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.

Alliance for Jobs & Clean Energy will go to the ballot in 2016 with initiative to cap pollution

Exciting news to share today: The Alliance for Jobs & Clean Energy, of which NPI is a member, has announced that it will be launching an initiative to the people for 2016 to cap emissions of pollutants that have given our planet an increasingly bad fever. The initiative will appear on the November 2016 statewide ballot in Washington.

According to the Alliance, if enacted into law by the voters of Washington, “the initiative would build on the state’s recently announced Clean Air Rule by enforcing existing global warming pollution reduction targets, charging the largest emitters a fee for each ton of carbon pollution they emit. The funds will be invested in accelerating the transition to a clean energy economy and addressing the impacts of carbon pollution on our air, land and people.”

“Washington has long been a national leader on technology innovation, from airplanes and software, to energy efficiency and renewable energy,” said Brenna Davis, Chair of Washington Business for Climate Action, during an Alliance press conference today at EnWave Seattle. “Today we continue in that spirit of innovation, resolving to accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy in a way that supports affected businesses and communities.”

The Washington State Legislature considered cap and trade legislation proposed by Governor Jay Inslee this past session, but failed to make much progress due to Republicans’ unwillingness to act on pollution accountability. Neither chamber took a vote on Inslee’s legislation, though the Democratic-run House gave it serious consideration. (The Senate, which is controlled by Republicans, didn’t bother.)

Today’s announcement is great news for our region’s progressive movement. It shows a serious commitment to action. It means there will be a serious, credible campaign next year to get our pollution problem under control.

Washington needs to be a leader in reducing emissions of carbon dioxide, methane, and other climate crisis-causing air pollutants. If Washington’s elected representatives won’t act, voters should be given the chance to.

NPI strongly supports the decision to go to the statewide ballot in 2016. We’ve been calling for the Alliance to launch a 2016 initiative for months, here on the Cascadia Advocate and in other forums. We’re very, very pleased that the Alliance is moving forward, and we will be fully supporting its efforts to develop a strong, robust initiative that does not suffer from the fatal flaws of CarbonWA’s I-732.

How we approach this problem matters, as our Alliance partners have noted.

“Because the impacts of climate change are not distributed evenly, it’s crucial that the experience and knowledge of communities on the frontlines are now part of creating the solutions,” said Peter Bloch Garcia, Executive Director of Latino Community Fund. “Addressing climate change can also support environmental and economic equity for communities of color and people with lower incomes.”

From now until the new year, the Alliance’s initiative proposal will be in the development phase. It is our hope that it will be developed using an open source-style development model, so Alliance members and interested citizens can contribute to making the text as good as it can be.

When January 2016 arrives, it’ll be time to file the final text with the Secretary of State, and then, soon after, there will be a kickoff event to launch the signature drive. Signatures will be due the Friday following Independence Day 2016. The Alliance will need to collect around 320,000 signatures to qualify for the ballot.

Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations completed in Atlanta, says White House

Negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an unprecedented trade pact that has been developed in secret by diplomats representing eleven nations as well as lobbyists for large, multinational corporations, have finally been completed, the Obama administration announced this morning.

“This partnership levels the playing field for our farmers, ranchers, and manufacturers by eliminating more than 18,000 taxes that various countries put on our products,” claimed President Obama in a statement.

“It includes the strongest commitments on labor and the environment of any trade agreement in history, and those commitments are enforceable, unlike in past agreements. It promotes a free and open Internet.”

“It strengthens our strategic relationships with our partners and allies in a region that will be vital to the 21st century. It’s an agreement that puts American workers first and will help middle-class families get ahead.”

“Once negotiators have finalized the text of this partnership, Congress and the American people will have months to read every word before I sign it.”

Reaction to the announcement poured in, and much of it was negative.

The Ford Motor Company, one of America’s traditional Big Three automakers, said it would oppose the pact, and lawmakers from Michigan echoed the company’s concerns that the TPP doesn’t address currency manipulation.

“To ensure the future competitiveness of American manufacturing, we recommend Congress not approve TPP in its current form,” Ford said in a statement.

Doctors Without Borders issued a statement harshly criticizing the TPP.

“Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) expresses its dismay that TPP countries have agreed to United States government and multinational drug company demands that will raise the price of medicines for millions by unnecessarily extending monopolies and further delaying price-lowering generic competition,” the respected nongovernmental organization (NGO) said.

“The big losers in the TPP are patients and treatment providers in developing countries. Although the text has improved over the initial demands, the TPP will still go down in history as the worst trade agreement for access to medicines in developing countries, which will be forced to change their laws to incorporate abusive intellectual property protections for pharmaceutical companies.”

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who is seeking to succeed Barack Obama as the next President of the United States, blasted the pact almost immediately and said he would do all he could to defeat it in Congress.

“Wall Street and big corporations just won a big victory to advance a disastrous trade deal. Now it’s on us to stop it from becoming law,” Sanders said in an email to his supporters, going on to explain what is known about the TPP.

“Not a lot of presidential candidates would use their campaigns to influence legislation being considered in Congress,” Sanders noted. “Some candidates haven’t even expressed an opinion on this critical issue, which, frankly, I don’t really understand. But as I’ve said before, this campaign is not about Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, or Jeb Bush — it’s about the needs of the American people.”

“And we need a new approach to trade in this country — one that benefits working families and not just the CEOs of multinational corporations.”

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), also vowed to oppose the TPP.

“We have no reason to believe that the TPP has improved much at all from the last leaked version released in August, and we won’t know until the U.S. Trade Representative releases the text,” said the EFF’s Maira Sutton in a blog post.

“So as long as it contains a retroactive 20-year copyright term extension, bans on circumventing DRM [digital restrictions management], massively disproportionate punishments for copyright infringement, and rules that criminalize investigative journalists and whistleblowers, we have to do everything we can to stop this agreement from getting signed, ratified, and put into force.”

The AFL-CIO indicated it would wait to pronounce final judgment until the text was released, but expressed its displeasure with the way the TPP was drafted.

“We are disappointed that our negotiators rushed to conclude the TPP in Atlanta, given all the concerns that have been raised by American stakeholders and members of Congress. The Administration had a hard time reaching this deal for good reasons: it appears that many problematic concessions were made in order to finalize the deal. We ask the Administration to release the text immediately, and urge legislators to exercise great caution in evaluating the TPP.”

“As we’ve said, rushing through a bad deal will not bring economic stability to working families, nor will it bring confidence that our priorities count as much as those of global corporations. We will evaluate the details carefully and work to defeat this corporate trade deal if it does not measure up.”

Top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell, who helped secure passage of legislation to fast-track the TPP for Obama, pledged to subject the pact to “intense scrutiny”.

Republicans control Congress, so if they wanted to, they could pass TPP on their own. Senate Democrats would not be able to filibuster, because fast-track guarantees a vote in both houses of Congress, and precludes any amendments.

However, it’s unlikely that Republicans will be united on TPP. In the House, a significant number of Republicans refused to vote for fast-track legislation, both on the first go-around (which failed) and the second (which succeeded).

If the tea party wing of the Republican Party withholds its votes on final passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the administration would need some Democrats to cross over and vote yes in order to win approval for the agreement.

We have no doubt the administration will vigorously lobby the same Democrats who voted for fast-track (like Suzan DelBene, Rick Larsen, Derek Kilmer, Maria Cantwell, and Patty Murray) to support the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

But because the TPP is behind schedule (negotiations were finished later than the administration wanted), a vote will not happen until 2016 – smack in the middle of the presidential nominating season, and in an election year.

As the old adage goes, in politics, timing is everything, and the TPP will be landing in Congress at a time when congressional and presidential candidates are looking to secure support from the respective bases of their party for the 2016 presidential election. The Republican base can’t stand Barack Obama and is reflexively opposed to anything he proposes. The Democratic base, meanwhile, is sick of losing jobs to grand trade schemes that failed to live up to their billing (like NAFTA).

That will make it very hard for the administration to procure votes.

Hillary Clinton could play a decisive role. She has already announced her opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline, having gotten tired of the White House’s dithering on the matter. If she comes out against the Trans-Pacific Partnership, it could make it extremely difficult for the White House to sell TPP to skeptical Democrats.

As Obama has said several times, he’s never going to face the voters again. He’s run his last campaign. In a year and a half, he’ll be out of office, never to return. He can pursue whatever agenda he wants without worrying about the electoral fallout. Democrats in Congress simply don’t have that luxury.

Even if they did, though, their allegiance should be to the people of this country, not to powerful corporations. Trade deals that fatten the bottom lines of giant firms at the expense of working people should not even merit consideration from any Democrat who truly believes in the values expressed in the party’s platform.

President Obama claims TPP is not like NAFTA. We agree that TPP is different – it’s unprecedented in size and scope – but that doesn’t mean it’s better. In fact, we believe it has the potential to be worse. It all depends on what’s actually in it.

The administration pumped out multiple pro-TPP “fact sheets” this morning which were fairly light on facts, but very heavy on platitudes and pro-trade rhetoric.

We are not interested in those materials. We want to see the actual text of what will be submitted to Congress so we can evaluate it for ourselves.

If it turns out the agreement is what we suspect it to be (another giveaway to powerful multinational corporations) we will be unequivocally opposed.

At least ten shot dead at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon; more injured

Gun violence has once again left dozens of people dead and wounded at a place of learning, this time right here in the great Pacific Northwest:

An incident with an active shooter has taken place at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg that has left at least 10 people dead and more than 20 injured.

According to Andrea Zielinski with the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office deputies responded to reports of shots fired at the school at 10:37 AM.

Oregon State Police spokesman told CNN that 10 people have been killed and 20 are injured.

Additional information has not yet been released and will be posted as it becomes available.

The gunman is said to be dead after a confrontation with police. A Douglas County commissioner had previously told CNN that the shooter had been apprehended and is in custody. That was apparently not correct. The shooter is reportedly a male.

The first call to 911 was placed at 10:38 AM Pacific.

The Oregonian has a liveblog going where they are publishing regular updates.

Roseburg is a city in southern Oregon, home to 21,181 people as of the 2010 census. It is about an hour’s drive south of Eugene, and it is bisected by Interstate 5. Umpqua Community College is actually located six miles north of the city, and has around 1,400 enrolled students. The college offers two-year programs. The average age of the students there is thirty-eight, we understand.

Its campus consists of sixteen buildings on one hundred acres, located alongside the North Umqua River. The campus is relatively isolated; there isn’t much else in the immediate vicinity around it. However, it is located fairly close to Interstate 5.

Aerial snapshot of Umpqua Community College

Aerial snapshot of Umpqua Community College

Umpqua’s website is currently down. We’re not sure if that’s because it can’t cope with a sudden spike in traffic, or whether there is another reason. However, you can look at a snapshot of its website from last week on

It goes without saying that this is a terrible tragedy that will leave many Oregon families in the worst kind of pain and anguish. The kind that never really goes away.

We don’t know who the victims are, but we’ll be praying for them and their families. The next few hours will be very, very difficult, as family and friends learn the fate of their loved ones from authorities.

We cannot continue to tolerate gun violence as a society like we have been. Oregon and Washington have been leaders in strengthening gun background check laws, but we need to do more. Much more.

So far, in 2015 alone, there have been a staggering 39,383 incidents of gun violence, and 9,936 deaths. That’s close to half the population of Roseburg, and three times the number of people killed during the September 11th attacks.

Here’s a more comprehensive breakdown from the Gun Violence Archive (data validated as of earlier today):

  • Total Number of Incidents: 39,383
  • Number of Deaths: 9,936
  • Number of Injuries: 20,210
  • Number of Children (age 0-11) Killed/Injured: 549
  • Number of Teens (age 12-17) Killed/Injured: 1,960
  • Mass Shooting: 264
  • Officer Involved Shooting: 3,324
  • Home Invasion: 1,695
  • Defensive Use: 899
  • Accidental Shooting: 1,388

Notice above that the number of “accidental” shootings is higher than the number of incidents in which guns were used for self defense. This validates the paradox that people who buy guns for protection actually end up making themselves less safe.

There is much we can do to make our communities and our nation safer. The NRA-led gun lobby stands in the way. Combating their destructive influence and reducing gun violence is one of the most worthy causes of our time.

U.S. House votes with Senate to keep federal government open… for a few more months

The United States federal government will not be shutting down tomorrow, thanks to Congress’ approval of a continuing resolution that keeps the nation’s many critical public services funded through early December of this year.

By a vote of 277 to 151, the House of Representatives voted to concur with the Senate amendment to the House amendment to the Senate amendment of H.R. 719, which became the vehicle for keeping the federal government open.

Every Democrat present for the vote voted yes. The Republicans were split, with ninety-one aligned with Speaker John Boehner in support, and one hundred and fifty-one Republicans in opposition.

The roll call from the Pacific Northwest was as follows:

Voting Aye: Democrats Suzan DelBene, Rick Larsen, Derek Kilmer, Jim McDermott, Adam Smith, Denny Heck (WA), Suzanne Bonamici, Peter DeFazio, Earl Blumenauer, Kurt Schrader (OR); Republicans Jaime Herrera-Beutler, Dan Newhouse, Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA), Greg Walden (OR), Mike Simpson (ID), Don Young (AK), Ryan Zinke (MT)

Voting Nay: Raúl Labrador (ID)

Not Voting: Republican Dave Reichert (WA)

As we can see, it was a pretty lopsided roll call, with Idaho’s Raúl Labrador the only no vote. The rest of our region’s Republican representatives aligned themselves with Boehner and his lieutenants, including Cathy McMorris Rodgers.

Labrador is part of the House Republican caucus’ tea party wing, and is easily the most extreme, militant member of the House from the Pacific Northwest.

Congresswoman Suzan DelBene, who represents NPI’s home congressional district, said in a statement following the vote that Congress needs to get out of the very bad habit of creating manufactured fiscal crises by failing to budget responsibly.

“While I’m glad we averted another government shutdown, I’m deeply disappointed that congressional leaders settled on a resolution that simply sets up another potential crisis in two months,” DelBene said.

“The American people expect Congress to come together and work on smart solutions that will spur job growth and build an economy that works for everyone,” she added. “That means crafting a long-term budget that makes job-creating investments, encourages innovation, expands economic opportunity and responsibly reduces our deficit. Lurching toward another government shutdown will only hurt working families, small businesses and our economy.”

“As a former businesswoman, I understand that no business would ever plan just two months at a time. This constant uncertainty and the new normal of governing from crisis-to-crisis harms our economy and damages our credibility.”

President Barack Obama is expected to quickly sign H.R. 719.

“With today’s bipartisan vote, Congress has taken a step away from the brink – and the President will sign the bill into law once he receives it,” said White House Press Secretary Josh Earnes in a statement following the House vote.

“But, the American people deserve far better than last-minute, short-term legislating. That’s why Congress should pass a budget that reverses harmful spending cuts known as sequestration to allow for critical investments in our military readiness, infrastructure, schools, public health, and R&D [research and development] that keep our companies on the cutting edge. Congress can and should get this work done without delay.”

“There is no reason that we should deny American families and businesses the certainty and support they need by kicking the can down the road again,” he stressed. “At a time when our businesses have created more than 13 million new jobs over the past five and a half years, Washington can choose to support our American comeback or to stall its momentum. To the President, the choice is clear.”

Surprise! Tim Eyman shows up for I-1366 editorial board meeting with Seattle Times

He’s back… sort of.

Notorious initiative profiteer Tim Eyman emerged briefly from his self-imposed seclusion earlier today to attend a meeting with the editorial board of The Seattle Times to make his case for I-1366, his latest and most destructive initiative yet, with extremist Republican State Representative Ed Orcutt in tow as his sidekick du jour.

I-1366 would wipe out $8 billion in sales tax revenue over the next six years unless the Legislature bows to Eyman’s will and passes an amendment permanently sabotaging our Constitution’s majority vote requirement for passage of legislation.

Eyman failed to show up last week to debate I-1366 with Fuse’s Aaron Ostrom because KING5 refused to agree to Eyman’s stipulation that he not be asked about his secret money manipulations. He also blew off the editorial boards of The Stranger and The Olympian. But he apparently felt he couldn’t do the same with the Times.

The Times‘ Jim Brunner, who sat in on the editorial board meeting, reports that Eyman refused to answer any questions pertaining to his alleged lawbreaking:

Eyman said he’d only talk about the merits of that initiative in response to numerous questions from editorial board members and a Seattle Times reporter about the PDC allegations, which are now under review by Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s office.

Let’s make one thing clear: There are no merits to I-1366. It’s Tim Eyman’s worst idea ever. I-1366 is a mean-spirited, scorched-earth initiative reminiscent of Republicans’ failed federal government shutdown of two years ago.

With I-1366, Eyman aims to wreak catastrophic damage on Washington’s K-12 schools, colleges, universities, and other vital public services if the Legislature doesn’t sabotage our cherished tradition of majority rule.

Unfortunately for Tim, his past misdeeds caught up with him with a month to go before voting begins in the November 2015 general election. The Public Disclosure Commission has asked Attorney General Bob Ferguson to prosecute Eyman for serious violations of Washington’s public disclosure law. Naturally, the Times tried to get Eyman to respond to the allegations. But he wouldn’t.

He would not say whether he was being paid this year by Citizen Solutions, the signature-gathering firm that received more than $1.2 million this year to qualify I-1366 for the November ballot.

The PDC probe found evidence Eyman has received hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments from the firm — including a $300,000 wire transfer in 2012. Eyman also refused to say whether he believes he should have been more transparent or whether any donors have told him they feel misled by his activities.

“I believe that I will be talking exclusively about Initiative 1366. You can ask me every question you want,” Eyman said.

All attempts to pin Eyman down proved fruitless.

“I respect the fact that you have to ask the questions … But any question you ask me about it, I’m simply going to talk more about 1366,” he said.

It’s like 2002 all over again:

[Eyman] refused to answer questions about the state attorney general’s lawsuit against him and his campaign committee, Permanent Offense. State investigators say he secretly paid himself $233,000 in campaign donations.

“I won’t be addressing those questions today,” he said repeatedly.

Before the Seattle Post-Intelligencer exposed his money diversions and his former business partner confirmed it, why had Eyman consistently claimed to be an unpaid campaign volunteer?

And why did he tell supporters in a mass e-mail Monday that most people knew all along he was being paid?

“We’re not addressing those questions today,” he said. “Today is about Initiative 776, and we won’t be addressing those questions.”

Will he ever address them? Same answer.

Was yesterday’s appearance a permanent coming out? Has Eyman decided he’s had enough of his self-imposed purgatorial period?

“I appreciate the question, and we won’t be answering that question today.”

Is he sorry he took the campaign money?

“I won’t be able to address that question today.”

The above paragraphs are from a Seattle Post-Intelligencer story filed by legendary reporter Neil Modie on July 2nd, 2002 — the day Eyman turned in signatures for I-776 (the first Eyman initiative that NPI’s Permanent Defense fought). Modie attended Eyman’s press conference at the Secretary of State’s Elections Annex and tried to get Eyman to talk about the state’s investigation into his wrongdoing.

But, like a slippery eel, Eyman deflected every question reporters threw his way, repeatedly pivoting back to promoting I-776, which Eyman conceived to cripple Sound Transit and prevent ST from starting construction on Link light rail. (Thankfully, Eyman’s I-776 failed to stop Link’s groundbreaking.)

A few weeks later, he settled Attorney General Chris Gregoire’s lawsuit against him, paying a $50,000 fine and agreeing never to again serve as a campaign treasurer.

Thirteen years have passed since, but Eyman hasn’t changed much. He’s still peddling destructive initiatives and breaking our state’s public disclosure law in the process. Eyman seems to think the rules simply don’t apply to him (ironic for a guy who once tried to sell a initiative to expand gambling using the slogan Just Treat Us The Same). He resents it when the media won’t let him stick to his script.

He’s also extremely irritated that he has to put up with opponents with us.

Eyman said his critics are always trying to “change the subject” from the policy debate, and that supporters of I-1366 want him to stay focused on the ballot measure and nothing else.

What policy debate? Tim Eyman, his wealthy benefactors, and his sidekicks aren’t interested in having a debate, let alone a dialogue, over what would constitute good public policy for our state. They’re not interested in reforming our tax code, making public services work more effectively, improving our state’s business climate, or empowering our cities and counties to better serve their constituents.

No, their objective is to carry out Grover Norquist’s agenda here in this Washington. They want to wreck our government so it can’t function the way our founders intended it to anymore. They’re militant extremists.

We’ve seen what happens at the federal level when militant extremists get to call the shots. That’s not the future we want for Washington State.

NPI is proud to be part of a broad, diverse, and growing coalition committed to the defeat of Tim Eyman’s I-1366. Every day, more individuals and organizations join our cause. This week, we are happy to welcome the Alzheimers Association, Association of Manufactured Homeowners, Retired Public Employees of Washington, Group Health Cooperative Senior Caucus, and Catholic Community Services of Washington to the NO on I-1366 coalition roster.

If you haven’t pledged to vote NO on I-1366, we invite you to do so today. You can also make a donation online to help us defeat Tim Eyman’s I-1366.

Now is the time for us to come together as a state and reject the politics of hostage-taking. I-1366 needs and deserves our wholehearted opposition.

Metropolitan King County Council appoints Patty Kuderer to the Washington State House

The Metropolitan King County Council voted unanimously today to appoint attorney Patty Kuderer to the Washington State House of Representatives, filling the vacancy created by the departure of Ross Hunter earlier this month.

“I am pleased to vote yes to appoint Ms. Kuderer to fill the vacancy in the 48th District,” said King Council Chair Larry Phillips, noting, “She was the top choice by the King County Democrats PCOs, and is an excellent candidate to fill Representative Hunter’s seat representing our Eastside communities.”

The 48th encompasses neighborhoods from Bellevue, Kirkland, and Redmond, as well as the cities of Hunts Point, Yarrow Point, Medina, and Clyde Hill. NPI’s Redmond headquarters are located in the district.

“I am so grateful for the support from the 48th District Democratic organization and honored to be appointed to this seat,” Kuderer said. “I will continue Rep. Hunter’s work championing our public schools while relying on my legal background to work on judiciary issues. I look forward to getting to work in Olympia.”

Kuderer has many years of experience as an attorney. She is currently the President of Kuderer Law Group, PLLC, based in Seattle. Prior to 2012, she was a partner at Hoff, Barry & Kuderer, P.A, based in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, for over eight years. She earned her J.D. from William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Kuderer will serve out nearly all of the remainder of Hunter’s term. A special election to fill Hunter’s seat will take place concurrently with next year’s presidential election. Kuderer is expected to run for a full term next August and November as well.

Having been sworn in following the Council’s vote, Kuderer is now officially a member of the Washington State House of Representatives, serving alongside Joan McBride. Her appointment brings the House Democratic roster back to fifty-one members. She will now need to hire a legislative assistant (LA), and the caucus will need to figure out what her committee assignments will be.

The Council voted to appoint Kuderer after interviewing her and the other two nominees selected by the Democratic PCOs residing in the 48th District, Kim Allen and Santiago Ramos. Allen, the second choice, had previously made clear that she wished for the Council to respect the first choice of the PCOs and appoint Kuderer, who won an outright majority on the very first round of voting on September 16th.

“The 48th District is fortunate to have two strong, progressive Democratic women interested in filling the vacancy left by Representative Ross Hunter,” Allen said in a news release distributed last Friday. (Full disclosure: Kim serves as a member of NPI’s Advisory Council and is a past member of our board of directors.)

“After many years of representing the Eastside locally and regionally as a strong voice for better transit, environmental stewardship and smart growth, I truly believe I am ready to serve the interests of 48th Legislative District in Olympia,” she said.

“But the voting members of the 48th Democratic Legislative District nominated Patty as their first choice to fill this seat. Appointing Ms. Kuderer best honors the choice of those precinct leaders. I stand ready to share my experience and knowledge of what matters to Eastside communities with her and I urge the members of the County Council to confirm Ms. Kuderer.”

“For now, I will remain a fierce advocate for Redmond and all the Eastside communities as we grapple with the challenges our growth will bring.”

Several councilmembers commented prior to the vote that the nominees chosen by the special nominating caucus and ratified by the King County Democrats were one of the most exemplary set of candidates they had ever seen.

All of us at the Northwest Progressive Institute offer our congratulations to Patty Kuderer on her swearing-in. We look forward to working with her to advance a progressive agenda for our great state in 2016 and beyond.

Another crash closes Aurora Bridge in Seattle: Time to put safety first and improve SR 99

Well, it’s happened again:

A multiple vehicle crash Sunday morning that closed all lanes on Aurora Bridge in Seattle was the second crash on the bridge in a week.

Crews were called to the scene around 6:30 AM Sunday to an accident involving three vehicles.

Police say no one was seriously injured in the collision.

The causing driver told officers he fell asleep, police said.

Miraculously, no one was killed in this incident, or even seriously injured. We presume that the occupants of the vehicles involved were wearing seat belts and that the air bags deployed. The Seattle Times reported the head-on collision was caused by the drowsy driver’s vehicle crossing over onto oncoming traffic:

[Seattle police spokeswoman Lauren Lovanhill] said the northbound vehicle on the bridge crossed over the center line and collided with one traveling southbound. The driver told police investigating the accident that he fell asleep. She said both cars were newer models and the front ends crumpled, absorbing the impacts of the crash.

I don’t use the Aurora Avenue Bridge on a regular basis. But the times I have driven it, I’ve always felt uncomfortable doing so. In the bridge’s current configuration, six lanes for vehicle traffic are crammed onto the deck, and there is no median or cable in the middle. Some vehicles are too wide to safely fit into the narrow lanes.

Ten years ago, when this organization was campaigning for the defeat of John Carlson and Kirby Wilbur’s I-912, our campaign mantra was “Safety First”. The 2005 Transportation Package passed by the Legislature included funding for a long list of projects to improve highway safety in every region of the state.

Unfortunately, the Aurora Avenue Bridge was not among the facilities designated to receive safety improvements in that package. Nor is it slated to receive funding from this year’s statewide transportation package or the Let’s Move Seattle levy.

This week’s crashes have demonstrated we just can’t afford to postpone reconfiguring the Aurora Avenue Bridge any longer. The bridge needs a safety median in the middle, given that it carries a state highway with traffic moving at higher speeds, as opposed to a typical street. In addition, the highway should probably be reduced from six lanes to four. That would leave room for the median and allow the remaining lanes to be widened to a standard width.

This work won’t come cheap. But it should be undertaken as soon as can be arranged, to improve the safety of everyone using the bridge. As we said during the NO on I-912 campaign ten years ago, we simply must put safety first.

Washington State’s Machinists take position opposing CarbonWA’s I-732

A couple weeks ago, our President, Robert Cruickshank, wrote a lengthy blog post explaining why NPI cannot support CarbonWA’s I-732, a statewide initiative sponsored by economist Yoram Bauman that attempts to create a new tax on carbon dioxide emissions and use the revenue to lower other taxes.

This past weekend, the Washington Council of Machinists, which represents fifty thousand aerospace workers in the Evergreen State, also came to the conclusion that I-732 is fatally flawed, for many of the same reasons. They voted to adopt the following resolution in opposition to CarbonWA’s I-732:

WHEREAS Initiative 732 is a ballot measure creating a new tax on carbon that purports to be a “revenue neutral” by lowering other taxes; and

WHEREAS I-732’s approach – which is intended to appeal to conservatives – ignores the fact that simply making it more expensive to pollute will not magically build the infrastructure necessary to convert to a clean-energy economy that allows people to live more sustainably; and

WHEREAS I-732 ignores the revenue crisis the State of Washington with chronic underfunding of public schools, universities, transportation and other critical services that citizens want and need to maintain our quality of life; and

WHEREAS I-732 ignores the disproportionate negative consequences of climate change on communities of color and low-income communities; and

WHEREAS polls already show that I-732 is doomed to failure if it reaches the ballot; and

WHEREAS I-732 sponsor and Carbon Washington founder Yoram Bauman engages in divisive partisan rhetoric, recently telling The New York Times, “I am increasingly convinced that the path to climate action is through the Republican Party… The Left (has) an unyielding desire to tie everything to bigger government and a willingness to use race and class as political weapons to pursue that desire;” and

WHEREAS the urgency of climate change – as Washington is already experiencing the devastating impacts through wildfires and droughts – demands unity and collaboration, not the partisan bickering associated with I-732; and

WHEREAS the Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy, a broad coalition that brings together organized labor, environmental and business interests, community groups and other constituencies, opposes I-732. Instead, the Alliance is supporting solutions that – unlike I-732 — recognize:

  1. The cost of carbon emissions to our economy and communities, particular communities of color and those with low incomes that are currently disproportionately harmed by pollution,
  2. The need for a “Just Transition” to a clean economy that protects working families whose livelihoods depend on the fossil-fuel and carbon-producing industries, and
  3. The importance of creating good family-wage jobs in the new clean-energy economy.

WHEREAS the Alliance is on the cusp of deciding whether to introduce its own ballot measure in 2016 that addresses climate change and carbon reduction in a way that acknowledges and addresses the above-mentioned concerns;

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Washington Machinists Council go on record as formally opposing Initiative 732, and will communicate that opposition to all of its members.

We are among those members of the Alliance who strongly favor committing to the development of a cap-and-trade based initiative, which would be finalized in January or February of next year as an initiative to the people for 2016.

If the initiative were filed in early January, as soon as the filing period opens, it could be finalized within the span of a few weeks, allowing signature gathering to begin in the wintertime and continuing through the Fourth of July weekend.

(Conveniently, the deadline to submit petitions for initiatives to the people falls on an unusually late date next year… July 8th, 2016.)

It makes sense for the Alliance to put a refined version of the plan offered by Governor Jay Inslee on the ballot for 2016. We know Senate Republicans aren’t going to suddenly come around and provide the votes to pass a bill in the Legislature. At least through 2016, they have control of the Senate.

For legislative action to be possible in 2017, Democrats would have to win majorities in both houses of the Legislature, which won’t be easy.

Republicans have all but given up on seriously contesting Washington’s statewide elected positions, and are focusing on legislative races.

Since 2006, they’ve whittled the Democratic majority in the House down to two seats, and taken over the Senate thanks to ex-Democrats Rodney Tom and Tim Sheldon, who crossed over in order to seize power.

The prudent course of action for the Alliance is thus to go to the ballot in 2016.

Next year is a presidential election year; the electorate will be larger and more progressive than it has been since 2012, or will be again until 2020. It is the perfect time to give the people of Washington State the chance to vote on a sound approach to fighting the climate crisis.

More than a century ago, progressives created the initiative process to allow the people to propose laws directly. The initiative process provides a way for the people to bypass a gridlocked Legislature. And right now, due to the Senate being controlled by Republicans, we have a gridlocked Legislature.

Last year, Democrats made recapturing the Senate their top priority in the 2014 midterms. It didn’t happen, and as a consequence, Governor Jay Inslee will have been deprived of a cooperative Legislature for the entirety of his first term.

There is simply no guarantee that Inslee will be reelected next year with friendly Democratic majorities in both houses. Even if it does happen, there’s still no guarantee there would be fifty votes in the House and twenty-five in the Senate for a strong bill. The soonest that legislative action to address the climate crisis could conceivably happen is in the spring of 2017… and that’s if the stars align, a big if.

On the other hand, if the Alliance qualifies an initiative to the ballot for 2016 and it passes, it would take effect in December of 2016. The Legislature would not be able to overturn it or amend it for two years without a two-thirds vote. In the event Democrats do have a good 2016, they could spend the 2017 session working on follow-up legislation, buoyed by the momentum created by the people’s action.

There is always risk involved in going to the ballot. Initiative campaigns require significant investments of time, talent, and treasure. Success is not guaranteed.

But there’s no reward without risk.

I-732’s backers took a risk. They are passionate and action-oriented, which always counts for something, but unfortunately, the proposal they’ve committed themselves to is fatally flawed. Their campaign is partly based on the premise that I-732 is an initiative that can appeal to conservative voters. But research conducted by the Alliance shows conservative voters are opposed to I-732. Meanwhile, I-732’s backers have managed to alienate progressives with comments like these:

“I am increasingly convinced that the path to climate action is through the Republican Party… The Left (has) an unyielding desire to tie everything to bigger government and a willingness to use race and class as political weapons to pursue that desire.”

I-732 sponsor Yoram Bauman, speaking to The New York Times

In football/soccer terminology, these comments (and CarbonWA’s political strategy) amount to an own goal… which is hardly helpful.

Washington’s progressive movement needs a pollution accountability initiative it can unite around, drafted using an open source style development model, so that the initiative can be refined and polished prior to being finalized.

We believe we can’t afford to wait to combat our worsening pollution problems. And given that I-732 is fatally flawed, it’s an exercise in futility. That’s why we urge the Alliance to commit itself to a 2016 initiative campaign without delay.

Tim Eyman hides from the public as NO on I-1366 coalition continues to ramp up

The most dangerous place in Washington State is no longer between Tim Eyman and a television camera, it seems.

The notoriously brash initiative profiteer, who has in previous years been so eager to get on TV that he has crashed opponents’ press conferences, has suddenly become camera-shy, and is choosing to fire off email missives from home rather than appear in public, where he might be asked uncomfortable questions.

On Monday, as readers of the Cascadia Advocate know, PDC staff released a report concluding that Tim Eyman broke Washington’s public disclosure law again three years ago when he qualified I-517 to the ballot with a stealth signature drive.

Eyman was invited to appear at the Public Disclosure Commission’s meeting yesterday to speak in his defense, but neither he nor his lawyer showed. The PDC voted unanimously to refer the cases against him to Attorney General Bob Ferguson for prosecution, and also asked Ferguson to widen the scope of the investigation.

Then today, for the second week in a row, Eyman was a no-show at the studios of KING5 Television for a scheduled debate on Initiative 1366 with Fuse founder Aaron Ostrom (Fuse, like NPI, belongs to the coalition that is working to defeat I-1366, Tim Eyman’s most destructive initiative ever).

Apparently, Eyman’s been getting a case of the cold feet. What else could explain his decision to blow off KING5 and Ostrom not once, but twice?

Though it seems unlikely Eyman will ever show up to debate I-1366 with Ostrom, the Fuse founder is calling on Eyman to reschedule anyway.

“The voters of Washington deserve to have an open and honest debate about the merits of Initiative 1366,” Ostrom said in a statement released by Fuse.

“This measure would lock in place our upside down tax system and make it impossible to close tax loopholes to fund our schools. I challenge Eyman to come out of hiding and show up for a televised debate next week so that voters can make an educated and informed decision about how to vote on I-1366.”

“Tim Eyman has illegally filled his wallet by promoting initiatives with bombastic statements and outrageous press stunts. Suddenly, he’s avoiding the press and refusing to defend himself or his latest self-serving initiative, 1366. With only three weeks left until voting begins, Eyman is in hiding and knows he’s in deep legal trouble that could finally end his million-dollar initiative business.”

Eyman also declined to talk to our region’s TV stations earlier this week after the PDC’s report was released. He has said nothing himself about the findings, not even by email, though his lawyer Mark Lamb, who is himself no stranger to controversy, has released multiple statements on Eyman’s behalf (also by email).

Eyman may be out of action, but we are rolling full steam ahead with our efforts to defeat I-1366, in partnership with a long list of allies that includes Democrats and Republicans. Our aim is to bring together as many Washingtonians as possible to stand together to reject the politics of hostage-taking.

NO on I-1366 now has a staff of three to facilitate this important work, led by campaign manager Neil Beaver. The coalition continues to enthusiastically welcome individuals and organizations to its roster on a daily basis.

We at NPI would like to extend our thanks to the Faith Action Network, AFT Washington, Community Health Network of Washington, Children’s Alliance, State Senator Andy Billig, and State Representative Marcus Riccelli for recently joining NO on I-1366. We’re glad to have them all aboard.

If you would like to help defeat I-1366, you can make a contribution online, or pledge to vote no at the coalition’s website. We’ve only got a few weeks left to finish pulling this campaign together, so any help you can provide now is greatly appreciated. Let’s keep them momentum building!

POSTSCRIPT: Eyman told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer he’s trying to reschedule with KING5, and send Pam Roach in his place, because the station refuses to guarantee that it wouldn’t ask questions about Eyman’s problems with the PDC.

KING5 also has a story up about Eyman’s refusal to debate.

John Boehner to resign as Speaker and as U.S. Representative at the end of October

Top Republican John Boehner shocked Capitol Hill and America’s political establishment this morning by announcing that he plans to resign the speakership and his position in the House of Representatives as of October 30th, 2015.

“The first job of any Speaker is to protect this institution that we all love,” said Boehner in an official statement released by his office. “It was my plan to only serve as Speaker until the end of last year, but I stayed on to provide continuity to the Republican Conference and the House.  It is my view, however, that prolonged leadership turmoil would do irreparable damage to the institution.”

“To that end, I will resign the Speakership and my seat in Congress on October 30.”

“Today, my heart is full with gratitude for my family, my colleagues, and the people of Ohio’s Eighth District.  God bless this great country that has given me – the son of a bar owner from Cincinnati – the chance to serve.”

President Barack Obama has not yet reacted to Boehner’s decision to quit. But Democratic Leaders Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid (who is himself retiring) have.

“By ousting a good man like Speaker Boehner — someone who understood the art of compromise — the party of Eisenhower and Reagan is no more,” tweeted Reid, adding: “I wasn’t always happy with what Speaker Boehner told me, but he never, ever misled me. He never told me something that wasn’t true.”

Many Democrats would take issue with the characterization of Boehner as “a good man”, but, all things being relative, Boehner certainly seems well-grounded and reasonable compared to some of the rank-and-file in his caucus. They have long wanted Boehner gone. Now, they are getting their wish.

However, a day may come when they regret pushing him out.

Nancy Pelosi was more blunt, telling reporters, that the “resignation of the Speaker is a stark indication of the disarray of the House Republicans.”

Pelosi knows what it’s like to be in the hot seat. She became the first woman speaker in history in early 2007, and was memorably handed the gavel by John Boehner in January 2007. She had to give it back to Boehner four years later.

But despite losing the majority in the 2010 midterms, Pelosi stayed on as Democratic Leader, and ignored calls for her to step down. She resumed the role of House Minority Leader, which she held during most of the Bush years, and has since won plaudits for holding her caucus together. When she declared earlier this year that House Democrats would sustain President Obama’s veto to uphold the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran, reporters and political observers had no reason to doubt that she could not deliver on her guarantee.

Nancy Pelosi has survived some pretty tough losses. But she’s still around and still an effective legislator, despite not being speaker. John Boehner, on the other hand, couldn’t survive winning. His caucus got bigger in last year’s midterms, but that only created fresh problems for him. Apparently, he had intended to hand things over to Eric Cantor before the current Congress got going, but when Cantor was unexpectedly defeated in the Republican primary, those plans changed.

Boehner may wish for people to think he is leaving of his own accord and on his own terms, but the reality is, he’s being forced out. His own party is dumping him because he isn’t extreme and militant enough. That’s downright scary.

Arizona Senator John McCain, one of the GOP’s elder statesmen, gets it. Asked to react to Boehner’s resignation and the consequences for the House Republican caucus, he told the New York Times: “It means that it’s in disarray,.. Basically, he has been unseated. And that’s not good for the Republican Party.”

Boehner supporter Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania was even more explicit than that:

The dynamics are this: There are anywhere from two to four dozen members who don’t have an affirmative sense of governance. They can’t get to yes. They just can’t get to yes, and so they undermine the ability of the speaker to lead. And not only do they undermine the ability of the speaker to lead, but they undermine the entire Republican conference and also help to weaken the institution of Congress itself. That’s the reality. Now, if we have a new speaker, is there going to be an epiphany? They won’t be happy if it’s Paul Ryan or Kevin McCarthy, who will have to make accommodations with a Democratic president and the Senate constituted the way it is.

Dent predicted that “this will not be easier for the next guy”.

Boehner had been due to give a press conference to explain his decision to resign, but that was scrapped, and his office settled for a statement instead.

Boehner, unshackled from needing to worry about the security of his position, is reportedly going to throw his weight behind a clean continuing resolution to keep the federal government open in the short-term. After he leaves, of course, the federal budget isn’t something he’ll have to worry about anymore.

How to meet Washington’s paramount duty and end the K-12 funding standoff

Today Governor Jay Inslee convenes the first meeting of his legislative workgroup in SeaTac to tackle the issue of how to meet the state Supreme Court’s order to fully fund K-12 public schools. It’s good that they’re getting down to work, but we shouldn’t expect a quick resolution.

The Washington Legislature is deadlocked over the question of not only how to meet the Supreme Court’s McCleary decision – some Republicans are even suggesting the legislature should not attempt to try. It’s an impasse that wasn’t broken during three special sessions in the spring. Calling a new special session is necessary but in itself it won’t produce change – not until the people of the Evergreen State mobilize and force a solution onto the legislature.

In order to break the stalemate, we must first understand the reasons why it exists, and then build a strategy around those facts. What we’re seeing in Olympia is the same phenomenon operating in Washington, D.C. – Democrats and Republicans have fundamentally different and nearly unbridgeable differences about how to educate our children, including how to pay for it.

Let’s take a closer look at the situation, starting with the Republicans.

Do Republicans even want to solve the problem?

The primary obstacle to meeting the McCleary mandate is the Washington State Republican Party. Though they differ on how to handle the Supreme Court’s order requiring the legislature to fully fund K-12 public schools, they do agree that the state should not raise any new revenues to fully fund K-12 public schools, and have spent decades fighting against efforts to do so.

Republicans control the State Senate, and most of them have denounced the State Supreme Court for their recent order fining the legislature $100,000 per day until they comply with the McCleary decision, claiming it is “unconstitutional.” Several Republicans have even called for impeaching the Supreme Court over the issue.

Not every Republican in the State Senate signed that letter of denunciation. A few Eastside Republicans, like Joe Fain, Andy Hill, and Steve Litzow pointedly left their names off the letter. But that doesn’t mean those particular Republicans, all vulnerable to Democratic challengers in their districts that lean blue, are willing to raise the $3.5 billion in funds needed to meet the minimum McCleary mandate.

After all, the root of the state’s education funding woes lies in tax cuts delivered in the 1990s by Republican legislators, along with a few conservative Democrats. The 1997 bill to exempt “intangible property” from taxation took billions of dollars a year from schools in order to benefit companies like Microsoft.

Republicans prefer a solution known as the “levy swap.” The idea here would be that the state raises its property tax in exchange for getting rid of local levies. In practice this would be a massive property tax increase in cities like Seattle while cutting property taxes in a place like Puyallup. However, this would also leave Seattle schools with less money. While there does need to be an end to local districts having to use levies to pay for basic education services, this levy swap is a terrible solution for our schools and kids.

Republicans will not come around simply by trying to convince them our arguments are correct. That’s now how the modern Republican Party works. If you look at how they operate in Congress, or the “clown car” that is the Republican presidential candidate field, you’ll see that this is a party that is driven by the right-wing extremists and wealthy interests. Any Republican who votes to raise taxes will face the loss of campaign funding, will likely face a challenger from the right, and will likely see the end of their political careers. Today’s Republican Party is structured to be as extreme as possible, and they have shown they will punish those party members who stray from their orthodoxy.

Further, Washington Republicans believe they will take total control of the state legislature, and perhaps even the governor’s office, in 2016, making it unnecessary for them to reach an agreement now. They will stall as long as they can, believing that any delay or standoff makes Democrats look bad, rather than undermining their own cause.

As we’ll note below, however, they are still vulnerable to massive and sustained public pressure, which so far they have not had to face.

A deal may be possible, but at what price?

It is possible that some Senate Republicans could be convinced to support a capital gains tax or some other method to add new funds to our public schools. But in return, they would almost certainly demand Democrats agree to numerous policy changes that they have so far resisted. Jordan Schrader of the Tacoma News Tribune has some insight as to what Republicans are likely to demand:

[State Sen. Doug] Ericksen said he wants the group to talk about how to “fundamentally restructure many of the elements of education,” restricting local collective bargaining, rethinking layers of administration and perhaps even following Nevada’s lead by offering more school choice. Nevada lets parents use public money for private schools or other educational alternatives.

He said the state needs to make changes that will improve test scores and disagrees that $3.5 billion is needed. “The easy narrative for people to talk about is, of course, hey, we need more money,” Ericksen said. “I think it goes much deeper than that.”

Many of these policies are popular with the right and with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Sen. Ericksen has ties to ALEC, so this should come as no surprise.

What exactly will Republicans demand? Let’s take a closer look:

• “restricting local collective bargaining” – This would likely eliminate the ability of teachers to bargain with local school districts, instead imposing a single statewide contract. It could also mean preventing teachers from bargaining anything other than wages or benefits. Indiana recently passed such a law, which had it existed in Washington State, would have prevented Seattle teachers from bargaining over things like more recess time and less standardized testing. This would be a big blow to local control over schools, ignoring variations in cost of living and parental preferences about how their kids should be taught.

• “rethinking layers of administration” – This appears to refer to changes in school governance. Earlier this year several proposals were floated in the state legislature to either allow mayoral appointments of Seattle school board members, or cut the Seattle school district in half. This could also be a reference to state takeovers of schools, or a state-created school district like Tennessee’s controversial Achievement School District.

• “offering more school choice” – This is partly about charter schools, as most Republicans oppose the Supreme Court’s recent decision that found Initiative 1240 to be unconstitutional. They want to find a way for charter schools to continue receiving public funds. But Sen. Ericksen is also referring to voucher programs, which parents could use at other private schools and at religious schools. It’s hard to see how any such plan would pass muster at the Supreme Court, and Washington voters have opposed vouchers in the past, but Republicans seem intent on making it part of the negotiations.

One other policy change that Republicans could demand is a bill tying teacher evaluations to student test scores. Although Washington parents oppose this, as it has the effect of turning the classroom into test prep, Senate Republicans have tried to get the House Democrats to agree to the bill with little success. They might use it as leverage for reaching a deal on K-12 funding.

Will the Democrats unite around progressive revenues?

Republicans narrowly control the State Senate, but Democrats narrowly hold the State House and, of course, the governor’s office. Their role here will be decisive, but it remains to be seen whether Democrats will step up and make fully funding Washington’s paramount duty their reason for being.

Republicans like to score points by pointing out that Democrats had sole control of state government during the Gregoire years and yet failed to properly fund K-12 schools. Democrats did miss that opportunity, and Gregoire surely bears a lot of responsibility for the current crisis.

But Republicans neglect to mention that if they had been in power, they would have made matters even worse. Their candidate for governor in 2004 and 2008, Dino Rossi, pledged to cut taxes and cap spending which would have forced huge cuts to public school budgets.

Because so many Republicans are opposed to taking action, it falls to Democrats to step up and lead the effort within the legislature to raise the revenue needed. Governor Inslee and House Democrats have both proposed a capital gains tax on the wealthiest Washingtonians to help meet the Supreme Court order. House Democrats later dropped the capital gains tax, at least temporarily, in order to reach a deal with Republicans to get a budget done, but both they and the governor remain on record in support of a capital gains tax.

Seattle Democrats have called for $3.5 billion in new revenue but stopped short of endorsing any one particular funding solution, instead saying “there is no single magic bullet.”

Other Democrats in more vulnerable seats have been hesitant to make a full-throated case for meeting Washington’s paramount duty, afraid of a backlash to new taxes. Recent electoral losses have left some Democrats scared and hesitant. But doing so is the best way for them to secure their own political futures, as well as doing what is right for our kids.

So given the underlying reasons for the impasse, how can parents and community activists in Washington State take action to make sure our schools are fully funded? Here are some ideas:

Stop Tim Eyman. Right-wing initiative proponent Tim Eyman has an awful new initiative on the November 2015 ballot, Initiative 1366. If it passes, it will cut $1 billion in funding from our schools. The legislature could only restore that money by agreeing to write a rule requiring a 2/3 vote for any tax increase into the state constitution. Doing so would give the far right a veto over any new revenue and make it impossible to ever fully fund our schools. Worse, if I-1366 passes, legislators might take it as a sign that voters don’t want new taxes. But if we defeat it, we show the legislature that voters are tired of anti-tax rhetoric undermining our schools.

Stopping Tim Eyman and defeating I-1366 is essential to meeting the McCleary mandate. We need to get Democrats in Seattle and King County to flock to the polls and make sure this goes down to defeat.

Organize in support of specific solutions – like a capital gains tax. It’s not enough for a special session to be called, because under current circumstances it’ll just be a prolonged standoff. We must organize around specific solutions and fight hard for them to be adopted – otherwise we’ll just see the legislature spin their wheels.

In fact, if our sole demand to the legislature is “make a deal” then we might get something worse: Republicans agree to a revenue deal but attach awful policy changes that make education worse, such as school vouchers or tying teacher evaluations to test scores.

A capital gains tax on the wealthiest Washingtonians is one obvious solution. It not only has the support of Governor Inslee and most Democrats, it also has strong support around the state. Even the notoriously anti-tax Seattle Times endorsed it as the “best option to fund education.”

As the Washington State Budget and Policy Center has shown, the capital gains tax plan would raise much of the revenue needed to meet the remaining McCleary obligation and do so in a sustainable way. It will have to be a central part of any solution.

Another possible option is reversing the 1997 bill that exempted “intangible property” from the state’s tax code. Closing this corporate tax loophole would create as much as $4 billion a year in new funds for schools.

Rally the suburbs. The key legislators to swing to support new revenue without attaching policy changes are all from the King County suburbs, including Republicans. As described above, Republicans in particular face numerous political obstacles to supporting the necessary new revenues even if they personally wanted to do so. But the one thing that can overcome those obstacles is pressure from the public. Even if and when Seattle legislators take the lead on pushing for a solution, it will take suburban votes to pass any plan. Those legislators need to know that their constituents demand a solution that includes new revenues, without making those revenues conditional on unwanted policy changes.

Support Carol Gregory in the 30th Legislative District. Speaking of suburban legislators, a crucial race for the State House is happening in Federal Way this fall. Democrat and Federal Way school board member Carol Gregory was appointed to fill a vacancy last December, and is now defending that seat in a special election against Republican Teri Hickel. Gregory supports a capital gains tax, which Hickel opposes.

If the Republican wins, it will become much more difficult to convince legislators to raise the necessary revenues to fulfill the Supreme Court’s McCleary order.

In order to fulfill Washington’s paramount duty, we need to change the political landscape that created this crisis in the first place. The fight over education funding is how we make that change happen.

Déjà vu: Unmasking of Tim Eyman’s deceptions leads to media field day

Yesterday, September 21st, 2015, felt a lot like February 5th, 2002. That was the day that people all over Washington State woke up to the news that Tim Eyman had confessed to taking over a hundred and fifty thousand dollars of campaign funds for his own personal use while falsely claiming he was working as a volunteer.

The story had been broken the night before by The Associated Press’ Dave Ammons, who now works for Secretary of State Kim Wyman. Ammons was telephoned by Eyman two days after the Seattle Post-Intelligencer published a story by reporter Neil Modie which questioned Eyman’s suspicious payments to himself.

The story Ammons subsequently put out on the wire was a doozy, chock full of quotes from Eyman that revealed his true sleazy character. In one fell swoop, Eyman admitted to deceiving the press, the public, his followers, and even his own co-sponsors, Jack and Mike Fagan and Monte Benham. Here’s a selection:

  • “The fact is, it is true that I made money in past campaigns and planned to make money on future campaigns… I want to continue to advocate issues and I want to make a lot of money doing it.”
  • “The Permanent Offense Inc. organization was set up to have a way to cover the fact that I was making money sponsoring initiatives, and none of my co-sponsors knew that was the case.”
  • “I was in lie mode… I became riddled with guilt. It was the biggest lie of my life and it was over the stupidest thing in the world. The biggest thing I’m guiltiest of is an enormous ego. Hubris.”
  • “This entire charade was set up so I could maintain a moral superiority over our opposition, so I could say our opponents make money from politics and I don’t… It was addictive. I was getting deeper and deeper and deeper into this charade. I thought I found a way to make money off our initiatives without our opponents knowing it, or knowing it for sure. I was too clever by half. I just got deeper and deeper into this lie.”

The next day, the story was carried in the papers:

Tim Eyman: I took money, lied about it

Eyman admits to lying (Seattle P-I)

Thirteen and a half years have gone by since, but Eyman’s behavior has not changed. The Public Disclosure Commission’s investigation into his I-517 finances runs two hundred and forty-four pages, and the included documentation confirms what we have long suspected: Eyman flouted Washington’s public disclosure law by illegally using dark money to qualify Initiative 517.

What’s truly fascinating are the transcripts of the interviews conducted by PDC staff with Eyman and his associate Eddie Agazarm. These interviews detail the extent to which Eyman made unwritten side deals with his associates that his other associates were apparently unaware of. It’s quite the tangled web.

The following exchange, in particular, is very revealing. It’s an excerpt from an interview between PDC staff and Eddie Agazarm, who owned the old Citizen Solutions along with Roy Ruffino. (Citizen Solutions was dissolved and reformed as an LLC a few years ago.) In the interview, Agazarm claims that Ruffino was not enamored with I-517, Agazarm and Eyman’s initiative on initiatives, which NPI fought and defeated two years ago with a diverse, bipartisan coalition.

Eddie Agazarm: [Tim] was angling to get paid earlier, right there in that letter.

(Discussing nature of “partnership” described in July 8, 2012 email exchange)

Eddie Agazarm: Tim and I and William and Roy and I had discussed at one time, Tim becoming a partner in Citizen Solutions. But that’s been, probably for that reason, never discussed again.

PDC’s Phil Stutzman: What do you think [Paul Jacob was expecting a payment from Tim] for?

Eddie Agazarm: Maybe for consulting.

(Discussing the “something” Tim was working on with Paul Jacob that could result in some national recognition.)

Eddie Agazarm: I would think it would be 517, but I cannot say that on firsthand knowledge. So I’m speculating that it was 517, but it could also be other things.

PDC’s Tony Perkins: What would they be working on together that Tim would be reluctant to explain to Roy Ruffino?

Eddie Agazarm: 517.

PDC’s Tony Perkins: Why would he be reluctant to explain that?

Eddie Agazarm: Roy doesn’t have anything to do with 517. Roy didn’t like 517. If Tim wanted to get paid to hurry up and help 517, or anything to do with 517, Roy wouldn’t… Roy was like, “no on 517” the whole time.

The above on-the-record interview took place on November 8th, 2013 (which was after I-517 had been defeated), according to the transcript of the conversation.

Here’s a rundown of the players involved in the I-517 signature drive:

  • I-517 was a project of Eddie Agazarm, Tim Eyman, and Paul Jacob. Jack Fagan was also involved, as he filed paperwork for the initiative campaign committee with the Public Disclosure Commission.
  • Eddie came up with the idea for I-517 during the planning for I-1185 and involved Tim in it. However, Eddie’s longtime partner at Citizen Solutions, Roy Ruffino, was mostly left out of the loop as he wasn’t enamored with I-517.
  • Eyman was paid $308,000 by Citizen Solutions during the summer of 2012, ostensibly as a consulting fee. This was just the latest in a series of kickback payments made to Eyman by Citizen Solutions. The Fagans were apparently not aware of these payments or Eyman’s ongoing “consulting” arrangement.
  • Eyman subsequently loaned some of his I-1185 kickback money to his friend Paul Jacob, who then donated a nearly identical sum to the I-517 campaign committee through his Citizens in Charge organization.
  • Eyman did not tell Agazarm about the loan to Jacob, and Eyman claims he didn’t know what Jacob did with the money after he loaned it. The zero-interest loan was not formalized with a written agreement, and Eyman told the PDC during his deposition he could not recall exactly how much of it had been paid back. The PDC subpoenaed his bank records to find out.
  • Eyman, Agazarm, and Jacob later appeared together in Olympia in January of 2013 at the Secretary of State’s Elections Annex to submit signatures for I-517 and speak to the media. I was present at this press conference.
  • Eyman and Ruffino retained the services of the very same lawyer, Mark Lamb, to represent them while answering questions from the PDC on July 11th, 2014. The preceding November, Eddie Agazarm evidently came in without being accompanied by legal counsel.

Many people try to make a habit of learning from their mistakes. Tim Eyman clearly doesn’t. He has chosen, over and over and over again, to make his PDC reporting as convoluted and confusing as possible, to frustrate those of us who are trying to track his initiative factory. He deliberately chose to conceal money during the I-517 signature drive. He has himself to thank for the trouble he’s in.

The PDC’s release of its findings yesterday led to a media field day. KING5 made the completion of the investigation its top story on the 5 PM evening news broadcast, running not one, but two segments by Natalie Brand and Elisa Hahn.

KING5: Eyman Personally Benefited From Campaign Funds

(In the thumbnail above, Paul Jacob can be seen standing behind Eyman.)

KIRO ran its own story at 11 PM, which hasn’t been posted to the Web.

Every major newspaper in the state ran the story too, from The Seattle Times to the Spokesman-Review to The News Tribune of Tacoma and The Herald of Everett.

The Times Company’s Walla-Walla Union Bulletin picked up the Times story, while The Olympian and The Bellingham Herald carried The News Tribune’s story (all three papers are owned by McClatchy).

Even more papers carried an Associated Press wire version of The News Tribune’s story, like the Yakima Herald, Longview Daily News, Tri-City Herald, and The Columbian. Broadcast outlets also had the AP version, from KCPQ to KXLY.

The Puget Sound Business Journal felt it merited a blog post.

Public radio’s Austin Jenkins filed a report for WSU’s NW News Network, which was also carried by Oregon Public Broadcasting.

Online-only publications, from the Seattle P-I to Crosscut, had the news as well.

Here’s a look at some of the above-the-fold headlines in this morning’s papers:

The Olympian: Eyman used I-1185 funds personally

Seattle Times: Eyman received secret payments, PDC says

The News Tribune: Eyman used I-1185 funds for "living expenses"

Finally…. finally! Tim Eyman’s past misdeeds are catching up to him.

Eyman’s attorney says Eyman will not be attending this Thursday’s enforcement hearing at Public Disclosure Commission headquarters in Olympia. But we will.

PDC staff are recommending that the Commission vote to refer the linked cases concerning Eyman’s extremely serious public disclosure law violations to Attorney General Bob Ferguson for prosecution. The Commission may vote to refer the matter to Ferguson on Thursday after hearing the staff report.

Emerald City teachers overwhelmingly ratify new contract with Seattle Public Schools

Teachers in Seattle have voted overwhelmingly to approve a new contract with Seattle Public Schools, which means classes will be held as scheduled tomorrow and in the months beyond, the Seattle Education Association announced tonight.

The agreement had three components. All were ratified with large margins.

“Today was a great day for unity in Seattle on behalf of Seattle’s school children.  SEA’s members have redefined what it means to advocate for children. We have powerful, unified, resolute members who will take their passion for doing what is right for children to Olympia,” said Jonathan Knapp, SEA president.

“From day one of this bargain, it’s been about putting our students first,” said Michael Tamayo, an elementary teacher and member of the SEA Bargaining Team.

“We got many new things in our contract that will benefit students,” said Shelly Hurley, a special education teacher and member of the SEA Bargaining Team.

According to a press release sent out by the Washington Education Association and SEA, negotiations with district administrators produced a contract which includes:

  • Guaranteed recess for students
  • Caseload limits
  • Pay raises
  • Racial equity committees at 30 schools
  • Testing reforms and improvements in how teachers are evaluated (test scores will no longer be part of teacher evaluations in Seattle)

The team at NPI congratulates SEA on having successfully bargained for and won a fair contract. The gains secured by SEA will benefit teachers, parents, and students alike over the next three years, as well as the community as a whole.

In going on strike earlier this month, Seattle teachers demonstrated their resolve to fight for better public schools. That’s the kind of courage we’d like to see from all of our state legislators. Too many recent legislative sessions have ended with the adoption of underwhelming, mediocre budgets that have left our chronic school funding crisis unaddressed. Real progress has sadly been rare and elusive.

It’s time the Legislature learned how to become proficient at fulfilling our state’s paramount duty instead of raising procrastination to an art form.

Lawmakers in both houses can expect to be hearing soon from parents in and out of Seattle who have been freshly recruited into activism as a result of the strike. Newly-formed groups like Washington’s Paramount Duty plan to channel their energies into grassroots lobbying now that school has resumed and teachers have won a fair contract. This is exactly what our state needs: more people organizing and mobilizing for progressive change to end our school funding crisis.

President Barack Obama headed here next month to raise money for Patty Murray

President Barack Obama will be returning to the great Pacific Northwest next month to raise money for U.S. Senator Patty Murray and the Washington State Democratic Party, according to an invitation posted by the party.

The invitation reads:

Fundraising luncheon with President Obama and Patty Murray

Tickets start at $250. Tables can be sponsored for $2,500 or $5,000.

Proceeds from the event will benefit Murray Victory, a joint fundraising committee authorized by People for Patty Murray and the Washington State Democrats.

The President’s visit will result in street and highway closures on October 9th, as will Chinese President Xi’s visit next week. It pays to plan ahead, so leave extra time for your commute on the 9th, and possibly also the day before (October 8th).

Typically, when President Obama visits the Seattle area, he flies into Boeing Field, but not always (Paine Field has also been used).

Often, when the President comes out to the Left Coast, he makes stops in other states, so he may also be visiting Oregon and California next month.

The White House has not yet announced the trip, so other details about the President’s itinerary are not yet available. But we wouldn’t be surprised if the President swings by a waterfront mansion for a more intimate fundraising event with major Democratic donors from our region. Whether the White House will schedule any official events is less certain, but we’ll keep you posted.

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