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.

Camp Wellstone returns to Seattle this May — don’t miss this premiere training opportunity!

Camp Wellstone — the signature training offered by the organizing geniuses at Wellstone Action — will be returning to Seattle for the twelfth consecutive year, Executive Director Edith Sargon tells us.

The 2017 camp has been scheduled for May 19th-21st, coinciding with the end of Filing Week here in Washington State. It will take place in Seattle at a venue to be announced. As in the past, there will be three main tracks:

  • Being a Candidate: How to Run and Win a Progressive Campaign
  • Electoral Campaigns: Tools and Tactics for Success
  • Citizen Activism: Grassroots Advocacy and Organizing

All the tracks are excellent – they’re just a bit different in what they cover. The first track is ideal for any activist planning to work on a campaign in the near future. The second is ideal for activists who are engaged in working on issues long-term. And the third is perfect for any progressive planning to run for office.

Here is a longer description of each:

Candidate Track: Are you currently running for public office or interested in running in the future?

We teach candidates the nuts and bolts of running—and winning—a progressive campaign. Topics of focus include: Message; budgeting and fundraising; writing and delivering a stump speech; fundraising; and canvassing.

Campaign Track: Are you managing, working on, or volunteering for an electoral campaign?

We teach campaign workers and staff the skills it takes to manage a successful progressive campaign. Topics of focus include: message development and delivery; earned and paid media; targeting; and direct voter contact.  

Grassroots Organizing Track: Are you organizing within your community, coalition, or nonprofit? Are you working on a ballot initiative?

We teach organizers the nuts and bolts of winning progressive change on community-based issues. We believe that the only way to build power is in partnership with others—not by ourselves. If you are connected to a group or organization that wants to make real change on a particular issue in your community, this is the right place for you.

Wellstone will also be experimenting with a fourth track this year, which is very exciting. It’s called Intro to Movement Technology. This track will only be available at two camps, and it looks like Seattle will be one of them. The synopsis:

In the era of hashtags, member databases, and email list-building, the possibilities are growing for organizations, both large and small, to use technology to boost the capacity of their campaign work and community organizing. This track introduces the fundamentals of data, digital organizing and analytics to support base-building and policy organizing campaigns. It does not require previous experience or skills in movement tech and is for anyone who wants to get started or expand their skillset.

Most of NPI’s staff and board have been to a Camp Wellstone, whether in Seattle or another city. Without a doubt, it is the best training opportunity a progressive activist can take advantage of. It is incredibly empowering and rewarding.

We simply can’t recommend it enough.

If you’re not already a Camp Wellstone alumni, you need to become one. Registration is not yet open for this camp, but we advise putting a “Save the Date” notice on your calendar so you can be ready to register when the time comes.

Registration costs $450, which is a fraction of the true cost of putting on camp. Scholarships are available at reduced prices for activists on limited incomes.

Rural Republicans: Tim Eyman’s I-747 is choking the life out of our cities and counties

Yesterday, the Senate Committee on State Government held a hearing on legislation that would replace Tim Eyman’s arbitrary cap on property taxes with more reasonable limits tied to drivers of local governments’ costs. The legislation, Senate Bill 5772, is prime sponsored by Senator Jamie Pedersen and cosponsored by Republican Senator Maureen Walsh, among others.

As David Kroman recounted for Crosscut, a number of rural Republican elected officials showed up at the bill’s hearing (watch on TVW) to testify in support of it, including many who admit to having voted in favor of Tim Eyman’s I-747 when it appeared on the ballot just over fifteen years ago. For example:

Kittitas County Commissioner Paul Jewell remarked to the committee, “How difficult it is to appear in support of this bill. We don’t want much of government services and we certainly don’t like talking about tax increases as a rule.” He voted for the cap in 2001.

“I was wrong,” he said.

It’s very refreshing to hear that Republicans like Paul Jewell now understand the destructive ramifications of I-747. For most of the last fifteen years, NPI’s Permanent Defense has maintained a profile of I-747 on its website, under our Dangerous Initiatives section, which discusses the impacts of I-747.

The I-747 opposition campaign warned voters that passage of the initiative would lead to cutbacks in public services. From the voter’s pamphlet statement:

“King and Snohomish County residents are sick of gridlock. I-747 means intersection and county highway improvements won’t get made,” says Snohomish County road crew worker Roger Moller. Klickitat County Fire Commissioner Miland Walling is concerned that “we will be unable to purchase safety equipment for rural firefighters.”

Pierce County library employee Patti Cox says a three- year loss of $1.5 million means “we will have to shorten library hours and cut services like children’s reading hours.”

Yakima County Prosecutor Jeff Sullivan invites “anyone to come look over the budget and suggest which felony crimes I shouldn’t prosecute.”

Sure enough, in the wake of I-747’s passage, cities and especially counties were forced to cut back, to the detriment of all Washingtonians’ well-being.

And in the years since, demand for public services has continued to grow, but cities and counties — particularly in rural Washington — have not been able to keep up because I-747 is slowly choking them to death.

Tim Eyman sneers that any local government that wants to raise property taxes can simply put a proposition on the ballot and get voters to sign off on an increase. But that costs money… money rural counties and cities often do not have.

David Kroman explains:

The city of Rosalia, about 40 miles south of Spokane, brings in $660 dollars a year in property taxes. A good chunk goes to paying the roughly $200 phone bill of city manager Jenna McDonald. They’d like to ask voters for money to help fund roads, but it costs $1,200 just to get a measure on the ballot.

Emphasis is mine.

You won’t hear Tim Eyman admit it, but elections are a public service, too. Elections cost money. It’s not possible to hold an election for free. There are significant costs associated with designing, preparing, printing, and mailing ballots, and then tabulating those ballots when they come back.

How are the leaders of a city like Rosalia supposed to pay for an election to ask its voters for a revenue boost when they can’t afford the costs?

Tim Eyman’s I-747 has been hurting Washington’s communities for a very long time. It needs to be repealed. It ought to have been repealed back in 2007, when Democrats held supermajorities in both houses of the Legislature.

The Supreme Court had just struck down the initiative as unconstitutional and gifted then-Governor Chris Gregoire, then-Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, and Speaker Frank Chopp an opportunity to strike a blow for progressive tax reform.

But instead of replacing I-747 with more progressive property tax policy and implementing a homestead exemption or circuit breaker to make the tax code fairer for middle and low income families, the trio rushed to reinstate I-747 in a one-day November special session… to the great joy and delight of Tim Eyman.

We lobbied fiercely against the move, but our admonitions were ignored. Numerous Democratic legislators promised that they would work on coming up with a viable replacement for I-747 down the road. Those promises were not kept. I-747 has remained in place and has continued to slowly inflict harm, year after year.

Death by a thousand cuts is very painful, and local elected leaders are finding it increasingly hard to deliver public services.

That’s especially true east of the Cascades.

The cosponsors of SB 5772 are an interesting group. All but one of them (Rebecca Saldaña) were serving in the Legislature when I-747 was reinstated ten years ago.

Of the other cosponsors, only one voted against reinstatement — Senator Jamie Pedersen, who at the time was serving in the House. The other four cosponsors — Senators Keiser, Hobbs, Takko, and Walsh — voted for reinstatement.

It is reassuring to see their names on this bill. But the list of cosponsors ought to have been much, much longer. Hopefully that will be the case will be during the next go-around. Heavy lifts such as this often require sustained multiyear organizing.

In addition to getting rid of I-747, the Legislature should work on making property taxes fairer. One way to do this would be through a homestead exemption, which would slightly lift tax obligations on middle and low income families while slightly raising them on wealthy families. NPI research finds broad support for this idea.

In June of 2016, in a statewide poll of Washington voters, we asked:

Do you strongly support, somewhat support, somewhat oppose or strongly oppose legislation that would reduce property taxes for middle and lower income households, while slightly increasing them for wealthy families, with no loss of revenue to public services?

These were the answers:

  • Support: 67%
    • 42% “strongly support” property tax fairness
    • 25% “somewhat support” property tax fairness
  • Oppose: 21%
    • 14% “somewhat oppose” property tax fairness
    • 17% “strongly oppose” property tax fairness
  • 2% answered “not sure”

Our survey of 679 likely Washington State voters was in the field from June 14th-15th, 2016; all respondents participated via landline. The poll had a margin of error of +/- 3.8% at the 95% confidence level.

Trump loses again: 9th Circuit refuses to reinstate discriminatory travel ban

Donald Trump’s unconstitutional and discriminatory travel ban will remain unenforceable for the time being, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled today.

In a unanimous decision, a three judge panel ruled that Trump’s regime “has not
shown a likelihood of success on the merits of its appeal, nor has it shown that failure to enter a stay would cause irreparable injury.” The decision by U.S. District Court Judge James Robart to grant a temporary restraining order thereby stands.

“No one is above the law, not even the President,” said Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson in a statement lauding the decision, reiterating comments that he made last week. “The President should withdraw this flawed, rushed and dangerous Executive Order, which caused chaos across the country. If he refuses, I will continue our work to hold him accountable to the Constitution.”

“Bottom line: This is a complete victory for the State of Washington,” Ferguson added during a press conference following the release of the ruling. “We are a nation of laws. And those laws apply to everyone in the country.”

Ferguson noted that the 9th Circuit had expressly rejected the inJustice Department’s argument that Trump’s order was unreviewable.

“There is no precedent to support this claimed unreviewability,” the judges wrote, “which runs contrary to the fundamental structure of our constitutional democracy.” They pointed readers to Boumediene v. Bush (2008), “rejecting the idea that,  even by congressional statute, Congress and the Executive could eliminate federal court habeas jurisdiction over enemy combatants, because the ‘political branches’ lack “the power to switch the Constitution on or off at will”.

“Within our system, it is the role of the judiciary to interpret the law, a duty that will sometimes require the “[r]esolution of litigation challenging the constitutional authority of one of the three branches… We are called upon to perform that duty
in this case,” the 9th Circuit judges declared.

“Today’s decision to uphold Judge Robart’s order is a victory for Washington State and indeed the entire country,” said Washington State Governor Jay Inslee.

“The decision underscores the serious constitutional issues with President Trump’s executive order and emphasizes what Attorney General Ferguson has said throughout this case: that no one is above the law, not even the president.”

“Since the restraining order was issued, in our state we’ve seen a Somali man reunited with his wife, an American citizen. An Iraqi global health leader able to rejoin his colleagues at the University of Washington. And a graduate student studying HIV vaccines to return to continue his important work. I’m proud of that Washington is a national leader in this fight. We were the first state to stand against this executive order. But all Americans need to be willing to stand and fight for our democracy, everywhere, every time, and in every way it is threatened.”

“I am glad the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals thinks Washington state got it right,” said Senator Maria Cantwell. “Thanks to the Washington State Attorney General, Washington state businesses and all involved in the U.S. District Court case, these important Constitutional issues will be addressed. And in the meantime, travel will continue and families can be reunited.”

“Today’s ruling heartens all who believe in the rule of law,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “The actions by this president run counter to our community’s core values: compassion, opportunity, and equity. We will not rest until this wrong-headed executive action is permanently reversed.”

“This is a big win today for the Constitution,” said Washington State Democratic Chair Tina Podlodowsk, echoing the statements of other Democratic leaders.

“As a daughter of refuges from World War II, I want to personally thank those who led this effort – Attorney General Bob Ferguson, Governor Jay Inslee, and Solicitor General Noah Purcell, and of course everyone in the Office of the Attorney General. Their dedication to human rights and equality has made possible this win today.”

“I especially want to thank the millions of Americans – Democrats and Republicans alike – who have stood up in protest of Trump’s order,” she added.

“This is not just a movement of lawyers and elected officials – this is a movement of the people. It’s inspiring to see how the American people react to injustice perpetrated against our Muslim brothers and sisters. The record-breaking crowds marching in the streets are a testament to America’s commitment to our values, our constitution, and to the promise engraved on the Statute of Liberty, and no executive order from the White House can shatter that.

“While this case isn’t over yet, every court victory we have along the way makes it clearer that our law and Constitution stand on the side of justice and equality – not on the side of Trump.”

NPI thanks the 9th Circuit for its sensible ruling today and urges Justice Anthony Kennedy and his seven colleagues on the Supreme Court to sustain it should Trump order the Justice Department to appeal.

State of Washington wins restraining order against Trump regime’s immigration ban

Handing Attorney General Bob Ferguson a preliminary victory in his efforts to stop neofascist Donald Trump from stomping all over the United States Constitution and federal law, U.S. Federal District Court Judge Judge James L. Robart today granted the State of Washington’s request for a temporary restraining order blocking implementation of key provisions of Trump’s executive order on immigration, including those sections that ban immigration from certain countries.

Robart’s decision will affect the entire country, not just the Pacific Northwest or the States of Washington and Minnesota (Minnesota joined the suit yesterday).

“The Constitution prevailed today,” Ferguson said in a statement hailing the decision. “No one is above the law — not even the President.”

The news release went on to say:

The Temporary Restraining Order will remain in place until U.S. District Court Senior Judge James L. Robart considers the Attorney General’s lawsuit challenging key provisions of the President’s order as illegal and unconstitutional. If Ferguson prevails, the Executive Order would be permanently invalidated nationwide.

To obtain the Temporary Restraining Order, the state needed to prove that its underlying lawsuit was likely to succeed, that irreparable harm was likely to occur without the restraining order, and that halting the President’s order immediately is in the public interest.

The State also needed to establish that the potential injury to Washington residents caused by leaving the President’s order in place outweighs any potential damage from halting it.

Judge Robart, who was nominated to the court by President George W. Bush in 2003, ruled that Ferguson had met the high standards necessary to block the Executive Order until the court reaches the merits of the lawsuit.

“This is a tremendous victory for the State of Washington,” said Governor Jay Inslee in a separate statement. “Thank you to AG Ferguson and his team for making the case that no person – not even the president – is above the law.”

“There is still more to do,” the Governor added. “The fight isn’t yet won. But we should feel heartened by today’s victory and more resolute than ever that we are fighting on the right side of history.”

NPI congratulates Attorney General Bob Ferguson on today’s victory and wishes his office success in obtaining a permanent injunction.

Today’s victory is a reminder that abuses of power can be stopped. America is a country of laws. Our Founders gave us a system of government with checks and balances. It is the responsibility of the judicial branch to interpret the law and ensure the executive branch does not overstep its authority.

Today, Judge Robart upheld his oath to defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

We thank him for granting the temporary restraining order and urge him to grant Ferguson’s prayer for relief in the underlying lawsuit.

Washington State Senate passes Republicans’ school levy swipe scheme on a party-line vote

Thanks to the arrival of newly-minted Senator Shelley Short (R-7th District; northeast Washington) and the return of Doug Ericksen from the District of Columbia, Republicans in the Washington State Senate were today able to pass the school levy swipe scheme they introduced late last week with no votes to spare.

Substitute Senate Bill 5607, concerning education (see text), passed out of the Senate on a party line vote just a little bit ago. The roll call was as follows:

Roll Call: SSB 5607
3rd Reading & Final Passage
2/1/2017

Yeas: 25; Nays: 24

Voting Yea: Republican Senators Angel, Bailey, Baumgartner, Becker, Braun, Brown, Ericksen, Fain, Fortunato, Hawkins, Honeyford, King, Miloscia, O`Ban, Padden, Pearson, Rivers, Rossi, Schoesler, Sheldon, Short, Walsh, Warnick, Wilson, Zeiger

Voting Nay: Democratic Senators Billig, Carlyle, Chase, Cleveland, Conway, Darneille, Frockt, Hasegawa, Hobbs, Hunt, Keiser, Kuderer, Liias, McCoy, Mullet, Nelson, Palumbo, Pedersen, Ranker, Rolfes, Saldaña, Takko, Van De Wege, Wellman

Portions of SSB 5607 have a referendum clause, because Senate Republicans apparently aren’t comfortable making the changes they seek themselves. (They were elected or appointed specifically to legislate, but they’d rather pass the buck…)

Were SSB 5607 to become law in its current form, a referendum would be submitted to the people of Washington this autumn for their approval or rejection.

The portions of the bill with the referendum clause would only go into effect if a majority of the electorate voted Approve.

It is important to understand that SSB 5067 would lead to a net loss of revenue overall. Yes, you read that correctly: the bill the Republicans call an education funding plan would actually take money away from our schools. What a scam!

The Budget & Policy Center explains:

The Senate’s plan, called the Education Equality Act, features as its major funding source a new Local Effort Levy – basically, an increase to the statewide property tax of $1.80 per $1,000 of assessed value. As details about the plan emerge, however, it appears that the plan does not actually raise additional dollars for schools. That’s because the proposed statewide property tax increase is coupled with cuts to local property tax levies that currently fund a significant portion of basic education costs. As we’ve said in the past, levy swaps like this are schemes that change the source of the money flowing to schools but don’t actually make new investments in Washington’s kids.

As it is structured, the plan could deepen the shortfall in school funding because the plan does not pay for itself. It leaves a $1.4 billion hole in the 2019-2021 budget, for which its authors have yet to identify a source of funding. Promising to pay for education without identifying a funding source is a prescription for damaging cuts throughout the rest of the budget. And while the plan would dedicate future revenue growth to funding basic education, it would use any revenue growth in addition to the dedicated funds to decrease  the new Local Effort Levy to a rate of $1.25. In short, the proposal is not only short on revenue now, but it is also designed to restrict revenue growth for schools and other public investments in the future.

Pretty Orwellian. We call SSB 5607 a levy swipe scheme because it would change where existing dollars are coming from, but not result in any new investment in our schools, which is completely and totally unacceptable. It’s smoke and mirrors.

If that weren’t bad enough, the bill is loaded with bad policy provisions. For example, at the end of Part I, in Sec. 106, there’s a number of subsections which are intended to ensure that taxpayer dollars are funneled into charter schools, even though the state Supreme Court has ruled that charter schools are unconstitutional.

Later on, there’s Section 505, which kills off state-provided bonuses for National Board Certified Teachers such as my father, who have undergone the rigorous process of demonstrating mastery of their subject matter and effectiveness as instructors. This bill is a slap in the face to our state’s hardworking educators.

And there’s more. There’s so much bad stuff in here I’ll have to do another post.

Whether you’re a parent, teacher, student, or concerned citizen, you should be appalled by this travesty of a bill that Senate Republicans have cooked up.

Democratic senators spoke eloquently against SSB 5607 during floor debate. After, they lamented Republicans’ unwillingness to accept any of their amendments.

“Really hard floor time today,” Senator Lisa Wellman wrote on Facebook after the vote. “[The] Republican Senate majority forced passage of an education bill that is loaded with elements I cannot support — ever! Included is a provision for allowing anyone passing a background check to teach your kids. No certification. No education degree. This is so disrespectful to the talented, committed men and women in the profession — I’m beyond words. However — please know this. I will never stop fighting for teachers, schools and most of all, for all our children.”

Democrats in the House have signaled SSB 5607 is unacceptable to them. They could either ignore the bill, or gut it and put their own legislation in place of what is there now with a striking amendment. The Senate would need to agree to any changes the House makes for SSB 5067 to move out of the Legislature.

Tim Eyman acquires email list of Democratic activists, begins sending them his propaganda

Having decided he’s not enough of a public nuisance, disgraced initiative promoter Tim Eyman today sent a large list of Democratic activists a copy of his latest email appeal, which is for the most part a rehashed version of what he sent on Monday announcing his latest scheme to devastate public services, I-1550.

We know about this because NPI supporters have been contacting us all morning long telling us they got an email from Tim Eyman and wondering why, since they never signed up to receive any emails from Eyman or his associates.

We investigated and discovered that Eyman has created a list in his MailChimp account called “DEMOCRATS”. We don’t know where he acquired the list from (or whether he obtained it legally), but it appears to be of a substantial size, judging by the number of activists who have contacted us already.

It is against MailChimp’s Terms of Use to send people email without permission. Section 17 (General Rules) of the TOS states:

You promise to follow these rules:

  1. You won’t send Spam! By “spam,” we mean the definition on the Spamhaus website.
  2. You won’t use purchased, rented, or third-party lists of email addresses.
  3. You won’t violate our Acceptable Use Policy, which is part of this Agreement.
  4. If you use our API, you’ll comply with our API Use Policy.

If you violate any of these rules, then we may suspend or terminate your account.

MailChimp requires that people who import addresses in bulk tell MailChimp where they got their list, so Eyman would have been asked that at the time he uploaded all of the email addresses he acquired — but of course, he’s a compulsive liar, so it’s very possible he was less than truthful with MailChimp.

Eyman has relied on unsolicited email for years to spread his propaganda, and elected officials are fairly used to getting messages they didn’t ask for from him, but what exactly he thinks he’s accomplishing by blasting his missives into the inboxes of progressive activists and Democratic PCOs is unclear.

Eyman prefaced his email with the following:

Hello. We recently added a massive number of new emails to our list. Each week, we send out two informative email updates. If you want to keep getting them, you don’t need to do anything. If you don’t, the unsubscribe button appears at the bottom. Have a great day!

Sending unsolicited email isn’t illegal, but providers like MailChimp have fairly comprehensive terms of use policies, and Eyman is required to follow those.

We believe that Eyman may have violated MailChimp’s terms of service by importing and using a third party list of email addresses, and we’ve asked MailChimp to investigate and take appropriate action to enforce its TOS.

Senate Democrats must filibuster Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch

Neofascist Donald Trump tonight announced he is nominating an archconservative judge to fill the vacancy left by Antonin Scalia’s death nearly a year ago, which should have been filled last year, but wasn’t due to the obstructionism of Senate Republicans. Trump’s pick, Neil Gorsuch, would be an almost sure vote to “to limit gay rights, uphold restrictions on abortion and invalidate affirmative action programs”, according to a study by Washington University (PDF).

SCOTUSBlog has a roundup of reaction to the announcement.

Senate Democrats must act to prevent our country from going further down the path of fascism by filibustering Gorsuch’s nomination. Chuck Schumer has signaled the caucus will insist on a sixty-vote threshold, which is good to hear, but we need to hear a similar commitment from every other Democratic senator.

Filibustering might not ultimately stop Republicans (who have a Senate majority) from confirming Gorsuch, but it would at least prevent a rapid right wing takeover of the Supreme Court, which is very important. Republicans are on the precipice of having complete control over every branch of the federal government, from the presidency to Congress and now the Supreme Court.

Senate Democrats must use the rules of the Senate to resist the right wing’s plans for total domination and defend the values our country was founded upon.

It's not just four years, it's for life

Supreme Court protest an hour after the announcement of the nomination of Neil Gorsuch (Photo:
Victoria Pickering, reproduced under a Creative Commons license)

A few Senate Democrats, like Delaware’s Chris Coons, have stated publicly or hinted that they plan to tread carefully because don’t want to be seen as obstructionist. Coons and any colleagues who share his sentiments need to quit worrying about how Republicans are going to portray them in the press, and grow a backbone.

Republicans have no compulsion about altering their stance on a dime; Senate Democrats shouldn’t either. Especially considering the precarious situation we’re in.

Republicans refused last year to even hold hearings on President Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland, and they went unpunished. They narrowly held on to their majority in the 2016 elections, which didn’t go well for Democrats.

As a Democratic United States Senator, Coons is one of the few people in this country in a prime position to thwart Trump’s agenda. America’s has been gravely imperiled as a consequence of the 2016 elections. Democrats like Coons need to buck up and fight like Republicans — or we will be in even greater trouble.

Not filibustering Gorsuch would be disastrous. Any Democratic senator unwilling to block Gorsuch’s nomination indefinitely will be deserving of a primary challenge.

This notion that the filibuster needs to be saved for some future use is completely ridiculous, and defies logic. If there was ever a time for the filibuster to be employed, it is now. “Saving” the filibuster so it can be used later is pointless.

If Republicans are willing to gut the filibuster now to get what they want, they’ll be willing to gut it the next time there’s a Supreme Court vacancy, too.

So it would not be of any use then.

By filibustering Gorsuch, Senate Democrats can back Republicans and Trump into a corner. Gorsuch’s nomination will either be on ice indefinitely, or Republicans will be forced to pull the trigger on the so-called “nuclear option” and get rid of the filibuster, which many of them (Mitch McConnell included) will be loathe to do.

If Republicans kill the filibuster, it will mean that in the future, should they wind up in the minority, they will have no ability to block a Democratic President and a Democratic Senate from getting Supreme Court nominees confirmed. They will have removed their own main means of obstructing a Democratic congressional majority and President in the future by changing the rules and traditions of the Senate.

Senate Democrats can do their country a great service by filibustering Gorsuch and forcing Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans to decide between keeping the filibuster or confirming Trump’s man. Collaboration with the Trump regime is immoral. We call on Senators Cantwell, Murray, Wyden, Merkley, and all their colleagues to filibuster Gorsuch and to not back down when hypocritical Senate Republicans attack them for blocking the right wing’s plans for total domination.

This again: Associated Press pushes another half-baked promotional blurb for Tim Eyman

Around 9 AM this morning, disgraced initiative promoter Tim Eyman hit the Send button in MailChimp to send out an email to his followers, the press, and elected officials proclaiming he was launching a new initiative to gut property taxes — an initiative which, if passed, would eviscerate vital public services in every city and county across Washington State. Police forces, fire departments, emergency medical response, libraries, parks, pools, schools — all would be hurt by Eyman’s I-1550.

A couple of journalists tweeted about Eyman’s “announcement” after it landed in their inboxes, but it otherwise didn’t get picked up on by anyone working in big media. That is, until someone working in the Associated Press’ Olympia bureau decided that it was worthy of a half-baked, one-sided blurb:

New Eyman initiative would cut property taxes 25 percent
Originally published January 30, 2017 at 12:13 pm

Anti-tax initiative promoter Tim Eyman has filed his latest effort, a measure that seeks a 25 percent property tax cut.

By The Associated Press

OLYMPIA — Anti-tax initiative promoter Tim Eyman has filed his latest effort, a measure that seeks a 25 percent property tax cut.

Initiative 1550 was introduced Monday. Under the measure, current voter-approved local school levies would not be affected. After the initial property tax cut in 2018, the initiative caps property tax increases at 1 percent a year, unless local governments go to the ballot to ask voters for more.

Eyman needs to collect nearly 260,000 signatures by July 7 in order to qualify for the November ballot.

The Associated Press

Promotional blurb for Tim Eyman

The blurb on The Seattle Times’ website

Since being put out on the (virtual) wire, this blurb has gotten published in The Olympian, KING5, The Seattle Times, and possibly by other AP member publications as well. The Times even put the blurb above the fold on its front page.

Homepage of the Seattle Times

Front page of The Seattle Times as of the evening of January 30th, 2017

This blurb shares many characteristics with other such blurbs the AP has generated in the past for Eyman… like this one, or this one, or this one, or this one.

Specifically, it:

  • is promotional in nature;
  • lacks context;
  • does not go beyond the ballot title, meaning the potential cost and consequences aren’t mentioned, let alone discussed;
  • does not incorporate any opposition perspective.

Most embarrassingly of all, it fudges some of the few basic facts it purports to offer.

Actually, he needs to collect about 325,000 signatures, because the minimum number of valid signatures required this year is 259,622, and it is always necessary to have a cushion to account for duplicate and invalid signatures. It would have been better to say something like Eyman needs to collect at least 259,622 valid signatures by July 7th in order to qualify for the November ballot.

The existence of this blurb and the prominence this blurb has been given by the publications that have run it is a nice reminder of how subjectivity rules newsrooms. Editors, producers, and reporters — including those committed to objectivity in their reporting — are in control of what topics, issues, and developments their publications cover. They decide what constitutes news and what does not.

Many reporters have started using Twitter or Facebook to pass along press releases and advisories they get, or report tidbits in real time, thereby exposing to their audience some of what would have in the past been left on the cutting room floor, to borrow some film parlance. There’s nothing wrong with this practice.

But if a news agency like the Associated Press is going to put an item out on the wire for inclusion on websites and in the pages of newspapers, it should meet at least some defensible standard for newsworthiness, and care should be taken in its preparation. The published product should not be sloppy, one-sided, or half-baked.

The last three initiatives Tim Eyman said he was going to do did not qualify for the ballot. So far, there’s no evidence that would lead us or any other reasonable observer to conclude I-1550’s fate is going to be any different.

If we judge Eyman by his track record and his actions, as opposed to simply his words, today’s announcement is meaningless. Eyman has made running initiatives his occupation; he always has to have some initiative to sell because he needs to be able to pay the bills and he does not seem to be interested in any other kind of job in politics (like lobbying professionally in Olympia).

Eyman is not the only activist out there who regularly files initiatives. Two individuals have already filed several initiatives this year pertaining to marijuana, but they’ve been ignored by the AP and its member publications. And why is that? Are they not deserving of coverage for having proposed their ideas, same as Eyman?

That is all Tim Eyman is doing, after all. Again, there’s no evidence at the moment that Eyman has the backing he’s going to need to get his idea on the ballot.

We have said we’re ready to fight I-1550 should Eyman succeed in convincing his wealthy benefactors to put money behind the measure.

When and if that happens, then it should definitely be reported as news, with the opposition’s perspective present in addition to Eyman’s perspective.

All Eyman did today was reset his initiative factory for another year… and that is an annual ritual for him. It didn’t merit a promotional piece from the AP.

Tina Podlodowski + Joe Pakootas elected to lead the Washington State Democratic Party

Change is in the air at the Washington State Democratic Party.

The party’s central committee (WSDCC) voted decisively today to set the party on a new course by selecting Tina Pododlowski of Seattle and Joe Pakootas of Spokane to be the party’s new Chair and Vice Chair for 2017-2018.

(Full disclosure: I am a voting member of the Washington State Democratic Central Committee and worked to elect Tina Podlodowski and Joe Pakootas).

Podlodowski, fifty-six, and Pakootas, fifty-nine, had campaigned together as a unity ticket (abbreviated as #PodPak) for the party’s top two officer positions.

Each are business and civic leaders who answered the call to run for higher office during the past cycle against Republican incumbents (Podlodowski took on incumbent Secretary of State Kim Wyman, while Pakootas challenged incumbent U.S. Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers).

Podlodowski supported Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination for President last year, while Pakootas supported Bernie Sanders.

“Working people face a devastating economic threat from Donald Trump and his Republican allies in our state,” Tina and Joe wrote in their campaign materials. “Our party must stand up for them, represent them, and include them. We can’t do that if we keep losing these critical state and local elections.”

“We must change, and change requires leading with our Democratic values, and finding new leadership in a new party chair and vice chair to accomplish it.”

Podlodowski and Pakootas’ weeks of outreach paid off, as Podlodowski was elected by a three-to-one margin over the incumbent Chair Jaxon Ravens, while Pakootas was elected by acclamation, with no one else having been nominated.

Tina Podlodowski is the second woman and the first lesbian to become the Chair of the Washington State Democrats, while Joe Pakootas is the first Native American Vice Chair in the party’s history. Their terms began this afternoon following their elections and will continue until the party next reorganizes until January of 2019.

LIVE from Olympia: Washington State Democrats choose officers for 2017-2018

Good afternoon from Olympia, Washington.

I’m at the Red Lion here in our state’s capital to chronicle (and participate in) the biennial winter reorganization meeting of the Washington State Democratic Party, one of two of the state’s major political parties.

As one of one hundred and seventy-six members of the Washington State Democratic Central Committee (WSDCC), it is my responsibility to help select leaders for the coming two year cycle. The party has four statewide officers: Chair, Vice Chair, Secretary, and Treasurer, who serve twenty-four month terms. The election of these individuals is the major item of business at today’s meeting.

I will be offering live updates as this portion of the meeting progresses.

UPDATE, 2:17 PM: The job of Chair, the most important of the four officer positions, is being contested first. The Chair serves as the party’s chief executive and its spokesperson. Three candidates have been nominated:

  • Jaxon Ravens, the incumbent party Chair, who is seeking reelection to another full term, having held the position since 2014;
  • Tina Podlodowski, a veteran business and civic leader who has been the Democratic Party’s nominee for Secretary of State last year;
  • Roger Flygare, an activist in the 30th District, who has unsuccessfully sought to be elected or appointed to the Washington State House several times.

We are now hearing from the candidates.

UPDATE, 2:36 PM: Ballots are now being counted.

UPDATE, 2:50 PM: We have a new Chair: Tina Podlodowski is the new chief executive of the Washington State Democratic Party! I was very proud to be a part of Tina’s campaign and warmly congratulate her on her victory.

Results:

  • Tina received 119 votes
  • Jaxon received 53 votes
  • Roger received 2 votes

UPDATE, 2:55 PM: I was proud to nominate Joe Pakootas for Vice Chair, and he was elected by acclamation, succeeding retiring Vice Chair Valerie Brady Rongey.

UPDATE, 2:58 PM: Founding NPI boardmember Rob Dolin has been reelected by acclamation as Secretary of the Washington State Democrats.

UPDATE, 3:05 PM: Incumbent State Party Treasurer Habib Habib has been reelected by acclamation.

Good news break: King County testing prepaid postage on ballot return envelopes

It’s about time:

King County Elections is testing pre-paid postage with the February 14 special elections in the City of Maple Valley and the Shoreline School District. Ballot packets were mailed on Wednesday to voters in both jurisdictions. Each packet includes a return envelope with the postage already paid.

“This is something I’ve wanted to test since I ran for office,” said Julie Wise, King County Elections Director. “Pre-paid postage is another tool to remove barriers to voting and increase convenience – and this pilot will help us understand what it might look like for King County.”

King County Elections is paying for the postage, which will cost about $3,300 for Maple Valley and about $9,000 for the Shoreline School District. Elections is charged only for ballots returned through the U.S. Postal Service.

“We are committed to ensuring a secure, accurate and low-barrier elections system that enables every citizen to fully participate in our democracy,” said King County Councilmember Rod Dembowski.

Objectives for the pre-paid postage pilot include understanding whether or not the process works administratively and to see if more voters return their ballots than in previous elections. Ballot packets include an informational insert explaining that the postage on a voter’s return envelope is paid and that they can immediately return their ballots through the U.S. Postal Service. Ballots can also be brought to one of nine drop boxes open for the election.

“This test of pre-paid postage on ballots underscores our continued efforts to expand voter turnout, including quadrupling the number of ballot drop boxes across King County,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “We want voting to be as easy as possible to ensure our policies and institutions reflect the will of the people.”

There are a total of 64,032 registered voters in Maple Valley and the Shoreline School District. King County Elections estimates a 30 percent voter turnout rate.

Maple Valley will vote on a general obligation bond for park and recreation facility improvements. The Shoreline School District, which includes Lake Forest Park, will vote on a school construction bond.

We’re very glad to see this pilot project happening, but there ought to be a commitment to making it permanent for future elections. Lowering barriers to voting must be a priority at both the state and local levels. Voter turnout has been a downward trajectory for years and action is needed to reverse this harmful trend.

Providing ballot return envelopes with prepaid postage simplifies participating in elections because it means voters can simply take their completed ballot to any post office without needing to hunt for — or purchase — a stamp. There shouldn’t be any cost involved in exercising the sacred duty of voting. Requiring stamps to vote by mail is akin to charging a tiny poll tax. It’s a practice that needs to end.

Last year, Democratic Secretary of State challenger Tina Podlodowski (who is now running to become Chair of the Washington State Democratic Party) campaigned on providing funding to implement prepaid postage on return ballots to all of Washington’s thirty-nine counties. Podlodowski was resoundingly backed by King County voters, but came up short in swing counties like Pierce, where Republican incumbent Kim Wyman cruised to reelection with big majorities.

Brian Dansel resigns; Washington’s Senate Republicans lose their majority (temporarily)

Republicans are temporarily without a majority in the Washington State Senate owing to the resignation of 7th District Senator Brian Dansel, who has just taken a job in neofascist Donald Trump’s administration.

Dansel’s resignation, effective as of 1 PM today, leaves the Senate Republican caucus with just twenty-four members, including Tim Sheldon (R-35th District), who calls himself a Democrat, but walks, talks, and acts like a Republican, and is considered to be a Republican by this organization and this publication.

However, the Washington State Constitution requires that bills pass the Legislature with an absolute majority in each house. It takes twenty-five senators to pass a bill; there are forty-nine districts in the state, each with one senator.

So until Dansel’s successor is chosen, Senate Republicans will not be able to move any legislation off the floor on their own. They will need the cooperation of Senate Democrats and/or Lieutenant Governor Cyrus Habib to do anything.

By law, Dansel’s immediate appointed successor will have to be one of three names selected by the statutory Washington State Republican Central Committee, or a caucus acting in the central committee’s name and with its authority.

The 7th spans multiple counties (Pend Oreille, Stevens, Okanogan, Spokane, Ferry), so the legislative bodies of each of those counties will need to agree on one of the names in order to make a joint appointment.

If they can’t agree within a couple of months, Governor Inslee will pick.

Tim Eyman enabler Doug Ericksen (R-42nd District: Ferndale, Lynden, Whatcom County) is also taking a job in the Trump administration but has stated that he doesn’t plan to resign his seat. There is also speculation that fellow Eyman enabler Michael Baumgartner will also be getting a federal job from Trump and might be resigning from the Senate as well.

Dansel’s departure means there will now be a total of five special elections in Washington State for Senate this year. The affected districts are:

  • 7th (Dansel’s district)
  • 31st (vacancy created by resignation of Pam Roach, elected to the Pierce County Council in November of 2016)
  • 37th (vacancy created by the resignation of Pramila Jayapal, elected to the United States House of Representatives in November of 2016)
  • 45th (vacancy created by the death of Andy Hill from cancer in 2016)
  • 48th (vacancy created by resignation of Cyrus Habib, elected as the state’s new lieutenant governor in November of 2016)

The 6th will join the list if Baumgartner resigns.

With all the special Senate elections, it’s going to feel more like an even-numbered legislative election year than in odd-numbered local election year in many respects.

Progressive Ideas We Need: Funding a clean energy future through pollution penalties

Editor’s Note: Today and throughout this weekend, NPI is running a special series here on the Cascadia Advocate called Progressive Ideas We Need, highlighting proposals that would raise quality of life in our region and in the United States as a whole. Each post is contributed by an NPI staff, board, or advisory council member.

It is a brand new year for us in the Pacific Northwest, with new challenges, a new president, and a new political landscape.

The rather unorthodox politics of the past twelve months has got us chattering away — because of how much we know we had ‘yet to do’ a year ago, and now it feels like the momentum is negative. In an ironic twist on our chosen moniker, a pivot to proactive, progressive policy is impeded by frustratingly stubborn conversations about issues which should be settled.

The response so far to the 2012 McCleary decision of the Washington State Supreme Court has all the hallmarks of grandstanding and political gamesmanship that run directly counter to the Washingtonian political ethos.

As readers know, the Court has held that the state has not been meeting its paramount duty due to having failed to properly funding our public schools. The glacial pace of progress is weighing heavily on our public consciousness.

It was simple enough for our Framers to see the value and necessity of a well educated citizenry, and yet, one hundred and twenty-eight years later, we’re struggling to actually invest in our schools, because we’re chained to a regressive, upside-down, unsustainable tax code the Legislature won’t fix.

Similarly, the pushback on a hard switch to renewable energy sources has prevented us from acting more swiftly to address the damage to our climate.

In a sense it feels like we’re still living in the mid 1990s, when right wing Republicans were still dismissing climate science and when it was commonly known as global warming. Head in the sand reactionaries have been given legitimacy they don’t deserve, and provided with a platform for spreading their misinformation.

Recent plans to address the accelerating problem have gone nowhere, including Governor Inslee’s Pollution Accountability Act of 2015, and CarbonWA’s poorly thought out Initiative 732, defeated by voters last year.

Governor Inslee, however, has returned undeterred with a new budget proposal aimed at taxing the largest carbon polluters, and using that money to invest more in resources and staffing for schools. Along with a proposed capital gains tax on the wealthy, this plan would provide schools with counselors and nurses, and the training to go along with supporting staff.

An outline of the budget explains:

The carbon tax would take effect in fiscal year 2018, generating about $1.9 billion in the next biennium. About half the revenue generated by the carbon tax would be directed to the state’s education needs.

The rest would be reinvested in clean energy and transportation projects to lower consumer fuel bills and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Revenue will also support major projects to build water infrastructure and improve forest health.

Some funds will offset taxes to businesses and low-income households especially vulnerable to increased energy costs.

To no one’s surprise, this idea has received a cool reception from Senate Republicans, who take their cues from disgraced initiative promoter Tim Eyman.

But Inslee’s willingness to put a pollution tax on the table deserves to be celebrated. This is a well thought-out proposal that deserves to be voted on in the Legislature. And if Senate Republicans won’t allow a vote, then we must give the people of Washington an opportunity to say yes at the ballot.

Progressives take note: we will succeed if and when we are able to compellingly offer a value-based framework for policy, one that is consistent, applicable, and considerate of the enormity of the task at hand.

Education and environmental protection are the keys to a prosperous future here in the Northwest — let’s act to ensure the next generation inherits a region that is  greener and more prosperous than the one we inherited. Let’s enact a pollution tax to fund a just transition to the clean energy future we need.

Progressive Ideas We Need: Biennial budgets that record tax breaks as state expenditures

Editor’s Note: Today and throughout this weekend, NPI is running a special series here on the Cascadia Advocate called Progressive Ideas We Need, highlighting proposals that would raise quality of life in our region and in the United States as a whole. Each post is contributed by an NPI staff, board, or advisory council member.

We may not be used to thinking of them this way, but the truth is that tax exemptions, preferences, deductions, credits and deferrals are off-budget expenditures. They lack the accountability and transparency that exists for other expenditures the state makes as part of the biennial budget process.

Taxpayers deserve to know who is receiving these tax breaks, how much money is involved, and for what reason they are given.

According to the Washington State Department of Revenue’s 2016 Tax Exemption Study, while the State expects to collect some $7.4 billion in business and occupation (B&O) tax revenue in the current 2015 -2017 biennium, it exempts from collection some $11.4 billion. When sales and use taxes were included with the analysis, the results are similar – the state expects to collect some $18.9 billion in revenue while exempting some $16.9 billion in revenue

Washington State has created some 694 tax exemptions over the years. Over 450 of these are discretionary tax exemptions, not required by Federal or State constitutional law. These discretionary tax exemptions will account for over $28.3 billion in B&O and sales/use tax revenue not collected in the current biennium.

Including property tax exemptions the 2016 Department of Revenue Report projects that in total, Washington State will see as off budget tax expenditures almost $40 billion in tax exemptions this biennium while only collecting revenues of $32.6 billion for the Legislature to fund its biennial budget. .

HB 1500 introduced by Representative Gerry Pollet and 32 other State Representatives would require the governor to propose and the state legislature to adopt a tax expenditure budget every two years as part of the biennial omnibus operating appropriations act. A companion bill is being introduced in the State Senate by Senator David Frockt with twelve other sponsors.

HB 1500 would give the Washington State Legislature an opportunity to periodically evaluate the need and effectiveness of the state’s tax exemptions in meeting current state needs. They would do this at the same time they are making budget decisions about prioritizing other state expenditures for public services as part of the biennial budget appropriations process.

This measure would require new and existing discretionary tax preferences to be authorized every two years in a tax expenditure budget. It will add much needed transparency and accountability to the hundreds of exemptions and preferences, along with their cost and how each decision to spend money on an exemption or preference is a choice to expend funds for this purpose with particular beneficiaries.

The tax expenditure budget would detail the fiscal impact, purpose, and effectiveness in meeting the purpose of each tax preference.

Tax preferences not included in the tax expenditure budget would expire at the end of the calendar year in which the budget is adopted.

Please contact your legislators today and urge them to support the Tax Exemption Transparency and Accountability Act.

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