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.

Here we go again: Tim Eyman resumes his war on Sound Transit and Link light rail

Tim Eyman is losing in court and under investigation by Attorney General Bob Ferguson for substantive violations of Washington public disclosure law, but that’s not stopping him from swinging for the fences in 2016. Today, Eyman announced that he plans to qualify not one, but two initiatives to the ballot this year.

The first, unveiled back in November, would unconstitutionally slap an one-year expiration date on any revenue increase passed by the Legislature.

The second, gleefully revealed by Eyman in front of a bevy of television cameras today, is Initiative 1421. I-1421 would eviscerate funding for rail transit and road improvements by rolling back existing statewide and local vehicle fees.

Tim Eyman signs I-1421

Tim Eyman becomes the first signer of Initiative 1421 (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

Eyman’s I-1421 would also rescind the recently restored motor vehicle excise tax (MVET) authority given to Sound Transit by the Legislature enable ST to propose a comprehensive Sound Transit 3 package backed by stable revenue sources.

Eyman made it clear in his scripted remarks for today’s media event that he intends to resume his war on Sound Transit and Link light rail with this initiative:

Seattle-centric Sound Transit is, by far, the most arrogant, unaccountable government agency in our state’s history. They’re forcing taxpayers outside Seattle to pay for their multi-billion dollar choo choo train boondoggles in Seattle.

Seattle-centric Sound Transit is a multi-billion-dollar black hole for our tax dollars and needs to be held accountable for their arrogance and incompetence. [Initiative 1421] gets rid of car tab taxes currently being imposed by Seattle-centric Sound Transit.

In addition, Seattle-centric Sound Transit is going to try to impose $15-$25 billion in additional taxes this year — our initiative derails that.  [Initiative 1421] throws a much needed monkey wrench into what they’re calling “ST3.”

I couldn’t help but laugh when I read the above in an email Eyman sent out this morning. Seriously… it’s like he’s living in another decade.

Earth to Tim: this is 2016, not 2002. Sound Transit is not the weak target of yesteryear. Today, Sound Transit is a high-performing, extremely effective public agency that is popular with the public. And Link light rail is no longer a far-off dream — it’s real. It’s here. It exists. People use it to get to work every day. And this year, we’re adding three new stations to it. Two of those will open within fifty days.

Sound Transit is still here and Link is a reality because we came together as a region to get it done. Tim Eyman tried to dismantle Sound Transit and prevent Central Link — which he denounced as a “choo choo train” — from ever being built.

But he failed. We overcame his opposition, along with that of his fellow anti-rail zealots. And since the groundbreaking of Central Link (an event that occurred in late 2003, the same year as the founding of NPI), we have seen steady, uninterrupted progress. Progress that must continue.

I remember all this history well because I’ve lived it. 2002 was the year I became an activist, leaving my passivist past behind. Fourteen Februarys ago, many people thought that Eyman might be finished in politics after he was caught having lied about lining his own pockets with his campaign cash. I wasn’t so sure.

Once I saw that the right wing was prepared to forgive Eyman, I realized Eyman would remain a threat for years to come. I concluded our state needed a Permanent Defense against Eyman’s initiative factory. And so I created one.

Today, Permanent Defense is still going strong, as NPI’s oldest project. It will celebrate its fourteenth anniversary next Monday.

Permanent Defense’s very first mission, all the way back in 2002, was to defend Sound Transit from Tim Eyman’s initiative factory. 2002 was the year that Eyman launched Initiative 776, a scheme to repeal Sound Transit’s motor vehicle excise tax authority, so that it would be unable to construct Central Link.

I spent a good chunk of 2002 helping organize opposition to I-776; it was my first campaign. One of the tasks that I worked on was coalition recruitment. I reached out to as many companies and organizations as I could, asking if they’d taken a position against I-776, and to go on record against I-776 if they hadn’t.

In November of 2002, I-776 narrowly passed statewide while failing in Sound Transit’s jurisdiction. Eyman thought he had won, but Sound Transit argued in court that because it had already pledged its MVET revenue to pay off bonds, its MVET had to continue to be collected. To Eyman’s surprise and disgust, the courts agreed. Light rail moved forward, and Tim Eyman’s plans to wreck it were foiled.

I should point out that, in early 2002, there weren’t many people or organizations defending Sound Transit. NPI’s Permanent Defense was one of a few outspoken ST supporters, along with Ron Sims, Greg Nickels, our friends at the Transportation Choices Coalition, and Richard Borkowski of People for Modern Transit.

The young, vibrant, pro-Sound Transit community that you’ll find today on social media and in the comment threads at Seattle Transit Blog simply didn’t exist then. Being a supporter of Sound Transit was, in some ways, like being a Seahawks fan when the team played in the Kingdome and wasn’t very good. It felt lonely at times. There weren’t as many people on the bandwagon.

Thankfully, those days are a distant blip in the rearview mirror.

Nowadays, Sound Transit has lots and lots of supporters — and not just among my generation. Sound Transit has proved that it can consistently deliver projects on time (or even ahead of schedule!) and under budget. ST’s increased respect and trust with the public has been earned, one project at a time.

Since 2002, in addition to opening Central Link and Airport Link, Sound Transit has expanded Sounder commuter rail in two directions, built the Tacoma Link streetcar, added routes and hours to its Express bus network, and helped WSDOT improve our urban transportation system by constructing express bus ramps, new HOV lanes, and partnered with Metro to create bigger and better park and rides.

Very simply, Sound Transit is making things happen. People can see it with their own eyes. Because ST continues to offer more options for getting around, ridership has continued to increase. And so has the agency’s popularity.

I bring all this up because I’m really not sure if Tim Eyman realizes who he is picking a fight with. It isn’t just NPI. As I already said, the way Tim’s talking, it sounds like he thinks it’s still 2002. And it’s not. We will be in very, very good company as we launch and rapidly accelerate the NO on I-1421 campaign. The people of this region want Sound Transit 3. They want Sound Transit to succeed.

Eyman is betting he can sabotage Sound Transit with another statewide initiative. He’s boasting that the early polling that he did for I-1421 shows I-1421 has lots of support. Of course, his polling numbers are worthless. Eyman makes similar claims about every initiative that he runs, and he frequently produces polling which he claims demonstrates his measures are unbeatable.

But there’s no such thing as an unbeatable initiative. We know from experience that Eyman can be defeated. It takes resources and it takes organizing, but it can be done. Three years ago, we helped trounce a supposedly unbeatable Eyman initiative, handing Eyman his worst-ever electoral defeat.

With I-1421, Eyman is also going after WSDOT and Amtrak Cascades. It’s important to remember that constitutionally, gas tax revenue cannot be used for non-highway purposes. This means rail projects have to be funded with other sources of revenue… like vehicle weight fees.

Eyman’s I-1421 would pretty much eviscerate this revenue, hurting not only Cascades, but also WSDOT’s freight mobility programs.

To every pro-transit activist out there who is reading this post, I say: We need you. This is an all-hands-on-deck situation. Tim Eyman’s I-1421 can and must be defeated. With your help, we can ensure that I-1421 gets the vigorous, unreleting opposition that it needs and deserves.

If you’d like to become part of the team that will lead the way in fighting I-1421, we urge you to consider becoming a member of the Northwest Progressive Institute.

A great opportunity to learn about our work is coming up in two months at our 2016 Spring Fundraising Gala on April 1st. Details about the event are available on our website. Early-bird tickets are on sale for a few more days… secure your spot at this great event while the early-bird rate is still in effect.

Next week, when Permanent Defense officially turns fourteen, I’ll have more to say about our plans to defeat I-1421 and the other initiative Eyman intends to qualify to the ballot this year with the help of his wealthy benefactors.

NPI supporters can rest assured that we are already busy laying groundwork against Eyman’s latest assault on Sound Transit and WSDOT. Time is a precious resource, and not something that should be wasted. We are ready to take on Tim Eyman’s initiative factory again, and we hope that you are, too. Let’s win!

Senate Republicans trip all over themselves trying to explain Lynn Peterson’s ouster

In the wake of yesterday’s surprise vote to remove Lynn Peterson as Washington Secretary of Transportation, Senate Republicans have been asked, again and again, by their Democratic colleagues as well as by reporters: Why are you doing this?

Different Republican senators have been giving different answers, especially in one-on-one interviews with the press…. even contradicting each other, with some making inflammatory comments. One thing, at least, is quite clear: Republicans are having a hard time keeping their story straight.

Maybe it’s because they can’t agree among themselves why they did it, or they didn’t have time to rehearse an agreed-upon narrative together.

Or maybe it’s because what they did was an outrageous misuse of their political power, and they realize that, but don’t want to admit it.

You can judge for yourself. Let’s start with top Republican Mark Schoesler:

Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, came to the press table after the vote to show reporters a letter that was sent by the state Civil Rights Coalition to the speaker of the House expressing concern that the Department of Transportation didn’t treat the minority small business community fairly.

[Jaime] Smith, the governor’s spokeswoman, was standing at the press table and challenged Schoesler on why no one had any indication of the Senate’s plans until moments before it started.

Schoesler ignored her and continued talking about the letter from the coalition that criticized Peterson, and he ended the conversation by saying “she’s racist,” as he walked away, causing vocal outrage from Democratic senators and governor’s staff who had gathered nearby.

“I think that right there says everything you need to know,” Smith said.

Emphasis is mine. Schoesler lamely tried to retract his comment later, saying “I regret my remark in the heat of the scrum at the press table.” Schoesler also told the Associated Press that he “spoke things that I probably didn’t want to say.”

Schoesler may really regret his “remark” in the weeks to come. Governor Jay Inslee made it plain that Schoesler’s slander against Peterson infuriated him.

It appears Schoesler has poisoned his working relationship with the governor and the governor’s staff… not a smart thing for a majority “leader” to do.

In contrast to Schoesler, my own senator, Republican Andy Hill (R-45th District), said Peterson’s dismissal was nothing personal:

“This is not personal. I like Lynn Peterson. I think she is a good person, but I look at results,” Hill said.

Hill, and his colleagues cited a range of problems on Washington roads, such as tolling on State Route 520, and the express toll lanes on I-405. Hill said that, at times, the Good-to-Go system that manages tolling is “customer hostile,” and that I-405’s new tolling system is “a nightmare.” Others mentioned the “debacle” of Bertha that, admittedly, Peterson inherited.

“My biggest concern is the implementation (of I-405). It has absolutely been abysmal,” Hill said. “(WSDOT) thinks everything is going great. And I’m sorry — there is no accountability there.”

Hill has some nerve talking about “results” and “accountability” when he and his colleagues are in contempt of court for failing to fully fund our public schools.

As the Senate’s chief budget writer, Hill has come up with some truly awful, unworkable budget proposals that relied heavily on gimmicks, accounting tricks, and phantom marijuana tax proceeds to balance the books.

Hill & Co. aren’t delivering for our kids, and yet here they are, making a scapegoat out of Secretary Lynn Peterson for everything that’s wrong with WSDOT.

If the problems with the I-405 HOT lanes were good enough reason to get rid of Lynn Peterson, then Senate Republicans’ repeated refusal to work with House Democrats to raise the revenue that our schools need should be grounds for all of them to lose their jobs. Senate Republicans are very good at grandstanding and political theater, but very bad at getting results.

Though Hill insisted Lynn Peterson’s ouster was about “results” and “accountability”, his colleague Republican Judy Warnick admitted to Yakima Herald reporter Mike Faulk that firing Peterson was about sticking it to Inslee:

Asked Sen. Warnick if Peterson vote was about performance or just a stick in @GovInslee’s eye: “Maybe a bit of both.” #waleg

Meanwhile, Republican Ann Rivers was saying it wasn’t:

No, it’s not politics against the Governor. This is… uh, I’m sure you’ve seen the media surrounding, uh, the Department of Transportation, from the HOT lanes, to CRC [Columbia River Crossing], to bridge collapses… I mean, the list goes on and on.

Bridge collapses!? Peterson is to blame for the collapsed bridges that the Legislature didn’t have the courage or foresight to replace years ago? Wow. Just… wow.

Heck, Peterson’s response to the Skagit River bridge collapse and the Oso mudslide has won her praise from mayors in Arlington and Mount Vernon, who sent emails to Senate Republicans yesterday urging them to keep Peterson on the job, as Republicans were on the verge of voting to remove her. Mayors in Puyallup and Renton made similar requests. But they were ignored.

Around the same time Rivers and Hill were going around insisting it wasn’t politics, Republican Michael Baumgartner, one of the more extreme members of the caucus, was busy taunting the Inslee administration on Twitter:

Note to other Inslee Appointees: Shape up, Do your job. Serve the people w accountability. Or more heads are going to roll. #waleg

Asked by The Seattle Times why he turned on Peterson, Transportation Chair Curtis King initially said it was because she mismanaged the I-405 HOT lanes rollout.

Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Curtis King, R-Yakima, was accused by Democrats of flip-flopping. King had told Peterson in committee last year: “I want to thank you for the job you have done over the past two and half years, and I can’t say thank you enough to the staff that you have behind you.”

King says his view shifted last fall when WSDOT staffers sounded blasé about complaints during the I-405 toll startup. “It’s like, ‘We’re handling things really well, things are going fine,’ yet there are signatures from 22,000 people saying this is garbage,” he said in a phone interview while driving home via White Pass.

But then he pivoted and said Peterson wasn’t enough of a road warrior.

He also said Peterson is making it too cheap for Sound Transit to acquire right of way along state roads.

“She’s very partial to transit, very partial to bike and pedestrian paths, all those things,” King said. “We need to protect the citizens that want to travel on our roads. That’s why we’re there. We need to protect the ability of people to use our roads, use their cars. From the get-go, she was about moving people on transit, moving people on light rail.”

King’s account of why he changed his mind about Peterson doesn’t make sense.

If, “from the get-go”, Peterson’s partiality to transit was a problem for King, why didn’t King object to Peterson’s confirmation last year when it was in committee? Peterson had already been on the job for two years at that point. Last June, King seemingly had nothing but praise and appreciation for Peterson, while Connecting Washington was being negotiated. Now he’s unloading on her.

And what’s wrong with moving people on transit and light rail? It’s a good thing when we reduce congestion by providing commuters with reliable transit options.

We no longer have a Department of Highways. We have a Department of Transportation. Ferries, freight mobility, and passenger rail are all within the purview of WSDOT — as are multimodal projects that give Washingtonians choices, so they’re not forced to drive to get where they need to go.

That said, WSDOT is still definitely a highways-centric agency. Lynn Peterson didn’t change that. But apparently not highway-centric enough for Curtis King.

We have to wonder: who’s going to want the job of leading the Washington State Department of Transportation now that Senate Republicans have fired Lynn Peterson without giving her an opportunity to defend herself, and without any notice to Senate Democrats, Governor Jay Inslee, WSDOT, or the public?

Given what happened to Peterson, how is Inslee supposed to recruit a high-caliber replacement to lead WSDOT? Who’s going to want to come here to deal with the rowdy, reckless, torch and pitchfork-wielding Senate Republicans? Who’s going to want to be promoted from within?

Even after Senate Democrats repeatedly warned them of the damage their rash, reckless actions would inflict on the Senate floor, Senate Republicans went ahead and got rid of Peterson anyway. That really says something.

The Senate Republicans have proved time and again that they are more interested in winning elections and increasing their political power than governing.

They have their sights set on winning a majority in the House this fall (in addition to keeping their slim Senate majority), and it’s evident they’re trying to build an anti-Inslee narrative for their candidates. They don’t care if they hurt the state in the process. And amazingly, they don’t even seem to care about having a coherent, defensible justification for their actions, as their comments yesterday demonstrate.

Snohomish County’s 5th District PCOs meet to choose nominees to succeed Dave Somers

Good morning, and welcome to NPI’s live coverage of the special nominating caucus to fill the council vacancy created by the election of Dave Somers as Snohomish County Executive. This special nominating caucus has been called by the Snohomish County Democratic Central Committee in accordance with state party rules, to select three nominees to present to the Snohomish County Council. The Council will then appoint a successor Councilmember from among the three nominees.

The scene inside the Everett Labor Temple

The scene inside the Everett Labor Temple at the special nominating caucus (Photo: Rennie Sawade/NPI)

In many ways, this special nominating caucus is an echo of the recent election that replaced John Lovick with Dave Somers. During Lovick’s term, tensions were high between the Executive and the County Council, including disagreements involving plans for a new courthouse in Everett. The established Democrats stood behind Lovick; however, there was strong grassroots support for Somers.

Somers won the election, leaving a vacancy on the Council. The likely top two candidates in this race, Guy Palumbo and State Representative Hans Dunshee (D-44th District), have drawn support from different quarters.

Dunshee has the support of many fellow legislators and other elected officials, but a strong grassroots coalition supports Palumbo.

The 1st Legislative District Democrats endorsed Palumbo by a wide margin. Interestingly, at least one of the representatives from the 1st LD, Derek Stanford, is endorsing Dunshee, contrary to the 1st LD endorsement.

There’s a packed room here at the Labor Temple in Everett for this special nominating caucus. I will provide updates as the caucus progresses.

UPDATE, 10:08 AM: Snohomish County Democratic Chair Richard Wright began by reading off the purpose of the meeting and the rules for PCOs during the proceeding. Candidates have five minutes each to speak.

Wright also read aloud the instructions for both Method 1 and Method 2 for voting, as provided by the state party’s rules. Richard stated that the Central Committee selects the voting method. A vote was taken and Method 2 was selected.

UPDATE, 10:20 AM: The Credentials Committee reported that there are thirty credentialed PCOs present. The temporary chair for the caucus is Rick DeWitt.

Guy Palumbo and Hans Dunshee were nominated. Then Mark Hintz was nominated. Richard Moralez nominated Palumbo and spoke very highly of Palumbo. DeWitt attempted to limit Palumbo’s speech because he counted Moralez’s speaking in favor of Palumbo’s nomination as part of Palumbo’s speech.

Palumbo had to cut his speech short, which was unfortunate.

UPDATE, 10:25 AM: Speakers are now speaking on behalf of Representative Hans Dunshee. Dunshee began his remarks by voicing opposition to the stunt that Republicans pulled by essentially firing our Transportation Secretary. Hans mentioned his endorsements from Stanford and Moscoso, which conflict with the 1st LD Democrats’ endorsement of Guy Palumbo.

UPDATE, 10:32 AM: Mark Hintz just spoke on his own behalf. His speech was very short and impassioned. Voting on green slips of paper has occurred and the tally committee is busy at work counting ballots.

As we wait, representatives are speaking to the crowd. A lot is being said regarding the Republican stunt to fire our Transportation Secretary.

It is also being said that we can expect much more from the Republicans in the way of blocking Inslee’s nominations. Apparently, local Republicans are borrowing pages from the playbook of our do-nothing congressional Republicans.

UPDATE, 10:46 AM: Election results are:

  • Guy Palumbo: 17 votes
  • Hans Dunshee: 11 votes
  • Mark Hintz: 3 votes

It appears that the grassroots effort to put Guy Palumbo over the top first has succeeded, and by a wide margin. Guy is the first choice of the PCOs. The final decision, however, will be made by the Snohomish County Council. They can appoint any of the three nominees, but they will be under pressure to choose Palumbo.

This concludes my live reporting. Thank you for following NPI’s coverage of this special nominating caucus to select nominees to fill the Snohomish County Council vacancy created by Dave Somers’ election as Snohomish County Executive.

Washington Secretary of Transportation Lynn Peterson forced out by Senate Republicans

After three years on the job, Washington State Secretary of Transportation Lynn Peterson’s employment has been abruptly terminated — though not by Governor Jay Inslee, the chief executive who hired her and who she reports to by law.

Instead, in a stunning turn of events, Peterson is being forced to pack her bags by the vindictive, games-playing Senate Republican caucus, who failed to hold a timely vote on Peterson’s confirmation following her appointment three years ago, but have now suddenly decided to deny her confirmation to score political points.

By voting not to confirm Peterson, the Republicans  have forced her out. She won’t be able to continue in her duties as WSDOT’s chief executive, nor will she be able to continue her service on Sound Transit’s Board of Directors.

Republicans tried to justify their outrageous move by claiming that WSDOT needs new leadership. But that isn’t what they were saying back in 2015, when Peterson was unanimously recommended for confirmation in committee.

In fact, on June 24th, 2015, when Peterson appeared before the Republican-controlled Senate Transportation Committee at the time Democrats and Republicans were negotiating the Connecting Washington transportation package, this is what Republican Chairman Curtis King of Yakima said to her:

I want to thank you for the job that you’ve done over the last two – two and a half years, whatever that number is. And I can’t say thank you enough to the staff that you have behind you. I think I have met and talked with every one of them. They are a dedicated group of people who I believer are here to do the right things for the citizens of the State of Washington, and I think they have shown that example on numerous occasions. So thank you for that.

Considering what King and his colleagues were saying about Peterson just a few months ago, today’s vote to deny Peterson confirmation — which Senate Democrats fought valiantly to stop — seems like a betrayal.

It certainly amounted to unprofessional, shameful conduct. Senate Republicans gave Peterson no opportunity to defend herself or answer the charges they laid at her door. They did not move a no confidence recommendation against Peterson through committee, did not provide advance warning to their Democratic counterparts or to Governor Inslee, and did not allow members of the public to weigh in.

Instead, they plotted in back rooms to oust Peterson and then proceeded to to carry out their plan on the floor of the Senate.

Afterwards, they ran away from reporters instead of answering for their actions.

Democrats were furious.

“Senate Republicans today took an action wholly unfitting of the expectations of the people of this state,” said an outraged Governor Jay Inslee. “They engaged in a politically-motivated attack on an eminently qualified woman.”

“As disappointing as this display of partisan politics is to me, I am even more deeply and personally offended by Senator Schoesler’s unfounded, scurrilous and outrageous outburst that Secretary Peterson is a racist,” Inslee added.

“This personal insult, uttered in the Senate chambers, is simply inexcusable and not worthy of his position as a leader in the Senate.”

“Lynn Peterson has led the most successful effort in years to promote opportunities for women and minority-owned businesses by pushing hard to make sure that women- and minority-owned businesses get a fair chance to compete for transportation projects. We can only wonder what the Senate Republicans’ next politically motivated attack will be.”

“I’m sitting on the Senate floor in shock and disbelief that Republicans are going to sack WSDOT Secretary Lynn Peterson for purely political reasons,” wrote Senator Marko Liias (D-21st District) in a Facebook posting during the minutes leading up to the vote. “Such a grave injustice for an amazing leader.”

House Transportation Chair Judy Clibborn also voiced her dismay.

“This move comes after strong leadership from Secretary Peterson under very challenging circumstances,” Clibborn said. “It comes after the Senate Transportation Committee unanimously approved her nomination. It comes after decades of latitude granted to Governors of both parties to select the leaders of their agencies.

“If there was any doubt remaining, it should be clear now – hardline, D.C.-style gridlock has arrived in our Washington. After reaching a bipartisan agreement to invest $16 billion in our transportation system just a session ago, it is shocking and deeply troubling to see Senate Republicans undermine that work by removing the head of agency responsible for carrying it out.”

“Critical traffic relief, thousands of Washington jobs, and the health and wellbeing of our economy are being put at risk for motives that can only be described as partisan. Senate Republicans have put their political frustrations above the needs of the people of Washington. Lynn Peterson is the scapegoat for their inability to dictate policy to the rest of our divided government, and the businesses and commuters of Washington will suffer because of their actions.”

“This shameful act impedes the state’s ability to do the people’s business and keep people safe,” agreed State Democratic Party Chair Jaxon Ravens. “Less than a year after Democrats and Republicans came together to pass a $15 billion transportation package, this political maneuver only undermines the ability to deliver these much-needed transportation projects on-time and on-budget.”

The roll call vote to deny Lynn Peterson’s confirmation was as follows:

SGA 9137
LYNN PETERSON
Senate vote on confirmation
2/5/2016

Yeas: 21; Nays: 25; Excused: 3

Voting Yea: Senators Carlyle, Chase, Cleveland, Conway, Darneille, Fraser, Frockt, Habib, Hargrove, Hasegawa, Hobbs, Jayapal, Keiser, Liias, McAuliffe, McCoy, Mullet, Nelson, Pedersen, Rolfes, Takko

Voting Nay: Senators Angel, Bailey, Baumgartner, Becker, Benton, Braun, Brown, Dammeier, Dansel, Ericksen, Fain, Hewitt, Hill, Honeyford, King, Litzow, Miloscia, O’Ban, Padden, Parlette, Pearson, Rivers, Schoesler, Sheldon, Warnick

Excused: Senators Billig, Ranker, Roach

We join Governor Inslee in strongly condemning today’s disgraceful action by Senate Republicans. Lynn Peterson was a devoted public servant who had the difficult, unenviable task of trying to run and improve the Washington State Department of Transportation. WSDOT has issues, but Peterson was a competent, qualified administrator… by Senate Republicans’ own admission.

Peterson simply doesn’t deserve the bile that was lobbed at her today. Senate Republicans should be ashamed of the way they have treated her.

We wish her the best in her efforts to land on her feet. We’ll miss her.

Liveblogging the fifth 2016 Democratic presidential debate from the great Northwest

Good evening, and welcome to NPI’s live coverage of the fourth Democratic presidential debate of the 2016 cycle. I will be watching and sharing impressions of the debate as it progresses. The debate is being broadcast by MSNBC.

If you don’t have cable, you can livestream the debate online.

Courtesy of MSNBC, here’s how you can participate:

  • The debate will air live on MSNBC, beginning at 6 PM Pacific
  • You can also watch the live stream of the debate online on MSNBC.com.
  • If looking for real-time reactions and analysis, you’ll find it at all at decision2016.nbcnews.com.
  • If you’re on the go, you can also download our apps on Android and iOS to get all the latest.
  • If you live in New England, you can submit questions through our local partners at New Hampshire Union Leader and NECN.

There are two candidates left seeking the Democratic nomination for President of the United States: Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

This fifth overall debate will be the first one with just Clinton and Sanders. As with Clinton and Obama eight years ago, there will be two candidates at two podiums… and that’s it. Tonight’s debate will be the only one held between the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary next Tuesday.

Originally, this debate was not on the schedule put together by the Democratic Party, but the DNC yielded to the campaigns’ desire for more debates.

Rachel Maddow and Chuck Todd will be the moderators.

6:02 PM: The candidates have taken their places onstage!

6:03 PM: Sanders opens first, and wastes no time assailing the rigged economy that Wall Street has constructed.

6:05 PM: In her opening statement, Clinton acknowledges economic injustice and income inequality, but adds we have other problems we need to deal with, like systemic racism in our criminal justice system.

6:06 PM: Chuck Todd asks Clinton whether Sanders’ proposals are too ambitious. Clinton says, “I want to build on the progress we’ve made. I don’t want to rip away the security that people have.” It should be noted: Even in the wake of the Patient Protection Act, not not everyone has healthcare, Madam Secretary…

6:07 PM: “I haven’t quite run for President before,” Sanders quips, before beginning to answer Chuck Todd’s question regarding the scale of his proposals. “I do not accept the belief that the United States of America can’t stand up to the ripoffs of the pharmaceutical industry,” he declares.

6:09 PM: This debate has been incredibly lively and fun to watch.

6:13 PM: Clinton’s on a tear here, suggesting that under Sanders’ definition, everyone from Joe Biden to Paul Wellstone wouldn’t qualify as a progressive. Clinton may think she’s being clever, but we doubt Sanders would say that a single vote or policy position disqualifies someone from being a progressive.

6:15 PM: We need to stand up to the big money, and when we do that, we can transform America, Sanders says.

6:18 PM: “I know a lot of hard-fighting progressive in the Democratic Party… and that’s what we ought to be celebrating, Clinton says.

6:19 PM: Sanders says he agrees with Clinton about focusing on a positive vision for the country… and goes on to say, “I am proud to be the only candidate up here that does not have a Super PAC.”

6:21 PM: “I am running for President as a Democrat,” Sanders says, earning big applause for saying that we need a fifty-state strategy.

6:22 PM: Clinton jabs at Sanders by noting she has the support of Governor Howard Dean (the originator of the fifty state strategy) and two other Vermont governors. (Vermont is Sanders’ home state.)

6:23 PM: Asked about Clinton’s endorsements, Sanders points out his campaign is of, by, and for the people, with an average donation of around $27, and has drawn tens of thousands of people to events all around the country.

6:26 PM: “I think it’s time to end the very artful smear that your campaign has been carrying out,” Clinton says, concluding a rant about Sanders’ comments regarding who and what represent.

6:31 PM: Bernie and Hillary are now tussling over deregulating Wall Street.

6:33 PM: Heading to our first commercial break. “We’ve touched a nerve,” Rachel Maddow notes.

6:35 PM: We’re back. Chuck Todd is asking about the presidential primary financing system. Sanders says he’s not using it because it doesn’t work well.

6:38 PM: Have you have been too dismissive of voter concerns over your ties to Wall Street? Rachel Maddow asks Hillary Clinton.

6:39 PM: “I went to Wall Street before the crash,” Clinton says, suggesting that she warned them their behavior was setting America up for disaster.

6:41 PM: Not one Wall Street executive has been prosecuted for wrongdoing pertaining to the onset of the Great Recession and the country’s economic collapse, Sanders notes, drawing massive applause.

6:42 PM: Sanders invokes Elizabeth Warren’s name and argues we do need a modern Glass-Steagall Act, and goes on to invoke the name of trustbuster Teddy Roosevelt. “Time to break them up,” Sanders says of the big banks.

6:45 PM: Sanders and Clinton have been doing their best to practice message discipline in this debate, returning repeatedly to their main themes.

6:46 PM: “Are you willing to release the transcripts of your paid speeches?” Chuck Todd asks. On the defensive, Clinton says she’ll look into it.

6:48 PM: “The business model of Wall Street is fraud,” Sanders declares, assailing the powerful financial industry for its really awful, no good, destructive behavior.

6:51 PM: We’re taking another commercial break.

6:56 PM: We’re back, and switching gears to foreign policy. First question is about our level of commitment to fighting the Islamic State. Clinton says she’s comfortable with President Obama’s strategy. “I support special forces, I support trainers, I support air strikes,” she says.

6:59 PM: Sanders takes the opportunity to point out that he differed with Clinton about whether invading Iraq was a good idea. (He voted against the invasion, she voted to authorize Bush to go in.)

7:02 PM: Asked what they would do with respect to troop levels in Afghanistan, Sanders and Clinton basically say they’d have to evaluate what’s needed.

7:04 PM: Chuck Todd asks Sanders to articulate what his foreign policy doctrine is, and he replies by talking about his belief that the United States should work cooperatively with other nations to solve world problems, including terrorism.

7:13 PM: Asked by Chuck Todd what nation-states he would be most worried about (seriously, Chuck? You want him to rank a list of countries?) Sanders says he’s very concerned about North Korea because it’s so isolated.

7:15 PM: Clinton says she’s absolutely against privatizing the VA (our veterans healthcare system), crediting Sanders for his work to improve care for our returning veterans, and Sanders agrees: we need to keep our public VA system.

7:18 PM: Heading to break. When we get back, we’ll be talking Social Security… supposedly. It might not be the first thing the moderators ask about.

7:24 PM: The first question is actually about the Iowa caucuses. Chuck Todd asks Sanders if he agrees with the Des Moines Register about the need for an audit. Sanders says he does, but says we shouldn’t blow the situation out of proportion, noting not that many delegates overall are at stake, and that his campaign and Clinton’s would likely end up with about the same number of delegates after any recount, “at the end of the day.”

7:35 PM: Rachel and Chuck have been asking a bunch of questions about electability which don’t break any new ground. Why are we wasting time going over old controversies like Hillary’s emails and the Sanders/DNC VoteBuilder dispute?

7:36 PM: Another commercial break? We never talked about Social Security…

7:40 PM: We’re back. Hillary Clinton was just asked if she still supports the death penalty. She says she does, with caveats. (Boooo… it should be abolished.) Sanders explains why he’s for abolition: “In a world of so much violence and killing, I just don’t believe that government itself should be part of the killing.”

7:43 PM: Rachel Maddow asks Clinton and Sanders about the Flint water crisis. Clinton says she would go in immediately over state objections to address the emergency. She says she’s going to Flint next week to get a briefing.

7:45 PM: Sanders says he doesn’t go around asking for the resignations of governors every day, but that he believes that Snyder should resign. “One wonders if this had been a white suburban community, what kind of response there would have been,” Sanders says to applause.

7:46 PM: Chuck Todd asks Clinton about her record on trade and whether Democrats can expect her to become supportive of TPP if she’s elected.

7:47 PM: Clinton notes she voted against CAFTA while a senator during the Bush error, and says that she reserved judgment on the TPP until it had been negotiated. Now that the text is final, she says she is opposed.

7:48 PM: “I believe in fair trade which works for the middle class,” Sanders says, when asked about his position on trade. “The current trade agreements were written by corporate America, for corporate America.”

7:50 PM: Chuck Todd says they’re going to fit in one more break.

7:51 PM: It’s worth pausing to note what topics have not been the focus of questions during this fifth Democratic debate. Here is a partial list:

  • Education (and subissues like high-stakes testing)
  • Transportation (and subissues like Amtrak funding)
  • Technology (and subissues like encryption)
  • Environmental protection (and subissues like fighting the climate crisis)
  • Media concentration (and subissues like ownership rules)
  • Women’s health (and subissues like attacks on Planned Parenthood clinics)

7:54 PM: We’re back. Chuck Todd asks Clinton what she would focus on first: gun reform, immigration reform, or addressing the climate crisis. Clinton rejects the premise of the question, saying she would work to plant the seeds of everything that our country needs to have happen.

7:58 PM: Sanders points out that we’re just not going to get much done on any issue until we do something about money in politics, overturning bad U.S. Supreme Court decisions like Citizens Corporations United.

8:04 PM: Sanders has the line of the night: “On our worst days I think it is fair to say that we are one hundred times better than any Republican candidate.”

Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton shake hands and smile

Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton shake hands and smile at the fifth Democratic debate

8:06 PM: We’re on to closing statements. Clinton is sticking to her theme of being a progressive who gets things done. Sanders is reminding everyone that the system is corrupt and broken, and we need a political revolution to change it.

8:08 PM: We’re done. What a great debate! It was engaging, it was feisty, it was fun to watch. As has already been said on Twitter, it could be said that Clinton has the polish, while Sanders has the passion. What made this debate particularly exciting and interesting was that it was just Clinton and Sanders together on stage, going at it, without overzealous moderators interrupting at every turn.

Washington State House passes Voting Rights Act (again) on a party-line vote

A revised version of the Washington Voting Rights Act, championed by Representative Luis Moscoso (D-1st District: Bothell, Kirkland, Mill Creek), today passed out of the Washington State House of Representatives without a single vote to spare, thanks to Republicans’ refusal to provide a single vote in support. (Democrats currently have a bare majority of fifty votes in the House.)

The roll call on ESHB 1745 was as follows:

Voting Yea: Representatives Appleton, Bergquist, Blake, Clibborn, Cody, Dunshee, Farrell, Fey, Fitzgibbon, Frame, Goodman, Gregerson, Hansen, Hudgins, Hunt, Hurst, Jinkins, Kagi, Kilduff, Kirby, Kuderer, Lytton, McBride, Moeller, Morris, Moscoso, Ormsby, Ortiz-Self, Orwall, Peterson, Pettigrew, Pollet, Reykdal, Riccelli, Robinson, Rossetti, Ryu, Santos, Sawyer, Sells, Senn, Springer, Stanford, Sullivan, Tarleton, Tharinger, Van De Wege, Walkinshaw, Wylie, Speaker Chopp

Voting Nay: Representatives Buys, Caldier, Chandler, Condotta, DeBolt, Dent, Dye, Griffey, Haler, Hargrove, Harmsworth, Harris, Hawkins, Hayes, Hickel, Holy, Johnson, Klippert, Kochmar, Kretz, Kristiansen, MacEwen, Magendanz, Manweller, McCabe, McCaslin, Muri, Nealey, Orcutt, Parker, Pike, Rodne, Schmick, Scott, Shea, Short, Smith, Stambaugh, Stokesbary, Taylor, Van Werven, Vick, Walsh, Wilcox, Wilson, Young, Zeiger

The Washington Voting Rights Act is intended to improve government at the local level by making elected bodies more representative of the communities they serve. To accomplish this, the Act would do the following:

  • Creates a state voting rights act that protects the equal opportunity for minority groups to participate in local elections.
  • Creates a cause of action and authorizes courts to order appropriate remedies for a violation of the act, including redistricting within a political subdivision.
  • Authorizes local governments to change their election system to remedy violations of the act.

“We applaud the State House of Representatives for passing the Washington Voting Rights Act and making a clear statement that all communities have a right to fair representation,” said Rich Stolz, Executive Director of OneAmerica.

“This is about making our democracy stronger. Washington State’s huge representation gap across local governments results in neighborhoods being denied adequate attention and resources, students being denied and education system that meets their needs, and voters being disaffected and unengaged.”

“The historic elections in Yakima last fall show what can be possible when a discriminatory election system is removed,” he concluded.

“The Washington Voting Rights Act empowers local governments and community members to collaborate in solving problems of electoral unfairness, agreed Shankar Narayan, Legislative Director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington. “It provides for data and analysis of such problems, as well as a roadmap to get to a solution and help jurisdictions avoid litigation.

“The significant change that has come to Yakima shouldn’t require a federal lawsuit and millions of dollars. The WVRA makes needed electoral change much more possible and likely across the state.”

NPI congratulates House Democrats on the passage of the 2016 Washington Voting Rights Act, and thanks NPI Advisory Council Member Luis Moscoso for shepherding this legislation through the Legislature. Sadly, Senate Republicans will probably kill it off, but it’s a worthy idea, and hopefully one that can become law in 2017.

Republican Ted Cruz wins in Iowa; Democrats Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders tied

Tonight in Iowa, the Democratic and Republican parties held their first nominating events of the 2016 presidential cycle. At hundreds of schools, churches, and homes throughout the Hawkeye State, large numbers of voters and activists showed up to caucus for their preferred presidential candidates.

On the Republican side, a plurality favored Ted Cruz, the militant Texas senator who helped goad the House Republican caucus into shutting down the federal government for several weeks in late 2013. Cruz beat out billionaire mogul Donald Trump, who had been ahead in the polls and was thought to be the frontrunner, along with Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who may wind up as the establishment’s choice if Jeb Bush doesn’t catch fire in New Hampshire.

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders were locked in a tie, with Clinton maintaining a slight lead for much of the evening that gradually diminished, until she was left with only the slimmest of an advantage in terms of delegates. In late evening speeches, Both Clinton and Sanders heaped praise on their supporters and on Iowa Democrats for making the contest competitive. They did acknowledge each other, but reserved their criticism for Republicans and for Wall Street.

Former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, who had tried to portray himself as a fresher, more youthful alternative to the Democratic frontrunners, announced midway through the vote count that he was dropping out, having concluded that he was the odd man out in what has become a two-candidate contest. In most places, O’Malley was unable to even meet the threshold for viability.

Republican Mike Huckabee likewise announced that he was dropping out, having finished in ninth place, ahead of only Chris Christie and Jim Gilmore. Huckabee trailed Cruz, Trump, Rubio, Ben Carson, Rand Paul, Jeb Bush, Carly Fiorina, and John Kasich. It’s worth remembering that eight years ago, he won the Iowa caucuses, but ultimately lost to John McCain, who cleaned up on Super Tuesday.

Sanders’ remarkable performance in Iowa demonstrates that he has staying power and is likely to remain in the race for a long time.

Sanders’ strong showing is actually good news for Hillary Clinton, whether her campaign wants to admit it or not. See, a competitive Democratic presidential race means a bigger audience for Clinton’s ideas (it takes two to debate!), and it means more people showing up to participate in caucuses and primaries.

Long-term, that’s good for Clinton. If Sanders wasn’t around and she was a lock for the nomination, the mass media would turn its attention to the Republicans. The networks would only be holding debates among the Republicans, and none among the Democrats, because there would only be one Democrat left standing.

I can well remember the acrimony of the 2008 Democratic presidential nominating season. It was divisive and contentious, certainly, but it was also a boon for the Democratic Party. Every state mattered, for a change.

Keep in mind, the last three Democratic presidents to be elected did not sail unopposed to their party’s nomination.

Iowa Democrats’ first choice in 1976 was “Uncommitted”, with Georgia’s Jimmy Carter coming in second. A few of Carter’s opponents dropped out after the early states had voted, but others persisted in running, notably Washington U.S. Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson, who did not exit the race until April 27th. But even after Jackson left, other Democrats got in, including Frank Church and Jerry Brown. Carter was ultimately able to secure the nomination, but it wasn’t a cakewalk.

Similarly, in 1992, Bill Clinton’s road to the nomination was not a straight one. He lost many early states, including Iowa, New Hampshire, Maine, and South Dakota, to rivals like Paul Tsongas, Tom Harkin, and Bob Kerrey. But his second place finish in New Hampshire kept him in the race, and in March, he hit his stride.

And of course, in 2008, the duel between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination became one of the most gripping political dramas in American history. Obama and Clinton competed vigorously for delegates for months, and Clinton did not throw in the towel until only a few weeks before the DNC. The Obama/Clinton rivalry was the dominant story for a whole season after John McCain locked up the Republican nomination.

Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama all went on to win against their Republican opponents despite not having the Democratic nomination sewn up at the outset of their campaigns. Hillary Clinton will unquestionably be a stronger nominee if she has to earn the nomination by competing alongside Bernie Sanders. And the reverse is also true: if Sanders wins the nomination, he will have done what many said was impossible, and he will have a stronger Democratic Party at his back during the summer and autumn campaign against the Republican nominee.

Tonight’s Iowa caucuses may have produced an indecisive result on the Democratic side (which has led to much grousing, especially from the likes of MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, who complained about there not being a clear loser and a clear winner). But Iowa is just one of fifty states that are holding nominating events, to say nothing of the many U.S. territories that will do likewise. The vast majority of delegates to the Democratic National Convention will come from outside Iowa.

The mass media may be disappointed that Iowa didn’t produce a victor, but that sentiment is not shared by many Democratic leaders and progressive activists, who reject the sad culture of instant gratification that the mass media is locked into.

“Congratulations to Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders for both winning half of Iowa’s delegates,” said Washington State Democratic Chair Jaxon Ravens. “They both ran strong campaigns on the issues that matter — expanding health care access, fighting climate change, and on how we can raise incomes for working-class Americans. We look forward to comparing this positive vision with the Republican vision for America of more war, more tax cuts for the rich, and more discrimination against women, LGBT and immigrants.”

Washington State Democratic Party takes position opposing CarbonWA’s I-732

Yesterday, during the middle day of its 2016 winter meeting, the Washington State Democratic Party went on record as opposed to CarbonWA’s I-732, joining the Washington State Labor Council and IAM’s District Lodge 751 in the no camp. I-732 is a complex tax swap proposal that would levy a carbon tax while also reducing sales and business & occupation taxes.

CarbonWA and other I-732 proponents contend that their tax swap is “revenue neutral” (meaning it would not increase or decrease state revenue). Nonpartisan legislative staff and the Department of Revenue don’t agree. According to DOR’s calculations, I-732 would reduce revenue by nearly $1 billion over the next four years. (That’s billion, with a b.) CarbonWA insists DOR’s analysis is erroneous, and that the initiative would ultimately be “approximately revenue neutral“.

But the Washington State Democratic Party has decided it doesn’t want to take a chance on I-732 and has formally come out against the measure.

The party’s State Central Committee, the WSDCC, considered dueling resolutions on the initiative this weekend. One was to take a position in support of I-732, and the other was to take a position in opposition. The latter received a “do pass” recommendation from the WSDCC’s Resolutions Committee and was subsequently adopted, while the former got a “no pass” recommendation and was rejected.

The WSDCC’s Resolutions Committee has the unenviable task of vetting and wordsmithing resolutions that go before the full Central Committee at its five regular meetings during each two-year cycle. (Full disclosure: I sit on the WSDCC as a voting member, but I am not on the WSDCC’s Resolutions Committee.)

The Committee heard from speakers in support of and opposition to I-732 prior to reaching its decision. In the end, the committee voted overwhelmingly for the resolution to take a position opposing I-732, a recommendation that was enthusiastically adopted by the full WSDCC a few hours later.

The Therefore, be it resolved clauses of the resolution state:

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Washington State Democratic Party go on record opposing I-732, and […] in support of a comprehensive policy to reduce carbon emissions and GHGs that creates a descending cap on emissions, prices carbon with the flexibility needed to prevent companies from wholesale leaving the state while at the same time helping them to become as carbon efficient as possible, provides equity to fossil fuel workers and communities of color, invests in climate adaptation and mitigation and leverages an accelerated development of the new clean energy economy; and

THEREFORE, BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the State Democratic Party will work with labor, environment, communities of color, faith, public health and progressive business organizations to educate and organize around a comprehensive carbon and GHG reduction policy that can be introduced to the state legislature or to the ballot at the earliest possible opportunity.

We have outlined our own objections to I-732 here on the Cascadia Advocate on a number of occasions, notably last September, when we published this post by our President, Robert Cruickshank. We felt I-732 was fatally flawed even before the state published its analysis concluding that I-732 was actually revenue negative.

Whether the initiative is revenue negative or not, we think it’s poorly written. We do appreciate that proponents of I-732 are well-intentioned people who want to take action to address the climate crisis. However, we cannot support their approach.

Perplexingly, CarbonWA continues to try to sell I-732 to people by talking about following the “lead” of British Columbia, which is currently governed by one of the biggest groups of greenwashers in history: Christy Clark’s B.C. Liberals, who seemingly haven’t met a pipeline or fossil fuel terminal project they didn’t like.

British Columbia adopted a carbon tax years ago, but it has not been successful in keeping the province’s emissions in check.

In fact, British Columbia’s emissions have been going up, not down.

Leaders of CarbonWA have described support for their initiative as “bipartisan” and have said they crafted the initiative to appeal to voters across the ideological spectrum, but CarbonWA’s endorsements page doesn’t list a single organization affiliated with the Republican Party or active in the conservative movement.

And, as even CarbonWA has admitted, polling suggests right-leaning voters in Washington are incredibly hostile to the idea of levying a carbon tax.

To have even a prayer of winning, CarbonWA would need progressives and Democrats everywhere to unite behind I-732. But that is not happening, partly because CarbonWA’s proposal is poorly written, and partly because CarbonWA has been needlessly alienating progressives with ridiculous commentary like this:

[Yoram Bauman] is an environmental economist and stand-up comedian (yes, an unusual combo). He is also one of the leaders of the effort in Washington State to pass a carbon tax. He has been working tirelessly to build support.

Based on his experiences, he has a message for environmental activists: “I am increasingly convinced that the path to climate action is through the Republican Party. Yes, there are challenges on the right — skepticism about climate science and about tax reform — but those are surmountable with time and effort. The same cannot be said of the challenges on the left: an unyielding desire to tie everything to bigger government, and a willingness to use race and class as political weapons in order to pursue that desire.”

Yoram Bauman is a funny guy, but this time he is not joking.

If you’re wondering how CarbonWA’s efforts to reach out to Republicans are going, the answer is not well. As I mentioned already, they haven’t scored any endorsements from groups on the right. Republican legislators, meanwhile, have been openly disdainful of I-732 when asked about it by the press.

Doug Ericksen, who is a very good friend of Tim Eyman and all the oil companies operating in the state, trashes I-732 every chance he gets. For instance, here’s a KING5 story from last month about CarbonWA’s submission of signatures:

Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, considers the initiative an energy tax instead of a carbon tax.

Ericksen chairs the Senate’s energy committee.

He said the move would cause higher home heating bills and gas prices.

Bauman did his cause no favors when he agreed with Ericksen that gas prices would go up — even volunteering a figure! Here’s the next two lines of the story:

Bauman said the initiative could end up raising gas prices 25 cents a gallon.

Ericksen also thinks the initiative could end up hurting the environment by encouraging Washington businesses to relocate overseas in search of less restrictive pollution laws.

Yoram Bauman’s co-chair Joe Ryan, meanwhile, was recently quoted in a Washington State Wire profile saying that carbon taxes are regressive.

And no, I’m not making this up.

For Ryan, the middle-of the-road approach is the best way forward. His political ethos is a true rarity and one that he is eager to share. “I believe, and what I see in the world, is that people of diverse ideologies have truth to contribute. To exclude or scapegoat or demonize, frame them as scapegoats or enemies, you’re really losing part of the truth. And so it’s important to get the full truth,” he said.

Perhaps it’s his dedication to finding the whole truth that allows him to be so candid about some of the potential realities of a carbon tax often avoided by proponents of pricing carbon. Looking heavy-hearted, he admitted that there will likely be job losses in certain industries, coupled with gains in others. Without hesitation, he also said this: “Carbon taxes are regressive in terms of disproportionately impacting low income people. Our state tax system is already regressive so to make it more regressive is a concern for Carbon WA.” Lowering the sales tax, he says, reduces the overall regressiveness of Washington’s tax code.

Emphasis is mine.

If Ryan believes carbon taxes are regressive, why is he working to pass I-732? Why aren’t he and CarbonWA pushing for a cap and trade system instead?

Other states, like California, have already gone in that direction. And Washington voters are certainly open to the idea as well, as was evident from our research last year, when we asked the following question in a statewide poll:

Do you strongly support, somewhat support, somewhat oppose or strongly oppose implementing a cap-and-trade system, where polluters would be charged a fee to reduce carbon dioxide emissions that would fund public schools and transportation projects?

These were the answers:

  • Support: 55%
    • 37% “strongly support” cap and trade
    • 18% “somewhat support” cap and trade
  • Oppose: 43%
    • 11% “somewhat oppose” cap and trade
    • 32% “strongly oppose” cap and trade
  • 2% answered “not sure” 

This question was part of a poll conducted by Public Policy Polling for NPI from September 18th to 21st, 2015, and surveyed 613 Washington voters likely to cast ballots in the November 2015 general election. The results have a margin of sampling error of +/- 4.0% at the 95% confidence level.

As this was a poll of likely 2015 voters, we believe it actually understated the true level of support for cap and trade among this year’s electorate, which is projected to be substantially larger than last year’s.

(2015 saw the worst voter turnout in Washington State history — at least since we began registering voters in the 1930s.)

Now, CarbonWA likes to tout this survey from G Squared Strategies, which in late 2014 asked four hundred likely voters (which I’ll point out is a smaller sample size than our poll from last year) the following question:

Would you favor or oppose the State of Washington imposing a carbon tax on carbon producing businesses if it also lowered the state sales tax by 1% and eliminated the current business and occupation taxes on Washington’s businesses, causing the new carbon tax to be revenue neutral?”

53.7% of respondents in that survey answered that they would be in favor, while 32.6% said they would be opposed. The poll had a margin of error of +/- 4.9%.

Those percentages aren’t terrible, but what are terrible are the percentages that come back when the actual I-732 ballot title has been tested. This is the question voters will see on their ballots starting in October:

Initiative Measure No. 732 concerns taxes.

This measure would impose a carbon emission tax on certain fossil fuels and fossil-fuel-generated electricity, reduce the sales tax by one percentage point and increase a low-income exemption, and reduce certain manufacturing taxes.

Should this measure be enacted into law? Yes [ ] No [ ]

Polling by the Alliance for Jobs & Clean Energy has found the response in favor of the I-732 ballot title to be just 39% — well under fifty percent. Yikes! The ballot title hasn’t performed much better in CarbonWA’s polling.

Keep in mind, this is where things stand for I-732 before the impact of the inevitable, well-funded No campaign.

Having worked for and against statewide initiatives for over a decade, we know a bad ballot title can be a major Achilles’ heel, just as a slick ballot title (the kind Tim Eyman always tries to wrangle for his initiatives) can be a big blessing.

CarbonWA claims that I-732 can pass in spite of its bad ballot title. We don’t see how, given that I-732 is so poorly written. The text doesn’t redeem the ballot title. You could argue I-732 deserves the lackluster ballot title that it got.

If that weren’t bad enough, the oil industry now has plenty of material to work with for whatever ads and P.R. it decides to finance. They have co-chair Bauman saying gas prices could rise twenty-five cents a gallon, and co-chair Ryan saying that carbon taxes are regressive and disproportionately impact low income people.

The folks at CarbonWA seem to be still feeling the glow of having qualified (narrowly). They may think they have a winner on their hands with I-732, but they seem to be about the only ones who think that.

Persuading people to sign a petition is one thing. Getting people to vote yes on an initiative is much harder. When in doubt, people usually vote no.

If Bauman and Ryan’s goal is to build a broad coalition to embrace the policy that they and their team have come up with, they’re already failing.

Eyman cohort Don Benton announces his retirement from the Washington State Senate

Breaking news out of Clark County this afternoon: Entrenched Republican incumbent Don Benton, who has long been one of Tim Eyman’s biggest boosters in the Legislature, is retiring from the Washington State Senate.

Via The Columbian:

Benton said in a statement Saturday that he will finish his current term, which expires at the end of the year. Benton also works as Clark County’s director of environmental services. He said he made his decision to leave the Legislature with “a heavy heart,” but added his bosses at the county didn’t want him to continue serving as a lawmaker while also working as the environmental services director.

Benton is one of several militant Republicans in the Washington State Legislature who espouses anti-government views despite holding a public sector job.

In case you’ve forgotten, these were the outrageous circumstances under which Benton got that job more than two years ago:

Claims of cronyism are sweeping through Clark County government after a state senator [Benton] was given the job of a man who may have exposed a misuse of Clark County funds.

That’s caused outrage from hundreds of citizens.

So far, one county employee has resigned in protest over this hire. A protest also is planned for outside of the Clark County commissioners meeting Tuesday — with more than 200 people so far signing up to speak at that meeting.

“Unfortunately, the potential for abuse now seems to be the practice,” said Democrat Steve Stuart, chair of the non-partisan Clark County Board of Commissioners.

A little more context: It’s important to understand that at the time, Clark County (which encompasses America’s Vancouver) was governed by a three-member county commission made up of two militant Republicans and one Democrat.

If this isn’t a textbook definition of cronyism, we’re not sure what is:

Benton was given the position just a few days after applying. He’s a personal friend of one of the commissioners, Tom Mielke.

Last month, the group voted to get rid of Director of Environmental Services Kevin Gray.

Adding to the controversy is that Gray is considered by many as a man who blew the whistle on alleged corruption in the county. In a whistle-blower memorandum, Gray said he has been targeted and experienced retaliation after reporting that a supervisor was using county money for his private business.

Six months before Benton got the job described in the excerpts above, he narrowly won reelection in an extremely tight contest with Democrat Tim Probst, who had given up his House seat to challenge Benton for Senate.

Benton’s margin of victory was just seventy-four votes.

On January 13th Probst announced he would challenge Benton again, setting up another marquee contest in 2016. Now that Benton is out, Probst will be running for an open seat. It’s worth noting: If Democrats can get Probst elected and knock out one other Republican in another legislative district without losing any seats, they will have a majority in the Washington State Senate a year from now.

Schedule set for Supreme Court appeal of Judge Downing’s decision in Lee v. State

The Washington State Supreme Court has settled on a schedule for hearing the appeal of King County Superior Court Judge William Downing’s decision in Lee v. State, the legal challenge to Tim Eyman’s I-1366, according to an order signed by Chief Justice Barbara Madsen earlier today. Wrote Madsen:

On January 25, 2016, Appellant, the State of Washington, filed ‘Accelerated Motion for Expedited Review’ in the above referenced case. Respondents filed an answer on January 26, 2016, and the State’s reply to the answer was filed on January 27, 2016. The Court having considered the motion, answer and reply, and having determined by majority that the following order be entered:

Now, therefore, it is hereby ORDERED: That the Appellant’s accelerated motion for expedited review is granted. The schedule for perfection of the record and briefing shall be as follows:

  • Designation of Clerk’s Papers: January 29, 2016
  • Superior Court to provide index and File Clerk’s Papers at the Supreme Court: February 5, 2016
  • Appellant’s Opening Brief: February 5, 2016
  • Respondent’s Response Brief: February 19, 2016
  • Appellant’s Reply Brief: February 26, 2016
  • Amicus Briefs, if any: March 2, 2016
  • Answer to Amicus Briefs, if any: March 10, 2016

Oral argument will be heard on March 15, 2016, at 1:30 PM, as the 4th case in the afternoon.

DATED at Olympia, Washington this 29th day of January, 2016.

For the Court

Barbara Madsen
Chief Justice

Argument will be heard at the Temple of Justice in Olympia, which is where the State Supreme Court meets and works.

Appellants, represented by Deputy Solicitor Generals Callie Castillo and Rebecca Glasgow and attorney Richard Stephens, had pushed the Court for an even tighter schedule, proposing that oral argument be heard on March 10th (the last scheduled day of the 2016 legislative session) and that the Court rule the same day.

Respondents, represented by Pacifica Law Group, opposed this request. (The respondents are the plaintiffs in the case, challenging the validity of I-1366.)

“Respondents agree that this appeal should receive expedited consideration but not on as rushed a schedule as proposed by the State,” wrote Pacifica’s attorneys Paul Lawrence, Sarah Washburn, and Kymberly Evanson. “This appeal raises issues that require full briefing and considered deliberation by the Court. And there is no benefit to setting argument on the last day of the legislative session or to issuing a one sentence decision with opinion to follow that provides little guidance.”

The Court rejected appellants’ request for oral argument on March 10th and an immediate decision to follow, but did agree to oral argument on March 15th, when it was already set to hear argument in three other cases.

The timeline chosen by the Court gives it several weeks to deliberate prior to the date that the sales tax would have been lowered were I-1366 in effect. (The initiative is currently unenforceable due to Judge Downing’s decision.)

The Supreme Court can move quickly on a case when it wants to (as it demonstrated in 2004 during the manual recount of the 2004 gubernatorial election), but it usually doesn’t. In League of Education Voters v. State, the landmark case challenging the constitutionality of I-601 and its clones I-960, I-1053, and I-1185, the Supreme Court did not publish its decision until many months after it had heard oral argument.

(I-1366 is Tim Eyman’s response to the LEV decision.)

But perhaps the Court appreciates that a swift resolution to this case would be beneficial to the public interest, given that I-1366 is an attempt to blackmail the Legislature into doing Eyman’s bidding by threatening to wipe out $8 billion in funding for schools and vital public services over the next six years.

Washington State Labor Council votes to oppose CarbonWA’s Initiative 732

The Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, a federation of more than six hundred unions representing nearly half a million workers in Washington State, announced today that it has taken a position formally opposing CarbonWA’s I-732, which backers have advertised as a “revenue neutral” tax swap that would levy a tax on emissions of gases like carbon dioxide, while lowering sales and B&O taxes.

“To deal with the climate crisis and rising global temperatures effectively, an economic transformation will be required — a transformation that cannot exclude the voices of working people, their unions, or communities of color,” said WSLC President Jeff Johnson in a statement posted to The Stand.

“We need a carbon and greenhouse gas reduction policy that caps and prices carbon, and then invests carbon revenues in leveraging the new clean energy economy in a manner that is equitable for working people and communities of color. No worker or community should be left behind in this economic transformation.”

“I-732 does not address these concerns and, in fact, locks us in to a single policy that will cost our state General Fund nearly $1 billion. At a time our state is struggling to fund basic services — including public schools, mental health facilities, and many other essential services — I-732 would send Washington in the wrong direction and create more damaging austerity choices.”

The Machinists, one of the largest unions in the WSLC, voted last autumn to take a position opposing I-732, while its signature drive was still ongoing.

Last month, Carbon Washington (CarbonWA), the group behind I-732, contemplated terminating the initiative and not submitting the remainder of the signatures that they had collected in favor of a compromise initiative they could support with the Alliance for Jobs & Clean Energy (of which NPI and the WSLC are members). But ultimately, they decided to turn in their signatures.

I-732 subsequently passed its random sample check (though it was a close call, owing to an extremely high number of invalid signatures). It is now certified as an initiative to the Legislature and the 2016 ballot.

If the Legislature ignores it, as expected, it will be the first thing voters see when they open up their autumn ballots this coming October.

Analysis prepared by staff working for the Legislature and Department of Revenue suggests I-732 would not be revenue neutral, as CarbonWA claims, but would instead cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars. CarbonWA and its backers strongly dispute the analysis and say the state’s math is wrong.

Sound Transit to inaugurate University Link light rail service on Saturday, March 19th

Flanked by Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and new Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff, King County Executive Dow Constantine announced today at a media event on Capitol Hill that Sound Transit’s University Link light rail extension, which has been in the construction phase for the last few years, will have its public grand opening on Saturday, March 19th, 2016, at 10 AM in the morning.

“University Link opens March 19th, changing forever how we move around Seattle,” said Constantine in a news release distributed at the event. “With fast, frequent trains bypassing some of the region’s worst traffic, thousands of people will now be able to get to work, school and appointments on time, every time.”

University Link was originally scheduled to open in the autumn of 2016, but because construction went so smoothly, it is opening ahead of schedule and under budget. Much of the project’s cost was taken care of by the federal government, thanks to appropriations secured by United States Senator Patty Murray.

“As the Puget Sound region continues to grow, we need to make transportation investments that make our communities more livable, create jobs, improve access to education centers, and support our local small businesses,” Murray said. “That’s why I am so thrilled to see Sound Transit reach this milestone on this important project for commuters and communities, and it’s why I am going to keep fighting for local investments like these that help our economy grow from the middle out.”

University Link route map

University Link extends light rail north from Westlake to the University of Washington (Map: Sound Transit)

The 3.15 mile University Link extension adds two new stations to Puget Sound’s light rail spine.

One is on Capitol Hill, near Cal Anderson Park, with multiple station entrances. The other is adjacent to Husky Stadium and Hec Ed at the University of Washington.

University Link is completely underground, running in its own right of way, so the experience of riding it will be somewhat similar to a subway. No matter what the weather or the traffic is, it will be possible to move between Westlake Center and the University of Washington in seven to eight minutes.

That’s going to be huge.

Metro and Sound Transit plan a series of major changes to bus routes and schedules one week after University Link opens (on March 26th), to ensure that bus service better complements the newly extended light rail spine.

At today’s event on Capitol Hill, Constantine and Murray unveiled a special clock that is counting down the days, hours, minutes, and seconds until U Link opens. There are many festivities planning for Opening Day, as Sound Transit explains:

We’re kicking off U Link service with a free community celebration that includes music, performance art, community booths and more.  From 9 AM to 5 PM on March 19, we’re hosting a tailgate party at University of Washington Station and a street festival at Capitol Hill Station – with light rail serving as your link to both. Stations open and train service begins at 10 AM. Subscribe to U Link Updates to get the latest details on our Launch Day lineup.

If you would like to be among the first to ride U Link on Opening Day, you can enter to win a special “Golden Ticket” from Sound Transit:

Here are the ways to enter and win (you must be 18 or older):

Follow @SoundTransit on Facebook, Twitter or InstagramTake a photo or video letting us know where you will Link in 2016. Share using #Ulink2016 @SoundTransit.

Listen to these radio stations: KEXP (90.3 FM); KUOW (94.9 FM); KNDD (107.7 FM) and KNHC (C 89.5 FM) for your chance to win two Golden Tickets.

Subscribe for U Link updates. Subscribers will also receive updates about special U Link Launch Day events and promotions.

Stop by any of these U District or Roosevelt businesses, spend $5 or more and fill out an “enter to win” Golden Ticket raffle card (begins January 29). Participating businesses include: Brooklyn Avenue Dental, Cedars of Lebanon, My Favorite Deli, Nasai Teriyaki, Neptune Music Company, Samir’s Mediterranean Grill, Sweet Alchemy (opens February), Ugly Mug Café, Health Mutt, Nature Nails, Pies and Pints, Roosevelt Vacuum, Subway (Roosevelt Square), Teddy’s, Thrive, Toronado, UPS Store on 65th.

Visit Rules & regulations for more details.

We will be bringing you full live coverage of University Link Opening Day on March 19th, as we did in 2009 when Central Link and Airport Link opened to the public.

The completion of University Link is a watershed moment for our region, one worth celebrating. Since the founding of Permanent Defense in February of 2002 (which predates NPI by about a year and a half), this organization has worked diligently to defend Sound Transit from the likes of Tim Eyman and ensure that our region gets the light rail spine it needs and deserves.

All of that work has been completely worth it. Today, Sound Transit is flying high and enjoys broad popular support. Thanks to the leadership of Joni Earl, who is now CEO Emeritus, Sound Transit is a model public agency that is firing on all cylinders, delivering projects on time or ahead of schedule, and under budget.

If ST had been shut down and disbanded as critics were demanding during the “dark days” of the late 1990s and early 2000s, we wouldn’t have Central Link and Airport Link, commuter rail, express bus service, streetcars in Tacoma and Seattle, or the enhancements to our park and ride system that Sound Transit has delivered.

It should not be forgotten that fourteen years ago, Tim Eyman launched I-776, an initiative that sought to destroy Sound Transit by eliminating one of its principal revenue sources (the motor vehicle excise tax). I-776 narrowly passed, but was partially invalidated by the courts, allowing ST to proceed with plans to construct light rail from from downtown Seattle to Tukwila.

ST overcame a tremendous amount of hostility and opposition to secure the necessary financing to move forward and break ground on Central Link.

More than twelve years after the shovels went into the ground in the Rainier Valley, Link’s big build-out continues. The construction has never stopped. Even when Central Link was done, crews were working on Airport Link. And even when Airport Link was done, crews were working on University Link and Angle Lake Link. Both of those extensions will open this year. And even when those are done, the work of extending light rail north, south, and east will go on. It has to…. our region’s congested corridors need light rail just as soon as we can get it built.

Voters can see that their investments in a regional transit system are paying off. This November, the people of this region will have the opportunity to build on past investments with Sound Transit 3, a proposal that ST’s staff and board are working on to further extend light rail, commuter rail, and bus service to more neighborhoods in urban Puget Sound, including NPI’s hometown of Redmond.

We strongly support the development of ST3 and will be working to pass it once it is submitted to the ballot by Sound Transit’s Board later this year. In the meantime, it will be wonderful to celebrate the opening of University Link on March 19th!

WAmend’s Initiative 735 certified to the 2016 Legislature, ballot, Secretary of State says

WAmend’s Initiative 735 — which would put Washington State on record in support of a federal constitutional amendment to end the legal fiction that corporations are people and money is speech — has been certified as an initiative to the 2016 Legislature, Secretary of State Kim Wyman’s office announced this morning.

Wyman’s Communications Director David Ammons writes:

The state Elections Division completed a random sample of the 333,040 signatures submitted by sponsors, confirming that there were sufficient signatures. The invalidation rate, including duplicates and signatures from people not found on the voter rolls, was 18.44 percent. That is about the average rejection rate for Washington ballot measures in recent decades.

WAmend and partner Fix Democracy First turned in hundreds of thousands of signatures for I-735 a month ago after the completion of a lengthy signature drive. At the time, the WAmend coalition (which includes NPI) felt confident that enough signatures had been submitted to ensure the initiative would qualify, but it’s really nice to have received confirmation from the Secretary of State that I-735 has now passed its random sample check without any problems.

We can all breathe a sigh of relief: after all those months of hard work, we made it!

I-735 was qualified to the Legislature and the 2016 ballot using primarily volunteer signature gatherers, which is unusual in an era of big money in politics. The field effort was overseen by NPI Advisory Council member Steve Zemke, a veteran of numerous past initiative campaigns. Steve served as WAmend’s Field Director.

The Republican-controlled Senate is not expected to take up I-735, which means it will automatically go to the November 2016 ballot to be voted on by the people of Washington State. However, Democratic State Representative Noel Frame and Democratic State Senator Maralyn Chase have introduced bills in the Legislature that mirror I-735. These are HB 2848 and SB 6505. Neither has been scheduled for a hearing yet. HB 2848 will likely get a hearing in Sam Hunt’s State Government Committee within the next couple of weeks. Hunt is one of the bill’s cosponsors.

Republican Ed Orcutt tries to set up House vote on Tim Eyman’s desired amendment, fails

This morning, just prior to the House of Representatives’ adjournment for the day, Republican State Representative Ed Orcutt of Kalama attempted to fast-track a resolution that would amend the Washington State Constitution to require a two-thirds vote to raise or recover any revenue, as fervently desired and demanded by Mukilteo-based initiative profiteer Tim Eyman.

Rising during the fourth order of business, after the House had adopted 2SHB 1737, Orcutt (R-20th District) moved to suspend House rules and advance his HJR 4215 to second reading, which would mean bypassing the committee process altogether. Orcutt then proceeded to deliver a speech in favor of his motion, in which he recited several of Tim Eyman’s favorite talking points.

House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan (D-47th District) rose in response, and urged a no vote, noting that the committee process is where bills and resolutions alike go to be discussed, amended, and refined. Initiatives like Tim Eyman’s unconstitutional I-1366, Sullivan noted, do not go through the Legislature’s deliberative committee process, which essentially serves as a filter to weed out legislation that is poorly crafted, not ready for primetime, or simply a bad idea to begin with.

The House then voted forty-eight to forty-nine not to adopt Orcutt’s motion.

“Having failed to receive the necessary two-thirds vote, your motion fails,” House Speaker Pro Tem Jim Moeller declared to Orcutt and the House as a whole.

Orcutt’s resolution was then referred to House Finance without objection.

The roll call vote hasn’t been posted, but it looks like it was a party-line vote. The House has fifty Democratic members, and one of them was excused at the time of the vote. The Republican caucus currently consists of forty-eight members.

No doubt Republicans planned this vote as a test to see if any Democrats would capitulate, and to compile attack fodder for the coming 2016 elections.

Kudos to the Democrats for sticking together and standing up to this nonsense. If our cherished tradition of majority rule is to survive, it must be defended.

Article II, Section 22 of our Constitution says that bills pass by majority vote. That means fifty of ninety-eight in the House and and twenty-five of forty-nine in the Senate must vote aye. No more, and no less.

This provision of our Constitution dates back to statehood. To sabotage it now would upset the balance of majority rule and minority rights that our Founders entrusted to us. It would be a terrible thing to do.

Shame on Ed Orcutt and his Republican colleagues for attempting to subvert majority rule. They should remember what happened last year in the Senate, when Republicans set themselves up for failure by unwisely changing Senate rules to require a two-thirds vote to advance certain revenue bills… only to find themselves impeded by their own rules change a few weeks later when they wanted to pass a transportation revenue bill. (Happily, Lieutenant Governor Brad Owen came to their rescue and struck down their two-thirds scheme.)

If Republicans ever get the majority back in the House, they’re going to want to be able to pass bills and budgets on their own, without Democrats being able to veto their every move. They should be more proactive with their imaginations and contemplate the shoe being on the other foot.

Majority rule is good for Democrats and Republicans alike. This truth is something that the elder statesmen of their party — people like Sam Reed, Ralph Munro, and Dan Evans — understand. Why don’t Orcutt and his colleagues get it?

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