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Monday, November 30, 2009

Google says Tim Eyman's website could be dangerous (No, seriously!)

This is really funny (well, sort of...) Via the Seattle Weekly:
According to a "Safe Browsing" advisory from the search giant, Eyman's site [don't click, for the love of humanity!], is "listed as suspicious" and "may harm your computer."

It seems that destroying our state's tax base, abolishing affirmative action, opening up HOV lanes to single-driver SUVs, and legalizing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation were not sufficiently malicious gambits for Eyman to attempt. Now his malware is extending beyond public policy into the digital realm itself.
The reason Google has Eyman's site marked as untrusted is because its crawler discovered malicious scripts that were recently injected into the site's code.
What happened when Google visited this site?

Of the 16 pages we tested on the site over the past 90 days, 6 page(s) resulted in malicious software being downloaded and installed without user consent. The last time Google visited this site was on 2009-11-24, and the last time suspicious content was found on this site was on 2009-11-11.

Malicious software includes 6 scripting exploit(s).

Malicious software is hosted on 2 domain(s), including newtechnologyconference.co.uk/, ppl-14.ru/.

1 domain(s) appear to be functioning as intermediaries for distributing malware to visitors of this site, including ppl-14.ru/.
It appears whoever handles Eyman's site has successfully removed the malicious scripts since Google discovered them, although it's not clear if Eyman and Company have taken any additional precautions to guard against future exploits.

Internet security is very serious matter, but too few administrators - and an even smaller percentage of users - are as paranoid about staying safe as they should be.

It is possible to configure one's browser to protect against malicious scripts and bad neighborhoods on the World Wide Web. For users of Firefox, this means installing a simple add-on, called NoScript, which blocks scripts by default and allows them for websites that a user has marked as trusted.

I've used NoScript for years, and it conveniently blocks most advertising and unwanted garbage on web page in addition to malware. In fact, I use NoScript to prevent Google from spying on me as I surf the Net (which Google can do with its own scripts, including Google AdSense and Google Analytics).

Had I visited Eyman's website while it was infected, nothing would have happened to my computer, because NoScript would have prevented that malware from getting into my machine in the first place.

But I'm unlike most users; I take security very seriously.

Internet Explorer doesn't have anything as powerful or flexible as NoScript, but it does allow users to block JavaScript from running.

Securing websites is trickier and requires more technical expertise than securing a browser, which is one reason why most webmasters lease space and bandwidth from a host, company that specializes in serving websites. The host employs people who are responsible for securing the machines that serve their clients' websites.

It is, again, unclear who cleaned up Eyman's website and got rid of the malicious scripts. It could have been Eyman's webmaster. Or his host.

Whoever it was, they failed to act until after Google had started warning users that Eyman's site was unsafe.

Hopefully Eyman's people have got things locked down now so that users who visit are only exposed to Eyman's bad ideas and nothing else.

Senator Cantwell opposes "casino capitalism"

Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) plans to make it harder for Wall Street to gamble with the public’s money. As the House of Representatives wraps up work on its financial reform bill, the Senate is crawling ahead with its own measure. Not too impressed with the House bill, Cantwell and two other senators introduced legislation this month to regulate what Cantwell sees as a continuing danger to the American economy, the derivatives market, or what she calls:
A cash cow hidden from public view and run with less oversight even than actual casinos.
You’re familiar with derivatives. You probably know them as “mortgage-backed securities” or “credit-default swaps.” These complicated investment vehicles were at least partially responsible for the financial crisis we’re now in and current attempts by Congress to regulate their use are looking weak. What could be affecting lawmakers' judgment? According to Cantwell:
Look no further than the powerful lobbying arm of the financial services sector, which has spent at least $220 million this year lobbying Congress to stave off new rules to prevent another collapse. That is over $500,000 in lobbying for every member of Congress, which might help explain why, to date, nothing has been fixed in our porous financial regulatory system. Americans want to know when Congress will put an end to the Wall Street's secret off-book gambling schemes and restore our capitalist system by requiring real transparency and true competition.
Cantwell's legislation would repeal a section of a 2000 law, the Commodities Futures Modernization Act, that exempted derivatives from regulation under state gambling laws. (Yes, this investment scheme is so reckless that gambling laws apply.) By repealing this exemption, state gambling regulators and attorneys general are free to examine derivatives trading and use their powers to protect the public from any unscrupulous activity.
The legislation Cantwell, Wyden and Sanders proposed today sends the message to derivatives dealers that if they somehow succeed in preserving regulatory loopholes at the federal level, they will still face tough regulatory oversight at the state level.
Within hours of introducing her legislation, Wall Street was already pushing Cantwell to abandon her plans. But Senator Cantwell isn’t willing to let “casino capitalism” bring down the American economy a second time. Let's bring derivatives out of the dim casino and into the sunlight of public scrutiny.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Four Lakewood police officers shot to death in cold blood at Parkland coffee shop

This is horrible... just horrible...
Four local police officers were killed this morning at a Parkland-area coffee shop, and dozens of investigators backed by search dogs and a helicopter were hunting for their killer.

Witnesses described the killer as a black man, 5-foot-8 to 5-foot-9, in his 20s or 30s, with scruffy facial hair and wearing a black coat and blue jeans.

He walked into the Forza coffee shop at 11401 S. Steele Street about 8:30 a.m. and opened fire on the four officers, who were at a table doing pre-shift paperwork.
Investigators have appropriately launched a massive manhunt to find the suspect who committed these acts of evil. A special tips line has been set up at 1-866-977-2362 and a $10,000 reward is being offered.

The four officers - three men and one woman - were sitting at a coffee table working on their notebook computers at the time of the shooting. According to news reports, they were wearing bulletproof vests, but the vests did not prevent their cold-blooded killer from ruthlessly gunning them down, execution style.

How many more police ambushes have to happen before we do something about the lax rules that make it easy for criminals to get their hands on guns?

As Seattle Times commenter Iris Germanica observes (in response to other commenters who argue everything would be just peachy if we're all armed):
You say we're naive to think we'd have less violence in society if guns were banned. I could say you're naive if you believe everyone who has a gun is going to use it respectfully for self-defense.

So let's quit calling each other names, and work together to see how we can stop the violent anger percolating all around us. If people weren't so hair-trigger angry all the time, they'd buy fewer guns in the first place. Let's concentrate on social justice.

Maybe we could consider working together as a gift to the families of the officers who were slain last night in memory of their loved ones, instead of all this mean-spirited arguing in the shadows.
Amen.

NPI extends its deepest condolences to the families and colleagues of the slain officers. This is a terrible tragedy, and we pray that the person who committed it will be caught and punished appropriately in a court of law.

There will be a prayer vigil tonight at the Tacoma Champions Center at 6 PM to remember the officers and show solidarity for their families.

Friday, November 27, 2009

What I'm thankful for today

Yesterday, as we were going around the Thanksgiving day table sharing what each of us was thankful for, after listing friends, family, and a roof over our heads, I had to add that I'm thankful that debate has finally begun on the Senate's health care bill.

It's a long overdue, and incredibly significant step towards the reform we've needed for decades.

Yet, astonishingly, there are still people in this country who don't think we need reform. People who think, or have been convinced, that our health care system is just fine the way it is.

Not too long ago, NPI received an e-mail message from one of these people, a right-winger who asked to remain anonymous. He offered us $100 if we could cite just one example of someone who got sick and died in America due to lack of health care coverage.

As if our motivation for caring about heath care reform was so we could put a few bucks into our coffers. I think the offer shows more about what Mr. Right Winger values than anything else, but regardless, examples are not hard to find.

Indeed, the website NamesOfTheDead.com offers a place where people can share stories about their loved ones who have, in fact, gotten sick and died because they didn't have sufficient health care coverage.

This, in the richest nation on the planet.

So, Mr. Right Winger, here are just a few people--and not from anywhere in America, but from right here in Washington state--who might not have died had quality health care coverage been available at a price they could afford.

These are people who might have enjoyed a Thanksgiving turkey with their families yesterday and shared their own thanks for having had, in the richest nation on the planet, the best health care anywhere when they needed it the most.

But they couldn't, because they didn't, and so they died.

George Klacsanzky, died age 47. George worked at a hospital, but had no health insurance. When he got sick from a simple virus, a doctor told him to check into a hospital. George didn't, because he knew he couldn't pay for it. He died in his bed that night, two blocks away from the hospital where he worked.

Mike [Last Name Withheld], died age 50. Mike and his wife went for years without health insurance--and without basic medical care and screening--because they couldn't afford it. A year ago, Mike landed a job that offered coverage, so he went to the doctor for an ache in his stomach that had been nagging him for years. His doctor discovered cancer that had spread all over his body, a diagnosis that came much too late for any hope.

Sheryl Everson, died age 55. Sheryl and her co-workers knew they were all going to be laid off from their jobs as school bus drivers, because they company they worked for was being taken over. Sheryl discovered a lump in her breast, but she knew she wouldn't be able to afford COBRA coverage after the layoffs, so she decided to wait until she had a new job with the new bus company before going to the doctor. That way, she wouldn't be denied coverage for a pre-existing condition. She waited seven months before seeing a doctor, and, well, you know the rest. She wouldn't be on this list if breast cancer hadn't killed her.

So there you go, Mr. Right Winger. Not just one example, but three. Not from the whole of America, but from our own backyard. Real, ordinary, every-day people, just like you and me. People who delayed or did not seek medical care because they didn't have insurance, or because they understood how the system is rigged to take your premiums but never pay out.

People for whom quality, affordable insurance could well have made the difference between life and death.

People for whom the Senate's debate, while welcome to the rest of us, came too late.

As for that hundred bucks, Mr. Right Winger, I'll leave it to you and your conscience whether you want to make good on your promise. Like I said, NPI isn't in this for the money.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving 2009!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Today we take the opportunity to reflect on all the blessings that are ours, and gather with family and friends to be nourished by good food and drink. Even though times are tough, and we have so much work to do to reduce suffering in America, we have much we can appreciate.

Here are some of the things we're thankful for:
  • We're thankful to all our fellow activists who have finally supported the Northwest Progressive Institute this year. We couldn't exist without you!
  • We're thankful that voters overwhelmingly said NO to Tim Eyman's Initiative 1033, which would have trapped us in a permanent recession.
  • We're thankful that the people of Washington were first in the nation to take a stand in favor of LGBT rights at the ballot by approving Referendum 71.
  • We're thankful that Dow Constantine is our new King County Executive.
  • We're thankful that Lloyd Hara is our new King County Assessor.
  • We're thankful that Julie Anderson is our new Pierce County Auditor.
  • We're thankful that Dave Somers and Dave Gossett, two great progressives, were reeelected to the Snohomish County Council.
  • We're thankful that two of us were able to go to Pittsburgh this year and represent NPI at the fourth annual Netroots Nation Convention. We had a blast.
  • We're thankful that several staff members were able to witness the historic inauguration of Barack Obama in person on January 20th.
  • We're thankful that Sound Transit Central Link - a project which we fought for years to protect - has finally opened and is now in service.
  • We're thankful for Representative Alan Grayson, who has been doing a remarkable job of speaking truth to power in the halls of the U.S. Capitol.
Finally, we're thankful that the Bush error has faded into the past. This morning, Barack Obama issued his first Thanksgiving address as president. His remarks:
For centuries, in peace and in war, in prosperity and in adversity, Americans have paused at this time of year to gather with loved ones and give thanks for life’s blessings. This week, we carry on this distinctly American tradition. All across our country, folks are coming together to spend time with family, to catch up with old friends, to cook and enjoy a big dinner – and maybe to watch a little football in between.

As always, we give thanks for the kindness of loved ones, for the joys of the previous year, and for the pride we feel in our communities and country. We keep in our thoughts and prayers the many families marking this Thanksgiving with an empty seat – saved for a son or daughter, or husband or wife, stationed in harm’s way. And we say a special thanks for the sacrifices those men and women in uniform are making for our safety and freedom, and for all those Americans who enrich the lives of our communities through acts of kindness, generosity and service.

But as much as we all have to be thankful for, we also know that this year millions of Americans are facing very difficult economic times. Many have lost jobs in this recession – the worst in generations. Many more are struggling to afford health care premiums and house payments, let alone to save for an education or retirement. Too many are wondering if the dream of a middle class life – that American Dream – is slipping away. It’s the worry I hear from folks across the country; good, hard-working people doing the best they can for their families – but fearing that their best just isn’t good enough. These are not strangers. They are our family, our friends, and our neighbors. Their struggles must be our concern.

That’s why we passed the Recovery Act that cut taxes for 95 percent of working people and for small businesses – and that extended unemployment benefits and health coverage for millions of Americans who lost their jobs in this turmoil. That’s why we are reforming the health care system so that middle-class families have affordable insurance that cannot be denied because of a pre-existing condition or taken away because you happen to get sick. We’ve worked to stem the tide of foreclosures and to stop the decline in home values. We’re making it easier to save for retirement and more affordable to send a son or daughter to college.

The investments we have made and tough steps we have taken have helped break the back of the recession, and now our economy is finally growing again. But as I said when I took office, job recovery from this crisis would not come easily or quickly. Though the job losses we were experiencing earlier this year have slowed dramatically, we’re still not creating enough new jobs each month to make up for the ones we’re losing. And no matter what the economists say, for families and communities across the country, this recession will not end until we completely turn that tide.

So we’ve made progress. But we cannot rest – and my administration will not rest – until we have revived this economy and rebuilt it stronger than before; until we are creating jobs and opportunities for middle class families; until we have moved beyond the cycles of boom and bust – of reckless risk and speculation – that led us to so much crisis and pain these past few years.

Next week, I’ll be meeting with owners of large and small businesses, labor leaders, and non-for-profits from across the country, to talk about the additional steps we can take to help spur job creation. I will work with the Congress to enact them quickly. And it is my fervent hope – and my heartfelt expectation – that next Thanksgiving we will be able to celebrate the fact that many of those who have lost their jobs are back at work, and that as a nation we will have come through these difficult storms stronger and wiser and grateful to have reached a brighter day

Thank you, God bless you, and from my family to yours, Happy Thanksgiving.
Video of the address is also available at WhiteHouse.gov.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Dow Constantine sworn in as King County Executive in ceremony at Daniels Recital Hall

Nearly ten months after Ron Sims announced he was resigning as King County Executive to become the Deputy Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, his successor, Dow Constantine, has finally taken office.

In a simple, cheery ceremony at Daniels Recital Hall (which he helped to save from destruction) Constantine took the oath of office and delivered his inaugural address, built around the theme of more effective government.

Dow Constantine Sworn In
"The world around us is changing," Constantine noted. "King County will change as well. We are looking to build a King County government that is more user-friendly, transparent, efficient and effective. This is a tall order."

"We will need all hands on deck to succeed," he added.

Among those hands will be newly appointed Deputy Execcutive Fred Jarrett, one of Constantine's primary rivals, and Constantine's new Director of Customer Service, Lorrie McKay, who were mentioned in Constantine's speech.

Dow also outlined several specific objectives he wants to accomplish: expanding light rail north, east, and south, as promised to voters, create green jobs, encourage transit-oriented development, bring the county's other elected leaders together for a frank discussion about revenue and tax reform, reprioritize Metro services and get rid of the old 20/40/40 formula, protect farmland in rural communities, and launch a formal clearinghouse for employee-led reform ideas.

Asked afterward who he might appoint to the Sound Transit Board (there are several vacancies to fill) Constantine told NPI he'll be looking for someone who has demonstrated commitment to high capacity transit. "It's very likely that I will be appointing someone representing the City of Bellevue," he said, "because so much of the action over the next few years is going to getting East Link built."

"But there will be many appointments," he continued. "There's a lot of tough decisions to be made: Regional equity, people who are able to move the agenda forward [...] are important considerations for the Executive."

The King County website has already been updated to reflect Dow's inauguration. His prepared remarks are available there, along with staff biographies and photos from the event at Daniels Recital Hall tonight.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Slow sewage flowing into the Puget Sound while creating jobs

The life-giving, ever-present rain that falls on Western Washington also has a dark side. Every time it rains, the Puget Sound gets an unhealthy drink of oil, fertilizer, pesticides, and animal wastes. Unhealthy levels of water pollution have made our region noncompliant with the federal Clean Water Act, and have caused the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to order local governments to "to reduce the volume and frequency of [sewage] overflows.”

According to the Seattle P-I:
Every year 1.94 billion gallons of untreated sewage and polluted runoff from Seattle and King County are discharged into the Sound and other bodies of water as a result of overflows.
That’s a whole lot of yuck. As you know if you’ve ever walked by a storm drain stenciled with the warning “Drains to stream, lake or bay,” many storm drains funnel rain directly into the nearest body of water. The Seattle Aquarium estimates that more than two million gallons of motor oil washes off our roads and into the Puget Sound every year.

The other scenario is just as gross. Like many older cities, Seattle and King County have sewer pipes that collect storm water from roads and yards, and wastewater from homes and businesses, and shunt it into the same pipe where it travels to a sewage treatment plant. When rainstorms are heavy, these pipes can’t handle the excess load and the sewage overflows into Lake Union, Lake Washington, the Duwamish River, or Puget Sound. This water is contaminated with bacteria which can cause illness. According to the New York Times:
Sometimes, waste has overflowed just upstream from drinking water intake points or near public beaches.

There is no national record-keeping of how many illnesses are caused by sewage spills. But academic research suggests that as many as 20 million people each year become ill from drinking water containing bacteria and other pathogens that are often spread by untreated waste.
Inadequate sewage systems threaten human and environmental health.

Pressure from the EPA has led Democratic lawmakers in Washington to come up with a sensible plan to strengthen the state's water infrastructure in order to keep people and water healthy, and create good-paying jobs in the bargain. The Clean Water Act of 2010 would provide pollution prevention funding to local governments who are already tapping limited budgets in order to clean up and prevent storm water pollution. The funds would be generated through a $1.50 per barrel fee on the petroleum products that contribute to storm water pollution.

This program was known as "Invest in Clean Water” when it was a top legislative priority of the Environmental Priorities Coalition last year. The Invest in Clean Water bills, HB 1614 and SB 5518, weren’t very successful, but this year their future looks brighter. At a recent meeting with local Democrats, Speaker of the House Frank Chopp presented the Clean Water Act as a House Democratic caucus legislative priority. This is the kind of support that moves bills through the Legislature.

Another motive for supporting the bill is the fact that storm water control creates good jobs, a goal at the forefront of lawmaker’s thoughts.

Sewage systems mostly run under our feet, out of sight, out of mind, yet they are another public system funded by tax dollars that makes life in America more safe and comfortable. Let’s not take them or the governments that build and maintain them for granted. To do so would invite more sickness, closed beaches, contaminated shellfish and polluted bodies of water.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Washington crushes Oregon in eleventh annual Cross Country Border Clash

One of the things I like to do to take a break from politics (at least during autumn) is watch cross country meets. The sport runs in the family; my father is the head coach of the cross country program at Redmond High School, and my brother and sister have been captains and varsity runners.

(For those who don't know what cross country is, picture the second longest race in track and field, but through the woods instead of on a track. Courses are typically five kilometers in length, but can be shorter or longer).

I could have turned out and run cross country back when I was in high school, but Washington State needed somebody to fight Tim Eyman, and that person happened to be me, so I became an activist instead.

(The rest, as they say, is history...)

However, it's become an annual tradition for me to attend and photograph at least a few meets every season, particularly the state championship meet, which I've been to for several years running (pun intended).

Today I was at a special meet, hosted by Nike at their world headquarters, called Border Clash. Border Clash pits the top runners from the Evergreen and Beaver States against each other in a best of the region competition.

Nike really goes all out for this event... and I mean all out.

They create separate starting lines for the Washington and Oregon teams on either side of a field in the middle of their campus in Beaverton, flanked by banners and pennants. They have flag bearers on horseback.

They sell special apparel (jerseys, sweatshirts) just for the occasion.

And they have a helicopter hovering overhead with a powerful camera that streams video footage to four big flat screen televisions mounted inside tents on the field so that spectators can follow the race as it winds around the Nike campus.

Border Clash has always been held in Oregon, but Oregon hasn't always dominated the meet. In fast, the reverse was true today: Washington obliterated Oregon so thoroughly that the announcers were actually cracking jokes well before all the competitors had crossed the finish line.

The Washington men took all top ten spots; the Washington women took nine of the top ten, with just one Oregonian among them. (In cross country, the lowest score wins; the scores are calculated by adding together the points of each team's top finishers. The runner who finishes in first place gets one point, the runner who finishes second place gets two points, and so on.)

The result was so lopsided that the awards ceremony was totally anticlimactic. But it was still one of the most enjoyable meets I've ever been to. The start of each race was particularly exciting: the two teams (Oregon and Washington) started at opposite ends of the field and ran towards each other, turning right and left, respectively, after a cannon blast signaled the start of the race. As the two teams mixed together in the funnel midfield to begin the race, fireworks were lit. A Beaverton marching band provided a musical canvas before the races began.

Nike is sponsoring another big cross country meet - the Nike Cross Nationals - on December 5th at Portland Meadows. It should be a great meet... I encourage any readers who live in Greater Portland and Vancouver who enjoy spectator sports to think about heading there to watch. The best high school distance runners from across the United States will be competing.

If it's anything like Border Clash, it should be an incredible amount of fun.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Reid gets sixty votes; debate to begin in United States Senate on healthcare reform

It's nice to see Senate Democrats finally voting in unison for a change:
The Senate voted on Saturday to begin full debate on major health care legislation, propelling President Obama’s top domestic initiative over a crucial, preliminary hurdle in a formidable display of muscle-flexing by the Democratic majority.
Don't expect this to become a habit. Several ConservaDem senators (cough, ahem, like Mary Landrieu and Ben Nelson) have flatly stated they won't vote for healthcare reform if it includes a public option. Because that would make their corporate taskmasters unhappy. And they wouldn't want that.

The sixty to thirty nine vote was strictly along party lines, so Pacific Northwest senators voting yes were Democrats Maria Cantwell, Patty Murray, Jeff Merkley, Ron Wyden, Max Baucus, Jon Tester, and Mark Begich. Pacific Northwest senators voting no were Republicans Lisa Murkowski, Mike Crapo, and Jim Risch.

In a statement sent to NPI, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said:
The President is gratified that the Senate has acted to begin consideration of health insurance reform legislation. Tonight’s historic vote brings us one step closer to ending insurance company abuses, reining in spiraling health care costs, providing stability and security to those with health insurance, and extending quality health coverage to those who lack it. The President looks forward to a thorough and productive debate.
Several of our Democratic senators have released statements to NPI also responding to tonight's vote. Here's Patty Murray:
The successful vote tonight took our country one step closer to finally reforming our broken health care system and at long last helping millions of families and small business owners get the coverage they need at a price they can afford.

As we begin debating this bill on the floor of the Senate, I continue to call on my colleagues across the aisle to rise above partisanship and work with us to provide families across the country with stable, affordable health insurance coverage.

Our health reform bill will lower costs for families and small business owners. It will ensure that no one will be denied coverage for a pre-existing condition or go bankrupt if they get sick. And it finally makes insurers compete for the business of the American people.

For months, as I have worked on this bill, I have fought to ensure that the needs and priorities of Washington state’s families and businesses are preserved. I will continue to tell the stories of Washington state businesses and families as we work to pass a bill that makes our nation and economy healthier and stronger.
Jeff Merkley:
This debate is far from over, but we have now come further than any Congress in a generation in completing the difficult task of fixing health care. I look forward to continuing to fight for reforms that will make health care more accessible and affordable for all Americans. And I hope that my colleagues who opposed even having a full discussion about this issue will realize how important it is that the Senate debate health care reform.

The health care system is no longer working for working Americans. Too many are without insurance; too many others fear they will lose coverage when they need it most. Health care costs are bankrupting families and hampering business growth. We must act now to contain costs, expand access to coverage and reform the insurance industry practices that have made even those with insurance fearful as to what will happen should they become ill or injured.
And Maria Cantwell:
This vote represents a major step toward a goal that has eluded us for generations: a significant reform of our nation’s health care system. Despite partisan differences, a remarkably strong consensus has formed over our basic aims: maintaining quality, reining in out-of-control costs, and covering the uninsured. During debate, I intend to work with my colleagues to preserve the many strong measures in the bill and to strengthen provisions that will further drive down costs for families and businesses.
Thanks to each of them for standing strong in the face of Republican obstructionism. The challenge only gets tougher: Now Majority Leader Reid has to actually get a bill out of the U.S. Senate and into conference committee. Corralling ConservaDems on a procedural motion is one thing, but getting them to vote against insurance companies and HMOs for a progressive, substantive bill is another. If there was ever a time to whip the caucus, these next few months will be it.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Stanwood Amtrak station opens tomorrow

Great news for rail fans: Tomorrow Amtrak Cascades will begin stopping at Stanwood in Snohomish County on its way to and from Seattle or Vancouver, British Columbia. The town and nearby Camano Island have been without passenger rail service for decades, but that travesty will end tomorrow morning with the opening of the new Stanwood Station, under construction since April.

Senator Mary Margaret Haugen, Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond, and local leaders will be on hand for the arrival of the first Amtrak Cascades train to stop in Stanwood. That train will roll in at 9:03 AM.

"This has been a long time coming, and it’s going to make a huge difference for so many people in so many ways," Haugen said in a statement announcing tomorrow's opening ceremony. "Everywhere I go, people are talking about the train station." Senator Haugen is the Chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, and played a pivotal role in ensuring the project got moving.

The northbound and southbound Cascades trains will each stop in Stanwood twice a day: once in the morning, and once in the evening.

More precisely, the schedule of stops in Stanwood will be:
  • 9:03 AM (Northbound Cascades)
  • 9:18 AM (Southbound Cascades)
  • 8:14 PM (Northbound Cascades)
  • 8:25 PM (Southbound Cascades)
The new Stanwood station won't be staffed by any Amtrak agents, but riders boarding the train there may purchase tickets online or by calling 1-800-USA-RAIL.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Governor Gregoire: State must raise revenue; all cuts budget in 2010 not an option

It looks like the Governor Gregoire that we know and love - the courageous governor who's not afraid to stand up to Tim Eyman and conservative editorial writers - it looks like that governor, at long last, is finally back in action.

Minutes ago, at Senator Jeanine Kohl-Welles' sixteenth annual post-election analysis fundraiser, Gregoire declared emphatically that cuts cannot be the only answer to the $2.6 billion shortfall the state is facing. "It's not an option," Gregoire said firmly, to rousing cheers and applause from assembled Democrats.

Gregoire acknowledged in her remarks that half-measures and shortcuts won't work anymore. And she's absolutely correct. If it was easy, the Legislature already did it last session. Now, with nothing left to cut but bone, it is absolutely critical that we raise revenue to protect our essential public services from destruction.

Here's a transcript of what Gregoire said:
GOVERNOR GREGOIRE: I come tonight - I got to run and do something else - but I wanted to reflect a little bit about the last election. And first, to say thank you, King County, for Dow Constantine, a great partner for us [in the statehouse]. And a big thank you to the City of Seattle for giving us a great mayor in Mike McGinn. Thank you.

You know... We got some tough times. There was a familiar name that sponsored something on our last ballot. [Booing and hissing from audience]. And the people of the State of Washington resoundingly said, We're not going to stay in a recession for the rest of our life... A big fat NO to 1033, thank you! [Applause]

And you know what? We're the only state in the nation - the only state in the nation! - that has gone to the ballot and said no to discrimination, yes to equality, all families will be protected, Approve 71, thank you!

I had a conference call with some of my Democratic colleagues, and I said, I am proud to be a Washingtonian, folks! Thank you very much for what you did on R-71 and making it happen for the great State of Washington.

It goes without saying... today has not been my best day. It goes without saying... the last week has not been my best week. We had a shortfall that we found last Friday from our forecast and caseload that took us down $300 million, and with reasons that we can all understand. People need healthcare, people need services, they need the social serivce net. Today we found our revenue forecasts down $760 million. It's a billion dollars in one week.

Now, I gotta explain, if I can, a little bit about the budget so that you can explain it to the sixty three percent of Washington State who doesn't understand the dire consequences of a budget like what we have. Seventy percent of our state budget is untouchable. It's basic education, protected by the Constitution; it's Medicaid, protected by federal law. So only thirty percent - only thirty percent - is available for us to find any cuts. That thirty percent is nine billion dollars. We have a $2.6 billion shortfall. That puts it in perpsective.

Over two years we have lost twelve billion dollars out of a thirty one billion dollar budget. We are in the worst times that we have seen in eighty years. So as I said to my staff today when the forecast came in: Eighty years, and I picked now to be governor of the State of Washington. [Laughter]

But you know what? I gotta tell you, if it was ever a time to have a Democratic governor, a Democratic House, and a Democratic Senate, now is the time, in the worst recession of the history of the State of Washington, [Applause] because we care, we have values, and we're not going to let it get us down!

By law, on December 8th, I will produce for you a budget. That budget has to live within revenue. It will be nothing like you have ever seen in your life. Last Saturday, we spent the day trying to find budget cuts. Let me give you a flavor for the day. At one point we were looking at pediatry services, and asking ourselves, Should we cut that funding? I ask what the consequence would be. And the answer was, more people will have amputations.

I ask, what would be the consequences of cutting those developmentally disabled who are aging out of foster care. The answer was, they'll go homeless.

Those are the kind of consequences to our budget. It's one thing to talk about, you can shut down all of higher education - all our four years, our research insitutitons, our community and technical colleges - and still not make up the whole. You can shut down all of corrections, and still not make up the whole.

But you know what? It's not about numbers. It's about real human beings. Behind those numbers, my friends, are kids who want a education so they can get out and get a good job or go to college. Behind those numbers are kids who want the doors to higher education open to them for training in their field or for a PhD.

Behind those numbers are families who are looking for a safety net because they have lost everything. They may have lost their job and their healthcare; they're looking for food on the table and a roof over their heads.

Behind those numbers are our senior citizens who need access to a nursing home.

So I tell you: An all cuts budget is not the value of the people of the State of Washington. We must step up, do our responsibility to this State, and look for revenue to get the job done. [Sustained cheers, applause]

It will not be easy. There are three editorials - Vancouver, Walla Walla, and Yakima - today. Give 'em a shout out: They're wrong! We cannot live, that's not the values of the people of the State of Washington.

We need to stand up, we need to be proud. Let me just share with you... I have read more about the Great Depression in the last year than I have in my entire life. And I know one thing: Turning our back on the most needy, it's not the people of the State of Washington. Turning our back on education and healthcare does not represent the people of the State of Washington. Turning our back on economic opportunities for tomorrow does not represent the people of the State of Washington.

So I'm asking you to join with us: Go out there and fight and educate. Make it clear: We'll take cuts, we have to, we know that, every family is doing it. But we cannot allow our most fragile to go without. We cannot shut the doors to higher education. We cannot turn our backs on our kids' ability to get an education in our K-12. We cannot turn people away from healthcare.

It is time for Washington State to stand up, to stand behind its values, get back to work, look out for our friends, our neighbors, look out for that stranger down the street or someone we don't know.

I'm asking you from the 36th and the wannabes in the 36th, stand behind us this next legislative session. Let's get the job done, let's work together, let's show America what real leadership is about, right here in Washington State. Thank you all.

[The Governor exited to a standing ovation]
Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown and House Majority Leader Lynn Kessler - who sat next to each other as part of the panel - both agreed that the Legislature has no choice but to raise revenue. The alternate is the desutruction of essential public services that Washingtonians rely on in their daily lives. We simply won't recover from this recession if we cut off our most vulnerable.

The Legislature should have acted earlier to raise revenue. We were very disappointed with the choices made by House and Senate Democrats in the 2009 session. It's a relief to hear Governor Gregoire promising to fight for our common wealth. For us, fighting back against Tim Eyman is difficult enough: We need a champion who is willing to on offense to protect our common wealth.

So we say, thank you, Governor, for renewing your commitment to progressive ideals. Now, go out and execute, and we will be beside you every step of the way.

Google unveils Chrome OS: Like a library workstation, minus privacy protection

A few months after confirming its intention to turn its "Chrome" browser into an operating system, search giant Google has taken the wraps off its product plans, eliciting breathless coverage from tech blogs and traditional media outlets.

The basic gist is this: Google ois slapping its name, logo, and browser shell on top of a collection of free software to create Chrome OS because it wants to generate even bigger profits. Chrome OS will come installed on new netbooks (with hardware certified by Google) beginning in a year.

Oddly enough, we've already seen tech journalists and pundits describing Chrome OS as a great leap forward or a milestone in the history of computing.

They've apparently never heard of thin-client workstations, which have been around for years and - like the netbooks on which Chrome OS will be sold - are restrictive by design. Thin client workstations are common in libraries, which maintain terminals for patron Internet access and use of selected programs like Microsoft Office or Adobe Reader (the most common PDF viewer for Windows).

Chrome OS, however, won't have any desktop applications. Instead it will contain shortcuts to websites (especially Google-owned websites) where users can read/write email, watch videos, or edit documents.

The reason Google is creating Chrome OS is that the company's ambitions extend far, far beyond being the dominant search engine. Google makes money by storing information and monetizing it for profit. That is why it is seeking end-to-end control of personal computing. Chrome OS isn't intended to help users; it's being created to mine their data so Google can turn a bigger profit.

Netbooks running Google Chrome OS will be similiar to library workstations... minus the privacy protections that libraries provide to patrons.

Google is basically trying to reduce the personal computer to a datacenter portal. And no, that's not an oversimplification. The New York Times put it this way:
While Microsoft and others say they believe that cloud-based programs will coexist with traditional PC software, Google has often said that Web applications will replace all desktop software, another area that Microsoft dominates.
Google and its executives are free to think that the future of personal computing is a mass migration to their data-mining products, but they're mistaken. Desktop software is not headed for extinction. There are too many things web browsers cannot do or are not well suited for. Like gaming, multimedia editing, or publishing.

What's more, "web apps" will never be as versatile as desktop applications, because they rely on connectivity to the Internet to work. (Otherwise, they wouldn't be "web apps".) Therein lies the problem: it's not always possible to connect to to the Internet, let alone connect at a high speed. A desktop application, unlike a "web app", can be used offline as well as online, permitting a traveler to command a virtual army from twenty thousand feet up while crossing from coast to coast or allowing a worker out in the field to record raw data for later analysis.

What so many people who have fawned over Chrome OS don't seem to understand is that there's nothing revolutionary about it. Free software, like the Ubuntu Netbook Remix, is already available for today as an alternative to Windows.

Chrome, on the other hand, will be perfect for people who like the idea of a private version of the National Security Agency tracking where they go online, sifting through their data, and building profiles of them to sell advertising.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Downtown Bellevue East Link workshop draws predictable NIMBYist opposition

Earlier tonight, a packed house attended Sound Transit's fourth East Link workshop, held in at City Hall in downtown Bellevue, where residents were invited to submit comments about Sound Transit's plans for the voter approved project.

Throughout the presentation, we were given an overview of the different ideas. The current Sound Transit preferred alternative is C4A.

C4A would be an at grade alignment running down 108th Ave and 110th Ave from Main Street to NE 12th, crossing Interstate 405 at NE 12th St.

It's an alignment that voicferous critics of the project wasted no time in taking to the woodshed. Tom Ruttkamp, who lives downtown, alleged:
There's probably not a single person in this room who supports the C4A approach... It will destroy our city, it will destroy our traffic patterns, it will create congestion, it will have safety impacts, yet Sound Transit just goes merrily along with its preferred approach.
Many others in the audience were hostile to Sound Transit too, claiming East Link will destroy their neighborhood. Speaking afterwards to NPI, Ruttkamp took the opportunity to extend and revise his remarks.
They want to run a train down our street... The only reason they want to do it is because it's the cheapest way to do it. And that's the only answer that they ever have. It's cheapest. Well, there's lots of things in life that are cheapest, but they're not the best.
But even his denunciation of East Link couldn't match the effusive objections made by a crew of Surrey Downs residents who are fiercely opposed to any proposed alignment within a mile of their homes. With Councilmember-elect Kevin Wallace as their leader, they demanded that Sound Transit forget about going through downtown and instead run the line along Interstate 405.

Their ironically named "Vision" plan would have a Bellevue Transit station on 114th St, six blocks away from the Transit Center.

In addition, the "Hospital" station would be behind Whole Foods, crossing a busy street. It would also be at least a 10 minute walk from Overlake Hospital.

Asked for comment, Sound Transit officials explained to NPI that the "Vision" proposal is problematic because it is simply too far away from homes and businesses. The "Vision" proposal would not have the high ridership of the preferred alternative and is not consistent with the project's objectives.

But this did not stop Surrey Downs residents from claiming the "Vision" proposal would "get rid of noise vibrations" and "increase ridership".

There's really no need for Surrey Downs residents to freak out about noise pollution. If they're not bothered by auto traffic going by their homes today, then they shouldn't fret about light rail. Nevertheless, Sound Transit is prepared to help the community reduce noise pollution, whether it be from light rail or cars. According to Patrick McHugh, a concrete wall expert, it is possible to construct barrier walls which can completely mitigate any noise.
If neighborhoods have whisper walls surrounding the light rail, the sounds will just bounce off each other.
Soundproofing homes is also a possibility, the agency says.

Sound Transit staff also presented other options they are looking at, including C9T, which is somewhat different from the preferred alignment. C9T has a Bellevue Transit Center station on 110th Ave and NE 4th St in addition to a Hospital station right next to Group Health north of NE 8th St and West of NE 116th St.

In addition to C9T, two new at grade level alternatives are under consideration. C9A, an at surface alternative for C9T, and C11A.

C11A would go from Main Street to NE 6th Ave at grade, link up with the existing Bellevue Transit Center, and then across NE 6th.

On December 10th, the Bellevue City Council will pass along a recommendation to the Sound Transit Board detailing their preferred alignment.

NPI urges the City of Bellevue to work together with Sound Transit to find the best option for East Link. We look forward to participating in and covering future workshops and stakeholder meetings. And we urge members of the Sound Transit Board not to let NIMBYism interfere with the final alignment decision.

This voter-approved project is simply too important to Eastside neighborhoods to have its design dictated by a few vocal, fearful residents.

Worsening budget deficit will interfere with Democratic legislative ambitions

Tomorrow, the Washington State Economic and Revenue Forecast Council is due to release its latest revenue forecast, which is expected to show that the state's budget shortfall will reach a staggering $2.5 billion.

Governor Chris Gregoire and legislators have been preparing for the 2010 session under the assumption there would be a shortfall of between $1.5 and $2 billion, with the latter being the worst case scenario.

But it's probably going to be even worse than that.

Painfully colliding with this reality is House Speaker Frank Chopp's agenda for the 2010 session, which is still in draft and has yet to be approved by the House Democratic caucus. The agenda, which Chopp outlined in a presentation to King County Democrats last Sunday, comprises several initiatives.

They include improving healthcare coverage for children (Apple Health), strengthening environmental protection (EverGreen Washington), and bolstering higher education (Opportunity Pathways). Among the more specific agenda items in Chopp's presentation was a bullet which read:
Hold the line
Protect against further cuts in services for people with mental illness, developmental disabilities, long-term healthcare needs, and chemical dependency.
There was a similar bullet under the "Paramount Schools" slide which read:
Recharge the system
Re-direct existing revenues and increase funding for public schools, at both the state and local levels.
We wonder whether such objectives are realistic or even possible, considering how serious the budget shortfall is. We say this not because we don't agree with these objectives, but because we doubt the Legislature has the courage or the resolve to find enough new revenue to prevent cuts to essential public services.

After December, Democrats will be able to set aside the undemocratic, unconstitutional restrictions imposed by Tim Eyman's Initiative 960, but it is unlikely they will raise any of the state's three major sources of revenue (the sales tax, property tax, and the business and occupation tax). Sin taxes and fees will probably go up, however, and some of the more odious and unnecessary tax exemptions might be repealed. But that won't raise $2.5 billion.

Washington State might not be in such a pickle if we weren't so dependent on consumption taxes. A new edition of the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy's report Who Pays? was released today (PDF), and we get the dishonor of being the state with the most regressive tax structure. That's right: Out of all fifty states, Washington's tax structure is the most backwards. We're worse than every state that is governed by Republicans. That's pretty appalling.

Here are some actual numbers: Washington's poorest residents pay an average of 17.3% of their income in taxes, and middle income families pay about 9.5%. But the Evergreen State's wealthiest families pay only 2.9%.

This situation has existed for years, and was discussed in the Gates Commission report released back in 2002, but the Legislature has chosen to dither rather then do anything about it. Tax reform, even though it is desperately needed, is simply not on the House Democratic agenda that Frank Chopp presented.

We have to ask: Why are we wasting this crisis?

It makes little sense to lay out a grand progressive action agenda when existing services are in danger of being eviscerated:
The governor said that to cut $2 billion, the state could eliminate all community colleges, close the Department of Commerce and close the Department of Revenue, and it would still only eliminate $1.72 billion. Cutting all state funds for the University of Washington and Washington State University would save $1 billion.

And closing the Department of Corrections would be $1.6 billion.

She did not advocate doing any of those things.
So, to summarize, we've got Frank Chopp talking about helping with student loans whilst we have Governor Gregoire saying existing financial aid is in danger of being wiped out. By acknowledging the elephant in the room, Gregoire is at least sizing up the challenge and making it concrete, which is critical.

The same cannot be said of Speaker Chopp, who should be delivering half hour presentations discussing options for tax reform rather than offering better and more memorable names for progressive policy directions.

The Stupak/Pitts pro-death amendment

Yesterday, George Washington University released an analysis of what's going to happen in the health care industry as a result of the Stupak/Pitts amendment to the Affordable Health Care for America bill (H.R. 3962).

The GWU report nicely summarizes the language of the amendment:
The amendment bans federal funding for abortions and bars payment of federal subsidies to health insurance products sold in exchanges that cover most medically indicated abortions.

Emphasis mine. You can read the report for yourself, but the upshot is that under Stupak/Pitts, the insurance industry would change its policies to eliminate health plan coverage for medically indicated abortions.

And that, I have a problem with.

It's one thing to believe that tax dollars shouldn't fund abortions of convenience, or abortions of "right now just isn't a good time for me to have a baby." If somebody screws up (no pun intended) and decides they don't want to deal with the natural consequences, I'm kind of ok with them paying for that on their own. They should still have access to legal, safe abortions, but let it be on their dime.

It is, however, an entirely different matter to say that abortions that are necessary for the health of the woman shouldn't be covered by health insurance. Notice how "health" appears twice in that sentence? Can you spot the contradiction, Stupak?

Take my sister. A few years ago, when she and her husband were just starting out in their new life together, she got pregnant. They were both delighted about this, until a couple of months later she woke up in the middle of the night doubled-over in pain. Cue the ambulance ride, the hours of fear and terror while waiting to learn what was wrong.

Diagnosis: ectopic pregnancy.
An ectopic pregnancy is a medical emergency, and, if not treated properly, can lead to death. (Wikipedia)

Treatment: emergency surgery. Or in other words, a medically indicated abortion to protect the health and life of the woman. Of my sister.

Now thank god they had insurance. Thank god her treatment was covered. They're already struggling with a mountain of student loan debt. Thank god that this medical emergency didn't put them in bankruptcy like so many Americans. My sister lost the baby, and she lost one of her ovaries, but she didn't lose her life, and she didn't wind up in the poor-house.

And that's the real lie, the deep hypocrisy of politicians like Stupak and Pitts, who stand in the way of real progress for real Americans so they can score some cheap political points with conservatives.

Because we all know that without coverage, treatment just doesn't happen. And without treatment, women like my sister will die.

If medically indicated abortions aren't covered in any insurance plan you can buy from anywhere--which is what will happen under Stupak/Pitts--then those treatments aren't going to happen, and women will die.

Stupak and Pitts and everyone else who voted for that execrable amendment they love to stand up and say they're all pro-life and pat themselves on the back and smile their smug holier-than-thou smiles.

Well that's crap. It's a lie, pure and simple. There is no justification for clamping down on medically indicated abortions. There's nothing "pro-life" about that: if the mother dies, the fetus dies too. That's what's at stake in many medically indicated abortions. Eliminating health care coverage for those procedures doesn't save anybody.

If the anti-abortion crowd has any shred of moral and intellectual honesty in them, if they're as "pro-life" as they claim, they'll call on the Senate and House to strip Stupak/Pitts out of the health care bill during the committee process.

Because it's not "pro-life." It's a pro-death amendment. Make no mistake: under Stupak/Pitts, women will die.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Al Gore visits the Pacific Northwest to talk about his new book, Our Choice

Vice President Al Gore is back in our beautiful corner of the country this week to talk about his new book Our Choice, which is a sequel to An Inconvenient Truth, although Gore wrote The Assault on Reason in between.

Our Choice focuses on solutions to the climate crisis, rather than trying to explain the climate crisis (which Gore's 2006 book and Academy Award-winning documentary film did do rather successfully).

Gore writes in the introduction:
During the three and a half years since the publication and release of An Inconvenient Truth, I have organized and moderated more than 30 lengthy and intensive “Solutions Summits” where leading experts from around the world have come to discuss and share their knowledge of and experience in subjects relevant to the construction of a plan to solve this crisis.
I had the opportunity to listen to Al talk about Our Choice earlier today, and he remains optimistic that it is not too late to solve the climate crisis, although he warned that we must act expeditiously to avoid the worst consequeneces:
As governments prepare for next month's global climate summit in Copenhagen, "the stated goal of negotiators is to enact measures that will have a 50 percent chance of avoiding dangerous consequences," Gore said, as if joking. "That is the very definition of recklessness."
Worse, the United States has surrendered the overwhelmiing lead it once had in renewable energy technology by dithering and letting giant oil companies like ExxonMobil dictate our nation's energy policy:
In solar energy, Americans first developed photovoltaic cells, but only one of the 10 leading manufacturers is based in this country, Gore noted. "Only one of the top 10 wind manufacturers is in the United States."
Gore's observation has fortunately not been lost on Democratic leaders, including Senator Charles Schumer of New York, who recently made public his opposition to providing stimulus money to a pair of companies with plans to build a wind-farm in Texas with Chinese made turbines.

The two companies (U.S. Renewable Energy Group and A-Power Energy Generation Systems) announced today, however, that they've decided to produce and assemble turbines at a new facility in the United States, which is a win for American jobs, although the companies have not pledged to rely on their forthcoming U.S. facility to supply turbines for the big Texas wind farm they've planned.

Gore's schedule in the Pacific Northwest seems to be a busy one. He also spoke with Seattle Times reporter Craig Welch today and appeared at an event at Town Hall, hosted by Kim Ricketts' outfit, which was sold out long in advance. Gore will be in Oregon tomorrow; Repower America is organizing a rally in support of Our Choice outside Portland's Keller Auditorium, where he is speaking.

SR 520 working group votes ten to two to adopt A+ option for new bridge

We've just heard from several members of the State Route 520 workgroup that they've finally settled on an option to rebuild the highway from Interstate 5 to the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge across Lake Washington.

By a vote of 10-2, the workgroup (comprised of lawmakers representing neighborhoods on both sides of Lake Washington) has selected the "A+ hybrid" as the recommendation going forward for the highway's west end.

The two dissenting votes were Speaker Frank Chopp and Representative Jamie Pedersen, who both represent the 43rd LD. All the other workgroup members present and voting were in support of the A+ hybrid option, which incoporates several elements of earlier proposals that are no longer under consideration.

Not included in the A+ hybrid option is an expensive, risky tunnel under the Montlake Cut, which is proposed in Options K and M.

It would not be bored, as were the Beacon Hill Tunnels, or the new tunnel under First Avenue that is proposed to replaced the Alaskan Way Viaduct.

Instead, according to WSDOT's documentation, it would be built using either a combination of the cut and cover method and immersed tunnel method, or the sequential excavation method. Choosing the former would mean digging a trench under the Cut and lowering watertight tube sections underwater, then connecting the sections together. Choosing the latter would mean dividing the space to be tunneled into segments and mining each segment seperately.

Either way, including a tunnel in the design would be ridiculously expensive and cause the cost of the project to be much, much higher.

More specifically, the cost of Option M is estimated to be $3.35 billion; the cost of Option K is estimated to be between $4.07 to $4.1 billion. Compare that to the A+ hybrid, which estimates put at between $1.9 billion and $2.1 billion.

(Keep in mind, none of these figures are the total cost of the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge replacement. All of these options are for the west end only).

The A+ hybrid option calls for the construction of a second drawbridge across the Montlake Cut, right next to the existing span. The second drawbridge would force several homes to be demolished, but WSDOT's datasheet comparing the different options says that roughly the same number of parcels would have to be acquired to build a tunnel. It is true that a tunnel would result in less noise pollution (because some of the traffic would be underground) but the cost tradeoff is huge, and ill-advised considering how short of money the project already is.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Link train derails; traditional media foolishly rush to make a big deal about it

I wasn't going to say anything about the Link light rail train that derailed earlier today, but I feel compelled to after seeing the Seattle Times put the news front and center at the top of their website earlier this afternoon.

There really isn't much more to the story than what I just wrote in the first few words of that paragraph above. An empty train was heading back into the SoDo maintenance base earlier today. It came off the tracks, smashed up a little guardrail, and was slightly scratched up. The operator was not injured.

This minor incident - not unlike a fender bender or a bus breakdown - was promptly made a top headline by the Seattle Times and KING5, even though it's not a big deal. No one was hurt, there wasn't that much damage, and the system was not forced to shut down (although service has been delayed). Sound Transit is still trying to figure out how to get the train down off the aerial tracks and back into the maintenance yard, but this incident is hardly a top story.

No transportation system is flawless. It's predictable but sad but there are glass half-empty people leaving comments on the Times' site that this incident demonstrates why we shouldn't have built light rail. What nonsense. By that logic, we shouldn't have any roads at all because people die in traffic collisions every day. The automobile is about the least safest means of transportation that there is. Look at the number of injuries and fatalities from auto collisions.

The National Transportation Safety Board notes that over ninety percent of all transportation-related deaths occur on the highways (PDF); in 2007, 41,059 people were killed and 2.49 million people injured in auto crashes.
No other mode of transportation approaches highway in terms of the magnitude of the safety challenge - waterborne transportation, the next most dangerous mode of transport in terms of deaths per annum - in 2007 accounted for a total of 769 deaths in the United States, less than 2 percent of the number of fatalities in the highway mode. An average of about 112 people died each day in motor vehicle crashes in 2007, meaning that a person died in a crash every 13 minutes.

The economic cost alone of motor vehicle crashes was more than $230 billion in 2000, which averaged out to a cost of about $820 for every person then living in the United States.
The number of catastrophic rail incidents, in contrast, is so small that the NTSB's annual report actually goes through each one they investigated and provides pictures. There isn't enough room in their annual report to talk about all of the car crashes where people died, of course, let alone the non-fatal crashes.

So the train is actually a pretty safe place to be.

The context I just offered is missing from both the Times story and KING5's report. That's because such context doesn't justify overplaying the derailment, which is what they're doing. It's easier and cheaper to focus on the trivial. And in the case of the Times, not having a print rival to compete with gives them less incentive to do as much serious and investigative reporting as possible.

Unfortunately, things seem bound to get worse before they get any better.

Implement Core 24 to prepare students for a successful life

In 1985, Microsoft released the first retail version of its wildly successful Windows operating system. You probably can’t remember life before MS Windows, but this was actually the same year that Washington state last updated its high school graduation requirements. A lot has changed since then.

Globalization and new technology have dramatically changed the job market that today's high school and college graduates face, which is one reason the state legislature increased the number of high school credits necessary to earn a diploma when it overhauled the state’s basic education system last spring. The Washington State Board of Education (SBE) calls these increased requirements Core 24, after the twenty four credits newly required for high school graduation.

Core 24 was at the heart of the education reform bill that groups such as the League of Education Voters (LEV) and the Washington State PTA advocated so passionately for last winter. Right now, a legislative workgroup is working to implement the new definition of basic education that came out of that reform. Core 24 is on the group's agenda but word has it that it is not a top priority. And yet there are many reasons why it should be.

By 2013, thirty-one states will have higher graduation requirements than Washington, once again putting our fair state in the bottom third of national education rankings. And according to the SBE:
Over half of community and technical college students who graduated from high school [in Washington] in 2006 took pre-college (remedial) classes in 2006-07: English, reading or math. This level of remediation cost students and the state $17.5 million.
Some Core 24 critics warn that if requirements are raised more students will drop out of school, but that myth doesn't line up with the facts. Dropping out is complex and problems that lead to dropping out usually start long before high school. Some research has shown that increased expectations lead to better results, with more kids finishing school. On top of that, the SBE has found that more low-income students complete college when they have had a rigorous high school education. Sound preparation pays off.

Core 24 was designed to prepare our kids to be “future ready,” that is, ready for either a career or college. As LEV board member Trish Millines Dziko recently wrote in the Seattle Times:
Current state requirements don't formally prepare a student for anything.

We have an obligation to ensure all kids are ready to succeed in college and careers, not be shut out due to our failure to coordinate state policies.
The real heart of the issue is that while most school districts exceed the state’s current twenty credit requirement, they do so on their own dollar. Right now, local levy money originally intended to pay for extras is going towards basic classes need to earn a diploma.

By including a twenty four credit requirement in the state’s definition of basic education, the state will be required to fund the additional credits, giving school districts the flexibility to use their levy dollars for true "extras” and enrichment like additional foreign language classes and after-school programs.

Core 24 should be a first step in implementing basic education reform. Updating and standardizing Washington graduation requirements will prepare our students for the modern job market and economy. The state should start its plan to fund a full range of courses for high school students, instead of just the twenty it currently covers.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The ten best add-ons for Mozilla Firefox

Longtime readers of the NPI Advocate know that we're big fans of Firefox, the free software browser by Mozilla. One of the reasons we think it's the best browser out there is the incredibly rich and useful add-ons that are available to extend Firefox and make it infinitely more powerful. Here are our ten favorite add-ons.

NoScript. NoScript is essential armor for Firefox. When installed, it automatically blocks JavaScript by default, speeding up the loading of web pages and neutralizing unsafe sites. It has the convenient side effect of blocking most ads and tracking widgets as well. It also prevents embedded media from automatically loading or playing without a user's consent. Websites a user trusts can be whitelisted (in other words, exempted from NoScript's restrictions) on a case by case basis.

CookieSafe. This add-on is a perfect companion to NoScript; it blocks cookies by default but allows cookies for websites that a user has marked as trusted. It also gives users the ability to delete cookies within the browser at any time. Cookies, for those who don't know, are little text files that websites place on visitors' computers to identify visitors. Cookies can be useful - they allow websites to avoid prompting a user to re-login with every page load - but like scripting, they should only be enabled for sites a user trusts.

Session Manager. The latest versions of Firefox incorporate some of its functionality, such as the ability to restore accidentally closed tabs and recovery of a browser session upon restart after a crash, but Session Manager is still an add-on worth having. It keeps track of what windows and tabs have been recently closed and stores session information for easy retrieval, making it easier to find that web page that should have been bookmarked, but wasn't.

ChromaTabs Plus. Ever wished it was possible to give Firefox tabs different colors so it's easier to identify what's what? Well, there's an add-on that does just that. ChromaTabs Plus utilizes site favicons to generate a rich palette of colors for different tabs. It makes a Yahoo tab purple, a Bing tab blue, a Seattle P-I tab grayish green, and so on. It dramatically improves the user experience while adding a rainbow of colors to Firefox's interface.

Lazarus. Everyone has a horror story about losing data that was typed into a form. Lazarus Form Recovery provides peace of mind by encrypting and saving input typed into any web forms within Firefox, permitting one-click recovery in the event of a submission failure, browser crash, power outage, or broken Internet connection. Lazarus even works with rich text editors and AJAX forms. It can save blog posts, application information... anything typed into a form.

Weave Sync. Created by Mozilla Labs, Weave Sync allows bookmarks, browsing history, passwords, preferences, and tabs to be shared across different installations of Mozilla Firefox on different computers. Browser data is saved, encrypted, and transmitted securely to a Mozilla server so it can be continuously synchronized. This makes it possible to bookmark a webpage at work, for example, and then access that same bookmark at home several hours later.

Forecastfox. Why spend time looking up the weather forecast when there's a tool that brings it right into the browser interface? Forecastfox helpfully shows what the weather will be like for the next seventy two hours at any given location. It also has built in buttons for quick access to a five day forecast and hourly forecast, and can display notifications that alert a user when conditions change.

Adblock Plus. The tagline Ads were yesterday neatly sums up Firefox's most popular add-on (downloaded nearly a quarter of a million times) which excels at neutralizing ads that don't get already get stopped by NoScript. Adblock Plus is for the most part a "set it and forget it" tool; it comes with preset filters that eliminate most ads without any user intervention. But it also allows users to block unwanted content with a few simple mouse clicks.

Greasemonkey. This add-on allows users to extend the capabilities of websites with custom scripts. No programming knowledge is needed to use Greasemonkey, as there are thousands of scripts already available to tweak the interfaces of websites like Digg, Facebook, and StumbleUpon. Some of the best Greasemonkey scripts have become fully fledged Firefox add-ons of their own.

BetterPrivacy. Removes cookies from a machine that have gotten past CookieSafe or were present before CookieSafe was added on to Firefox, including what are known as Local Shared Objects. LSOs are essentially "super cookies" created by Adobe's Flash player plugin which store highly specific personal and technical information, never expire, and can transmit said information to companies like Google without a user's knowledge or permission. BetterPrivacy can erase these Local Shared Objects periodically to protect user privacy.

Of course, not every Firefox add-on is in the same league as these ten. Perhaps the worst add-on we've ever seen is the Adobe Download Manager (DLM), which is "powered by getPlus". This add-on is nothing but poorly engineered, redundant bloatware that gets in the way and adds no value to the browsing experience.

Adobe is trying to trick Firefox users who follow prompts to upgrade Flash Player into installing the Download Manager add-on. Shame on them.

When visiting Adobe's website to upgrade Flash Player, be sure to click Cancel when the screen suggests installing "Adobe DLM". Then, on the underlying page, choose the Click here to download click to get only the Flash Player upgrade.

Those who have accidentally installed "Adobe DLM" can get rid of it by going to Tools > Add-Ons > Plugins and clicking the Disable button next to "Adobe DLM".

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Sound Transit Board of Directors will look somewhat different in 2010

One of the consequences of the 2009 elections that hasn't been widely discussed is the forthcoming changes to the Sound Transit Board of Directors, which will look somewhat different next year with the departure of several current boardmembers and the addition of several new ones.

The most prominent board member leaving is Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels, the current Board Chair, who will undoubtedly be best remembered for courageously sheparding through the Sound Transit 2 proposal to the ballot in the summer of 2008. (The measure, Sound Transit Proposition 1, which primarily funds an expansion of Link light rail, was resoundingly passed just a few months later.)

But Nickels isn't the only one saying goodbye.

Tacoma Deputy Mayor Julie Anderson will also be leaving the Board and Tacoma city government to take over as Pierce County Auditor. She replaces Republican Jan Shabro, the current Auditor, who was appointed by the Pierce County Council against the wishes of Pierce County Democrats.

They had contended that a Democrat should be appointed to the post since it was officially a partisan position when the previous Auditor (and now Pierce County Executive) Pat McCarthy was elected.

We're very fond of Julie and will greatly miss her presence on the Board, but we're very excited that she is moving on up to higher office.

Addtionally, the Board will lose Mary-Alyce Burleigh, who did not seek reelection to the Kirkland City Council. Her term expires at the end of this year, and it's a likely bet that she will be replaced with another Eastside councilmember, probably someone from Bellevue. Bellevue is King County's second largest city, and it currently has no representation on the Board. But it should, considering that so many decisions about East Link concern its residents.

Finally, Dow Constantine will assume Kurt Triplett's position on the Board as King County Executive, creating a fourth vacancy that will need to be filled.

Constantine will name his own successor, Burleigh's successor, and Nickels' successor on the Board, per state law (specifically, RCW 81.112.040, which specifies how Sound Transit is governed). Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy will select a successor for Julie Anderson. The appointments will need to be sanctioned by the King and Pierce County Councils, respectively.

Boardmembers who stood for election this year and have earned another term include Richard Conlin (Seattle City Council), Dave Enslow (Mayor of Sumner), Joe Marine (Mayor of Mukilteo), Paul Roberts (Everett City Council), Julia Patterson (King County Council) and Pete von Reichbauer (King County Council).

For those who don't know, Sound Transit is governed by a federated board consisting of people who have been directly elected to city or county government. The County Executives of King, Pierce, and Snohomish get automatic seats on the Board and the power to name the other boardmembers from their county (subject to the consent of that county's council, as mentioned).

The federated board model neatly avoids the problem of having to hold obscure elections to elect people to run yet another agency because it consists of people who have already been elected to make decisions at the local level of government. Sound Transit thus has a better working relationship with cities and counties within its boundaries because ST itself is governed by city and county leaders.

Contrast Sound Transit's governance with the Port of Seattle's. The Port actually spans all of King County and is not controlled by the City of Seattle, despite what its name might suggest. Nor is it controlled by King County. Instead, it is governed by a five member commission which has not always exercised effective oversight over the Port, in part because the commission itself receives little scrutiny.

A side note about the Port Commission: When 2010 arrives, only one member will have served longer than one term: John Creighton, who ran unopposed for reelection this year. Two members (Rob Holland and Tom Albro) will be brand new, having just won their seats; the remaining two (Bill Bryant and Gael Tarleton) will be beginning the third years of their first terms.

Since Sound Transit Boardmembers serve four year terms, the elected officials who will be joining will get to help make many important decisions within the next few years, particularly concerning the expansion of Link light rail.

It's our hope that Dow and Pat choose new boardmembers who are enthusiastic about expanding mobility options for people of Puget Sound, passionate about the nuts and bolts of transportation infrastructure, and wholeheartedly supportive of the expansion of light rail approved by the people of this region one year ago.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Got a question for Mayor-elect Mike McGinn?

KCTS 9 has just announced that it will be airing the first in-depth post-election interview with newly elected Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn a week from today.

KCTS Connects host Enrique Cerna will be asking McGinn about who he plans to tap for key administrative positions like Deputy Mayor and Police Chief, as well as his plans for tackling the range of challenges he'll face after taking office.

Cerna will also ask McGinn questions sent in by KCTS viewers. Questions may be submitted online at KCTS' website now.

Meet The New Mayor: A KCTS 9 Connects Special will start at 7:30 PM next Friday. For those who can't tune in then to watch, the program will also be made available for streaming and downloading online afterwards.

Incidentally, as of this afternoon, McGinn's lead over Joe Mallahan stands at 6,475 votes (51.04% to 47.84%). It's not a blowout, but it's a much stronger position than the tenuous lead McGinn had on Election Night.

Mallahan conceded the election to McGinn on Monday.

McGinn's win remains the only outcome that the usually-reliable Washington Poll failed to accurately predict. (Last year, the poll got Sound Transit Proposition 1 wrong, but was otherwise correct in forecasting who the winners would be).

Sound Transit's Airport Link to begin service on December 19th at 10 AM

This morning, flanked by Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels and King County Executive-elect Dow Constantine, Senator Patty Murray announced that Sound Transit will inaugurate service on Airport Link on Saturday, December 19th at 10 AM.

Press conference announcing Airport Link
Airport Link - which runs from Tukwila International Boulevard Station into the heart of SeaTac - is the final stage of Central Link, which connects the state's largest airport to downtown Seattle. Over the next two decades light rail will expand to the north, south, east, and west, with the construction of University Link, East Link, North Link, and South Link.

This morning's announcement was made against a backdrop of scaffolding, tarps, and construction carts. Even as Murray spoke, crews continued to work on the skybridge connecting the new SeaTac Station to the parking garage.

Airport Link skybridge under construction
Riders will be able to access the station using a pathway that will follow the perimeter of the parking garage, linking the terminal skybridges to the station skybridge. The first level of the station includes an expansive, beautiful mezzazine with ticketing machines, ORCA card readers, and public art. The platform is directly above, and can be accessed via escalator or elevator.

Senator Murray and Mayor Nickels talk on the SeaTac Station platform
In the coming decades, as the airport expands, the walk from the terminal to the station may actually get shorter. For the time being it will be a relatively painless walk through the parking garage. The station can also be accessed via another skybridge from the street (International Boulevard at NE 176th).

This second entryway, which hangs over International Boulevard, will soon permit easy transfers from bus to light rail or vice versa.

Currently riders bound to or from SeaTac Airport get to Link on connector buses that run between Tukwila's station and the terminal. Starting a week before Christmas, it'll be possible for people to deplane, collect their bags, and catch a train going northward without needing to look for a white bus.

Likewise, it'll be possible for travelers who don't want to sit in a traffic jam trying to get on State Route 518 to glide into the airport on Link, drop down from the platform, and walk through the parking garage right into the terminal. No parking, no waiting for people ahead to load or unload luggage from their vehicles, and no dealing with bumper to bumper bumpers.

Senator Murray told NPI she believes that the debut of Link has been a tremendous boost for mobility in our region.

"I talk to people all the time - who tell me, all the time - 'I never thought I'd get on light rail, but I tried it and it's great,'" Murray said.

The Senator added that she knows a woman in Northgate who was inititally skeptical about the benefits of light rail, but who was won over when she tried it, and now uses Link to commute to work.

Last month I took Link to get to a NO on I-1033 press conference in south Seattle, after transferring from a Sound Transit Express bus at Westlake Center.

I arrived in time for the start of the press conference, but ironically it was delayed as a courtesy to a television camera crew that was stuck in a traffic jam on Interstate 5. The backup was news to me when I arrived (to the amusement of the faith leaders who were to slated to speak) because I had enjoyed a smooth ride on light rail all the way from downtown to Columbia City, where I detrained.

I'm not the only one with a story like that. Link is one of the best infrastructure investments that we have ever made as a region. We should have built it sooner, but at long last, we've finally learned from our mistakes and are constructing a strong light rail system to connect our region together.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

KVI axes longtime host Kirby Wilbur

After sixteen years on the air, KVI's The Kirby Wilbur Show is no more, according to our good friend Michael Hood at blatherWatch, who writes:
The Seattle early morning earscape has again felt a seismic shift: With the typical Fisher aplomb, Kirby Wilbur has been fired from KVI, the morning after his birthday!

He no longer exists on the KVI site.

Haven’t yet heard the details, but the longtime, Seattle conservative was let go a month before his contract for the early morning show was up.

Big things will henceforth occur on KVI, as the last vestige of live and local and the old KVI order has been wiped clean.
Politically speaking, Kirby and I didn't (and still don't) agree on much of anything, but I'll always be grateful to him and his producer for having me on the show several times. I can still fondly recall our conversation almost four years ago at an Edmonds restaurant after Kirby had moderated a live on-air debate on Initiative 900 between myself and Tim Eyman.

Anyone who has met Kirby knows it's pretty much impossible not to like him. He's very friendly and respectful towards people with different views than his own.

For the interim, KVI plans to replace his live and local show with nationally syndicated programming. That means more out-of state, forgettable right wing political blather filling the airwaves. And that's a net loss for our region.

KVI didn't even give Kirby the courtesy of allowing him to say goodbye to his listeners on-air. Which is typical of the radio business. The number of entries in blatherWatch's R.I.P. category is piling up; how long will it be before local talk in Seattle (with the exception of NPR affiliates) becomes a thing of the past?

Organized labor will work to elect progressive Democrats

Organized labor knows that money is too tight to spend on would-be Democrats. Despite holding a majority in both chambers of the state legislature, plus the governor’s office, Democratic lawmakers so severely disappointed labor groups during the 2009 legislative session that the groups have either stopped or significantly reduced their donations to committees supporting Democratic legislative candidates.

This behavior signals a change in labor’s campaign strategy. Typically, labor groups donate several hundred thousand dollars a year to Democratic caucus political action committees which spread the donations amongst all Democratic legislative candidates. Labor’s new strategy is more targeted. This year they plan to only invest in those candidates who have recently supported labor issues, and to actively oppose those whom they consider to be too conservative and who have come down on the wrong side of their issues.

From the Seattle Times:
Instead of contributing to the caucus campaign committees, the Labor Council created its own PAC called Don't Invest In More Excuses, or DIME — a play on the e-mail that killed the worker-rights bill. So far, the PAC has raised more than $280,000.
The Washington legislature killed most of labor’s priority bills last session, a list that included the Worker Privacy Act, improvements to the unemployment insurance program, and collective bargaining bills. Last year’s nine billion dollar state budget deficit hit state workers particularly hard. Workers sacrificed by taking job-cuts, pension deferrals, and increased health care costs.

Labor groups will be watching Olympia closely during the legislative session starting in January 2010. At issue is how lawmakers address a new budget shortfall approaching two billion dollars. From the Seattle Times:
Democratic lawmakers who don't support a tax increase and fall short on other labor issues could find themselves without union support. Or even become a target.

A request has been sent out to hire political consultants to help oversee "challenges against incumbents who are barriers to progress, supporting progressive candidates in open seat races, and defending progressive champions in swing districts," according to a copy of the request obtained by The Seattle Times.

"We will likely target 8-10 legislative races for various levels of activity, including 3-5 core races that will involve substantial full-scale independent campaigns," the request says.
If you’re interested in finding out how well your legislators supported labor issues, take a look at the Washington State Labor Council’s 2009 Legislative Report.

This change in support is a good object lesson for Washington's elected officials: If you take your supporters for granted, you may pay the price come election time.

While some may consider labor groups to be just another special interest, they are more than that. In addition to donating money, labor volunteers are part of the grassroots efforts that elect Democratic candidates. And when it comes right down to it, Washington unions are made up of hundreds of thousands of voters, the people who put lawmakers into office in the first place.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Lou Dobbs resigns from CNN

Wow, talk about an early Christmas present:
Lou Dobbs, the longtime CNN anchor whose anti-immigration views have made him a TV lightning rod, plans to announce Wednesday that he is leaving the network, two network employees said.

A CNN executive confirmed that Mr. Dobbs will announce his resignation plans on his 7 p.m. program. His resignation is effective immediately; tonight’s program will be his last on CNN. His contract was not set to expire until the end of 2011.
Kudos to the folks at BastaDobbs.com and Media Matters for their work in exposing Dobbs' attacks on immigrants and his stealth support of the "birthers" who don't believe President Obama was born in Hawaii.

If you're currently watching CNN, you witnessed Dobbs announce his resignation to viewers and state that "the news will continue" after a commercial break.

Yeah... "news".

UPDATE: From Dobbs' resignation statement:
I’ve talked extensively with Jonathan Klein — Jon’s the president of CNN — and as a result of those talks, Jon and I have agreed to a release from my contract that will enable me to pursue new opportunities.

At this point, I’m considering a number of options and directions, and I assure you, I will let you know when I set my course.
Sounds like maybe he's thinking of running for office. His on-air rival Chris Matthews was thinking about it earlier this year, but decided against it.

Happy Veterans' Day

Today we pause to thank the many brave men and women who have valiantly served our country in the armed forces, defending this great nation so that the rest of us may go about our lives freely and peacefully.

We at NPI are especially grateful for the service of two of our own team members - Rick Hegdahl and Dorsol Plants - who both served in the Iraqi theater. Rick will be speaking shortly at an event sponsored by Operation Free, a coalition of veterans and national security organizations working to secure America with renewable energy. That event begins at the Seattle Labor Temple in an hour.

Governor Gregoire and her husband First Mike, as he is affectionately known, attended two events to commemorate Veterans Day this morning. The governor also released a statement thanking Washington's veterans for their service:
On behalf of the people of the state, I thank each and every one of our veterans for their service to our nation. As Governor, I’ve been blessed to see the amazing courage and generosity of our men and women in the armed services, as I have met with members of the Washington National Guard both here and in Iraq.

Their personal courage, humility and sense of duty always impress me.They and their families, like military families before them, sacrifice so much, and sometimes they make the ultimate sacrifice. We should all take time today to pause and reflect on much our veterans have done for us, and to thank them for embodying the virtues that make our country great.
Vice President Biden was also in Pierce County this week to attend a memorial ceremony for seven Fort Lewis soldiers who were killed overseas.

Finally, for those who missed President Obama's speech at Fort Hood, it is a must-read (or must-watch, depending on your preference).

We need more revolutionary politicians.

Representative Alan Grayson made a whole bunch of waves last month--good ones--by finally telling it like it is about the Republicans position on health care reform. Don't get sick, and if you do, die quickly.

Blunt. Honest. Refreshing.

The response was predictable. Indignation and outrage from those whose shameful, anti-American positions had been exposed for all to see. Calls for apologies. Playground-level antics which, while prettied up in the poison-honey vernacular of the United States Congress, amount to little more than "you take that back!"

Bless his heart, Grayson wasn't about to take it back. He kept on going. And he has been going ever since. He didn't offer an apology to the Republicans. He offered an apology to American citizens who are sick and dying because they can't get health care. He took the list of representatives who voted against it, and read their names into the public record along with projections of how many people in their districts were going to die because they couldn't get care.

Blunt. Honest. Long overdue.

This is certainly the first time I can remember seeing any politician, in D.C. or here at home, exhibit that level of candor and bravery. For all I know, it may well be the first time it has happened in my lifetime. I'm glad the Honorable Alan Grayson is in the house. I just wish he were my representative.

Which brings me to a phone call I got the other night. It was from Suzan DelBene, who has thrown her hat into the ring for the 2010 election for Washington's eighth congressional district. Suzan has been doing many of the right things in her race, such as showing up at pretty much every local event she can find in order to become known in the district.

I encouraged her to take a page out of Grayson's book and, when it comes to her opponent, tell it like it is. Because the truth about Dave Reichert is that the substance of the man bears virtually no resemblance to his public image. There's so little about how he appears that is true, that he is himself nearly fictional.

People don't know this. But they should. And as the frontrunner for the Democratic slot on the ballot, it's Ms. DelBene's job to point that out.

In the most blunt, honest, refreshing, and long overdue terms as possible.

Unfortunately, her response to that suggestion on the phone was less than enthusiastic. I hate to say this, I really do, but she sounded afraid of telling it like it is. That isn't what I want in a representative. If I wanted distortion and lies of omission, well, I've already got Dave Reichert for that.

"In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." --George Orwell

I've been thinking a lot about this quote lately, ever since Alan Grayson showed that the truth is a powerful weapon against those who would sell their constituents down the river at the behest of their corporate masters.

Orwell was right. We need more truth. We need more revolutionary politicians with the guts to tell it. Grayson is making a start in the house. Al Franken is pushing the envelope of brazen truth in the Senate.

But they can't do it alone. Suzan DelBene, you're the one running for office. You're the one who wants to join the ranks of those brave, revolutionary men. You're the one who wants Dave Reichert's job, so I call upon you to step up and do what he won't: speak the truth we so desperately need.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Dow Constantine taps Fred Jarettt to be Deputy King County Executive

Great move, Dow! Via news release:
King County Executive Elect Dow Constantine announced today that his former primary rival, State Sen. Fred Jarrett of Mercer Island, will join his administration in the critical role of Deputy Executive, the highest ranking staff position in the incoming administration.

Jarrett, who is highly respected by Olympia colleagues and civic leaders from across the political spectrum, will give up his legislative seat in order to take the reins of the day-to-day operations of King County government. Jarrett will also oversee the implementation of Constantine’s ambitious reform agenda.
Fred has long been rumored to be Dow's top choice for Deputy Executive; after the primary back in August, we suggested that Jarrett would be a great fit in a Constantine administration. Now, if Ross Hunter would only run for King County Council in 2011, we'd have all four Democratic executive candidates involved in making King County a better place to live.
In the Constantine administration, the Deputy Executive position will be enhanced as compared to some previous administrations, a clear second in command. With the enhanced responsibilities, Jarrett will serve essentially as the County’s Chief Operating Officer.

Jarrett, currently one of the co-chairs of the Constantine transition committee, said he was honored to accept this key leadership role in the Constantine administration and was eager to move forward on implementing Constantine’s reform agenda once the new administration takes charge on November 24.
Jarrett's move to the Constantine administration will, however, mean that the 41st District will need to find a new senator. The King County Democrats will need to get together and decide which three candidates they like; one of the three will succeed Jarrett as Senator. The King County Council will choose from among the three, or if they can't, then Governor Gregoire will.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Okanogan County now saying NO to Tim Eyman's Initiative 1033

Yet another county has joined the NO on Initiative 1033 camp.

This week, it's Okanogan, where Initiative 1033 had previously been passing by just a handful of votes, and which we predicted was the most likely candidate to switch sides. Today, it finally happened, as Okanogan's Auditor posted new numbers from the state's largest county by area. Take a look:

Initiative 1033, Okanogan County
Yes: 5,244 (49.50%)
No: 5,351 (50.50%)

The counties that had previously flipped (Pierce, Benton... and before them, Yakima, Kittitas, etc.) have solidified their NO stance, with Pierce climbing above 51.5% no, and Benton near fifty one percent.

Only fifteen of Washington's thirty nine counties are now supporting I-1033. All of them are rural, with the exception of Clark in Southwest Washington, which is partly urban. (It'll be interesting to see if I-1033 passed or failed within the City of Vancouver). And one of those fifteen - Mason - looks ready to switch sides and join the NO camp. Initiative 1033's lead in Mason is down to just sixty three votes as of today, a stark decline from earlier returns.

It's possible Mason could flip tomorrow or Wednesday. If and when it does, we'll be breaking down the news here on the NPI Advocate.

Joe Mallahan concedes as future Seattle mayor Mike McGinn again expands his lead

We called it last Friday... today, everybody else is acknowledging that Mike McGinn has prevailed in the contest for Mayor of Seattle. McGinn's rival Joe Mallahan, who also advanced from the August primary election, conceded gracefully at a press conference earlier this evening in Seattle, wishing McGinn the best as he moves into the top floor of the Municipal Tower downtown.

McGinn will succeed outgoing Mayor Greg Nickels beginning in early 2010. He'll have several weeks between now and then to transition.

He faces several daunting tasks: Naming a new administration, making peace with a political establishment that coalesced around his rival, and preparing to work with newly elected King County Executive Dow Constantine, Governor Chris Gregoire, the Seattle City Council, the County Council, and the Legislature.

As Mayor, he will also need to work with the folks who govern the Port of Seattle, Seattle School District, and Sound Transit.

Over the next four years McGinn will discover firsthand just how tough it is to run a city. He'll come to appreciate how awful, manipulative, and dangerous Tim Eyman's free lunch initiatives really are. He will learn that governing well means listening carefully and being accessible to the people he serves. He'll come face to face with the costs and complications of implementing new ideas.

And he will realize how challenging it will be to not only fulfill his own campaign promises, but tackle the city's many unsolved problems at the same time.

We wish Mike the best of luck. He's going to need it.

Schmatta: Another name for a dying industry

When was the last time you bought a piece of clothing that was made in America? You'd have to look long and hard before finding any these days, yet it wasn’t long ago that we all wore clothing made in the U.S.A. In 1995, half of America’s clothing was made here at home, and going back forty-five years, almost all of our clothing was. Today, only five percent of American clothing is made in the U.S.

It takes a lot of workers to clothe America. What happened to all of those jobs?

The fascinating new HBO film, Schmatta, Rags to Riches to Rags, takes a look at the rise and decline of the New York garment industry, once a backbone of the city's economy and a source of plentiful, good-paying jobs. According to the film, in the early 1900s, the garment industry provided hundreds of thousands of European immigrants with meaningful work which allowed them to become a part of the growing middle class. The work of garment industry labor groups such as the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union strengthened the national labor movement.

Bruce Raynor, president of the Workers United SEIU, tells Schmatta viewers that:
It was the lifting of those workers in manufacturing from poverty to working class that revolutionized America.
Early American garment industry workers were upwardly mobile. They moved from lower class to middle class and their paychecks helped fuel the economy. Their experience demonstrates that when people are employed in a healthy industry, and when they have union-negotiated rights and benefits at work, they feel more financially secure and are more likely to spend and invest their money.

We aren't in that situation right now. As October’s consumer confidence data illustrates, with a new recession high of 10.2% unemployment, Americans don't feel secure enough in their jobs to purchase big-ticket items such as cars and homes, thus preventing the economy from rebounding. Job security is a cornerstone of a healthy economy, especially one as driven by consumer spending as ours is.

The garment industry is not only made up of cutters and sewers. When the industry was thriving, there were abundant jobs for skilled workers in sales, purchasing, design, accounting and management. Now it’s not only the factory workers who are standing in unemployment lines, but the creative and educated class that once managed garment businesses.

From Bruce Raynor in the film:
The schmatta [garment] business included the sewers at the machines. It included the guy in the front office. It included the accountant, the typist…The fact is, millions of workers became middle class Americans and educated their children and produced doctors and lawyers and Supreme Court justices.
One union-member garment cutter who has been forced to retire early laments:
The garment industry is a microcosm of everything that is going on in this country. Right down the line we are losing not only blue collar jobs, we are losing white collar jobs. We are giving it all away. What happened?
What happened was the deregulation of American industry starting in the ‘70s and ‘80s, the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement in the ‘90s, society’s devaluation of labor unions, and the rise of Wall Street’s demands for regular corporate profits. All of these factors combined to lure factories offshore in the quest for ever cheaper labor.

The garment industry is a casualty of the corporatization of America and our government.

Only when we again value the worker and recognize their role in maintaining a healthy economy and by extension, society, will the American economy regain its footing. It would certainly be nice if "Made in the U.S.A." was no longer an anomaly.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Banking, social justice style

Editor's Note: Readers, we hope you'll join us in giving a warm welcome to our newest staff member, Dorsol Plants. Dorsol is a veteran who recently ran for Seattle City Council Position 4. He made a strong showing for a first time candidate, coming in only a few percentage points behind David Bloom for third place. We are delighted to have him as part of the NPI team.

Like many others, I was annoyed and frustrated when the federal government started bailing out our biggest and most ambitious banks.

After all, a lot of why we were in this mess in the first place was their greed and hubris. It also seemed strange to me that some banks would get saved with a load of cash and other by being completely taken over by other banks.

If they were to big to fail, why did we still have to watch many of our friends who worked at Washington Mutual (WaMu) lose their jobs? Then, to top things off, the government exercised no oversight and lots of our money went to excessive expenditures that could fill our wildest dreams at night.

By the end, after my emotions had settled, I started to see some logic to the 'to big to fail' concept, and while I would have changed a hundred things about the way it was handled it had already happened and we had other problems to deal with.

That was around the time when I started to have troubles with my bank (Bank of America), which was one of the we need money badly but really only to fly private jets banks. After spending two weeks fighting with Bank of America to have a whole bunch of fees reversed that they admitted needed to be refunded or were their mistake, I started shopping for a new bank.

Then it dawned on me.

We made the decision to prop up these banks not because they deserved to be helped by we the taxpayers, but because they had managed to reach a size where their failure would cause hardship or catastrophe for those that did play by the rules. Including many of their own employees.

If all of us who spent days and weeks blogging, Facebooking, or arguing in bars over the bank bailout were to just take our money someplace else, we would see the social justice many of us believe the government isn't providing.

If the banks had all failed at once, then millions would have lost their jobs completely, devastating our economy. That's why Congress approved TARP.

However, if we voted with our dollars and punished the banks that only care about profit instead of people, we would see new financial institutions rise to take their place, providing new jobs and opportunities to Americans.

Since Congress can't seem to learn this lesson (look where the bailout money went) and we can't afford to keep waiting for the government to act (look at how much they've given up on healthcare, just can't wait to see regulatory reform), this is something we are going to have to just do ourselves.

This isn't a new idea, and its been something we've done with corporations practicing slave labor or by only buying local to support our community. We do not just vote in November, we also take the time to vote by spending our money where we choose. This is what we need to do about these greedy corporate banks.

There are other options besides Bank of America or Chase, and they are getting better all of the time. Credit unions have been around for decades, and are owned by their members. A good example would be BECU, which only requires you to live in Washington State to join.

At that credit union, profits are returned to members in the form of better rates and lower fees (i.e. overdraft fees are $15 compared to $35 at most banks) and their loan officers are paid a flat rate, not a commission, so they have no incentive to convince you to sign up for extra loans you don't need.

BECU and other credit unions are advertising as banking with a conscience, and their model is growing. By moving our banking to these institutions, we are saying, Enough is enough: We want a fair deal.

Voting with our dollars requires effort. Changing our habits isn't a quick fix, but buy local campaigns weren't either, and we are starting to see them having an effect. Several corporations such as Barnes and Noble are now advertising that they are "local" stores in hopes of bringing customers back in.

That's a sign this approach can work. At the very least, if you're like me, someone who was angry at the way that big banks set us up and then took from us, just consider switching to a credit union or community bank. It's how capitalism is supposed to work... we buy what works for us and that market grows.

All I'm asking is you take a look. I was dubious at first, but now I'm making the switch, and I couldn't be happier.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Healthcare reform bill passes U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 220-215

Earlier tonight, by a vote of 220-215, the House passed H.R. 3962, the Affordable Health Care for America Act, the first significant health care reform in decades.

Representative Ahn "Joseph" Cao of Louisiana was the only Republican to vote in favor of the legislation. An astounding thirty nine Democrats joined all of the rest of the Republican caucus in voting "nay".

Within the Washington delegation, the aye votes were Jay Inslee, Rick Larsen, Norm Dicks, Jim McDermott, and Adam Smith. They represent the Evergeen State's 1st, 2nd, 6th, 7th, and 9th Districts, respectively.

As expected, based on his statement from yesterday, Brian Baird shamefully voted with the Republicans in the delegation(Dave Reichert, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, and Doc Hastings) to retain the status quo and keep affordable, quality health care out of the reach of so many of our fellow Americans.

Baird could have taken the principled approach of Adam Smith, who took the trouble to explain his yes vote, despite having misgivings about the bill:
My vote, in effect, is to move the process forward. This is not the final phase in the process and in the weeks ahead the Senate will vote on its version of the bill and then the House and the Senate must reconcile their differences. I am hopeful that through this process my remaining concerns will be addressed and we can finally move to provide universal access to health care and reform our system in a way that protects individuals and reins in out of control costs. More than anything, my ‘yes’ vote today reflects the fact that, despite my concerns with the current bill, I cannot vote in favor of the status quo.
Instead, Congressman Brian Baird chose to become one of the instantly infamous Thirty Nine (including Walt Minnick of Idaho) who turned their backs on their constituents and did the bidding of insurance companies.

Many in the Pacific Northwest's delegation who voted yes to pass the bill have released statements. Here's Jay Inslee, of Washington's 1st District:
When considering this issue, I thought of all the benefits my parents provided to me and what I’m going to leave for my grandchildren.

They deserve, as all our children and grandchildren do, affordable health care so they can live their lives to the fullest. I am proud of the work we have done on behalf of all Americans who will see their health care costs go down and their health security go up.
David Wu, of Oregon's 1st District:
This is a historic day. This legislation will stand beside Social Security, the GI Bill, and Medicare as a pillar of American health care and humane values.

The vast majority of Americans already have health insurance. I voted for this bill because, in addition to covering millions more Americans, it will increase security and stability for those who already have health insurance.

Earl Blumenauer, of Oregon's 3rd District:
Tonight I voted for every Oregonian who has faced bankruptcy when they've lost their care or has been denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition. Tonight, I voted to protect every Oregonian who has health insurance but sees their costs rising every year.

Passage of the Affordable Health Care for America Act marks the most important single step in 100 years in addressing the health care needs of American families. For the first time, the U.S. government has dealt comprehensively with the entire health care system.
Kurt Schrader, of Oregon's 5th District:
I am proud to have cast a historic vote today to overhaul America’s failing healthcare system to improve the healthcare of all Americans. This bill prohibits exclusions based on preexisting conditions and ensures American families will no longer be one illness or job loss away from bankruptcy.

It also protects America’s senior citizens by fixing the donut hole sooner and allowing more drug price-negotiation to ensure seniors are getting the best prices for their medication. For the first time in our nation’s history, we say that every American deserves access to affordable quality healthcare.
We'll post excerpts from more statements from the Pacific Northwest congressional delegation as they become available.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Mike McGinn: Seattle's next mayor

Looks like it's time to say hello to the next Mayor of Seattle: Mike McGinn.

The race has finally changed from "too close to call" to "it looks like we have a winner." In the afternoon returns reported by King County Elections around 4:30 PM, McGinn doubled his lead over rival Joe Mallahan and then nearly repeated the feat in evening returns, reported several hours later.

As of this afternoon, the two men were separated by 1,209 votes:

Mike McGinn: 75,657 (49.99%)
Joe Mallahan: 74,448 (49.19%)
Write-in: 1,240 (0.82%)

As of this evening, the gap had grown to 2,384 votes:

Mike McGin: 85,416 (50.31%)
Joe Mallahan: 83,032 (48.91%)
Write-in: 1,328 (0.78%)

Mallahan has never led in the count and now it's a good bet that he never will. Congratulations to Mike McGinn on his apparent victory.

NO on I-1033 reaches 57% of vote statewide

Another day, another milestone for NO on Initiative 1033.

A day after Pierce County flipped to the light side, following in the lead of Benton County, which had done the same the day before, NO on I-1033's total percentage of the vote statewide has reached fifty seven percent. If the current trend continues, by the time of certification it should be past fifty eight percent.

No counties have changed their allegiances as of today's count, but there are several counties where I-1033 is barely passing and would be in the NO column except for a few votes. (Like Okanogan, where Eyman's initiative has a slim lead of only fifteen votes. That's less than one block of one town).

Mason, Chelan, and Grant are also close, but not as close as Okanogan. Mason has been trending NO in recent returns, and it's possible that it could be next to flip.

King County, meanwhile, is outstripping every other county in its quest to hold the title of most resounding opposition to I-1033. As of today, the NO vote in King County had topped sixty eight percent and was on its way to sixty nine. Pierce County, to the immediate south, has firmly shifted into the NO column with fifty one percent of the vote there against Initiative 1033.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Action alert on healthcare reform for progressives in WA-03 and WA-09

Editor's Note: This post has been updated to include Congressman Adam Smith of Washington's 9th Congressional District in the call to action.

On Saturday, the U.S. House of Representatives is poised to vote on HR 3962, the Affordable Health Care for America Act. This evening, we received an urgent message from the Thurston County Democrats regarding Congressman Brian Baird, Congressman Adam Smith and their positions on the bill (or lack thereof).

Congressman Baird's office is saying that he hasn't made up his mind on how he is going to vote, despite the fact that there are phone banks set up in Thurston County and the 3rd Congressional District every day of the week, with constituents calling urging support for health care reform with a robust public option.

So, this is a call to action for all of our readers in Congressman Brian Baird's district. Now is the time to make a phone call and ask Congressman Baird to vote for HR 3962. Explain to the Congressman's staff why you believe that access to affordable, quality health care is a right for all Americans and express your support for a robust public option. Be polite, but be firm.

We're told that as of this hour, Congressman Baird's office voice mail in Washington, D.C. is full and you can't leave a message. So if you call tonight, please call Olympia or Vancouver. If the voice mail boxes are full, please call Washington, D.C. in the morning when staff are there to take messages directly to the Congressman. Here are the phone numbers:
Washington D.C. - (202) 225-3536
Olympia - (360) 352-9768
Vancouver - (360) 695-6292
It has also come to our attention that Congressman Adam Smith has not decided which way he is going to vote. So, if you live in the 9th District, please give one of Congressman Smith's offices a call. Here are his office phone numbers:
Washington D.C. - (202) 225-8901
Tacoma - (253) 593-6600
Once you have made your phone call, please ask as many of your friends and neighbors who live in the 3rd or 9th as you can to make a phone call of their own, or cut and paste this post into an e-mail and send it to them.

We can't allow Congressman Baird or Congressman Smith to take a vote on Saturday without hearing from constituents on this most important issue. Let's keep the momentum from Tuesday's election going and ensure that all Americans have access to quality, affordable health care.

Governor Gregoire issues statement on the passage of Referendum 71

Via email from Governor Chris Gregoire's office:
I am extremely pleased that voters have approved Referendum 71. I signed the original bill and believe it is the right policy for our great state. Washington state has a history of fighting to ensure everyone – mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters – enjoys equal rights. From the first bill I signed in 2007 to this new law, we have proudly made great strides on behalf of all Washington families.
And thank you, governor, for your support of this important civil rights legislation, which wouldn't exist today without your signature.

As of this evening, Referendum 71 has surpassed 52% of the vote, and is now passing more comfortably than it was on Election Night, partly thanks to King County's heavy support. There are 687,374 votes in favor and 625,793 votes against. Support for Referendum 71 is coming almost exclusively from the state's northwestern quarter, with the southwest and the east opposed. (Thurston County is the lone exception, although it is on the border of the northwest and southwest).

Pierce County finally flips, joins majority of state in saying NO on Initiative 1033

Amazing!

A little less than forty eight hours after Election Night, Pierce County has finally flipped and joined most of the rest of the State of Washington in saying NO to Tim Eyman's Initiative 1033. Pierce gained notoriety last year for being the only county to (narrowly) support Tim Eyman's misguided Initiative 1033.

As of a few minutes ago when it reported numbers for today, Pierce was rejecting Initiative 1033 by nine hundred and forty two votes:

Yes: 51,836 (49.55%)
No: 52,778 (50.45%)

Pierce follows the lead of Benton County, home to the Tri-Cities, which defected to the NO on I-1033 camp yesterday evening.

Except for Mason County, every county that touches Puget Sound is now rejecting Initiative 1033, as is much of central and southeast Washington.

King County, meanwhile, is rejecting I-1033 by even bigger numbers than before. More than sixty seven percent of King County voters are against Eyman's jobs-killing scheme. The total percent of the vote statewide opposed to I-1033 has almost reached fifty seven percent, and is likely to do so tomorrow.

Mike McGinn's lead over Joe Mallahan widens to five hundred and fiftten votes

Not much movement in the numbers today from King County Elections in the Seattle mayor's race. Mike McGinn increased his lead over Joe Mallahan, but only very slightly. In fact, Mallahan's total percentage of the vote is also higher than it was yesterday too. (This is possible because the percentage of write-ins declined from .9% to .8% percent). The results suggest that McGinn's lead over Mallahan could be stabilizing, although this race is still too close to call.

If we had to guess who the winner would be, it would probably be Mike McGinn. But Mallahan can't be counted out just yet. If late ballots break in his favor, he could erase McGinn's lead. Here are today's results:

Mike McGinn: 65,172 (49.78%)
Joe Mallahan: 64,657 (49.38%)
Write-in: 1,100 (0.84%)

And here are yesterday's:
Mike McGinn: 52,238 (49.77%)
Joe Mallahan: 51,776 (49.33%)
Write-in: 946 (0.90%)

King County Elections received 63,446 ballots yesterday for a cumulative total of 438,557. We'll know in a few hours how many ballots were received today.

King County Elections is currently reporting 13,800 ballots on hand that need to be processed, as of a few minutes ago. This total does not, of course, include any ballots that have not yet been received. And obviously, not all of the 13,800 ballots received but waiting to be tabulated are from Seattle.

Tragedy at Fort Hood in Texas

Grave news this afternoon:
The Army says seven people were killed and 20 wounded in a pair of shootings at the Fort Hood Army base in Killeen, according to the Associated Press.

An Army spokesman at the Pentagon says the shootings began about 1:30 p.m. Thursday at a personnel and medical processing center at Fort Hood, the AP said.

The spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Nathan Banks, says two shooters were apparently involved. There is no word yet on who they were, nor on identities of the dead, according to the AP.

Banks says the second incident took place at a theater on the sprawling base, the AP said.
An excerpt from President Obama's response:
These are men and women who have made the selfless and courageous decision to risk and at times give their lives to protect the rest of us on a daily basis. It's difficult enough when we lose these brave Americans in battles overseas. It is horrifying that they should come under fire at an Army base on American soil.

I've spoken to Secretary Gates and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, and I will continue to receive a constant stream of updates as new information comes in. We are working with the Pentagon, the FBI, and the Department of Homeland Security, all to ensure that Fort Hood is secure, and we will continue to support the community with the full resources of the federal government.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to all the families of the killed and wounded soldiers. It is absolutely appalling that anyone who wears the uniform would deliberately open fire on other soldiers at a United States military base. What is even more appalling is that one of the shooters was apparently an Army psychologist or psychiatrist. A mental health professional should know better.

Congress expands first time homebuyer program too far

Despite criticisms of the program, the Senate on Wednesday unanimously approved an extension and expansion of the popular homebuyer tax credit. Since January, the tax credit has given first time homebuyers with incomes of $75,000 for individuals and $150,000 for couples an $8,000 tax break. The House approved the bill with a 403 - 12 vote on Thursday, with Washington's Congressional delegation voting in favor of the bill.

Under the bill, the program which expires at the end of November would be extended to May 1, 2010, with expanded eligibility requirements. Homebuyers not making their first home purchase would now be eligible for the credit, and its income limits would be almost doubled.

The tax credit has brought the number of homebuyers into the market that it was originally projected to, but only around a quarter of the 1.4 million buyers that used the credit through August would not have bought a home without it. This has led to criticism of the bill:
Extending and expanding the tax credit for homebuyers is projected to cost the government about $10.8 billion in lost taxes. While the measure passed the Senate by a 98-0 vote, Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., questioned its efficiency in stimulating home sales.

"For the vast majority of cases, the homebuyer tax credit amounted to a free gift since it did not affect their decision to purchase a home," Bond said. "And for the small minority of buyers whose decision was directly caused by the credit, this raises the question of whether we are subsidizing buyers who may not have been able to afford buying a home in the first place.”
And from the New York Times:
While real estate groups and some economists say the credit has helped stabilize the housing market, critics say it is too costly a subsidy when low interest rates and home prices are incentives enough for most.
Expanding the bill to include buyers who are not purchasing their first home will not decrease the number of homes on the market, a major goal of the program. Current homeowners will have to sell their own home before using the tax credit to buy another. Housing and real estate lobbies have been pushing hard for the bill’s expansion and it has had a strong advocate in Senate Majority Leader Henry Reid (D-NV). Reid’s state has had the most claims for the tax credit per capita.

This expansion of an expensive program with an unvalidated cost vs. benefit looks like a giveaway to the housing lobbies and the powerful Senate majority leader.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Benton County, home to the Tri-Cities, joins NO on Initiative 1033 column

A stunning turn of events tonight: After giving Initiative 1033 its support in early returns, Benton County has done an about face and joined the NO on Initiative 1033 column. As of this evening, voters there were very narrowly rejecting Tim Eyman's anti-government scheme, 50.07% to 49.93%.

Other than last year (when thirty eight out of thirty nine counties turned down Eyman's wildly unpopular Initiative 985), I'm not sure that Benton County has ever voted against a Tim Eyman initiative. We'd have to go back and check. But I'm pretty sure that it hasn't. So this really is historic. Amazing.

The difference between Yes and No is only forty one votes as of this writing, but if the trend continues, Benton will remain in the NO camp, creating a solid chain of counties opposed to Initiative 1033 that stretches from the state's northwest tip to its southwest corner. The result in Benton County certainly vindicates the resources the campaign put into getting the word out in the Tri-Cities.

Susan Hutchison concedes race for Executive

We've gotten word that Susan Hutchison has conceded the race for Executive to Dow Constantine. Obviously, not earth-shattering news, as Dow declared victory last night, and the trends looked great for him.

Hutchison has not updated her website, Twitter feed, or Facebook page with the news that she is throwing in the towel. Nor has her campaign released a statement.

Of course, she could have conceded publicly last night and had the opportunity to appear gracious on television, but she opted not to. Too bad, so sad.

Dow Constantine, meanwhile, is moving ahead and preparing for the transition as he leaves the King County Council. His departure will create an opening on the Council, and it also leaves the Council without a chairperson. The Council will otherwise be unchanged, with incumbent Councilmembers Julia Patterson, Bob Ferguson, Reagan Dunn, and Kathy Lambert all easily cruising to reelection.

Constantine will take over from interim Executive Kurt Triplett, Ron Sims' chief of staff, who has been filling in since Sims resigned to go to work for President Obama at the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

UPDATE: Okay, we have her statement now.
Although we are encouraged to see tens of thousands of additional votes in our favor this afternoon, we are certain the final outcome in this race will remain the same. This afternoon I called my opponent, Dow Constantine, to congratulate him on his election to King County Executive. Because the new Executive has only a few weeks until taking office, I want him to be able to move forward quickly to accomplish an orderly transition.

I am grateful for the tremendous support from our King County citizens throughout this campaign. Hundreds of thousands of voters recognized the need for new leadership in King County and believed in our promise to bring that change. I encourage Dow Constantine to reach out to all our voters in the county, setting aside divisive politics to solve the complex problems before us.

Although the outcome is not what we hoped for, it does not diminish my love of this county and its people. For nearly 29 years, I have chosen to live in King County and raise my family here. I will continue to serve this community as I have done and look forward to a bright future.
Now that Hutchison has conceded, we can all move on. Congratulations, Dow!

NO on Initiative 1033 reaches 56% of vote statewide, Referendum 71 close to 52%

The Secretary of State has factored the latest numbers from King County into its vote totals for and against our two statewide ballot measures.

The news is good all around: NO on Initiative 1033 has reached 56%, while Approve Referendum 71 is approaching 52% (it's at 51.83% as of this writing).

Of course, King County has a lot to do with this. Check out the numbers:

Initiative Measure No. 1033
YES: 92,65 (33.28%)
NO: 185,721 (66.72%)

More than two thirds of King County voters are voting Initiative 1033 down. Landslide doesn't really do these numbers justice.

Referendum Measure No. 71
APPROVED: 202,125 (66.59%)
REJECTED: 101,403 (33.41%)

Likewise, Referendum 71 is passing by a more than two to one ratio. If you look at these numbers, you can see that even though the percentages roughly correspond to Initiative 1033, the raw numbers do not. This suggests that many voters in King County missed Initiative 1033 on their ballots.

Ahem.

Memo to King County Elections: Please make sure that in the future, the top contest on the ballot isn't hidden under a long column of instructions.

New numbers from King County: Mallahan gains, Constantine holds steady

King County has just updated its election results to include new returns tabulated today. It's mostly good news: Referendum 71 continues to enjoy widespread support and Initiative 1033 continues to face widespread opposition.

Our next King County Executive, Dow Constantine, is holding steady with more than 57% of the vote. He's actually widened his lead by several thousand votes, assuring his victory over Republican Susan Hutchison. She is simply too far behind to have a serious chance of catching up and overtaking him.

But if she wants to be a sore loser and not concede, well, that's fine. It just affirms that the people of King County made a smart decision in choosing Dow.

Meanwhile, in the Seattle mayor's race, Joe Mallahan has narrowed the gap between himself and Mike McGinn. Mallahan is now at 49.33% of the vote to McGinn's 49.77. They are separated by only four hundred and sixty two votes. If this trend continues, Mallahan could conceivably overtake McGinn, but it's also very possible that McGinn could end up ahead again when all is said and done.

At this point, the race could go in either direction and it's too close to call. Pundits who have declared a McGinn victory are getting ahead of themselves.

What is with Seattle and close mayoral elections?

Washington Poll projects passage of Referendum 71, 52% to 48%

While we're waiting for King County to post its numbers later this afternoon, here's some data to chew over courtesy of the Washington Poll about the fate of Referendum 71, which as of last night's results, is leading narrowly.

The Washington Poll, which is sponsored by the University of Washington, correctly foretasted victory for Dow Constantine and NO on Initiative 1033 last week, as well as victory for Referendum 71. UW political scientists Matt Barreto and Loren Collingwood have prepared a new analysis (PDF), using last night's returns to project the final margin of victory for Referendum 71:
These projections assume the vote patterns will hold by county, and project forward to 50% turnout statewide. Current statewide turnout is 28% but this varies from county to county.

When all votes are finally counted, we estimate a total of 1,757,924 votes and R71 will pass by 81,529.
If that projection holds to be true, the outcome on Referendum 71 will be almost exactly the reverse of what happened in Maine with Question 1.

Of course, Maine was voting on marriage equality itself, not domestic partnerships, and its population is smaller, and those differences are not insignificant.

The Washington Poll had projected a wider lead for Referendum 71, but King County was oversampled in the poll, so that could help explain why Referendum 71 isn't passing by a more comfortable margin.

Referendum 71 winning, but not by much

Referendum 71, which would same-sex domestic partnerships many of the rights currently available to married couples, is leading with 51% of the voters approving and 49% rejecting the Referendum. That is at the state level.

It is a different story in King County, where R 71 is carrying a 66% approval vote. Whether that bodes well for R 71 is unclear at this time. King County has approximately 115,000 ballots to be counted, while the rest of the state has approximately 225,000 go be counted.

The difficulty in predicting R 71's fate is how those other 225,000 ballots from the remainder of the state turn out. There are a number of Western Washington counties that have supported R 71. But the rest of the state has voted against it.

Whether there are enough as-yet-uncounted ballots to carry R 71 to victory remains to be seen. But the point to take from the numbers so far is that R 71 should be more than a King County issue--it is one of statewide proportions. Sadly, the numbers show a clear split within the state on this issue.

Let us all hope the remaining ballots in other counties will show more uniformity in favor of R 71. Uniformity would be nice, but the most important thing is that R 71 ultimately passes.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Collapse of Tim Eyman's Initiative 1033 proves that teabaggers are just a fringe

"Let’s make Initiative 1033’s vote in November the ultimate tea party."

- Tim Eyman, April 15th, 2009

Tim Eyman's most destructive initiative yet has met a fitting fate.

Voters across Washington State - from Clallam County to Asotin County - are overwhelmingly rejecting the Mukilteo watch salesman's latest scam by a collective total of 55% to 45% as of this hour, a margin that will likely only become more impressive in the coming days as additional ballots are counted.

The defeat of Initiative 1033 is more than just a landmark victory; it's unprecedented. Tim Eyman has never been beaten at the ballot in an odd numbered year. He's never been defeated at the ballot consecutively. He's never lost when he's qualified an initiative that purported to lower people's taxes.

And that's because, for the first part of this decade, he was able to seize power in a vacuum. Without determined, year-round opposition (like the kind Permanent Defense provides) he seized control of the debate and dominated the discourse. Back then, few elected leaders were willing to stand up to him. (The exceptions? Mark Sidran, Ron Sims, Dwight Pelz, and Adam Kline, to name a few).

Even fewer in the traiditonal media challenged Eyman. Newspaper editors repeatedly reprinted his recycled ramblings on their op-ed pages. Television reporters showed up with their cameras to film him in costume. Radio hosts allowed him to speak uninterrupted at length on their shows without rebuttal, or without an opponent who could effectively reframe and refocus the discussion.

Several times, Eyman was able to convince a gullible public to buy into his ideas. But his successes came at a price. As the years went by and Eyman kept bad ideas rolling out of his initiative factory, more and more Washingtonians began to sense that perhaps this was a man who didn't have the public interest at heart.

In other words, Eyman himself has become toxic over time.

Of Eyman's last three successful measures, that qualified for the ballot and then passed, only one made it across the finish line comfortably. The other two, Initiatives 776 and 960, squeaked through rather narrowly.

Now Eyman has been beaten decisively - on the ballot - two years running. And his Failure Chart has a new entry: Initiative 1033.

Eyman has repeatedly said in the past that his measures are not about him. But in actuality, they are. His measures don't help people and they don't improve our quality of life. Rather, they aim to forestall investments, interfere with our democratic traditions, and cause trouble for elected officials. They are promoted with all the mischevious glee of a class clown who has no interest in learning.

Eyman keeps running initiatives because he likes attention. He gets paid handsomely by Michael Dunmire to seek people's attention.

And he's become so skilled at media manipulation that he arrogantly believes he doesn't need to do any real work to sell his horrible ideas. He has always expected them to sell themselves after qualifying for the ballot. That's why, every year since the summer of 2003, he has spent six months asking his remaining followers to donate to his personal compensation fund.

Earlier this year, Eyman figured he could latch on to the Fox Noise-sponsored teabagger "movement" as a source for funds and signatures. He showed up at "tea party" events on April 15th to deliver anti-government tirades to a motley crowd of extreme libertarians and conservatives who are against things. (I say things because it's not always clear what they're against). And he later boasted that the "tea parties" provided huge momentum for his initiative.

Eyman wrongly believes that he speaks for the people of Washington State. Or he pretends to, anyway. It's evident in the way he talks. When he introduces an initiative, he claims it will be "wildly popular" even before he starts a signature drive. After he qualifies a measure, he boldly predicts its passage, and then proceeds to start whining when business executives and labor unions donate heavily to defeat him. He sneers that big money can't stop him from winning but then turns around and claims that he lost because he was outspent.

That's how Eyman operates. He's shifty, dishonest, and ego-centric. Just as he is unconcerned with the consequences of his initiatives, he has been unconcerned with the consequences of his unethical and immoral behavior.

Now he is reaping what he has sown. Finally.

Eyman has managed to stretch fifteen minutes of fame into a decade of fame. But he is no longer the force he once was. People across Washington are sick and tired of his unchecked swagger and his me-first initiatives.

Anyone who phonebanked against Initiative 1033 knows this. Many people wouldn't let us get any further than "This is Tim Eyman's latest initiative." They didn't want to hear the arguments against. All they cared about was that Eyman was behind it. That was enough for them to be adamantly opposed.

Nothing felt more heartening in recent weeks then witnessing fatigued activists summon the strength to help make the NO on I-1033 field effort one of the most successful in the history of Washington ballot measures.

The coalition and its field staff (especially Mindie and Sierra) deserve kudos for pulling so many together so late in the campaign.

We proved something amazing: that even though we didn't get going until really late, we had the endurance and the tenacity to overcome all of our disadvantages.

This victory belongs to an incredible number of people. It is a privilege to have met so many fellow Washingtonians during this campaign who share the same passion for keeping our state a great place to live, work, and play.

This victory does not mean an end to Tim Eyman. He and his teabagger friends are just a fringe, but they are a dangerous and loud fringe. So long as Michael Dunmire is able and willing to underwrite Eyman's signature drives, he will be able to buy his way onto the ballot. But he won't be unopposed. We are committed to maintaing a permanent defense against him until he is out of business for good.

Governor Gregoire releases statement on failure of Tim Eyman's Initiative 1033

Governor Chris Gregoire has released a statement (via email to NPI) on the overwhelming defeat of Tim Eyman's most destructive initiative ever:
I am pleased that the voters appear to have rejected Initiative 1033. Voters understood that this misguided proposal would have precluded our ability to recover from these extraordinarily difficult economic circumstances and would have made providing quality health care and education to our citizens virtually impossible.

Although we still face a $1.7 billion shortfall that needs to be addressed in the coming legislative session, passage of this initiative would have made the problem in the short and long term significantly worse.
Good thoughts, governor. Thanks for vocally speaking out against this horribly shortsighted measure and working to ensure its defeat.

Kim Allen wins another term on Redmond city council in early returns

Redmond city council member and fellow progressive Kim Allen has a large lead over her opponent, Sally J. Chen, in early returns from King County Elections. Allen is winning with 61.9% of the vote. If she should keep her lead, Allen will serve her second term on the council.

This race was the only contested city council race in Redmond. John P. Vache kept his Position 2 seat and John Stilin won a first term in Position 6.

It's close for I-1033 in Pierce and Yakima counties

Pierce county is going for Inititative 1033, but just barely:

Yes - 50.32%
No - 49.68%

The statewide totals, now including heavily populated Pierce county and Yakima county, have changed just a bit but are still a substantial defeat for Tim Eyman:

Yes - 44.54%
No - 55.46%

Yakima is holding the line against the measure by just one one-hundredth of a percent.

Yes - 49.99%
No - 50.01%

It looks like Washington has chosen not to buy another faulty product from the Eyman bad idea factory. That is one factory we would be happy to see move offshore.

Dow Constantine declares victory, looks to be our next King County Executive

Hello everyone! I'm here at Dow Constantine's Election Night party and it is rocking. The first (and only results for tonight) from King County put Dow at 57% and Susan Hutchison at 43%. People are ecstatic! Cheering of "Dow Now" are rampant through the packed ballroom at the Edgewater Hotel.

Local politicos such as Sharon Nelson, Fred Jarret, Ross Hunter, and Suzan DelBene are here mingling and celebrating. It looks as though Dow Constantine will be victorious in this race; the next Executive of King County.

Sharon Nelson introduced Dow as someone "I can trust and someone I can believe in."

Dow gave a magnanimous speech. He thanked his environmental supporters, the labor movement, the business community, and his fellow councilmembers Larry Gossett, Julia Patterson, and Bob Ferguson.

Dow then thanked his opponent Susan for a spirited competition.

And to her supporters, he said "Give us a chance... I share your concerns about the future of King County." Dow added that "this election was about who was the best person to lead us forward to bring real reform to King County."

The voters have spoken "loud and clear" in support of a progressive future for King County. Voters were looking for change consistent with their values. Dow proclaimed that "tonight marks a new beginning for King County on the path towards a better future for our children and grandchildren."

"This was not a 'throw the bums out' election where voters were looking for a newcomer pushing a radical change agenda," Constantine's communications director Sandeep Kaushik told NPI. "In fact, our research showed that voters in King County were very concerned that the next Executive have local government experience and a demonstrated track record of getting things done."

"They also wanted someone with an established track record as a pragmatic reformer. Dow had all of these qualities, Susan Hutchison had none of them."

This is an exciting party after what I think many would agree was a thrilling election. Progressives in King County can feel good about what happened tonight. Dow Constantine appears to be our next King County Executive.

State election map shows where the I-1033 votes are falling

If you take a look at the Washington state elections map, you'll see a large swath of green down the center of the state indicating approval of Initiative 1033, with yellow (that's our color) flanking it on both sides.

Most Puget Sound countes except for Mason county are rejecting the measure. Pierce county will be reporting any minute now. Chances are, it will join the other Puget Sound counties and turn yellow too.

The statewide results:

Yes - 43.78%
No - 56.22%

Elections roundup - Thurston County

With the election results from Thurston County coming in, even with 20,000 votes yet to be counted, it's shaping up to be a great night for Democrats.

Change is coming to the City of Lacey, where the Mayor and Deputy Mayor are being blown out by Democrats Ron Lawson and Andy Ryder respectively, and Cynthia Pratt is defeating another incumbent councilmember. All of the incumbents are longtime city councilmembers. The vote is further complicated by an effort by the City to form its own fire department. Of late, Lacey has been represented by more conservative elected officials, compared to its neighbors Olympia and Tumwater, due to the presence of a large number of military voters, who as a voting block, tend to be conservative.
Ron Lawson 3,646 votes 55.55%
Graeme Sackrison 2,918 votes 44.45%

Andy Ryder 3,642 votes 55.72%
John Darby 2,894 votes 44.27%

Cynthia Pratt 3,935 votes 59.44%
Ann Burgman 2,685 votes 40.56%
As for the Thurston County Board of Commissioners, Commissioner Karen Valenzuela has comfortably won against Republican Pat Beehler. Valenzuela was appointed to her post by Governor Chris Gregoire, after the other two commissioners were unable to come to agreement after receiving a list of 3 candidates from Democratic party precinct committee officers to fill the vacant District 3 seat. Despite being a nonpartisan office, the Valenzuela win means all of the incumbent commissioners are Democrats.
Karen Valenzuela 27,161 votes 55.82%
Patrick Beehler 21,497 votes 44.18%
In addition, voters in Thurston County have done their part for defeating I-1033 by voting against the measure by a margin of 58.57% to 41.43%. R-71 is also on track in the county, with voters approving the referendum by a margin of 56.38% to 43.62%. Of course, these totals are only a small part of the statewide numbers.

King County is rejecting I-1033

With 23.5% of the King County vote counted, you could drive a truck through the gap between votes for and against Tim Eyman's Initiative 1033.

Yes - 34.28%
No - 65.72%

Let's hope these numbers are sustained through the evening. Stay tuned.

Initiative 1033 failing in Spokane County

Spokane is rejecting Tim Eyman's latest bad idea. Current results from Spokane County are 43% in favor and 57% against the initiative. This important swing county has looked at the damage this measure would do to its already beleaguered governments and said ,"No."

With just four counties reporting, I-1033 is getting spanked:Yes - 45.9%
No - 54.1%
This could be a positive sign for the rest of the night.

Maine voters roll back marriage equality

The news was good early on from Maine on Question 1:
Early returns showed a close contest, as had been forecast. With 70 of 608 precincts reporting, the gay-marriage side had 53 percent to 47 percent for the other side.

A vote to uphold the law would mark the first time that the electorate in any state endorsed gay marriage. That could energize activists nationwide and blunt conservative claims that same-sex marriage is largely being foisted on states by judges and that the public is not ready to embrace the idea.
Question 1 is like Proposition 8 last year in California. A no vote preserves marriage equality in America's most northeastern state; a yes vote would roll back the law passed by Maine's legislature earlier this year. So far, No On Question 1 is maintaining its edge, although it's still too close to call.

There are so many people looking for election returns that Bangor Daily News' website is crashing under the load. Real time results unfortunately do not appear to be available directly online from the Maine Secretary of State.

Meanwhile, voters in Kalamazoo, Michigan, have passed an ordinance declaring discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation to be illegal.

UPDATE: Late returns have delivered a victory to the forces of bigotry in Maine. It's very sad and very disappointing, but at least Referendum 71 is passing here in Washington State.

The title of this post has been updated to reflect the final outcome. With close to ninety percent of precincts reporting, the total yes vote stands at 52.75% and the no vote on Question 1 stands at 47.25%.

Election results reporting schedule

For our Western Washington readers who aren't out watching results come in while partaking in election night festivities, here is an alphabetical guide to when you can expect election results to be reported in your county (click on the links for results as they are reported):

Clallam County - 8:00pm
Clark County - 8:15 pm
Cowlitz County - 8:00 pm
Grays Harbor County - 8:00pm
Island County - 8:00pm
Jefferson County - 8:00 pm
King County - 8:15 pm
Lewis County - 8:00 pm
Mason County - 8:00 pm
Pacific County - 8:00 pm
Pierce County
8:30 pm - Includes absentees processed through Election Day and unofficial Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) algorithm results.
10:30 pm - Includes the first release of polling place results.
12:00 am - Includes the second release of polling place results.
5:00 am - Includes the third release of polling place results.
San Juan County - 8:00 pm
Skagit County - 8:00 pm
Skamania County - 8:00 pm
Snohomish County - 8:00 pm
Thurston County - 8:00 pm
Wahkiakum County - 8:00 pm
Whatcom County - 8:45 pm

How the counties could fall tonight: A projection map for Initiative 1033

Here's a little something to whet the appetites of those anxiously awaiting election results tonight who are not otherwise engaged in get out the vote efforts (and if you aren't, you better have at least contacted your closest friends and relatives and reminded them about the election).

The following is a map NPI created which predicts how counties are likely to vote on Tim Eyman's Initiative 1033. Note that this map is not based on any polls done on I-1033, but rather on historical data: election returns from previous anti-common wealth initiatives sponsored by Tim Eyman and others.

Initiative 1033 Projection Map

Blue counties are very likely to come out strong against Initiative 1033. There are three on the map: King, Whitman, and San Juan. (Surprised to see an Eastern Washington county there? Well, there are many kindred spirits out on the Palouse who believe in effective government).

Light green counties are the best pickup opportunities that the NO on Initiative 1033 coalition has. These include Snohomish, Whatcom, Skagit, Island, Kitsap, Spokane, Thurston, Jefferson, and Clark. If we win some of these counties, we should prevail in the election.

Orange counties are longshot targets, meaning these are counties that could swing our way if we have a really good night. These include Pierce, Walla Walla, Clallam, Grays Harbor, Cowlitz, and Mason.

Pink counties are counties where we probably won't win, although anything is possible. We should expect to lose Pacific, Wahkiakum, Lewis, Okanogan, Chelan, Kittitas, Yakima, Klickitat, Douglas, Grant, Benton, Ferry, Lincoln, Adams, Franklin, Columbia, Garfield, Asotin, Stevens, and Pend Oreille.

Pundits like to talk about an "East/West divide" when discussing statewide ballot measures, but the reality is, there isn't any such divide.

Look at the map above.

The reason Tim Eyman initiatives have passed in the past is because they enjoyed support throughout Western Washington. King and San Juan counties were the exception. If the western counties consistently rejected anti-common wealth ballot measures, we wouldn't have much to worry about.

But historically, they haven't.

So winning means convincing voters in other western counties to join King and San Juan's voters in saying NO to 1033. That's all it takes. But it would be nice to see Spokane and Walla Walla in the NO column with Whitman. (Walla Walla memorably rejoined the state in 2005 when it turned down Initiative 912.)

As further proof that there isn't an "East/West divide", consider that the only county last year to pass Eyman's Initiative 985 was a western county, Pierce, which is the second most populated after King. Every Eastern Washington county, in contrast, turned the initiative down.

Beating back a statewide initiative like 1033 isn't about pitting regions against each other (East vs. West, urban vs. rural, etc.), it is about waging a strong campaign across the entire state. A statewide campaign can't be won if the campaign only takes place within King County and particularly Seattle.

The NO on I-1033 campaign, fortunately, was waged statewide, and because it was, we have a shot at beating Tim Eyman for the first time in an odd numbered year and saving our state from his most destructive idea yet.

Time to vote! Election Day 2009 has arrived

This is it.

In less than twelve hours, it'll be curtains for the 2009 general election as the deadline passes to get ballots to drop sites. Those who are planning to mail in their ballots should get to the Post Office several hours in advance of 8 PM to ensure their ballot is postmarked today and not tomorrow.

For the disabled who cannot vote via paper ballot, King County has three accessible voting locations open today.

Drop boxes are located here:
  • Auburn Library, 1102 Auburn Way S., Auburn, 98002
  • Library Connection @ Crossroads, 15600 NE 8th St., outside of Suite K-11, 98008
  • Black Diamond Library, 24707 Roberts Dr., 98010
  • Covington Library, 27100 164th Ave SE, 98042
  • Des Moines Library, 21620 11th Avenue S., 98198
  • Earlington Business Center, 919 SW Grady Way, 98057
  • Fall City Library, 33415 SE 42 Pl., 98024
  • Federal Way Library, 848 S 320th St, 98003
  • Kent Regional Library, 212 2nd Ave N, 98032
  • Lake Forest Park Library, 17171 Bothell Way NE, 98155 near the lower level mall entrance
  • Seattle, King County Administration Building, 500 Fourth Ave., 98104
  • Seattle, White Center Library, 11220 16th S.W., Seattle, 98146
  • Tukwila, King County Elections Headquarters, 9010 East Marginal Way S, 98108
  • Woodinville Library, 17105 Avondale Rd NE, 98072
Seattle Neighborhood Service Center locations
  • Ballard, 5604 22nd Ave NW, 98107
  • Central, 2301 S Jackson, 98144
  • Delridge, 5405 Delridge Way SW, 98106
  • Lake City, 12525 28th Ave NE, 98125
  • Southeast, 3815 S Othello St, 98118
  • University, 4534 University Way NE, 98105
For those in Pierce County who don't vote by mail, remember to cast a ballot at your polling place by eight o'clock tonight. Pierce County also has drop boxes open for those who vote by mail but want to save on postage.

Please remember to vote NO on Initiative 1033 and Approve on Referendum 71.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Ten good reasons to vote NO on Tim Eyman's Initiative 1033

In just twenty four hours, the 2009 general election will come to a close. The most important thing on this year's ballot is Tim Eyman's Initiative 1033, which would, if passed, devastate our economy and make it impossible for us to ever climb out of the Great Recession. For those who are searching for information about I-1033 and are undecided, here are ten good reasons to vote NO.

I-1033 is sponsored by Tim Eyman. Need we say more? Our state's most notorious watch salesman has yet to come up with a single idea that has made the State of Washington a better place to live. (Admittedly, this is a fallacious argument, but people don't use logic to decide how to vote. Otherwise, Tim Eyman's measures would never even have a chance of passing, and this post would be unnecessary.)

I-1033 is a jobs killer. By locking in budget cuts and making this year's budget the base for future years, Initiative 1033 guarantees layoffs in communities across the state. Cities and counties simply won't have the money to continue employing all the frontline public servants like firefighters who are currently working hard for us each and every day. The loss of public sector jobs will cause unemployment to rise, and will lead to a greater number of people competing for scarce private sector jobs that don't pay as well. That's not a recipe for economic recovery.

I-1033 will ravage public services. In these tough economic times, we're depending heavily on our libraries, parks, pools, schools, and other essential public services. I-1033 would take a meat axe to these essential services, forcing unimaginable cuts. All levels of government - state, county, and city - would be forced to cut services to the bone, stranding Washington's most vulnerable.

I-1033 is a reverse Robin Hood wealth transfer. I-1033 would rob our state, county, and city treasuries of nearly eight billion dollars over the next five years and redistribute it to wealthy property owners in the form of a special tax cut. Because our main source of revenue is the sales tax, this would mean that our sales taxes would be going to cancel out property taxes for the rich. Renters would be scammed twice because they would lose out on services and they'd get no tax cut. I-1033 is intended to help the very rich get richer at the expense of the rest of us.

I-1033 is a proven failure. A similiar scheme was enacted by the people of Colorado many years ago and has hurt that state badly. Class sizes increase, graduation rates fell, funding for universities and colleges dropped sharply, and local governments such as El Paso County (Colorado Springs) have stopped regularly inspecting their restaurants and pools, which has led to a rise in disease outbreaks. That's not the future we want for Washington State.

I-1033 makes economic development impossible. The fiscal handcuffs that Initiative 1033 imposes prohibit the state and local government from doing any economic development. That's because I-1033 prevents government from using any new tax revenue that comes in as a result of future commercial or industrial expansion. There's no point in incentivizing businesses to move here if the resulting tax dollars can't be used to pay for the public services our communities need.

I-1033 is unrealistic. Tim Eyman makes Initiative 1033 sound practical and wise. But reality is just the opposite of his sound bites. Initiative 1033 simply doesn't account for any factors that cause the cost of public services to rise year to year (except inflation). I-1033 does not allow us to prepare for or respond to natural disasters. It doesn't allow us to deal with rising healthcare costs. Its rigidity and inflexibility don't allow for a government that effectively serves its people.

I-1033 takes away local control. It's a one-size-fits-all scheme that robs communities of the ability to make decisions about their own future. If Initiative 1033 passes, its fiscal handcuffs would be slapped on every city and county in the state, even those that vote down the initiative. In Washington, we have a cherished tradition of home rule. We like decisions to be made close to where we live. I-1033 is an all-out assault on that tradition.

I-1033 would hurt our credit rating. State Treasurer Jim McIntire has warned that passage of Initiative 1033 would cost the State of Washington tens of millions of dollars because it would lead to a downgrading of the state's credit rating. Major credit rating agencies are concerned that I-1033 will interfere with Washington's ability to pay back bonds that it has issued in the marketplace for construction and debt refinancing. The last thing we want is to become the next California.

I-1033 prevents us from investing in our future. Our State Constitution declares "It is the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders." Initiative 1033 inteferes with this obligation by preventing the Legislature and the governor from fully funding our public schools. The current budget would be the best we could ever do for our childre under I-1033. Over time, I-1033's siphoning of the treasury would fully cancel out the state's schools levy. It's no wonder that principals, school administrators, teachers, parents, and students are all opposed to I-1033.

Help keep Washington State from turning into The Evergreen Chaos... vote NO on Tim Eyman's Initiative 1033!

Cutting library hours hurts all of us

To balance their budgets, cities could cut money from public libraries, but doing so would affect people from every corner of the city, and would cause more money to be spent elsewhere. Is it worth the cost?

As I mentioned last Monday, the Seattle Public Library has been asked to cut five percent of its budget, which it proposes to do by severely reducing its service hours - by 23% overall. Keeping libraries open as centers of opportunity and education for communities, including the unemployed and families trying to better themselves, is a smart use of limited resources.

Many vocal opponents of the library closings attended a city budget meeting last Monday night. One attendee, Tony Provine, a Seattle Public Library board member, explained to the city council how valuable the city’s libraries are:
In many parts of Seattle, libraries serve as community centers, meeting places, job resources, social service centers, public education facilities, and much more. They provide safe havens for at risk youth and offer homework assistance for students. They provide shelter and internet communications for the impoverished. They are anchors in each of their communities.
This is pretty crucial stuff. The library is where civic and social groups meet, and where students of all ages go for help. Here’s an example of some of the happenings at Seattle’s libraries this week: homework help, English as a second language classes, a basic computer skills class, baby and toddler story time, a teen library adviser program, a citizenship class and a disaster preparation workshop. These are events that make people and communities stronger. Where else can you get so many different services under one roof, and what other facilities are available to provide these services?

Money cut from libraries would be spent on crime prevention, since young people would have one less safe place to hang out and to get help with their school work. Seattle would take in less tax revenue because the unemployed would have fewer resources to find new jobs or to educate themselves in order to find better paying ones. Some library users have found the library to have the most comprehensive job-search facilities available to them.

If the proposed cuts are approved, Seattle neighborhoods would have less access to one of their most democratic institutions. The library is open to all and affords all people equal opportunity to enjoy its resources.

The Friends of the Seattle Public Library, a library support group, are keeping pressure on the city council to maintain the library’s budget. They are asking Seattle library users to email the council asking them to keep the libraries open. To help them reach their goal of 500 emails, just send a short email to budget@seattle.gov. Something like this will do:
Subject line: Restore branch library hours. Text: My name is ____. I use the ____ library. Please restore branch library hours.
Trimming $72 million out of Seattle’s city budget is an ugly task, but citizens rely on their libraries even more during hard times. Reducing access to them now will impact people of all ages and from every neighborhood.

Tim Eyman to crash Susan Hutchison's Election Night party at Bellevue Hyatt

As longtime readers know, we often take the trouble to remind the traditional press that Tim Eyman's campaigns are not grassroots. Anyone who carefully tracks Eyman, as we do, can see for this for themselves, because Eyman depends on one rich guy for the vast bulk of the cash he needs to buy his way onto the ballot every year. Because Eyman doesn't have much of a following, one of his annual traditions is to crash other campaigns' Election Night parties.

For example, in 2005, he showed up at David Irons' party in his gorilla costume. In 2006 he showed up at the Republicans' Election Night gathering for Dave Reichert and Mike McGavick. In 2007, he showed up at Dan Satterberg's party.

And last year, Eyman was at Dino Rossi's party:
RE: I-985's victory celebration at Bellevue Hyatt on election night -
hope to see you there

Congratulations to all of you for making the I-985 campaign such a tremendous success. Join us at I-985's victory celebration at the Bellevue Hyatt (900 Bellevue Way NE) on election night. Polls close at 8:00 pm and our victory speech will be given at 8:05 pm.
Of course, Eyman lost, but that didn't stop him from declaring victory. It's actually impossible for Eyman to lose... even if his measures fail, Michael Dunmire pays him anyway. So a rejection from voters can't feel too bad.

This year, Eyman is again going to be at the Bellevue Hyatt, King County Republicans' favorite hangout. (It's where the George W. Bush fundraiser for Dave Reichert was held back in August 2007). He's crashing Susan Hutchison's party, although he doesn't admit that in his email:
RE: I-1033's victory celebration at Bellevue Hyatt on election night - hope to see you there

Congratulations -- working together, all of us have helped make the Initiative 1033 campaign a tremendous success. Join us at I-1033's victory celebration at the Bellevue Hyatt (900 Bellevue Way NE) on election night (several other campaigns are going to be there too, making it much easier for all our supporters -- having one big party is better than having lots of little ones).

We'll get there around 7:45 pm, polls close at 8:00 pm and our victory speech will be given at 8:05 pm. If you're able to join us, please shoot me a quick email.
A few words changed here and there, but mostly identical to the message he sent last year. Eyman says "several other campaigns are going to be there" but the only campaign we've heard that has officially scheduled a party at the Hyatt is Susan Hutchison. Hers will certainly be the largest, and it's where the cameras will be, so that is also where Eyman will be.

Wonder how Susan and her team feel about Eyman's plans to crash their party? (Hutchison has gone on the record as saying she thinks Eyman's latest government-wrecking scheme would be "a disaster").

In King County, 2009 will be the first general election without voting booths

Last year we in King County experienced the last election we may ever have at the polls, as we have only held vote by mail elections this year. I was fortunate enough be involved in to what turned out to be an unnecessary part of the process.

The Democratic Party recruited a large group of people, some attorneys but most not, to serve as poll watchers. There were justifiable concerns about voting machines and traceability and the like.

I received some training in election laws, and a notebook with instructions and forms. I wrote down every single incident that seemed in the least bit out of the ordinary. There wasn't much, but there were some.

I enjoyed my time, and felt part of an historic event. (I was also a delegate to the Democratic National Convention, so it was quite a year.)

I spent about thirteen hours altogether as a poll watcher. When all was said and done, the Party didn't even ask for my notes. The election seemed to go well.

I mailed my ballot off a couple of days ago, just as I've done for the past ten years. But there is something sad about not having the choice to vote in person.

What are your thoughts on the first general election without any voting booths?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Not sure who to vote for? See who the King County Democrats have endorsed

If you haven't sent in your ballot yet, you might want to take a look at these endorsements by King County Democrats to help you make an informed decision.

Unlike in previous years, candidates on this year's ballot won't have any party labels next to their name. That's because last year, Republican political operatives (with the help of so-called "good government" groups) successfully persuaded voters to make elections "nonpartisan". Since this is a Democratic county, listing "Republican" next to a candidate's name hurts their chances, and that's why powerful GOP donors underwrote a campaign that allows people like Susan Hutchison to claim that they have no party preference at all.

One good way to check if your impressions on a candidate are correct would be to look at endorsements like this. This isn't to say anybody should blindly follow any organization's endorsements, however, if you consider yourself to be a Democratic voter, then these endorsements constitute a helpful guide.

Major endorsements from the link above:
  • Dow Constantine - King County Executive
  • Joe Mallahan - City of Seattle Mayor
  • Anne Ellington State - Court of Appeals, Division 1, District 1, Position 3
  • Bob Ferguson - King County Council, District 1
  • Julia Patterson - King County Council, District 5
  • Lloyd Hara or Bob Rosenberger - King County Assessor
  • John Creighton - Port of Seattle, Position 1
  • Rob Holland - Port of Seattle, Position 3
  • Max Vekich - Port of Seattle, Position 4
  • Ava Mac D Frisinger - City of Issaquah, Mayor
  • Kirkland City Council: Brad Larssen, Karen Tennyson
  • Redmond City Council: Kim Allen
And of course, NO on Tim Eyman's Initiative 1033 and Approve Referendum 71.

The complete list is available in PDF format.