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: March 2013

Pacific NW Portal 5.5 (Waldport) released

On behalf of the NPI team, I’m pleased to announce that we have completed work tonight on a new release of Pacific NW Portal – Version 5.5, codenamed Waldport.

Waldport is a maintenance release – the fifth in the Newport series. In other words, there aren’t any new major features… just bug fixes, updates to the index, and tweaks to functionality and branding to make things work better.

Like every prior release of Pacific NW Portal, Version 5.5 is named after an Oregon coastal town. Waldport is located in Lincoln County just over fifteen miles south of Newport. The town is home to 2,033 people and is one of just seven incorporated cities in Lincoln County. It is situated alongside of Alsea Bay.

The Alsea Bay Bridge carries U.S. 101 over Alsea Bay and into Waldport, Oregon. (Photo by ; reproduced under a Creative Commons license).

The Alsea Bay Bridge carries U.S. 101 over Alsea Bay and into Waldport, Oregon. (Photo by Koocheekoo; reproduced under a Creative Commons license).

This post constitutes our official changelog for Version 5.5. Please feel free to leave questions, suggestions for future versions, or other thoughts on Waldport in the comment thread.

  • Content delivery network deployed. To further increase Pacific NW Portal’s speed (the theme of the Newport series) we’ve begun deployment of a content delivery network, or CDN. Our new CDN serves images and scripts to Pacific NW Portal through a subdomain (media.nwportal.info) using multiple datacenters. This is an under-the-hood enhancement and doesn’t affect the way that Pacific NW Portal looks.
  • Syndication updates for the Washington Outlook. We have replaced two dormant blogs and one apparently defunct blog on Pacific NW Portal’s Washington Outlook page with blogs that are being actively maintained. The new syndicated blogs are:
  • Misconfigured newsfeed recalibrated. One of the local newsfeeds on the Washington Outlook page – specifically, the Everett newsfeed – contained some outdated template tags that were distorting the appearance of the feed. (All of the hyperlink tags were broken!) We have fixed this.
  • Oregon Transportation Alerts feed fixed. We have rebuilt and reprogrammed the Oregon Transportation Alerts feed on the NW Life page. The feed now displays alerts and project updates from ODOT like it’s supposed to (it had recently ceased functioning). We’ve also enhanced the feed so it pulls posts from the Willamette Bridge construction blog as well as photos from ODOT’s Flickr photostream.
  • Temperature reader now working consistently. The script that retrieves the latest temperature reading from NWS’ weather station at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport had been functioning erratically because the automated process that runs it couldn’t locate all of its dependencies. We have explicitly defined all the dependencies, and now the reader works 100% of the time.
  • Screenshots are current. We’ve replaced the example screenshots on the Toolkit page with images that depict the current version of Pacific NW Portal – this release (5.5). The example screenshots show how Pacific NW Portal is supposed to look on different platforms.
  • New feeds added to the Coast to Coast Firehose and Breaking Now. We have added four progressive publications to the Coast to Coast Firehose (a front page feed for progressive media) and to the Breaking Now Progressive Media feed (National) which is a mirror of the Firehose. They are:
  • Enhanced local newsfeeds (experimental). We’re experimenting with incorporating press releases, newsletters, and alerts created by city governments into the local newsfeeds found on our state pages. The idea is to make the local newsfeeds more comprehensive.

That does it for this release. If you have thoughts on any of these changes, or ideas for future improvements that you’d like to see, leave a comment in the thread.

PDC to investigate Tim Eyman, associates for violating our public disclosure laws (again!)

Washington State’s Public Disclosure Commission will investigate allegations that Tim Eyman and his associates failed to timely register a committee for Initiative 517 and failed to timely report contributions and expenditures for the I-517 campaign, its Director of Compliance said this week.

I-517 is an initiative to the Legislature that would:

  • double the length of time that initiative sponsors have to gather signatures for initiatives to the people;
  • dubiously require that cities and counties put initiatives up for a vote even if they exceed the scope of the local initiative power,
  • and unconstitutionally infringe on the First Amendment rights of initiative opponents by attempting to criminalize decline-to-sign activities.

Eyman began quietly working on I-517 a year ago with his associates Roy Ruffino and Eddie Agazarm, who run a petitioning business called “Citizen Solutions” that has repeatedly run afoul of Washington State’s worker protection laws (Eddie and Roy were audited and fined by the Department of Labor & Industries in 2011 for this reason). The trio and their other associates failed to timely register a political committee for I-517 with the Public Disclosure Commission and then failed to timely report the committee’s contributions and expenditures.

This prompted Tacoma activist and fellow Eyman watchdog Sherry Bockwinkel (who used to run a signature gathering firm herself) to file a complaint with the PDC against Eyman and his initiative factory last August.

Up until this week, the complaint had been in limbo. But on Tuesday, the PDC’s Philip Stutzman formally acknowledged that it had been received, and that PDC staff would be conducting an investigation. The case number is 13-027.

Phil’s letter began as follows:

Dear Ms. Bockwinkel:

The Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) received a complaint from you on August 21, 20112, alleging that the Protect Your Right to Vote on Initiatives political committee (PRVI) violated RCW 42.17A.205 by failing to timely register its campaign in support of Initiative 517 to the legislature, and violated RCW 42.17A.235 and RCW 42.17A.240 by failing to file timely, accurate reports of contributions and expenditures. On August 29, 2012, you provided supplemental information relevant to your allegations.

PDC staff will investigate these allegations and notify you of the results when the investigation is complete. All laws cited in this letter can be found on our website, under “Home” and “Laws and Rules.”

It’s a relief to know that the PDC is going to take action and investigate Sherry’s complaint. It should not have taken seven months for them to send a letter saying they’re opening an investigation. Of course, the PDC is a public service, and like most of our state’s other public services, it is underfunded.

(If the PDC had more staff and a bigger budget, it could be more nimble and responsive, and redesign its website to be more accessible and reliable using newer technologies. But that’s a subject for another post).

Tim Eyman may think that he is above the law (and above our state Constitution), but he is not. Citizenship comes with responsibilities as well as rights. If Eyman wishes to exercise his right as a citizen to sponsor initiatives (even unconstitutional ones) then he needs to file his C1-PCs, C4s, and C3s on time.

Eyman has been in business with his initiative factory for over ten years; he should be very familiar with the law by now and be in full compliance all of the time.

But he has not been. His history of delinquent reporting and willful ignorance of our public disclosure laws demonstrates that he does not care about the people’s right to know who is trying to influence their votes during election season or get their signatures during a signature drive.

And speaking of signature drives, the PDC’s decision to act on this complaint comes just a few weeks after after a probe by the Secretary of State’s Elections Division found thousands of apparently fraudulent signatures on I-517 petitions.

The matter has since been turned over to the Washington State Patrol for investigation and potential referral for prosecution.

The fraudulent signatures we know about were submitted by three signature gatherers who also worked on the campaign to qualify I-522, and then turned in to Eyman and his associates, who evidently did not bother to conduct checks of their own petition sheets prior to turning them over to the Elections Division.

We hope that the PDC and State Patrol’s investigations will be thorough and will have repercussions. Tim Eyman and his associates need to be held accountable for the sketchy, shady campaign that they ran last year to qualify I-517. Allowing their lawbreaking to go unpunished would set a bad precedent.

We have a pope! Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio emerges from papal conclave as Francis, first pope from the Americas

To the delight of many Catholics (including this one!) the one hundred and fifteen cardinals who participated in this year’s just-concluded papal conclave in Vatican City have, at long last, given the Church its first pontiff from the New World.

Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina, has just been introduced to the world as the next Bishop of Rome. He is, as mentioned, the first pope to have been born in the Americas; he is also the first Jesuit pope. (The Society of Jesus, whose members are known as Jesuits, is a well-known Catholic religious order. A number of the United States’ best- known universities were founded by Jesuit priests and remain affiliated with the Society, including Seattle University and Gonzaga University here in Washington State).

Begoglio has taken the name Francisco, or Francis in English.

He is the first pope to take that name.

The new Pope, Francis I, waves from a balcony to crowds assembled in St. Peter's Square. (Photo: Vatican News Service)

The new Pope, Francis I, waves from a balcony to crowds assembled in St. Peter’s Square. (Photo: Vatican News Service)

At a ceremony in Vatican City an hour ago (8:23 PM Vatican Time), Begoglio gave his first public remarks as pontiff. He asked the cheering crowds to pray for the pope emeritus (Benedict) and also for him as he assumes his new responsibilities. He then blessed the assembled multitude before heading back inside St. Peter’s Basilica, flanked by several smiling cardinals.

The Vatican Radio service has begun broadcasting a short biography of the new pope. Here is the transcript:

The man elected to be the 265th Successor of Saint Peter in the conclave, is Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, S.J., Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina, Ordinary for Eastern-rite faithful in Argentina who lack an Ordinary of their own rite. He was born on 17 December 1936 in Buenos Aires. He was ordained for the Jesuits on 13 December 1969 during his theological studies at the Theological Faculty of San Miguel.

He was novice master in San Miguel, where he also taught theology. He was Provincial for Argentina (1973-1979) and rector of the Philosophical and Theological Faculty of San Miguel (1980-1986). After completing his doctoral dissertation in Germany, he served as a confessor and spiritual director in Córdoba.On 20 May 1992 he was appointed titular Bishop of Auca and Auxiliary of Buenos Aires, receiving episcopal consecration on 27 June. On 3 June 1997 was appointed Coadjutor Archbishop of Buenos Aires and succeeded Cardinal Antonio Quarracino on 28 February 1998. He is also Ordinary for Eastern-rite faithful in Argentina who lack an Ordinary of their own rite.
Adjunct Relator General of the 10th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, October 2001.

He served as President of the Bishops’ Conference of Argentina from 8 November 2005 until 8 November 2011. Created and proclaimed Cardinal by the Bl. John Paul II in the consistory of 21 February 2001, of the Title of S. Roberto Bellarmino (St. Robert Bellarmine).

The Catholic News Service report on Francis’ election notes that as the leader of the Buenos Aires diocese, he was very much a people’s bishop:

Since 1998, he has been archbishop of Buenos Aires, where his style is low-key and close to the people.

He rides the bus, visits the poor, lives in a simple apartment and cooks his own meals. To many in Buenos Aires, he is known simply as “Father Jorge.”

He also has created new parishes, restructured the administrative offices, led pro-life initiatives and started new pastoral programs, such as a commission for divorcees. He co-presided over the 2001 Synod of Bishops and was elected to the synod council, so he is well-known to the world’s bishops.

Father Jorge is now Francis I – the supreme leader of the Roman Catholic Church. It is fitting that he is is from South America, as that is the continent where the Church has seen the most growth over the last several hundred years.

This decade may well be remembered as the era when South America came of age on the world stage. The selection of Cardinal Bergoglio as the next pontiff is a monumental event for the world and for South America. And another historic event will take place in three and a half years’ time when Rio de Jainero hosts the 2016 Summer Olympics. (No South American city has ever hosted a Games before).

As Francis’ papacy has just begun, it is too soon to know what kind of a pope he will be like. He does, of course, have very conservative views on many issues that progressive activists care about, such as marriage equality or reproductive rights. But in other respects he could be more liberal or progressive than his predecessors. The Catholic Church in Latin America places a stronger emphasis on social justice… and that’s a good thing. This is perhaps the best outcome of the papal conclave that progressive Catholics could have hoped for.

Francis I is two years younger than Benedict was when he became the Church’s leader. His papacy is unlikely to be as long as John Paul II’s, but it promises to be groundbreaking in many ways.

“On behalf of the American people, Michelle and I offer our warm wishes to His Holiness Pope Francis as he ascends to the Chair of Saint Peter and begins his papacy,” President Barack Obama said in a statement released moments ago.

“As a champion of the poor and the most vulnerable among us, he carries forth the message of love and compassion that has inspired the world for more than two thousand years—that in each other we see the face of God. As the first pope from the Americas, his selection also speaks to the strength and vitality of a region that is increasingly shaping our world, and alongside millions of Hispanic Americans, those of us in the United States share the joy of this historic day.”

“Just as I appreciated our work with Pope Benedict XVI, I look forward to working with His Holiness to advance peace, security and dignity for our fellow human beings, regardless of their faith. We join with people around the world in offering our prayers for the Holy Father as he begins the sacred work of leading the Catholic Church in our modern world,” the President concluded.

“The election of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who has taken the name Francis, marks a great milestone in our church,” said Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, the current president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. “As successor to Peter, our first pope, Pope Francis stands as the figure of unity for all Catholics wherever they reside. The bishops of the United States and the people of our 195 dioceses offer prayers for our new leader and promise allegiance to him.”

“Intense prayer from all around the world surrounded the election of Pope Francis. The bishops of the United States thank God for the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the inspired choice of the College of Cardinals. With joy in our hearts, we declare Ad Multos Annos! (For many years!)”

Archbishop Peter J. Sartain, who was chosen by Pope Francis’ predecessor Benedict XVI a few years ago as the leader of Washington’s largest Roman Catholic diocese (the Archdiocese of Seattle) , said he witnessed the introduction of the new pope on television like many other Catholics in the Pacific Northwest.

“The election of a new pope is an act of faith on the part of the cardinals, because they have placed their hope in God to guide them,” Sartain wrote in a column posted on the Archdiocese’s website.

“For me as an archbishop and for Catholics everywhere, receiving a new pope means that God has been once again faithful to his promise that he would always provide a shepherd for the church, a successor to St. Peter, a bishop of Rome, the first pastor of the universal church.”

“His choice of the name Francis signals that he strives to be a man of humility and love for the poor, and the fact that he asked the hundreds of thousand standing before him to pray for him further underscores his humility.”

“Not even knowing who he would be, I began praying for him weeks ago. I congratulate His Holiness, Pope Francis, on his election to the See of Peter. I promise my obedience and my prayers.”

“As was announced at the Vatican just a few hours ago, we have indeed received news of great joy in the election of Pope Francis.”

Returning to 2/3rds rule an attack on our colleges

Last week when Tim Eyman’s I-1053 was declared unconstitutional there was much cheering and rejoicing across the state of Washington, not least through the halls of Facebook and Twitter. Many of these voices were students at our universities, who have seen more than 1.4 billion cut from our state higher education system since 2009, increased debt, and less accessible forms of financial aid because of the increased use of the State Need Grant and cuts to work study. While work study survived its proposed suspension last year, the current program serves 2/3rds (that number just keeps on popping up doesn’t it?) less students than just a few years ago.

As stated on Crosscut last election season:

For higher education, cuts in state funding are directly linked through the supermajority requirement to shrinking financial aid and skyrocketing tuition that have been so cruel to ordinary families and their children. That’s because when taxes can’t be adjusted under the supermajority regimen, the only alternative is greater reliance on tuition and fees not subject to the chokehold. The result for many young people is doors slammed shut to higher education and for businesses a slender and under-prepared workforce Most agree that these are a very bad, very shortsighted directions.

In fact, recently a poll was released which shows that voters in Washington “overwhelmingly support public higher education and want to see funding for the state’s colleges and universities increased”. Not only do students who have seen universities become less accessible and affordable want to see more money for higher education, put their parents, friends, and families do as well. As Rep. Ross Hunter stated in his legislative update yesterday, “Higher education is one of the areas at greatest risk in our budget process this year”, and this is precisely because the legislature is unwilling to raise revenue to fund higher education and its other commitments.

This is why trying to reinstate the 2/3ds supermajority plan into Senate parliamentary rules is an attack on our Washington colleges and other services that students need to succeed, because, having to beat back a projected 2.3 billion dollar deficit, either tuition will be raised, or services that some students rely on to succeed, like childcare, will be cut. When our new economy needs a highly educated workforce from all backgrounds, this is not the way to adapt.

Students are celebrating the Supreme Court ruling. But unless the legislature intends to use the door that has been opened to genuinely fund education, to fund it more than just in name, to make the words “protect affordability” (because our education system has become anything but affordable) ring true, then our victory is hollow, and we have let Tim Eyman succeed in turning the clock back on our shared society.

Education supporters agree: Restoration of majority rule is an opportunity

People from who care about kids are celebrating Thursday’s Washington Supreme Court ruling striking down the provision at the heart of Tim Eyman’s I-601 clones. Parents, teachers and other advocates for great public schools agree that simply cutting funding from other vital public services and reallocating the money to education – the only option on the table before Thursday’s ruling – will never ensure that we are meeting our paramount duty as a state.

To provide the $1.4 billion needed this biennium to meet the state Supreme Court’s mandate to fund K-12 education, Washington needs to raise more revenue.

The Washington State PTA welcomed the ruling. WSPTA is the largest volunteer organization in the state, with over 140,000 members, both Democrats and Republicans. Members of both parties can see that we have a problem: Washington consistently ranks at the bottom nationally in per pupil spending relative to the income of state residents. From WSPTA:

The association welcomes the state Supreme Court ruling this week that strikes down the two-thirds majority requirement for state revenue increases. This ruling gives policymakers the flexibility they need to make practical and balanced choices for children.

The association also opposes SJR 8205, which seeks to embed the two-thirds requirement into the state constitution.

The inability of legislators to effectively and efficiently deal with the significant underfunding of our K-12 educational system is hurting our children. This fall, our association voted to support additional revenue to pay for children’s education and programs that keep them healthy and safe.

The League of Education Voters was the lead plaintiff in the case and we thank them for fighting in court for our kids. The League is ready for the legislature to seize this opportunity and better fund our schools:

LEV and its partners challenged the law in court because it hamstrung our legislators’ efforts to uphold their paramount duty to invest in the quality public schools our children need to succeed in life.  Our kids suffered at the hands of a small minority of legislators who could veto any new revenue options for education.

This decision comes at the perfect time–our legislators are working right now to develop a plan to fully fund K-12 education. This ruling puts all options on the table. We all want what is best for our students, but year after year, thanks in part to Initiative 1053, the legislature has not provided the funding to pay for basic resources need to educate our students.

The state teachers union has seen its members’ salaries shrivel through years of state budget cuts. Teachers have also seen the impacts of reduced funding in their schools and overcrowded classrooms: school librarians, nurses and counselors have vanished, textbooks are outdated and buildings are under-maintained. From Washington Education Association President Mary Lindquist:

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. 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.

Thursday’s momentous Supreme Court decision created an opportunity for the legislature. But will they use their new power to provide the high-quality education that our kids deserve, or will they be paralyzed by their fear of “the voters’ will?” We need to let our legislators know that we want them to act. Bring back the librarians, fix the leaks, buy the books, and ensure our teachers have the resources they need to help all of our kids realize their full potential in life.