Offering daily news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Monthly Archives: February 2013

It’s time to update Tim Eyman’s Failure Chart

Now that the Washington State Supreme Court has ruled, at long last, that the main provision of Tim Eyman’s I-601 clones is unconstitutional and void, it’s time for us to update Tim Eyman’s Failure Chart. The Failure Chart is a handy resource that we maintain over at Permanent Defense which shows that most of the initiatives Tim Eyman has sponsored over the years have failed… to get on the ballot, to be approved by voters, or to pass constitutional muster.

We use a simple test to determine whether an Eyman measure is listed as a success or failure. We ask two questions when evaluating each initiative:

  1. Did the initiative pass and survive any legal challenges?
  2. Did the initiative accomplish its main intent as stated by Eyman?

Of the eighteen measures on the chart that Eyman has sponsored and qualified for the ballot, fifteen were classified as failures prior to this morning, with just three classified as successes. Now that we have the Supreme Court’s ruling in hand, we can change the classification of I-1053 (2010) and I-1185 (2012) to FAILURE, leaving I-900 (2005; performance audits) as Eyman’s only success.

Here is a precise breakdown of the initiatives so you can see for yourself why we classify seventeen of the eighteen measures as failures:

  • Failed to qualify for the ballot (five): I-267 (2002); I-807 (2003); I-864 (2004); I-917 (2006); Referendum 65 (2006)
  • Defeated by voters (five): I-745 (2000); I-892 (2004); I-985 (2008); I-1033 (2009); I-1125 (2011)
  • Voided completely by the courts (three): I-695 (1999); I-722 (2000); I-747 (2001)
  • Voided partially by the courts (four): I-776 (2002); I-960 (2007); I-1053 (2010); I-1185 (2012)
  • Remains on the books, never challenged (one): I-900 (2005)

It is not an accident that so many of Tim Eyman’s initiatives have been successfully challenged in court. We rarely review an Eyman initiative that we wouldn’t describe as poorly written or unconstitutional. And that’s because Eyman is terrible at writing law. He doesn’t even come up with his own ideas… instead, he recycles schemes cooked up by right wing think tanks and prominent Republicans.

I-807/I-960/I-1053/I-1185 are based on Linda Smith’s I-601, for instance. Eyman got the idea to do I-695 from Virginia’s Jim Gilmore, and he imported I-1033 from Colorado. Ironically, it was Eyman’s No. 1 all-time wealthy benefactor, Michael Dunmire, who convinced him to sponsor the initiative that now stands as his only success: I-900.(Dunmire also put up the money to get I-900 on the ballot).

Writing laws that work well, are compatible with our plan of government, and can withstand the scrutiny of the judicial system is very difficult to do. Care, thought, precision, and patience are required.

That is why the legislative process is so slow and deliberative in nature. Bills going through the Legislature are subject to public hearings in multiple committees and are frequently amended (or even replaced in their entirety) prior to receiving a vote on the floor. All lawmakers have legislative assistants to help them do their jobs, and professional staff to advise and support their work.

Most people who run for Legislature do so because they genuinely want to make Washington a better place to live, work, worship, and play. But Tim Eyman, who has become the state’s most prolific unelected lawmaker, has never shown any interest in governing. He prefers to make trouble for others rather than dedicating himself to the betterment of the lives of his fellow citizens.

We have never seen an Eyman initiative aimed at ending homelessness or cleaning up Puget Sound. And we probably never will, because putting people and planet ahead of profit is sadly not part of Tim Eyman’s values system.

Governor Jay Inslee, advocates thrilled with today’s landmark Supreme Court decision

The Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in LEV v. State has now been up on the World Wide Web for a couple of hours, and we’ve been on the receiving end of a number of statements and press releases commenting on the decision. We’d like to share some of what we’re hearing with you.

First, Governor Jay Inslee released a very enthusiastic and thoughtful statement that we’re going to run in full, because it rocks:

The state Supreme Court did the right thing today in ruling that a supermajority requirement for ordinary legislation would alter our system of government. The supermajority requirement gave a legislative minority the power to squelch ideas even when those ideas had majority support. That is inconsistent with our fundamental form of representative democracy.

Majority rule is a foundation of our system of government. Alexander Hamilton understood this and warned that giving ‘the minority a negative upon the majority’ would cause ‘tedious delays; continual negotiation and intrigue; contemptible compromises of the public good.’ James Madison understood this. And the framers of Washington’s Constitution had vigorous debate on the issue and were deliberate in embedding the principle of majority rule in our constitution.

Those principles have served the people of Washington well, and I’m heartened that the state Supreme Court acted today to protect our Constitution.

Indeed it did. Well said, Governor!

Representative Chris Reykdahl, one of the legislators who participated in the legal challenge, characterized the decision as historic.

“Today’s decision from the Washington State Supreme Court may very well be the most significant decision in our state’s history. Today the court made clear that our Constitution cannot be amended by the initiative process. This profound ruling means that profiteering initiative writers will not be able to take away protected freedoms and rights guaranteed to the people or the Legislature.”

“We must move forward now with caution – carefully and thoughtfully crafting an equitable tax system will take time and sincere commitment from legislators and citizens,” he added. “The restructuring process will take years, but we can and should begin this session by establishing a set of bipartisan taxing principles – fairness, stability, adequacy, and transparency are four key principles that will become the foundation for future transformation.”

The leaders of the two lead plaintiffs, the Washington Education Association and the League of Education Voters, also cheered the ruling in a joint statement.

“This ruling is a huge win for kids and schools,” said Chris Korsmo, CEO of the League of Education Voters.

“Washington schools need to be fully funded in order to ensure that all kids reach their potential. This ruling, combined with the recent McCleary decision, will help ensure that our kids have all the resources they need to get an excellent education.”

“This latest Supreme Court ruling paves the way for the legislature to fully fund K-12 public schools as mandated by the Washington Constitution and the Court’s earlier McCleary decision,” agreed Mary Lindquist, President of the Washington Education Association, which represents thousands of teachers.

“We urge the House and the Senate to increase funding for our schools so we can begin to reduce overcrowded class sizes and expand all-day kindergarten. Our students’ future depends on it.”

“This [decision] squares with Article 2, Section  22 of the State Constitution, which requires a majority of members of each house voting yea for the passage of a bill,” noted Washington State Labor Council President Jeff Johnson. “The Constitution does not differentiate between policy and revenue bills.”

“This decision ends the tyranny of the minority that the Washington State Legislature has endured for the last several years. Under I-1053 [and now I-1185] all it took were seventeen state senators to block any revenue measure from passing and indeed this has happened almost all the time.”

It has been wonderful to see so many activists celebrating and responding to the ruling on social media. We have much to be grateful for today. Six of our nine Supreme Court justices took a very brave stand and upheld our Constitution in the face of pressure from powerful business interests, editorial boards, and our state’s conservative political apparatus. They deserve our thanks.

UNCONSTITUTIONAL! State Supreme Court strikes down Tim Eyman’s two-thirds scheme!

OH, HAPPY DAY!

In a 6-3 decision released only minutes ago, the Washington State Supreme Court finally rendered a momentous verdict in League of Education Voters et al. v. State of Washington, et. al, finding the two-thirds requirement at the heart of Tim Eyman’s I-601 clones – also present in I-601 itself – to be unconstitutional. Yes, you read that correctly… unconstitutional!

Here’s a key excerpt from the majority opinion:

Ultimately, Article II, Section 22 requires that bills receive a majority vote before they can become a law. Article II, Section 22 is exhaustive under an ordinary reading of the provision. The supermajority requirement unconstitutionally amends the constitution by imposing a two-thirds vote requirement for tax legislation. More importantly, the supermajority requirement substantially alters our system of government, thus enabling a tyranny of the minority. The framers were aware of the extraordinary nature of a supermajority requirement as evidenced by their decision to use it only under special circumstances. The passage of ordinary legislation is not one of those circumstances.

If the people and the legislature wish to adopt such a requirement, they must do so through constitutional amendment. We also note that our holding is supported by other jurisdictions that have addressed this issue. Accordingly, we affirm the trial court’s decision.

Eyman’s undemocratic two-thirds requirement is no longer law. It’s gone from the Revised Code of Washington. It’s gone! It’s really, truly, off our books!

Majority rule has been restored to our statehouse; the power to make important fiscal decisions is once again in the hands of the many, rather than a few.

This is a great, great, great day for the State of Washington.

Our Supreme Court finally stepped up to the plate and did what needed to be done. What had to be done. The majority of the justices who heard this case  – Susan Owens, Barbara Madsen, Charlie Wiggins, Steven González, Tom Chambers, and Mary Fairhurst – fulfilled their oaths of office and defended our Constitution against an attack directed at one of its most important provisions… the principle that our Legislature must operate democratically to truly function as a representative body.

I was particularly pleased to see that the majority cited the case Alaskans for Efficient Government v. State of Alaska in their ruling.

I covered this case in depth two and a half years ago in a post entitled Initiative 1053 wouldn’t fly in Sarah Palin’s home state: What we can learn from Alaska. In AFEG v. State, the Alaska Supreme Court held that an initiative similar to I-960/I-1053/I-1185 could not move forward because it violated Alaska’a equivalent of our Article II, Section 22 provision. The Court reasoned:

AFEG insists that the negative phrasing of Section 14’s majority-vote clause — “[n]o bill may become law without an affirmative vote of a majority” — should be read as signaling the framers’ intent to set a floor, not a ceiling: to require at least a majority vote while allowing laws imposing stricter requirements. If the framers had intended to require no more than a majority vote, AFEG contends, they would have drafted the clause to read: “Any bill may be enacted by an affirmative vote of the majority of the membership of each house.”

But as the state correctly observes, other courts interpreting constitutional language have wisely refrained from attributing any automatic significance to the distinction between negative and positive phrasing. Here, for example, had the framers said “any bill” rather than “no bill,” AFEG’s logic would just as readily compel the anomalous conclusion that section 14 was meant to set a ceiling but not a floor — that a majority vote would be the maximum needed to enact any bill, but the legislature would remain free to specify a sub-majority vote as sufficient to enact laws dealing with specified subjects, as it saw fit.

Our Supreme Court concurred with Alaska’s Supreme Court in its decision this morning, citing the case and then noting:

The [Alaska Supreme] Court noted that the negative phrasing of a constitutional provision does not automatically warrant distinguishing it from positively phrased provisions. The court also noted that every other state, except for Washington, that has passed a supermajority vote requirement has done so through constitutional amendment, thus indicating it is a subject properly addressed by constitutional amendment, not legislation.

We have argued for years that the meaning of Article II, Section 22 was abundantly plain. “Majority vote” means just one thing: a simple majority, or greater than fifty percent. No more, no less. No other threshold makes sense in a legislative body that claims to be truly representative.  It’s very satisfying to hear the Supreme Court echoing those exact same arguments now.

The majority also cited a passage from the Federalist Papers (Federalist No. 22; Alexander Hamilton) that we and State Representative Reuven Carlyle, a champion for majority rule who was also a plaintiff in this case) have often referred to:

If a pertinacious minority can controul the opinion of a majority respecting the best mode of conducting it; the majority in order that something may be done, must conform to the views of the minority; and thus the sense of the smaller number will over-rule that of the greater.

James Madison expressed similar sentiments in Federalist No. 58, which the majority also cited (but did not quote from).

Our only real disappointment with the majority opinion is that the justices did not set aside I-1053 in its entirety. Judge Bruce Heller concluded that the ridiculous mandatory referendum requirement in I-1053 was unconstitutional as well, and he struck it down. But the Supreme Court overturned that part of his decision, finding that there was no justiciable controversy:

In contrast, LEV’ s challenge to the referendum requirement is not justiciable. Unlike the supermajority requirement, the referendum requirement has not harmed any of the respondents. The legislator respondents do not claim it has nullified their votes, nor do any of the other respondents claim harm from the referendum requirement. Without identifying a legal interest at issue, let alone an injury to that interest, LEV cannot establish a justiciable controversy.

[…]

We also note that the referendum requirement does not constitute a matter of major public importance warranting review under these circumstances. For the public importance exception to apply, the dispute must be ripe, and, as discussed above, the referendum requirement has never been triggered or otherwise affected any legal interests. Accordingly, the constitutionality of the referendum requirement is not properly before this court.

We’ll have more to say in response to this aspect of the decision later. It’s disappointing, because we think Judge Heller’s reasoning was sound:

The court concludes that the mandatory referendum issue should also be heard. even though RCW 43.135.034(2)(a) has never been invoked, and there is no indication it has resulted in harm to the plaintiffs. First, in ATU, the court summarily determined that plaintiffs challenging a similar referendum requirement had standing with justiciable claims. Second, the requirement raises an issue of public importance and can be heard on that basis alone.

Justices Charles Johnson, Debra Stephens, and Jim Johnson dissented from the majority opinion.

We were expecting a dissent from Jim Johnson (the coauthor of another unconstitutional Tim Eyman initiative, I-747), but we had hoped the other eight justices would stick together. It’s unfortunate that Justices Stephens and Charles Johnson wanted to duck the issue for a fourth time. Their dissenting opinion isn’t very compelling. At least their view did not turn out to be the prevailing one.

As I noted yesterday, there is a lot of case law already surrounding the supermajority requirement. This challenge was properly brought, and for the court to have dismissed it on a technicality would have been a travesty.

We extend our thanks to the majority for their thoughtful, well-reasoned decision, and to King County Superior Court Judge Bruce Heller, for laying the groundwork last May when the case was at the Superior Court level.

And we are incredibly, incredibly thankful to the courageous plaintiffs who brought this case: The League of Education Voters; the Washington Education Association; Senator David Frockt; former Chief Justice Robert Utter; Representatives Reuven Carlyle, Jamie Pedersen, Sam Hunt, Cindy Ryu, Laurie Jinkins, Jim Moeller, Timm Ormsby, Eric Pettigrew, Chris Reykdahl, and Mike Sells; former Representative Deb Eddy; Andy and Rebecca Bunn, Kim Bielski. Amy McKenney, Kurt Miller, Ryan Painter, John Chesborough, and and Kristin Skanderup.

They were ably represented by Paul Lawrence, Matthew Segal, Sarah Johnson, and Gregory Wong of Pacifica Law Group, and we thank them as well. Props also to Governor Chris Gregoire for retaining her own counsel in the case, and to David Perez of Perkins Coie, for submitting one of the best-researched amicus curaie briefs we’ve ever seen on behalf of the League of Women Voters.

As the day goes on, we’ll be posting more analysis. But for now, we celebrate this landmark, pro-democracy decision, and we invite you to join us!

Ruling coming tomorrow on constitutionality of Tim Eyman’s I-960/I-1053/I-1185

The Washington State Supreme Court signaled today that it plans to issue a ruling tomorrow morning in League of Education Voters, et al. v. State of Washington, et al, the all-important legal challenge to Tim Eyman’s I-1053 filed in June 2011 by a group of Democratic lawmakers, parents, and teachers.

In a notice on its website, the Court let it be known that a decision in the case is expected to be filed on February 28th, 2013. The Court usually releases opinions on its website a little after 8 AM on Thursday mornings.

When the Court says it anticipates releasing a decision in a case, it almost always follows through, so it is a fairly safe bet that we’ll have a ruling to look over (and talk about) within eighteen hours. That makes tomorrow – February 28th, 2013 – a very important day in our state’s history.

LEV v. State is the fourth in a series of legal challenges to Initiative 601 and its clones (I-960, I-1053, and I-1185). I-601, narrowly passed by Washington voters in 1993, decreed that any action that raises revenue for the state’s treasury must receive a two-thirds vote of both the House and the Senate in order to become law.

After the election was certified, a coalition represented by Paul Lawrence went to court to have I-601 struck down as unconstitutional, but the lawsuit, known as Walker, was dismissed on a technicality.

I-601 remained on Washington’s books for more than a decade, though it was suspended on a couple of occasions by the Legislature.

In 2003, a decade after I-601 was on the ballot, Tim Eyman attempted to qualify a similar initiative to the Washington State ballot – I-807.

However, Eyman found himself without a wealthy benefactor that year, and the I-807 signature drive was unsuccessful.

Four years later, Eyman tried again, this time flush with cash from Woodinville multimillionaire Michael Dunmire, As Eyman was completing his signature drive, Futurewise and SEIU 775NW filed a lawsuit seeking to block the initiative from going on the ballot, owing to its constitutional defects. This case was also dismissed on a technicality, leaving the question as to whether the two-thirds requirement was unconstitutional unresolved again. I-960 narrowly passed a few months later.

In 2008, then-Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown appealed directly to the Supreme Court to resolve the constitutionality of I-601/I-960. She asked the Court to compel Lieutenant Governor Brad Owen to rule I-960 unconstitutional. But the Court determined that her suit had been improperly brought, and refused to grant the writ of mandamus she had requested. Instead, the court dismissed the case.

The next year, the Legislature voted to suspend I-960 so that it could respond to that year’s budget shortfall with a mix of revenue increases and cuts, instead of just cuts. Eyman, meanwhile, got another I-601 clone to the ballot (I-1053) with the help of big banks and oil companies, and voters passed it in November of 2010.

I-1053 was then challenged in June 2011. It is this legal challenge that is being decided tomorrow. Though it is possible that LEV will be dismissed on a technicality, we believe such an outcome to be unlikely.

Paul Lawrence and his team, who represent the plaintiffs in LEV, did their homework prior to filing their case. The issue at hand is definitely justiciable, and the plaintiffs clearly have standing, as King County Superior Court Judge Bruce Heller determined last year when he struck I-1053 down in its entirety:

The parties in this matter plainly have genuinely and opposing interests, and a judicial ruling on the constitutionality of the supermajority and mandatory referendum requirements will constitute a final and conclusive resolution of this dispute. Therefore, the two remaining issues are (1) whether the constitutional issues presented are “actual” or merely hypothetical and (2) whether plaintiffs have standing to bring this lawsuit.

[…]

Plaintiffs have established standing to bring this action. A plaintiff has standing to challenge a statute’s constitutionality if he or she can show that (1) the “interest sought to be protected . . is arguably within the zone of interests to be protected or regulated by the statute or constitutional guarantee in question” and (2) a “sufficient factual injury.” Seattle School Dist., 90 Wn.2d at 493-94. The legislator plaintiffs have an interest in advancing bills through the legislative process with the constitutionally required number of votes. The non-legislator plaintiffs have an interest in the adequate funding of education. The legislator plaintiffs allege that they have suffered injury because they have been unable to address funding gaps in education. The plaintiffs from the educational community allege that cuts in educational funding and services have resulted in substantial harm to educators, teachers, students and education groups, such as the plaintiffs. Plaintiffs Kim Bielski and Ryan Painter, for example, are teachers who lost their jobs as a result of budget cuts.

Heller’s decision was expected to be appealed to the state Supreme Court by the losing party. As the case went against Rob McKenna and his solicitor general Maureen Hart, they filed the appeal.

The Supreme Court agreed to take the case over the summer, but it notably refused to grant McKenna’s request for a stay – thus letting Heller’s well-written and well-reasoned decision stand for the time being.

On September 25th, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in the case. Just a few weeks later, voters approved I-1185, another I-601 clone sponsored by Eyman and again funded by big oil companies, including BP, Shell, and Tesoro. I-1185 became law in December, but if I-1053 is struck down tomorrow – as we hope it will be – I-1185 will be wiped out too, for it is a near carbon copy of I-1053.

No matter what tomorrow’s decision says, it will profoundly affect our state’s future. This is a case of monumental importance. Nothing less that the integrity of our democracy is at stake.

More than a century ago, our state’s founding fathers gave us a plan of government principally modeled on the one devised at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 178 by Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, James Madison, and several dozen other early American leaders.

That plan, our state Constitution, states emphatically in Article II, Section 22 that a majority vote shall decide the fate of bills before the two houses of our state’s legislative body. By majority, the founders meant greater than fifty percent – no more, no less – because no other threshold would be appropriate.

Our Legislature is supposed to be a representative body; we choose its members in free and fair elections. But the Legislature cannot truly be a representative body if it is not operating democratically. Our founders knew this.

That’s why they wrote Article II, Section 22.

Tim Eyman, the Washington Policy Center, Rob McKenna, and the Seattle Times editorial board have all argued that Article II, Section 22 sets only a minimum threshold for the passage of bills, and that therefore, I-601 and its clones pass constitutional muster since those measures only raise the threshold.

But by that absurd logic, an initiative requiring a ninety percent or one hundred percent vote for certain types of bills would also be constitutional.

The only logical interpretation of Article II, Section 22 is that it sets a minimum and maximum threshold: Greater than fifty percent. No more, no less.

As its name suggests, the Supreme Court of Washington is our republic’s highest court of law. Our Constitution vests the judicial power of our state principally in the institution that meets throughout the year in the Temple of Justice in Olympia. It is the Supreme Court’s duty and obligation to strike down laws that conflict with our Constitution, in order to ensure that our Constitution is upheld as our highest law.

For years, the Supreme Court has ducked the question of whether I-601 and its clones are constitutional. It is our sincerest hope that tomorrow, the Court will take up this question and resolve it by striking down the two-thirds scheme so that our Legislature can operate democratically like our founders intended.

We will be covering tomorrow’s decision extensively here on The Advocate and over at Permanent Defense. Our coverage will begin as soon as the decision is released tomorrow morning and will continue throughout the rest of the day. We invite you to join us for what will truly be a watershed moment in Washington law and politics.

Don’t feed the trolls: Why we asked Andrew Garber and his colleagues to ignore Tim Eyman’s repugnant attack on Jay Inslee

Yesterday, at a press conference on the Capitol Campus in Olympia,  State Representative Judy Clibborn (D-41st District) and House Democrats unveiled a “Connecting Washington” transportation package that proposes to invest $10 billion in Washington’s highways, streets, ferries, and local transit agencies.

Some of the money would go to road maintenance, some would be dedicated to widening highways, some would go towards stormwater cleanup, and so forth. The gas tax would be increased to fund many of the proposed projects.

A few hours after the proposal was unveiled, Governor Jay Inslee issued a statement saying he welcomed the opportunity to begin working with the Legislature on a transportation package to meet Washington’s needs.

I thank Representative Clibborn for her leadership on this and am glad to begin a robust conversation about how to move forward in building a transportation system for the 21st century. This is an issue vital to the environmental and economic health of Washington State.

Many groups have worked hard to get us to this point. We clearly need to address the growing maintenance and preservation needs in our current infrastructure, the big-ticket needs to improve freight mobility across our state, and the unmet needs for sustainable transportation options such as pedestrian and bicycle improvements.

We can’t afford to not take action and this is a job I expect the Legislature to accomplish. I’ll be working with legislators on both sides of the aisle to craft a package that they can send to my desk for approval.

We figured after yesterday’s events that it would only be a matter of hours before Tim Eyman responded in the form of a hyperbolic rant. And, sure enough, just after 10 AM this morning, a nastygram from Eyman showed up which included this bit:

Candidate Inslee repeatedly promised to veto any tax increase. He said no way to higher transportation taxes in 2013.  Inslee said he’d grow jobs to generate more tax revenue. What a lying whore he turned out to be. In recent weeks, he’s made it clear he’ll sign any tax increase the Legislature unilaterally imposes. Is there any doubt that Inslee would have lost by a landslide if he’d been honest about his tax-hiking plans during the campaign?

We responded to Eyman’s email this afternoon with a media advisory, asking reporters and editors not to reward Eyman’s ugly, stinky, and disgusting behavior by giving the Mukilteo initiative profiteer headlines and on-air mentions.

As I noted in the advisory:

Our assessment of this message is that Eyman is being deliberately provocative in order to get his name and viewpoint into blog posts and stories on the transportation package.

He may already be planning to “apologize” in a few days’ time for his inflammatory comments, so he can garner even more media attention.

We urge you not to take the bait. This isn’t news. Let the only response to this despicable commentary be from his opposition. Eyman deserves to be called out for his inappropriate and disparaging remarks, but he does not deserve more headlines and on-air mentions by the traditional press. He has already shown he has nothing to contribute to a sane discussion about the value of public services in our state.

Andrew Garber, who covers the state legislative beat for The Seattle Times, interpreted this request as a call for the media to “censor itself” (his words, not mine). He decided to write about both Eyman’s rant and our response in a post titled “Eyman opponent urges media to censor itself”. (The post title has since been changed, presumably by an editor, or at the request of an editor).

Garber began his post as follows:

Andrew Villeneuve of the Northwest Progressive Institute, urged the media today to censor itself and not write about a Tim Eyman email that referred to Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee as a “lying whore.”

Eyman has made a living sponsoring initiatives, including a measure repeatedly approved by voters that requires a two-thirds vote of the Legislature, or voter approval, to increase taxes. Villeneuve has long opposed Eyman initiatives.

I debated whether to blog about Eyman’s email and Villeneuve’s plea tipped the balance.

Garber’s admission that he was debating whether or not to blog about Eyman’s email – apparently prior to his receipt of the note I wrote – says a lot about how much influence Eyman has over Washington’s press corps. Garber and his colleagues (both at The Times and at other publications) simply can’t seem to resist passing up opportunities to write about Eyman or mention his hijinks on-air.

Garber asserts that Eyman “frequently sends me emails and rarely sees them printed.” He’s missing the point. There are a lot of people active in Washington politics – progressives, conservatives, libertarians – working on all sorts of interesting causes. None of them get the special treatment that Tim Eyman does.

Eyman is such a prolific sender of bombastic mid-morning missives that Garber can say he only quotes Eyman occasionally on the Times’ Politics Northwest blog (or in print), and that’s still fairly often compared to other activists or public relations folks competing for Garber’s attention.

Here’s some data that illustrates what I’m talking about.

I entered dozens of well-known Washington political names as search queries into the Seattle Times’ archival search engine (1984-present).

Here’s a sample of what I came up with:

Results for “Kirby Wilbur” (current State Republican chair, longtime Republican activist and talk show host): 305
Results for “Brad Owen” (Lieutenant Governor since 1997): 464
Results for “Brian Sonntag” (just retired State Auditor; served in the position for several decades): 604
Results for “Mike Kreidler” (Insurance Commissioner since 2001): 829
Results for “Lisa Brown” (up until a few weeks ago, the Senate Majority Leader since 2005, and a senator before that): 988
Results for “Dwight Pelz” (current State Democratic chair, longtime Democratic activist and county councilmember): 1,023
Results for “Frank Chopp” (the dynamic, Democratic Speaker of the state House for over a decade): 1,128
Results for “Dow Constantine” (current King County Executive and former King County Councilmember): 1,260
Results for “Sam Reed” (Republican Secretary of State until a few weeks ago, has served during most of Eyman’s time in politics): 1,430
Results for “Tim Eyman”: 2,211

There are, of course, some elected leaders who outscore Eyman (some by just a few hundred hits). But they all fall into these categories:

  • U.S. Senators and U.S. Representatives (Patty Murray, Maria Cantwell, Jim McDermott, Norm Dicks);
  • Governors (Jay Inslee, Chris Gregoire, Gary Locke, Mike Lowry);
  • The last two Republican finalists for governor (Dino Rossi and Rob McKenna, who were elected officials prior to running for governor);
  • Mayors of Seattle or past King County Executives (Greg Nickels, Paul Schell, Mike McGinn, Ron Sims, etc.)

To beat Eyman in the Times archival search, you either have to have been elected governor, Seattle mayor, King County Executive, elected to Congress, or run for governor as an elected Republican and lost.

That’s a pretty high hurdle to have to overcome. It’s a small club.

Readers, if you find any other Washington elected leader or activist who generates more than 2,211 (and counting!) results in a Times archival search, let me know.

The point is, the Seattle Times and its writers have given Tim Eyman a lot of ink and pixels over the years. They haven’t just covered his initiatives; they’ve covered him as if he were an elected leader, even though the people of Washington have never elected him to any office or entrusted him with official responsibilities.

True, Eyman is a prolific sponsor of initiatives. But his initiative factory is powered by money from his wealthy benefactors, not grassroots activism. And most of his schemes have either been struck down by the courts, defeated by voters, or failed to qualify from the ballot, as we’ve documented in our Failure Chart.

Despite all of his failures, Eyman remains very visible and relevant. And it’s because he’s a creature of the media. When Eyman talks, reporters listen.

Andrew Garber may not quote from Tim Eyman’s missives every day, but he and his colleagues at the Times are still reading what Eyman is sending. And on days when Garber isn’t writing about Eyman, other reporters often are.

The average flack has to work pretty hard to receive a fraction of the coverage for his or her cause that Eyman receives.

But then, Eyman is awfully good at media manipulation. He doesn’t mind dressing up (or down) to attract cameras. He seemingly feels no compulsion in repeatedly lying or distorting data to make it conform to his talking points. He doesn’t care if his invective bothers people. His overriding objective is to get his message out, and he knows how to get reporters to pick up on what he’s saying and doing. He knows how to drum up publicity with almost no effort.

And that brings me back to today’s media advisory.

At the time I began writing the message that Garber received, the Spokesman-Review had already picked up on Eyman’s “lying whore” comment, and it seemed likely that other media outlets might follow suit.

I decided to challenge the press corps not to write about Eyman’s comment, and see what would happen. I figured that if any other reporters were going to follow suit, they were probably already inclined to do so, and I wanted to point out that Eyman’s anti-Inslee invective was a gambit to generate press. It’s part of his schtick. It is prepared and packaged expressly for a media culture that values sensationalism over substance. And it’s intended to lower the level of our political discourse.

In the blogosphere, polluted discourse is a real problem. That’s why many bloggers (us at NPI included) have adopted a simple rule for dealing with spammers, cranks, and troublemakers like Eyman: Don’t feed the trolls.

Trolls, for those who have not heard the term, are people who attempt to hijack comment threads by posting inflammatory or off-topic comments, usually hoping to ignite a flame war. Trolls thrive on attention. They crave it. They need it.

That’s why bloggers and forum moderators who wish to foster meaningful dialogue ask their readers to abide by commenting guidelines written to encourage thoughtful discussion and drive away bothersome trolls.

The George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication, in partnership with several other institutions, conducted a study not too long ago about the effects that trolls have on public understanding of science. The study found that respondents who were exposed to uncivil comment threads tended to double-down on their preexisting beliefs.

In other words, trolls are toxic to sound discourse. Rampant trolling greatly diminishes the value of a comment thread.

Our state’s political discourse could be thought (metaphorically) of as a giant forum, with a zillion comment threads.

The moderators of the forum are the reporters, editors, and producers who collectively comprise the state’s press corps and serve as gatekeepers.

Eyman is the state’s best known troll, and he spends a great deal of his time lurking in the threads as well as constantly pestering the moderators, many of whom are overworked and underpaid, and increasingly fewer in number.

Some of them dislike his politics and others find him annoying. But they have a very hard time ignoring him. And so, they promote his direct messages out of their inboxes and plaster his vitriol up where lots of people can read it and gawk at it.

The First Amendment guarantees all Americans the right to free speech and freedom of the press. As an American newspaper, the Seattle Times and its journalists enjoy the freedom to write about whatever they wish to cover. They also have the freedom to decide what they will not cover.

And they exercise that freedom on a daily basis.

On many occasions, Times reporters and editors have asked their readers to abide by their standards, and avoid offending the sensibilities of others.

For instance, on September 27th, 2012, on the very blog Andrew Garber posted to this afternoon (Politics Northwest) the Seattle Times’ Sonia Patel invited readers to participate in a video contest on YouTube. She requested, however, that videos comply with some fairly straightforward rules:

And speaking of rules: Make a film with any political theme you like, as long as it’s suitable for a family-newspaper audience (in other words, no sex, violence or bad language, please.) It must be 3o seconds to one minute in length). Upload your video to YouTube, then go here to submit your video.

Readers have also been asked to ensure that entries in the Seattle Times’ annual Peeps contest are “suitable for a family newspaper”.

I find it ironic that a reporter working for a newspaper that regularly requests that its readers self-censor submissions would interpret my request to ignore our state’s best known political troll for a change as a call for the media to censor itself.

The objectionable language that Eyman used today isn’t what prompted me to write that media advisory; it’s what I’ve come to expect from Eyman. No, the reason for the advisory was to remind the media that Eyman knows how to distract them and push their buttons, and they should be aware that his attack on Inslee is a ploy for press which they ought to ignore, since doing otherwise only encourages Eyman to continue polluting our state’s political discourse.

And it is polluted enough already.

Our state faces grave problems and we need to be talking about how to solve them – not letting the likes of Eyman drag our dialogue into the gutter. Our state’s remaining political journalists have an important role to play in ensuring that our discourse is healthy and not polluted by spammers, cranks, and trolls.

There’s a legitimate debate to be had over the plan that House Transportation Chair Judy Clibborn unveiled yesterday. Eyman has contributed nothing to that debate. He said something nasty about Jay Inslee, and he not only got a blog post out of Andrew Garber (who attributes his decision to write said post to me), but a story for the print edition of the February 22nd Seattle Times as well.

Tomorrow is the cut-off date for policy bills to advance out of committee. You’d think Garber would have more important things to write about than Tim Eyman’s characterization of Jay Inslee as a lying whore. But no. And so it goes.

Elite American security firm: Chinese military is behind attacks on U.S. corporate networks

For many months now, independent security researchers and journalists have been openly speculating that the Chinese military is behind a significant percentage of the increasing number of cyberattacks on U.S. corporate and government networks. Now, elite American security firm Mandiant – which Bloomberg Businessweek profiled in one of its recent issues – has publicly released an incriminating report (PDF) which concludes that the hacking group the company has been watchdogging and doing battle with is in fact a unit of the Chinese military.

Businessweek’s profile of Mandiant described the company as held in very high regard by the federal government and major U.S. corporations when it comes to analyzing and responding to sophisticated cyberattacks. (That explains why thirty percent of the Fortune 100 are Mandiant clients).

As reporters Brad Stone and Michael Riley explained:

Mandiant’s success partly stems from what its customers perceive as a strong relationship with the U.S. government. The firm is retained by major banks and on Wall Street because it has credibility with federal regulators. When the New York Police Department’s counterterrorism unit was breached by Chinese cyberspies, the FBI told the department to call Mandiant, according to a person familiar with the incident. 
Mandiant executives say they have earned this trust, though the relationship likely has roots in the personal connections that Mandia and other company executives have forged with government investigators over the years. “It’s a reputational thing,” says Mischel Kwon, former head of U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team, a government cybersecurity agency. “They play well with law enforcement.”

Mandiant’s relationship with other security firms, however, hasn’t been as cordial.

Mandiant’s critics charge that the company does not share intelligence with others in the tightknit and collaborative cybersecurity community. While many security companies keep some of their best findings to themselves, Mandiant is known to share less than most, and its engineers rarely participate in industry working groups. But critics and competitors also tend to acknowledge that Mandiant is good at what it does. “Over the last two years they’ve experienced some growing pains, but they’re definitely the 800-pound gorilla of incident response,” says Rocky DeStefano, founder and CEO of the security firm VisibleRisk.

It would seem with the release of today’s report that the company is making a serious effort to share intelligence… and not just with other firms in the cybersecurity business. The company has made its report on the Chinese hacking group APT1 available for public consumption. For those at least somewhat well-versed in the language of technology, it is fascinating reading.

The report’s executive summary explains that Mandiant has been monitoring and investigating cyberattacks for more than eight years, and has become acquainted with the techniques and the targets of the espionage group known as “APT1″ or the Comment Crew. Mandiant has long suspected that the Chinese government was aware of or involved in the group’s activities, but has refrained from making public allegations to that effect, even as speculation mounted.

Now, however, the company is putting some of its cards on the table, so to speak.

Our analysis has led us to conclude that APT1 is likely government-sponsored and one of the most persistent of China’s cyber threat actors. We believe that APT1 is able to wage such a long-running and extensive cyber espionage campaign in large part because it receives direct government support. In seeking to identify the organization behind this activity, our research found that People’s Liberation Army (PLA’s) Unit 61398 is similar to APT1 in its mission, capabilities, and resources. PLA Unit 61398 is also located in precisely the same area from which APT1 activity appears to originate.

And that includes naming names!

Mandiant is releasing more than 3,000 indicators to bolster defenses against APT1 operations.

Specifically, Mandiant is providing the following:

  • Digital delivery of over 3,000 APT1 indicators, such as domain names, IP addresses, and MD5 hashes of malware.
  • Sample Indicators of Compromise (IOCs) and detailed descriptions of over 40 families of malware in APT1’s arsenal of digital weapons
  • Thirteen (13) X.509 encryption certificates used by APT1
  • A compilation of videos showing actual attacker sessions and their intrusion activities

Mandiant says it is not releasing this information lightly.

“The decision to publish a significant part of our intelligence about Unit 61398 was a painstaking one,” the company says in the final section of its executive summary, adding at the end: “We are acutely aware of the risk this report poses for us. We expect reprisals from China as well as an onslaught of criticism.”

And there will no doubt be reprisals, considering that Mandiant’s report will embarrass and anger Beijing. But the firm wants people to know, in no uncertain terms, where the threat is coming from. This is cyber warfare.

The Chinese government will almost certainly respond by dismissing the report and the allegations as baseless, or groundless, or something to that effect. But who is going to believe that? To quote from the conclusion of Mandiant’s report:

Combining our direct observations with carefully researched and correlated findings; we believe the facts dictate only two possibilities.

Either:

A secret, resourced organization full of mainland Chinese speakers with direct access to Shanghai-based telecommunications infrastructure is engaged in a multi-year, enterprise scale computer espionage campaign right outside of Unit 61398’s gates, performing tasks similar to Unit 61398’s known mission.

Or:

APT1 is Unit 61398.

The Chinese government can protest its innocence all it wants. At this point, their credibility is shot. There’s a mountain of evidence tying the Chinese military to cyberattacks on U.S. firms, and Mandiant has just published some of it. What’s more, other security experts agree with Mandiant’s findings. Reuters reports:

Some experts said they doubted Chinese government denials.

“The PLA plays a key role in China’s multi-faceted security strategy, so it makes sense that its resources would be used to facilitate economic cyber espionage that helps the Chinese economy,” said Dmitri Alperovitch, chief technology officer and co-founder of CrowdStrike, one of Mandiant’s competitors.

One of APT1’s favorite techniques for breaching the security of U.S. corporate networks is to send emails with spoofed authors to people inside the companies they are trying to infiltrate. The emails look like they come from a colleague or even a superior and contain links or attachments that, when clicked or downloaded, allow APT1’s members to remotely install malware on computers behind corporate or government firewalls.

And once a victim has taken the bait, they can go to work, figuratively roaming the halls of their target’s virtual operations, and looking for valuable data to steal. Hundreds of terabytes worth of files have been stolen by the group, Mandiant says.

No doubt some of the trade secrets and proprietary information taken has found its way into the hands of state-owned firms that compete with U.S. firms.

Mandiant’s findings show that the federal government and major corporations’ increasing reliance on the Internet has a major downside. Data is easily copied when it is on a network, even networks that are supposed to be impenetrable. Company after company and agency after agency has discovered alarming security breaches over the last few years and scrambled to respond.

Figuring out the extent of the damage and tracking down who’s responsible is difficult… which is why Mandiant’s business is booming.

For years, I have personally thought of the Internet as analogous to a big city, with red light districts and a seedy underworld. It’s easy to stumble into a bad neighborhood. That’s why I like to browse with armor. I have JavaScript, cookies, plugins, and cross-domain requests disabled by default.

That means I’m far better protected against malware, viruses, and other threats than most people. The downside, of course, is that a lot of websites appear broken when I first visit. But I’ve gotten used to that. I can whitelist sites that I trust, and it’s kind of fun to see which websites are so horribly designed that they are totally unusable without JavaScript. The Web is much faster, and I don’t see ads.

If everyone followed this approach, the Internet would be a safer place. But browsers are not hardened by default. And for every person who uses NoScript and RequestPolicy like I do, there are hundreds who do not.

The government and major corporations also tend to make heavy use of Microsoft Windows, which is extremely difficult to secure because it wasn’t made to be secure. That’s partly why there have been so many successful attacks.

Of course, no operating system or technology is entirely hackproof, but choosing BlackBerry over Android or GNU/Linux over Windows can make following best practices easier. (BlackBerry smartphones support whole device encryption out of the box and are easy to secure, which is a major reason why we like the platform).

The White House told The New York Times it is aware of Mandiant’s report, and sources tell the paper the Obama administration plans to take a tough line with China on the matter in the weeks ahead. Let’s hope they do. It’s time to let China know there will be serious consequences if they continue to wage cyberwarfare against US – their biggest trading partner.

Sorry about that downtime…

If you’re a loyal reader of the NPI Advocate, you may have noticed that this blog abruptly disappeared off the World Wide Web around 1:30 PM Pacific Time yesterday (along with the rest of nwprogressive.org) and you may have wondered, Wow, what happened? What’s going on? After all, it’s pretty unsettling to load up a favorite website and get a generic Not Found error message.

The answer to that question is that the server where NPI’s Core site and the NPI Advocate were hosted up until early this morning experienced a hardware failure. More specifically, a hard disk died and could not be revived. It had to be replaced instead, and the files on it checked for integrity.

Disk drive failures are a fact of life, and while disks often quit working without any warning, it is possible to mitigate the downtime and disruption they cause.

We don’t feel that our host did a very good job of that. By the time the partition where nwprogressive.org resided was restored, half a day had elapsed, and technicians were still working on restoring other customers’ accounts.

We chose in late afternoon to reroute traffic to a temporary error page elsewhere, since we didn’t know how long the downtime was going to last. As the day wore on, we decided the time was ripe to relocate to a new host, and, by early morning, the migration was largely complete. So far, we’re pleased with our new digs.

In fact, pleased would be an understatement. The server nwprogressive.org is on now runs very up to date software and seems well-tuned, which means this blog is a lot snappier. (What’s not to like about decreased load times?)

Thankfully, none of NPI’s other projects – Permanent DefensePacific NW Portal, the Olympia Newsriver, and Check the Attacks – were affected because they are hosted separately in a state-of-the-art datacenter. (In Brief is hosted by Tumblr).

Eventually, we will migrate the NPI Advocate to the same location, and we’ll use our new host as an emergency backup in case of downtime there.

We’re big believers in the adage, When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Yesterday’s downtime may have knocked us offline for a bit, but we’re back, and we’re back stronger. Thanks for sticking with us. And don’t forget, our 2013 Spring Fundraising Gala is coming up on April 5th. Buy your ticket today!

Sound Transit CEO Joni Earl to speak at NPI’s 2013 Spring Fundraising Gala on April 5th

Today is Permanent Defense’s eleventh anniversary, and given that Permanent Defense was initially created to oppose I-776 (Tim Eyman’s scheme to block Central Link light rail from being built), it seems like the perfect time for us to announce that Joni Earl, the CEO of Sound Transit, will be one of the speakers at NPI’s 2013 Spring Fundraising Gala on Friday, April 5th, 2013.

Joni is one of our favorite people and we’re absolutely delighted that she’s going to be part of our speaking program this year.

Buy a ticket to our 2013 Spring Fundraising Gala right now by following this link.

Since taking over as CEO more than a decade ago, Joni has transformed Sound Transit into one of the best-run public agencies in the country. ST was in pretty lousy shape when Joni took the helm, but nowadays, it delivers projects on time and under budget, and it has regained the trust and confidence of the public.

Were it not for Joni’s leadership, Link light rail would never have become a reality for our region. Joni’s efforts to get Sound Transit shipshape made it possible for Senator Patty Murray and Representative Norm Dicks to go to bat for Link on Capitol Hill. They persuaded the Republican in charge of the House appropriations subcommittee on transportation to drop his objections to the project, ensuring Sound Transit could get the federal funding it needed to construct Central Link.

That breakthrough, by the way, came just a few weeks after NPI’s founding. That makes 2013 the tenth anniversary year for both NPI and Central Link. (NPI came into being on the Web on August 22nd, 2003; the Central Link groundbreaking took place November 8th, 2003 in Seattle’s SoDo neighborhood).

The day of the groundbreaking, then-King County Councilmember (now Washington State Democratic Party Chair) Dwight Pelz predicted to The Seattle Times that November 8th would be remembered “as a moment of celebration as we begin to bring rail — [and] not just this one route.”

“We’re confident it will be a countywide system within twenty years. Communities across the county are going to be clamoring for rail,” he added.

Dwight was spot-on.

But he was only spot-on because Joni Earl and her team worked hard to expand Link north, south, and east… even as Central Link was being built.

Their first triumph came when the Port of Seattle agreed to help Sound Transit bring light rail all the way into SeaTac. Construction on Airport Link began before construction on Central Link was finished, and went so smoothly that the Airport Link extension opened the same year that Central Link did.

Joni’s team then secured funding from the federal government to construct University Link, bringing light rail north to the University of Washington.

And in 2008, just months after the failure of the Roads & Transit proposition in 2007, Joni and her team came up with a new package for the Sound Transit board to put before voters. This package, dubbed “Sound Transit 2″, was enthusiastically approved by voters in 2008, making it possible for Sound Transit to begin planning East Link, North Link, and the first segments of South Link.

In just three years, Link will expand both north and south as University Link and Angle Lake Link open to the public. Meanwhile, work will continue to bring light rail to the Eastside and to Lynnwood – projects that are targeted for completion in 2023. If all goes well, Dwight’s prediction will be fulfilled, and we will indeed have a light rail system connecting many of the most densely populated communities in King County just twenty years after the Central Link groundbreaking.

We are proud of the role we have played in supporting the development and construction of light rail in our region. That’s why the theme of our gala this year is Building Transit for All. We hope you’ll join us on April 5th to hear Joni tell the remarkable story of Sound Transit’s turnaround and give us an update on the projects that Sound Transit has in the pipeline – including University Link.

Tickets to our Spring Fundraising Gala are just $60 for individuals and $90 for households. Although this is a fundraising event, we do our best to make it affordable for activists. We know you get asked for money a lot. We do, too!

Sponsorships are also available at several levels.

In the weeks to come, we’ll be sharing more details about our 2013 gala, including the names of our other speakers. We hope you’ll help us make our 2013 Spring Fundraising Gala a success by buying your ticket and committing to attend.

See you on April 5th!

Marco Rubio’s water grab becomes the talk of Twitter and social media

Since the mid-1960s, when Lyndon Johnson was president, the party not in control of the White House has provided a formal response to the State of the Union Address for television and radio networks to air a few minutes following the conclusion of the main event. Republicans carried on that tradition tonight, tapping Senator Marco Rubio of Florida to deliver a speech criticizing President Obama’s policy directions and putting words in his mouth.

Rubio’s speech – a mix of right wing boilerplate and invective aimed at President Obama – were nothing we haven’t heard before. But while the content of his speech may have been forgettable, the delivery was not.

By the time Rubio uttered the words “God bless America”, his speech had turned into grist for thousands upon thousands of conversations on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and other social networks.

Jamison Foser was among the first to land a zinger:

Why is Marco Rubio speaking from inside a dollhouse?

— Jamison Foser (@jamisonfoser) February 13, 2013

To which Anthony Clark replied:

@jamisonfoser @ericboehlert Why is he speaking, period?

— Anthony Clark (@Anmclark) February 13, 2013

Others soon began to wonder why Rubio kept licking his lips and wiping his face and forehead. Apparently, he was feeling a bit warm as well as thirsty, because about midway through the speech, he ducked to grab a half-pint sized water bottle – which he proceeded to take a gulp from.

He then ducked down again to put the water bottle back where it had been, all while trying to maintain eye contact with the camera. These awkward few seconds immediately inspired a seemingly endless series of jokes.

Rubio’s water grab was quickly immortalized in the form of an animated GIF.

Marco Rubio is thirsty....

Marco Rubio is thirsty….

The GIF quickly began spreading like wildfire. A #RubioFilms hashtag was created shortly thereafter, and has received some fairly ingenious snarky contributions from progressive activists. Here’s a sampling:

The Unbearable Dryness of Being #RubioFilms

— doug potter (@dpotr) February 13, 2013

#RubioFilms You can lead a Rubio to water, but drinking it is awkward

— Jan #UniteBlue (@Jipso19) February 13, 2013

The Legend of Creepy Swallow #RubioFilms #Gulp

— eclecticbrotha (@eclecticbrotha) February 13, 2013

#RubioFilms “The Waterboy” Movie Poster –Everybody Will Feel His Pain-#GOP #Stupid twitter.com/eqracer/status…

— Def Jeff (@eqracer) February 13, 2013

Gone with the Water Bottle #RubioFilms(Maybe a lot of truth in that)

— Just Hussein Jo (@desertcronenm) February 13, 2013

All The Poland Springs’ Men #RubioFilms

— 21st CENTURY | Bill (@Political_Bill) February 13, 2013

#RubioFilms There Will Be Water

— Eat the Rich (@RATM4) February 13, 2013

A Few Good Gulps #RubioFilms

— Robert Etchell (@Rudy671985) February 13, 2013

An Inconvenient Gulp #RubioFilms #UniteBlue

— BlizzyBe Hussein O (@BlizzyBe) February 13, 2013

Zero Dark Thirsty!!! #RubioFilms LMAO

— ARM (@adirado29) February 13, 2013

Meanwhile, over at Democratic Underground , they’ve got a Photoshop contest going. Fresh entries are welcome.

Liveblogging the 2013 State of the Union Address from the great Pacific Northwest

Hello and welcome to our live coverage of the 2013 State of the Union Address! Patrick and I invite you to join us as we watch the President’s speech and react to it in real time with our commentary and observations. The White House has sent along the full text of President Obama’s remarks as prepared for delivery, and it looks to us like a really strong speech. We are tuned into C-SPAN and awaiting the arrival of the President, his Cabinet, and the justices of the Supreme Court.

Sorry, there's something wrong here! Please refresh the page or try again later.

King County Council appoints Rod Dembowski to succeed Bob Ferguson in 1st District

This just in from the King County Courthouse: Minutes ago, in a unanimous 8-0 vote, the King County Council chose attorney Rod Dembowski to succeed Bob Ferguson as the next Councilmember from the 1st District (North Seattle, Shoreline, Lake Forest Park, Woodinville, Bothell, Kenmore, Kirkland).

Dembowski was one of three individuals named by King County Executive Dow Constantine as finalists for the position last month, the others being State Representative Cindy Ryu and Shoreline City Councilmember Will Hall.

Dembowski, a forty-one year old lawyer at Foster Pepper, had the backing of Ferguson (now our state’s attorney general), a long list of community leaders supporting him, and was the only candidate to earn either an endorsement or a recommendation from each of the district’s legislative district (LD) organizations.

As Councilmember Kathy Lambert put it in her final remarks prior to the appointment vote, Rod “has friends everywhere”.

Dembowski was not the first choice of Councilmembers Larry Gossett, Jane Hague, or Lambert; however, in the interest of unity, they all voted in favor of the motion to appoint him on final passage. That made the vote that mattered 8-0. (The vote to advance Dembowski’s nomination was 5-3; Councilmembers Phillips, McDermott, Patterson, Dunn, and von Reichbauer were the ayes).

Dembowski was promptly sworn in by the clerk of the King County Council, Anne Noris. After his swearing in, the council adjourned to take a photo with its newest member. That photo is expected to be published shortly on KingCounty.gov.

King County Executive Dow Constantine issued a statement praising Dembowski and the two other finalists he named.

“I congratulate Councilmember Rod Dembowski on his appointment as the new representative of King County Council District One,” Constantine said. “I have known Councilmember Dembowski for many years and have admired his work as an activist, an attorney, and a community volunteer. Rod has worked in County government, as an aide to former Executive Gary Locke, has practiced as a lawyer for a dozen years, and also brings a long record of public service to his new role.”

“I’d like to thank the members of the thirteen-member Citizens Advisory Committee that helped me choose an extraordinary group of finalists – Rod, State Rep. Cindy Ryu, and Shoreline City Councilmember Will Hall.”

“I salute the members of the King County Council for their thoughtful consideration of these nominees and I thank them for their decisive and timely action to provide excellent representation to the people of the First Council District.”

We at NPI extend our congratulations to Rod as well. The King County Council is one of the most important elected bodies in our region; it is the legislature for the state’s largest county, and its members often sit on other regional boards or commissions. All of the finalists named by Executive Constantine for the seat vacated by Bob Ferguson were strong progressives.

Unfortunately, the appointment could go to only one of the three.

I personally believe the Council has made a very wise decision. Rod will be a natural successor to Bob Ferguson – he brings energy and talent to the job, as well as a deep understanding of regional and local issues, as I noted to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer’s Joel Connelly earlier today.

Rod has made it crystal clear he will be running to retain the seat. Cindy Ryu’s campaign team has indicated she would continue to seek the position if she was not appointed, but since she is a state legislator, she will be unable to raise money or campaign full time until the session ends. (State law prohibits elected leaders at the state level from raising money during a legislative session).

Rod, on the other hand, will be able to keep raising money and will likely see a new influx of donations now that he has been appointed.

The third finalist, Will Hall, has previously suggested he would not be interested in challenging either of the other finalists for the job if he did not get the appointment.

UPDATE: Will Hall has not ruled out running against Rod for the seat this August. In a message sent to his supporters, he said:

Over the next few days, I will be talking with family, friends, and supporters to evaluate my options.  It has been an honor to serve as an elected councilmember for the City of Shoreline, and it would certainly be an honor to win a seat on the King County Council.  Either way, I remain committed to representing my community with my values of trust, respect, and service.  I will continue to work for the health and sustainability of our economy, our environment, and our neighborhoods.

No doubt Representative Ryu is evaluating her options as well. If either of them decide to run, we’ll let you know.

Pope Benedict XVI surprises Catholics everywhere by announcing his retirement

Earlier today, at the Concistory Hall in Vatican City, Pope Benedict XVI shocked the world community by announcing that he has decided to step down as the leader of the Roman Catholic Church at the end of this month and allow the College of Cardinals to choose his successor while he is still alive.

In resigning, Benedict becomes the first pope in more than half a millennium not to serve until his death. The Vatican said that he would retire to a monastery in Italy to live out the rest of his days. His successor will likely be chosen by Easter.

Benedict’s prepared statement was as follows:

Dear Brothers,

I have convoked you to this Consistory, not only for the three canonizations, but also to communicate to you a decision of great importance for the life of the Church. After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry.

I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering.

However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the barque of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.

For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.

Dear Brothers, I thank you most sincerely for all the love and work with which you have supported me in my ministry and I ask pardon for all my defects. And now, let us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the Cardinal Fathers with her maternal solicitude, in electing a new Supreme Pontiff. With regard to myself, I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer.

Benedict’s announcement quickly became the top story in media all over the globe. A number of world leaders appeared very much surprised, while others reacted more placidly through their press shops.

“On behalf of Americans everywhere, Michelle and I wish to extend our appreciation and prayers to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI,” President Barack Obama said in a statement released around 9:45 AM Pacific Time.

“Michelle and I warmly remember our meeting with the Holy Father in 2009, and I have appreciated our work together over these last four years. The Church plays a critical role in the United States and the world, and I wish the best to those who will soon gather to choose His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI’s successor.

Postal workers denounce Patrick Donahoe’s scheme to end Saturday mail delivery

Earlier today, Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe (who seems to thinks his job at the United States Postal Service is Dismantler-in-Chief, as opposed to chief executive) announced that he and his subordinates have unilaterally decided to end Saturday mail delivery to U.S. homes and businesses as of August 5th, 2013… without congressional approval.

Federal law has mandated for decades that the United States Postal Service deliver America’s mail six days a week. That mandate has been a mainstay of appropriation bills for a very long time, but Donahoe and USPS brass are betting that Congress will take no action if they choose to simply begin ignoring it as of this summer.

Donohoe’s legal rationale is that the continuing resolution that’s keeping the federal government operating through March 27th does not explicitly prevent the Postal Service from altering its delivery schedule, so they are free to axe Saturday delivery.

The elimination of Saturday delivery is actually a move that Donahoe and his predecessor, George W. Bush appointee John Potter  – who was Donahoe’s boss for years – have wanted to make for a long time.

Until this week, they’ve only talked about it.

But now, they’ve decided to actually try to do it, and dare Congress to stop them. They evidently think they’re not going to be overruled.

(Some members of Congress beg to differ).

And recent history would certainly lend credence to their view. Congress has been ignoring the Postal Service’s mounting problems (some self-inflicted) for years.

Last session, the Senate belatedly passed a bill to modernize the U.S. Postal Service and unchain it from the ridiculous requirement that money be set aside to pay all retiree health benefits for seventy-five years… a requirement imposed on the Postal Service by the corrupt Republican majority that was in power during 2005 and 2006. The bill had flaws, but it was a start. The Republican-controlled House, however, failed to take up the legislation, and it died.

Patrick Donahoe’s response could have been to bring pressure to bear on Congress by working cooperatively with postal workers’ unions, civic groups, and activists all over the country to demand legislation to strengthen the Postal Service.

Instead, he is shamefully using his position as Postmaster General to destroy the Postal Service from within by closing post offices, shortening hours, eliminating jobs, and now axing Saturday mail delivery.

To be clear, the scheme Donahoe is planning to implement only calls for the elimination of mail pickup and mail delivery to street addresses. Packages would continue to be delivered on Saturdays (for now) and incoming mail would still be placed in post office boxes on Saturdays (for now). But it’s still a stupid move.

The well-paid Donahoe – who makes more money than any federal official save for the President of the United States – has become obsessed with cost-cutting, to the detriment of the people of the United States and America’s postal system, which is one of the essential public services explicitly mentioned in the U.S. Constitution.

Thankfully, America’s postal workers are having none of this. The National Letter Carriers Association and the National Rural Letter Carriers Association both reacted to Donahoe’s scheme by calling for his immediate ouster as Postmaster General.

“The National Association of Letter Carriers has tried time and again to work with Postal Service management to pursue growth measures and cost savings, but it has become clear that the Postal Service leadership’s only strategy is to gut the unique postal network that provides us with the world’s most affordable delivery service, and to eliminate the services on which Americans depend,” NALC President Fredric Rolando said in a blistering statement.

“America’s letter carriers condemn this reckless plan in the strongest terms. We call for the immediate removal of the postmaster general, who has lost the confidence of the men and women who deliver for America every day.”

“And we urge Congress to develop a real reform plan that gives the Postal Service the freedom to grow and innovate in the digital era.”

“Today’s announcement by Postmaster General Donahoe to eliminate six-day delivery is yet another death knell for the quality service provided by the U.S. Postal Service,” agreed National Rural Letter Carrier Association President Jeanette Dwyer.

“For decades, the Postal Service has upheld a personal and professional standard of service, delivering to every household nationwide six days a week. To erode this service will undermine the Postal Service’s core mission and is completely unacceptable. Saturday mail delivery is an important communication and marketing tool used by millions of citizens and mailers across the country, especially in rural areas that lack broadband Internet access.”

“Many customers rely on the Postal Service to deliver prescription medications, social security checks, and financial statements. Many other citizens and businesses rely on Saturday for the collection of outgoing invoices and materials.”

Dwyer, who characterized Donahoe’s scheme as “reprehensible” and “irresponsible”, also announced that NRLCA’s board (which was meeting in Alexandria, Virginia) had voted unanimously to endorse his ouster.

The American Postal Workers Union, meanwhile, echoed the sentiments of NRLCA and NALC. (The APWU represents postal clerks and maintenance workers).

“The APWU condemns the Postal Service’s decision to eliminate Saturday mail delivery, which will only deepen the agency’s congressionally-manufactured financial crisis,” President Cliff Guffey said.

“The USPS has already begun slashing mail service by closing 13,000 post offices or drastically reducing hours of operation, shutting hundreds of mail processing facilities, and downgrading standards for mail delivery to America’s homes and businesses. The effects are being felt in cities and towns across the country.”

“USPS executives cannot save the Postal Service by tearing it apart. These across-the-board cutbacks will weaken the nation’s mail system and put it on a path to privatization,” Guffey added. He noted that the Postal Service would be on a much stronger financial footing were it not for the Orwellian-named Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act conceived and passed by Republicans in 2006.

We at NPI stand with America’s letter carriers and all the households and businesses that unequivocally oppose the elimination of Saturday mail delivery.

Saturday delivery is one of USPS’ most significant competitive advantages. Eliminating Saturday delivery will only exacerbate USPS’ challenges and cause the public to further lose confidence in the Postal Service.

It may save some money in the short run, but in the long run, it will be incredibly destructive in every respect. It is an irresponsible and likely illegal decision, and we call on Congress to put a stop to it immediately.

President Obama picks REI CEO Sally Jewell to serve as the next Secretary of the Interior

Great news from our nation’s capital this morning: At an event in the White House’s State Dining Room, President Barack Obama announced that he has chosen Washington’s Sally Jewell to serve as the Secretary of the Department of the Interior. Jewell, fifty-seven, is currently the chief executive officer of Recreational Equipment Incorporated, better known as REI.

REI, as many of our readers know, is one of the Pacific Northwest’s many fine cooperatives. It was founded in Seattle in 1938 by Lloyd and Mary Anderson, and today, it has over eleven million members. REI is where adventurous Pacific Northwesterners go when they need to get outfitted for a trip into the backcountry. During my lifetime, and especially since REI opened a store in NPI’s hometown of Redmond, my family has bought plenty of quality gear there: A-frame tents, sleeping bags and pads, my WhisperLite stove, hats, gloves, scarves, and rain flies.

We’ve also rented snowshoeing gear from REI.

As the years have gone by, we have come to depend on REI when we needed sporting and camping gear. There’s really no reason to go anyplace else. REI stores are clean, welcoming, and staffed with friendly employees. No wonder, then, that the co-op’s sales have practically doubled under CEO Sally Jewell.

Sally is an inspired choice for Secretary of the Interior. We at NPI applaud this nomination, and thank President Obama for choosing one of our state’s best and brightest to run the Department of the Interior.

REI and Washington’s loss is our nation’s gain.

“Sally’s broad expertise and set of values I know are going to serve her well as she takes on these new challenges,” President Obama told reporters.

“She’s got a wonderful and supportive family who I understand enjoy the great outdoors just like she does. So they’ve got a vested interest in making sure that the Department of the Interior is doing the right thing. And when Sally is confirmed, I’m willing to bet that she will be the first Secretary of the Interior who frequently hikes Mailbox Peak in her native Washington State and who once spent a month climbing mountains in Antarctica, which is just not something I’d think of doing — because it seems like it would be cold, and I was born in Hawaii.”

Outgoing Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who is returning to Colorado after four years in the job, was equally effusive in his praise of the nominee.

“Sally Jewell knows firsthand the inextricable link between conservation and the economy. Sally was a key contributor to you and to your entire team in the creation of the America’s Great Outdoors agenda. She’s been a champion of the Land and Water Conservation Fund and so many other conservation issues of our time. And I also know that her successful business record and experience as an oil and gas engineer will serve her well as she implements your all-of-the-above energy agenda, which has been such a keystone to you over the last four years.”

Washington’s two U.S. Senators responded enthusiastically to the nomination.

“Today marks a new day, with a leader who uniquely understands the tremendous economic value of our outdoor economy,” said Senator Maria Cantwell in a statement. “With her business background, Sally Jewell is well-qualified to follow in the tremendous footsteps of Secretary Ken Salazar.”

“Coming from the outdoor industry, Sally understands that preserving outdoor recreation opportunities is often the highest and best use of our irreplaceable public lands. As CEO at REI in Seattle, Sally truly knows the connection between America’s public lands and the burgeoning outdoor economy that supports six million jobs across the United States. I’ve appreciated working with her  – from expanding Mt. Rainier National Park to supporting Washington State job growth.”

“President Obama has chosen an accomplished leader as the next Secretary of Interior,” agreed Washington’s senior senator, Patty Murray. “I have enjoyed a strong working relationship with Sally Jewell, who has proven to be an effective CEO in the business community, and will bring that skill set to the Cabinet.”

“She understands the tremendous asset that our public lands are, particularly to the multi-billion dollar outdoor recreation based economy. Additionally, American families could have no greater advocate for their continued use, enjoyment and protection of our National Parks and natural treasures.”

“I look forward to working with Sally and President Obama as they shape and implement policies at the Department of Interior.”

“President Obama has made a wise decision in looking to our deep pool of talent in the Pacific Northwest, and nominating Sally Jewell as our next Secretary of the Interior,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine.

“As the leader of an iconic outdoor recreation business, Sally has worked to preserve our natural lands as a board member for the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust and the National Parks Conservation Association.

“Her proven business success, and respect for the natural world, give her the background to successfully meet the many challenges of managing our public lands. My congratulations to Sally.”

REI offered warm congratulations to its CEO in a news release.

REI applauds President Obama’s nomination of Sally Jewell, REI’s CEO and president, to be the nation’s Secretary of the Interior. Sally is a remarkable leader, an excellent business person and a thoughtful steward of our public lands and resources. We believe that she will do a superb job in this very important role.

Sally has led REI as CEO since 2005 and during that time has provided steady leadership for the co-op and its thoughtful growth. During her tenure REI has increased sales from $1 billion to nearly $2 billion, added 71 stores, and greatly expanded its online business. Under Sally’s leadership, the company has been named annually to Fortune Magazine’s list of the Best Companies to Work For.

During her tenure, Sally championed the co-op’s engagement in supporting volunteer stewardship of public lands, as well as the efforts to manage REI’s environmental footprint. And, because of Sally’s commitment to leadership development, REI will be in good hands as the co-op’s Board, upon her confirmation, considers a successor.

Sally’s broad business background, community leadership, and her depth of knowledge of the range of issues managed by the Department of the Interior will be of significant value to the department and great service to the nation.

REI encourages Sally’s confirmation so that she can begin her important work on behalf of the country and its natural spaces.

The National Resources Defense Council, one of the nation’s leading environmental groups, cheered the nomination.

“Sally Jewell has the mind of an engineer, the heart of an environmentalist and the know-how of a businesswoman,” said NRDC President Frances Beinecke.

“It’s not surprising President Obama would turn to such a talented woman to balance the responsible use of America’s public lands, the protection of these resources and the wildlife that depend on them… Jewell’s unique experience and her love of America’s outdoors will be invaluable to the stewardship of the waters, lands and wildlife we’ve been entrusted to protect for our children.”

Washington’s environmental movement is (naturally!) thrilled.

“Sally has been a committed leader on conservation, consistently demonstrating a deep understanding of how the preservation of public lands fuels our economy by creating jobs through recreation and tourism, as well as what it means to protect natural resources for future generations to enjoy,” said Joanna Grist, Executive Director of the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition.

“We are fortunate to have a Secretary of the Interior who can continue to lead as our country focuses on pulling itself out of recession and strengthening our economy. No one is more prepared or more deserving of this role than Sally.”

Jewell is the second Washington native to be nominated for a position in the Obama Cabinet; the first was Gary Locke, who served as President Obama’s first Secretary of Commerce and is now U.S. Ambassador to China.

We hope that once Sally is confirmed, she will ensure that the proposed San Juan National Monument becomes a reality this year.

Presidents of the United States have the ability to designate new national monuments under the Antiquities Act; but President Obama only used this power on a handful of occasions during his first term.

We’d like to see the President act to protect more of our public lands. The creation of a wilderness or a national monument is one of the greatest legacies that a president can leave. As Secretary of the Interior, Sally will be in the best possible position to make conservation a priority of the Obama administration.

We extend our best wishes to her as she takes on this new position, and to REI, as they look for a successor to fill the big shoes she’ll be leaving.