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

Friday, September 30, 2005

Rossi does a "duck dive" on I-912

Seattle P-I columnist Joel Connelly writes this morning:
Statehouse: Republican governor-in-waiting Dino Rossi says he has no position on Initiative 912, the gas tax rollback. He's doing a duck dive. The state Republican Party backs I-912. But 27 GOP legislators voted for the transportation package -- and business groups are mobilizing to defeat the initiative.

What Rossi promised last year, however, was "leadership" and that he was a guy who would make "tough decisions" needed to move the state.

On I-912, then, Rossi should answer the question with which the father of modern conservatism, Sen. Barry Goldwater, closed hundreds of his columns: "How do you stand, sir?"
We couldn't agree more.

Dino Rossi is trying to have it both ways. But that's not going to work out so well for him. The business community can see what he's trying to do, and they're not happy about it.

This transportation package is a huge issue for them - and it should be.

Simply put, you can't have a functional economy without a functional transportation system. Business leaders understand this very well.

We agree that a functional economy is important, but public safety is even more important. People will die if the Alaskan Way Viaduct comes crashing down in an earthquake. Likewise, people will die if the State Route 520 floating bridge sinks or breaks apart in an earthquake.

And those two structures are just the most highly visible ones. There are dozens of invisible dangers around the state. This package includes funding to replace over thirty bridges that don't meet current seismic and safety standards. These bridges aren't just in Seattle, either. They're in every corner of the Evergreen State.

Dino Rossi is a coward. The GOP's conservative base has won out; the state committee recently endorsed Initiative 912. And Rossi has nothing to say. So much for tough leadership. There's no leadership here - nothing but pandering to anti-tax zealots.

Since Dino Rossi has shown he can't be a leader, he should remain a private citizen and never run for public office again. He can leave the leading to people who will pursue a positive vision for Washington State instead of hiding their positions on our most important problems.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Machinists' strike ends

It's official:
Just a few hours short of 28 days, the strike ended Thursday night after Machinists in the Puget Sound region, in Portland and in Wichita, Kan., gave an 80 percent margin of victory to a new three-year contract with the company that will give them better pension benefits and freeze their health insurance costs at current levels.
It sounds like everyone is a winner with this contract.

Where does Mike McGavick stand on Initiative 912?

Last night, I was talking with fellow blogger David Goldstein of HorsesAss.org and going through PDC reports for the other committees opposing Initiative 912.

We noticed that Safeco Insurance Corp. has contributed $1,000 to Keep Washington Rolling, the business community led coalition formed to oppose Initiative 912.

A few months ago, Safeco's chief, Mike McGavick, announced he planned to leave Safeco and form an exploratory committee to pursue a possible run for U.S. Senate against incumbent Maria Cantwell.

Safeco recently announced that McGavick is going to stay on the job longer than expected.

Since McGavick seems to be running for the Senate and diving into politics, we want to know: where does he stand on Initiative 912?

If the company he currently leads is willing to contribute a thousand dollars to the opposition campaign, doesn't that mean McGavick must be opposed to Initiative 912?

Initiative 912 isn't just a statewide issue. It's also a federal issue - if we want the federal government to help pay for the cost of some of our major projects, such as the Alaskan Way Viaduct.

Our state's congressional delegation recently managed to secure over $200 million in federal funds for the Alaskan Way Viaduct.

If we pass Initiative 912, we lose - big time. We lose funding to pay for public safety improvements across Washington State, and we jeopardize the opportunity of getting more federal money.

The federal government isn't going to be interested in footing the bill for projects that we Washingtonians aren't even willing to pay for.

By donating to the NO on I-912 campaign, Safeco Insurance - and its chief executive, Mike McGavick - are sending a strong message that the state should invest in public safety improvements to transportation infrastructure.

If I had to guess, I'd say that Mike McGavick opposes Initiative 912. But if he's contemplating a run for a high profile office representing all of Washington, he should publicly declare where he stands on this very important statewide issue.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Whack! Seattle P-I slams state GOP for endorsing Initiative 912

Tomorrow's editorial is a must-read:
It's enlightening to see that the state Republican Party has formally endorsed Initiative 912, which would repeal the gas-tax increase the Legislature approved earlier this year.

It's enlightening in that it's more evidence of the growing rift in the state party's traditional relationship with business. Washington business leaders have been outspoken in their insistence that the state's economic future depends on a safe and efficient transportation system to get employees to work and products to market.

Disregarding the clear and manifest benefits to business, dismissing the creation of thousands of family-wage jobs, disregarding the votes of respected Republican legislators, ignoring Hurricane Katrina's lessons in neglected infrastructure, rejecting long-needed highway safety improvements on hundreds of miles of two-lane highways, forestalling repairs to dozens of dangerous bridges -- that's the GOP transportation agenda.

The official endorsement means the state GOP can write checks to the I-912 campaign (providing there's anything left in the bank account after the profligate spending on the ill-fated gubernatorial election challenge).

So now the state GOP is forthrightly opposed to funding $8.5 billion in transportation projects.

When it comes to actually getting something done about dangerous highways, crumbling roads, dilapidated bridges and replacing parts of the transportation infrastructure key to the state's economy, the GOP is the party of "no."

Good of them to set the record straight.
Outstanding and well spoken. This is a well-deserved, hard-hitting editorial. The state Republican Party is going to pay the price when it comes to support from the business community for this endorsement. We've said it many, many times, and we'll say it again: tax cuts have serious consequences.

Vote NO on Initiative 912 - put public safety first.

Murray to support Roberts; Cantwell to oppose

You would have expected it to be the other way around:
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said Wednesday she will vote for Chief Justice-nominee John Roberts, describing her vote as one of hope over fear.

"My vote tonight is a vote of hope — hope that despite our differences we can unite around the common good," Murray said in a speech on the Senate floor.

Her vote also represents "hope that equal justice under the law means something powerful to every American, regardless of background or political situation, and hope that John Roberts responds to the needs of this nation to have a Supreme Court that honors our past and helps secure the rights and liberties of every American into the future," Murray said.

Murray called Roberts honest, ethical, qualified and fair, and said, "I believe he will be even handed in deciding cases."

The announcement came a day after Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., announced her opposition to Roberts. Cantwell said Roberts failed to address her concerns about privacy and abortion rights, despite repeated questions.

Roberts, a 50-year-old federal Appeals Court judge, is expected to win easy confirmation from the Senate on Thursday. More than 70 senators — including all 55 Republicans — have said they will vote in favor of the nomination.
We're disappointed by Murray's decision and even more disappointed by her statement.

A vote of hope? Hope for what? There's no hope as long as Bush is in the White House and Congress is led by Republicans like Tom Delay and Bill Frist.

"Even-handed"? That's being very, very optimistic towards someone who acted as if his confirmation hearing was just a rubber stamping process.

We expected better than this. Patty Murray has really disappointed us.

Roberts is a dodger. He would hardly answer any questions. We don't know where he stands. Democrats should oppose his confirmation.

We applaud Maria Cantwell for her decision to oppose John Roberts' confirmation - that is outstanding. Thank you for standing up to the Bush administration and refusing to support a nominee who won't tell us where he stands on important judicial issues.

BREAKING: DELAY INDICTED, STEPS DOWN

What the...whoa:
A Travis County grand jury today indicted U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay on one count of criminal conspiracy, prompting the Sugar Land Republican to give up his leadership post in Congress.

"I have notified (House Speaker Dennis Hastert) that I will temporarily step aside from my position as majority leader pursuant to rules of the House Republican Conference and the actions of the Travis County District Attorney today," DeLay said in a statement.
Finally. It's about time!

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Darcy posts diary to Daily Kos

Please visit Darcy's diary and recommend it. An excerpt:
I am ready to run a strong campaign to win. I am a candidate who recognizes the incredible work all of you are doing: you're building communities that make our voices stronger.

There are many candidates out there who don't think much of the power of bloggers and the netroots' ability to create change. I am not one of those candidates.

I am excited that so much is being done, both nationally and locally here in Washington State and the Pacific Northwest, to create a more powerful, united community of progressive activists.
Darcy will be reading the comments from the Daily Kos thread, so go there to leave her feedback.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Steve Mullin on the Dave Ross Show

Last week, Steve Mullin, the President of the Washington Roundtable, appeared on The Dave Ross Show on 710 KIRO to talk about Initiative 912. We recorded Steve's appearance on the show, you can listen to the clip from the Audio Archive.

Ross and Mullin discussed a lot of things: the background for the 2005 transportation funding package, the Blue Ribbon Commission, KING5's recent poll on Initiative 912, and the projects the package funds.

Ferguson extends lead over Edmonds

The latest numbers aren't so good for Carolyn. We're disappointed:

Bob Ferguson - 13212 votes - 52.02%
Carolyn Edmonds - 12142 votes - 47.81%

The difference is now 1070 votes. It's unlikely that Carolyn Edmonds will be able to top that, but we'll see what happens as the tally gets updated again in the days to come. It seems we're going to get stuck with a maverick who is going to jeopardize the Democratic majority on the council.

Carolyn Edmonds was and still is a real workhorse. She was supported by colleagues from Seattle because they know how hard she works on the council. Bob Ferguson is an impressive campaigner, but not an impressive councilmember.

We'd rather have someone who governs better, but as progressives well know, you can't govern unless you win elections. Republicans are good at winning elections and terrible at governing. We have to become better at winning elections so we can transition to good governance.

Trading the lead: Ferguson takes it back

I didn't think that King County Elections was going to update the ballot count over the weekend, but they did:

County Council County Council District No. 1
Bob Ferguson - 11488 votes - 50.61%
Carolyn Edmonds - 11169 votes - 49.20%

Bob Ferguson currently leads by 319 votes. More ballots are expected to be counted and reported later today. We won't know the final numbers for a few days, until all absentees are in.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Boeing, Machinists reach agreement

Good news, it seems:
The 23-day-old Boeing Machinists strike looks all but over.

Boeing has reached agreement with the union on the terms of a new contract.

The machinists got much of what they wanted. The union leadership is recommending acceptance; rank-and-file members will vote on it Thursday.

"I give credit to the membership. They had the resolve and integrity to stand up for each other," said Mark Blondin, district president of the International Association of Machinists union. "(Boeing management) saw the union is rock solid."

Blondin sealed a tentative agreement late Friday night in Washington D.C. when he shook hands with Boeing Commercial Airplanes chief executive Alan Mulally and said, "We've got a deal."

Sunday, Blondin emphasized that the deal is tentative until his members vote to accept it.

But with the terms he outlined, ratification seems a formality.

The union had asked for no wage increases, instead demanding higher pensions and holding down of health care costs. They got it.
Congratulations to the Machinists for standing up for workers' rights, and congratulations to Boeing for realizing the importance of reaching out to the union:
Analyst Scott Hamilton said an agreement was good for both sides and will allow Boeing to quickly regain the momentum it has built up this year in its commercial airplane business.

"I think (Boeing) figured that they had more to lose than the gain by continuing to take a hard line," he said.
It looks like everybody's a winner with this settlement.

Mike Siegel is an idiot

From the Yakima Herald-Republic:
A leading proponent of the initiative to repeal the state's boosted gas tax said Friday that legislators need to outline how the funds would be spent if the voters ever did agree to pay more at the pump.

Mike Siegel, a talk show host for a Seattle radio station and supporter of Initiative 912, appeared at the Red Lion Hotel Yakima Center during a meeting of state Republicans. About 20 people attended Siegel's speech Friday evening.

[...]

"We don't know what's going to get done. It's really a lottery," Siegel said in a quick briefing with reporters before his speech.
So what is Mike Siegel saying? Well, he's saying we need to "outline how the funds would be spent" - in other words, we need to figure out how we're going to spend the revenues we collect.

Mike Siegel is an idiot. He's trying to latch onto Kirby Wilbur and John Carlson's initiative, but he makes himself look like a fool.

The Legislature doesn't just pass a major revenue increase and say, "Gee, we guess we'll figure out how to spend the money later." They map out exactly how the revenue will be spent. They do it every time they appropriate funds to be expended.

In this case, there is a list of 274 projects that the 2005 transportation package pays for. 241 are fully funded, the rest will require more money. Legislators did not fully fund all of the projects because they wanted local governments to pitch in on large projects that benefit them most.

Mike Siegel clearly doesn't know what he's talking out. An outline for how the money would be spent, indeed. This kind of talk reinforces the notion that Siegel is just plain stupid. You want to see an outline of the funds?

Go to WSDOT and they can tell you exactly how every last dime is going to be spent. Each project has a clearly defined sum of money.

Ignorance and apathy are a large part of what we're up against. Voters need to understand that this money isn't being dumped down a black hole. It's going towards projects across the state to enhance public safety and relieve congestion. Every community will benefit from this package.

Monorail - it's the people, not the project

I've noticed a few other progressive bloggers venting their frustrations about the recent actions by Mayor Nickels and the City Council to halt the monorail in its tracks.

Brian of WashBlog has a post entitled, "A tale of two Nickels" in which he accuses the mayor of having a double standard:
The recent cut and run from the Monorail by Nickels reveals a double standard by which city officials approve large sums for a central library, the South Lake Union trolley and Seattle Aquarium expansion without votes, and yet demand a vote on a voter-backed monorail for a ridiculous 5th time.
I disagree. I don't think Nickels has a double standard.

The problem with the monorail isn't the concept of the project itself. It's the people that are running it.

It's because of these people that Nickels has had to withdraw his support, and it's because of these people that we are having a fifth vote, which isn't ridiculous at all considering the circumstances.

I know the monorail has a lot of supporters. I'm not much of supporter - I'm a monorail skeptic and have been since before the 2002 vote.

I'm not a skeptic because I don't believe in monorail. I'm a skeptic because I didn't, and still don't, believe in a lot of the people who are running the show there.

Monorail backers first sparked my ire during the Initiative 776 campaign. Read this excerpt from a 2002 e-mail that one organization backing the monorail wrote me. I wrote to ask them their position on I-776, Tim Eyman's attempt to shut down Sound Transit's light rail project. I thought I was writing to an ally, fellow mass transit supporters. Instead, I got this:
[We believe] 'Sound' Transit should be building a monorail instead of a light rail system, for a slew of excellent reasons. We have even gone to federal court to force the issue, although our lawsuit was effectively dismissed on a technicality without ever reaching the merits of our case.

Thus every time we get the opportunity to say this in public, we will, and even when the ETC [Elevated Transportation Company] wins in November, we will still keep on saying it. Hopefully in the meantime the Mayor of Seattle, the City Council and the "Sound" Transit board will have agreed with us and begun acting accordingly without wasting any more precious taxpayer money on an ineffective 'train to nowhere'. Like I've heard said before, "De Nile isn't just a river in Egypt". ST [Sound Transit] needs to give up on LRT [Link Light Rail] now, not tomorrow, not next year - now.
A train to nowhere, eh? They need to give up now - not tomorrow, not next year - now. Did you read that? Monorail supporters, (if any of you are reading this) - do you feel a little jolt inside?

Ah, the irony.

Roles have been reversed. Sound Transit is the agency that's on a stable footing, while the monorail agency is on the brink of falling of the cliff and being shut down. Their "train" is the one with the problem.

You see why I'm a skeptic? It's the people! A lot of people who work at the agency and a few of the biggest supporters are simply arrogant people.

They even sued the agency to try and stop it from building light rail!

They told me smugly that monorail was the way to go. That Link was a "train to nowhere". That Sound Transit was wasting the public's money.

Why can't I say the same thing to them, then? Why shouldn't I diss the monorail? Well, I certainly could! But you know, that's not the way I feel. I like mass transit, and I don't think there's anything wrong with monorail. It has many good advantages.

What I do have a problem with is THIS project - the financing plan, which was not fiscally responsible, the proposed length of the route (it's too long - there isn't enough money to pay for the entire line) and the people running the show.

With friends like these people, who needs enemies? The monorail agency's own leaders and some supporters have been, and to some extent, still are, the project's own worst enemies.

Now, not everyone is bad. Some of the people that have been associated with the monorail project for a long time are good people (like Dick Falkenbury and Cleve Stockmeyer).

The people that are running the monorail agency are responsible for the way the project looks right now. They are responsible for the lack of a competitive bid, the unsound financing plan, and the problems.

Brian and others are frustrated at Greg Nickels - but why? This isn't his project. Nickels is not and will not be the reason for the monorail's demise.

It's people like Joel Horn and Tom Weeks (who resigned months ago) who are the reason for the monorail's woes. As Dammy Westneat noted, the "dreamers" at the agency need to wake up:
The monorail may owe its existence to dreamers, but it's the dreamers who are now derailing it.

The mayor is absolutely correct when he says the agency doesn't have enough money. The choices are clear: Drastically shorten and simplify the line, or raise taxes. Either would require voter approval.

Yet some monorail backers persist that all 14 miles can be built without going back to the voters. Now that is dreaming.
Nickels has been supportive of the monorail until the last few months, when he has put his foot down. I'm glad to see that he has.

The Seattle Popular Monorail Authority, simply put, needs a change of leadership.

Leadership can make a world of difference. Take a look at Sound Transit. An influx of new and better leadership there turned the agency around. Take Executive Director Joni Earl:
It's Earl -- now chief executive officer-- who deserves a major chunk of the credit, say most observers, for the near complete turnaround of the agency from organizational and accounting chaos and poor morale into a credible agency getting high marks from auditors and regularly rolling out new transit projects.
The Seattle Monorail Authority, if it is to be turned around, has to bring in good people. There's been a start - John Haley and Kevin Phelps have been brought in - but people like Kristina Hill have simply got to go. The monorail board needs to be almost completely overhauled.

The Seattle Monorail needs its own Joni Earl:
Down to earth, friendly, straightforward, a good listener and quick with a smile, Earl seems to have made friends everywhere she's been. Before working as deputy county executive to Snohomish County Executive Bob Drewel, a Democrat, for eight years she was city manager of Mill Creek and before that a Kitsap County manager.

The relationships in local government have helped her at Sound Transit -- as has her personal style.

"I've seen her turn groups of angry people into very reasonable people," says state Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island.

Earl has won the admiration and loyalty of the politicians on the Sound Transit board, because, after getting badly burned before, they feel they can trust information coming from Earl and her staff.

That's partly because she at times tells them things they don't want to hear.
Even Republicans have said good things about Joni Earl.

You may be reading this and thinking to yourself, "well, it's not about one person." Guess what? One person can have a huge effect on an entire organization of people:
A former Snohomish County councilman called her "something of a taskmaster" at the county. At Sound Transit, Sims says, "The quality of work has improved by light years."

Asked what kind of boss her staff would say she is, Earl says: "I think they would say I'm direct. I'm tough on the issues, but I'm not hard on people. I have pretty high expectations. ...I think they'd say I'm not very good at pausing to celebrate. I kind of move on to the next thing fast."

A program manager at Sound Transit said Earl is the best boss he's ever worked for. His first contact with her was Earl's first meeting with midlevel managers in early 2001.

"I saw her in the hall the next day. She called me by name, and that amazed me."

Earl asks the staff the tough questions she expects the board will ask, he says. "I totally credit her with the rebirth of the organization."
It's entirely reasonable that Seattle voters are being asked to vote on the project again.

Why are many people angry that the monorail isn't getting built? It apparently isn't obvious to them that the project as it is now is not feasible.

Why the anger over the fifth vote? Seattle voters were promised another vote if the line they approved in 2002 was altered. The people are being asked to approve a new version of the project.

The fifth vote is a good thing. If the voters say "yes" again to the monorail, that will be powerful ammunition to keep the project going. It was unbelievable that the monorail board thought they could get some kind of "extension" until February.

The monorail doesn't have a sound revenue base. That's part of its problem. Since there isn't really any other money out there, the only real option is to approve a scaled-down version of the project.

That's what Sound Transit ultimately had to do. And lo and behold, light rail is now under construction, and the agency worked with the Port of Seattle to figure out how to get light rail all the way to Sea-Tac Airport.

Monorail supporters, if you want any monorail to be built, you're going to have to settle for a smaller project. It's either that or no project at all.

The monorail agency wouldn't be in the position it is now if it weren't for people like Joel Horn, Tom Weeks, Kristina Hill, and others.

Horn and Weeks left the agency last July. Good riddance to them. They were a terrible drag on the project. It was a start. More people need to leave.

I believe that mass transit is good. I will support just about any kind of mass transit - bus service, commuter rail, light rail - and monorail. I will especially support mass transit options that are integrated with each other, such as Sound Transit's services.

What I won't support is an agency with bad leadership.

The monorail agency needs to be purged of all the people who have turned it into a train wreck. If the monorail agency can't transition to new and effective leadership, then it ought to be shut down.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Cantwell looking good in latest poll

Kos, if you're going to cover the Pacific NW, you should really link to one or more of the NW bloggers...nobody covers local politics like we do. Better yet, link to the Portal, which provides access to all of them.

Here's what he posted today:
Strategic Vision (R). 9/19-21. MoE 3% (8/5-7 results)

Head-to-Head

Cantwell (D) 49 (46)
McGavick (R) 39 (38)

Cantwell is a hair under the 50 percent "vulnerable" mark, but this is a partisan Republican poll. Cantwell is in good shape.
We agree - Cantwell isn't looking too shabby. She can't take her reelection likely, though. Here's what Stategic Vision has for her job performance:
Do you approve or disapprove of Senator Maria Cantwell's job performance?
Approve 48%
Disapprove 37%
Undecided 15%
Again, not too bad. She definitely should do a better job of reaching out to voters. She has to seem more accessible. People have to feel like they have some kind of connection to her.

She'll succeed if Washingtonians can relate to her and establish a good relationship. It's all about accessibility. Her work fighting Enron and defending the Snohomish PUD is a good start.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Edmonds takes over the lead from Ferguson

Surprise! The latest numbers give Carolyn Edmonds a 79 vote lead:

County Council County Council District No. 1
Bob Ferguson - 10364 votes - 49.72%
Carolyn Edmonds - 10443 votes - 50.10%

The next numbers report should be on Monday, September 26th, 2005. We'll see what happens when ballots that come in over the weekend are collected and counted.

Initiative 912 would derail seawall replacement

Help Fight Initiative 912: Donate to Washington Defense

KOMO has a great story on another one of the negative effects of Initiative 912: the jeopardization of the planned seawall replacement. Here's an excerpt for some background:
The top man at the State Department of Transportation is warning it will be back to step one on the Alaskan Way Viaduct and Seattle seawall replacement if voters turn thumbs down on a gas tax increase.

Doug MacDonald says technically, the project would not be dead, but the gas tax increase challenged by Initiative 912 provided the majority of funding for the project.

[...]

[T]here is a significant water threat from an earthquake -- particularly given the level of deterioration in the Seattle seawall, which was built in the early 1930's.

The Colman ferry terminal, the waterfront fire station, and the Alaskan Way Viaduct were all built on fill.

Pictures from 1932 through 1934 show construction of the wooden sea wall. The area behind the wall was filled with sawdust, earth fill, and whatever materials were available at the time.

The soil is unstable when agitated and liquefies under sustained shaking.

If the soil liquefies, it would exert severe pressure on the seawall.

"That's going to cause the seawall to bulge out, to move outward toward the bay," said Dr. Steve Kramer of the U.W. Civil Engineering Department. "The soil behind it will follow and the foundations of the viaduct at least in some locations are going to fail."
Get the idea?

The seawall and the viaduct are interconnected. Media pundits like Joel Connelly and others say we need the viaduct rebuild option because it's cheaper. But what about the seawall replacement?

A tunnel may be more expensive, but it has two simply enormous advantages: (1) public safety (tunnels are, believe it or not, incredibly earthquake-safe) and 2) it takes care of both the viaduct and the seawall at the same time.

If you rebuild the viaduct, you have to do a seperate replacement of the seawall, whereas if you build a tunnel, the seawall basically forms one of the tunnel walls. It's part of the tunnel construction.

It would also be nice to actually open up the waterfont, but that's not the biggest or best argument for the tunnel.

Here's an idea of how critical the seawall is:
The Capital Project Director for the Seattle Department of Transportation, Richard Miller, says a breach in the seawall is becoming more likely: "There are some marine worms called gribbles that are eating the timber that supports the seawall and the viaduct."

Miller says some emergency repairs have been made, but the city has lacked the money for a substantial fix. The estimated cost of seawall replacement is $800 million.

Gribbles caused substantial damage. The 70-year wood flakes under minor pressure and several blocks are believed to be in seriously deteriorated condition.

Seattle has upgraded the viaduct by strengthening its ability to withstand earthquakes. But engineers say if the seawall fails, that strengthening would make little difference.

Miller says it would create enormous problems: "A lot of the downtown power comes through this corridor, so it's a transportation corridor as well as utilities. So it is very important to the lifeblood of Seattle."
(emphasis mine)

So, why hasn't the city been planning for this? Well, it has:
Seattle has a rebuilding plan. But the state warns that plan will die if voters reject a gas tax increase.

"It is the cornerstone of the financial plan for fixing the viaduct," MacDonald said. "So, if the initiative passes, the implication for the project is we are almost back to square one."
Oh.

The seawall replacement plan dies with the passage of Initiative 912, you say?

Initiative 912 is plainly not just a threat to public safety and transportation anymore. It's a threat to the economic livelihood of Seattle. The Port of Seattle and the waterfront are especially in danger.

So, Dino Rossi - Initiative 912 threatens public safety and our economic livelihood. What do you think about that?

Wouldn't you agree with many of your business backers that it makes sense to make an investment in upgrading our infrastructure? You did, after all, help get the 2003 transportation funding package (the nickel gas increase) through the state Senate. Isn't it clear to you how important this is?

Why don't you be a leader and take a position on I-912? If you want to run for office, speak up. You'll instantly have our attention. We'll cover your press conference or news release.

The bottom line, whether Dino decides to behave like coward or not, is that we need to act. And now. We have dithered for far too long. It is time for a vote of confidence in securing a sound future for Seattle and Washington State. Vote NO on Initiative 912.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Ferguson widens tiny lead over Edmonds

The latest numbers from today:

County Council County Council District No. 1
Bob Ferguson - 9583 votes - 50.26%
Carolyn Edmonds - 9449 - 49.56%

The latest batch of absentee ballots have favored Bob Ferguson. But his lead is not insurmountable - Ferguson is only up by 134 votes. Edmonds closed a gap more sizable than that yesterday, and she still has a chance to win. We'll see how the numbers look tomorrow.

Help Us Avoid THIS - Vote NO on I-912

Help Fight Initiative 912: Donate to Washington Defense

As you should know by now, every week, we'll post a picture or illustration here reminding you of the consequences of passing Initiative 912. Here's this Thursday's Disaster Picture of the Week.

Remember: If we roll back funds to replace critical structures like the Alaskan Way Viaduct and the SR 520 bridge, then we put ourselves at risk for a disaster in which there will be death and destruction.

For the third week in a row, our picture comes from the Gulf Coast, which, as you know, was recently ravaged by Hurricane Katrina. We don't get hurricanes here, but we do get serious storms and earthquakes.

Remember the 2001 Nisqually quake? We got lucky four years ago. That earthquake was a huge wake up call telling us we need to get ready for a disaster or we'll suffer a fate similiar to what New Orleans has suffered.

A collapse is the future of unsturdy bridges and critical structures across Washington State if we don't act. Unsturdy bridges are not only vulnerable to earthquakes - but also human carelessness. The longer we wait, the greater our risk.

What you're looking at is a destroyed bridge in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. It's a view from the air, this picture is courtesy of NOAA. This bridge connects Bay St. Louis and Pass Christian...well, it used to.

Last week, you saw a picture of a collapsed U.S. Highway 90 bridge near Biloxi. The week before, you saw the destruction of New Orleans' Twin Span, Interstate 10, over Lake Pontchartrain. This week, we're showing you yet another damaged structure.

KING 5 did a poll yesterday on Initiative 912. The results of the poll indicate once again that we can win Initiative 912. Winning is within our reach, but only if we campaign hard.
1. If the election were today, would you vote yes on Initiative 912 or would you vote no?
Yes 52%
No 41%
Undecided 7%

2. Do you believe the State of Washington will spend the money from the gas tax responsibly?
Yes 25%
No 70%
Not sure 5%

3. How does the recent rise in gas prices affect your opinion of a nine-and-a-half cent gas-tax increase? Does it make you more likely to support the tax? Or less likely?
More likely 14%
Less likely 77%
No difference 9%

4. Do you feel the projects funded by the gas tax are fairly distributed between the Puget Sound area and the rest of the state?
Yes 23%
No 68%
Not sure 9%

5. Do you believe the state right now is spending enough money on transportation?
Yes 41%
No 52%
Not sure 9%

6. Has the failure of some public infrastructure in Hurricane Katrina made you more likely or less likely to support a gas tax for transportation projects here?
More likely 27%
Less likely 48%
No difference 25%
Also see Stephanie Bowman's column on Initiative 912 in the Seattle P-I yesterday, a great op-ed.

Also, numbers came in for Initiative 900 - surprisingly showing voters are opposed to Eyman's latest initiative. The Permanent Defense Journal has the details.

The danger is real. The threat is real. When our big earthquake hits, multiple structures will fail. It won't be just the viaduct and the 520 floating bridge.

It won't just be Seattle, either.

We need to get ready. We need to fund improvements to our transportation infrastructure. We've waited too long. Vote no on Initiative 912 and support a decision to invest in the future of our state.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Brilliant - Activists park mobile sign outside of Grover Norquist's office

From Kos:
The billboard created by Working Assets and the League of Independent Voters -- and inspired and funded by the DailyKos community -- landed on Grover Norquist's doorstep at 1920 L St. this morning just in time for his infamous weekly "Wednesday meeting" of the conservative elite.

Sign parked outside of Norquist's office

What a terrific idea for a stunt! The sign was brilliant - but this is a top notch effort to get media attention. This was beautifully done.

The mobile billboard isn't finished, either. Here's where it's tenatively going next:

GROVER NORQUIST'S KATRINA "BATHTUB" BILLBOARD
THURSDAY'S TOP TEN TOUR STOPS
1) Republican National Committee
2) American Enterprise Institute
3) The Federalist Society
4) Heritage Foundation
5) Cato Institute
6) Up and down "K" Street, back and forth… forever.
7) The Washington Post
8) Capitol Hill congressional offices (security pending) of Tom DeLay, John Cornyn, Kay Bailey Hutchinson and Rick Santorum (and other elected reps suggested by Kossacks in this thread)
9) Washington Nationals vs. San Francisco Giants baseball game (at RFK Stadium, 4:35 pm EST)
10) "Blogging: Free Press for All or Free-for-All?" panel discussion as part of the National Archives' Constitution Day activities (7 pm)

and… two super-secret (dare I say "double-secret") bonus locations that we'll reveal late on Thursday morning.

[...]

Meanwhile, here's where "The Grover" will be roving over the weekend:

FRIDAY:
Northern Virginia locations to be determined (got suggestions? post them in the comments!)

SATURDAY:
On the periphery of the 9/24 anti-war protest as it passes by the White House (unfortunately, trucks won't be allowed in the march)

SUNDAY:
Outside NBC's "Meet the Press" headquarters (where MTP guests are interviewed by other media following their appearances)
(also considering a mega-church in Arlington, VA, that many conservative elites attend)
Go to the Kos thread to suggest where you think the truck should go!

Edmonds, Ferguson seperated by just a handful of votes

It seems there will be a recount in the Edmonds-Ferguson race.

Here's the latest result from King County elections:
Bob Ferguson 8093 votes - 49.97%
Carolyn Edmonds 8068 votes - 49.81%

They're seperated by only 25 votes.

The race is incredibly tight. What does this remind you of? Last year's gubernatorial election, of course. Edmonds has a good shot at winning. She's barely, barely trailing Ferguson and there are just a few ballots left to be counted.

King County Elections is saying today's numbers represent all the ballots they had on hand. Absentees will continue to come in for several days because Washington law allows ballots to be mailed as late as Election Day. If current trends continue, Edmonds may be able to topple Ferguson.

Olympian endorses yes on Eyman's I-900

The Olympian disappointed us this morning with their endorsement of Tim Eyman's Initiative 900. We expect some newspapers to side with Eyman, but we disagree with their endorsement. Let's look at the Olympian editorial and pick it apart.

It starts off like this:
Faced with the prospect of another Tim Eyman initiative, the state Legislature earlier this year passed the performance audit bill. Gov. Christine Gregoire signed House Bill 1064 into law May 11.
They can't be serious?

Why does the media persist in giving Tim Eyman so much credit?

Performance audits did not succeed this year because of anything Tim Eyman did. He refuses to engage in the legislative process. State lawmakers have learned they don't need to be scared by Tim; he's been mired in an 0 for 4 losing streak the past few years.

House Democrats have long advocated performance audit legislation. It passed this year because of a change in leadership. Democrats assumed control of the Senate and Christine Gregoire became governor. The previous governor, Gary Locke, vetoed a performance audit bill because he didn't like it.

That paragraph right there makes The Olympian less credible instantly.

The Olympian editorial board claims that:
Initiative 900 will bring more accountability to government at all levels and help build a bond of trust between the public and their elected and appointed governmental officials. Voters should support I-900 at the Nov. 8 general election.
Sure - if you listen to Tim Eyman.

The "it'll bring more accountability" argument is something that Olympian editorial board members and maybe most voters would like to believe. Initiative 900 doesn't guarantee more accountability, though. And we doubt that voters who don't trust government now will develop a greater trust of it if Initiative 900 is implemented.

We disagree. We don't think Initiative 900 will facilitate the building of any "bond of trust". The Olympian's editorial board members are too optimistic.

They've bought Eyman's sales pitch hook, line, and sinker. He makes these kind of statements every year.

The Olympian ignores our concerns. They don't discuss the "checks and balances" problem we've raised. What if we get a rogue auditor? Someone who isn't a professional like Brian Sonntag? What then? What if that auditor went on a crusade to attack and dismantle agencies they didn't like?

Government needs to be set up to deal with the worst-case scenario.

The Olympian also ignores the fact that we already have performance audits at the local level. Many jurisdictions, especially in King County (where there are more layers of government) have a process for accountability that utilizes performance audits.

We'd rather see an independent group set up to audit, say, the Port of Seattle then have the auditor swoop down on the port and audit it for performance. It goes back to the principle of home rule.

Initiative 900 gives the auditor too much flexibility to do whatever he or she wants.

The Olympian also conveniently ignored the fact that Initiative 900 has an apparent constitutional flaw. They called Initiative 900 "superior to the Legislature's attempt."

If you think an initiative that doesn't pass constitutional muster is "superior" to a carefully crafted piece of legislation that made it through the scrutiny of the legislative process, your thinking on public policy is skewed.

We don't believe the Olympian's editorial board looked at all the arguments when they made their decision. And that's too bad - they've lost some respect from us. But at least they did give their readers a link to our website.

Learn more about Initiative 900 from Permanent Defense.

Pacific NW Portal adds Primary Analysis page

Pacific Northwest Portal now has a 2005 Primary Election Analysis page with results and notes on yesterday's election for your reading pleasure. Included are factors in the election and thoughts about how the general election is shaping up. The new page will continue to be updated as more results come in.

Take a look for yourself.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Primary election update - more returns in

King County: 70% of precincts have been counted. Ron Sims is now at about 70% and his showing continues to improve. In District 1 of King County, Bob Ferguson has seized the lead from Carolyn Edmonds. He now has the lead at 51.09%.

In the 9th District, Reagan Dunn has retained his lead over Steve Hammond as results have come in, although his lead has narrowed slightly. Dunn is at 56.37% now.

In the Port Commission races, John Creighton's lead over Lawrence Molloy has mostly stayed the same at 49%. Molloy will be in for a tough fight in the general election and will need all the help he can gets. In the race for the open seat, one of our endorsed candidates, Lloyd Hara, has captured the lead at 26.37%. Our other endorsed candidate, Peter Coates, is in fourth place right now and it doesn't appear he'll make it to the general election. It'll be Hara vs. Berkowitz.

In the Position 4 race, Jack Jolley is at 28%, while incumbent Pat Davis is at 46%. Sue Rahr is handily dispatching her two opponents, Schmidt and Fuda, who currently have 17% each against Rahr's 64%.

Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels is winning with 56% of the vote, and Al Runte, his top challenger, is at 22% right now.

Seattle City Council races: Jan Drago has the lead in her race with about 46% of the vote, and her challenger appears to be Casey Corr, who came in second. Richard Conlin is winning his race with 49% of the vote, his challenger will be Paige Miller. Right now, Richard McIver is leading both of his challengers with 37% of the vote, Dwight Pelz is in second with 33% and will likely be his challenger.

Monorail board: Incumbents are getting slammed. Cindi Laws is losing to challenger Beth Goldberg - Goldberg has 46% to Laws' 31%. Cleve Stockmeyer and Dick Falkenbury are splitting the pro-monorail camp in two - challenger Jim Nobles, a Republican who wants to shut the monorail down, is leading both with 40%. Stockmeyer is currently in second with 34% and will likely be facing off with Nobles in the general election.

Snohomish County: For county council, the latest returns have Suzanne Smith winning over Marian Harrison. Also, Dave Somers is winning in his race.

Port Commission Update

Second returns are in

Port Of Seattle Commissioner - Position 1
Wen Wu Lee 13794 16.87%
John Creighton 42409 51.86%
Lawrence Molloy 25536 31.22%
Write-in 43 0.05%

Port Of Seattle Commissioner - Position 3
John R. Kane 9257 11.57%
Christopher Cain 17007 21.25%
Richard "Rich" Berkowitz 21061 26.31%
Lloyd Hara 18721 23.39%
Peter M. Coates 13948 17.43%
Write-in 49 0.06%

Port Of Seattle Commissioner - Position 4
Robert Walker 10306 12.74%
Jack Jolley 21045 26.01%
Patricia "Pat" Davis 37005 45.73%
Richard Pope 12513 15.46%
Write-in 55 0.07%

Second update comes in

Second update comes in

Ron Sims update

Here's how Ron is doing in the primary right now:

Karen Rispoli DEM 11866 23.48%
Michael Nelson DEM 5281 10.45%
Ron Sims DEM 33342 65.99%

Early returns for Sheriff

Sheriff
Sue Rahr 51587 63.79%
Jim Fuda 14392 17.80%
Greg Schmidt 14855 18.37%

Early retrurns are in; some troubling

County Council
Reagan Dunn is winning the 9th District right now with 61% of the vote, Hammond has 39%. Carolyn Edmonds is beating Bob Ferguson, 54% to 45%.

Port of Seattle
John Creighton, a Republican friend of Dino Rossi's, is currently beating Lawrence Molloy with 52% to his 34%, a troubling sign. Peter Coates is currently at 17%, Lloyd Hara at 22%. They are trailing Berkowtiz in the Position 3 race. As for Jack Jolley, he's at 25%, Pat Davis has about 45%, a comfortable margin for her to coast on.

Times turns around and disappoints us

Yesterday, we praised the Seattle Times for their coverage of our need for better emergency preparedness and how that's interconnected with Initiative 912.

But today, we're unahppy with the Times: first for printing a story that isn't news and shouldn't have been printed; and second, for siding with Attorney General Rob McKenna and Tim Eyman over a lingering part of the I-776 fight.

The story they ran this morning, Eyman again solicits donors for salary fund, was based off of a fundraising e-mail from Tim Eyman.

Eyman continues to beg supporters for money for his "Help Us Help Ourselves" compensation fund. The story was written by the AP's David Ammons, who has done this several times before. What we don't understand is how this is news. Eyman has been asking his supporters for money for years.

There wasn't any newsworthy event. Fundraising emails from Eyman should not be turned around into news stories. Shame on the Times for printing this non-story.

If you want to read it, you can go to the Times' website and find it yourself. No reason for us to link to it.

The Times also had an editorial this morning on I-776 that we didn't like:
The situation is this: The vote of the people to repeal the car-tab tax came three years after Sound Transit had signed a contract pledging a 0.4 percent car-tabs tax, and a 0.3 percent sales tax, as security for $350 million in bonds. Under the Constitution, neither the Legislature nor the voters can retroactively change a bond contract. Sound Transit argues that therefore it can ignore I-776 and collect its share of the car-tab tax indefinitely, including pledging it for the sale of new bonds.

In a brief mainly written by James Pharris, senior assistant attorney general, the state argues against this. Sound Transit, the state says, must follow the law to the extent that it can, which means using the car-tab money only for repayment of the old bonds. After that debt is satisfied, it must end the tax because it has no legal authority to collect it.

Apparently, no Washington court has ever made an order like this. It is necessary here, otherwise a law passed by the people and validated by the court will be tossed aside like a gum wrapper, and we arrive at a point at which the people cannot repeal any tax.
That vote of the people? A statewide vote which went against the principle of home rule. The combined Sound Transit taxing district voted I-776 down, and the Times editorial board knows it.

When we talk about "voters' wishes" we're talking about people in Aberdeen, Spokane, or Vancouver who are essentially telling Sound Transit what forms of taxes it can levy to collect revenue. Sound Transit's own voters voted against repealing the tax.

The intent of I-776 was to destroy light rail. That goal was not accomplished. And I-776 was a shoddily written initiative. It was declared by a King County judge to be afoul of the state Constitution.

The Supreme Court decision upholding was divided, 6 to 3, with three justices believing 776 to be unconstitutional.

The voters authorized Sound Transit to collect revenue. In the I-776 vote, Sound Transit's voters essentially reauthorized the agency to collect revenue when they voted no.

But that "vote of confidence" means nothing legally because an initiative has the same effect as a statewide law, and local governments do not have guaranteed independence.

We believe Sound Transit is doing the right thing by continuing to follow its mission. It serves the Central Puget Sound, not the state of Washington. Other Washingtonians should not be deciding what Sound Transit can and can't do to serve its own taxpayers.

Times turns around and disappoints us

Yesterday, we praised the Seattle Times for their coverage of our need for better emergency preparedness and how that's interconnected with Initiative 912.

But today, we're unahppy with the Times: first for printing a story that isn't news and shouldn't have been printed; and second, for siding with Attorney General Rob McKenna and Tim Eyman over a lingering part of the I-776 fight.

The story they ran this morning, Eyman again solicits donors for salary fund, was based off of a fundraising e-mail from Tim Eyman.

Eyman continues to beg supporters for money for his "Help Us Help Ourselves" compensation fund. The story was written by the AP's David Ammons, who has done this several times before. What we don't understand is how this is news. Eyman has been asking his supporters for money for years.

There wasn't any newsworthy event. Fundraising emails from Eyman should not be turned around into news stories. Shame on the Times for printing this non-story.

If you want to read it, you can go to the Times' website and find it yourself. No reason for us to link to it.

The Times also had an editorial this morning on I-776 that we didn't like:
The situation is this: The vote of the people to repeal the car-tab tax came three years after Sound Transit had signed a contract pledging a 0.4 percent car-tabs tax, and a 0.3 percent sales tax, as security for $350 million in bonds. Under the Constitution, neither the Legislature nor the voters can retroactively change a bond contract. Sound Transit argues that therefore it can ignore I-776 and collect its share of the car-tab tax indefinitely, including pledging it for the sale of new bonds.

In a brief mainly written by James Pharris, senior assistant attorney general, the state argues against this. Sound Transit, the state says, must follow the law to the extent that it can, which means using the car-tab money only for repayment of the old bonds. After that debt is satisfied, it must end the tax because it has no legal authority to collect it.

Apparently, no Washington court has ever made an order like this. It is necessary here, otherwise a law passed by the people and validated by the court will be tossed aside like a gum wrapper, and we arrive at a point at which the people cannot repeal any tax.
That vote of the people? A statewide vote which went against the principle of home rule. The combined Sound Transit taxing district voted I-776 down, and the Times editorial board knows it.

When we talk about "voters' wishes" we're talking about people in Aberdeen, Spokane, or Vancouver who are essentially telling Sound Transit what forms of taxes it can levy to collect revenue. Sound Transit's own voters voted against repealing the tax.

The intent of I-776 was to destroy light rail. That goal was not accomplished. And I-776 was a shoddily written initiative. It was declared by a King County judge to be afoul of the state Constitution.

The Supreme Court decision upholding was divided, 6 to 3, with three justices believing 776 to be unconstitutional.

The voters authorized Sound Transit to collect revenue. In the I-776 vote, Sound Transit's voters essentially reauthorized the agency to collect revenue when they voted no.

But that "vote of confidence" means nothing legally because an initiative has the same effect as a statewide law, and local governments do not have guaranteed independence.

We believe Sound Transit is doing the right thing by continuing to follow its mission. It serves the Central Puget Sound, not the state of Washington. Other Washingtonians should not be deciding what Sound Transit can and can't do to serve its own taxpayers.

Testing primary elections updater

Test successful. This technology will allow us to remotely post updates (primary election results) right to the blog as they happen without needing a computer.

See the below post for primary election day information and endorsements.

UPDATE: For what it's worth, NPI has released endorsements for the Seattle Popular Monorail Authority Board. Our endorsements post below has been updated, you can read our statement on the two endorsed candidates here.

Primary election day is here

Please go and vote. If you're an absentee voter, get your ballot in the mail. Get it postmarked today so it counts! If you're a poll voter, head out to your polling place and cast your ballot before 8 PM. And don't forget your ID if you're a poll voter.

A reminder that Pacific Northwest Portal will be providing you with primary election coverage today, in partnership with our Elections Center.

NPI's endorsements for the primary election are as follows:

DEMOCRATIC BALLOT (KING)
  • King County Executive: Ron Sims
  • King County Council, 1st District: Carolyn Edmonds
  • King County Council, 2nd District: Larry Gossett
  • King County Council, 4th District: Larry Phillips
  • King County Council, 5th District: Julia Patterson
  • King County Council, 7th District: Geni Hawkins
  • King County Council, 8th District: Dow Constantine
  • King County Council, 9th District: Shirley A. Gaunt-Smith

NONPARTISAN BALLOT (KING)
  • King County Sheriff: Sue Rahr
  • Seattle Port Commission #1: Lawrence Molloy
  • Seattle Port Commission #3: Lloyd Hara or Peter Coates
  • Seattle Port Commission #4: Jack Jolley
  • Court of Appeals, Position #2: Susan Randolph Agid
  • City of Renton Municipal Court Judge: Terry Jurado
  • City of Seattle Mayor: Greg Nickels
  • Seattle City Council, Position #2: Richard Conlin
  • Seattle City Council, Position #4: Jan Drago
  • Seattle City Council, Position #8: Richard McIver or Dwight Pelz
  • Seattle Monorail Authority Board Position #8: Cleve Stockmeyer
  • Seattle Monorail Authority Board Position #9: Beth Goldberg

DEMOCRATIC BALLOT (SNOHOMISH)
  • Snohomish County Council, 1st District: Marian Harrison
  • Snohomish County Council, 4th District: Dave Gossett
  • Snohomish County Council, 5th District: Dave Somers

NONPARTISAN BALLOT (SNOHOMISH)
  • Bothell City Council, Position #3: Del Spivey
  • Mayor of Lynnwood: Dan Gough
  • Lynnwood City Council Position #2: Mark Smith
  • Snohomish City Council Position #6: Liz Loomis
Click on the above links (Democratic or Nonpartisan Ballots) to go to that page and read our statements concerning each endorsement, as well as find links to the endorsed candidates' websites, plus see other notable endorsements the candidate has received.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Seattle Times has a field day with I-912

Help Fight Initiative 912: Donate to Washington Defense

The Times really has Initiative 912 covered today: it's in a front page article, a local news article, and an editorial.

Today's front page article is about disaster planning. The article headline asks the question: Who'll be to blame if viaduct, 520 bridge collapse? An excerpt:
Earlier this year, the Legislature passed and Gregoire signed a 9.5-cent gas-tax increase that would provide $2 billion for the viaduct and $500 million for the 520 bridge, among other projects.

But a group opposing the increase quickly gathered 420,000 signatures for Initiative 912 to repeal the new gas tax. The initiative will be on the November ballot.

And that, UW professor May said, raises yet another question: "How far should public officials go in protecting somewhat indifferent citizens who have other concerns?"

State House Transportation Chairman Ed Murray, D-Seattle, said the moral burden for fixing the viaduct now rests with the voters.

But I-912 spokesman Brett Bader said he feels no such burden. He said he doesn't lose sleep over the prospect that I-912 and its backers might someday get blamed if people die on the viaduct.

"The thought hasn't crossed my mind," Bader said.
Of course it hasn't crossed his mind. It's surprising that Bader even admits he and his cohorts don't care if people die in a disaster. Anything to put four bucks a month back into the average driver's pocket - at the expense of our society, our economy, and our lives.

The bottom line is that hardcore anti-tax activists DON'T CARE about public safety and investing in our transportation infrastructure. If the viaduct or the floating bridge collapses, it must be because God is angry with sinful Washington State.

It is time to stop listening to idiots like Brett Bader. Their thinking is pure folly and will only lead to greater cost and consequences later on. Stop obsessing about the cost of making an investment now.

Would you rather pay a higher price tag later? People need to understand: we can pay less now or more later. And the "more later" is also attached to an even crueler cost: the loss of human lives.
Even without the new gas tax, Bader said, he thinks the state and city have more than enough money to replace the viaduct, or at least do enough repairs to make it safe.

He pointed out state and local government have spent or earmarked billions of dollars for other projects.

"They could have built a new viaduct; instead, they chose to build a monorail, light rail and two stadiums," Bader said.

What's more, he asked, if safety is such a concern, how can government officials justify delaying action while they quibble over whether to rebuild the viaduct or replace it with a tunnel that won't block the city's view of Puget Sound?

"The problem is not money," Bader said. "The problem is priorities and leadership."

Bader said using the disaster in New Orleans to bolster arguments against I-912 is a cheap political tactic.
Listen, Brett. The viaduct CANNOT BE MADE SAFE. Repairs are out of the question! It's not an option! WHY DON'T YOU GET THIS? The viaduct is build on liquefied soil. It can't be repaired! The very foundation on which it is built is unstable!

Proponents of I-912 apparently don't understand engineering or science. Voters would be extroadinarily unwise to listen to their silly, backwards thinking.

There is not enough money to replace the viaduct. There should be, but there isn't. You know, Brett - there MIGHT be a larger pool of funds to tap IF we hadn't cut the motor vehicle excise tax. But it was people like you who insisted that it be cut!

The viaduct needs to be replaced, but we also need mass transit systems. Bader & Co. think both light rail and monorail are a complete waste of money because they do not believe in mass transit.

Their philosophy is more pavement and more lanes. And that will not solve congestion. If you create more capacity, the capacity will be filled and you're right back to square one.

Go to the San Francisco Bay Area. Drive through the exurbs on Interstate 680. There's like six lanes in each direction through San Ramon, Walnut Creek, and other communities. They kept adding lanes because they thought it would ease traffic jams.

It hasn't worked. Traffic is still jammed during rush hour.

When you build more lanes, you get more solo drivers in their cars to fill them. That's how it works. New lanes and new pavement do not make congestion go away. They make it worse.

We have had a money problem. But we now have state leadership now that is willing to be courageous enough to fund these improvements to our infrastructure. If our state were led by Republicans, this investment never would have been made.

There isn't quibbling over how to replace the viaduct. The city and state have settled on a preferred option: the tunnel.

A tunnel is the best choice not because it removes the viaduct and creates a better view of the Sound, but because tunnels are safest. Contrary to what you might think, a tunnel is a very safe place to be in an earthquake.

I toured the Mount Baker/I-90 tunnels years ago. I went inside the DOT control center for the tunnels. These tunnels are soundly engineered. The people at DOT told us during our tour that they would personally want to be in one of the tunnels during an earthquake.

As WSDOT points out:
Structural engineers agree that tunnels are one of the safest places to be during an earthquake because the tunnel moves with the earth. Tunnels are inherently strong - for example, no Seattle tunnels were damaged during the 2001 Nisqually earthquake. These include the I-90 tunnels (Mt. Baker and Mercer Island), Battery Street Tunnel, 3rd Avenue Bus Tunnel and the Burlington Northern Tunnel.

Another example is how well the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) tunnel fared during the Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989. The system withstood the earthquake forces and resumed service within hours to serve as a key transportation “lifeline” during the time that the Bay Bridge and Cypress Freeway were shut down and undergoing extensive repairs. Similarly, the Los Angeles subway was back in service within 24 hours following the 1994 Northridge earthquake while nearby bridges were out of service for months.
It's about public safety, Brett. Not about somebody's view. A tunnel is expensive, but it's an investment in public safety. It is the best choice to replace the viaduct.

As for using New Orleans to make the case why I-912 is a bad idea, that's not cheap. That's being realistic. What's really cheap is the arrogant, self-serving attitude that Bader and his cohorts put on display for us. In their world, government is an evil monster that cannot be trusted with one penny. In their world, taxpayers know how to spend their money better than the government does.

Unfortunately, their world ignores reality. We cannot afford to listen to them or we will pay the price.

Taxpayers individually cannot build transportation systems. It is only the government that is able to fund and manage such projects. Government does many, many good things. This package is just another example of how government serves all of us.

Another article in this morning's Times focuses on Keep Washington Rolling, the interest group coalition that, like Washington Defense, is fighting Initiative 912. An excerpt:
Opponents of the anti-gas-tax measure, Initiative 912, aren't shy about saying their situation seems pretty desperate.

Gas prices continue to surge. A recent campaign poll of voters, largely paid for by big business, found most people want to repeal the 9.5-cent-a-gallon gas tax the Legislature passed earlier this year. In fact, the more voters learn about the initiative, the more they like it.

For the coalition fighting the measure — including business, labor and environmentalists — "that's not good news," said Clifford Traisman, a lobbyist for the Washington Environmental Council, who's helping organize a campaign to defeat I-912. "We are the underdog."
We're not desperate. We know it's going to be a challenge to get voters to do some critical thinking. But it can be done. And we believe that the more voters learn about the transportation package, the more they dislike Initiative 912.

What's with this sentence here: "In fact, the more voters learn about the initiative, the more they like it."

What kind of a statement is that? Of course, if you educate voters about an initiative and tell them it gives them a tax cut, they're going to like it. But that's not the right approach.

Instead: "In fact, the more voters learn about the 2005 transportation package, the more they like it."

That's the right approach. Ask voters whether they like the package - not the initiative! The package (at least a key component) is what we're voting on here.

We believe that the more voters learn about the package and what it does for them, the more they will like it.

On to the next excerpt:
Traisman and other members of the opposition group, Keep Washington Rolling, say their best shot at turning things around is to run an unconventional campaign that eschews traditional tactics. In particular, they say, you won't see prominent politicians on the air urging people to vote no on I-912.

Instead, the campaign has hired experts to develop a strategy that combines targeted mailings with a smaller number of savvy commercials.

[...]

Keep Washington Rolling is holding focus groups soon to refine its ideas, but it plans to rely heavily on targeted mailings with specific information about road projects it contends would be put on hold if the gas-tax increase is repealed.
Yeah - being smarter about paid media/campaign ads would probably help. But we don't think it's enough. It's why we have formed Washington Defense: it is time for us to mount a grassroots effort to defeat Initiative 912. We believe that face to face contact with voters, more than anything else, is what will propel us to victory. Not direct mail or "savvy TV commercials".
I-912 opponents are getting help from a Denver firm that helped run the FasTracks campaign. Keep Washington Rolling hopes to raise more than $2 million for its effort, which would still be less than half of what was spent trying to pass Referendum 51. The business community apparently doesn't have the stomach to spend that much money this time.

The campaign, in its polling, found that former Republican gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi could have a significant impact on how people vote if he endorsed or opposed I-912. Rossi said recently he has no position.
And Rossi should be pressured to declare his position. Of course he has one. He's not going to make it public because he doesn't want to anger a major faction of his coalition - either his conservative base or the business community.

But he must be pressured to do so. If he won't, he's a coward, not a leader. If he wants to lead this state, let's hear what he thinks. Otherwise he can stay a private citizen and not run for office again.
Keep Washington Rolling has tested various messages to see how they'll fly with voters. You can expect to hear a lot in the coming weeks about projects in your area that won't be built if I-912 passes and how much more money it would cost to complete the same road projects in the future if voters pass the measure.
And that is a smart idea. Voters need to understand how this package affects them. It's not just public safety in Seattle - it's public safety for all of Washington. It's not just jobs in Seattle, it's jobs for all of Washington.

Finally, the Times had an editorial this morning which sounded some good notes:
Long-term lessons of Hurricane Katrina will be debated for years. In Washington state, one message should be that when it comes to shoring up infrastructure, you snooze, you lose.

Proponents of Initiative 912, the measure to roll back a recent 9.5 cent gas-tax increase, say the hurricane's aftermath will help convince voters to reduce gas prices pronto. It may do that. But voters taking a longer view will recognize a more important reality. Two Washington roadways are in danger of falling down or failing: the Alaskan Way Viaduct and the Highway 520 bridge across Lake Washington.

The gas-tax increase passed by the Legislature this year provides $2 billion to begin replacing the viaduct and $500 million for the aging 520 bridge.

Backers of I-912, which wipes out those funds, say they must be assured the investment reduces everyday congestion. They demand accountability. They will await another proposal another day. La di da di da.

If an earthquake levels the viaduct or a storm renders the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge useless, citizens will have postponed the inevitable.

[...]

For now, a lesson of Katrina is that postponing investment in roads, bridges and infrastructure — wistfully awaiting another day — is shortsighted public policy.
We agree entirely. Congratulations to the Times for that spot-on editorial.

Learn more about fighting Initiative 912 here.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Bigots at it again with exclusionary "prayer breakfast" in Clark County

As just about every progressive knows, bigotry is a problem that we are forced to confront everywhere we turn. This last spring, we pushed back against the Rev. Ken Hutcherson of Kirkland, who is a bigot and doesn't like gays and lesbians. We pressured Microsoft to resume supporting Ed Murray's civil rights bill, which they did, although they were a bit tardy in doing so.

The Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship International (FGBMFI for short) are trying to organize a "faith-civic" event in Clark County for October 5th:
This year’s event in Clark County is to take place Wednesday, October 5, 2005 at the Hilton in Vancouver. Participants will begin to arrive at befor 7 am. THe event is slated for 7-9:30. It is billed as the Clark County Prayer Breakfast in the heading, but you don’t have to read very far to find a “Mayor”. The first line of their article it refers to the “Clark County’s Annual Mayor’s and Community Leaders Prayer Breakfast”. The hosting Mayor is Battle Ground’s own, John Idsinga.
Now, about this group. The FGBMI believes, as many other bigoted "Christian" groups believe, that gays and lesbians are (among other things) an abomination, or perhaps just plain vile sinners because they could change if they wanted to. They also cannot allow Muslims to participate in their prayer breakfasts because "it's not in the spirit of the Judeo-Christian tradition".

Oh, and it's a "Men's" Fellowship, so women cannot be members.

Guess who the speaker at their 2004 event was? (From their own website):
The featured speaker was Jeff Kemp, former NFL Quarterback and now executive Director of Families Northwest. Based in the Seattle area, Families Northwest advances the Northwest Marriage & Family Movement, a cultural campaign aimed at increasing the rate of marriage success, enhancing family health and turning the tide on family breakdown so more children are raised in nurturing homes by their married mother and father.
Recently, the FGBMI was exposed for who they are and what they believe when they tried to organize a similar event in Oregon in April of 2004:
Organizers canceled a planned prayer breakfast Tuesday after learning that most of Washington County's mayors and one of two main speakers wouldn't attend the May 5 event because a Muslim leader was excluded from participating.

Uniting the community's pastoral, political and business people in prayer had been the purpose of the Mayors' Prayer Breakfast of Washington County, he said. Without the host -- Beaverton Mayor Rob Drake -- and other mayors, he said, that couldn't happen.

Shahriar Ahmed, president of the Bilal Mosque Association in Beaverton, along with Rabbi David Rosenberg of Portland, had been invited to the otherwise Christian breakfast at Drake's request.

Ahmed had been scheduled to give the breakfast's closing prayer from the dais before the fellowship informed him he couldn't.

[...]

A fellowship spokesman, Peter Reding, had said the invitation was withdrawn by the steering committee because Muslims pray to a God they call Allah and they aren't part of the fellowship's "Judeo-Christian tradition."

Religious representatives including Muslims criticized the reasoning, saying tenets of the Muslim faith intertwine historically with those of Christianity and Judaism.

Drake said Tuesday he had received about 600 e-mail and other responses at City Hall about his decision to skip the breakfast. "And you can count on two hands the negative comments," he said.
The problem here is that this group is trying to hold an event with mayors participating as mayors - not as private citizens. It's a "mayor's prayer breakfast", essentially. A prayer breakfast that is for "Christians" (certain types of "Christians") only.

Molly sums it up best:
This event represents intolerance, exclusivity and a refusal to reach out to all members of our community. Because of this the GOVERNMENT OF ALL THE PEOPLE must refuse to attend.If a government official does attend, it better be on their own time.
Mayors and other elected officials would be wise to boycott an event that seeks to highlight them in their roles as public officials, but doesn't allow for the whole community to participate. Either that, or they should attend discreetly as private citizens.

Bigotry and discrimination have got to be made unacceptable in our society. It's unfortunate that more people aren't willing to stand up and support civil rights for everyone.

Why John Roberts needs to answer questions

In their usual art form, conservatives will glibly tell you that John Roberts doesn't need to answer questions from the Senate Judiciary Committee because Clinton's last nominee, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, answered hardly any questions during her hearing.

This comment on Daily Kos caught my attention as to why it's different for Roberts:
When the Clinton was considering nominees for the Supreme Court, he made a list of potential nominees and then consulted with the Republican opposition. He met with Orrin Hatch, head of the Judiciary Committee, and they went over the list, discussing who the Republicans were willing to vote for and who they would flatly reject. Hatch suggested that the majority of Republicans could vote for Ginsberg, potentially heading off a nasty senate confirmation fight.

Clinton nominated Ginsberg, and more than enough Republicans voted for her so that she was easily confirmed. This was not largesse granted by the Republicans - it was part of the deal. Clinton took the advice of the senate and the senate consented to his choice.

Bush has refused to even listen to the opposition in the senate and has nominated a candidate with very little background as a judge and whose available writings as a member of the justice department are now 20 years old. And Bush refuses to release any more current information on him.

In the case of Ginsberg, senators in both parties had access to years of her previous opinions, knew well her judicial philosophy and agreed in advance of the hearings that she would be confirmed.

It is not acceptable for Roberts to refuse to answer questions relevant to his political philosophy since there is no other way for the senate to understand his approach to the cases he may face.
Roberts is a dark shadow. We don't know what his current judicial philosophy is. It's funny how he was willing to answer a question about property rights, but not answer a question about women's rights and the right to privacy.

Roberts should be opposed. Send an e-mail to your senators and tell them to oppose his confirmation.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Karl Rove in charge of reconstruction efforts?

A recent post by Josh Marshall (who writes Talking Points Memo) underlines how the administration works and how they're dealing with the aftermath of Katrina: mismanagement as usual. And guess who Bush is putting in charge of heading the reconstruction funding?
Let's all be clear about one thing.

As we suggested last night, and as President Bush has now put us on notice, the Gulf Coast reconstruction effort is going to be run as a patronage and political operation.

That's not spin or hyperbole. They're saying it themselves.

The president has put Karl Rove in charge of the reconstruction, with a budget of a couple hundred billion dollars.

They've announced this in various ways over the last few days. But here's another, from today's Times ...
Republicans said Karl Rove, the White House deputy chief of staff and Mr. Bush's chief political adviser, was in charge of the reconstruction effort, which reaches across many agencies of government and includes the direct involvement of Alphonso R. Jackson, secretary of housing and urban development.
Karl Rove runs political operations and manages coalitions through patronage. That's what he does. And that's what this is about.
Not a big surprise - but totally unacceptable.

NPI releases endorsements for Snohomish County primary races

NPI is pleased today to announce our endorsements in the 2005 Primary for Snohomish County.

DEMOCRATIC BALLOT (SNOHOMISH)
  • Snohomish County Council, 1st District: Marian Harrison
  • Snohomish County Council, 4th District: Dave Gossett
  • Snohomish County Council, 5th District: Dave Somers

NONPARTISAN BALLOT (SNOHOMISH)
  • Bothell City Council, Position #3: Del Spivey
  • Mayor of Lynnwood: Dan Gough
  • Lynnwood City Council Position #2: Mark Smith
  • Snohomish City Council Position #6: Liz Loomis
Click on the above links (Democratic or Nonpartisan Ballots) to go to that page and read our statements concerning each endorsement, as well as find links to the endorsed candidates' websites, plus see other notable endorsements the candidate has received.

And a reminder that NPI has also released endorsements for King County primary races:

DEMOCRATIC BALLOT (KING)
  • King County Executive: Ron Sims
  • King County Council, 1st District: Carolyn Edmonds
  • King County Council, 2nd District: Larry Gossett
  • King County Council, 4th District: Larry Phillips
  • King County Council, 5th District: Julia Patterson
  • King County Council, 7th District: Geni Hawkins
  • King County Council, 8th District: Dow Constantine
  • King County Council, 9th District: Shirley A. Gaunt-Smith

NONPARTISAN BALLOT (KING)
  • King County Sheriff: Sue Rahr
  • Seattle Port Commission #1: Lawrence Molloy
  • Seattle Port Commission #3: Lloyd Hara or Peter Coates
  • Seattle Port Commission #4: Jack Jolley
  • Court of Appeals, Position #2: Susan Randolph Agid
  • City of Renton Municipal Court Judge: Terry Jurado
  • City of Seattle Mayor: Greg Nickels
  • Seattle City Council, Position #2: Richard Conlin
  • Seattle City Council, Position #4: Jan Drago
  • Seattle City Council, Position #8: Richard McIver or Dwight Pelz

Friday, September 16, 2005

Washington Defense adds new project list for Central Puget Sound

Washington Defense has launched a new page with highlights from major transportation projects in Central Puget Sound counties - King, Snohomish, and Pierce - to supplement its existing statewide project page which includes projects from almost all of the other 36 counties.

The 2005 transportation package funds 274 projects. Of the 274, 241 are fully funded and require no additional money. The others are larger projects that require collaboration between the state and local governments.

Take a look!


By the way: Dino Rossi - we're still waiting for you to come out and make your position on Initiative 912 public. You want to lead Washington State? Then act like a leader. Do you support I-912 or not?

Remember to vote for Darcy

A reminder that Democracy for America is holding an online "House Vote" to determine which congressional candidate will receive their first DFA-List endorsement of 2006.

The vote is open to all challengers and open seat candidates. The candidate with the most votes at the end of balloting will receive a DFA-List endorsement and a national e-mail from DFA's Chair Jim Dean.

Darcy Burner is one of the candidates on the ballot. Darcy is kicking off her campaign to challenge Rep. Dave Reichert, who was just elected last November to represent the 8th District.

Darcy is mounting a strong campaign to take back the 8th, and we urge you to vote for her at DFA Online. Please help us move her back into the top ten - she's #11 right now.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Want THIS? Vote Yes I-912 (September 15th)

Help Fight Initiative 912: Donate to Washington Defense

As we've told you before, every week, we'll post a picture or illustration here reminding you of the consequences of passing Initiative 912. Here's this Thursday's Disaster Picture of the Week.

Remember: If we roll back funds to replace critical structures like the Alaskan Way Viaduct and the SR 520 bridge, then we put ourselves at risk for a disaster in which there will be death and destruction.

Disaster Picture of the WeekThis week, our picture is again news-related: it comes from the Gulf Coast, an area ravaged by Hurricane Katrina just weeks ago.

We don't get hurricanes, but we do get serious storms and we certainly do get earthquakes.

The Nisqually 2001 quake comes to mind.

A collapse is the future of unsturdy bridges and critical structures across Washington State if we don't act. Unsturdy bridges are not only vulnerable to earthquakes - but also human carelessness. The longer we wait, the greater our risk.

What you're looking at is a collapsed bridge which used to be part of U.S. Highway 90. This picture was taken Tuesday, August 30, 2005 around twenty four hours after the highway was hit by Hurricane Katrina in Biloxi, Mississippi.

It's time to replace our unsturdy structures.

In his column this morning, the P-I's Robert Jamieson points out, as we have been doing, of the danger we face:
Katrina ought to shake common sense into people who buy into the mindset that less government is more. They'll get their less government, all right -- just when they need it the most.

For New Orleans, the wake-up call was last month's big hurricane.

For Seattle, it will be the catastrophic earthquake that seismologists say is coming.

"In New Orleans it was the levees that failed," a man on the other end of the phone says. "For us, it's the Alaskan Way Viaduct and the 520 bridge. Those are our levees."

A massive earthquake could bring down the crumbling viaduct and render the state Route 520 bridge impassable, or worse.

People would be killed if those structures collapsed.

The ripple effect would clog Interstate 5 and Interstate 405, creating a regionwide parking lot.

People would have trouble getting home. Ambulances and fire trucks would get stuck. "It will be easier to walk," the man on the phone predicts.

The man ought to know -- he's King County Executive Ron Sims.

"People have to be willing to invest in government so that it can protect the health and welfare and safety of people," Sims tells me. "Government has to be adequately funded so it can respond. New Orleans is what happens when you don't have a focus on government investment."

What Sims is saying sounds obvious, especially coming in the wake of the recent killer hurricane down South.

Western Washington hasn't had a Katrina-like event. Not yet.
(emphasis mine)

Strong applause to County Executive Sims for recognizing the danger, and kudos to Robert Jamieson for writing about it. We cannot afford any more Eyman or Eyman-like initiatives. (Initiative 912 might as well be an Eyman initiative).

If you care about the future of Washington State - if you care about the safety of your fellow citizens - VOTE NO on Initiative 912.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Darcy Burner kicks off campaign

Darcy Burner, a candidate for Washington's 8th Congressional District, officially kicked off her campaign earlier this evening at Marymoor's Clise Mansion.

She was introduced by our local party chair, Ralph Gorin, and spoke at length about her campaign plans and her vision for America.

Darcy has a rich background and a deep understanding of the challenges that the 8th District, and our entire nation, for that matter, face. I am impressed by her intelligence and her commitment to traditional American values.

She frequently pointed out that Representative Reichert does not represent his district. "The Sheriff" has voted with Tom Delay 92% of the time during his tenure in the U.S. House.

That record does not match the values of Reichert's constituents. The 8th voted for John Kerry and Patty Murray in the last election. It is a Democratic district that should be represented by a Democrat, but isn't.

Darcy hopes to mount a strong, viable campaign to unseat Reichert. She has left her job at Microsoft to campaign full time.

I believe Darcy has the passion and the desire to win this office. I know that she will make an excellent representative for Washington's 8th Congressional District.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Take Back WA-08: Vote Online for Darcy Burner

Democracy for America is holding an online "House Vote" to determine which congressional candidate will receive their first DFA-List endorsement of 2006.

The vote is open to all challengers and open seat candidates. The candidate with the most votes at the end of balloting will receive a DFA-List endorsement and a national e-mail from DFA's Chair Jim Dean.

Darcy Burner is one of the candidates on the ballot. Darcy is kicking off her campaign to challenge Rep. Dave Reichert, who was just elected last November to represent the 8th District.

Darcy is mounting a strong campaign to take back the 8th, and we urge you to vote for her at DFA Online. She's currently in 9th Place, a candidate from California has the lead. Let's see if we can move Darcy up to the top spot!

I-912 is bad for traffic safety

Yesterday, I noticed a story in the Skagit Valley Herald entitled, "Injured parents lost son in crash" and forwarded the story on to David Goldstein of HorsesAss.org, who I was sure would pick up on the story and its importance. He didn't disappoint me.

The story, essentially, is this: Last Friday there was a three-car collision on Interstate 5 near Highway 534 that killed 2 people (including a 10 year old child) and seriously injured several others. A vehicle traveling southbound collided into another also going south, then that same vehicle caromed across the median and hit a car going northbound.

The second collision was entirely preventable - and a project that would install a cable barrier in the median to prevent such collisions is being funded by the new 2005 transportation package that anti-tax zealots like Wilbur and Carlson want repealed.

Anyway, here's part of what David said:
The projects in the transportation bill that I-912 would kill were prioritized by safety, and the cable barrier along this stretch of I-5 is just one of hundreds of similar safety improvement projects scattered throughout the state. If we repeal the gas tax, and these projects are delayed or canceled, people will die. The crash data tells us that, and this tragic accident bears out the data’s predictions. That is a fact.

I-912’s backers claim that the transportation bill doesn’t do enough to solve congestion… that is doesn’t pour enough new concrete. But I believe that if most voters understood what the gas tax increase actually pays for, they’d agree that it’s the transportation package that has its priorities straight, not Kirby and John and the rest of the message senders, who ask voters to sacrifice desperately needed maintenance and improvements for the sake of sticking it to Gov. Gregoire and the Democrat controlled Legislature.

The former-residents of New Orleans – now refugees from our nation’s worst man-made disaster – have learned the cost in lives and dollars of failing to adequately invest in public infrastructure; surely, had the levees been higher and stronger, the surrounding wetlands restored, and the barrier islands rebuilt, then the cataclysmic flooding could have been avoided. If we choose to ignore this lesson, perhaps the Big One won’t strike… perhaps the 520 bridge won’t sink into the lake, nor the Alaska Way Viaduct topple over onto the waterfront and its aging seawall, causing hundreds of deaths and tens of billions of dollars in damage.

[...]

If the public understands exactly what the gas tax pays for, and how the transportation package was expressly prioritized to save lives, then I believe that I-912 will fail.

[...]

Levi Pulkkinen and Marta Murvosh of the the Skagit Valley Herald should be commended for doing the kind of journalism often missing from some of our more prestigious newspapers… for digging into the details and reporting Friday’s fatal accident not just as a human tragedy, but as the predictable consequence of how we choose to spend our transportation dollars.
Well said. The challenge is on to show voters what the real stakes are.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Rebuilding a Beautiful Mess

A very intriguing article just popped up in the newest installment of The New Republic, describing a process many of us would prefer not to think about: the logistical and physical rebuilding of the city of New Orleans.

After life in the city begins to stabilize in the coming months, a debate will open as to how, or even if, we should fundamentally reshape this vital city. Naturally, much of the planning will go towards making the city safer in the event of future natural disasters, reinforcing levees and so forth.

But the ultimate question lies in what to do with the vacant and utterly devastated neighborhoods devoid of their former residents. Sound urban planning, as it pertains to zoning codes and architectural design, has great capacity to shape the existence of New Orleans.

Will New Orleans be rebuilt to resemble its former self, a city of legendary charm and character yet also with widespread corruption and shocking disparities in wealth, perhaps the way its former residents may want it?

Or can the hurricane be used as an opportunity to make New Orleans ultimately better? With such a large infusion of federal cash and countless property seizures by developers and landlords, could this be the time to rectify the city's inequities?

Perhaps with a refreshed vision and comprehensive planning, civic leaders, both federal and local, can come up with a design scheme that offers more to the city's residents in the form of improved healthcare, public housing, and mass transit, all the while redeveloping the worst slums.

This may seem tempting for some, but it is important to remember what brings so many tourists to New Orleans, its flamboyant culture and vitality that celebrates the theme "let the good times roll."

As the history of post-disaster planning has shown us, often civic authorities leave their progressive ideals in the dust as profit for developers becomes the focus of reconstruction.

This was seen in postwar German cities, whose historic centers were artificially reconstructed using architectural "aging techniques," making a mockery of the city's former self. Other major reconstructions, in Tangshan, China, Mexico City, and Kobe Japan took place in countries that had given their reconstruciton authorities certain "liberties" with regards to private property that we would never allow in this country.

Recall the World Trade Center site in New York City. At first the site was to be composed entirely of a memorial park, a public place of remembrance for the victims of 9/11.

Then came the international design contest, where buildings were to be designed around the original footprints of the twin towers. According to recent reports, many of the original features in the memorial park have now been scrapped to make way for infrastructure for the office buildings, one of which will be a colosal 1776 foot "Freedom Tower."

All of this happened because the property owner, the Port Authority, had a contractual obligation to redevelop the lost 10 million square feet of office space, regardless of the detrimental effects that such horrendous architecture (take a look of it for yourself) has on the public.

Whatever ends up happening to the city of New Orleans during the course of its reconstruction, let's keep in mind a central goal to preserve the city's essence, its vibrancy and cultural life that kept us coming back for more.

After all, what makes up a city, as the social historian Jane Jacobs once said, is "not the sum of its wealth, but the some of its parts;" that is to say, cities are made for the people who inhabit them, not for the profit or greed of developers.

Be sure to read both articles: the first one, and the second.

State auditor releases audit of monorail

It appears the monorail ran afoul of some state laws, according to a new report from State Auditor Brian Sonntag:
Seattle's monorail project violated the state open meetings act, failed to document the work performed by three consultants, bypassed bidding procedures and misspent money on a parade float, the state auditor said in a report released today.

The project board violated state law by authorizing a lobbying effort at the state Legislature in individual briefings with eight of nine board members by former director Joel Horn, the report said, adding that the board "did not make that decision in an open public meeting as required by law."
We hope that from now on, the Seattle monorail project will exert an extra effort in whatever its future activities may be to be in compliance with state laws and regulations.

BREAKING: FEMA CHIEF BROWN RESIGNS

BREAKING NEWS FROM AP....
“I’m turning in my resignation today,” Brown said. “I think it’s in the best interest of the agency and the best interest of the president to do that and get the media focused on the good things that are going on, instead of me.”

[...]

Brown, who said he last talked to Bush five or six days ago, said the resignation was his idea. He spoke on Saturday to White House chief of staff Andy Card, who did not request his departure, according to Brown.
So Brown is out. Indeed, this isn't a surprise - what is surprising is that it hadn't already happened. We certainly won't miss him and we think Chertoff, the Homeland Security secretary who thinks Louisiana "is a city", should be next.

UPDATE: Typical Bush response:
The president ducked questions about Brown's resignation. "Maybe you know something I don't know. I've been working," the president said to reporters on an inspection tour of damage in Gulfport, Miss.
Yeah, working hard to spin media coverage and get as many photo-ops as he can.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

P-I's David Horsey on Initiative 912

Yep, an accurate picture of those "anti-gas tax hacks":

David Horsey

Couldn't have put it any better ourselves.

Seattle Times asks: Could you survive a disaster here?

Have you thought about the worst-case scenario?
Hurricane Katrina has made one thing clear: If disaster strikes, you could be on your own — for a very long time.

After a major earthquake or other disaster, it could be a week before meaningful, significant government help is available, said Eric Holdeman, director of King County's Office of Emergency Management.

Imagine a 7.4-magnitude earthquake here, Holdeman said. Unlike a hurricane, it strikes without warning. Families are separated. Homes and buildings collapse. The Alaskan Way Viaduct crumbles. Floating bridges and all major highways are out of commission.

"You tell me — how are we going to come to the aid of people?" Holdeman asked. "How do you move?"
(emphasis mine)

The Alaskan Way Viaduct crumbles (killing people on it and many underneath it). Floating bridges and all major highways are out of commission.

That's what we face if an earthquake strikes. We cannot delay. We must replace the floating bridge, the viaduct, and hundreds of other critical structures and unsafe roadways before a disaster strikes.

If you vote for Initiative 912, you're casting your vote against emergency and disaster preparedness and for ignorance. Don't downplay the risk - it's very real:
Getting people to prepare for a disaster is like selling life insurance to a 17-year-old, one disaster-planning expert said. Too many people think:

It won't happen.

It won't be that bad.

I can't do anything about it anyway.

But now that Katrina has your attention, the experts want you to know this: Yes, it will happen. And yes, you can do something.
One thing you can do: VOTE NO on Initiative 912. Proponents of Initiative 912 only want you to think about the meager savings you'll get from their tax cut. Don't listen to them - they don't care about investing in the future of Washington State and disaster preparedness.

Do all you can to prepare for a disaster - and vote NO on Initiative 912.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Rob McKenna cozies up to Tim Eyman

Guess what?
The state Attorney General's Office, under new leadership, has switched sides in part of the long-running court battle over voter-approved Initiative 776.

Last year, under Democrat Christine Gregoire, the state's lawyers argued that, although the initiative repealed Sound Transit's motor-vehicle excise tax in 2002, the agency could continue to collect the tax until 2028.

A King County Superior Court judge agreed. The judge's ruling was appealed.

This week, in a brief filed with the state Supreme Court, the Attorney General's Office — now led by Republican Rob McKenna — argued the justices should in effect order Sound Transit to end the tax years earlier.
Rob McKenna is cozying up to Tim Eyman, and taking aim at Sound Transit. Guess how Tim feels about that?
The sponsor of I-776, Tim Eyman, said he was "giddy" about the state's new stance: "There's a new sheriff in town," he said of McKenna.

The new attorney general, elected last November, was a harsh critic of Sound Transit's Seattle light-rail project when he served on the agency's board from 1996 through 2001, and was frequently at odds with a majority of the board.
It's very unfortunate that Rob McKenna was elected as Attorney General. Of the four candidates vying for the office last year, he was the worst possible candidate, and yet he won. We would have liked to see Mark Sidran win in the primary, but unfortunately, he didn't win, and Deborah Seen ran a dismal campaign in the general election.

Sound Transit's chairman is unhappy with the state's new position:
Pierce County Executive John Ladenburg, who also is Sound Transit's board chairman, said he was both surprised and disappointed by the new brief. "It's a political statement, frankly, by the attorney general, and that's inappropriate," he said. "The attorney general is supposed to give unbiased legal advice, not political advice."

But Jim Pharris, senior assistant attorney general and chief author of the brief, said McKenna's history with Sound Transit played no part in shaping the state's new argument.
Oh, come on, Jim! Surely you don't expect anyone to actually believe that bullshit you're spinning. This is political. All political.

Rob McKenna and Tim Eyman are GOP shills who want to destroy Sound Transit. They won't stop until the agency is stripped of revenue and is forced to stop its light rail, commuter bus, and bus programs.

What if...it's Seattle and Washington State?

The ravaged Gulf Coast that Hurricane Katrina has left behind has soberly reminded us of the danger that we also face from a potential earthquake. The P-I and Times both have stories this morning about our need for emergency preparedness and the threat we face.

The first is P-I's "Seattle's readiness for disaster in doubt":
Experts say Seattle has a New Orleans-sized risk of natural disaster from an earthquake, and also shares the tendency by officials to put off taking actions that could reduce loss of life and economic disruption.
The second is a story from the Seattle Times, "Planners: What if 520 span were lost?":
While standards now call for bridges to withstand winds stronger than 90 mph, the 42-year-old [SR 520] span must be closed whenever winds whipping across Lake Washington top 57 mph. There's a 1-in-20 chance the hollow columns that support its approach spans could collapse in an earthquake.
Both are good reads and an excellent reminder that we have a lot of work to do to invest in emergency preparedness and solid infrastructure. There's no better reason to vote NO on Initiative 912.

Friday, September 09, 2005

45th District Democrats Endorsements

The following are the candidates endorsed by the 45th District Democrats for upcoming elections at our monthly meeting. (NPI's home legislative district is the 45th LD).
  • King County Executive: Ron Sims
  • King County Council, 1st District: Carolyn Edmonds
  • King County Sheriff: Sue Rahr
  • Seattle Port Commission #1: Lawrence Molloy
  • Seattle Port Commission #3: Lloyd Hara
  • Seattle Port Commission #4: Jack Jolley
  • Mayor of Duvall: Eric Benjamin

Daily Kos is Larger than the Entire Conservative Blogosphere

Who knew? Chris Bowers delivers the news:
Considering that on weekends, blog traffic is usually about half of what it is during weekdays, it is possible to extrapolate total weekly page views for a blog by multiplying one weekday total by six. Using this metric, Daily Kos is currently receiving around 8.3-8.4M page views per week. According to my latest survey of blog traffic, the top fifty conservative blogs combined for around 8.85M page views per week. That makes the audience of Daily Kos roughly equal to the audience of the top fifty conservative blogs combined.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Transportation Expert: NO on I-912

Help Fight Initiative 912 - Donate Now

Here's some excellent advice worth your consideration, fellow Washingtonians:
A local transportation official issued a warning Wednesday that the Alaskan Way Viaduct could be "our version of the New Orleans levee," causing a disaster in Seattle if it collapsed in an earthquake.

Mark Hallenbeck, the director of the Washington State Transportation Center, said he hopes voters will uphold a state gas tax increase that provides $2 billion in funding to replace the viaduct.

"How'd you like to go to New Orleans right now and say, 'If I gave you the choice, pay me a hundred dollars, and we'll turn back the clock, and that extra hundred dollars you owe me will fix the levees so they don't break,' would you take it?"

He urged voters in Washington not to repeal the new 9 1/2-cent gas tax in November, saying the lesson of New Orleans is to pay for protection now, or you might pay for a disaster later.
And he's exactly right. It's the point we've been making every Thursday with our Disaster Picture of thr Week. Our infrastructure is crumbling. If we don't fix it, we risk being unprepared for a disaster in which there will be death and massive destruction.

Hallenback added:
"And we'll hope it won't kill people in the process, that it just develops a giant crack, and we can't use it any more. I mean that's, like, the best available alternative if we don't fix it."
That's right. Cast your vote for safer and less congested roadways - VOTE NO on Initiative 912. Kudos to KIRO Television for running this excellent story. This is exactly what voters need to hear about: the consequences of failing to invest in a well-maintained, safe transportation system.

Want THIS? Vote Yes I-912 (September 8th)

Help Fight Initiative 912: Donate to Washington Defense

As we've told you before, every week, we'll post a picture or illustration here reminding you of the consequences of passing Initiative 912. Here's this Thursday's Disaster Picture of the Week.

Remember: If we roll back funds to replace critical structures like the Alaskan Way Viaduct and the SR 520 bridge, then we put ourselves at risk for a disaster in which there will be death and destruction.

This week, our picture is news-related: it comes from the Gulf Coast, an area ravaged by Hurricane Katrina just days ago.

We don't get hurricanes, but we do get serious storms and earthquakes.

A collapse is the future of unsturdy bridges and critical structures across Washington State if we don't act. Unsturdy bridges are not only vulnerable to earthquakes - but also human carelessness. The longer we wait, the greater our risk.
What you're looking at is the Interstate 10 Twin Span heading out of New Orleans to Slidell. That is eastbound, if you're leaving New Orleans for the Mississippi Gulf Coast. That is the main artery coming east into the city. It's definitely been cut up.

The Twin Span, or Causeway, is the vital link across Lake Pontchartrain. You can see from the picture above that it was shredded by Hurricane Katrina.

It's eerily similar to our own State Route 520 bridge, which connects the City of Seattle to the Eastside of Lake Washington. The 520 bridge is a heavily used artery that supports the majority of cross-lake traffic north of downtown Seattle at approximately 110,000 vehicles per day.

An extra special bonus feature this week: we've included some questions and answers from WSDOT about the new funding package which debunks myths such as the claim that Washington now has the highest gas tax in the nation (it doesn't).

Is there a list of projects in the new funding package?
Yes. The legislature funded 274 projects to be constructed over a 16year period. The project list is available at: Statewide Projects Funded By County).

Are these projects actually going to get built?
Of the 274 projects, 241 are expected to be completed with the funds from the 2005 gas tax package. That means designed, constructed and in use by the public. Some of the others have, or may need, additional funds from local or other sources, including possible regional revenue programs.

Does WSDOT complete projects on time and on budget?
Yes. WSDOT completed the first 13 projects on the list specified for the 2003 nickel gas at a cost of $2 million less than their estimated total cost of about $43 million. Eight projects were constructed ahead of schedule, four were on time and one was late.

Why does WSDOT continue to build HOV lanes? What about the needs of ordinary single-occupancy vehicle drivers?
HOV lanes are a small but important part of our highway system. Of the 240 new miles of road built or currently under construction since 2001, about 37 miles are HOV lanes in the Central Puget Sound area.

The Central Puget Sound “core” HOV lane system is designed to assure fast and reliable performance by transit, vanpools and carpools, which makes the system more efficient for everyone. Experience shows that all lanes move faster when new HOV lanes open. A notorious bottleneck disappeared on I-5 at Southcenter Hill when the new lane opened in 2003.

HOV projects often also improve roadways that benefit traffic of all kinds, in all lanes. For example, adding HOV lanes on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge will allow the general purpose lanes to be reconfigured with wider lanes and shoulders. All traffic will move better -- backups from disabled vehicles, and the accidents that follow, will be reduced.

How many new lane miles has WSDOT built recently?
Since 2001, roughly 240 new lane miles have been constructed. Of those:
  • 165 are highway lane miles (including 37 HOV lane miles).
  • 52 lane miles from new or upgraded interchanges
  • 25 miles of new turn and acceleration lanes, on and off ramps or similar work.
  • A “lane mile” is one mile of highway, regardless of the number of travel lanes.
How much does it cost per mile to build a new lane of highway?
It depends on where you are, and factors such as land costs, people or businesses to relocate, environmental needs arising from construction such as noise walls for neighbors and storm water cleaning for streams and wetlands. It also depends on the elements in the project - are we just building a road, or are new bridges or interchanges also included?

Here's a sampling of project construction costs:
  • SR 18 widening in rural King County - about $24.5 million per mile.
  • US 12 widening south of Tri Cities - about $3.7 million per mile.
  • I-5 widening in Vancouver – about $20.2 million per mile.
  • I-90 truck climbing lanes east of Cle Elum and at Vantage – about $1 million per mile.
  • I-5 HOV lanes from Tukwila to Fife – about $7 million per mile.
These costs are for construction only and do not include costs for engineering and design and for a widely-varying factor, land acquisition costs.

How much of the state gas tax goes to monorail? To light rail in Seattle?
None. Gas taxes are only to be spent on highway projects, as guaranteed in the 18th Amendment of Washington's constitution.

Is Washington's gas tax the highest in the country?
No. After the three cent increase that went into effect on July 1, we are tied for 8th with Rhode Island. Ahead of us are Hawaii, Illinois, California, New York, Nevada, Wisconsin and Indiana. Oregon and Montana are in the 27 –28 cent range, ranking 14th and 16th on the table.

Of the 31 cents collected, 11½ cents goes to cities and counties for streets and roads. The remaining 19½ cents is used to maintain and improve the freeways, state highways, bridges and ferry system.

How much do I pay in gas taxes?
This year about $169 in state gas tax and another $100 in federal gas tax. That assumes you drive 12,000 miles a year and get 22 mpg, which is average for drivers in our state.

How much do the increases in the gas tax voted in 2005 cost me as a typical driver?

The increases are phased in over four years. Here's a break down:
  • 2005 – 3 cents more per gallon. About $16 more than in 2004
  • 2006 – 3 cents more per gallon. About $33 more than in 2004
  • 2007 – 2 cents more per gallon. About $44 more than in 2004
  • 2008 – 1½ cent more per gallon. About $52 more than in driver 2004

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Gregoire: I don't support GOP gas tax rollback proposal

Strong, loud applause from us on the Governor's response to the Republicans' PR stunt today:
OLYMPIA – Sept. 7, 2005 - Gov. Gregoire today responded to the Washington state House Republican proposal to suspend the state gasoline tax for three months.

“This proposal has not been thought through. It would strap our ability to cover basic needs in education, health care and other vital services to people in Washington state.

“On Tuesday, Congressman Tom Delay, R-Texas said there was no support for rolling back the federal gas tax to offset higher prices. ‘Absolutely not,’ he said, after meeting with the president. He pointed out there are a lot of things that could increase supply, which would drive prices down.

“Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska commented that an $80 billion dollar increase in oil company profits since 2002 represents over $200 million dollars a day from Americans at the pumps.

“The oil companies should be a primary target in looking for a solution to the high price of gas, not the citizens. Why should people in Washington state suffer fewer services so oil barons can continue to amass huge profits. Why aren’t the oil companies, which are expected to make more than $100 billion in profits this year, contributing some of those billions to alleviate the economic hardships on the American people in the wake of a national disaster.

“I do not support the proposal. Others in the legislature who understand transportation and funding of state services are in agreement.”

Today, Speaker of the House Frank Chopp, D-Seattle expressed his disapproval of this proposal and his concern for the impact on state services.

House Majority Leader, Lynn Kessler D-Hoquiam said "Our gas prices are at record levels, not because of the state tax, but because of profiteering by oil companies in a time of war and national disaster. What the legislature needs to do is ask Congress to put an end to this unprecedented profiteering. If we have learned anything from the tragedy in Louisiana it is that now is not the time to neglect our infrastructure."

Senate Transportation Committee Chair Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island, said “We’ll look at doing anything to help provide relief to the Gulf Coast victims of Hurricane Katrina – and to the indirect victims in our own state. But we must be responsible in doing so. At this point, we don’t know if the plan put forward is even legally feasible. And we won’t jeopardize other state responsibilities, such as education.”
This statement strongly reflects the concerns we voiced in an earlier post:
It is NOT time to financially bleed the state of Washington of desperately needed revenues that should be used to improve our transportation infrastructure.
Kudos to the Governor's office and to Democratic legislative leaders for this response.

P-I gets it right: No tax pandering

Following up on my commentary earlier today, the P-I chimes in:
In a blatant bit of off-session pandering, House Republicans have called on Gov. Christine Gregoire to call the Legislature into special session to suspend the state's gas tax for three months

[...]

Could this be the same House Republican Caucus that decried the governor's budget for "reducing our reserves to dangerously low levels"?

Unfortunately, Gregoire is not dismissing this silly notion out of hand but is willing to "take a look at all reasonable options; but we're not sure that this is a reasonable option," a spokesperson said.

It makes no more sense to pilfer the general fund reserves -- the rainy day money to be used for unanticipated state expenditures -- than it does to shortchange transportation funding.

Rising gasoline prices should be met with responsible public policy debates, not publicity stunts.
That's exactly right. It's time to talk about conservation, mass transit options, carpooling, and the investigation of price gouging. It is NOT time to financially bleed the state of Washington of desperately needed revenues that should be used to improve our transportation infrastructure.

Temporary gas tax rollback is a stupid idea

Oh, look:
Some state lawmakers [meaning Republicans] want to suspend Washington's gasoline tax for three months, to give drivers a break from prices near $3 a gallon.

State House Republican leader Richard DeBolt of Chehalis says Republicans are behind the idea. The $270 million loss to the Highway budget would be covered by dipping into reserves.
This is a stupid idea, if we've ever heard one. Now is not the time to "dip into reserves". The gas tax pays for the transportation infrastructure that we all use. Rolling it back, even temporarily, is a stupid and dangerous idea that should not even be considered.

We're fighting a campaign right now to oppose a rollback of funding for the 2005 transportation package. And now Republicans want to roll back the entire tax, not just the increase. Temporary rollbacks are the first step to permanent rollbacks, and the excuse will be that "motorists need a break from prices".

What's going to happen when we have our own disaster here in Washington? Who's going to "give us a break" if the viaduct falls down or the floating bridge collapses? Or both happen, and worse? Then what "reserves" will Republicans propose we tap into?

The article goes on to state:
Governor Gregoire didn't immediately dismiss the idea. Aides say she is discussing with lawmakers whether the 31 cent per gallon tax should be lowered until prices stabilize this fall.

The governor's office says no decision has been made about calling a special legislative session or suspending the tax by emergency executive order, and no tax-cut level has been agreed to.
No. The answer is no. The gas tax should not be lowered. There should not be a "temporary rollback" and there should not be a "permanent rollback".

If we don't invest in transportation infrastructure, our regional economy will be destroyed regardless. The state cannot afford to lose any more revenue. Eyman tax cut initiatives have already hurt the state financially. The gas tax should not be touched. Additionally, Initiative 912 must be defeated.

Hurricane Katrina did not seriously destroy oil production in the Gulf of Mexico. The real problem is that America has lost one if its major ports, and refinery capacity is down. Why does it make sense to let oil companies continue to profit and have the state lose money at the same time? This proposal is entirely ridiculous!

Solutions, instead of having the government "cut taxes", include encouraging conservation of gasoline, asking more people to use mass transit options, and to carpool. That will also aid traffic congestion.

Temporary rollbacks are a terrible idea. Tell Governor Christine Gregoire: Absolutely NO temporary gas tax rollbacks!

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Bush uses firefighters as PR props

Just when you thought they could sink no lower (via Talking Points Memo):
On the Al Franken show this afternoon I mentioned this article from today's Salt Lake Tribune (a must read article) which tells the story of about a thousand firefighters from around the country who volunteered to serve in the Katrina devastation areas. But when they arrived in Atlanta to be shipped out to various disaster zones in the region, they found out that they were going to be used as FEMA community relations specialists. And they were to spend a day in Atltanta getting training on community relations, sexual harassment awareness, et al. This of course while life and death situations were still the order of the day along a whole stretch of the Gulf Coast.

It's an article you've really got a to read to appreciate the full measure of folly and surreality.

But the graf at the end of the piece really puts everything in perspective, and gives some sense what the Bush administration really has in mind when it talks about a crisis. The paper reports that one team finally was sent to the region ...
As specific orders began arriving to the firefighters in Atlanta, a team of 50 Monday morning quickly was ushered onto a flight headed for Louisiana. The crew's first assignment: to stand beside President Bush as he tours devastated areas.
What an outrage! Just to let you see what we're talking about here:

Bush and his human props

We think Kos said it best:
Bush is so thoroughly a PR vessel that he can't even tour a disaster zone without his human backdrop. He's been a PR marionette for so long -- clear brush for the cameras! -- that he's become thoroughly incapable of keeping it real. God forbid he try to connect with people, get a better understanding of their efforts to cope with real disaster. That's not worth his time. Nope, it's got to be turned into a frickin' Bush campaign commercial. Everything is political. Everything.
We dare Orbusmax, Mr. Cummins, et al. to defend this. Wholly unacceptable. We said it before: they botched the emergency preparedness and they terribly mismanaged the crisis afterwards. They're still mismanaging it.

Their top priority is public relations, not saving human lives or helping the American people. Read the Salt Lake Tribune article.

Firefighters as props, indeed.

The time is now: Donate to Washington Defense

It's time to seriously ramp our efforts to defeat Initiative 912.

It's time to stop watching the news and get active. The business community is doing polls and little else. We cannot wait for them to organize and mobilize. If we want to defeat Initiative 912, we must do it ourselves.

The polls the business community has conducted have shown us that we can defeat Initiative 912. Victory is within our reach, but only if we fight.

We're taking the next step up. We are now accepting financial donations to Washington Defense PAC. The time to contribute is now. All funds will be used directly for one purpose: the defeat of Initiative 912.

The Washington Defense website has been newly updated. Besides our donation page, we also have a volunteer page where you can now sign up to join our grassroots force to defeat the initiative.

We need volunteers who will be able to help distribute materials, make phone calls, and do much, much more.

We will not defeat Initiative 912 unless we put forth our best effort. It is the grassroots who can derail John Carlson and Kirby Wilbur's cynicism.

We are the ones who can convince our fellow voters to invest in the future of the state of Washington.

Please visit Washington Defense today to learn more about defeating Initiative 912, make a contribution, and sign up to volunteer.

NPI launches new Elections Center, releases primary endorsements for King County

Today, the Northwest Progressive Institute is pleased to announce the debut of our new Elections Center - which provides the latest news and analysis on local, state, and federal races across the Pacific Northwest.

The Elections Center has dual blog feeds for Washington and Oregon bringing you the latest election-related news from Portal syndicate members. It also has links to Washington Defense and Permanent Defense.

Key information, such as election dates, how to register to vote, candidate filings, and other resources can also be found here.

Additionally, the Elections Center is the place to go to find endorsements for key races across the Pacific Northwest. And with the launch of today's Elections Center, we are also pleased to announce our endorsements in the 2005 Primary for King County.

DEMOCRATIC BALLOT
  • King County Executive: Ron Sims
  • King County Council, 1st District: Carolyn Edmonds
  • King County Council, 2nd District: Larry Gossett
  • King County Council, 4th District: Larry Phillips
  • King County Council, 5th District: Julia Patterson
  • King County Council, 7th District: Geni Hawkins
  • King County Council, 8th District: Dow Constantine
  • King County Council, 9th District: Shirley A. Gaunt-Smith

NONPARTISAN BALLOT
  • King County Sheriff: Sue Rahr
  • Seattle Port Commission #1: Lawrence Molloy
  • Seattle Port Commission #3: Lloyd Hara or Peter Coates
  • Seattle Port Commission #4: Jack Jolley
  • Court of Appeals, Position #2: Susan Randolph Agid
  • City of Renton Municipal Court Judge: Terry Jurado
  • City of Seattle Mayor: Greg Nickels
  • Seattle City Council, Position #2: Richard Conlin
  • Seattle City Council, Position #4: Jan Drago
  • Seattle City Council, Position #8: Richard McIver or Dwight Pelz
Click on the above links (Democratic or Nonpartisan Ballots) to go to that page and read our statements concerning each endorsement, as well as find links to the endorsed candidates' websites, plus see other notable endorsements the candidate has received. We will repost this list on Primary Election Day and remind you that it's accessible from the new Elections Center.

It's Not Bush's Fault: Wingnuts Defend the Administration on Katrina

Cross posted to Daily Kos

The criticism of the administration has been raining down hard and fast on the right. The Republican Noise Machine is sputtering as it tries to prop up the administration.

Locally, we have our own crew of wingnuts who are playing defense for BushCo. They really started setting up their fortifications this weekend. Take a look at some of this and feel your internal temperature rise:
8/28 FLASHBACK: Bush Called LA Gov., Appealed For Mandatory Evacuation for New Orleans

[..]

NWRepublican: Nicole Gelinas writing in the City Journal, succinctly points out the true causes of the New Orleans disaster -- the city residents and officials themselves.

[...]

John Carlson: And now comes Hurricane Katrina. And somehow, George Bush is to blame. What for? New Orleans officials who didn't appropriately evacuate their city now blame Bush for the sporadic and sometimes disorganized delivery of aid for the residents who were left or stayed behind.

[...]

P Scott Cummins: Where was enforcmement of the mandatory evacuation order by New Orleans officials - which came only after pleading by President Bush himself last weekend, days before the storm came onshore?

[...]

Dave Reinhard: President Bush came in for his share of bashing last week. Did you know his failure to embrace the Kyoto Treaty and beat back global warming caused Katrina? Or that and his administration's failure to agree to every request for Gulf Coast projects left New Orleans in its current fix? Never mind that both claims are nonsense.
For these guys, the administration is accountable FOR NOTHING. They can do no wrong. They have made every effort, and will continue to make every effort, to portray Bush as a hero.

It's easy for them to dismiss global warming, many of them don't believe in it. It's easy for them to blame it on local officials, looters, and people who didn't leave.

It's NEVER Bush. It wasn't his fault there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. It's not his fault we haven't gotten Osama yet. Abu Ghraib wasn't Bush's fault. Valerie Wilson's outing wasn't Bush's fault. The recession wasn't his fault. The Enron mess wasn't Bush's fault. 9/11 certainly wasn't his fault. So why would Katrina be his fault?

It works with their frame. Bush can do no wrong. Therefore, with any effort to hold him accountable, they will attack and dismiss.

Some are especially disturbed that this effort to hold Bush accountable has taken a deep root. Here's an excerpt from one local conservative who runs a Drudge imitator focused on our local area:
It's pretty obvious there is major assault underway, by the majority of the mainstream press and the liberal blogosphere, to pin every problem imaginable on President Bush, specifically Hurricane Katrina and the aftermath.

I spent most of the weekend thinking about how I wanted to respond to some of the pure crap and lies being spun, and to be honest I got so angry with it all I basically turned off the computer and stayed away for a couple of days.

What I have decided to do is rather than get mad or start launching a war of words with people that are simply exposing their pure hatred of the President, I am going to focus even more on linking and posting "the other side of the story", and make sure that ALL information regarding recent current events is made available. I will not be guaranteeing equal time - my goal is to publish information and commentary that I do not believe the people of the Northwest and the rest of the world are reading.

Everyone is entitled to free speech, even the hate-mongers whose apparant goal in life is to see George Bush drawn and quartered. So I will offer balance to this as I see fit.

If you have information, links, or commentary you think fits in with this Orbusmax theme, please send me what you have. I would really prefer links to exisitng sites - my time is limited and I can't be copy/pasting/formatting e-mails. Keep it concise, to the point, and family friendly as much as possible.

I support this President, and I think he is doing a good job (not perfect by any means). I do not subscribe to claims he is racist, incompetent, uncaring, or stupid.
To which one commenter responded:
We should always support our President because he's going to be our president for the next 3 1/2 years if we like it or not.
So you were a big defender of Clinton, starting in mid-1996, right? Please!

ACCOUNTABILITY and RESPONSIBILITY mean nothing to these people - except when a Democrat is in office - which reminds me - the good things like Clinton accomplished while in office for eight years have mostly been undone. The surplus? Gone. The roadless rule? Gone. The new and improved FEMA? Gone.

The bottom line is that the Republicans have put up people for office who have no idea how to govern. The people wrecking (not running) our country now don't have compassion for anyone else. They want to turn this nation into an every MAN for HIMself Christian theocracy!

Americans are outraged because they expect the federal government to step forward to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina. According to the right wing's strict father worldview, that's immoral.

So what's up with that? What we're seeing is our worldview coming out front and center in many of our fellow citizens, especially some journalists - according to Lakoff, the nurturant parent worldview. The idea that yes, government can be a force for good - it can HELP people.

It can provide safety, shelter, food, clean water, and medical care. It can bring hope to those who have none left.

The government response, however, was completely mismanaged. It was a terrible failure - a disaster in itself. And that's why we're seeing the outrage. Coming from just about everyone except defenders of the administration.

I don't know whether this is true or not - but this disaster could be a turning point. A sign that perhaps BushCo can be neutralized from doing much more serious damage to our country. I certainly hope that's the case.

I do know one thing: it's good to see the administration's lapdogs against the wall for a change.

UPDATE: Hello, Orbusmax visitors! Hope you enjoyed the commentary. I was surprised to get the link after reading this:
What I have decided to do is rather than get mad or start launching a war of words with people that are simply exposing their pure hatred of the President, I am going to focus even more on linking and posting "the other side of the story", and make sure that ALL information regarding recent current events is made available.
Not engage in a war of words? Focus even more on the "other side of the story"? Well, it seems you've failed already.

By the way, web traffic looks pretty good. Thanks for adding to the other traffic we're already getting from Daily Kos and numerous other sites.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Off the Wahl - Bush's Katrina Spin

Here's the latest cartoon from Wenatchee World editorial cartoonist Andrew Wahl, because pictures speak louder than words:
Off the Wahl

Gregoire announces Operation Evergreen

Our effort to host 2,000 or more Katrina evacuees is beginning to take shape:
CAMP MURRAY, WA - Sept. 5, 2005 - At 2 p.m. today, Gov. Christine Gregoire announced Operation Evergreen, a Washington state effort to host up to 2,000 people from the Gulf Coast disaster area. Washington is joining several other states in what has become a national humanitarian effort to care for people displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

"Like so many people in Washington, I want to help our fellow citizens in their hour of need" said Gov. Gregoire. "My heart goes out to the people in Louisiana and Mississippi who have lost loved ones and virtually everything but the clothes on their backs. Their suffering - and what they have witnessed and been through - is unimaginable."

When the first guests from the Katrina disaster area will begin to arrive in Washington state is yet to be determined, but could come later this week. Katrina guests could possibly land at McChord Air Force Base and be housed temporarily at Fort Lewis Army Base initially before moving to other residences. This has not been confirmed and is pending federal approvals.

"Multiple state and local agencies, the Red Cross, and other community organizations are engaged in preparing to provide services to these disaster victims," said Gov. Gregoire. "As we welcome these people as guests of Washington state, we must be ready to address the very wide array of needs they have."

Gov. Gregoire formally proclaimed a state of emergency to pave the way for efficiently administering the hosting process. The proclamation enables state agencies to make expenditures and use resources on an emergency basis. Washington state agencies; King, Pierce and Snohomish counties; and community relief organizations are working closely together in planning for the hosting operation.

Gov. Gregoire has also sent a letter to President Bush requesting federal disaster assistance to support the state effort. If granted, the request would make the state eligible to be reimbursed for costs such as guest reception and processing, crisis counseling, unemployment assistance, schooling and transportation needs and legal assistance.

Since the primary need is for money, people who want to help are asked to donate to "Washington Cares," a fund established by the Governor in partnership with Washington Mutual. Donations can be made to any Washington Mutual branch location in Washington State. People in Washington who want to donate clothing and other items are asked to work through the Goodwill, Salvation Army and the other organizations that are equipped to receive donations and are a part of Washington State's effort.
We strongly applaud the leadership of this state for offering to host Katrina evacuees. To all who are coming here: welcome to the Evergreen State. We hope we can be of some assistance in your time of great need.

Seattle Times, others reprint open letter from Times-Picayune!

Cross-posted to Daily Kos.

Yesterday, Armando reprinted the New Orleans Times-Picayne's open letter to Bush on the Daily Kos front page.

I was shocked, and delighted, to open up my hometown paper's editorial page this morning and discover the Seattle Times had reprinted the Times-Picayune's open letter. On its own editorial page!

It's also on their website; follow this link to get there.

This is OUTSTANDING. This letter deserves to be reprinted as widely as possible. Kudos to the Seattle Times for taking the bold step of reprinting it.

Kossack LawSkoolPunk wrote yesterday:
The editors of the Times-Picayune should write this to other major newspapers across the country as a letter to the editor. It should be read over the evening news. Everyone everywhere deserves to understand the form of government we have elected.
That's happening! I'm unsure if the Times Picayune asked other outlets across the country to reprint this. Whether they did or not, it's being reprinted. The Seattle Times isn't alone.

Other outlets that have reprinted the letter:
I didn't see any others that have actually reprinted the letter thus far.

UPDATE: Other outlets that have also reprinted the letter:
Several of you have commented to report you asked your local media outlet(s) to run with or reprint the open letter. Thanks for doing that!

If there's an outlet I missed, add a comment to the comment thread so I can add that outlet to the list. Please provide a link if one exists.

The remarkable story of the Times Picayune is told in today's New York Times. They lived through Katrina, plain and simple. And they continue to operate despite the immense devastation that has wrecked New Orleans.

Only a few media outlets have reprinted the open letter from the Times-Picayune so far. Has your hometown paper's editorial page done so? Has your local TV or radio station discussed the letter? If not, why not ask them?

The Newspaper Association of America has a directory where you can look up papers in your area if you don't already know which ones to write to or call.

You can:

(a) call your local newspaper, TV station, and or radio station and ask them to reprint the Times-Picayune's open letter,

(b) write a letter (mail, fax, or email) to your newspaper editor asking them to reprint the Times-Picayune's open letter,

(c) do both.

You can ask them to reprint the letter because it's critical that their readers, viewers, or listeners see it. You can mention that other media outlets have already done so; and ask why haven't they?

Today, I plan to contact the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, as well as several TV and radio stations here in Seattle, to ask them to reprint the Times-Picayune's letter and or give it airtime. I'm also going to send the Seattle Times a letter to the editor thanking them (opinion AT
seattletimes DOT com, (206) 382-6760 fax)

Please join me! Add your ideas, comments, suggestions, etc. in the thread!

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Federal Relief Effort for Katrina is Unsatisfactory

Hurricane Katrina is no doubt the worst natural disaster to hit the United States, cutting a swath of destruction more devastating than a single thermonuclear device.

Knowing that Americans want to keep causualties at a minimum (which is a good thing), you'd think that the federal government would rush over to the affected area the very minute the danger was over. However, that was not the case.

Instead of hurrying over to New Orleans ASAP, the government dragged its feet on the way and delivered its relief effort fashionably late.

Even President Bush said that the federal relief effort was disappointing while on his tourist trip through the ruins of New Orleans.

The fact that the US relief effort for the tsunami in Southeast Asia (which the US was criticized for being stingy on) was delivered with far more speed and effort is just another in a long list of painful evidence that affirms our government messed up badly.

When you add the racial polarization that is being done by FOX and the rest of the news media, the whole scenario truly becomes a major fiasco on the part of the feds.

Most likely, the feds were too busy fighting their Orwellian "War on Terror" or censoring the "evildoers in the scientific community" to notice the impending disaster.

Now they are paying the price with a stained reputation. It has become so bad in the disaster area now that some Katrina victims are saying we need to get out of Iraq right now so that death won't pay them a visit.

For their sake, I sure hope that supplies from food banks around the country will make their way to the tired, hungry, and huddled masses that are starving in the gulf coast.

Hopefully, this fiasco will become a lesson for the next generation so that the same tragedy won't happen the next time another Camille or Katrina decides to visit the Gulf Coast.

Life After New Orleans

Please read this insightful op-ed I found from the International Herald Tribune, by the famed author Anne Rice. Its title: "What does it mean to lose New Orleans?" Here's an excerpt:
Do they take away with them an awareness that it has always been not only a great white metropolis but also a great black city, a city where African-Americans have come together again and again to form the strongest African-American culture in the land?

By the 1840s the city had a prosperous class of free black artisans, sculptors, businessmen, property owners, skilled laborers in all fields. Thousands of slaves lived on their own in the city, too, making a living at various jobs, and sending home a few dollars to their owners in the country at the end of the month.

This is not to diminish the horror of the slave market in the middle of the famous St. Louis Hotel, or the injustice of the slave labor on plantations from one end of the state to the other. It is merely to say that it was never all "have or have not" in this strange and beautiful city.

Later in the 19th century, as the Irish immigrants poured in by the thousands and as the German and Italian immigrants soon followed, a vital and complex culture emerged. Huge churches went up to serve the great faith of the city's European-born Catholics; convents and schools and orphanages were built for the newly arrived and the struggling; the city expanded in all directions with new neighborhoods of large, graceful houses, or areas of more humble cottages, even the smallest of which, with their floor-length shutters and deep-pitched roofs, possessed an undeniable Caribbean charm.

Through this all, black culture never declined in Louisiana. In fact, New Orleans became home to blacks in a way, perhaps, that few other American cities have ever been. Once the battles of desegregation had been won, black New Orleanians entered all levels of life, building a visible middle class that is absent in far too many U.S. cities to this day.

The influence of blacks on the music of the city and the nation is too immense and too well known to be described. It was black musicians coming down to New Orleans for work who nicknamed the city "the Big Easy" because it was a place where they could always find a job. But it's not fair to the nature of New Orleans to think of jazz and the blues as poor man's music, or the music of the oppressed.

Something else was going on in New Orleans. The living was good there. The clock ticked more slowly; people laughed more easily; people kissed; people loved; there was joy.

Washington State will shelter Katrina evacuees

KOMO TV reports:
OLYMPIA - Governor Christine Gregoire announced Sunday that the state is making plans to host up to 2,000 hurricane evacuees.

"We don't know at this point how many people will be coming," Gregoire said, "but we are making plans based on an initial estimate of up to 2,000 people. We don't know the exact timing for their arrival, but expect it will be within the next few days. We will share more information when it becomes available.

Assisting with the plan to host Katrina refugees are state officials, representatives from the city of Seattle, King Pierce and Snohomish Counties, the American Red Cross and many other organizations.

The state of Washington plans to provide shelter, food, medicine and other assistance to people displaced by the hurricane.
States across the country are doing the same thing. We must reach out to assist and aid those who have lost everything. It's the least we can do for our fellow Americans. Other states are helping too:
In Texas, where nearly a quarter-million refugees have filled the state's relief centers, Gov. Rick Perry ordered emergency officials to airlift some evacuees to other states willing to take them. Among the states that have offered help are West Virginia, Utah, Oklahoma, Michigan, Iowa, New York and Pennsylvania.

"There are shelters set up in other states that are sitting empty while thousands arrive in Texas by the day, if not the hour," Perry said. "To meet this enormous need, we need help from other states."

Around the country, social service agencies, businesses, volunteer groups, military bases and other refugee shelters raced to help Katrina's multitudes find jobs, obtain their Social Security checks, receive their medicines, get their mail, locate missing relatives and pets, and enroll their youngsters in school.

[...]

In New Mexico, Gov. Bill Richardson declared a state of emergency and released about $1 million to help victims of Katrina as the first of up to 6,000 evacuees arrived Sunday. He also relaxed certain state transportation rules to speed up the building of temporary housing for the refugees.

Refugees also began arriving in Arizona, which has agreed to take up to 2,500. They were greeted on the runway by Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon.

Several people had to be helped off the plane and down the stairway to the tarmac, where pink, yellow, teal and black flip-flops had been set out for them.

Then, carrying garbage bags, backpacks and brown shopping bags with their only belongings, the evacuees were led into the airport for physicals before boarding buses to the Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
"We'll take care of them," Gordon said. "We'll make sure they know that the city cares."

In Denver, Qwest Communications set up a bank of at least 50 phones at a processing center so refugees could call their loved ones. Colorado state Rep. Debbie Stafford said she was trying to arrange long-term shelter for the storm's victims, and also reunite people with their cats and dogs.
There are thousands that have lost everything and are without hope. It's our duty to help them. This country is not about every person for him or her self. It's a country of people who help and care for one another.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

BREAKING NEWS: REHNQUIST DIES

More details to come. This from AP:
WASHINGTON - Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist died Saturday evening at his home in suburban Virginia, said Supreme Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg.

A statement from the spokeswoman said he was surrounded by his three children when he died in Arlington.

"The Chief Justice battled thyroid cancer since being diagnosed last October and continued to perform his dues on the court until a precipitous decline in his health the last couple of days," she said.

Rehnquist was appointed to the Supreme Court as an associate justice in 1971 by President Nixon and took his seat on Jan. 7, 1982. He was elevated to chief justice by President Reagan in 1986.
It will distract from the Katrina news, but only briefly. It looks like there's a double vacancy now. It's what many had expected and feared. The question is who will be Chief Justice now? Will Bush go for Scalia or Thomas?

Incredible FOX clip and Katrina by the numbers

If you've seen the Outfoxed documentary, you know what kind of operation FOX runs. But it seems the reality of the situation in New Orleans came through unfiltered during a segment of Hannity and Colmes:
Horror Show

Shepard Smith and Geraldo Rivera were livid about the situation in NOLA as they appeared on H&C. When Hannity tried his usual spin job and said “let’s get this in perspective,” Smith chopped him off at the knees and started yelling at him saying, “This is perspective!” It was shocking.

Geraldo who I'm no fan of was crying, holding a little child up to demonstrate the extremely inhumane conditions these people are forced to live under. Forced is the right word because they are locked in the dome by our government and can't leave. Troops are guarding the bridge.
Follow this link to Crooks & Liars to watch the video clip.

Also today, Daily Kos user ilona has a great diary entitled, "Katrina by the Numbers". An excerpt:
A collection of raw numbers that offer another glimpse on the magnitude of the events of the past week:
  • # of days we eyed Katrina before she reached the US Gulf Coast on 8/28: 7
  • # of days since hurricane Katrina slammed into the US Gulf Coast: 5
  • # of days before US federal government response: 4
  • # of months in hurricane season: 6 [ends Nov. 30]
  • # in line of named tropical storms/hurricanes for Katrina: 11
  • # of current tropical storms/hurricanes in Atlantic basin: 13
  • # of tropical depressions formed in Atlantic basin: 14
  • Area covered by federal disaster declarations: 90,000 sq. miles
  • Wind speed of Katrina as she struck LA on Monday: 140 mph
  • # of Kristina's hurricane category at landfall: 4
  • Combined length of NOLA hurricane levees: 350 miles
  • Size of gap in NOLA's 17th Street Canal levee breach: 300 feet
  • Depth of water covering parts of NOLA: 20 feet
  • % of NOLA under water: 80%
  • # of days engineers and crews expect to need to dry out NOLA: 36-80
Read the whole thing.

Friday, September 02, 2005

International aid pours in

Despite what some conservatives have reported about people abroad laughing at our misfortune, international offers of aid are pouring forth:
In an accelerating drive, more than 50 countries have pledged money or other assistance to help Americans recover from Hurricane Katrina.

The pledges blur political lines.

Cuba and Venezuela have offered to help despite differences with Washington. Oil giant Saudi Arabia and small countries like Sri Lanka and Dominica are among the nations making pledges.

"I hope that will remind Americans that we are all part of the same community," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Friday as offers kept pouring in.

None has been turned down, Rice said at a news conference, disputing a report from Moscow that a Russian offer had been rejected. However, she said some offers were being taken up immediately and others "somewhat later," depending on the needs on the ground.

Rice singled out Sri Lanka for praise for making a contribution even as it struggles to recover from the tsunami and earthquake disaster of last December.

And she said contributions from poor countries were being accepted because "it is very valuable for people being able to give to each other and to be able to do so without a sense of means."

Australia announced a donation of $8 million to the American Red Cross.

"The United States is so often at the forefront of international aid efforts to help less fortunate nations," Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said. "So it is only fitting that Australia should contribute to the daunting task of helping the thousands of American citizens whose lives have been thrown into turmoil by this unprecedented disaster."

France, "determined to show its solidarity with the United States," offered a range of aircraft and two ships, with helicopters and planes capable of airlifting tons of supplies, a disaster unit with 20 soldiers, a civil defense detachment of 35 people and an airborne emergency unit, the French Embassy said.

Canada is loading three warships and a coast guard vessel in Halifax with emergency supplies and food, and will dispatch them to Louisiana next Tuesday, Dan McTeague, parliamntary secretary to Foreign Minister Pierre Pettigrew, said in an interview.

Up to 1,000 divers, engineers and reconstruction experts will be aboard, McTeague said.

Prime Minister Paul Martin has announced the release of 30,000 barrels of gasoline and oil for U.S. use.

Japan said it would contribute $200,000 to the American Red Cross for its relief operations. Upon request, Japan is prepared to provide up to $300,000 worth of tents, blankets, power generators, portable water tanks and other equipment, the Japanese Embassy said.
These offers are very, very kind. It's good to know that many countries want to help our people even though the Bush administration does not enjoy widespread popularity abroad.

In another update: MoveOn.org's HurricaneHousing.org is a huge success. 67,224 beds have been volunteered so far!

Gregoire launches Washington Cares

Governor Christine Gregoire has announced a new effort to help victims of Hurricane Katrina:
Gov. Christine Gregoire today established Washington Cares in collaboration with Washington Mutual Bank. Washington Cares enables Washington citizens to assist the victims of Hurricane Katrina. Washington Mutual will match the first $100,000 in donations from citizens and will continue to match all donations from its own employees.

The governor understands that people in Washington state are looking for a way to help. Washington Cares will make sure their generosity is channeledto the best possible use.

"The most urgent need right now is for money," said Gregoire. "We must help maintain the good work that is underway through reputable relief organizations on the ground trying to cope with the devastation left by Katrina."

"My family and I have been watching the heart wrenching scenes of devastation in the Gulf Coast region," said Gregoire. "I share the concern of all Washingtonians who want to help the people who are suffering in the wake of Hurricane Katrina."

"We recognize the heart-felt response from people across the United States and we are proud to join Governor Gregoire and Washington state residents in supporting this much needed effort," said Kerry Killinger, Washington Mutual Chairman and CEO.

As of 5 p.m. tonight, Washington Mutual Bank will be accepting cash donations to Washington Cares at every branch in the state. Funds will be directed to the American Red Cross, which is providing a massive relief effort, coordinating response strategies and working on rapid deployment of resources to assist the people of the Gulf region. Washington Mutual also donated an additional $100,000 to the Red Cross earlier this week.
Governor Gregoire's leadership and compassion are commendable. The governor is not in a position to do a lot, but she is taking action.

According to the Governor's office, to date, Washington state's multiple relief responses include:

KC-135R Aircraft Wing, National Guard
Today the KC-135R Aircraft Wing from the Washington Air National Guard's 141st Air Refueling Wing left Fairchild Air Force Base in Spokane, Washington. The unit is flying missions into Naval Air Station New Orleans carrying Oregon National Guard troops.

The first mission departed Portland at 8:00 Pacific Standard Time and will arrive at Naval Air Station New Orleans at 5:00 p.m. Central Standard Time (CST) this afternoon with 50 soldiers and accompanying self support supplies.

Early tomorrow, Friday September 3rd, there will be two KC-135R aircraft also from the Washington National Guard 141st Air Refueling Wing, flying two missions with 150 Oregon National Guard soldiers also to the Naval Air Station New Orleans to arrive at 3:00 p.m. CST.

66th Aviation Brigade, National Guard
Conditions on the ground in Louisiana show an immediate need for additional military air planning staff. The 66th Aviation Brigade, which is part of the Washington Army National Guard, is recalling selected air planning staff today for mobilization and deployment readiness processing.

Processing is anticipated to be complete by mid-day tomorrow, September 3rd, and air planning staff will deploy to Naval Air Station New Orleans on September 4th, to provide augmented ground force support. The 66th Aviation Brigade has (6) UH-60s fully crewed and ready to assist the Hurricane Katrina support and it is anticipated these aircraft will be tasked through the nation-wide mutual assistance compact.

Washington State Agencies and Offices
The governor's office is currently working with state agencies, including the Department of Emergency Management and Department of Social and Health Services to identify what resources may be available to expedite support services to victims of Katrina that may be joining family and friends in this state.

To assist Gulf Coast states in their own efforts to expedite services for victims, DSHS will send staff with expertise in electronic benefits transfer to the Gulf, helping the hurricane-ravaged states to quickly get flood victims access to funds for emergency food assistance.

The Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction is encouraging families with school-aged children to immediately enroll their children in Washington's public schools. They should contact local school districts, which will be prepared to expedite enrollment.

Displaced University students
A number of colleges and universities in Gulf Coast region will not be able to resume classes for some time to come. Several public and private Washington state institutions, including the University of Washington and Washington State University, are opening their doors for students from these institutions to continue their studies. UW and others will direct any tuition revenues from these students to their original university to help those institutions complete their disaster recovery.

What We've Lost in New Orleans

If you're like millions of people around the country, you have been overwhelmed with depression and sadness as you watch the devastation unfolding on television and in the newspapers. Perhaps you may have lived at one time in New Orleans or have close friends and family who had to evacuate.

One of the most pressing questions on everyone's mind seems to be: how long will it take to restore New Orleans? Will it ever be the same again?

Unfortunately, according to FEMA and American Red Cross estimates, it seems that it will take, at minimum, three months simply to restore electricity to the city and a minimum of nine months for the city to even be remotely inhabitable again. It's a harrowing thought. Two weeks ago, New Orleans was a thriving urban center of more than one million people going about its daily business; today it is a catastrophically flooded hellhole rife with violence and despair, a place that may never be the same again.

Rather than point fingers and assign blame (it is too early for this), it is first important to reflect on what it is that we have lost. Even for those who have never been, New Orleans has always held a special place in the hearts of Americans.

I leave you with links to two outstanding articles from the New Republic:

First Story,
Second Story

Here is an excerpt from one of them:

Why did we choose to live in the shadow of pending ruin? The first reason, if you ask New Orleanians, is that risk is like the devil's music, the gothic voodoo scene, the inventive gastronomy, the insufferable weather, the debauched boozefests, the implacable corruption, the incomparable poverty, and the irredeemable football team: It sets us apart.

Something primal there engendered civic pride and a sense that, if a biblical end was as near as the next low pressure system, we should live it up. It was a dysfunctional raison d'être--call it Pompeii redux--but it had its appeal. Another reason was the payoff. Despite looming annihilation, tourists flocked there from all over the world, and the port system was the largest in the Western Hemisphere.

Until Wednesday, New Orleanians intuitively grasped that the risk was worth the profit and that, somehow, New Orleans worked. We lived like this, with grit, for 300 years, and we weren't going to let a little rain spoil the country's biggest party. As a result, our homes and livelihoods--and God only knows how many lives--have, overnight, ceased to exist.

I am deeply ambivalent about rebuilding in that impossible place; still, acquiescence is not part of the local lexicon, and that is inevitably what residents will do anyway. Even as we return in the coming months to collect debris, New Orleanians won't move. Our triumph over the elements is imperfect, but it sure beats living in Cleveland.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Idaho Blog Directory Expands

The liberal Idaho blogroll is so short that when we have a new addition to the list, it's big news - worthy of an announcement here, on this blog.

And we have a new addition to the list! A new Idaho blog, We Have Failed Our Duty As Americans, is now listed in the Idaho section of our Blogs & Websites directory. We're pleased to welcome them aboard!

This new blog has some good posts on the Katrina aftermath, check them out. Of course, Pacific Northwest Portal continues to cover the aftermath. We have a link on the homepage now to Liberal Blogosphere for Hurricane Katrina relief.

Emergency preparedness botched, aftermath mismanaged by Bush administration

Don't politicize a tragedy.

That's what Republicans are shouting at us right now as we seethe with rage over the way the Hurricane Katrina relief effort is being handled on the federal level.

The administration's incompetence, lack of preparedness, and outright lies about the situation are stunning, and unbelievable.

Looking through the news coverage, I keep seeing new items that have me shaking my head in disgust. Why don't we start with the lack of emergency preparedness?

There was a great article on Editor & Publisher yesterday fromn Will Bunch, entitled, "Did New Orleans Catastrophe Have to Happen? 'Times-Picayune' Had Repeatedly Raised Federal Spending Issues".

(The Times-Picayune is a major newspaper in New Orleans).

New Orleans had long known it was highly vulnerable to flooding and a direct hit from a hurricane. In fact, the federal government has been working with state and local officials in the region since the late 1960s on major hurricane and flood relief efforts. When flooding from a massive rainstorm in May 1995 killed six people, Congress authorized the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project, or SELA.

Over the next 10 years, the Army Corps of Engineers, tasked with carrying out SELA, spent $430 million on shoring up levees and building pumping stations, with $50 million in local aid. But at least $250 million in crucial projects remained, even as hurricane activity in the Atlantic Basin increased dramatically and the levees surrounding New Orleans continued to subside.

Yet after 2003, the flow of federal dollars toward SELA dropped to a trickle. The Corps never tried to hide the fact that the spending pressures of the war in Iraq, as well as homeland security -- coming at the same time as federal tax cuts -- was the reason for the strain. At least nine articles in the Times-Picayune from 2004 and 2005 specifically cite the cost of Iraq as a reason for the lack of hurricane- and flood-control dollars.
(emphasis mine)

So we have a lack of emergency preparedness. We have an overseas war that has turned into a quagmire - a complete disaster, an utter failure. And this conflict, which we started, has spiraled out of control and has prevented us from taking care of our own people and our own needs here at home.

We have that, coupled with Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy. We have a surplus that Clinton built through careful budget managament that Bush has turned into a massive deficit. The federal government is essentially out of money.

Not enough money was spent on emergency preparedness.

What's worse is that this isn't an unexpected disaster. It didn't have to be this way (again from the E&P article):
"That second study would take about four years to complete and would cost about $4 million, said Army Corps of Engineers project manager Al Naomi. About $300,000 in federal money was proposed for the 2005 fiscal-year budget, and the state had agreed to match that amount. But the cost of the Iraq war forced the Bush administration to order the New Orleans district office not to begin any new studies, and the 2005 budget no longer includes the needed money, he said."

The Senate was seeking to restore some of the SELA funding cuts for 2006. But now it's too late.

One project that a contractor had been racing to finish this summer: a bridge and levee job right at the 17th Street Canal, site of the main breach on Monday.

The Newhouse News Service article published Tuesday night observed, "The Louisiana congressional delegation urged Congress earlier this year to dedicate a stream of federal money to Louisiana's coast, only to be opposed by the White House. ... In its budget, the Bush administration proposed a significant reduction in funding for southeast Louisiana's chief hurricane protection project. Bush proposed $10.4 million, a sixth of what local officials say they need."

Local officials are now saying, the article reported, that had Washington heeded their warnings about the dire need for hurricane protection, including building up levees and repairing barrier islands, "the damage might not have been nearly as bad as it turned out to be."
But no. BushCo had, and still has, other priorities. We know what their priorities are. The people hit hard by Katrina are not their priority.

Even more astounding: FEMA had ranked New Orleans in 2001 as a target of one of the three likeliest disasters facing the United States. This from the Houston Chronicle (2001):
New Orleans is sinking.

And its main buffer from a hurricane, the protective Mississippi River delta, is quickly eroding away, leaving the historic city perilously close to disaster.

So vulnerable, in fact, that earlier this year [2001] the Federal Emergency Management Agency ranked the potential damage to New Orleans as among the three likeliest, most castastrophic disasters facing this country.

The other two? A massive earthquake in San Francisco, and, almost prophetically, a terrorist attack on New York City.

The New Orleans hurricane scenario may be the deadliest of all.

In the face of an approaching storm, scientists say, the city's less-than-adequate evacuation routes would strand 250,000 people or more, and probably kill one of 10 left behind as the city drowned under 20 feet of water. Thousands of refugees could land in Houston.

Economically, the toll would be shattering.
There was a huge lack of preparedness. The administration has not not funded disaster and emergency preparedness and response. Important projects were not completed. New Orleans was ignored.

And now that the hurricane has hit? It's being mismanaged. The frustration in the disaster zone is at a breaking point. People are angry and upset. Local officials are furious:
Four days after Hurricane Katrina roared in with a devastating blow that inflicted potentially thousands of deaths, the frustration, fear and anger mounted, despite the promise of 1,400 National Guardsmen a day to stop the looting, plans for a $10 billion recovery bill in Congress and a government relief effort President Bush called the biggest in U.S. history.

New Orleans' top emergency management official called that effort a "national disgrace" and questioned when reinforcements would actually reach the increasingly lawless city.

[...]

As he watched a line snaking for blocks through ankle-deep waters, New Orleans' emergency operations chief Terry Ebbert blamed the inadequate response on the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

"This is not a FEMA operation. I haven't seen a single FEMA guy," he said. He added: "We can send massive amounts of aid to tsunami victims, but we can't bail out the city of New Orleans."

FEMA officials said some operations had to be suspended in areas where gunfire has broken out.

[...]

About 15,000 to 20,000 people who had taken shelter at New Orleans convention center grew increasingly hostile after waiting for buses for days amid the filth and the dead. Police Chief Eddie Compass said he sent in 88 officers to quell the situation at the building, but they were quickly driven back by an angry mob.

"We have individuals who are getting raped, we have individuals who are getting beaten," Compass said. "Tourists are walking in that direction and they are getting preyed upon."
The administration is mismanaging the crisis. There appears to be mass confusion on the federal level. There are outright lies coming from administration shills about the response.

Local officials are mad. People who are stuck in New Orleans are mad:
Around the corner, an elderly woman lay dead in her wheelchair, covered up by a blanket, and another body lay beside her wrapped in a sheet.

"I don't treat my dog like that," 47-year-old Daniel Edwards said as he pointed at the woman in the wheelchair.

"You can do everything for other countries, but you can't do nothing for your own people," he added. "You can go overseas with the military, but you can't get them down here."

The street outside the center, above the floodwaters, smelled of urine and feces, and was choked with dirty diapers, old bottles and garbage.

"They've been teasing us with buses for four days," Edwards said. "They're telling us they're going to come get us one day, and then they don't show up."

Every so often, an armored state police vehicle cruised in front of the convention center with four or five officers in riot gear with automatic weapons. But there was no sign of help from the National Guard.
It's intolerable. It's inexcusable. It's unacceptable. Yet it is happening.

This morning, Bush said on Good Morning America:
"I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees. They did appreciate a serious storm but these levees got breached and as a result much of New Orleans is flooded and now we're having to deal with it."
That is a lie. A disgraceful, pathetic lie. Nobody anticipated the breach of the levees? It's a lie on its face! Think Progress blasts the lie to pieces.

And again from Think Progress, we get this excerpt from the White House press briefing:
REPORTER: One project, for instance, is the one where people felt they needed $60 million in the current `06 fiscal year, and they were given $10 million. Those types of projects. And a lot --

MCCLELLAN: Which project is this?

REPORTER: Southeast Louisiana Flood Control.

MCCLELLAN: Flood control has been a priority of this administration from day one.
Scott McClellan is a terrible liar. Nobody's buying that. Nobody except the administration's lapdogs are going to believe that crap. It's clear and evident that hurricane protection has been a low priority for the administration (Think Progress link).

Bush went on national televsion yesterday to speak about Katrina, and what he said, and how he said it, indicated again this crisis is being mismanaged:
George W. Bush gave one of the worst speeches of his life yesterday, especially given the level of national distress and the need for words of consolation and wisdom. In what seems to be a ritual in this administration, the president appeared a day later than he was needed.

He then read an address of a quality more appropriate for an Arbor Day celebration: a long laundry list of pounds of ice, generators and blankets delivered to the stricken Gulf Coast. He advised the public that anybody who wanted to help should send cash, grinned, and promised that everything would work out in the end.

[...]

Sacrifices may be necessary to make sure that all these things happen in an orderly, efficient way. But this administration has never been one to counsel sacrifice. And nothing about the president's demeanor yesterday - which seemed casual to the point of carelessness - suggested that he understood the depth of the current crisis.

While our attention must now be on the Gulf Coast's most immediate needs, the nation will soon ask why New Orleans's levees remained so inadequate. Publications from the local newspaper to National Geographic have fulminated about the bad state of flood protection in this beloved city, which is below sea level. Why were developers permitted to destroy wetlands and barrier islands that could have held back the hurricane's surge? Why was Congress, before it wandered off to vacation, engaged in slashing the budget for correcting some of the gaping holes in the area's flood protection?

It would be some comfort to think that, as Mr. Bush cheerily announced, America "will be a stronger place" for enduring this crisis. Complacency will no longer suffice, especially if experts are right in warning that global warming may increase the intensity of future hurricanes. But since this administration won't acknowledge that global warming exists, the chances of leadership seem minimal.
And that was the New York Times editorial board. Slamming it down. Right where the blame belongs.

Another sign the crisis is being mismanaged? The Canadians aren't being allowed to help. Kos reports this:
On tonight's news, CTV (Canadian TV) said that support was offered from Canada. Planes are ready to load with food and medical supplies and a system called "DART" which can provide fresh water and medical supplies is standing by. Department of Homeland Security as well as other U.S. agencies were contacted by the Canadian government requesting permission to provide help. Despite this contact, Canada has not been allowed to fly supplies and personnel to the areas hit by Katrina. So, everything here is grounded. Prime Minister Paul Martin is reportedly trying to speak to President Bush tonight or tomorrow to ask him why the U.S. federal government will not allow aid from Canada into Louisiana and Mississippi. That said, the Canadian Red Cross is reportedly allowed into the area.

Canadian agencies are saying that foreign aid is probably not being permitted into Louisiana and Mississippi because of "mass confusion" at the U.S. federal level in the wake of the storm.
It's incredible. It is absolutely incredible, how incompetent this administration is. The federal response to this disaster has been a complete disaster in itself.

Another outrage: FEMA is urging people to send money to Pat Robertson:
FEMA has released to the media and on its Web site a list of suggested charities to help the storm's hundreds of thousands of victims. The Red Cross is first on the list. The Rev. Pat Robertson's "Operation Blessing" is next on the list.
No big surprise there, but intolerable again.

And then there are the insensitive Republicans, administration allies:
House Speaker Dennis Hastert dropped a bombshell on flood-ravaged New Orleans on Thursday by suggesting that it isn't sensible to rebuild the city.

"It doesn't make sense to me," Hastert told the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago in editions published today. "And it's a question that certainly we should ask."
Not rebuild New Orleans?

Let the people of the Big Easy hear that. Let the people of Louisiana hear that. Let all of America hear it.

And this disaster isn't helping Bush: A FOX News poll conducted after Katrina (taken August 30th-31st) shows Bush's job approval rating still sucks: 50% disapprove, 45% approve, and 5% aren't sure. And this is a FOX news poll.

The bottom line: emergency preparedness was botched, and the aftermath has been terribly mismanaged by the federal government. Americans should be angry. The best we can do is offer our houses and donate to the Red Cross, and continue to lay the blame where it belongs.

Maximum firepower. The administration must be blasted with everything we've got.

Want THIS? Vote Yes I-912 (September 1st)

As we've told you before, every week, we'll post a picture or illustration here reminding you of the consequences of passing Initiative 912. Here's this Thursday's Disaster Picture of the Week.

Remember: If we roll back funds to replace critical structures like the Alaskan Way Viaduct and the SR 520 bridge, then we put ourselves at risk for a disaster in which there will be death and destruction.

A collapse is the future of unsturdy bridges and critical structures across Washington State if we don't act. Unsturdy bridges are not only vulnerable to earthquakes - but also human carelessness. The longer we wait, the greater our risk.

The photo to the left shows a collapsed section of the Interstate 40 highway in Oklahoma.

Here's some info on the collapse:
In both human and economic costs, the collapse of the I-40 bridge near Webbers Falls ranks as one of the worst river disasters in Oklahoma's history. Yet many have argued that the bridge would have withstood the barge impact had it been built in accordance with modern structural standards.

The deteriorating state of Oklahoma's bridges was made evident earlier in May by a report from "The Road Information Program" (TRIP), which examined the conditions of Oklahoma's bridges. The study found that thirty-three percent of the state's bridges are "structurally deficient" and seven percent are "functionally obsolete." Researchers also discovered that more of Oklahoma's bridges were built in the 1930s - 24 percent - than during any other decade.

The problem of deficient and obsolete bridges is not strictly local to Oklahoma. According to TRIP and the Federal Highway Administration, approximately one-quarter of the bridges in the United States need immediate repair or replacement, and capital investment in bridge and roadway projects has been far too low for many years. At the time of TRIP's latest national report, this remained the case.
The Interstate 40 collapse occurred when a barge slammed into the bridge, causing a section to collapse. You may remember there was a similiar situation with a barge crashing into Highway 520 not too long ago:
The state Department of Transportation (DOT) maintains that the 520 bridge, which opened in 1963 and underwent a major seismic retrofit in 1999, is near the end of its useful life, and must be replaced for the safety of people in the 115,000 vehicles that cross it each day.

There's a 1-in-20 chance the hollow columns that support its approach spans could fail during an earthquake. It floats low in the water, and winter windstorms that heave waves across its four lanes stress its aging pontoons and anchors. It has endured several earthquakes and weathered various traffic and boating accidents — including a barge that smashed into a pillar supporting the bridge's high-rise section in 2000, prompting the closure of one eastbound lane for several weeks.
Whether the threat be a natural disaster or human carelessness, our aging and critical structures need to be replaced immediately. We can't afford to wait.