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

U.S. Senate map looking grim for Democrats; Republicans may end up with the majority

There are still many ballots left to count in quite a few places, but the U.S. Senate map is not looking good for Democrats of this hour. The mass media are projecting Republican victories in Iowa and Colorado – two states that Democrats really needed to win in order to protect their U.S. Senate majority.

The Republicans began the night with pickups in West Virginia and Arkansas. Then, South Dakota and Montana were called for the Republicans.

Now, it’s Iowa and Colorado. That makes six.

There will almost certainly be a U.S. Senate runoff in Louisiana and possibly Georgia, which could mean that Mitch McConnell won’t be able to proclaim himself presumptive majority leader for at least a few more weeks.

UPDATE: Looks like Republican David Perdue may be able to avoid a runoff in Georgia. We shall see.

Networks have also called the Florida governor’s race for Rick Scott. Florida was a state where Democrats were very much hoping to knock out a Republican incumbent. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen.


Networks project a win for Democrat Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire

New Hampshire’s Jeanne Shaheen has won another term in the U.S. Senate, major news networks are projecting, in what is an incredibly important Democratic hold.

ABC News was the first out of the gate to declare a win for Shaheen. NBC News/MSNBC followed suit shortly thereafter.

Shaheen faced Republican Scott Brown, who previously served in the Senate from Massachusetts, having defeated Martha Coakley for the remainder of Ted Kennedy’s unexpired term. Brown was knocked out two years ago by Elizabeth Warren, now the senior senator from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Brown subsequently moved to New Hampshire and launched a campaign against Shaheen. Polling consistently showed her with a small lead, but the race was considered competitive. Shaheen’s victory is significant, because Democrats needed her to win in order to stand a chance of holding the U.S. Senate majority.


Tom Wolf wins in Pennsylvania as Democrats take back governorship from Republicans

An important gubernatorial race is now being called in Pennsylvania for the Democrats. Democratic challenger Tom Wolf is the projected winner, defeating incumbent Republican Tom Corbett.

Very few ballots have been tabulated and reported so far, but apparently Wolf’s margin of victory is significant enough that mass media feel comfortable calling it.

Polling showed that Wolf was ahead by double digit margins throughout the race. Corbett is the first incumbent Pennsylvania governor to lose reelection in decades.

Wolf, who has never held office, will become the Commonwealth’s forty-seventh governor. He spent over $10 million of his own money getting through PA’s Democratic primary, and then ended up cruising to victory over Corbett.

Wolf posted a message of thanks to his supporters prior to taking the stage at his election night party in York. Here’s what he sent out:

I’m about to go on stage in my hometown of York, but I wanted to thank you first. As I travelled all across Pennsylvania during this campaign, I was amazed at the dedication, energy, and enthusiasm put forth by supporters like you to encourage others to participate in our democracy. You made this campaign about more than electing me — you made it about people coming together to improve our schools, our neighborhoods, and our state.

Throughout my life, I’ve found that the only way to get things done right is to listen, to treat people fairly, and to include everyone in the process. It’s that kind of collaboration that allowed me to turn my former business around, and it’s the approach we need to take to bring about the bright future this great commonwealth deserves.

Governor Tom Corbett, Lt. Governor Jim Cawley, and their many supporters deserve our respect and admiration for running a campaign focused on the issues. While we may disagree on ideology, we all agree that Pennsylvania’s best days are ahead of us.

I hope you keep your passion for Pennsylvania alive by continuing to connect with residents all across our commonwealth. In the days and weeks ahead, I urge you to reach out to your neighbors — especially those who didn’t support this campaign — and ask them what you can do together to improve your community.

The conversations you have may surprise you.

If we’re going to fund a world-class public education system, create family-sustaining jobs, bring about fairness and equality under the law, provide access to affordable health care, build safe communities, and keep Pennsylvania beautiful, it’s going to take all of us doing our part.

Democracy requires healthy debates, but our duty to Pennsylvania requires that we listen, that we roll up our sleeves, and that we come together to do what is right.

As your governor, I’ll be there working with you — and I can’t wait to see what we do together to help give Pennsylvania a fresh start.

Wolf will likely be taking office with a Legislature controlled by the Republican Party.

As expected, networks project victory for Mitch McConnell in Kentucky

Polls in Kentucky have now closed, and news networks are projecting that Mitch McConnell has been reelected as Kentucky’s senior U.S. Senator, defeating Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes.

Grimes raised a lot of money and ran a credible campaign in the eyes of many observers, but found going up against “Senator Gridlock” to be an incredibly difficult task. McConnell, a veteran campaigner, stuck to his strategy of running against President Obama and did just about everything possible to put Grimes on the defensive for the duration of the campaign.

The early numbers indicate he will prevail with a fairly comfortable margin of victory.

Grimes’ team tried mightily to put distance between herself and President Obama, hoping to blunt attacks by McConnell and the Republican Party, but it didn’t work.

A telling moment came late in the campaign, when Grimes was asked during debates if she voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012.

Rather than simply saying yes and pivoting to go on offense, she refused to answer, and her principled stalling became a major story. Grimes found herself mocked on late night TV for refusing to simply give an upfront response.

Grimes did do a good job (at times) of attacking McConnell’s record and pillorying him for his opposition to raising the minimum wage and enacting equal pay for equal work. But McConnell never seemed fazed by Grimes or her campaign.

Happening now: Washington State Supreme Court hearing oral arguments on constitutionality of charter schools initiative

This afternoon, the Washington State Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments in League of Women Voters, et al. v. State of Washington, a lawsuit brought by a coalition of organizations that contend that Initiative 1240 (which authorized the creation of charter schools in Washington) is unconstitutional.

If you’re interested in watching or listening live, tune in to TVW., Washington State’s equivalent of C-SPAN. TVW is carried by most cable providers (i.e. Frontier, Comcast) and it also streams its signal over the Net.

Here are links to the briefs (note these are all PDFs):

After oral arguments have concluded, I’ll update this post with analysis.

Eighty-seventh school shooting since Sandy Hook leaves two dead at Marysville Pilchuck

Today, some of the worst fears of parents, teachers, and students in Snohomish County’s second largest city were realized when a student, said to be a freshman and a member of the Tualip Tribe, opened fire in the cafeteria of Marysville Pilchuck High School, killing and wounding several people before apparently taking his own life. The tragedy unfolded at about 10:45 AM, according to news reports.

The tragedy is the eighty-seventh school shooting in America since the nightmare that took place in Newtown at Sandy Hook Elementary in December of 2012. Yes, you read that correctly: the eighty-seventh. The complete list is available here.

The alleged perpetrator is dead and the wounded have been taken to area hospitals, chiefly Providence in Everett. One gunshot victim was taken to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle; reportedly, he was shot in the jaw.

Police are been performing what’s called a grid search, after earlier completing a preliminary sweep of the campus, which is rather large. (More than two thousand students attend the high school). They now consider the campus secure.

Said the district:

We are actively working with law enforcement in identifying students and getting them home safely.

A student reunification center is located at the corner of 116th and 51st Street at the Shoultes Community Church. Support services for students and families are also available at this location.

All after school events have been cancelled district-wide.

This is an active police investigation. All media calls are being directed to local law enforcement. Additional information will be released as it becomes available.

We want to extend our thoughts and prayers to the families involved in this tragedy. When something happens to one of our children, it happens to all of us. We are working closely with law enforcement.  Our thoughts are with all students, families, staff, and our communities during this time.

Schools are supposed to be places of learning, comfort, and safety. But today, Marysville Pilchuck High School turned into the site of a tragedy and a crime scene, like so many other schools before it. We are praying for the young people who are wounded and the good doctors and nurses who are trying to save them. May those medical professionals be successful, and may their patients make a full recovery.

But thoughts and prayers are not enough. We can’t allow these tragedies to continue to unfold, and not talk about the need for action to prevent any more of them. Right now, there is something that every one of us who is registered to vote in Washington State can DO. We can vote NO on I-591, and YES on I-594.

The defeat of 591 and passage of 594 will bring universal background checks to Washington State. By itself, I-594 will not end gun violence, but it will make a difference. Passage of 594 will prevent people from buying guns in Washington with no questions asked. I-594 will save lives.

Of course, there’s more we need to do. But it is within our power as a people to take this first step. These initiatives are before us, in our capacity as citizen lawmakers. Let’s change the law and make our communities safer by voting NO on I-591 and YES on I-594.

As Shannon Watts (founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America) said today: “Americans are tired of watching news helicopter footage of our children being led out of their schools – a place where they should be safe from the gun violence that kills eighty-six Americans every day.”

“After the tragedy at Sandy Hook, we started counting shootings in American schools and today’s is the 87th —three of which have occurred in Washington. Our children and teachers should not be the frontline of America’s gun violence. This is unacceptable.  We need to do everything we can — and demand our leaders do the same — to prevent the next tragedy.” 

Leah Bernstein, a Moms Demand Action member in Washington, agreed.

“As a mother with kids in school just miles down the road from Marysville, my heart is broken for the students and faculty of Marysville-Pilchuck High School, and for the entire community. When we send our kids to school each day, we shouldn’t have to worry about whether the next shooting will be at their school. As mothers committed to reducing gun violence, all of our thoughts and prayers are with these children and their families in the wake of this awful tragedy.”

Canadian authorities lock down the heart of Ottawa after shootings on Parliament Hill

Authorities in Canada have locked down Parliament Hill, the heart of the country’s national capital, Ottawa, after a yet-to-be-publicly-identified assailant fatally shot a soldier guarding Canada’s War Memorial, then entered Centre Block and began firing at people there before being killed by security. Fittingly, the man who took the gunman down was said to be Parliament’s sergeant-at-arms, Kevin Vickers.

Canada's National War Memorial

Canada’s National War Memorial, as seen from the Peace Tower. (The Memorial is circled). The gunman began his attacks at the Memorial, fatally shooting a Canadian soldier before proceeding to Centre Block. (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

Centre Block, for those unfamiliar with Ottawa, is the most famous building in the Canadian capital. It is the equivalent of the domed Legislative Building here in Washington or the U.S. Capitol building in the District of Columbia. It contains the chambers of the Canadian House of Commons and the Senate. Its most prominent feature is the Peace Tower, which is almost one hundred meters tall.

Parliament Hill, in Ottawa

The image above depicts Centre Block, the most distinctive building on Parliament Hill, where Canada’s lawmakers conduct business. (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

Alarmingly, at the time of the attack, Canada’s political leaders were inside Centre Block for caucus meetings. Fortunately, none of them were harmed. Prime Minister Stephen Harper was taken away by the authorities to a secure location immediately following the incident. He was later telephoned by President Barack Obama, who offered any support and resources that the United States could provide.

The White House released a readout of the call, which said:

President Obama spoke by phone with Prime Minister Stephen Harper to express the American people’s solidarity with Canada in the wake of attacks on Canadian Forces in Quebec on October 20 and in Ottawa on October 22. President Obama condemned these outrageous attacks, and reaffirmed the close friendship and alliance between our people.  The President offered any assistance Canada needed in responding to these attacks. Prime Minister Harper thanked the President and the two leaders discussed the assault and agreed to continue coordination between our governments moving forward.

Speaking to MSNBC, Member of Parliament Charlie Angus said that had the gunman entered Centre Block an hour later, it is likely that the caucus meetings would have concluded, and that MPs would have been out in the halls speaking to the press.

It is not yet clear how the gunman managed to get into Centre Block. From having visited Parliament Hill in July, I can attest that entrances and exits to the building are monitored and guarded. All visitors are swept by security prior to entering Centre Block for guided tours, or to go up the Peace Tower.

A number of buildings in Ottawa remain on lockdown. Centre Block, East Block, and West Block are all closed to the public right now. West Block was actually already closed; it’s been undergoing renovations for months. The nearby U.S. Embassy, which is very close to Parliament Hill, was also sealed off.

West Block, under construction

West Block, on Parliament Hill, is shown undergoing renovations in July of 2014. (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

Ottawa is a charming city and a fairly safe place. I’ve described it to friends as a cross between the District of Columbia and London. Ottawa is actually home to more people than San Francisco, but it doesn’t feel like a large city at all. Partly that’s because it is much more spread out than cities of comparable size.

By afternoon, all of Canada’s major parties had issued statements in response to the shootings. Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s office said he would speak to the nation in a televised address this evening.

We extend our condolences to the family of the soldier who was killing and our sympathies to those wounded in the attack. Hopefully they’ll all recover.

Without Metro & Sound Transit, the Eastside’s traffic problems would be much worse

The Seattle Times is running a story in tomorrow’s print edition about the 48th LD state Senate race, which pits well-liked State Representative Cyrus Habib against Republican Michelle Darnell, an attorney. Habib, who captured over 63% of the vote in the August Top Two election, is considered to be a shoo-in, but that’s not stopping Darnell from campaigning (nor should it).

The Times gave both candidates an opportunity to speak to their views on the issues. On the topic of transportation (which is one of the top concerns of Eastside voters) reporter Lynn Thompson had this to say about Darnell:

She’s also critical of Sound Transit and Metro, which she said are too Seattle-centric and leave Eastside drivers stuck in traffic and spewing pollution. Instead, she said she’d like to see more private transportation solutions such as the vans and jitneys that move people around other cities in the world.

Sound Transit and Metro may be run from Seattle, but they are hardly Seattle-centric, as Seattleites would be the first to point out.

Darnell is clearly not very familiar with our region’s mass transit system, or she’d know that Metro’s planners care about seeing that the Eastside is well served.

Perhaps she’s unaware that both the Eastside and the south county got RapidRide lines from Metro before Seattle did. (The A line serves the south county; it opened in 2010. The B line serves the Eastside and opened in 2011. Seattle didn’t get RapidRide until 2012, when the C and D lines opened).

Sound Transit, meanwhile, is devoting considerable resources to East Link, which will bring light rail out to Redmond’s Overlake neighborhood via Mercer Island and Bellevue. Presently, the Eastside is well served by Sound Transit Express bus service. In fact, half of Sound Transit’s routes have terminuses in Eastside cities!

For the record, Michelle, these are the routes:

  • The 522, connecting Woodinville and Seattle via SR 522.
  • The 532, connecting Everett and Bellevue via I-405.
  • The 535, connecting Lynnwood and Bellevue via I-405.
  • The 540 and 542, connecting Redmond and Kirkland with the U District.
  • The 545, offering fast and frequent service between downtown Seattle and Redmond via SR 520. It’s easily one of ST’s most popular routes.
  • The 550, connecting downtown Bellevue and Seattle via I-90.
  • The 554, connecting Issaquah and Seattle via I-90.
  • The 555 and 556, connecting Issaquah and Northgate (these routes use I-90, I-405, SR 520, and I-5).
  • The 560, connecting Bellevue and SeaTac Airport via I-405.
  • The 566 and 567, connecting Auburn and Kent with Bellevue and Redmond’s Overlake neighborhood via I-405 and SR 167.

Is there room for improvement? Certainly. But the point is, the Eastside is not being ignored by Sound Transit or Metro. King County leaders made a deliberate choice to go to the voters of the whole county earlier this year with a request to approve badly needed funding for Metro and KCDOT – and that’s because they didn’t want to pursue a Seattle-first approach to protecting our bus service.

As for Michelle’s comment that she’d like to see more vans and jitneys… perhaps she’s unaware that our state has the largest vanpool fleet in North America. According to WSDOT, there are nearly 3,000 vanpools in operation as of last November. The program has been growing like gangbusters:

Since 2003, vanpools in Washington have increased by more than 85 percent – a net increase of more than 1,300 vanpools. In 2009 and 2010, vanpool growth flattened primarily due to the Great Recession. Since then a slow but steady economic recovery has spurred vanpool growth in the state. Increases in fuel costs and traffic congestion (especially in busy corridors) have also added to vanpool growth.

The Eastside is not without private transportation solutions, either. Eastsiders can choose to take a taxi, Uber, or Lyft. In addition, Microsoft operates its own private bus system to help employees commute to and from workThe Connector.

Again, there’s always room for improvement, but a major reason our traffic is lousy is due to the way the Eastside was built. Traffic is an inevitable problem of constructing auto-centric suburbs. Unfortunately, we’ve been doing this since the 1950s, so we’ve dug ourselves into a pretty big hole.

And we can’t seem to stop. King County has foolishly continued to permit auto-centric exurban development east of the Eastside’s inner suburbs.

Fortunately, cities like Redmond and Bellevue are increasingly growing up instead of out. The increased density will make it much easier to live on the Eastside without a car and make the build out of light rail more cost effective.

Darnell would do well to read an eye-opening text like Suburban Nation to understand the root of our traffic problems and why they’re hard to solve.

Republican Andy Hill a no-show at NARAL’s 45th District candidate forum in Redmond

Last night, NARAL Pro-Choice Washington held a candidate forum in Redmond to give candidates running for the Washington State Legislature in the 45th District an opportunity to share their views on women’s health and reproductive rights.

The six candidates seeking to represent the district in the 2015-2016 Legislature were all invited to participate, but unfortunately, only the Democrats (Matt Isenhower, Larry Springer, and Roger Goodman) showed up.

Topics discussed included the fallout from the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby ruling, the Senate’s repeated failure to pass the Reproductive Parity Act, and consequences for women’s health resulting from public/private hospital mergers or partnerships. But the Democratic candidates also commented on the absence of their Republican opponents, who were represented by empty chairs.

(Full disclosure: I am an officer of the 45th District Democrats, which is working to elect Matt Isenhower, Larry Springer, and Roger Goodman).

“It really speaks volumes that my opponent is not here,” Isenhower told the audience. “Again and again in the media, unfortunately, people refer to him as pro-choice. But my question would be, if he is pro-choice, why is he not here? Why did he not fill out the questionnaire for NARAL? Why has he not gone for endorsement for both NARAL and Planned Parenthood? Those things, those actions, speak a lot louder than any words I can say.”

Matt Isenhower next to Andy Hill's empty chair

State Senate candidate Matt Isenhower listens as State Representative Larry Springer speaks. Isenhower’s opponent, Republican Andy Hill, blew off NARAL’s forum for 45th legislative district candidates. (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

Isenhower could have been more specific and said, Again and again in the Seattle Times, unfortunately, editorial writers have referred to him as pro-choice – for it is Frank Blethen’s editorial page that keeps crediting Hill as having that stance.

Take the Times’ unsigned endorsement of Andy Hill, published earlier this year:

Hill represents his socially liberal district, supporting abortion rights, gay marriage and the state allowing students without legal residency status access to financial aid.

Or this blog post from editorial writer Thanh Tan last week:

But by trying to take out moderate, pro-choice Republicans such as incumbent Andy Hill for not being more assertive or rabid about supporting abortion rights, they risk affecting issues that go way beyond women’s health.

Or this column by editorial writer Lynne Varner from 2012:

Pro-choice groups need moderate Republicans, a growing group locally that includes not just Litzow but state Sens. Joe Fain of Auburn and Andy Hill of Redmond. Lawmakers may think twice next time about bucking their party to join a team that might bite them next election.

Actually, history has shown that when advocates of women’s health back Republicans, they get burned. Steve Litzow, Andy Hill, and Rodney Tom were in a position to bring up the Reproductive Parity Act in the Senate during each of the two sessions their caucus has controlled the floor. They failed to deliver.

The legislation could have passed with what Tom likes to call a “philosophical majority”, possibly even without Hill. But it was never brought to the floor for a vote. (It did, of course, pass in the Democratically-controlled state House.)

There is no evidence that Andy Hill supports reproductive rights, including a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy. Hill does not even advertise himself as pro-choice or pro-liberty. Instead, he has allowed (and perhaps encouraged) The Seattle Times to do that for him, while avoiding the issue on the campaign trail, presumably so as to avoid offending his base. Hill is trying to have it both ways.

I’ll add that there is no such thing as a moderate Republican, or a moderate Democrat, for that matter. The mass media loves the label moderate, but it’s useless. It doesn’t stand for anything. Progressive/liberal and conservative refer to a system of values, principles, and policy directions. Moderate doesn’t. There is no moderate worldview. There is no consistency to what so-called moderates believe.

Most of the time, when someone says moderate, they mean biconceptual. Biconceptuals are individuals or groups that use the progressive values system in certain areas of their political thinking, and the conservative values system in others. I can’t stress this enough: Biconceptuals are ideologically different.

And most people are, to some degree, biconceptuals.

Biconceptualism helps explains the phenomenon of strange bedfellows, which is when unusual coalitions form to achieve a common goal (for instance, reforming the NSA or preventing an expansion of gambling).

Frank Blethen and his editorial writers would have us believe Andy Hill is partially progressive. They can credibly argue Hill supports marriage equality, because Hill did vote yes on the bill that brought the freedom to marry to Washington. But again, there is no evidence that Hill supports reproductive rights.

As Representative Larry Springer explained when it was his turn to speak:

[Andy Hill] is in his leadership. He is one of the highest-ranking Republicans in the Senate.

He’s the Chair of the Ways & Means Committee. He has – I believe – a responsibility to represent his district, and to say to his leadership: We need to do this. This needs to come to the floor for a vote.

Springer added:

I have never, ever heard Andy Hill say “I’m pro-choice.” He waffles; he walks around that constantly. In fact, we had to… [looking at seatmate Roger Goodman] You and I had to bail him out at the town hall meeting in Sammamish three years ago because the questions were relentless. And he just wouldn’t answer, wouldn’t answer… and it was clogging up the meeting, so we said, okay, time to move on.

UPDATE, October 20th, 2014: After this post was published, Representative Larry Springer reached out to NPI to let us know that the town hall story he shared at the NARAL forum stemmed from questions concerning Andy’s position on marriage equality, not reproductive rights. Representative Springer checked with Representative Roger Goodman, and that was Roger’s recollection as well.

At the time, Andy had not taken a position on the issue and the Legislature had not voted on Ed Murray and Jamie Pedersen’s historic bill.

We regret any confusion (as does Representative Springer) and appreciate the clarification. If anything, this additional context indicates that Andy has a history of being evasive and ducking tough questions on multiple issues.

Now, back to the original post…

Springer’s opponent Brendan Woodward also skipped the forum, as did Goodman’s opponent, Joel Hussey. However, they are at least not using a major daily newspaper to suggest they hold a position they don’t really hold.

It’s too bad the Republicans chose not to attend. Had they participated, they might have learned something. They would have had to field tough questions, sure, but that’s what real leaders have to do.

As I said earlier, a number of important topics were covered, including the ramifications of the Hobby Lobby decision. The candidates even delved into topics themselves without being prompted. Representative Springer, for instance, brought up the importance of medically accurate sex education in his opening remarks.

These issues aren’t going away, and the incoming Legislature would be making a serious mistake if it does not address them in the 2015 session.

Vice President Biden visits Renton Technical College with Senators Murray, Cantwell

Vice President Joe Biden spoke at Renton Technical College today late in the morning. He spoke on the state of the middle class and the need for skilled workers in the coming years. He plugged community colleges as the most flexible educational institutions in the united states.

Biden said that we are no longer talking about outsourcing, we are talking about insourcing. He said that manufacturing jobs are coming back. Biden claimed that today there are 100,000 high tech manufacturing jobs going unfilled in the United States. He said that not all of these jobs require a PhD, or a four-year degree, or even a two-year degree. These are jobs that are requiring new skills and he said community colleges are working with local manufacturers in setting up specific training programs to fulfill manufacturing needs. He used a solar shingle manufacturer in Michigan as an example.

Biden said that according to a study that he directed for the President that 1,400,000 IT jobs, with a minimum salary of $59,000, will need to be filled in the next decade. He also claimed that we will need over 600,000 more registered nurses with average annual pay of between $65,000 and $75,000. Biden also stated that we need 1,200 more solar panel installers with a starting salary of $30,000 and 115,000 more electricians with an average salary of $50,000. He also claimed that there will be 1,500 more jobs every year in the aerospace industry.

Biden stated that the key to training people for these middle class jobs is the technical college. Then Biden also spoke about grants including PELL grants to help students pay for education. Biden also spoke about partnering with organized labor to use grants to set up apprenticeship programs, stating that it is the most direct path to train workers for these skilled jobs.

Changing his focus to energy, Biden pointed out that the U.S. is at the energy epicenter of the world now. He said that in this country, “we have more operating oil and gas rigs than in any other other country combined.” Biden said that North America will be energy independent by the year 2021 and the U.S. will be energy independent by 2025. However, it is the goal of President Obama and Vice President Biden to have exponentially growing renewable energy in the U.S.

Biden then spoke about the economy and how the economy is recovering from the worst recession, but then pointed out that the middle class is still hurting. There has been no real growth in middle class incomes. He said that a study has shown that middle class wages “have only gone up fourteen cents in that last fourteen years.” “The middle class is hurting” Biden said. To fix this, Biden described the plan to “create more pathways” for people to move up to these new higher-paying jobs.

Biden closed by leaving the podium, moving close to the audience and saying that one of the goals is to “change the psychology of the country”. He further explained his meaning saying that by training people with new skills, new entrepreneurs will emerge, resulting in more small businesses being created. Biden then left as he said “We can do this folks! We really can!”

Ridership on Sound Transit’s Central Link light rail line keeps climbing, defying naysayers

Back in mid-July, we at NPI joined with Sound Transit and many pro-transit activists to celebrate the five year anniversary of Central Link, which opened to the public on a sunny Saturday morning to thousands of eager riders.

More than sixty months later, Link is doing spectacularly well. Ridership just keeps going up, pleasantly exceeding even our own expectations. And it’s not a surprise why: People like the reliability and convenience of light rail.

From the Sound Transit August 2014 ridership report (PDF):

Central Link continued to see double-digit increases and set an all-time monthly record with total August 2014 boardings up almost 16% compared to August 2013.

Average weekday boardings stood at over 39,000 for the month of August, an amazing increase of 21%, while average Saturday boardings were largely unchanged due to startup testing in the DSTT [Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel] for University Link.

This is fantastic news. Total light rail boardings for the month of August surpassed 1.1 million. The Sound Transit systemwide total was nearly three million. Central Link is routinely performing above its targets, which is remarkable.

Prior to Central Link’s construction, critics of Sound Transit had harsh things to say about the project. They panned Sound Transit’s revised cost and ridership estimates, claimed buses and bus rapid transit were superior to light rail despite clear evidence to the contrary, and said the capital costs involved in laying track weren’t worth it.

They derisively referred to Central Link as a “train to nowhere”, especially after the airport segment was cut from the initial alignment (it was later restored).

Tim Eyman launched a statewide initiative to defund Sound Transit, which failed in Sound Transit’s jurisdiction but narrowly passed statewide. (The provision of the initiative intended to defund Sound Transit never went into effect, however, because the revenue had already been pledged to pay off bonds for light rail construction).

Ultimately, Sound Transit was able to overcome a torrent of vocal opposition and get Central Link built, fulfilling its promises to the people of Puget Sound.

It wasn’t easy. Even as construction got underway, critics were still attacking the project and declaring the system wasn’t needed. Well, not anymore. For the most part, they’ve gone silent. And that’s because they were wrong.

Sound Transit now has a well-deserved reputation as an agency that gets things done. Projects are thoughtfully and carefully managed. The dark days are a thing of the past. Last year, we were honored to have Sound Transit CEO Joni Earl speak at our 2013 Spring Fundraising Gala, which celebrated both the tenth anniversaries of NPI and of Central Link’s groundbreaking. Joni spoke to us about the agency’s turnaround (which she led) and the future of Sound Transit.

We have come a long way, but we have a long way to go still. People all over this region are clamoring for light rail. They naturally want Link to serve their neighborhood. Those who have access to Link now are very fortunate, and an increasing number are availing themselves of the opportunity to take the train.

The people of this region recognize that we need a people-centric transportation system, not an auto-centric one. As King County Executive Dow Constantine has said, Puget Sounders vote with their feet and their ORCA cards.

Our region has long needed a rail spine, and at last, we’re building one out. Central Link alone has been a tremendous success… but it’s only the beginning.

As Link expands north, south, and east, it will attract even more riders and take more cars off the road. University Link and Angle Lake Link are both nearing completion, which is a big deal. Construction is already starting on North Link (bringing light rail to Northgate and beyond), and will start soon on East Link.

Even as we look to the future, though, we shouldn’t forget what it took to get to where we are today. Let’s take a little trip down memory lane and examine what the critics were saying about light rail back in the early 2000s, before we had it.

Let’s start with former King County Councilmember Maggi Fimia:

It costs too much, it does too little, it downgrades express-bus systems… It draws construction resources from worthier projects. It breaks faith with taxpayers. It’s dangerous.

That quote is from an article published around the time of Link’s groundbreaking.

Of course, Link’s construction did not harm express bus service, other projects in Sound Transit’s pipeline, or break faith with taxpayers. To the contrary: it fulfilled a promise made many years ago. Link is not dangerous; it is safe and reliable.

Moving on to former attorney general and gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna, a longtime opponent of light rail, who was a thorn in ST’s side for years:

My prediction is that by the time we get this thing built or even under construction, Seattle is going to decide it wants to go with the monorail.

That was from an article published in September 2001, when Sound Transit was revising the alignment for what became Central Link.

McKenna turned out to be half right – Seattleites did vote to build monorail several times. But then, in 2005, they reversed themselves, shutting the effort down after its fiscal and management problems made Sound Transit’s look mild by comparison. Meanwhile, Sound Transit persevered and got Central Link built.

Seattle activist Elizabeth Campbell is among those who wants to resurrect the plan to build a monorail line between West Seattle and Ballard, which would have been the long-defunct monorail authority’s first project. She’s submitted an initiative to the November ballot to fund a study the idea, but it’s got widespread opposition.

Now for Bothell resident Douglas Pinnt:

I’d love to see them abandon the project. It’s an awful lot of money… You calculate how many people actually would ride the trains and it’s probably insignificant compared to rides on the buses. Think about the fact the Microsoft campus wouldn’t even be on the rail line: the most prestigious employer wouldn’t be served at all.

As ridership reports have shown, a significant number of people are already riding the one light rail line we have. Ridership is projected to significantly increase once additional Link segments open – including East Link, which will serve that all-important Microsoft campus through the Overlake Station.

It bears remembering that Central Link was and remains our starter line. It’s the beginning of a system that will carry a huge number of people once it is properly built out. Thanks to Sound Transit 2, we’re getting light rail to Microsoft.

Rome wasn’t built in a day either; this is a long-term investment.

Here’s West Seattle resident Eugene Bartol:

I’d really, really preferred it being successful, but I just couldn’t see it.

What about now, Eugene? Do you see why having a rail spine makes a great deal of sense? It’s reliable transit that you don’t need a schedule to ride. It’s a route that can’t be discontinued. It’s grade-separated, so it can’t get stuck in traffic. It has low operating costs. It can scale up to accommodate larger numbers of riders as needed. It can be built below ground, above ground, or at grade. Simply put, light rail is versatile and ideal for moving people through congested corridors.

Finally, we have this nonsense from Tim Eyman:

People outside Seattle shouldn’t be forced to pay for Seattle’s billion-dollar choo choo trains. Sound Transit admits it cannot proceed with its ‘train to nowhere’ unless hundreds of millions of dollars are paid by taxpayers outside Seattle. King County Executive Ron Sims, Sound Transit’s chairman, likes the status quo and doesn’t want anything to stop his gravy train.

Actually, under Sound Transit’s adopted policy of subarea equity, costs for Central Link were paid for by people who live in the area the light rail line serves.

Other rail projects have and are being financed the same way. For example, East Link is now being paid for by taxpayers in the East King subarea, which East Link will serve in a few years once construction has been completed.

Voters in Sound Transit’s jurisdiction have consistently voted to build light rail when it was on the ballot by itself (in 1996 with Sound Move and again in 2008 with Sound Transit 2). They’ve also voted down Eyman schemes to do away with it, including I-776 in 2002 and I-1325 in 2011.

The derisive “train to nowhere” sneers, once a staple of anti-light rail commentary, quickly went away once Sound Transit CEO Joni Earl announced an agreement with the Port of Seattle to build Airport Link and send light rail directly into Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Airport Link ultimately opened just five months after the rest of Central Link; its five year anniversary is in December.

The above quote from Eyman came from an op-ed that ran in February of 2003, about six months before NPI was founded. Eyman at the time was trying to launch a new statewide initiative to kill Central Link. Thankfully, it never got off the ground.

During the past decade, we’ve advanced the discussion around light rail to the point where the focus is on where it should go next and how we pay for it. That’s significant. It is worth remembering that at the turn of the century, there were plenty of people and organizations trying to dismantle Sound Transit and ensure light rail never got built. Nowadays, ST is humming along and in good shape.

Thanks to courageous leaders like Joni Earl and Greg Nickels, we moved forward instead of losing an opportunity to build a better transportation system for our region. Our challenge now is to keep moving forward. Tomorrow, I’ll talk about what needs to happen at the state level to make Sound Transit 3 possible.

American Academy of Pediatrics condemns Tim Eyman for use of obscene, violent image

Tim Eyman’s decision to use an obscene, repulsive image to illustrate a political attack email against King County Executive Dow Constantine (which I wrote about a few days ago) has drawn outrage and condemnation from many quarters, in addition to further cementing Eyman’s well-deserved reputation as a purveyor of destructive initiatives and practitioner of toxic politics.

But one organization in particular was incensed (and certainly has every reason to be): the American Academy of Pediatrics, which represents doctors specializing in children’s medicine. The AAP is a respected organization of medical professionals with chapters in all fifty states, including Washington. Today, the president of the AAP’s Washington chapter, Dr. Margaret E. Hood, sent the following letter to King County Executive Dow Constantine and Governor Jay Inslee.

Dear Executive Constantine:

I am writing to you on behalf of the nearly 1,000 Washington pediatricians who are members of the Washington Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (WCAAP), to express our outrage at the violent image included with a recent email sent by Tim Eyman to his supporters, legislators and the media.

Gun violence is a very real public health threat in our country. Firearm-related deaths remain one of the top three causes of death for American youth, and our state’s youth have not been spared: a child or teen is killed by gunfire every 9 days in Washington State.

In light of these facts, gratuitous use of an image of a woman holding a gun to a child’s head is shocking and abhorrent. As pediatricians whose mission is to ensure the health and well-being of children, we could not let Mr. Eyman’s communication go without remark. In closing we wish to go on record as strongly objecting to such inappropriate public use of this horrible image for ill gain.


Margaret E. Hood, MD, FAAP
President, Washington Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics

Unfortunately, Tim Eyman has no regrets about using the obscene, violent image that Dr. Hood spoke of. KIRO 7 asked if he had any “moral compunction” about using it. Eyman replied, “I didn’t”. He ought to know better – he’s a father.

If Tim Eyman had any decency, he never would have used the image in the first place. If he had any shame, he would have realized immediately that he had exercised poor judgment, and apologized. But he lacks both.

Having worked against Tim’s initiative factory for over twelve years, I’m sorry to say that Tim’s ugly, stinky, and disgusting behavior does not shock me, as it did Dr. Hood and her colleagues. I wish it did. But this is what I’ve come to expect from Tim Eyman. He can turn on the charm in person when he wants to, but more often he acts like a child throwing a temper tantrum and hurling insults. And when he’s behind a computer screen, he acts like a troll. It’s sad.

Eyman clearly has a need for attention. If too much time goes by when he doesn’t appear in the news, he concocts a stunt aimed at getting coverage. There was a period of time when he was dressing up in costume for his media events – he’s appeared as Darth Vader, Buzz Lightyear, a gorilla, and a prison inmate.

I want to stress as much as I can that Eyman is only relevant because he has enablers – people and organizations who give him money, ink, airtime, and pixels.

There are a number of wealthy benefactors who have kept gears of his initiative factory lubricated with money: the late Michael Dunmire, Kemper Freeman, Jr., Great Canadian Gaming and other companies in the gambling industry, the Association of Washington Business, and big oil companies like BP and ConocoPhillips.

The latest Eyman benefactors are Republicans Faye Garneau and Suzie Burke of Seattle, who are under the sorely mistaken impression that Eyman is somebody they can work with and trust. (Eyman is attempting to launch an initiative that would overturn the the $15/hour minimum wage enacted in Seattle and SeaTac.)

But they aren’t the only ones.

Washington’s mass media is complicit, too, for repeatedly and indefensibly giving Tim Eyman a platform to attack our elected leaders from.

To KIRO 7’s credit, they have been willing to talk to us and other Eyman opponents when other reporters couldn’t be bothered, as has C.J. Douglas over at Q13.

But when Eyman circulates something that is obviously story bait and not news, we would all be best served if nobody touched it, not even honorable and professional journalists like KIRO 7’s Essex Porter. Our political discourse is already polluted enough. As Eyman is not willing to behave like an adult, he has no place in the conversation around budgeting, tax reform, or fiscal responsibility.

Frontier working round the clock to restore service to Redmond area after major outage

For the past few days, many homes and businesses in the greater Redmond area have been without phone, Internet, and television service after a construction crew working on a stormwater treatment project sliced through fiber and copper lines belonging to Frontier Communications when they dug in the wrong place. The damage caused was appraised by Frontier technicians to be very bad, and ever since Saturday morning, they’ve been working round the clock on a fix.

Service in many parts of Redmond and beyond have been restored, but there are still places where the outage continues, including the Thinkspace coworking community in downtown Redmond, which NPI belongs to.

Frontier, at the urging of NPI and other customers, has set up a portal to provide information about the outage and the status of repairs. Additionally, Frontier is hosting a community meeting to share information with its customers:

Frontier Services were impacted in Redmond, WA beginning Saturday, 9/20 when an outside construction crew cut through fiber and copper cables at 15802 Bear Creek Parkway, at the corner of Bear Creek Parkway and Redmond Way.  Frontier crews were onsite throughout the weekend [and] are working around the clock to restore services.

Full 911 voice services were restored by Sunday morning, and all FiOS services were restored 9/24.

Frontier will be hosting a community meeting today at 6:30 PM in the Auditorium of the Redmond Community Center located at 16600 NE 80th Street Redmond, WA. There is an informal Q&A from 3:30 to 6:30 PM, with the formal presentation starting at 6:30 PM.

Frontier announced a short time ago that it has restored FiOS service to all affected customers. FiOS is Frontier’s premier fiber to the premises (FTTP) offering, inherited from Verizon, which offers much faster speeds than DSL.

Crews work to repair damage to Frontier's lines in Redmond

Crews have been working around the clock to repair damage to Frontier’s network in downtown Redmond. Redmond Way was ripped open the night of September 20th to speed the effort along. (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

The repairs necessary to bring Frontier’s network back online have affected the city’s stormwater treatment project. The city announced yesterday that the work previously scheduled to take place this weekend had been canceled:

As the City of Redmond continues to work with Frontier to restore service, the closure of Redmond Way previously scheduled for this weekend, Sep. 26-29 will not take place until a later date, but significant weekday impacts through Sep. 29 will continue.

Construction of the Redmond Way Stormwater Treatment Facility project is underway with pipe installation and pavement repair. Visit and register to receive traffic alerts.

Detour signage is in place directing motorist to alternate routes. Access to local businesses and residents will be maintained.

Construction is weather dependent and closures or evening work may extend beyond current closure notices. Public notifications will be updated if changes occur.

According to Frontier, the prolonged downtime stemmed from the nature of the damage to its lines. From what we’ve heard, the fiber and copper cables weren’t just cut, they were pulled and ripped up, causing damage to the lines in other places. No wonder the repair job is taking a long time.

We’d still like to see Frontier reach out to its affected customers by email, which they haven’t done. Posting notifications on Twitter and isn’t enough. Frontier needs to be more proactive in managing this crisis, even though they didn’t cause it. The City, meanwhile, needs to undertake a full investigation to find out how this happened and how we can prevent it from occurring again.

Tim Eyman once again goes fishing for media coverage, using an obscene image as bait

Tim Eyman may not have an initiative on the ballot this year, but he has no intention of keeping a low profile this autumn, as he demonstrated yesterday when he went fishing for media coverage using an obscene image for story bait.

In an email to reporters sent yesterday afternoon, Eyman engaged in quite a show of psychological projection, accusing King County Executive Dow Constantine of trying to “blackmail voters” by telling the truth about the impact of his initiatives on Washington and King County’s vital public services. Eyman further attacked Constantine as crass, manipulative, and wrong – all words that effectively describe both his inappropriate behavior and his destructive initiatives.

Constantine had delivered a speech unveiling his proposed budget earlier in the day in which he explained, as I have written many times here, that the days of backfilling are pretty much at an end, and the time of reckoning is fast approaching.

Constantine sensibly wants to prevent King County’s already underfunded and endangered human services from being totally eviscerate, which is why he called for the repeal of Tim Eyman’s Initiative 747 during his speech.

I-747, which slapped an artificial limit on property tax revenue, has been slowly choking the life out of everything from rural firehouses to urban health clinics for over a decade… and by the way, that’s exactly what it was designed to do.

Eyman is very fond of the “death by a thousand cuts” approach, because it masks the awful consequences of his initiatives, making it easier for him to claim that we can starve our common wealth without any adverse effects on public services. As I wrote last month, he personifies greed better than anyone else in Washington State; he is the definition of a snake oil salesman.

Constantine’s courageous call for the Legislature to repeal I-747 got Eyman’s attention, as did his proposal to send King County voters a levy to fund early childhood and youth services next year. Prompted by Constantine’s speech, Eyman decided to go fishing for media coverage by sending out an attack email with a false, derogatory subject line (“King County Exec Dow Constantine: “Pay higher property taxes or I’m throwing kids with diabetes under the bus”).

Along with his screed, Eyman enclosed a disgusting image of a woman holding a gun to a baby’s head, which he obtained from the Huffington Post. (If you click through to the HuffPost story, you can see the image; I’m not going to post it here, as I have no interest in making that filth more ubiquitous.)

Initially, no one took the bait. Sadly, this afternoon, KIRO 7’s Essex Porter decided to nibble, and sought an interview with Constantine.

Constantine declined to speak with Porter on camera, telling the station, “I won’t dignify an email depicting violence against children with a response. That has no place in civil debate. The science, however, is clear: investing in healthy children and communities can help every baby born and every child raised in King County get a strong start in life and enter adulthood ready to succeed.”

Porter also contacted Eyman to ask “if he had any moral compunctions about using such a violent image.” Eyman’s response? “I didn’t.” No surprise there: this is unfortunately par for the course for Tim. He will do anything for publicity, including dressing up in costume or hurling put-downs at elected leaders he doesn’t like. After all, what goes better with destructive initiatives than toxic politics?

Tim Eyman’s entire political career could be aptly summed up in three words: ugly, stinky, and disgusting. By the way, those are precisely the words Eyman used to describe his own behavior twelve and a half years ago, after he’d been caught taking money from his supporters for his personal use and then lying about it.

Here’s the good news: From what we can discern, Eyman’s indefensible behavior is starting to catch up with him. I am increasingly encountering Republicans who are unwilling to defend or support Eyman. They’ve started to realize what we’ve known all along: Eyman is a no good, double-crossing, manipulative charlatan who should not be trusted or taken seriously by anyone, anywhere.

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