chief political reporter David Postman wrote earlier today:
A theme in the run-up to today's special session has been the Democratic left's unhappiness with the Democratic governor and legislative leaders for embracing a Tim Eyman-crafted tax cap. At least it's been a theme here, so House Speaker Frank Chopp said he wasn't surprised when I asked him about it at a press conference this morning. He said he'd would vote proudly for the tax cap. And he is prepared to answer criticism from the progressive wing of his party.
"Now if you want a long list of all the progressive things we've done in the Legislature with our strong majorities and a great governor, I'd be more than happy to give it to you. I actually typed it. It's over 50 things that are very progressive, very positive for public schools, for health care — particularly for children — job development, for higher education, for transportation. I can go on and on."
He said later that he compiled the list himself.
Ooh, he has a list! Of fifty plus great things the Legislature has supposedly accomplished with Democratic majorities under Governor Gregoire!

This is one of the most arrogant statements I have ever heard from Frank Chopp. He happily caves to Tim Eyman, Dino Rossi, and the Republicans on a critical issue (property taxes) and then has the audacity to instantly turn around and brag about having a progressive record? Not so fast, Mr. Speaker!

If Chopp were truly a progressive leader, his response to the Initiative 747 court ruling would have been to pursue meaningful alternatives that would actually address our broken, regressive tax structure.

Not surrender to the likes of Tim Eyman! There is absolutely no excuse for that. None. It's a failure of leadership.

What happened to acting on the findings of the Washington State Tax Structure Study? Why, in the wake of the 2006 midterm elections, has the state Legislature not begun working on progressive tax reform? What's the holdup?

Tax reform isn't the only area where Chopp & Co. have come up short.

Chopp has taken it upon himself to kill good proposals like the Homeowners' Bill of Rights, a progressive consumer protection law, which Senator Brian Weinstein championed during the last session.

Chopp and his colleagues have failed to figure out a way to pay for replacing the Alaskan Way Viaduct, SR 520 floating bridge, and the state's aging ferry fleet, despite having passing a solid transportation package in 2005.

And though the most recent budget was an improvement over previous bienniums, we have a long way to go on the path to quality public schools and universal healthcare. A long, long, long way to go.

Instead of responding to Initiative 747 by presenting a progressive vision that incorporates innovative ideas for fixing our broken tax structure, Chopp enthusiastically and proudly embraced the right wing agenda.

And now he's telling the netroots and the grassroots that we should be pleased with all of Olympia's wonderful accomplishments?

Unbelievable.

I-747 reinstatement rolls through Senate

The Senate has just approved HB 2416 by a vote of 39 to 9. The roll call:
Voting Yea: Senators Benton, Berkey, Brandland, Brown, Carrell, Delvin, Eide, Franklin, Fraser, Hargrove, Hatfield, Haugen, Hewitt, Hobbs, Holmquist, Honeyford, Kastama, Kauffman, Keiser, Kilmer, King, Marr, McAuliffe, McCaslin, Morton, Oemig, Parlette, Pflug, Prentice, Rasmussen, Roach, Rockefeller, Schoesler, Sheldon, Shin, Stevens, Swecker, Tom, and Zarelli

Voting Nay: Senators Fairley, Jacobsen, Kline, Kohl-Welles, McDermott, Murray, Pridemore, Spanel, and Weinstein
It should be noted that two of the Democratic senators who voted yes did everything they could to attach a sunset clause to the legislation (Oemig and Kastama) repeatedly offering a sensible amendment first in committee and then on the floor of the state Senate (PDF).

So that's that. The Legislature is giving the governor what she foolishly asked for and many progressive Democrats have happily voted to preserve a regressive, draconian right wing property tax limit that hurts our communities.
Democratic values? Forget 'em.

House approves I-747 reinstatement

The vote was 86 to 8.

Courageous Democrats taking a stand against poor public policy included Representatives Dickerson, Hunt, Nelson, Pedersen, Pettigrew, Santos, Simpson, and Sommers. Representatives Cody, Hasegawa, and Schindler were excused from the vote. The rest of the caucus for voted for I-747 reinstatement.

In the Senate Ways & Means Committee, Senator Eric Oemig's amendment to add a sunset clause to the reinstatement bill in the form of a public vote next November failed despite having the support of several Democrats on the committee. Committee Chairwoman Margarita Prentice opposed the amendment, saying such ideas should wait until January.

(Which leads to the question: why have a special session at all?)

House and Senate Democrats have shown a lot of deference to Governor Christine Gregoire today. In the House Finance Committee, all the Democrats (with the notable exception of Representative Santos) explained why they don't like Inititative 747's draconian limits but voted for reinstatement anyway, offering various halfhearted excuses... most of which repeated Republican talking points about respecting the will of the voters in an election that was held seven years ago.

At this moment the need for progressive infrastructure (and higher standards for our Democratic majorities in the Legislature) couldn't be more evident.

Testimony on reinstatement of Initiative 747

The following are my prepared remarks for delivery to the House Finance and Senate Ways & Means Committees opposing reinstatement of Initiative 747.

My name is Andrew Villeneuve, and for the record, I am the Executive Director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, a strategy center, or think tank, working to advance the common good through ideas and action.

I am here today, along with Rick Hegdahl, our Outreach and Advocacy Director, to voice concern over the rush to reinstate Initiative 747, a flawed policy that has diminished home rule and eroded funding for critical public services that we all rely on in our communities.

Rather than taking a thoughtful look at property tax reform and fiscal policy, we are having a one day special session to hurriedly put back on the books what the Supreme Court recently struck down.

Long planned hearings on other matters have been cancelled to make way for a hasty discussion and decision about capping property taxes. This is not in the best interest of Washington State.

Reinstating Initiative 747 without considering past ramifications and potential alternatives, simply because the people approved it decisively six years ago, is not responsible lawmaking.

Interpreting the will of the electorate can be a challenge, particularly because voters’ wishes change over time. The people approved I-747 in 2001 but since then they have sustained an increase in the gas tax (with the defeat of Initiative 912) and restoration of the estate tax (with the defeat of Initiative 920).

Our current situation, in regards to property taxes, is a curious one. While our property taxes are not high compared to other states (Department of Revenue reports show that we’re below the national median) we do have a broken, regressive tax structure that asks many Washingtonians to pay more than their fair share – particularly middle and low income homeowners.

Our tax structure – how we collect revenue - is in need of fixing but for years it has failed to receive the serious attention that it should.

Members of the state Legislature and the executive branch are entrusted by the people to govern wisely and responsibly.

Instead of hurrying to permanently reinstate a thoughtlessly conceived limitation that makes it difficult for municipal leaders to deliver services that the public clearly wants, we urge the members of this committee, and every legislator, to support changing HB 2416 to make reinstatement of I-747 temporary pending a vote of the people next November.

If the will of the people is indeed of utmost importance, then why not allow voters to decide the ultimate fate of Initiative 747?

The Legislature ought to refer this matter to the people and turn its attention to comprehensive, progressive tax reform, which must be a key focus in the 2008 regular session beginning this January.

UPDATE: Here's an addendum to my testimony above that I wrote to include in my presentation to the Senate Ways & Means Committee.

I’d like to briefly touch on something that hasn’t received much attention in this discussion – the harmful impact that Initiative 747 has had on our neighborhoods.

According to the Washington State Department of Revenue, the loss to the state property tax was estimated to total nearly two hundred and twenty three million dollars for the 2005-2007 biennium while losses to local taxing districts totaled almost five hundred and seventy two million dollars.

We can’t have public services for free. Our taxes support the common wealth , which provides us with police, fire, and emergency medical protection, parks and pools for recreation, or schools and libraries for learning.

The Washington Association of Libraries noted in late 2001 in a fact sheet explaining the ramifications of I-747 that library tax district revenue lost through 2007 alone would total a hundred and five million dollars.

The Association also explained in simple terms what happens when funding for public services is cut or limited:

With the revenue limitations imposed by Initiative 747, most libraries — particularly library districts — will be unable to maintain previous service levels. Since their three major expense areas are staffing, library materials, and information technology, library patrons may experience:
  • Fewer staff available for assistance, longer lines at checkout and reference desks, fewer special programs, and reduced library hours due to staffing limitations.
  • Longer waits for popular materials, a smaller selection of new titles, fewer licensed information databases, and fewer periodical subscriptions due to materials budget limitations.
  • Less access to public access computers and increased response times due to technology budget limitations.
Libraries are just one example of a public service, a collective treasure that benefits all of us. We can’t each individually build, maintain, and run our own libraries as citizens. But by pooling our resources, we create the common wealth. Unfortunately, the value of our common wealth is often forgotten.

As Anne Herbert once is said to have quipped, “Libraries will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no libraries.”

I-747 has hurt our common wealth while failing to address the real problems we face with taxes and fiscal policy.

It’s time we stopped talking about symptoms and started talking about causes.

Weekend forecast update: snowy rain, or maybe rainy snow...

The forecast for this weekend continues to change, though it still promises some interesting conditions. Here's an update from West Coast Weather:
There is an old saying about getting snow in the Puget Sound area. Namely, that we need three things need to happen; cold air in place, an act of Congress, and the stars and the moon need to be lined up right. Well, I know there is one, cold air is in place.

This cold air mass will be in place through most of the weekend and then on Saturday afternoon and evening a weak band of moisture moves in to bring from a trace to up to 3 inches of snow (for the Puget Sound area) for Saturday night and early Sunday.

Then the real tricky part of the forecast is the warm front that pushes in Sunday morning. With cold air trapped at the surface it sometimes can takes a long time for the cold air to get “scoured out” by the warm front.

So Sunday will probably see a mix of weather; snow, freezing rain, rain mixed with snow and than rain by later in the morning or the afternoon. The amounts of the snowfall will vary greatly based on your location.
If you're heading to or through any mountain passes this weekend, remember to travel prepared, and exercise caution on the road: roads and bridges may be icy.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Poll indicates that voters turned down Roads & Transit because of complexity, cost

Just released polling (PDF) conducted by EMC Research and Moore Information for Sound Transit suggests what we've guessed since Election Night: voters turned down the Roads & Transit package not because they felt it would harm the environment, but because it was too sophisticated and too big:
Proposition 1, the Roads & Transit proposal, which is likely headed for defeat, never recaptured the momentum that was lost as soon as opponents began attacking the plan. The support it enjoyed months ago was a mile wide and an inch deep. And it dried up as those who did not appreciate the ambitious, pragmatic approach to regional transportation for various reasons banded together and did everything they could to distort and manipulate the facts.

(Proud of your tight alliance with Kemper Freeman, Jr., Mike O'Brien?)
The Sierra Club has claimed that voters turned down Proposition 1 because they feared it would exacerbate the climate crisis.

But as this poll indicates, that's nonsense.

The poll asked 1,013 registered voters in the Sound Transit taxing district to rank their reasons (one to five) for voting against Roads & Transit. Out of the eleven total reasons, "global warming" was least important.

In other words, it was last.

Here are the full rankings, with 1 as the most important:
  1. Blank check/no cost control
  2. Cost too much
  3. [Wanted] separate measures
  4. Too big/smaller packages
  5. Don’t trust them
  6. Wouldn't reduce congestion
  7. Too much $$ for light rail
  8. Too long to complete
  9. Too much transit
  10. Too much roads
  11. Global warming
What stuck in the minds of voters were the No camp's distortions about the cost (including the conflicting numbers). Skittishness about committing to such a huge investment helped cause enough doubt to ensure Proposition 1's demise.

The Sierra Club's contribution was to lend support and credibility to the message and the campaign of Bellevue developer Kemper Freeman, Jr.. The chapter, which did not involve itself in the early planning of Roads & Transit, came to the party late and stabbed the rest of the local environmental community in the back after its last minute demands weren't met.

The poll found that the public still trusts Sound Transit. Even though Proposition 1 failed, the agency itself has not lost credibility:
In the wake of Proposition One’s defeat, Sound Transit and Light Rail both remain popular, providing further evidence that the election was not about the elements of the package. There has been no deterioration in Sound Transit’s overall favorable rating (64% Favorable / 24% Unfavorable) since April -- a strong majority of voters (59% or more) in all 5 subareas continue to view Sound Transit favorably.

However, when asked questions focusing directly on how Sound Transit is doing overall and with managing tax dollars responsibly, the results suggest the agency still has work to do in rebuilding public confidence, and informing voters about services Sound Transit has delivered to date.
Another insight from the poll: voters didn't like Olympia's meddling - the forcible pairing of roads and transit together in one package. NPI was uncomfortable with the marriage beginning with the day the stealth legislation emerged out of the statehouse, and voters hate the idea.

By a whopping 72% to 23% margin, respondents say they prefer separate roads & transit measures - clear evidence that Sound Transit 2 should stand on its own in a future vote without being tied to any roads package.

Asked about the future, poll respondents expressed support for extending the Link system as proposed in the Roads & Transit plan. Two-thirds or more (65%+) agree that "expanding light rail is a good investment for this region." And light rail is favored over conservative-touted bus rapid transit.

The only revenue source a majority of respondents indicated they would be willing to increase to pay for transportation investments are vehicle fees (54%), although tolls on major travel corridors came close (49%).

Respondents opposed the idea of increasing either sales or property taxes (only 23% and 22% were in favor of using those revenue sources, respectively).

This makes sense, given how broken our tax structure is. The sales and property taxes are already regressive and unfair. The problems have festered for years while Olympia has done nothing. Democratic leaders in the statehouse are unfortunately averse to tackling the issue, which has no easy solutions.

The best course of action for Sound Transit is to move forward with a new version of its plan from last year and put it on the ballot in 2008 without any roads project attached, relying on vehicle fees to provide a significant amount of the funding with the sales tax or other taxes as secondary revenue sources.

As for the Sierra Club, it can best undo the trouble it caused by committing to doing everything it can to help pass a transit measure next November.

Light snow possibly on the way

The forecast over the next few days looks pretty interesting - here's an overview of what to expect from our friends at West Coast Weather:
A cold front will be moving into the Seattle area today to bring widespread precipitation to the region this afternoon and evening. Most of the precipitation will be in the form of rainfall, however, with cooler air moving in there might be some snow or rain mixed with snow tonight and Thursday morning for the higher hills - at 500 to 800 feet and above. Much of the Plateau region by Issaquah and Redmond is from 300 to 500 feet.

Then by Friday and Saturday some cooler air will be in place and morning low temperatures will be in the mid to upper 20’s and high temperatures for some of the colder areas will be in the 35 to 39 temperature range. With some moist air in the area there will be a chance of some light snow showers at times for Saturday. Any accumulations should be limited. Then by Sunday a strong weather system moves in and there will be warming temperatures so most of the precipitation would fall as rainfall with the heaviest amounts of rain for later on Sunday .
Definitely not a blizzard, but a little something to whet our appetites in the hopes of a white Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Oregon GOP staff quietly amend platform after letter from General J.C. Christian

This is absolutely hilarious - read closely for a good laugh:
Amy Langdon
Executive Director
Oregon Republican Party

Dear Mrs. Langdon,

I writing to alert you to a breach of security at your website. As you recall, yesterday, I wrote you an email asking if you've made any progress in achieving the goal set out in Plank 7.5 of the Oregon GOP platform, the one that states:
7.5 Inter-jurisdictional agency cooperation shall be improved for more effective joint action against organized crime, drug cartels, terrorist networks and the Oregon Democratic Party.
Or at least it stated that before I sent my email to you. It's been changed since then. Someone's removed the last part, the words "and the Oregon Democratic Party." Certainly, it wasn't you. The Oregon GOP would never edit a plank that had been approved by delegates to its state convention. That'd be anti-democratic (so to speak).

The Oregon Democratic Party must be behind it. Obviously, they benefit by removing themselves as a target of joint inter-jurisdictional agency action.

It shouldn't be hard to fix. I'm enclosing a screen cap so you can see what it said up until yesterday. You can also find it cached at Google and at the Internet Archive's Way Back Machine.

Thank God I caught it.

Heterosexually yours in a chaste, biblically appropriate, and Larry Craig kind of way,

Gen. JC Christian, patriot
Chalk up another coup for satirical activism!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Reinstatement of Initiative 747 cap may only be temporary, legislators say

If the Legislature passes a bill to reinstate Initiative 747 this Thursday in special session, it may include an expiration date, NPI has learned.

Several legislators, keenly aware that I-747's draconian cap on property taxes is bad public policy, are working on a proposal to include a sunset clause in the legislation requested by the governor before it leaves the House and Senate.

The idea behind the sunset language is to ensure that I-747 would be back on the books only temporarily, giving the Legislature time to hammer out an alternative that would actually address our broken and unfair tax structure.

During the 2008 session, the House and Senate would then develop legislation that reforms the collection of property taxes by providing greater stability and fairness. This proposal might include ideas like a circuit breaker or homestead exemption.

The final version of the legislation, after leaving the statehouse with the Governor's approval, would be placed on the ballot in 2008 for the people to decide, either as a constitutional amendment or a statutory referendum.

A vote for this revenue neutral measure would mean property tax savings for most Washingtonians, without accompanying cutbacks in public services. It could also mean residents would enjoy less fluctuation and greater predictability in their property tax bills from year to year.

A vote against would be to preserve the status quo - right wing fiscal policy, an Initiative 747 style cap, and our regressive, outdated tax structure.

Putting I-747 back only temporarily provides an escape for Democratic legislators who feel they're caught between a rock and a hard place - people like Senator Craig Pridemore, who wrote this to Senate colleagues last night:
I know a lot of you were interested in finding an alternative to simply reinstating I-747 on Thursday and I had hoped to provide you with one.

After profound review and after the past few days of getting hammered (including by close friends and family), it's immensely clear to me that I don't have the political support in my own district to carry out a fight like this. I know I could have survived it under normal crcumstances [sic], but I can't when I'm standing against a Democratic Governor AND against Democratic Senate and House leadership. It's hard to tell people this is bad for local governments when so many Democrats are smiling and saying it's no big deal. :-)

I'm not sure how I'll vote yet. If I vote No to reinstating it, I know my political future will be over after this term (next year). If I vote Yes, I'm not sure I really want to do this any more anyway. I obviously have a lot of soul-searching to do... again.
Temporary reinstatement gives the Legislature (and the Governor) breathing room - time to research ideas, consider public input, and hone better policy without being deluged by angry middle and low income homeowners who feel they're already contributing their fair share in taxes to the common wealth.

The (Spokane) Spokesman-Review recently editorialized in support of alternatives to Initiative 747, pointing out that Eyman has greater power because Olympia has avoided addressing the issue. From their November 20th editorial:
[I]t would be irresponsible and strategically unwise to merely re-install the cap and be done with it. Doing so would not end the resentment over the rise in property taxes, a frustration that had boiled over before the tax cap was thrown out. Plus, it would keep initiative peddler Tim Eyman in the catbird seat.

Lawmakers should take this opportunity to undercut Eyman by reducing taxes on most homeowners and renters by slightly raising the property tax rates on those who aren't struggling to pay. Lawmakers could do this and still stay within the overall 1 percent cap.

Currently, property taxes consume about 6 percent of household income for the 40 percent of households in low- to middle-income categories. Those at the top of the income ladder pay about 3 percent of their income on such taxes.

[...]

If the Legislature could cut property taxes for most households, it would undermine the populist appeal of constant tax-slashing initiatives. Eyman would then be put in the position of decrying tax cuts for people who aren't having difficulty paying them. Plus, a large number of voters would be less inclined to take out their frustrations on school districts' bond and levy issues.
As the special session draws nearer it is imperative that those of us who believe in progressive tax reform speak up and encourage the Democratic caucuses in Olympia to support a sunset clause on reinstatement of I-747 - to be succeeded by development of a responsible alternative that can be placed before the people on the 2008 general ballot.

Emily's List announces 2008 endorsement of Darcy Burner for the 8th District

This news comes as no surprise, but it's nice to see Emily's List is fully onboard before 2008 has even begun:
EMILY's List, the nation’s largest political action committee and financial resource for women running for elective office, today announced its endorsement of Darcy Burner in her bid for Washington's eighth congressional district.

"Darcy Burner is a strong advocate for positive change and has become a national figure for progressive politics,” said Ellen R. Malcolm, president of EMILY’s List.

"An accomplished businesswoman and an active leader in her community, Darcy has the drive, the intelligence, and the principled good judgment to be a tremendous Congresswoman."

"Washington's eighth district is a Democratic district and it deserves be held by a woman who is a truly independent, strong voice for the people she represents. EMILY's List is confident that voice will be Darcy Burner in 2008."
Despite winning a second term last year, Dave Reichert is actually a weaker candidate this cycle. He no longer enjoys the advantage of being in the majority caucus, is ranked one of the least influential members in the House, and has no truly meaningful accomplishments to his credit.

Reichert now faces challenger with more experience, increased name recognition, and a higher profile. While he is forced to depend on George W. Bush and wealthy Republicans just to keep pace with his opponent's fundraising, Darcy has invested in people powered politics and is reaping the dividends.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Bush ally Howard suffers huge defeat in Australian elections

Australian leader John Howard, a close friend of George W. Bush and the leader of Australia's conservative "Liberal" Party, has been ousted from power:
For eleven years he dominated his country's politics, an often controversial figure who led Australia into a war against Iraq and resisted efforts to curb global warming. But yesterday John Howard, the leader of its conservative Liberal Party, was decisively defeated by a bookish Christian promising a gentler and more unified country.

As Labor party leader Kevin Rudd swept to victory in Australia's elections yesterday, he told jubilant supporters he would 'write a new page in our nation's history'.

His victory marked a humiliating end to the career of Howard after voters turned on their aging Prime Minister with ferocity. The scale of the 'Rudd-slide' surpassed all expectations, with the Labor party winning more seats than it had hoped for. The new leader said Australia was 'moving forward to plan, prepare and embrace the future'.
It appears likely that Howard will even lose his own seat (he represents the Division of Bennelong), to Labour challenger Maxine McKew.

Howard's departure means changes in Australian public policy are on the way, including a new approach to the climate crisis:
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd hit the ground running today, saying he will choose his new Labor ministry within days so a long list of key challenges can be tackled.

Triumphant Labor MPs will meet in Canberra on Thursday and a cabinet would be sworn in soon after that.

[...]

Mr Rudd identified education, health, broadband and other infrastructure, climate change and water, and industrial relations as priorities along with helping financially stretched working family with things like childcare.

[...]

Mr Rudd said he would begin looking at the formal mechanisms required to have Australia ratify the Kyoto Protocols on Climate Change and that President Yudhoyono had formally invited him to the upcoming Climate Change summit in Bali .

The prime minister also stressed the "centrality" to Australian foreign policy of the US alliance. He said President Bush had been responsive to his desire to visit the United States next year.
Howard might as well be a member of the GOP here in the United States, given some of the dumb things he's said:
If I was running al-Qaeda in Iraq, I would put a circle around March 2008, and pray, as many times as possible, for a victory not only for Obama, but also for the Democrats.
Rudd's win is a great victory for Australia, the United States, and the world. The nation now has a chance to move forward under more progressive leadership. It'll be fun watching the new Prime Minister in action.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

To all of our readers...we hope your Thanksgiving is filled with fun, cheer, good food, and family. Thanksgiving weekend is a time for reflection, rest and relaxation, so expect light posting over the next few days.

In the spirit of the holiday, the Center for American Progress has compiled an excellent list of reasons for progressives to be thankful this year:
We're thankful for our country's troops.

We're thankful the minimum wage has been increased for the first time in a decade.

We're thankful MC Rove has more free time to work on his dance moves.

We're thankful Congress has "wasted time" trying to end the war in Iraq.

We're thankful radio stations don't play "Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran."

We're thankful for journalists like Molly Ivins, who was never afraid to "raise hell."

We're (not) thankful for wide stances.

We're thankful to Michael Moore, whose documentary SiCKO started a national discussion on health care reform.

We're thankful people don't call us Buzzy, Cookie, Brownie, or Scooter.

We're thankful we can now call Al Gore the "Oscar-winning, Emmy-winning, Nobel Prize laureate" former vice president of the United States.

We're thankful Andy Card and Alberto Gonzales won't visit our bedside if we're sick in the hospital.

We're thankful not all Dick Cheney's cousins think like he does.

We're thankful to be considered one of the "ten most dangerous organizations in America."

We're thankful that visiting the Mall of America isn't really like visiting Iraq.

We're thankful President Bush isn't giving out any more back rubs.

We're thankful for 12-year olds who can take down Rush Limbaugh in a fight.

We're thankful our Halloween costumes aren't very "original."

We're thankful no one (except the birds) gets hurt when Dick Cheney goes hunting now.

We're thankful for "phony soldiers" who have the courage to speak out about the war in Iraq.

We're thankful the "Commander Guy" has only 425 days left in office.
We'll add that we're thankful for the passage of simple majority for our public schools and the success of Mike Cooper and Brian Sullivan's campaigns for Snohomish County Council.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

State Democrats file FEC complaint over Reichert's Bush fundraising event

Just how much money did the Reichert campaign take in during a presidential stop-over in Bellevue this August?

The state Democratic Party filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission on Monday after the local netroots drew attention to the discrepancies in Congressman Dave Reichert’s fundraising claims.

Should voters believe that the Reichert's campaign is simply math-challenged or that there is some deception going on? Either answer is disturbing.

On August 27th, President Bush conducted a joint fundraising event with Reichert, the proceeds of which were supposed to be split evenly between the Reichert campaign and the Washington State Republican Party.

The Reichert campaign initially claimed that the event had raised half a million dollars. Right after filing their third quarter FEC fundraising report in October, Reichert’s portion was reported to be $230,000. That number shrivled up to a reported $185,000, which didn't match the total in FEC filing - $135,000. Do their calculators need new batteries?

The FEC complaint also notes a failure to reimburse a donor for a $1,000 contribution over the $4,600 campaign contribution limit for individual donors.

More bad math.

Reichert's big ticket event with Bush in August turned out to be a big opportunity for Darcy Burner to raise money.

The netroots-fueled "Burn Bush" counter-fundraiser brought in around $123,000, only $12,000 less than what Reichert pulled in that same day.

If Reichert wants to strengthen his campaign's image, he should try to be honest with his accounting and stop hanging around with the most unpopular Republican in the country, who continues to wreak havoc on the health of our country.

Gregoire not planning to be in Olympia when special session convenes

While the House and Senate cancel long-planned hearings on a number of different issues to accommodate the special session requested by Christine Gregoire, her office has disclosed that the governor will be traveling to, attending and speaking at the "Governor's Aerospace Summit" next Thursday morning - at the same time the Legislature is convening. Gotta love those economic policy seminars.

The Senate will likely convene at 8 AM, NPI has learned. The governor is supposed to be addressing the aerospace summit at Bellevue Hyatt at 9 AM. (Travel between Bellevue and Olympia takes about an hour and a half by car).

The summit lasts until 3 PM in the afternoon, according to the Aerospace Futures Alliance of Washington. How long Gregoire plans to stay is unclear.

It's understandable that the Governor would want to honor her other commitments. But if this special session is important enough to cause the cancellation of the Legislature's previously scheduled work, shouldn't it be Gregoire's number one priority? Shouldn't she be in the statehouse all day?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Governor should be looking at progressive alternatives to I-747

Following her decision to call a special session to ask the Legislature to reinstate Tim Eyman's draconian Initiative 747, Governor Gregoire explained to the Associated Press' David Ammons why she didn't want to wait to address the matter:
Gregoire said her series of community visits this fall made it clear that people are worried about getting taxed out of their homes.

“I know local government has a compelling argument, but we have citizens dealing with dramatic increases and I can’t see standing by and letting them get run out of their home.”
Gregoire and other Democrats have the wrong mindset. They're trapped inside the right wing's framing of fiscal issues.

It's so easy to forget that we live in a democracy: the common wealth belongs to all of us. It's our government: of the people, by the people, and for the people. When we or our representatives choose to starve public services, we're only hurting ourselves.

Conservatives and libertarians pooh-pooh the idea that tax cuts and limits hurt our communities. You'll hear common refrains like: "government should live within its means" and "we passed I-747, the sky didn't fall".

These talking points ignore reality. The impact of Initiative 747 isn't a giant hole, it's death by a thousand cuts. Local governments can only backfill for so long: some are already in serious trouble. Take basic infrastructure that's decaying, like water mains - the pipes that bring fresh water into homes.

Gregoire isn't making the connection between government and the people it serves. She says local government has a "compelling argument". If that's true, then why isn't she listening to the municipal leaders and citizens who are pointing out the inconvenient truth about these harmful right wing policies?

Are property taxes in Washington a major issue that needs to be addressed? Absolutely. But there are progressive alternatives to the destructive, Grover Norquist and Tim Eyman-style draconian limits embodied in Initiative 747. And Gregoire isn't considering them.

We agree that people should have more certainty about property taxes. We agree our tax structure needs to be fairer and more stable. There are sensible ways to accomplish both goals. If Gregoire was smart, she would stop following the instructions of Dino Rossi, Tim Eyman, and the right wing, and start leading by supporting or investigating better ideas.

Like a circuit breaker, or a homestead exemption (to make property taxes fairer) or a value-averaging constitutional amendment (to make property taxes more stable).

Some legislators fortunately realize that reinstating Initiatve 747 would be a big mistake, and are expressing their concern, as we are, about what the Governor and Speaker Chopp (who sides with her) are doing. The thoughtless rush to put the limit back has serious consequences, as Senator Craig Pridemore told David Postman:
The call for a special session makes it very difficult to formulate a responsible alternative and still get time to build support for it.
Musing about Initiative 747 earlier today, Postman (the Seattle Times' chief political reporter) wrote:
It seems unlikely that the anti-747 forces will have much influence in the special session. I wonder, though, what happens next year when Eyman will push yet another initiative. Are we to believe the horror stories opponents will tell about what will happen? And what to think when legislators -- who next month will likely approve a 1 percent limit -- next complain about the difficulties of governing by initiative?

There are those on the left who have long tried to say that Eyman is washed up. But the truth is he continues to be a powerful force in Washington. The Supreme Court can't stop him. And now one of the largest Democratic majorities to ever run the Legislature has signed on to his team.
Postman's conclusions, just like the mindset of Gregoire and Chopp, are tainted by right wing framing. Just look at the language that's been used, like the "horror stories" reference, contained within a question. The phrase "horror stories" and the context used suggest exaggeration, hyperbole, and unfounded fears of a crisis.

"Are we to believe... [what] opponents will tell about what will happen?" Postman asks. Why isn't he asking equally skeptical questions of this policy's proponents? The person responsible for sponsoring these recycled libertarian schemes (Tim Eyman) is well known for deceiving the press, the people of Washington State, and even his own supporters!

Characterizing the problematic ramifications of this policy as "horror stories" is accepting right wing framing of this issue into the public discourse. That's not what we expect from a newpaper that considers itself to be objective.

Postman says that Eyman "continues to be a powerful force in Washington". If this is true, why have so many of his recent initiatives been failures? He couldn't get anything on the ballot in 2006 despite having put real effort into two measures - one to legalize discrimination and another to gut transportation funding. His latest measure is only passing narrowly despite a favorable ballot title and an opposition coalition that wasn't as organized as it should have been.

The reason Eyman has had such an impact on pushing for reinstatement of Initiative 747 is because Democratic leaders like Gregoire haven't stepped up to the plate to tackle this issue. Property taxes are a problem, one that won't go away no matter how much Olympia wishes it would. If there's a vacuum, then Tim Eyman becomes more powerful, because he's offering an idea (even if it's bad).

Which brings us back to alternatives. Had Gregoire embraced exploring ideas like a circuit breaker, she could have demonstrated her resolve to act without having to betray Democratic values and giving credibility to her Republican opponent.

Postman goes on to say "The Supreme Court can't stop him." That's something I would expect to see written by an Eyman supporter. The Supreme Court's role isn't to "stop" people like Eyman from accomplishing their agenda. The Court's role is to interpret the law and our Constitution. The Court cannot simply decide to invalidate Eyman's initiatives. It only decides a question when a suit is brought.

We can thank the plaintiffs in each of the successful lawsuits for the result.

The right wing likes to say that the state Supreme Court is full of activist, elitist liberals who want to squash the will of the people. It's a myth. Unfortunately, David Postman's wording here accepts that frame.

Postman concludes by saying "one of the largest Democratic majorities to ever run the Legislature has signed on to his team".

This sentence implies that the entire caucus - or at least most of it - is going to go along with Eyman's demands. That may happen and it will be a shame if it does. But the votes have not been counted yet.

And even if elected Democrats are surrendering on this issue, it doesn't mean they've adopted Eyman's ideology.

Postman's word choice throughout the last two paragraphs in this post is disappointing, just like the sorry Initiative 747 mess the Olympia Democratic establishment is leaving in place by hurrying to reimpose a draconian policy that damages our communities and lets our property tax dilemma continue to fester.

Absolution by book deal

So many confessions, so little integrity.

Scott McClellan, Ari Fleischer’s replacement as the Bush administration Pathological Liar (or Press Secretary, to be politically correct), has had a conscience attack in his upcoming new book, saying that the outing of Valerie Plame as a CIA agent was indeed known by Cheney, Rove, Card, and the Commander Guy himself.

I’ll avoid an alliterative schoolyard phrase here by saying, that’s not really news, Sherlock.

But this latest of “tell-alls” does nothing to tell the country what it already knows: Valerie Plame was an undercover CIA agent who was exposed for political revenge. And the orders for this very likely came from top government officials—that's in addition to Richard Armitage, who recently proffered a half-baked rationale for his mentioning Plame’s name to journalism-challenged Bob Novak.

These officials were probably Cheney and Bush himself, but we’ll never know because Scooter Libby obstructed that investigation to the point where it couldn’t continue. And though he was convicted and sentenced for that obstruction of justice, justice was never served. Like any good mob story, the fall guy (somebody named Scooter, fer cryin’ out loud) was pardoned before ever serving as much time as Paris Hilton did for DUI. In fact, he didn’t serve a minute.

So McClellan claims he didn’t know he was lying as he defended his boss during the leak case, when night after night he’d plop himself in front of the press corps and deliver his monotone fish stories one after another, as exasperated reporters and citizens would open their eyes wider and wider as these fantastic tales unfolded.

Another loyal Bushie swimming away from the sinking barge, swimming toward absolution, perhaps, in Tiny Attention Span America, where all is forgiven or forgotten with the passage of time.

Well, Scott, request denied. Same goes for all of these criminals associated with this administration: Armitage, Greenspan, Tenet, and any other sycophant sleazy enough to throw in with this crowd, then shoot for Absolution By Book Deal. Your service to Bush has done phenomenal damage to this country, damage that will take generations to correct. For this you will never be forgiven or cheered.

Thanks to this administration — that you, Scott, helped to build and protect — a surplus has turned to a deficit, we have illegally and immorally attacked a disarmed nation at the expense of thousands (perhaps hundreds of thousands) of lives, and our reputation is in tatters. We have become the nation to avoid rather than emulate. Torture, once shunned, is now embraced.

China and Saudi Arabia, whose ideologies have been anathema to this country for so long, have financed our outrageous debt to the point where nobody even mentions the chaos they could cause merely by saying, “Pay up.”

It’s almost superfluous to say our economy isn’t in great shape, either. So, Scott, crow or confess — it’s too late. But I guess making a few more bucks on a heap of lies was probably part of the plan, too.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Gregoire caves to Eyman and Rossi, calls special legislative session to reinstate I-747

Governor Christine Gregoire failed a major test of leadership earlier tonight when she sent a formal letter to legislative leaders calling for a special session at the end of this month to reinstate the draconian limits in Initiative 747:
I will be forwarding two bills as executive request legislation for your consideration. One will reinstate the 1% property tax limitation and the other will provide a property tax deferral for all families under our state's median income level. I look forward to working with you on a one day special session devoted solely to property taxes.
This is by far the worst decision Gregoire has made as the state's chief executive. It is a stupid, idiotic, and cowardly course of action: the exact opposite of leadership. And it is a major blemish on Gregoire's largely progressive and solid record as governor. It reeks of election-year pandering and unimaginative thinking.

Initiative 747 is cheap right wing policy that addresses a symptom, not a cause. It hurts our common wealth but does nothing to fix our broken and regressive tax structure. It is based on an uncompromising, unrealistic worldview that treats government as an affliction or curse - when in truth it is our government that makes our infrasructure and our quality of life possible.

Gregoire and those Democrats in the Legislature who end up going along with her are betraying the values of our party and allowing Dino Rossi and Tim Eyman to dictate public policy in Washington State. They are refusing to consider the alternatives, instead cowering to right wing pressure and opting to do what Eyman wants just a few weeks away from the opening of the 2008 legislative session.

Gregoire is ignoring the plight of municipalities across the state and wasting an opportunity to replace Initiative 747 with more progressive solutions that make our property tax fairer and more stable without decimating public services.

She is committing a major strategic blunder.

Once again, Democrats are willingly surrendering to Republicans and letting them set the agenda. It's a self-defeating move: it alienates the party's base and the state's progressive movement while saying to biconceptual voters (independents, those who are partially progressive and partially conservative) that the Democratic Party lacks ideas and courageous leaders.

It's bad policy, bad political strategy, and bad judgment. We call on every legislator who truly shares our Democratic values to vote against Gregoire's legislation, either in committee or when it comes to the floor for a vote.

We could not be more disappointed in the Governor than we are tonight.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Simple majority victory: close but sweet

From the Executive Director: We're pleased this morning to welcome a new contributor and staff member, Kathleen Reynolds, to the Northwest Progressive Institute. This is her first post - expect many more to come!

It looked like a discouraging defeat for Washington’s schools on November 6th, but a week later, things turned around for the constitutional amendment to allow simple majorities to pass school levies.

EHJR 4204 eventually eked out a win and the days of failing a school levy with 59% voter support are over. The minority can’t prevent the majority from making common sense investments in their schools anymore.

Fairness is the big winner here.

What makes this victory so important? Why have the Washington State PTA and teachers unions worked on this issue for over 20 years? Kids from the Bethel School District would tell you that it’s because money lost from failed levies have cost their schools: teachers, desks, textbooks and librarians.

They are tired of sharing a desk and a textbook with another student and a librarian with another school. Is this the best we can give Washington’s kids?

The passage of simple majority is the first step on the path to reforming education funding in Washington. Its passage sends our legislators the message that we are ready for change. We’re not willing to settle for being 42nd in the country in per student funding. As the Governor said:
The passage of the simple majority ballot measure is a big victory for our children and for schools in our state. I am proud the voters have made the education of Washington 's children a priority.
Now it is time to update our state education funding formula, crafted decades ago and now outdated. Simple majority may be getting the ball rolling to put those teachers, desks and books back into the classrooms, but Washington can’t wait another 20 years for the next victory.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Fear-based politics: Fear it

I'd prefer not to give him more publicity than he deserves, but Tom Tancredo recently aired an ad that had a simple message: Immigrants (all the “Islamist” ones, anyway) are bad and they will kill you. BOOM! I didn’t make up that last part; the ad ends with an uncannily large explosion. After taking you through a mall.

And thus we have another entrant in the “Freak OUT! They’re all gonna kill us!” competition to activate the reptilian brain in all of us.

How long will this work?

As long as you let it.

Here’s how afraid we are: We let the TSA take four ounces of shampoo away from us in airports, but three ounces is okay. Enough of us are so afraid, we think it’s okay that in 2002, AT&T actively helped the NSA to read our e-mail exchanges and listen to our phone calls. Enough of us are so afraid, we’ll pay nearly anything for a barrel of crude. Enough of us are so afraid, we see anybody wearing a turban as a threat to national security.

Enough of us are so afraid that Donald Kerr, our new deputy director of national intelligence, was empowered to say this in a speech at a symposium in Dallas:
Anonymity results from a lack of identifying features. Nowadays, when so much correlated data is collected and available – and I’m just talking about profiles on MySpace, Facebook, YouTube here – the set of identifiable features has grown beyond where most of us can comprehend. We need to move beyond the construct that equates anonymity with privacy and focus more on how we can protect essential privacy in this interconnected environment.

Protecting anonymity isn’t a fight that can be won. Anyone that’s typed in their name on Google understands that. Instead, privacy, I would offer, is a system of laws, rules, and customs with an infrastructure of Inspectors General, oversight committees, and privacy boards on which our intelligence community commitment is based and measured.
If you haven’t met your masochism quota for the day, you can see the full text here. A powerful New York Times commentary on this provides further analysis.

Well, along with other myths like WMD and fighting terrorism over there (yadda, yadda, yadda), this one is equally stupid and won’t stand up to even mild scrutiny.

Think of the example in terms of customers finding out their personal information is being indiscriminately handed out to the highest bidder, and the logic starts to fall apart. Customers revolt or leave in droves, the company becomes synonymous with Big Brother, and folds. That, and I really can’t picture L.L. Bean or J.C. Penny sending a recon team to rip me out of bed for a trip to Guantanamo at three in the morning because I might have disagreed with their return policy.

Religion could be the bridge that crosses political boundaries sufficiently to produce hysteria on both sides of the political aisle. Most people in this country are religious - many consider themselves to be Christian, whether Protestant or Catholic. And although it may be hard for conservatives, especially theocons, to believe it, a lot of those Christians are Democrats.

The doctrine here — generally speaking, of course; I don’t pretend to be a religious expert — is that you’re a sinner, but you’ll be forgiven in the afterlife and reach heaven if you sincerely ask to be forgiven and then repent in whatever manner your specific sect requires.

To each his own; no judgment from me regarding your particular religion. But here’s the twist: When a church official says you’ll go straight to hell if you vote Democratic, pro-choice, or (heaven forbid) merely your own conscience, he removes the personal experience from the spirituality.

Now you don’t merely have an incentive to behave well while you’re in the corporeal world, you have an obligation to jump the wall separating politics and religion because your clergy is telling you your soul is in peril if you don’t.

I don’t know about you, but I certainly wouldn’t want my church to aim God at me like a loaded Glock while I’m in the voting booth.

If fear is your guide, you will never be able to think clearly. This administration understands that — it’s been counting on it since September 12, 2001 — and it has the infrastructure to peddle fear into every available soul.

But they can only succeed if you let them.

Netroots Nation 2008 to be held in Austin

The organizers of Netroots Nation (formerly YearlyKos) have announced the location and the date for next year's convention, which will be in late July:
If you've never been to Austin, Texas you're in for a treat! Smoke some BBQ and get ready for some live music because Netroots Nation is taking over the capital of Texas July 17-20, 2008

Austin is an amazing town, full of great food, great progressives and good times. In addition to all that, we've got a fantastic venue for the first ever Netroots Nation.

There are many reasons that we choose Austin, personally, I was most compelled because the hotel rate was $25 better than the other city. But it also gives me piece of mind to know the venue can handle our technical needs because they host South by Southwest every year.

Another great reason is that we have already been approached by people on the ground to help with organizing local volunteers (always a consideration for a convention that relies on getting 100+ volunteers, many of whom tend to be local to the area).

Finally, Austin has everything that our audience asked for in our post-convention surveys this year. The rooms are cheap, the city is walkable, there are many food and accommodation options, and the meeting space is compact.

How did we wind up in the heart of Texas? Well come on in and I'll tell you a story...
Nolan has more at the Netroots Nation website.

As we have in past years, the Northwest Progressive Institute will be sending a delegation to Austin to participate in the convention. We hope to see you there!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

KOMO removes Eyman's "Another election stolen by King County?" comment from article

This morning, I blogged about an Associated Press article on simple majority's turnaround in the elections which quoted Tim Eyman as saying this:
He also said King County putting the measure over the top would awaken conservatives' bitter memories of 2004, when two statewide recounts reversed the outcome of the governor's race and gave the victory to Democrat Chris Gregoire over Republican Dino Rossi.

"Another election stolen by King County?" Eyman said. "You can't say that people aren't saying it and aren't thinking it."
A few hours ago, in the comment thread attached to that post, one of our readers alerted us that KOMO removed Eyman's comment from the article:
Interesting[ly] enough, I called KOMO's news line about this quote and how irresponsible it was that they even included it without mentioning that there is no proof for such a suspect comment. In 20 minutes they changed the article to take the quote out. Sometimes they do listen. Just a ridiculous quote with no validation or evidence to back it up.
Sure enough, Eyman's quote is gone. Way to go, Jonathan!

This is what this community is all about - writers and readers coming together to make a difference, whether that's fighting right wing misinformation or lobbying for legislation that strengthens our quality of life.

UPDATE: Naturally, KOMO's action has some right wing bloggers upset. A couple of people have tried (and failed) to leave nasty comments here complaining about censorship.

KOMO is not obliged to reproduce baseless accusations from Tim Eyman on its website, and furthermore, the Associated Press isn't obliged to go to Tim Eyman for a reaction at all! If the traditional media are indeed responsible and objective they should remove inappropriate content at their discretion, or not include it in the first place. That's just what KOMO did in this instance.

Barack Obama to talk about technology and net neutrality today

Barack Obama will be giving a talk at Googleplex in Mountain View, CA today, in which he will lay out a comprehensive, 5-point technology policy:
  • Ensure the full and free exchange of information among Americans through an open Internet and diverse media outlets.
  • Create a transparent and connected democracy.
  • Encourage the deployment of a modern communications infrastructure.
  • Employ technology and innovation to solve our nation’s most pressing problems, including reducing the costs of health care, encouraging the development of new clean energy sources, and improving public safety.
  • Improve America’s competitiveness.
The full text of the handout to be used this evening is here.

The most important piece of this is the second point of creating a "transparent and connected democracy." Making government data and information available in standard, accessible formats is a simple solution to the problem of inaccessible information. The appointment of a US CTO is a good strategy because it would mandate someone with technical knowledge and experience actually make technology decisions [instead of people like Ted Stevens]

We hope that the other Democratic presidential candidates will propose their own thoughtful, progressive technology policy directions. It's one way our nominee can differentiate himself or herself from the Republican candidate.

Eyman on simple majority: "Another election stolen by King County?"

The Associated Press, which frequently goes out of its way to feature Tim Eyman in articles that aren't about him or his measures, has quite the quote from the state's most prominent libertarian moneymaker on simple majority:
"Three or four million dollars spent, with no opposition, and yet they barely eke out a victory?" Eyman said. "Yeah, voters love tax increases. This is just gasoline on the fire."
Gasoline on what fire?

If you're implying that SJR 4204 is going to be reversed, you're wrong, Tim.

And I know you're not an expert on the Constitution...you never have been...but let me make this crystal clear for you: Constitutional amendments, once passed, cannot be undone except by constitutional amendment. There's a process for that and it starts in the Legislature.

There. Got it? If simple majority passes, it's the supreme law of the land. School levies can pass without those antiquated requirements.

You know, Tim, when a majority of the electorate passes or reject a ballot measure, people who voted the other way typically just accept the outcome and the will of the majority. If they didn't, democracy would not work.

Of course, in your case, Tim, since the initiatives you write are usually unconstitutional, those that make it to the ballot and pass get challenged in court. Because no matter how much support a proposed law may have in the Legislature or among the people, it cannot conflict with the Constitution. It's a ground rule we have to protect majority rule with minority rights.

On to the next excerpt. Here's the real gem of Eyman's comments:
He also said King County putting the measure over the top would awaken conservatives' bitter memories of 2004, when two statewide recounts reversed the outcome of the governor's race and gave the victory to Democrat Chris Gregoire over Republican Dino Rossi.

"Another election stolen by King County?" Eyman said. "You can't say that people aren't saying it and aren't thinking it."
No wonder simple majority is suddenly passing! It was RON SIMS! He told the Elections Division that simple majority had to be passing by yesterday or else - and sure enough, they delivered for him.

Yeah, that must be it....

How much more of this nonsense are we going to be hearing from people like Eyman, Sharkansky, et. al? It's a close election, they don't like the outcome now, and suddenly...we have completely baseless accusations of fraud or ballot stuffing or whatever wild fantasies these guys can concoct.

The reason King County's voters are able to tip the balance on simple majority (Tim is apparently not intelligent enough to understand this) is because it's passing in a few other well populated counties, including Snohomish and Spokane.

When most of the other counties in the state are united against King County, they can outvote it. Anybody reading this post with half a brain knows what I'm talking about. This is the reason why several Eyman measures over the last decade have passed despite failing in King County.

But whenever enough "swing" counties side with King, the outcome changes. Many of the swing counties are located in the Interstate 5 corridor - the two most important are Pierce and Snohomish. As we saw with Initiative 912, the swing counties form the real electoral powerhouse in Washington State.

In this case, Snohomish County is playing a critical role by siding with King County, even though Snohomish is only barely in favor of 4204.

(Snohomish is not alone in joining King, but because of its size, it's the most important ally King has in this contest).

It's actually the people of Snohomish County who are providing the foundation for King County's more lopsided vote to put simple majority over the top. So Tim can thank his neighbors for what's happening.

We in King County couldn't have done it without them.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Simple majority takes the lead!

After days of a slow and steady increase in the Yes on SJR 4204 vote, the constitutional amendment to allow simple majorities to approve school levies is now passing statewide by a small margin - 50.2307% to 49.7693%, or 756,963 votes in favor to 750,011 against.

King County has been a driving force behind SJR 4204's turnaround, where the measure is passing 58% to 41%. The Elections Division has counted a total of 307,693 ballots as of this evening, with 25,983 mail in ballots counted today alone.

Other counties voting in favor of 4204 include San Juan, Jefferson, Whitman, Thurston, Whatcom, Snohomish, and Spokane. And, oddly enough, the measure is almost passing in Asotin County.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Election results are disproving Tim Eyman's claim that voters are "tapped out"

Last week, in an attempt to claim that the general election results showed that voters were "tapped out", Tim Eyman said:
Politicians are spinning like tops trying to explain away the no-new-tax election results.

They're not listening. Voters have repeatedly said "use our existing tax revenue more effectively, don't raise taxes" (and yes, that includes fees, tolls, and other 'revenue-raising' measures - no matter what you call it, if it takes more of the people's money, then the answer is 'no way').
Really? Then how does he explain the passage of numerous local propositions that are winning with huge margins around the state? Like King County's Medic One levy, which has over 80% support, or the North Kitsap Fire Levy, with over 70% in favor, or parks and recreation levies in Whatcom and Jefferson counties, each with over 60% approval?

What about King County's parks levies, which easily passed in the primary?

What about the seventeen local propositions on Whitman County's ballot, all of which are enjoying at least 65% support, some over 75%?

How does Tim explain the trends that indicate SJR 4204 (simple majority for school levies) has a shot at passage? How does he explain the slumping yes vote for his own Initiative 960, which has dropped to 51% statewide?

How does he explain the defeats of Initiatives 912 and 920 in 2005 and 2006? When offered the opportunity to slash taxes statewide, voters said NO.

Where revenue increases are failing (such as with Roads & Transit) there's a common theme: voters weren't confident that they knew what they were getting. Something as complex as a multibillion dollar regional transportation package with many sophisticated details can be daunting. When in doubt, people vote no.

But if people can see how they benefit, if they feel comfortable increasing revenue to raise a community's quality of life, then they frequently vote yes.

The electorate isn't "tapped out". If people truly felt that way, the results would be much different. We'd be seeing revenue increases fail everywhere.

But that's not the case. People are simply voting more cautiously in this election, and there are many possible reasons why.

Voters have long been unhappy about our ridiculously outdated and regressive tax structure - which the Legislature has failed to address - and that has translated into support for some of Eyman's measures, including I-695, I-722, and I-747 (which, amusingly, were each thrown out by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional).

That's why it's so important in the aftermath of the Initiative 747 court decision that the Governor and the Democratic legislature pass progressive tax reform that addresses anxiety and uncertainty over property taxes. What's needed are solutions that provide for greater stability and fairness.

Reimposing Eyman-style draconian limits is the wrong answer, and Democrats who are talking about doing just that are selling out on their values and failing to lead. It's time to look at ideas like a homestead exemption or a circuit breaker. It's time for Olympia to fix this problem and not surrender to Tim Eyman and his allies, including Dino Rossi. And it's definitely time for the progressive movement in Washington to go on the offense and fight for real fiscal responsibility.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

High winds back in Puget Sound tomorrow

More blustery weather is on the way:
The Seattle area could remain under a high wind watch Monday, the National Weather Service reported.

Winds of 30 to 40 mph are expected in Seattle, with gusts up to 60 mph. The storm is expected to bring the strongest winds between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

The Western Washington coast could see powerful wind gusts and dangerous surf as early as 4 a.m. People should avoid beaches with waves that are strong enough to toss logs and debris onshore.

Western Skagit, Western Whatcom and San Juan counties could also see stronger winds around 7 a.m. and easing in the afternoon.
You can check out Pacific Northwest Portal's special Winter Preparedness section for links, tips, and instant forecasts.

Simple majority amendment too close to call

SJR 4204, the constitutional amendment to allow simple majority approval for school levies, is still trailing as of today but has a shot at passage. Right now, the measure is behind by about 11,000 votes with just over 200,000 left to count.

Hoping to get an idea of what might happen, I took a look at the number of ballots outstanding in each county and assumed that those ballots would continue to trend along the same lines for that county.

I then added the estimates for the outstanding ballots to the ballots already counted and came up with a total of 780,005 yes to 783,275 no.

That's 49.895% yes to 50.010% no.

It would only take a small deviation from the established trends in the outstanding ballots to move us over the top. We may also get an automatic recount, so the outcome on SJR 4204 may be in doubt past the time of certification...we'll see.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The chance of a transit only vote in 2008

Mayor Nickels wants a vote on transit in 2008:
Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels says Sound Transit should rebound from Tuesday's drubbing at the polls and come back with a new light rail plan for voters on the 2008 ballot.

"This is a critical problem, we need to do the work, but we shouldn't take two years or three years or four years to make this decision," Nickels told the agency's board of directors on Thursday.
A recent RT strategies poll commissioned by the Sierra Club indicates that this is a good idea. 52% would vote yes on the transit portion according to the poll. However, if we look at that by subarea, we see that 64% of Seattle voters would say yes, but only 48% in the rest of King County would. In Pierce and Snohomish Counties that number is 47%.

Of course, it's only one poll, and previous Sound Transit opinion research has shown strong support for Link extensions in other areas of King County. What the agency needs to figure out is why people who say they like light rail voted against Proposition 1. There's a disparity between the high levels of support for light rail and the No on Roads & Transit vote...unless all of the agency's recent polls are off, which is unlikely, because multiple consistent polls form a trend.

While Sound Transit could possibly go back to the ballot next year without support from the leadership in Olympia, it could be difficult. The biggest threat is the possibility of legislation imposing a new governance scheme that folds Sound Transit (and other transportation agencies) into a regional agency controlled by a band of transportation czars with excessive powers.

The big question is, do voters have the foresight to understand that we can only begin putting a stop to congestion by creating a real transit network with a rail backbone? Pairing roads & transit together didn't appeal to voters.

In fact, the pairing created a proposal that was perhaps too huge in size for voters to feel comfortable supporting.

If recent transportation votes are any indication, people aren't hungering for roads-only solutions. Remember the defeat of the highway-heavy Referendum 51 package in 2002, which had business support but unified opposition from the environmental community? And remember last year's successful Transit Now! vote?

Proposals that are more concrete are getting the support of voters. Look at Medic One, which is passing overwhelmingly, or the parks levies in the primary. Voters aren't afraid to increase revenue if they can understand all the details. Roads & Transit had too many details (many of which were distorted by the opposition) and never enjoyed the support of an inspiring, edgy Yes campaign.

If those of us who believe in rail want a vote on a new incarnation of Sound Transit 2, we must put pressure on our elected officials, especially Democrats in Olympia and King County Executive Ron Sims, not to get in the way of Sound Transit as it works to study why people voted against Proposition 1 and plans for the future.

Friday, November 9, 2007

LIVE from Town Hall: FCC hearing extended until midnight

It's past 11:00 PM Pacific Time and the auditorium here at Town Hall is still about half filled as people continue to testify against the Kevin Martin's proposed changes to media ownership rules.

The FCC's moderator has just announced the hearing will be extended until midnight Pacific time, allowing many of those who are signed up and waiting to testify at the open microphone to do so.

Several of those testifying in the last hour have addressed Chairman Martin directly, asking him to either stop the scheme he's proposed, or resign from the FCC, or both. I wonder if he's getting uncomfortable under that suit...

SATURDAY MORNING UPDATE: Well, the hearing finally ended at 1:06 AM earlier today (Pacific time) having gone on two hours and six minutes later than originally intended. The FCC's moderator got to the very end of the list of people who were signed up to testify. But not everyone whose name he read off came forward: half or more of the people who could have testified after 11 PM had already left thinking they wouldn't get the opportunity.

Some of the late testimony was highly entertaining. A few of the speakers asked the commissioners if they were still awake or needed to stretch.

A few went after Chairman Kevin Martin directly, soliciting a response from him. One speaker, summarizing the mood of the hearing, demanded to know if Martin was paying attention and asked him twice.

"Do you understand what we're saying? That we're terrified of losing our democracy?" he asked, pausing to wait for an answer.

Showing signs of life, Martin appeared to repeat the question, "Do I understand what you're saying?" and then answered definitely, "Yes".

Another speaker asked Martin if he was capable of smiling, given his passive expression all evening. Responding to her encouragement, Martin did force a smile. It was pretty funny. Apparently Martin was listening, at least some of the time. If he's heard the people then he must know there is no popular support for what he has proposed and what he is doing.

Yet another speaker, towards the end, voiced this sentiment by saying, "I really hope, Chairman Martin, that you take this hearing as seriously as the people in this room" ...many of whom rearranged their schedules to attend. Several speakers elicited laughs by thanking the commissioners for coming "on such short notice."

One speaker, who I believe was from the local screen actors' guild, jumped off on stage and addressed the commissioners directly, reminding Kevin Martin that George W. Bush leaves office in 2009 and his days are numbered, but that he still has a responsibility to serve the public, and that one of the ways to do so would be to ensure the public's access to the 700 mhz wireless spectrum that is supposed to be auctioned off beginning this January.

I was amazed at how so many people were able to share their very angry and unhappy feelings, their outrage, in such a productive way. There was emotion and passion... but it was controlled and channeled all evening long.

The Federal Communications Commission heard testimony 99.9% opposed to relaxing media ownership rules. Whether that will mean anything to Kevin Martin and his Republican allies is doubtful, but we will see.

LIVE from Town Hall: FCC continues to hear from real people

The hearing on media ownership continues to strech on into the late hours of the night here in Seattle, with Town Hall still largely filled and those testifying still as passionate and unequivocal as they were five hours ago.

It's been interesting to watch Chairman Kevin Martin. From my seat here in the auditorium, I have a direct view of him, and he looks like he'd rather be anywhere but here in front of the people he's supposed to serve.

At times he sits with his head in his hand, or smoothes his hair, or leans forward with arms crossed, facial expression unchanging, as speaker after speaker challenges him to listen to the people of the United States and not the executives of massive media conglomerates.

We've heard almost every point of view tonight, from almost every political persuasion and demographic that exists in this country. We've heard testimony that's satirical, hard-hitting, heartfelt, provocative, and thoughtful.

We've heard singing, excerpts from The Assault on Reason, witnessed one speaker present a copy of the Constitution of the United States to the commissioners, and then there are all the citizens who have come armed with the FCC's own research...which doesn't support Kevin Martin's proposed changes to allow increased media consolidation.

Even with a pathetic five days' notice, representatives from across the Pacific Northwest have packed the house here at Town Hall, and the message is getting across, loud and clear: media consolidation is harmful and it's time to strengthen regulations that protect diversity, not weaken them.

"I came here tonight to see democracy in action," one speaker said.

That's why we are here, and we're heartened to see such a diverse outpouring of grassroots energy from across the region.

LIVE from Town Hall: Speakers make opposition to consolidation clear

The FCC's moderator for tonight's hearing announced earlier this evening that the Commission will forego the originally scheduled break because the hearing is running a bit behind on time.

So, the public testimony continues to flow, with Chairman Kevin Martin and fellow Republican Robert McDowell sitting quietly at the table in between Commissioners Copps and Adelstein (who can frequently be seen clapping or smiling.)

Whether they're really listening is difficult to tell, but there's no way they can completely tune out what's happening at the hearing given the raucous and very interactive audience here tonight.

We've heard from several folks involved with management of low-power community FM radio stations as well as those with corporate media experience...like Bill Whipple, who worked at KIRO for many years and debunked several myths propogated by big media's lobbyists, including the idea that consolidation has helped the radio industry by increasing the number of stations.

Many radio stations, Whipple observed, are computer operated, and amount to nothing more than "high-tech jukeboxes" as he put it. As for claims that the industry's conglomerates are responsible to communities, he said, "Most charities are not given the time of day by big media".

It's amazing how many people have been able to come here prepared and deliver concise, powerful remarks on very short notice from the FCC.

LIVE from Town Hall: Hearing moves from panel discussion to public input

I should mention that several Pacifica stations are offering live coverage of the FCC hearing tonight which you can listen to. There's also a live video feed courtesy of the Online Video Service.

We've moved from a series of prearranged panel speakers to the open mic public forum part of the hearing. (I'll post a recap on the panel later; my notebook computer was just recharged. Power is hard to come by here at Town Hall.)

The activists and citizens we're hearing from are almost universally opposed to big media consolidation, and are bombarding the commission with sternly voiced testimony. They're eloquent, passionate, informed, diverse, and representative of many communities across the Northwest.

And they're armed with ancedotes, from the coast to the Cascade Mountains and beyond, whether it be unfair practices by cable companies (like stifling access for local community broadcasters) or the obstructions put in the way of independent publishing companies by laws written by big media's attorneys.

One speaker, complaining about the spread of big media, asked, "Have I died and gone to hell?" to loud roars of laughter.

It even got a chuckle from the commissioners.

"I believe the decision about media consolidation has already been bought and paid for [by big conglomerates]," said one speaker, a professor at Cornell University who declared the hearings to be a farce and said he believed his cynicism about the Seattle event was justified. He blasted the failure of investigative journalism in America, which he said was critical to the health of a democracy.

The audience in the Great Hall gave him a loud standing ovation that went on for at least thirty seconds.

"If you press forward with this media consolidation, you are weakening our democracy," another speaker told the Commission.

UPDATE: A representative from Free Press just spoke and noted that 99% of the commenting public is against media consolidation, by the organization's own count of individuals who have spoken at FCC hearings.

We're now hearing from a very eloquent twelve year old who is railing against big media ownership. "Kids are the future...while we fight for democracy in other countries, you will take our democracy away," she admonished.

LIVE from Town Hall: Republican commissioners intimidated at FCC hearing

It appears from their actions and body language that the GOP FCC commissioners are daunted by the vocal audience here at Town Hall. Commissioner McDowell spoke briefly at the podium but did not deliver his prepared remarks, asking instead that they be entered into the record. He then sat back down.

Chairman Martin is now speaking, and has already made several ridiculous claims to the audience gathered here, like "I tried to be transparent with you". He said when he began that he would be brief but he has already been told to sit down by several activists in the audience.

Martin is soft-spoken and doesn't seem happy at the podium. He sounds pretty shaky and unsure of himself. He had the audacity, though, to complain about "rhetoric" from Commissioners Copps and Adelstein.

This was met promptly with jeers and boos.

In fact, he looks awfully nervous. He's been interrupted several times already, including when he lamely attempted to make excuses for the short public notice given (he blamed the entire commission for the unacceptable scheduling process.)

The third GOP Commissioner, Deborah Taylor Tate, is apparently not here. I don't see her seated anywhere and she hasn't come forward to speak. Typical.

LIVE from Town Hall: Adelstein praises turnout at FCC hearing, attacks Martin

Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein is hammering away at Chairman Kevin Martin for aiding the agenda of big media and tapping the passions of the audience here to forcefully condemn the ridiculous and unacceptable march towards further media consolidation. "We need to expand the number of media outlets owned by women or people of color," Adelstein told the audience.

"Those of you who came out here tonight, made your schedules work for this...are representing the millions of Americans who can't be here."

"If the majority of the FCC opposes the majority of Americans, you will see a willful act against the public interest that needs to be struck down," Adelstein declared. "If the FCC sides with powerful media companies over the public interest, Congress can veto it and it should!"

"As you heard on the video tonight, it's your representatives who will lead the charge," Adelstein concluded, noting that residents of the Pacific Northwest are the last ones who will be heard during the hearing process.

LIVE from Town Hall: The text of Governor Gregoire's testimony to the FCC

The following is the text of Governor Christine Gregoire's testimony before the Federal Communications Commission just forty five minutes ago.

I’m Chris Gregoire, Governor of the State of Washington. Thank you for coming to my state on this important topic.

Today, I urge you to take a broad public-interest view of the issues you are considering. These regulatory decisions are not solely matters of business interest.

I fervently believe the airwaves are public property. Owners who use them have a strong obligation to the rest of us to maintain that use in the public interest.

You last looked at this issue in 2002, and I wrote you, as Attorney General, with my deep concerns about the FCC’s efforts to accelerate the already rapid trend toward consolidation in the media.

Those concerns are no less on my mind today.

As Governor, I continue to be opposed to further concentration of media ownership through consolidation of the media.

Such concentration stifles creativity and content.

It narrows perspectives available to each of us as citizens, and it is unhealthy in a society that rests on principles of equality and diversity.

I find it ironic that in an age with so many new ways for people to communicate – and so many ways to exercise the beauty of Democracy – we face the very real threat that these new ways will be controlled by a few.

Since 1995, there are 40 percent fewer TV-station owners due to consolidation.

Three media companies own all of our cable news networks, and two companies serve 40 percent of households getting cable TV.

Just one company now owns nearly 1,200 radio stations across the country. Before 1996, no company could own more than 40 stations nationwide.

And I’m not just talking about newspapers, TV stations, and radio stations.

Ownership of what we can hear, view and say is concentrating in key chokepoints such as Internet content and phone transmissions.

A handful of companies now dominate the top Internet news sites.

We need competition, not concentration.

We need diversity, vitality, and local perspectives.Democracy depends on a thriving market place of ideas. It depends on a healthy menu of political discourse, culture, and arts. Do we really want to concentrate control of this marketplace into the hands of a few?

I can tell you, I don’t, and I don’t believe Washingtonians do either. What happens if a single owner doesn’t like what is being said on TV or through the newspaper or Internet? Will this owner engage in censorship?

That’s the problem. The possibility of censorship makes people lose confidence that their voices will be heard.

We already have a problem with distrust in far too many of our major institutions in this country – we don’t need media added to the list simply through consolidation. If our means of communication is controlled by a few, what’s to stop them from blocking our artists, musicians, grass-roots political organizations, and others from the doorways needed to reach their audiences?

How will the next great author get published? How will the next great band be able to leave a garage in West Seattle for a worldwide audience?

How will photos, or video, documenting injustice be seen widely enough to spark a response? This is a problem, both real and perceived.

Concentration of media ownership – in all its evolving forms – is a real problem.

It’s a problem for me, and for Washingtonians, who live and work in creative, expressive and innovative communities from Spokane to Seattle, and Vancouver to Bellingham. I ask you to ensure that our citizens have access to multiple sources of information and perspectives. Thank you.

LIVE from Town Hall: GOP councilmember says media ownership not a partisan issue

Republican County Councilmember Reagan Dunn just spoke the FCC, adding his voice to all of the previous speakers' in opposing Kevin Martin's media ownership rules. "I'm a Republican and I'm a capitalist. But some areas of our private sector must be regulated," Dunn told the FCC to loud cheers and sustained applause.

Commissioner Michael Copps is speaking now, slamming the Republican majority on the Federal Communications Commission for rushing to give big media "a fast break." He's already received three standing ovations. So refreshing to hear him speak truth to power and expose Chairman Kevin Martin's shell game.

This man needs to be in charge of the FCC.

LIVE from Town Hall: Cantwell, Inslee, Reichert urge FCC to slow down

We've just finished listening to video testimony from three federal officeholders: Senator Maria Cantwell, Representative Jay Inslee, and Representative Dave Reichert. All of them couldn't make it due to votes in Congress, and all of them urged the Federal Communications Commission to slow down and adopt a more thoughtful process for considering any changes to media ownership rules.

State Auditor Brian Sonntag is speaking now, demanding that the FCC value independent local ownership.

The audience continues to grow here as the auditorium fills with people.

LIVE from Town Hall: Gregoire testifies before Federal Communications Commission

Governor Gregoire has just finished testifying before the Federal Communications Commission on media ownership, blasting the FCC for its pathetic five days of advance notice and condemning the long trend of media consolidation we've seen over the last few decades. Gregoire noted that ownership of news networks and radio stations is concentrated in the hands of a few.

She also pointed out that major Internet news sites and gateways are owned by the same companies that control broadcast outlets and the nation's newspapers, and that our telecommunications services (whether it be phone, Internet, or television) are provided by a tiny number of massive conglomerates.

Rob McKennna is testifying now and strongly echoing Gregoire's concerns.

Both McKenna and Gregoire have received a warm welcome from the crowd here, which is growing quickly to capacity and giving the GOP commissioners an earful.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

FCC in Seattle TOMORROW - be there!

A reminder that the Federal Communications Commission is holding an official hearing on media ownership tomorrow, in the heart of the Pacific Northwest - Seattle. All five commissioners will be there, including the three Republicans.

The FCC has already announced the meeting agenda and Governor Gregoire's office says she will testify at tomorrow's hearing. Here are the details:

FCC Hearing on Media Ownership
Friday, November 9, 2007.
4:00 PM to 11:00 PM (Pacific Standard Time)
Town Hall Seattle
Great Hall
1119 Eighth Avenue (enter at Seneca Street)

While it's true there was very little advance notice given, please make every effort you can to get to this hearing. This is an important moment for media reform.

We will do our best to bring you live coverage right here on the Official Blog throughout the hearing.

King County November 8th returns in, results largely the same

King County Elections has just announced that tabulation has finished for November 8th. A total of 17,310 additional absentee ballots and 795 poll ballots were counted today. It's a low number considering the high volume received over the last few days - the Elections Division received 76,000 yesterday alone.

Consequently, the results for key races and ballot measures have barely changed. The percentages are mostly the same, the vote totals are slightly higher.

The cumulative statewide returns bear good news, however. Initiative 960's margin of approval has shrunk significantly. The yes vote is down to 51.9923% while the no vote has climbed to 48.0077%. Meanwhile, SJR 4204 (simple majority for school levies) remains close as well, with 48.8680% in favor and 51.1320% against.

Counties voting I-960 down include: Jefferson, King, San Juan, Thurston, and Whitman. Kitsap is split almost fifty-fifty. Pierce and Snohomish are unfortunately voting yes. If the numbers in those counties were reversed, I-960 would be dead.

All the counties voting down I-960 are also voting for 4204, but they're not alone. Snohomish and Spokane are also approving 4204 by the tiniest of margins, while Whatcom is squarely in the Yes on Simple Majority column.

Considering the low number of ballots tabulated by King County over the past few days, the gap between Yes and No on both these measures may continue to close.

As for the other statewide measures, Referendum 67 and the remaining three constitutional amendments are comfortably ahead.

With Initiative 747's demise, what's next?

Following this morning's court ruling which struck down Initiative 747 in its entirety, many people are predictably calling for Tim Eyman's 2001 measure to be partially or completely reinstated by the Legislature. Even Governor Christine Gregoire has released a statement alluding to the idea.

But reimposing I-747 style limits, even if they're somewhat less draconian, would be a mistake; the wrong way to respond to what is a serious problem.

The tax structure we've got now is broken, poorly set up, and unfair. Change is needed: the status quo is unacceptable for Washington families. But that change needs to make a positive difference, not make the current situation worse than it already is. Our communities suffered under the poorly conceived limits that were enforced while Initiative 747 was on the books.

The response to today's court ruling needs to be on new, creative solutions that address our two biggest problems with property taxes today: the lack of stability and fairness. Eyman-style tax cuts don't tackle either of these challenges - they just de-fund our common wealth and hurt our communities.

We can't treat symptoms. We have to start looking at causes.

Middle and lower income families in Washington State are concerned about property taxes for good reason: they're paying more than their fair share and they don't know what to expect year to year because our economy (including the housing market) can be so unpredictable. Uncertainty causes anxiety, anxiety causes taxpayers to be leery of new revenue increases and be more receptive to the schemes peddled by Tim Eyman, whether they make governing more difficult or simply slice away revenue.

The people want something done. If Democrats don't seize the opportunity to get out and lead, the right wing agenda prevails in the ensuring vacuum.

Democrats must pass legislation this session that deals with this predicament. And that legislation must be built on Democratic values and principles. Democrats must avoid the familiar and disastrous path that the Republican caucus and Tim Eyman will try to push them down. It's time to build our own trail and thoughtfully resolve this quandary.

There are many possibilities for legislators to consider... solutions that can provide help to families without hurting our common wealth.

In other words, ideas that lower property taxes for middle and lower income families without depleting any funding for public services.

For example, a homestead exemption, which lowers the bill for a citizen's primary residence by excluding a portion of the assessed value of the home from being taxed. Homestead exemptions are employed across the United States to make property taxes fairer. Or, a circuit breaker, which is essentially a graduated tax credit that applies whenever property taxes go over a predetermined percentage of a family's combined income.

(A circuit breaker, unlike a homestead exemption, can help renters as well as homeowners but would likely be more complicated to implement here.)

Because these proposals are revenue neutral, the wealthiest Washingtonians would see a slight increase in their taxes, but the impact to those citizens would be relatively insignificant considering the size of their incomes. It's not unreasonable to ask our most financially secure citizens to pay their fair share. That's what these solutions are about: fairness.

There are also prospects for stabilizing property taxes that we're just starting to learn more about. The benefit of a more stable tax structure is that all property owners would be able to better calculate their bills from year to year, greatly reducing uncertainty and assisting families with their fiscal planning or budgeting.

Paired together, well crafted solutions that improve stability and fairness would eliminate problems with property taxes and move us closer to progressive tax reform. We will do everything we can to ensure that's the direction we head in.

Initiative 747 court defeat leaves Eyman humiliated again

This is what you get for making brash predictions:
I-747 will be upheld by the state supreme court
Tuesday, May 15, 2007 9:34:23 AM

To: Our thousands of supporters throughout the state (cc'd to the media, house & senate members, and Governor)

From: Tim Eyman, Jack Fagan, Mike Fagan

RE: Property tax cap Initiative 747 will be upheld by the state supreme court this fall

There are several whacko lefty activist judges on the state supreme court. You know it, I know it. But there's enough OK justices to overturn King County judge Mary Roberts' goofy ruling saying "voters were unconstitutionally misled into approving I-747."
Darn all those "whacko lefty activist judges"! They're everywhere, protecting our pesky state Constitution and the rule of law.

As usual, when courts don't rule in Eyman's favor, he impugns their integrity. What a typical right wing response to our judicial system. I'm sure we'll hear more of this later today. That "activist judge" nonsense is so old and pathetic.

If Tim wants his initiatives to pass constitutional muster, he should do his homework and read up on the law of our land - because he clearly doesn't understand it.

Neither does Attorney General Rob McKenna, who co-wrote Initiative 747 and defended it in court. Today's decision is a defeat for him as well.

We expect that Tim will shortly announce a new initiative to cut property taxes and assault our common wealth for next year.

We'll be out on the front lines fighting that from Day One.

As for Initiative 960, which is only passing by a slight margin (and losing in the state's largest county) if that squeaks on through, expect another court challenge, because it's unconstitutional, unfair, and unsound.

BREAKING: VICTORY! WA Supreme Court declares Eyman's I-747 unconstitutional

In a huge victory for common sense and the rule of law, the Supreme Court has upheld a lower court ruling invalidating Tim Eyman's Initiative 747, which limited local property taxes to draconian limits in 2001. From the court's ruling:
Washington Citizens Action, Welfare Rights Organization Coalition, 1000 Friends of Washington,1 and Whitman County challenge the constitutionality of I-747. Article II, section 37 of the Washington Constitution requires that amendatory laws set forth at full length the law to be amended. I-747's challengers argue that the initiative failed to accurately set forth the law that it sought to amend in violation of article II, section 37 because the text of the initiative claimed to reduce the general property tax levy limit from two percent to one percent, but in reality it reduced the limit from six percent to one percent.

We agree. While the challengers also assert that I-747 violated article II, section 19's subject in title requirement, we need not address that argument in this case.
I just spoke with Knoll Lowney, who successfully argued the case before the Supreme Court, and this is what he told NPI:
"This was another example of Tim Eyman misleading the voters - and this decision is important in providing needed protection for the electorate. And it's appropriate that it comes out now after the [apparent] passage of Initiative 960, which we're confident will suffer the same fate in court [that is, being ruled unconstitutional]."
This is a huge victory and we're very pleased with the outcome.

More as it develops and we read the ruling....

UPDATE: More reaction from the plaintiffs - here's Knoll again:
The Court's decision is a critical victory for voters and those rural taxing districts that were hit especially hard by the measure. The court today confirmed that the Constitution protects voters from being misled. Here, Eyman’s initiative misled voters by understating the impact of I-747 five fold. If the measure had been truthful, it never would have gained majority voter approval.
A much stronger NO campaign back then would have helped too...tremendously. It may not surprise you that some of the key people who ran the unsuccessful NO on I-747 campaign also controlled the NO on I-960 effort as well.

Here's Whitman County Commissioner Greg Partch:
I-747 has had a huge impact on rural counties, towns and taxing districts, and the Supreme Court rightly recognized that the voters were not accurately informed of this impact. We have to reform the property tax system, but it’s a complex process that can't be solved by sound bites. Hopefully the legislature will realize this. The one size fits all approach of I-747 was unfair to the rural areas of the state.
And Nancy Chupp, from the Public Interest Law Group:
This initiative was about deception, as so many of Mr. Eyman’s initiatives are. We're thrilled for our clients and all of Washingtonians that the Supreme Court found this deceptive initiative unconstitutional. The initiative process is a sacred tool for Washingtonians and its integrity must be preserved. Deceptive initiatives must end.
Congratulations to the plaintiffs. What a victory.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

King County November 7th returns show little change; only 17,783 ballots tallied

King County Elections has just updated the results from early this morning with with newly tabulated ballots, and it doesn't look like there has been much of a change in any of the key races or ballot measures.

And there's more bad news: Alec Fisken slipped a bit in his Port race and there is a very real possibility he will lose to Republican Bill Bryant.

The numbers are more solid and definite, and although nothing will be set in stone until certification, it's looking more and more like it was a pretty bad night. Perhaps the dismal returns will serve as a collective splash of cold water to progressives and Democrats across Washington and especially in King County.

And, though it's not much of a consolation, it's nice to see that local consultant Michael Grossman's sleazy attacks on behalf of his clients Bob Edwards and David Della are backfiring spectacularly.

Perhaps Gael Tarleton and Tim Burgess' victories will teach him a lesson.

UPDATE: For whatever reason, the county didn't tabulate very many ballots today. So there is still a good opportunity for some results to shift:
King County Elections today wrapped their second day of ballot counting and added 17,783 additional ballots to vote totals, which represents all ballots on hand ready to be tabulated. Today’s mail brought in an additional 76,000 absentee ballots.

Elections Director Sherri Huff said staff will work as needed over the holiday weekend to process and tabulate the estimated 150,000 ballots on hand left to count. This number does not include ballots yet to be delivered by the U.S. Postal Service.
It appears turnout may not be as dismal as early mail-in statistics suggested. A lot of people voted late this year, at least in King County.

The number of ballots received by the Elections Division speaks to that. It's a large number, and on top of yesterday's total, it's huge.

UPDATE II: Apparently, we're actually at 199,000 estimated ballots on hand left to count, according to revised numbers from King County. There are at least half a million ballots statewide uncounted.

Complacency the main culprit behind a disappointing election night

Though there are many ballots that remain to be counted, enough votes have been tabulated to predict the likely outcome for this year's crop of ballot measures and key races. With some exceptions, it was a disappointing election night, filled with bad news. So...what happened? Why couldn't Democrats and progressives capitalize on last year's momentum? While there are many possible reasons, here's my take on what happened, boiled down to a single word:

Complacency.

You can't help but notice it's a theme tying together so many of the campaigns that came up short (or likely will come up short).

Take Bill Sherman's campaign for prosecutor.

We had an excellent candidate with a knowledgeable campaign team and a good strategy who could have been victorious.

But Bill didn't get the support he needed to be competitive.

The Republicans put huge amounts of money behind Dan Satterberg and they're now reaping the benefits of their cash infusions. The Democratic Party did not respond in kind, even though it couldn't have possibly had a better candidate.

State party leaders and prominent Democratic elected officials seem focused on the future, not the present.

Speeches lately contain endless references to 2008, caucus preparations and the presidential race are dominating discussions at meetings, and the Gregoire reelection effort has been at the forefront of the state party's agenda for months.

The level of enthusiasm needed to propel Bill Sherman to victory just wasn't there. Several influential Democrats, some of whom are well known attorneys, even went out of their way to help Dan Satterberg at Bill's expense.

Here's an example of what I mean: yesterday, two of us represented NPI at a campaign luncheon for Chris Gregoire featuring Governors Sebelius and Napolitano of Kansas and Arizona, respectively. The luncheon, which drew a thousand plus people, was held to raise money for the Governor's war chest for next year.

You wouldn't have known there was an election going on during the whole event except that Gregoire paused briefly during her speech to remind attendees to vote.

After the three governors had spoken, Jenny Durkan came to the podium to give the fundraising pitch. Durkan, who is a personal friend of Gregoire's and a member of the victorious legal team that won the gubernatorial election challenge, exhorted attendees to donate to Gregoire and spoke of building the party.

Yet Jenny has been a strong supporter of Republican Dan Satterberg's campaign, and according to what we've heard, actively worked to persuade the Governor not to endorse Bill Sherman or give him any help.

That's building the party!?

Meanwhile, Democratic leaders failed to pull out all the stops to help get Bill elected. The state party's technology director did set up an emergency virtual phonebanking system for Bill, but it was last minute and there wasn't much of an effort to get activists to participate in it. The sophisticated advance planning needed to turn out votes for Sherman didn't occur.

The real excitement that should have surrounded our candidate for prosecutor as he approached the finish line never materialized.

The party failed to substantially invest in Bill's campaign... and then it didn't put together the resources to build a powerful get out the vote effort that could have potentially neutralized the Republican cash infusions.

In the weeks and days leading up to last night, our party has held event after event to raise money for next year.

For example, the Eastside Dinner...which featured Darcy Burner, the Magnuson Awards...which featured Hillary Clinton (and brought in a record haul for the state party), or the KCDCCC Honors Banquet...which featured Governor Gregoire.

Why were all these events in October? The Maggies are usually in August...the 2006 King County Honors Banquet was held in the winter.

It's like this whole season our party and its leadership has been joyously looking forward, celebrating the past (2006) and anticipating a great future (2008), instead of getting down to business and working to win in the present: 2007.

Complacency didn't just hurt Bill Sherman.

If Democrats had been motivated to win this year, a challenger to Jane Hague would have been found. But potential candidates didn't see the possibilities, didn't realize the importance of competing everywhere.

No prominent Democrat stepped forward to run, and then...the King County organization didn't identify and get behind a candidate until after the filing period had closed and Richard Pope had locked up the nomination.

An assumption was made that the county committee would get to pick a candidate by default after the filing period closed.

And so, the opportunity to beat Jane Hague was lost.

Proposition 1, the Roads & Transit proposal, which is likely headed for defeat, never recaptured the momentum that was lost as soon as opponents began attacking the plan. The support it enjoyed months ago was a mile wide and an inch deep. And it dried up as those who did not appreciate the ambitious, pragmatic approach to regional transportation for various reasons banded together and did everything they could to distort and manipulate the facts.

(Proud of your tight alliance with Kemper Freeman, Jr., Mike O'Brien?)

The measure was backed by a strong coalition. Significant energy was spent on outreach to different communities. Campaign operations were managed by a smart, competent team. Yet the measure is being rejected everywhere.

I don't know how many people I've heard in the last month tell me that they thought Proposition 1 would win, narrowly, but it's been a lot. Assumptions were made about the outcome; valuable lessons learned in past battles were forgotten. Too much was made of optimistic internal polls that forecasted victory.

The campaign didn't push back forcefully and defend the investment when it needed to. The television advertising was unimaginative and predictable. The theme was: if we don't pass this, we're in trouble. We can't wait. It will cost more later - we have to do something now. This is what we've got.

The first ads weren't too bad. But they never got better after that.

Instead of concisely explaining the benefits of building a rapid transit network, addressing dangerous choke points, and painting a vision of a better transportation system that offered choices, the ads almost talked down to voters.

People were told what was good for them.

The message could have been stronger, sharper, and more innovative. It failed to incorporate key qualities that would make it resonate with the electorate: qualities that are the hallmarks of winning political advertising.

Complacency also hurt the effort against Tim Eyman's Initiative 960.

Instead of looking at the significant challenges involved in convincing the people to vote no as opportunities, those in charge of spending the money adopted an attitude of defeatism. Instead of creatively reframing, the campaign ceded ground to Eyman and the right wing from the very beginning.

The undemocratic aspects of the initiative weren't emphasized; the message was not well refined. The campaign didn't build a strong presence in the "swing" counties where these kinds of measures are won and lost: Snohomish, Pierce, Kitsap, Thurston, Whatcom, Skagit, Clallam, Jefferson, Spokane, Clark.

A diverse coalition was assembled but its potential never harnessed.

The ballot measure with the best field effort (SJR 4204: simple majority) is falling short in part because it wasn't embraced more broadly and eagerly.

Like Bill Sherman's campaign, it could have used a badly needed burst of enthusiasm to put it over the top. While devoted education advocates worked tirelessly and quietly on SJR 4204, their efforts didn't get enough notice and reinforcement from the larger progressive community.

Thankfully, complacency didn't sink everything.

Where we were victorious there was hard work, an aggressive campaign strategy, strong outreach, and a solid message.

Look at Referendum 67 as an example. The Approve 67 team was organized and on the ball from Day One of the fight: they never stopped shoring up their support or hammering away at the insurance industry. When attacked, they fought back. They used meaningful stories to prove their points.

The industry put in a record amount of money and tried to buy the election. They failed. Referendum 67 is winning.

In the nonpartisan Seattle Port Commission races, despite enduring attacks from their well funded and desperate Republican opponents, Alec Fisken and Gael Tarleton are still in the game. They ran together on a strong platform of port reform and took absolutely nothing for granted.

They hoped for the best and expected the worst. This morning, Gael's out in front while Alec is about even with his opponent.

In Snohomish County, Mike Cooper and Brian Sullivan approached their county council races with spirit and cheer.

They saw the possibilities, put together a plan to win, and acted on that plan. They communicated their values effectively and authentically. And the first Snohomish County returns show them winning by healthy margins.

Two years ago, following a lousy presidential election (2004) we managed to have an impressive string of victories that set the stage for the huge wins we racked up in last year's midterms. Major highlights included the defeat of Initiative 912, the reelection of Ron Sims as county executive, knocking Jeff Sax off the Snohomish County Council, and stopping Initiative 330.

This year was like a mirror opposite of 2005, dominated by disappointing losses instead of key victories. It's not the way we should be heading into 2008.

Tonight is a reminder that much work remains ahead for the Democratic Party, the progressive movement, and the netroots community.

That includes the development of permanent infrastructure that can help counter the right wing's array of think tanks, media outlets, leadership pipelines, and civic engagement machinery - infrastructure that can help ensure we don't fall victim to complacency again so easily.

Numbers not conclusive yet in many races

We've just received a turnout update from King County Elections that suggests it's too early to draw conclusions in many close races:
King County Elections posted results for 144,600 absentee ballots earlier this evening, representing mail ballots received through yesterday’s mail.

The first poll returns of the evening were posted at 10:30 p.m. with scheduled updates expected until approximately 2 a.m.

Today’s mail brought in an additional 65,500 voted absentee ballots, the second highest Election Day mail ballot returns since 2004, an indication that voters may have taken their time voting their ballot. King County Elections expects to receive a large number of absentee ballot returns in the next few days.
Emphasis is mine. This is interesting news - we'll have to see what happens over the next few hours as King County continues to tabulate new returns.

UPDATE: 99% of poll precincts have reported in, and not much has changed, unfortunately. The early returns now look more definite.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Latest from Whatcom County: WOW

In the two closest races of the night, Ken Mann, whose lead was 45 votes over incumbent Sam Crawford, has apparently won that race, adding two votes to his margin. Results are unofficial; stay tuned for updates tomorrow.
[Correction: Mann's lead has actually narrowed to 27 votes, as of the last County Auditor's update at 11:05 last night, 11/6/07--K]

Bob Kelly, winning earlier by a bigger but still very slim margin over Chris Hatch, has also won that race, substantially adding to his tally, now at a 187 vote margin.

Again: Results are still unofficial, but congratulations to both of these candidates for running excellent, professional campaigns. All earlier margins of victory for other contenders reported are holding: congratulations to these folks as well.

Roads & Transit trending in the wrong direction

At midnight the results for Prop 1 are:

Yes: 120183 (43.7473%)
No: 154538 (56.2527%)

The current trend on Roads and Transit is not in our favor. At this point it would take a statistical miracle to put us over the top.

In the next year, beyond changing our transportation governance scheme, we'll have to looki at the possibility of coming back with another ballot measure.

This all hinges on the legislature, which needs to authorize another vote. RTID, the roads consortium, dissolves at this point and would have to be reinstated.

The kind of package that is put together, if any, depends on how these results are interpreted. Some initial ideas:

Voters were skeptical about the investment and unsure about the risk after having sustained previous revenue increases.

Results from I-960 and SJR 4204 corroborate this premise. However, I-960 is failing in King County where Roads and Transit is also failing.

Or perhaps voters were convinced by the Sierra Club and Kemper Freeman Jr.'s henchmen that Proposition 1 delivered little benefit to them while costing a lot of money (which, incidentally, is a contradiction - if a package costs a lot of money, there has to be something in it!)

My hunch is that it is a combination, with unhappiness about the scope of the proposal being somewhat in the forefront.

This was a large package and on the surface appeared expensive. Especially given the dishonest portrayals of the cost our local dailies ran with. Turnout is looking to wind up quite low when all is said and done, and if right wing voters turned out in disproportionate numbers it would help explain the trends we results are seeing.

The one thing that's clear is that our region still faces enormous transportation problems that are not going way anytime soon, whether we ignore them or not.

First poll precinct results due in at 10:30 PM

Here's the schedule for returns coming in throughout the rest of the evening (this is for King County only, and according to the Elections Division):

10:30 PM: 5% of poll precincts reporting
11:00 PM: 20% of poll precincts reporting
11:30 PM: 35% of poll precincts reporting
12:00 AM: 50% of poll precincts reporting
12:30 PM: 75% of poll precincts reporting
1:00 AM: 85% of poll precincts reporting
1:30 AM: 98% to 100% of poll precincts reporting or when poll count is complete

More good news from Whatcom County

Former county Democratic leader Barry Buchanan will be the new Ward 3 Bellingham City Councilman, while Bob Kelly is leading his race for County Council District 1 Position B by 84 votes over his competitor, Chris Hatch. This is an open seat. If Kelly wins, he'll be the first Native American to serve in this position. He's a member of the Nooksack Tribe.

Snohomish County progressive champions winning their council races

Perhaps the most cheery results from across the state tonight are coming from Snohomish County, where Democrats Mike Cooper and Brian Sullivan are winning by significant margins against their conservative Republican opponents.

COUNTY COUNCIL - DISTRICT 2
D - Brian Sullivan: 68.62%
R - William E. Cooper: 31.24%

COUNTY COUNCIL - DISTRICT 3
D - Mike Coope: 60.75%
R - Renee Radcliff Sinclair: 39.04%

Way to go, Mike and Brian!

Whatcom County bright spots

In the County Council District 2 Position B race, progressive challenger Ken Mann is defeating BIAW-backed incumbent Sam Crawford by 45 votes (3101-3056) with lackluster turnout. If the numbers hold, this would be fantastic news for conservation voters in Whatcom County, and could send a chilling message to rural conservatives.

The other hotly contested election (at least, in terms of some spirited debates earlier in the run-up to Election Day) is also going well for progressives: Challenger Steve Oliver is soundly thumping the incumbent Joe Elenbaas for the county treasurer's office by a margin of 65%-35%.

Both of these should ring alarm bells for conservatives who think they have rural votes locked up. Let's hope they stay asleep.

Early results don't look promising

The first returns are in tonight, and although there are a few bright spots, the overall picture doesn't look very good.
  • First, Roads and Transit is failing 55% to 44%. Even voters in King County are rejecting Proposition 1. Unless trends change dramatically, it's back to the drawing board. No thanks to the Sierra Club and their allies, who did everything they could to convince people to reject investing in transportation.
  • Initiative 960 is passing narrowly while SJR 4204 (simple majority for schools) is failing narrowly. There are still many votes to be counted and there's hope yet for a progressive outcome on both of these measures.
  • Referendum 67 (consumer protection) seems headed towards easy passage, one of the success stories of the 2007 election.
  • Democrat Bill Sherman is losing the race for prosecutor to Republican Dan Satterberg, undoubtedly bolstered by huge cash infusions from his GOP allies.
  • This looks like it could be the year we take back the Seattle Port Commission: both Alec Fisken and Gael Tarleton are winning, although not by very much.
  • Jim Robinson is currently behind in his campaign for Mayor of Redmond, trailing by several percentage points to John Marchione.
  • Keri Andrews' bid for Bellevue City Council isn't going well at all - she's losing by a significant margin to conservative councilmember and incumbent Phil Noble. The odds aren't good that she'll make up the ground.
  • The other statewide constitutional amendments, including the Rainy Day Fund, appear to be passing with ease.
There are many, many, many more votes to be counted, so it's too early to draw many definite conclusions. All we have are indications from these early returns.

Tim Eyman's I-960 ahead early as expected

Tim Eyman's I-960 is up 53%-47% in early returns, but as I'm reminded: this doesn't include King County poll precincts, which will show up a lot later this evening or possibly early tomorrow morning.

So not a great number, but there is still hope that reason can prevail.

R-67: Voters seem to get it

Getting insurance companies to do what they say they will do makes sense. The numbers seem to bear that out. Early on, Referendum 67 is enjoying a 57%-43% edge. This is huge, but we'll keep an eye on it.

Constitutional amendments recap

8206: Rainy Day Fund: Is passing handily with almost 70% of the vote.

8212: Prison Labor: Also passing with over 60% of the vote.

4204: Simple Majority: Sadly failing with 48% of the vote. This is contrary to polling data showing widespread approval.

4215 Higher Ed Investment: Passing with nearly 53%.

Update@9:22
4215: Higher Ed Investment: Falls to just under 52%.

4204 Simple Majority: Is now failing with only 46.3% of the vote. Things are really not looking good for Simple Majority.

8206 and 8212 are both still over 60%.

Roads and Transit headed down to defeat

Yes: 79323/44.0351%
No: 100813/55.9649%
Ballots Cast/Registered Voters: 14.54%

First returns are in on Prop 1 and the news is not good, not good at all. These returns represent mail in ballots received.

Polling has shown stronger support from people who voted early then those that had not yet voted. This could mean that as the night goes on the Yes vote will decline. However given that we are looking at lower then expected turnout those early voters could be representative of all voters. This is bolstered by polls like the UW poll that showed stronger support among likely voters.

Nevertheless I doubt we are overcoming a 10% deficit.

Update @ 9:14
Yes 101747/43.7462
No: 130838/56.2538%

What this likely means moving forward, assuming these results hold, is that the next battle is governance reform. We dodged the bullet last session, but it will be back next year. Governance reform is the death knell to anyone who wants a transit focused transportation system. Essentially governance reform lumps all our region's transit and transportation agencies into one overall body.

The proposal as it stood last year essentially gave rural areas a veto over regional transportation planning. This means that areas that see roads as the only answer get to tell those of us that realize the immense benefit of transit how to handle their transportation systems.

KC Medic One Early Results Look Good

Proposition 1 (renewing the levy for EMS) has started off dramatically in favor of passing by an 80%-20% spread, with 15% of precincts reporting. Let's hope this trend continues.

King County I-25 up at first blush

With about 15% of precincts reporting Initiative 25 in King County unfortunately has a roughly 60-40 edge. Welcome to Election Day live coverage! We'll keep an eye on this and most statewide results throughout the night.

2007 turnout unlikely to be above 50%, Democrats cruising to victory in Kentucky

If King County's figure of returned mail-in ballots is any indication, this isn't going to be a high turnout election. As of last night, only 24% of ballots sent out by the Elections Division had come back.

About 152,000 people have voted so far in the state's largest county.

Results from mail-in ballots will be posted after 8 PM tonight, followed by the first results from the polls, which will be added beginning at 10:30 PM.

While the voting continues here in the Evergreen State, Democrats appear to be chalking up victories already in Kentucky:
Both the governor's and treasurer races in Kentucky have been called in favor of the Democrats. It looks like we'll grab the Attorney General's office as well, while losing the Secretary of State and Commissioner of Agriculture races.

Also, State Auditor Crit Luallen is cruising to reelection with around 62% of the vote. All eyes will be on her soon to see if she jumps in the KY-Sen race against Mitch McConnell.
Meanwhile, in Virginia, Democrats are trying to take over the state Senate.

Today is Election Day: Please vote!

Today is the Super Bowl of politics and civic responsibility - General Election Day, 2007. If you're a registered voter and you haven't yet voted, please do so, whether you go to the polls or mail in your ballot.

If you are not registered and you are eligible, you should register to vote immediately so you can vote in the next election. If you decide to vote by absentee, your ballot will always come to you. This is handy, especially during other times of the year when you might not know there is an election. Like a school board levy measure in February.

As many of you know, NPI has been releasing its endorsements over the past few weeks. You can find a summary of key endorsements to the right, and access the whole list from our home page. If you're willing to volunteer for election day get out the vote efforts, let us know at feedback (at) nwprogressive (dot) org - we'll connect you with a volunteer or field coordinator.

Monday, November 5, 2007

In Brief - November 5th, 2007

Here is today's quick news digest:
  • Management at Seattle's two dailies had cause for celebration today when new numbers showed that circulation is actually increasing slightly. It's quite the turnaround following months of declining readership of the dead tree version of the newspaper.
  • Google has confirmed plans to build software for mobile phones.
  • The Stranger's Josh Feit continues to keep the pressure on Dino Rossi by asking how the likely GOP nominee for governor intends to vote on key 2007 ballot measures that voters will decide the fate of tomorrow.
  • Yet another Republican state legislator is in trouble: just a few days after Representative Curtis stepped down from the House of Representatives following a sex scandal, Republican caucus leaders are punishing Representative Jim Dunn of the the 17th LD for inappropriate remarks made to a female staff member. They've taken away his committee requirements and will require him to attend sensitivity training. Additionally, the House's chief clerk is restricting Dunn's reimbursements for travel expenses.
  • Looking for coverage of the writers' strike (which is affecting all the big media conglomerates)? Check out Deadline Hollywood Daily.
  • Boeing is building a new anti-submarine plane for the Navy based on its 737 aircraft, one of the all-times best-selling passenger plane, with five thousand plus produced over the lifetime of the program.
  • P-I investigative reporter Eric Nalder has an excellent report this morning about positive consequences resulting from a past ConocoPhillips oil spill: "A whistle-blower's courage and federal prosecutors in Alaska have given Washington state some extra protection against oil spills in local waters."
Have something to add? Please leave a comment.

Elections coverage tomorrow night

An important announcement for those of you who plan to follow what happens after the polls close tomorrow night: Starting around 8 PM or so, the Northwest Progressive Institute will provide live elections coverage (as usual!) both here and at Pacific Northwest Portal throughout the evening.

At the Portal you'll find election returns and dynamic headlines, with links to blog coverage from around the region; here you'll find analysis from our staff and observations on the fate of key ballot measures and races for local office.

We hope you'll join us tomorrow night. Don't forget to vote!

Proposition 1: Imagine a reliable commute

Proposition 1, which Puget Sound voters will decide the fate of tomorrow, would fund dozens of rapid transit and road improvement projects throughout Puget Sound, attacking congestion and providing new choices to commuters.

How do we as a region benefit from Proposition 1 (the Roads & Transit package)?

A greener commute
  • More transit, more choices
  • Builds new Sounder stations
  • Builds new park and ride lots
  • Adds more HOV lanes and ramps
  • Adds more buses and vanpools
  • Improved sidewalks and pathways for pedestrians and bicyclists
A safer commute
  • Fixes dangerous choke points
  • Replaces/retrofits vulnerable bridges
  • Provides earthquake protection
  • Adds medians and turning lanes
  • New lighting, signage, traffic signals
  • Helps first responders reach those in need of emergency assistance
A robust commute
  • Better roadways
  • Funds interchange improvements
  • Enhances movement of freight
  • Helps you get to your job more swiftly
  • Completes unfinished highways
  • Eliminates weaving traffic, extends shoulders, upgrades ramps
A reliable commute
The heart of Proposition 1 is an expansion of Sound Transit's Link light rail system, an essential ingredient in a multimodal transportation network.

Commonly asked questions and answers about Sound Transit's light rail program

What is light rail?
Light rail is a type of rapid transit system larger than a streetcar but not as big as heavy passenger rail (think Amtrak or Sounder). Light rail is:
  • reliable: runs in its own right of way and doesn't get stuck in traffic
  • convenient: runs so frequently you don't need a schedule to ride it
  • clean: powered by electricity, so it doesn't produce emissions
  • quick: operates at high speeds with fast station stops
  • flexible: can be built at grade, above ground on aerial trackway, or below ground in tunnels
Isn't Sound Transit already building light rail?
Yes. Sound Transit is two years away from opening its first light rail line, Central Link, which connects downtown Seattle to SeaTac International Airport. Ground will soon be broken on an extension of this line, University Link, which runs north from Westlake Plaza to the University of Washington. Central and University Link are being built with funding approved by voters in 1996 (the Sound Move plan).

Where would light rail go if Proposition 1 (Roads & Transit) passes?
Proposition 1 funds three expansions of the system: an East Link line from Seattle to Redmond, a South Link line to Tacoma, and a North Link line to Lynnwood. These lines would be built in transportation corridors that are often heavily congested today. If you travel across Lake Washington on a floating bridge, or use Interstate 5 to get between Seattle and Tacoma or Lynnwood, you will benefit from Link, even if you don't plan to regularly ride it.

Why do we need light rail? Why not expand the bus system instead?
A good transit system needs a strong rail backbone to attract ridership and connect major cities. Buses are an important part of a useful network, but they're no substitute for rail. Just as it doesn't make sense to build a house with only one type of room in it, it doesn't make sense to have a transit system that relies solely on buses. Buses are slower, dirtier, and move less people than light rail. Unless they run in dedicated bus lanes they can (and do!) get stuck in traffic, and their routes aren't as predictable or easy to understand. Light rail doesn't have these drawbacks. Additionally, King County voters have already expanded Metro bus service with the passage of Transit Now in 2006.

How is light rail a viable option for people who don't live next to train stations?
While it's true that light rail can't go everywhere, it is designed and planned to be an accessible system. Riders who live too far away to walk up can board a public bus or a streetcar closer to their home, bike there, take a private shuttle, or park and ride.... then transfer to light rail upon reaching the station hub. Link is intended to be the backbone of our transit system - not all of the bones!

Why did Sound Transit choose light rail over other systems like monorail or mag-lev?
The agency picked light rail because it is a dependable rapid transit solution that has been successfully deployed all over the world - and because it is what the public has told Sound Transit it wants in countless workshops, forums, and public hearings. Other technologies may be more fascinating, but they cost more, can be visually intrusive, and are more complicated to put together and operate. Most riders don't care about the idea of traveling in vehicles suspended above the ground - they just want a comfortable seat on a clean train that arrives and leaves the station on time. That's what light rail does well: ensure a reliable commute.

How can I be sure Sound Transit will build what it promises? I seem to remember we were supposed to get more light rail in 1996 than what they're building.
After years of experience dealing with engineering, contracting, designing, and financial problems, Sound Transit has transformed itself from a stumbling bureaucracy to a responsive, accountable transportation agency.

Earlier this decade, following the aftermath of the disclosure that it could not afford to build what it originally promised in 1996, Sound Transit's board officially adopted a policy of under-promising and over-delivering.

Using this policy the agency makes predictions or forecasts that rely on restraint and caution, so that the actual projects it builds come in on time/on budget at worst, and early/under budget at best.

Sound Transit is now so well managed that it recently received an upgraded bond rating from Moody's and Standard & Poor's - which lowers the agency's cost of borrowing money. We can trust Sound Transit to wisely invest our dollars. It would be a waste to discard the valuable lessons learned earlier in Sound Transit's history and abolish the agency in favor of giving revenues to a new entity.

Myths about light rail, transit, and Proposition 1


MYTH: Light rail is an expensive boondoggle that will cost an enormous amounts of money to build but will provide no real benefit to commuters.

TRUTH: Light rail is a wise, sensible investment that is comparable to expanding highways in terms of cost, but moves more people when it is completed. Light rail will give commuters a choice, connecting neighborhoods, increasing property values, and spurring redevelopment. Light rail benefits everyone, even those of us who don't become riders, because it gets cars off the highways.


MYTH: Transit carries only a small percentage of total trips [for example, one percent, or five percent, or a a similar number] and is therefore not worth spending money on.

TRUTH: The "total trips" statistic, frequently used by those opposed to rail transit, is a misleading, deceiving figure which poorly measures the effectiveness of public transit. Rail systems, in particular, are constructed in key corridors and can't be fairly or accurately compared against all of the roadways in a region. The crippling congestion that Puget Sound faces today doesn't occur on the roads that run past our houses...it occurs on our arterials, interstates, and highways, where currently our only option is to drive to get where we want to go - or get on a bus that will be stuck in the same traffic.

Asking what percentage transit carries of the trips for which it can compete yields a different number, a much more accurate number, one that demonstrates the importance of transit. Transit cannot be competitive unless three criteria are met: it must be available, the service must be high quality, and the purpose of the trip must be one for which transit can compete. Proposition 1's 50 miles of light rail broaden the availability of high quality light rail for a reliable commute.


MYTH: The real way to solve congestion is to just widen our existing highways and build new ones.

TRUTH: It has been proven time and time again that this approach does not work. Building or widening highways is counterintuitive. It may seem practical, but in reality, it just encourages commuters to drive more and live further away from where they work, creating a vicious cycle of congestion that never ends. It's like trying to lose weight by loosening your belt.

Does that sound like a good dieting plan?

Whenever new general lanes are added they instantly fill up with more single occupant drivers in their automobiles. Other regions such as the Los Angeles metropolitan area have studied their crippling congestion problems and concluded that even double decking their highways would have almost no effect on their traffic jams. The best L.A.'s Southern California Governments Association could recommend was that people live closer to where they work...but that's exactly what highway building mitigates against!


MYTH: Proposition 1 is bad for the environment.

TRUTH: The Roads & Transit package is one of the greenest transportation proposals in state history, with billions of dollars for transit investment. The local chapter of the Sierra Club has used pictures of polar bears to argue the opposite, condemning several of the road projects in the RTID component of the package and urging voters to reject the whole thing. While it is true that a small number of long-planned road widening projects won't reduce emissions and won't ease congestion, the majority of the RTID projects are helpful and beneficial, and actually supplement the transit investments. The net effect of Roads & Transit is significantly positive for the environment, with fifty miles of new light rail, expanded Sounder service, more buses, the new First Hill streetcar, and improved access for pedestrians and bicyclists. That's why the regional environmental community is behind the package:

"This is a groundbreaking expansion of transit - the largest ever in the state. It is a once in a generation opportunity to change the way we move people and goods."

- Jessyn Farrell, Executive Director, Transportation Choices Coalition

"Fifty new miles of light rail paired with strategic road investments will transform the way our region grows, helping us build livable communities and thriving urban areas."

- Aisling Kerins, Associate Director, Futurewise

"This commitment to regional transit, combined with the focus on safety and maintenance of roads is good for the environment. We know that voters care about the environment and also want transportation solutions, so this package makes sense for the future of our state."

- Kurt Fritts, Executive Director, Washington Conservation Voters

"We must give people better alternatives to driving if we have any chance of combating climate change."

- Bill LaBorde of Environment Washington

"This is a positive package for the future of our region. We're excited that such a strong commitment is being made to transit. And the majority of the roads projects are ones that can help increase safety and improve mobility for people and goods."

- Joan Crooks, Executive Director, Washington Environmental Council


MYTH: Light rail has been tried in many other cities and it is a failure...the transit industry is in decline.

TRUTH: These assertions are false. Light rail has been successfully built and implemented in city after city across America, with great results, even in the western United States, from Portland to Dallas to Salt Lake City to Denver. The transit industry is actually growing with the construction of many new lines, and as a result, total transit ridership is higher today than it was 1980, and higher than at any point going back to 1959.


MYTH: Light rail, when built, just siphons bus ridership and doesn't get more people out of their cars.

TRUTH: This isn't the case. Buses and light rail are different types of transit. Buses generally provide mobility to people who can't drive, do not wish to drive, or can't afford to own a car. Rail transit, however, appeals to people who own automobiles and already use them to get to work - people who would never ride a bus but will consider riding rail if it is available.

By providing commuters with a reliable choice, light rail eases congestion and unclogs highways without destroying entire swaths of nearby homes and businesses to make way for even bigger urban canyons of asphalt and concrete.

Again, evidence bears these facts out. When Seattle temporarily replaced its waterfront streetcar service with buses, ridership predictably dropped to one-fifteenth of what it had been on the trolleys. In a 1993 study done in St. Louis after that city's light rail opened, surveys found that 70% of bus riders said they used the bus because they did not drive or had no car available.

For train riders, the figure was only 17%.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

It's crunch time - help fight back against GOP attempt to buy prosecutor's office

In only thirty some hours, the polls will open and Election Day will have arrived. This is it - the final hours before key races and ballot measures will be decided.

The Republicans are dumping hundreds of thousands of dollars into Dan Satterberg's campaign for prosecutor, hoping to buy the office and defeat Bill Sherman. The King County Democrats just gave Bill $30,000 last week, but that's not much compared to the massive cash infusions Satterberg has received.

Given that we're in the final hours, what matters now isn't money, but turnout and get out the vote efforts. We have to mobilize as many Democratic and progressive voters as we can.

Your help is needed - this is a critical moment.

If you are a Democratic PCO...please, please, please knock on doors in your precinct. If you live next to a precinct without a PCO, consider adopting that precinct.

If you can't knock on doors, or would prefer not to, then please sign up to phonebank, distribute literature, or help get people to the polls on Election Day.

If you want to help but don’t know where to go, send an e-mail to feedback (at) nwprogressive (dot) org.

We'll quickly connect you with a volunteer or field coordinator.

You can even participate in Bill Sherman's field effort without leaving the comfort of your home - you just need a computer with Internet access and a phone. Send us an email and we'll let you know how to get started.

If you can’t knock on doors, make phone calls, or help with GOTV in person, at the very least urge your friends, family, and neighbors to vote this Tuesday – at the mailbox, over the phone, or by email. There are many critical races and ballot measures that will be decided in a matter of hours.

If you're planning on participating in get out the vote efforts on Tuesday and wondering what Mother Nature will likely dish out, here's a forecast, courtesy of our friends at West Coast Weather:
It will be a dry day with morning low temperatures in the upper 30’s for some of the cooler locations and in the low 40’s in warmer locations. Also, there will be some morning low clouds.

The afternoon will be rather pleasant with highs in the mid to upper 50’s and perhaps 60+ in some of the warmer locations. By the time the polls close it will be still dry with temperatures in the upper 40’s to low 50’s.

Outside of the Puget Sound the state will have dry weather for the entire day. Rain will return to the forecast for later this coming week.

Don’t forget to vote.
Set aside some time to do something to avoid feeling guilty when Election Day arrives. If you care about the future of our state, now is the time to act.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

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

Welcome to Part IV of our pre-election special series on Initiative 960 (Unconstitutional, Unfair, Unsound). This is the final installment.

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.

On Wednesday, we looked at the the main intent of I-960: to give control over important budgeting decisions over to a minority of elected lawmakers. On Thursday and Friday, we reviewed another constitutional infringement: I-960's attempt to create a new type of ballot measure.

Today we'll overview a third (and related) instance where I-960's "advisory vote" scheme runs afoul of the Constitution.

I explained on Thursday how this scheme is supposed to work:
In the hopes of stirring up voter frustration with the Legislature and state government, I-960's sponsors devised a gimmick to force public votes on revenue increases that do make it through the statehouse with a supermajority. If the revenue increase isn't referred to the people by the Legislature, it automatically goes on the ballot anyway.

But there's a catch: the advisory votes are non-binding, which means they have no legal effect. They would just be meaningless polls on our ballots.

Not only is this scheme a waste of money, but it is also a trick: many voters will undoubtedly be fooled into thinking their votes would actually have an impact, when that won't be the case. It's a clever gimmick: too clever to be constitutional.
When the initiative and referendum were established in the state Constitution decades ago, the rules governing each were plainly written. Referenda may only be ordered by petition or by the Legislature, and referenda must be binding, as Parts 2 and 3 of this series have documented.

The authors of Article II - who intended the initiative and referendum to be a safeguard for our state, not a replacement for our legislative process - also used a checks and balances approach in the hopes of preventing abuse: they exempted certain bills from referendum.

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
Referendum power exempts (1) acts raising state revenue and (2) acts containing an emergency clauseReferendum power exempts "such laws as may be necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health or safety" or "support of the state government and its existing public institutions."

Ref: Article II, Section 1(b)- and see Farris v. Munro, 99 Wn.2d 326, 662 P.2d 821 (1983)

-- Expands referendum power to acts raising state revenue

Ref: I-960 Text, § 5(1)

-- Makes acts exempt from referendum subject to automatic non binding referendum

Ref: I-960 Text § 6

-- Acts with an emergency clause are subject to non binding referendum

Ref: I-960 Text § 6

Eyman and his cohorts explicitly set up their "advisory vote" scheme to require non-binding referenda on legislative acts that are exempted from referendum in the Constitution. By doing so, they turned the gimmick into a triple play of constitutional violations.

The purposeful exemption of certain legislation from referendum in Article II is neither an accident nor a weakness. It is there to prevent exploitation of the referendum power at the expense of the common good.

Washington's champions of direct democracy were perceptive: they did not want to jeopardize our quality of life or the well being of our communities. Article II prohibits a referendum on critical bills relating to the support of state government, the public peace, health, or safety.

It's known as the emergency clause.

Eyman and his friends are of the opinion that the Legislature uses it too frequently. To those who agree with that view... know that Initiative 960 doesn't make the situation any better.

Proponents of this measure may not like what the Constitution says, but they can't change it by statute. If the supreme law of our land could be changed on a whim, our democracy would be unstable and vulnerable. The Constitution, as written, protects majority rule with minority rights.

In the event that Initiative 960 passes, we'll be counting on the Constitution to protect us from Tim Eyman's right wing scheme to paralyze our government too. But a court challenge won't be necessary if we the people have the wisdom to turn down this poorly conceived initiative.

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 I | Part II | Part III

Blogworthy, November 3rd, 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.

The Republican nominee for prosecutor, Dan Satterberg, is so desperate to win Tuesday's election that he is laundering illegal contributions through the Washington State Republicans, David Goldstein reports:
[T]he Washington State Republican Party is flooding the prosecutor’s race with money over the final few days of the campaign, laundering huge, lump sum contributions from developers and other special interests, through the party, and back into Satterberg’s coffers. Make no mistake, these contributions were earmarked for Satterberg’s campaign, and Satterberg clearly knew the money was coming.

First Satterberg goes $40,000 into debt buying TV time, and then magically, Thursday night, nearly $40,000 gets transfered into his campaign from the WSRP.

Then after he books yet more TV time for the final few days of the campaign, the WSRP transfers another $81,000 into Satterberg’s account. That brings the total to over $155,000 from the state and county party in just the past couple weeks.
It's too late for Democrats to financially counter these massive cash infusions - but activists still have a chance to help Bill win on Election Day by participating in get out the vote efforts over the next few days.

SUNDAY UPDATE: Josh Feit has more at The Stranger.

Unsatisfied with the way negotiations are going, Hollywood writers are prepared to strike starting this Monday. That could spell trouble for the industry. The first programs likely to be affected? Late night talk programs such as The Daily Show, Colbert Report, Tonight with Jay Leno, and The Late Show with David Letterman. In local entertainment news, fired KOMO reporter April Zepeda has filed suit against her former employers at Fisher Communications.

We're less than a year out from the 2008 election, but it's never too early to start learning about Okanagan rancher Peter Goldmark's campaign for Lands Commissioner. Peter is running to bring progressive values and policy directions to the Department of Natural Resources: thoughtful planning, sustainable land use, environmental protection, and wise forestry management. You can learn more about his priorities at YouTube in this video clip.

The Approve 67 campaign has released new web-only videos which show through stories why we need this consumer protection law. Meanwhile, the insurance industry is setting a spending record with the millions of dollars it has poured into its astroturf front group "Consumers Against Higher Insurance Rates".

United States mayors have been meeting in Seattle over the last few days to talk about what cities can do to combat the climate crisis. The need for leadership at the local level is especially important right now because the Bush administration refuses to act. Hopefully that will change on January 20th, 2009 at the end of an error known as the Dubya presidency.

The Seattle P-I has once again editorialized against Initiative 960 in a well-written editorial urging readers to reject Tim Eyman's latest right scheme to paralyze government. Meanwhile, Eyman seems less sure of winning than he usually does...in an email to supporters yesterday, he strongly alluded to the possibility of losing.

In technology news, Microsoft recently staked money on Facebook's future by buying a share of the company, and Google improved Gmail by announcing support for IMAP, or Internet Message Access Protocol. IMAP is one of two widely used standards for email (the other is POP, or Post Office Protocol, which is older but more prevalent). IMAP is preferred by many people who need to be able to synchronize their email on different devices.

Surprise, surprise...Clay Bennett wants to move the Sonics to Oklahoma.

The Port of Seattle and King County have agreed on a plan to acquire an Eastside rail corridor from Burlington Northern Sante Fe. The county plans to develop a recreational trail on the land which will link Woodinville and Renton while keeping open the possibility of future train service.

Mr. Born-Again Conservative (ahem, Mitt Romney) spoke with Michael Arrington of TechCrunch on technology issues, and the interview was posted yesterday. This guy's identity is...complicated. It's also at Brave New Films. (Contributed by Garlin)

Finally, Daniel Kirkdorffer has a thorough drubbing of the Seattle Times' recent No on Proposition 1 rubbish, while the mayor of Minneapolis, here for the mayors' conference, talks about the importance of transportation investment and urges voters here to approve Roads & Transit. And David Horsey makes fun of Roads & Transit opponents, who can't agree on what would be better.

Friday, November 2, 2007

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

Welcome to Part III 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.

On Wednesday, we looked at the the main intent of I-960: to give control over important budgeting decisions over to a minority of elected lawmakers. Yesterday, we reviewed a second constitutional infringement: I-960's attempt to create a new type of ballot measure.

Today we'll overview a second instance where I-960's "advisory vote" scheme runs afoul of the Constitution. As I noted yesterday:
In the hopes of stirring up voter frustration with the Legislature and state government, I-960's sponsors devised a gimmick to force public votes on revenue increases that do make it through the statehouse with a supermajority. If the revenue increase isn't referred to the people by the Legislature, it automatically goes on the ballot anyway.

But there's a catch: the advisory votes are non-binding, which means they have no legal effect. They would just be meaningless polls on our ballots.

Not only is this scheme a waste of money, but it is also a trick: many voters will undoubtedly be fooled into thinking their votes would actually have an impact, when that won't be the case. It's a clever gimmick: too clever to be constitutional.
Our focus today is the non-binding aspect of these "advisory votes", which are automatically called upon passage of a revenue increase in the Legislature.

(As yesterday's installment explained, the Constitution only allows for referenda to be individually ordered by petition or by the Legislature.)

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
Referendum power includes only binding referendaPeople “reserve power, at their own option, to approve or reject at the polls any act, item, section, or part of any bill, act, or law passed by the legislature.”

Ref: Article II, Section 1
-- Expands referendum power to include non binding referenda

Ref: I-960 Text § 6-13

Again the state Constitution is clear: referenda, when called, are binding. If a referendum is approved by the people, the law that passed the Legislature goes into effect. If rejected, the law is nullified - wiped from the books.

Those are the only possible outcomes.

I-960's advisory votes, however, aren't binding. They're just opinion polls that would be plastered onto our ballots. Washington State is already home to plenty of polling firms that do regular research on public opinion. Why should a good portion our elections budget be needlessly spent on this nonsense?

There's an excellent reason the Constitution doesn't provide for nonbinding referenda: what would be the point of it? If we the people vote on a ballot measure, shouldn't that vote count for something?

The purpose of the referendum is to allow the electorate to decide the fate of a law enacted in Olympia whenever the Legislature or a sizable number of citizens (equivalent to 4% of those who voted in the last gubernatorial election) feel it appropriate. The referendum power is distinctly defined in the Constitution: it's not a gimmick, but a tool of direct democracy to be used wisely when needed.

I-960 attempts to set up an endless series of nonbinding referenda that will only create confusion, waste money, and cause frustration.

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 I | Part II | Part IV

Seattle FCC hearing on media ownership scheduled for November 9th

As anticipated, The Federal Communications Commission has announced a media ownership hearing right here in the Pacific Northwest for next Friday, November 9th. Despite a request from Senator Maria Cantwell and Representative Jay Inslee to provide four weeks' notice, FCC Chairman and Republican Kevin Martin shamefully proceeded to announce a hearing just seven days out.

It's not enough public notice, but this is our opportunity to pack the house and give the FCC an earful. This is an official hearing, the sixth and final hearing on these proposed rule changes, meaning that all of the commissioners will be present..including the three Republicans, who form a majority on the five member body. Be there next Friday!

Here are the details for the hearing:

FCC Hearing on Media Ownership
Friday, November 9, 2007.
4:00 PM to 11:00 PM (Pacific Standard Time)
Town Hall Seattle
Great Hall
1119 Eighth Avenue (enter at Seneca Street)

We will do our best to bring you live coverage right here on the Official Blog throughout the hearing.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

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

Welcome to Part II 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.

Yesterday, we looked at the the main intent of I-960: to give control over important budgeting decisions over to a minority of elected lawmakers. In today's installment, we'll explore a second constitutional infringement: I-960's attempt to create a new type of ballot measure.

In the hopes of stirring up voter frustration with the Legislature and state government, I-960's sponsors devised a gimmick to force public votes on revenue increases that do make it through the statehouse with a supermajority. If the revenue increase isn't referred to the people by the Legislature, it automatically goes on the ballot anyway.

But there's a catch: the advisory votes are non-binding, which means they have no legal effect. They would just be meaningless polls on our ballots.

Not only is this scheme a waste of money, but it is also a trick: many voters will undoubtedly be fooled into thinking their votes would actually have an impact, when that won't be the case. It's a clever gimmick: too clever to be constitutional.

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
Referendum can be called only by the Legislature or by submission of requisite signatures by a citizen or group of citizens. "The second power reserved by the people is, the referendum, and it may be ordered ... either by petition signed by the required percentage of the legal voters, or by the legislature as other bills are enacted ... The number of valid signatures of registered voters required on a petition for referendum of an act of the legislature or any part thereof, shall be equal to or exceeding four percent of the votes cast for the office of governor at the last gubernatorial election..."

Ref: Article II, Section 1(b)
-- Binding referendum is automatic (no signatures required) for Legislative action that “raises taxes” (as defined by I-960) and will result in expenditures in excess of state expenditure limits (as modified by I-960).

Ref: I-960 Text § 5(1), (2) (a), (5)

-- Non binding referendum is automatic (no signatures required) for all legislative action “raising taxes” that is not subject to a binding referendum. This includes any time a referendum proponent is unsuccessful in collecting sufficient signatures to call a binding referendum.

Ref: I-960 Text § 6

As we can see from the table above, Article II of the Constitution clearly establishes the mechanisms of direct democracy, the initiative and the referendum, and specifies how each may be called.

I-960's "advisory votes" amount to a new type of referendum; something not stipulated by our Constitution, which concisely defines what referenda are. This new type of referendum, as I said above, is designed to clutter our ballots and encourage hostility towards our elected leaders.

The Constitution says that referenda may be ordered in only two ways: either by the Legislature or by citizen petition. That's it.

The Constitution does not provide for the automatic placement of referenda (or any other type of measure) on the ballot. Each referendum that appears on our ballot must be separately authorized.

The Constitution doesn't allow for referenda to be triggered en masse for a very good reason: our republic is a representative democracy.

The initiative and referendum were intended as a safeguard for our state, not a replacement for our legislative process.

If all six million of us that reside in Washington could meet daily to make decisions, we wouldn't need a House of Representatives or a Senate. But given the size of our population, and given that the creation of good law requires extensive research, time, discussion, and knowledge, we need a legislature. A legislature that is not subjected to the harmful interference I-960 tries to create.

I-960's "advisory vote" gimmickry (which unlawfully attempts to create an ugly, malformed sibling to our existing power of referendum), would create confusion, waste our money, and cause frustration.

That's something Washington doesn't need.

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 I | Part III | Part IV

Gregoire a "Public Official of the Year"

And on the cover of Governing Magazine to boot:
Christine Gregoire wasn't an outsider when she became governor of Washington in 2005: She had previously served as both state attorney general and environmental protection chief. But she faced a situation she had never prepared for. Her cliffhanger election, disputed for months in the courts, was still not accepted by much of the Republican opposition. Nevertheless, she set right to work with a series of new initiatives, including a bold experiment in open management — allowing reporters and citizens into regular meetings where department heads frankly discuss the details of agency performance and how to improve it. After a year, even Republicans were conceding that Gregoire had brought state government a transparency it had never known before.
Gregoire on the cover of GoverningGovernor, all of us at NPI are extremely proud of you - you deserve this award. Congratulations and thank you so much for your leadership.

This honor is really just another confirmation of Governor Gregoire's effectiveness as our state's chief executive. She listens. She negotiates. She opens up the political process. She delivers for Washington families. She has made Olympia more responsive and accountable.

As for Republican Dino Rossi, well... he can't even explain how he's going to vote.

Seattle Times tops itself again with dishonest anti-light rail editorial

The Seattle Times editorial page, which isn't worth the paper it's printed on (as Andrew has documented) is once again disgraced with false information in a second no on Proposition 1 (Roads & Transit) editorial.

The Times editorial board's big problem with Roads & Transit is the heart of the package - Sound Transit's light rail project, which it despises with a passion.

Rather than fisk the whole editorial (which you can read for yourself if you have a few minutes to waste) I'm going to make a few key points that refute the Times' blatantly dishonest assertions.

The Times says Roads & Transit is a waste because of the light rail expansion. It praises "buses with dedicated lanes and more-frequent service, van pools, bike lanes, flex hours, congestion pricing, traffic-signal alignment and, here and there, more road lanes." But almost all of these types of projects are in the package. What is clear is that for the Times, light rail is a deal-breaker, no matter what other transportation improvements are included with it.

That's how much the editorial board despises rail.

It's Kemper-style loathing.

We've been saying for months - and we'll say it again - that an effective, useful rapid transit network needs a rail backbone. We need a high capacity, high powered system that can move huge amounts of people reliably and quickly through our clogged corridors. Light rail is that system.

If I live in Federal Way today, I might take Interstate 5 to Seneca Street in Seattle, then take Seneca to 5th and on to my job a Columbia Center. With light rail, I could board a high speed train to Seattle and walk to my job once I arrive in downtown. If I don't live that close to the station, I could bike there or take the bus. Light rail is our ticket to a reliable commute.

The Times whines about the sales tax as a funding mechanism. Opponents have been tacking that on to the end of their dishonest attacks against the package for months. It is true that the sales tax is regressive and somewhat unstable. But tax reform is a matter for Olympia to take care of.

If the Times would like to see regressive taxes like this eliminated, it should advocate for their repeal during the legislative session. I’ll be waiting with baited breath for the Seattle Times to support an income tax, but I think I’ll be waiting for a while.

The Times says that "our third reason for opposing Proposition 1 is that so much of the light-rail investment goes to places that even the supporters of light rail privately agree make no sense. That includes the segment from Sea-Tac Airport to Tacoma, and from Northgate more than halfway to Everett." Baloney!

That's a complete and utter falsehood. Sound Transit is building light rail north and south from Seattle because I-5 is one of the region's most congested corridors. Ever try to get from Seattle to Lynnwood during rush hour? Or get to Tacoma? It can be a nightmare. Light rail will take cars off the road and give us a choice.

Opponents have argued that light rail is just for Seattle, and now they complain that building it out to Tacoma (and hitting several major population centers along the way) is a waste. Well, which is it?

The Times also wrongly claims East Link will reduce capacity on the I-90 floating bridge, which is untrue. Two HOV lanes would be added to the bridge to replace the express lanes, which will be converted for light rail.

Light rail carries more people then 1, 2, or even 3 freeway lanes. It's equivalent to an entire highway. Just look at this visual posted by Will at HorsesAss, which provides a nice comparison.

If you get the Seattle Times delivered to your home, remember that the editorial page makes an excellent liner for your birdcage or tinder for your next campout.

Doorbell for Roads and Transit

On Saturday, November 3rd, join elected officials, community leaders and supporters of Roads and Transit to help get Proposition 1 over the top.

Meet at one of the following locations (click on link for map). Walk lists and literature will be provided. Call 206-381-1251 or email info (at) yesonroadsandtransit (dot) org for more information.
If you can't join the field effort, at least talk to your neighbors, family, and friends...and them urge to support this package.