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

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

RE: Advice for Speaker Frank Chopp

Editor's Note: The following is the text of a message I sent to Seattle Times editorial page editor Ryan Blethen earlier today. I'm not expecting a response.

Hi Ryan:

I was reading your editorial directed at Speaker Chopp this morning and wanted to ask you to elaborate on how we can provide a quality education to Washington's youth without Initiative 1098 (which you fiercely opposed) and with Initiative 1053 (which you fiercely supported). In the editorial, you argue:
The region's future also depends on the vitality of four-year colleges and universities. Compare and contrast House and Senate budget proposals for the 2009-2011 biennium. The House was considerably less supportive of four-year schools. A budget reflects priorities of many members, and often, those of the speaker himself.

Consider, the job stirring and creative productivity of just the University of Washington and add in the other four-year schools.

Chopp denies his support for higher ed is flagging and prides himself on helping low-income students go to college. He does do that. But if weak support for four-year schools continues, the quality of higher education will be greatly diminished, a lousy idea for a region that prides itself on its high-tech bona fides and ability to generate jobs for the future.
Initiative 1098 would have strengthened our university system. You opposed it. Initiative 1053 weakens our university system. You supported it.

How can you profess to care about the vitality of our colleges and universities when you are not willing to support their financial well-being?

Connect the dots, Ryan. It just doesn't make sense. Your position — which was regrettably endorsed by voters — is absurd.

When are you going to acknowledge that there's no free lunch? You can't talk about building great public services in tough times, and then turn around and support austerity measures that make it impossible to democratically sustain our public services. A strong common wealth is a requirement for great public services. I've been trying to explain this to Tim Eyman's followers for years.

They just don't get it. And neither do you.

You say, we need a great university system. Fine. Tell me and the rest of your readers how you think we should pay for it. Otherwise, you have no credibility. You're just publishing platitudes. It's easy to say Washington deserves the best. It's an entirely different matter to turn that vision into a reality. Granted, you don't have that responsibility, but you see fit to dispense advice to those who do. Your advice, unfortunately, is worthless. There's no substance in it.

Your editorial page is what needs a reset. You don't stand for anything because what you profess to want is unattainable given your refusal to support or even identify any way to pay for it. You're evidently not embarrassed by this, or you wouldn't publish such lofty editorials. They make me laugh.

If you want to be taken seriously, Ryan, then start coming up with specifics. You think you know how to build a better budget than Speaker Chopp? Then come up with one and publish it in your newspaper!

Define, explicitly, where the cuts should be. Show us what services you're going to get rid of. Show us which ones you're going to keep. Do the math. I'm guessing that when you were in school, your teacher warned you that you needed to show your work to get credit on your assignments and tests.

Well, show us your work. You're suggesting that it's possible to have a great university system under Initiative 1053 and without Initiative 1098, which leads to job creation throughout our region. You suggest the problem is simply with the implementation, not with a lack of resources.

If that's the case, then specify what needs to be done differently. Speak up and spit it out. Don't print nonsense like "Spend less and legislate more toward the middle." That's an utterly meaningless sentence. What is "the middle" and how do we "spend less" without sacrificing quality of life?

It is true that Speaker Chopp wields significant power as Speaker of the House. But he isn't just Speaker because he is an electoral strategist. He is Speaker because he cares about the future of our state, the economic security of Washington's families, and the health and wellness of our most vulnerable. The Speaker knows that somebody has to lead. Somebody has to try and make decisions that result in the greatest possible outcomes for the greatest number of people over the longest run. He's accepted that responsibility because he wants somebody in charge who is going to put together the best results from the worst conditions.

I don't always agree with Speaker Chopp, or concur with the rationale behind every decision that he makes, but what I do know is that he has a zillion times the courage and the class of your editorial page. You should be asking him to advise you on your editorial position instead of lecturing him on how to govern.


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