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.

Monthly Archives: May 2011

Grays Harbor Paper: 1993-2011

Grays Harbor Paper, which has for years supplied the Harbor/100 paper that we at NPI use for our everyday printing needs, announced yesterday that it is shutting its doors permanently and laying off two hundred and forty people in the process.

GHP’s president, Patrick Quigg, released a statement attributing the shutdown to the following major factors:

  • The continued high price of raw materials;
  • Lower than expected sales of high-value products,
  • Accompanying cash flow considerations

“A recent major refinancing effort undertaken by GHP did not materialize,” the statement adds, lamenting the decision to shut down.

“I want to acknowledge the continued support of the stakeholders in our community and the industry, especially our loyal employees, without whom we would not have made it this far,” said Quigg.

GHP’s shutdown will be adversely felt in Grays Harbor and Hoquaim, where it was based. The mill contributed to an estimated eight percent of the City of Hoquiam’s general fund, and was one of the area’s most important employers.

GHP’s sustainable business practices won it numerous accolades over the years, as well as a loyal following. The company summarized the way it did business on its websites and its cartons with a simple, catchy alliteration: People, paper, planet.

As the Associated Press noted in its story about the closure:

Grays Harbor Paper was frequently cited in documentaries, television shows and national conferences about “green” industries that worked. It provided recycled paper to Nike, the City of Seattle, Microsoft, REI, the World Bank and other organizations. In 2009, the Legislature passed a bill requiring several state agencies to use at least 30 percent recycled papers; Grays Harbor Paper won most of those contracts.

Quigg says he is willing to sell GHP’s assets, including the entire plant, to an investor who would be willing to restart operations.

We hope somebody steps forward to revive the company. We’d like to see Grays Harbor Paper endure, and be able to look back at yesterday’s news and say it was only a setback, rather the end, for a great environmentally-focused Washington company and its dedicated employees.

Republican state legislator skipped special session to go on a European cruise

According to a story in The Kitsap Sun, State Representative Jan Angel (R – Port Orchard) was absent for almost the entire special session of the Legislature – because she was on a European cruise.

Angel won the European cruise at a Port Orchard event in November and claims to have consulted with Republican leaders before departing on May 12, after the special session had begun.

According to the right-wing Washington Policy Center, Angel was excused from voting thirty-seven times between May 13 and May 24. Among the votes she missed was one on the operating budget (pretty much the very reason there was a special session) and a vote on funding for Washington State Ferries (which has two docks in Angel’s district serving tens of thousands of her constituents).

“How many times do you ever win something like that?” she asked rhetorically, justifying her absence from the Legislature during the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression.

Noteworthy is the fact that Angel’s hometown paper of record, the very conservative Port Orchard Independent, never reported on the fact that Angel was missing in action for eleven days – although they earlier reported on the “Port Orchard Party” event at which Angel won the European cruise.

To date, the Port Orchard Independent has updated their website with such hard-hitting news as “Breaking News – County wants 10-year-old twins to remove treehouse” – but no news on their favorite state legislator, upon whom they regularly heap fawning praise via both their editorial page and biased news coverage.

Angel has a track record of not being particularly attentive to her constituents:

  • She is among the throng of Republican legislators who had never held a live, in-person legislative town hall forum for her constituents, instead holding ‘virtual town halls’ via telephone – typically for only one hour on a weeknight while her hard-working constituents are either stuck in traffic or having dinner.
  • She limits her ‘public’ appearances to those hosted by conservative groups such as chambers-of-commerce where she can expect softball questions from a friendly audience.
  • She generally keeps her office door in Olympia closed and doesn’t accept visits from constituents unless they’ve been carefully screened.

So how does someone with such a low regard for the very people she represents get re-elected time again?

As a former resident and political activist in Jan Angel’s district, I’ve heard people time and again express an attitude that I call “affirmative action voting” by saying things like:

  • “Our other two members of the Legislature are men, so I figure I should vote for at least one woman.”
  • “Our other two members of the Legislature are are from Pierce County, so I figure I should vote for at least one from Kitsap County.”
  • “Our other two members of the Legislature are Democrats, so I figure I should vote for at least one Republican.”

Perhaps next year, the folks who rationalized voting for Angel will opt to replace her with somebody who is actually interested in public service. Like Angel’s two seatmates. Neither of them missed a single vote in either the regular or special session of the Legislature. Their priority is their constituents. Angel’s priority is… enjoying that European cruise she won.

Here’s another chance to help improve our collective understanding of online activism

Editor’s Note: A few years ago, we asked readers to participate in an online survey to help researchers at the University of Tennessee and Texas Tech University learn more about how Americans use the Internet to obtain political information. The folks who put together that survey are presently conducting a follow-up, and would like NPI readers who are registered to vote in the United States to participate in the new survey.

What follows is a guest post by Professor Barb Kaye of the School of Journalism & Electronic Media at University of Tennessee- Knoxville, explaining why she and colleagues put this project together, and what they hope to learn from it.

There’s no doubt that our role as consumers of news and information is vastly different than it was in the era before the Internet.

We are no longer limited to being consumers – we are now reporters.

The distinctions among sources of news (i.e. mainstream, alternative, user-generated) and types of information (i.e. facts, observation, opinion, commentary, analysis) that may or may not be verified for accuracy is blurred.

Our interest as academic researchers is learn how individuals use online sources, particularly for political information.

Our research differs from many non-academic surveys that simply report how the Internet is used because we attempt to link behavior to communication theory.

We want to know more than what you are doing online – we want to learn why. In what ways are online sources important to you? How have new online sources changed the way you use television and newspapers?

How much do you trust what you find online? How do you know information is believable? What motivates you to click on a link or go to a blog?

How much influence to online sources have on your political attitudes? These are just a few of the questions that you can help us answer.

We feel that our research is important because of the ways that media and media use shape us culturally. We’ve all seen how rapidly we’ve adopted new ways of communicating and how these ways have changed us and our lives on a individual level. By completing our survey, you’ll help us put together a picture of how new online sources have become a daily part of our lives and how they influence us politically.

POSTSCRIPT: Professor Kaye has assured us that all submissions are anonymous and confidential. Any identifying information, such as IP addresses, will be deleted by the research team upon receipt of a submission. So don’t be shy about participating!

Register for NWroots 2011

Shortly before we lost our beloved Lynn Allen to ovarian cancer three months ago, she entrusted us with the responsibility of carrying forward the political and civic causes she was so passionate about. One of those causes was bringing progressive activists together to organize and mobilize for change.

Not long after Lynn and I attended Camp Wellstone together in June of 2005, we started talking about organizing a conference for netroots and grassroots activists. As summer became autumn, and autumn became winter, we began actively working to pull together money and reserve facilities for what became the first NWroots Conference. It was an eye-opening experience for me, because I’d never planned something like it before. Lynn had, and her knowledge and discipline kept us on track as we firmed up all of the details.

Two more NWroots Conferences followed, in February 2007 and June 2008. After 2008, the conference went on hiatus due to the recession and our desire to concentrate our energy and resources on other projects. It was our hope that somebody else would pick up the mantle and bring NWroots back to life.

And fortunately, somebody has. Robert Sargent, who knows me well and knew Lynn well, has stepped forward to organize the fourth NWroots Conference for local writers, readers, activists, elected officials, and progressive candidates. Robert has formed the NWroots Fellowship to organize the event in cooperation with NPI.

NWroots 2011 will be happening on July 9th, 2011, in Pioneer Square. Registration is now open, and is only $50 for activists and $25 for students. Both rates include breakfast and lunch.

(Note that you can also RSVP on Facebook.)

Most sessions will take place at Comedy Underground, which many NPI readers are undoubtedly familiar with. The event’s keynote speaker will be Ujjal Dosanjh, former Premier of British Columbia and former Canadian Health Minister, who will talk about the importance of universal healthcare.

Following his remarks, he’ll take questions from the audience.

In the afternoon, Seattle’s own representative to Congress, Jim McDermott, will address a general session of the conference.

Here’s a quick rundown of some of the breakouts we have planned:

  • Tony Ventrella is putting together a media panel to discuss what on earth happened to journalism.
  • University of Washington graduate Alonso Chehade will talk about the Dream Act and his quest to gain the right to remain and work in the U.S.
  • Recipe for America author Jill Richardson will host sessions on our messed up food system, and Monsanto’s worldwide influence on agriculture.
  • Bev Harris, who has fought to end black box voting for years, will lead a session on the perils and inherent flaws with electronic voting.
  • Karen Pooley is going to tackle the ongoing mortgage crisis.

Plus, there will be documentaries to screen, a candidates’ social, and an after-party.

Planning an event like this is no easy undertaking… we know from experience. That’s why we urge you to register today. If you cannot attend, but can afford a contribution of any amount, that would be greatly appreciated. Any money left over after expenses will be donated to NPI.

If you have any suggestions, or would like to make a presentation or lead a panel discussion, please contact Robert. The agenda is by no means finalized, and if you’d like to participate as a speaker, we’d love to have you.

Again, registration is just $50 ($25 for students). Register today and let us know that you’re coming to NWroots 2011!

Mercenary petitioners hawking Tim Eyman’s l-1125 target Bellevue College students

Though it’s not apparent from looking at Voters Want More Choices’ most recent reports to the Public Disclosure Commission (PDC), NPI can today confirm what we have suspected since the beginning of the month: Tim Eyman has found a new wealthy benefactor to put up the money for his latest scheme, Initiative 1125, which he announced he was running only eighteen days ago.

We won’t know who is bankrolling I-1125 until June 10th at the earliest (which is when Eyman is required to file his May reports).

But we do know the money spigot has been turned on and that it’s being used to deploy mercenary petitioners across Washington State.

Yesterday, we received multiple reports from activists who had sighted signature gatherers operating at big box store, including Wal-Mart. One activist told us that petitions for multiple measures were being carried.

And this morning, I found myself being asked to sign Tim Eyman’s I-1125 on my way to class as I walked through campus. Pretty ironic, huh?

Petitions for I-1125

Three petitions for Tim Eyman's Initiative 1125 (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

It seems that two mercenaries decided that a good place to collect signatures would be at the heart of the main campus at Bellevue College, which has been negatively impacted by past Tim Eyman initiatives and stands to lose even more if Eyman’s undemocratic I-1053 remains in effect.

With an annual student population of 38,000, Bellevue College is the second largest public institution of higher learning in the state, behind the UW and ahead of WSU.

Most of its programs are two-year, owing to the fact that it began as a community college, but it now offers some four-year programs as well.

Tuition at BC is reasonably low, especially compared to private colleges, thanks to Washington’s common wealth. And there are many options for taking classes – courses are offered online, in the evening, in hybrid mode (online + in the classroom), and at a satellite campus. There are also “late start” classes to accommodate students who have conflicts at the beginning of a quarter.

These are two key reasons why BC is so popular. But BC may have to raise tuition and cut class offerings if Initiative 1053 is not soon repealed or stricken as unconstitutional. It is no exaggeration to say that success for Tim Eyman means hardship for Bellevue College and its students.

That’s why it was so discomforting to see mercenary petitioners hawking Tim Eyman’s latest scheme this morning, less than a stone’s throw from my classroom. My fellow students and I stand more to lose from Tim Eyman’s harmful measures than pretty much any other group of Washingtonians.

And yet, here were these two guys, standing in front of our student union building, trying to pull Bellevue College students and faculty aside and get them to sign another destructive Tim Eyman initiative.

Petitioners smoking

Two petitioners light up cigarattes in front of the student union at Bellevue College, in violation of campus policy. (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

I declined to sign, but I stuck around to witness the petitioners in action, and take pictures. I explained that I’d be filing a post about the effort to get I-1125 on the ballot. One of them invited me to take closeup photos of him collecting signatures… and so I did.

As I watched, the petitioners corralled anyone who crossed their path who answered “yes” to the question, “Are you registered to vote?” (sometimes, “… in Washington”?). Then, they’d pitch I-1125.

Here’s an example of what the petitioner would say (this particular encounter was with a middle-aged voter):

Petitioner: “They’re taking our toll money and they’re spending it… [putting it] in the general fund. We would like that money to be spent on the roads. We’d like that tollbooth money to be spent on the roads the way that they told us it was for when they set up the tolls, right? Now, years down the line, they’re taking money out of it, and now they’re using that to raise the gas tax.”

“Who’s behind it?” asked the voter, scanning the petition.

“I don’t know who’s all behind the issue,” the petitioner lied. “I don’t know who…”

At that point, I interrupted and quietly pointed out that Tim Eyman is the sponsor of I-1125. (I didn’t say anything else because I wanted to see what he’d say next).

“Eyman’s usually behind the tax issues,” the petitioner immediately agreed. “But I can’t say for sure. I haven’t been told, yes or no, by my superiors. So I don’t know. I… I can’t lie to you, you know what I mean?” the petitioner said.

“I can’t sign it unless I know more about it,” the voter insisted.

“Oh, that’s fine. This will just put it on the ballot, you know what I mean?” replied the petitioner, countering smoothly. “You can vote however you’d like on it.”

“I have to study stuff,” the voter insisted. And then, like an informed citizen and an intelligent person, he turned and walked away.

If more Washingtonians simply exercised the good judgment that this voter did, mercenary petitioners wouldn’t be able to rapidly fill up petition sheets with signatures. Unfortunately, for every voter who refuses to put down their name and address, there are a dozen who will succumb to the pressure and take a few moments to sign a measure that they haven’t scrutinized – let alone read.

These petitioners couldn’t care less whether they are accurately representing what the measures would do. Reread the initial sales pitch from the conversation I quoted above. The petitioner is spouting nonsense.

What toll money is he talking about? At present, the Department of Transportation collects tolls only on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge and for solo drivers who use the high occupancy vehicle lanes on State Route 167. That’s it. We don’t have a regionwide congestion pricing system. We don’t have any turnpikes, either.

Yes, tolls have been proposed for SR-520, I-90, and SR 99. But they’re not being collected yet. How is it possible for the government to misuse nonexistent “tollbooth money”, as the petitioner alleged?

He was also wrong to suggest that “they” (presumably “they” means the Legislature) are raising the gas tax. The tolls the Legislature has authorized are a completely different funding mechanism which isn’t connected to the gas tax.

Gas taxes are paid whenever a motorist fills up his or her car with fuel at the gas station. Tolls, on the other hand, are a surcharge paid for use of a roadway or facility. They are more common on the east coast, but they’ve been used here in the past too, usually to pay for bridges.

All motorists who drive conventional automobiles pay the gas tax, but only motorists who make use of a tolled facility pay a toll. In the case of SR 520, the reason the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge is being tolled again is so that the state can afford the replacement bridge it is starting to build. The toll money is going to be used for the new bridge. It won’t be used for other purposes.

Notice how this petitioner didn’t bother to present any specifics to back up his claims. He just rambled on with one casually-stated baseless accusation after another, trying to con the skeptical voter in front of him into signing I-1125.

And then, when he was asked who the sponsor was, he wouldn’t answer. He pretended to be ignorant. I had to interrupt and tell the voter what he wanted to know. And even then, after the truth had been revealed, this petitioner continued to lie, in the hopes of getting a signature.

I say lie because I had asked the petitioner, minutes earlier, how to get in touch with the people behind the measure – when nobody else was in the immediate vicinity and he wasn’t distracted. He flipped the petition over and showed me the contact information at the bottom, identifying Voters Want More Choices as the people responsible. So I knew he was fibbing when he was talking to this voter.

(Also, when a salesman utters a phrase like, “I can’t lie to you, you know?”, it’s a dead giveaway that the salesman is, in fact, lying… and he or she knows it).

I suspect what I saw is very typical of an extended exchange. People who are skeptical scan what’s on the clipboard, ask questions… and get lied to.

A petitioner stands amidst voters

A petitioner hawks Tim Eyman's Initiative 1125 to unsuspecting voters (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

This is precisely why we track right wing signature drives.

Tim Eyman sympathizers have angrily accused us in the past of trying to intimidate signature gatherers, which is ironic, because what we’re trying to do is hold people accountable who are trying to do just that to voters. We are not seeking to emulate their shifty behavior. We’re trying to put a spotlight on it.

Tim Eyman and his followers forget that the First Amendment is for everybody, not just them. They certainly have the freedom to petition our government for a redress of grievances (legitimate or not).

As progressives, we have the same freedom, and we also have freedom of speech, meaning we can ask people not to sign right wing initiatives.

Readers, if you’ve run into a petitioner hawking I-1125 or another right wing initiative, please tell us about your encounter using Permanent Defense’s reporting tool. Your feedback will help us document what petitioners are doing and telling voters, so we have a better idea of how to organize and mobilize against threats to our common wealth and quality of life.

Congratulations, Michael!

Congratulations are in order to our good friend Michael Hood, who has been keeping a critical eye on talk radio over at blatherWatch since 2005.

Yesterday, Michael became the first blogger from the Pacific Northwest credentialed to cover a White House press briefing, which is a pretty big deal.

As Michael recounts, it may have been just another day for the White House press corps, but it was a rather special experience for him. As he put it: “It was just plain thrilling for a small-town hack whose meager off-line lifestyle is eating crunchy snacks while plugged into cable teevee and haunting the Sunday shows.”

Interspersed with Michael’s humorous account of the briefing are several amusing pictures of tired or inattentive reporters, complete with fitting captions.

Michael only briefly alludes to what White House Press Secretary Jay Carney and the half-dozen reporters he called upon talked about, but I can tell you from reading the transcript of the briefing (which went on for about fifty minutes) that most of the questions were either about the administration’s diplomatic overtures in the Middle East or the fallout from the resignation of Dominique Strauss-Kahn from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

As Michael correctly observed, not much news is typically made at White House press briefings, and today was no exception.

Still, it’s great that Michael was able to get into the James Brady Room for a day. Most bloggers never have that experience.

Sound Transit christens University Link tunnel boring machines at Husky Stadium

Let the tunneling begin!

This morning, at the University of Washington’s Husky Stadium, Senator Patty Murray, Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff, and local elected officials gathered to join Sound Transit in christening the boring machines that will excavate the tunnels between the U-District station at Husky Stadium and the Capitol Hill station at Broadway and Denny.

University Link TBM Launch Banner

The welcome banner at the University Link tunnel boring machine launch (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

University Link, which is scheduled to open in 2016, will extend light rail from downtown Seattle to the University of Washington via Capitol Hill.

Much of the funding ($813 million of the total $1.9 billion) is being provided by the federal government, in recognition of the strong ridership potential and the positive economic impact that the project represents.

““The University Link project is already creating quality jobs here Seattle, and it is going to be great for local commuters and the community when it opens in 2016,” Senator Patty Murray said in a statement.

Interim UW President Phyllis Wise added, “Today marks another milestone in the progress Sound Transit is making in constructing our region’s light rail system. Each step brings us closer to the day when people throughout the region will be able to commute to the University by train. We are eager for the digging to commence and look forward to the day when this station is complete and the trains begin to arrive.”

At today’s event, bottles of champagne were placed on a line tethered to the two tunnel boring machines, and dropped against the side.

The machines, nicknamed Togo and Balto, are already in place, having been lowered by the contractors to the bottom of the hole that’s been excavated to the immediate southwest of Husky Stadium.They will operate between one hundred and three hundred feet underground on their journey south.

Togo and Balto were manufactured by Herrenknecht, a German firm specializing in tunneling. They each weigh around 503.4 metric tons, and were fabricated near the Port of Tacoma by Jesse Engineering. Nearly forty-five truck loads were needed to bring the TBMs and their trailing machinery to Montlake.

Each TBM is divided into three parts. The forward shell (which houses the cutterhead and the main drive), the stationary shell (home to the propulsion system and steering) and the trailing shield, which contains the equipment needed to excavate the spoils and lay tunnel segments.

Sound Transit permitted myself and photographers from several other media outlets to descend into the shaft so we could get a better view of the TBMs. They’re actually hard to see from the surface; there’s a lot of girders that obstruct the view.

Here’s a shot from the top:

View from the top of the UW Station shaft

One of the two tunnel boring machines is visible from the surface at the University of Washington Station construction site. (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

And here’s the view from the bottom of the stairwell:

Balto and Togo

The twin TBMs Balto and Togo dominate the scene at the bottom of the UW Station shaft. Initially, only one will be excavating; the other will follow on a parallel course soon afterward. (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

The machines will break into the soil later this week. The cutterheads will spin at between 0.1 to 2.5 revolutions per second as they excavate. Excavation will continue until mid-2013, so the contracting teams will be tunneling for an estimated two years. That’s actually not such a long timeframe, considering that the entire University Link extension is underground (there are no at grade sections).

Station construction is the next priority. That’s expected to continue until mid-2015. Systems testing will then follow, and the line will open in 2016.

Closeup view of one of the TBM cutterheads

A closeup view of one of the tunnel boring machine cutterheads. Each cutterhead is twenty-one feet in diameter. (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

The UW station is scheduled to be completed first, in early 2015. The Capitol Hill station should be done in late summer or early autumn of that year.

It’s really exciting to see University Link moving forward. I remember when the Emerald Mole was launched in 2006 to dig the Beacon Hill tunnels for Central Link. That was certainly a momentous occasion, as today is.

As Sound Transit’s planners know, getting between downtown and the U-District is presently very challenging during rush hour, even for commuters taking a bus like the 545 Express. When it opens, University Link will offer a reliable commute between these two vital neighborhoods, no matter what the traffic or the weather are like. That day simply cannot come soon enough.

Microsoft buys Skype for $8.5 billion

Microsoft confirmed today that it is spending eight and half billion dollars in cash to acquire peer to peer communications company Skype, which operates the world’s most preeminent VOIP (voice over Internet protocol) platform.

The deal, which was first reported by the tech press a couple of days ago, is the biggest acquisition in Microsoft’s history, superseding its purchase of aQuantive in 2007.

It also marks the beginning of a new chapter for Luxembourg-based Skype, which started out in 2003 as its own company, became part of eBay in 2005, and then was spun out of eBay in 2009 with the help of a consortium of venture capital firms, which now stand to profit handily from the sale to Microsoft.

eBay bought Skype six years ago for an estimated $3.1 billion; the company later admitted that it had overpaid. Skype was valued at $2.75 billion in November 2009 when eBay sold most of it to a consortium led by Silver Lake. Microsoft is now buying Skype for more than twice that sum a year and a half later.

No wonder, then, that many tech pundits say Microsoft is overpaying.

Microsoft obviously decided that it didn’t just want Skype, it needed Skype, and, consequently, it would be better to put up the money to buy it now instead of waiting. CEO Steve Ballmer contended that Skype was on the path to an IPO (initial public offering), and that’s likely true. So the acquisition makes sense in that context.

It is, after all, easier for a publicly-owned corporation to buy a privately-owned company than another publicly-owned corporation.

Microsoft memorably tried to buy Yahoo a few years ago. That offer was rebuffed, and Microsoft and Yahoo eventually forged a search and advertising partnership instead.

There’s been speculation that Skype will be no longer supported on platforms other than Windows and Windows Phone, but Microsoft says that’s not the case. The company explicitly said in its news release confirming the acquisition that it “will continue to invest in and support Skype clients on non-Microsoft platforms.”

That suggests the Skype client for Mac OS and GNU/Linux distributions will continue to be developed and be available for download in the years to come. And it makes sense: Microsoft would be foolish to not make Skype available for other platforms.

However, that commitment won’t prevent Microsoft from integrating Skype more tightly into its own products. And indeed, the company says we can soon expect to see Skype woven into Hotmail, Outlook, Live Messenger, Xbox and Kinect, as well as Windows Phone (which has quietly assimilated Zune).

Facebook and Google were also said to be interested in Skype, though Facebook’s interest was reportedly not serious. Microsoft is actually an investor in Facebook, and Facebook utilizes Bing for web search, so the social networking giant doesn’t have much to worry about. Microsoft rivals Apple and Google are probably much more concerned about Skype becoming a Microsoft subsidiary.

The deal has already been approved by the boards of directors of both companies. It is subject to regulatory approval, but that’s likely just a formality.

Peter Steinbrueck: Our fractured metropolis (Text of the keynote from NPI’s 2011 gala)

Editor’s Note: Following the conclusion of our Spring Fundraising Gala a few days ago, we have been asked if we could make the text of Peter Steinbrueck’s keynote speech available. He has kindly agreed to do so; what follows are a polished version of his prepared remarks, delivered on April 28th at the Community Center at Mercer View on Mercer Island. We are most grateful to Peter for taking time out of his busy schedule to headline our third gala.

More to come: Next week, we anticipate recording a podcast with Peter to answer questions from readers and supporters. It’s not too late to submit a question for the podcast! You can do so either by leaving a comment in response to this post, or by directing a question for Peter to @nwprogressive on Twitter.

The United States, with over eighty percent of the population living in urban regions, is one of the most urbanized countries in the world, and third largest.

Yet these days, with all the enormous economic, environmental, and social challenges we face, it is hard to see how and where we will accommodate the additional 120 million more people the U.S. is expected to grow by over the next forty years. Still, cities are increasingly seen as the hubs for innovation, places to experience urban vitality — and as a panacea to our global economic woes.

As Bruce Katz of the Brookings Institution argues, regional economies are what will make the U.S. competitive again with other developing nations… if we can recognize our interdependencies, link up, and foster economic ties among metro areas.

Harvard economics professor Edward Glaeser, in his recent book, Triumph of the City, espouses environmental protection through city-building.

“If you love nature, stay out of it,” he extols.

In the coming years, the American housing market is expected to see fewer households with children — just over two people per household.

This means many more, but smaller, households will be needed.

So all those millions of newcomers are supposed to live in the concrete urban jungles and shiny towers, right?

As aging baby boomers dump their oversized homes, a massive shift to rentals is beginning to occur. We may even see McMansions converting to multi-families –  hmmm, perhaps a good thing? – if local land use controls will allow them.

We might not need so many towers then!

Another worry is disaster readiness and resilience. In addition to some of these demographic changes, cities are going to have to get used to responding to more frequent disasters, whether from earthquakes, tsunamis, flash floods, bush fires, or  other severe weather catastrophes related to the climate crisis.

As they say, “change is coming,” yet by and large, cities in the U.S. are handcuffed by state governments through restrictions at every level on land use, self-regulation, and revenue raising. (For a more in-depth discussion about this problem, check out City Bound, by Gerald Frug and David Barron).

Outside of major cities, the metro regions, where most people live, fair even worse when it comes to reach of regulatory authority and revenue collection. Very few full service metro or regional governments with any land use control even exist in the U.S. (Portland, San Francisco, and Minneapolis are some of the few).

In Western Washington, home to hundreds of local governments, our jurisdictional boundaries have very little to do with how we live and even where we work. Just think about it — how often do you cross the boundaries of the city or town where you live to go to work, to recreate, or to shop?

Three or four times a week, or three times a day?

Though we don’t identify as such, we are all regional citizens living in a giant, invisible regional city. The Seattle metro region is a large and multi-faceted area encompassing 5,894 square miles and includes thirty-one cities and towns, and dozens of employment centers. What do you call home?

Says Amando Carbonell, Senior Planning Fellow at Harvard’s Lincoln Land Institute:

We live in regions – territories defined primarily by function and only rarely by jurisdiction. The places where we work, live, shop, recreate, and socialize constitute a territory that seldom corresponds to a single town or city. Regional planning is concerned less with the exercise of jurisdiction and more with the search for new forms of habitation based on a clear commitment to advancing sustainability.

Even if we do live and work in the same town, the ecological fall out of our day-to-day living patterns will be felt upstream and downstream throughout the region. (For more, read Peter Calthorpe’s The Regional City).

And now, my central point: A regional approach is particularly appropriate for managing land use, water, utilities growth, and transportation, and for addressing the climate crisis. Take Seattle’s audacious goal of achieving carbon neutrality.

Absent from the carbon analysis are contributions from external, yet urban-generated sources such as SeaTac International Airport, where GHG emissions, largely from jet take-offs and landings (4,650,000 metric tons), are equivalent to nearly seventy percent of Seattle’s total annual output (6.770,000 metric tons).

If the goal is to seriously cut carbon emissions and advance urban sustainability, all this focus on densifying the urban core of the hub city may be grossly misplaced. Take Vancouver, B.C., for example… they’re easily twenty years ahead of us in both planning for center city urban density, and serious regional planning.

Still, even with an impressive jungle of dense residential high-rises – one of the densest urban cores in North America – the metro Vancouver area has outstripped the City of Vancouver’s growth rate by more than four times that of the center city.

There’s nothing particularly wrong with the strong urban growth emphasis, it’s just the typical city is way too small an area, and with marginal impact on the regional urban ecosystem. Though cities by themselves can have an impact (because politically, they can address issues in ways that counties and unincorporated areas cannot), cities are still inseparable from the metro area they lie within.

My second point: There is more than one type of “sustainable lifestyle,” and to solve the climate crisis, we do not all have to live in the urban core, or even the hub city. Suburban cities and towns, where most people in the United States live, need to be seen as a large part of the solution. For too long, the suburbs have been the favorite whipping boy of density urbanites and big city-centric elitists.

High-towered city life is not the only environmental option; a regional solution can offer a range of lifestyles and community types– without compromising, and possibly even improving urban/regional ecologies.

“We now lead regional lives, and our metropolitan form and governance needs to reflect the new realty,” says Peter Calthorpe, architect, author, and co-founder of the Congress of New Urbanism.

A well planned and functionally efficient region that combines aggressive conservation strategies, good transit systems, green technologies can offer many types of sustainable lifestyles.

Turning now to the issues and challenges of cleaning up Puget Sound, it was over twenty years ago in May 1989 that Senator Warren G. Magnuson (in his final address to Congress), warned of the perils of allowing oil tankers into Puget Sound.

He said:

Puget Sound is one of the most beautiful places in the world. Its contribution to Washington’s economy, environment, and special quality of life cannot begin to be calculated.

Puget Sound is the second largest marine estuary in the United States. From land, the sea still holds much beauty. Yet keeping it clean is easily the single biggest, most intractable environmental challenge facing Washington State today.

The iconic Chinook salmon, along with twenty other marine animals, are endangered. Our dwindling pods of orcas are among the mammals most contaminated with PCB on Earth, and entire marine ecosystems are dying off.

Millions of pounds of toxic pollution flow into Puget Sound every year – mostly from storm water runoff and combined sewer overflows, carrying deadly poisonous chemicals from urban areas to the sea.

In one of the so-called “greenest” states in the country, why can’t we stop polluting Puget Sound?

Well here’s why: The Puget Sound basin, home to 4.4 million people, is bordered by ninety cities and towns and an unfathomable maze of overlapping jurisdictions and regulatory agencies. They share in common a local economy (aerospace, software, global shipping) and networked urban infrastructure (airports, roads, utilities, energy, water, food distribution network).

Yet no one agency controls this infrastructure, and as Kathy Fletcher, founder of People for Puget Sound says, “[O]ur biggest challenge now, is the fragmentation of decision-making and lack of enforcement of existing regulations.”

It’s been over four decades since Senator Warren G. Magnuson first warned of a looming “environmental catastrophe” facing Puget Sound.

Today, it’s not the oil tankers but unmanaged urbanization –that is the single biggest threat to the health of the Sound.

The spread of hard impervious pavement, the proliferation of cars, trucks, and steady increasing amount of miles traveled in automobiles (measured in VMT) is, more than any other source, responsible for the continuous poisoning of Puget Sound and its tributaries, which is where our communities are located.

If we allow Puget Sound to atrophy, so too, will our economy, and our way of life in the Northwest. Consider this: By 2040, the region is expected to grow by nearly two million more people — two million more people!!

My third point: Puget’s Sound’s failing health is symptomatic of our fractured metropolis – and the marine die-off will continue until there is a Puget Sound-size solution to deal with this enormous problem.

So what can be done about it?

Implementing a bold plan for the future requires coordination and consolidation of local power. We might start with recognizing our common interests, building strong political coalitions and strengthening our collective political might in Olympia.

Instead of waiting for our fractious semi-dysfunctional state legislature to solve all these problems, how about we form a regional congress of local governments that would permit us to better work together to advance regional interests?

Rather than let power divided us through infighting and turf wars, create an institution for intra-local priority setting and inter-local decision-making that can empower us in Olympia?

Puget Sound’s ill-health cannot wait another 30 years.

I propose we form a new Congress of Puget Sound, consisting of democratically elected representatives of municipalities that could be a strong, common voice for the region while preserving local independence at the municipal level.

Local representatives from Bellevue, Tukwila, Bremerton and other towns and cities would still set the agenda.

If the Europeans can do it through the mechanism of the E.U., comprising twenty-seven nations, then we surely can!

Thank you very much.

QUESTIONS FOR PETER? Leave a comment below!

He’s not rich, he’s you

Excuse us for a moment as we break out our tiny violins and a box of kleenex to lament the plight of Congressman Denny Rehberg (R-MT), who is challenging Democratic Senator Jon Tester for his seat in 2012 . You see, although Mr. Rehberg is the 23rd richest member of Congress he informed constituents at a town hall meeting over the weekend that he is struggling financially just like them.

“I’m a small businessman. My wife is a small businessman. You know she hasn’t taken a salary in ten years? She has not, as a result of the business, because we are struggling like everyone else… with the economy,” Rehberg said.

According to Rehberg’s 2009 financial disclosure form, he self-reported a net worth of between $6,598,014 and $56,244,998. In naming him to its 50 Richest Members of Congress list, Roll Call notes that Congressman Rehberg’s net worth increased slightly from 2009 to 2010.

The ranch and real estate owner increased his net worth by less than 1 percent last year, mostly because of slight increases in stock values.

Even if his net worth is exactly one percent higher than the lower figure above, how many people in Montana do you think have that kind of money? In 2010 the median income in Montana was $42, 322, lower than the national average of $50,221, and Rehberg himself is making $174,000 in salary this year.

Oh, the horrors of being wealthy! What a burden it must be for Congressman Rehberg!

By contrast, Senator Tester introduced legislation this year to end automatic yearly pay increases for members of Congress.

On Wednesday, I teamed up with a bipartisan group of Senators to introduce the Congressional Pay Raise Prevention Act. Our legislation (HERE) would require all members of Congress to permanently give up automatic yearly pay raises.

Under current law, members of Congress automatically receive yearly cost-of-living pay increases unless we vote to stop them.

When I got to the Senate, Congress had spent a decade giving themselves pay raises every year, while hardworking, middle-class Montanans struggled to make ends meet. Most folks don’t have the luxury of automatic pay raises–and Congress ought to lead by example.

Tester ran in 2006, against an out-of-touch, in the pocket of corporate interests incumbent, looking to make U.S. Senate look a little more like Montana. And while Senator Tester reports income and assets above the Montana average, its his deeds that show that he’s still fighting for the average Montanan. As for Congressman Denny Rehberg, the only financial woes he’s facing are the potential of losing his job and the six figure salary it provides come January 2013.

Conservatives clinch majority in Canadian Parliament; New Dems now the opposition

You wouldn’t know it from watching American cable television or reading American newspapers, but Canada today held a major federal election to determine who will sit in the House of Commons of the 41st Canadian Parliament.

(For those readers not familiar with Canadian politics, the House of Commons is their equivalent to our House of Representatives… although the two bodies have some significant differences.)

The Conservative Party, led by Stephen Harper, appears to have won a major victory, becoming the majority party in the House of Commons. The New Democratic Party also had a great night, winning an unprecedented number of seats. They will become the official opposition for the first time in their history.

The Bloc Québécois and the Liberals, meanwhile, suffered huge losses, reshaping the political landscape in Canada. As The Globe and Mail puts it:

Parliament has been radically transformed. The fragmentation of the 1993 election has been reversed, with the Conservatives and NDP emerging as national parties with support across all regions of the country. The Bloc has been reduced to a shadow, and the once-mighty Liberals consigned to redoubts in Atlantic Canada, Montreal and urban Ontario.

The Conservatives appear to have gained twenty-four seats. Their caucus will grow from one hundred and forty-three to one hundred and fifty-five. The New Democrats have tripled their own numbers, gaining sixty-six seats. They will go from a mere thirty-six seats to an astonishing one hundred and two.

The NDP’s gains, as mentioned, have come at the expense of the Liberals and the Bloc Québécois. Each party has tentatively lost forty-three seats. That leaves the Liberals with only thirty-four seats and the Bloc with only four.

The Green Party, meanwhile, attained its first seat ever in the House of Commons, with its leader, Elizabeth May, defeating the Conservative Minister of State (Sport), Gary Lunn, in the Saanich — Gulf Islands riding.

Like the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth realms, Canada has a multiparty system, whereas the United States only has a two-party system. None of Canada’s parties are directly analogous to the Republican and Democratic parties in the United States, though it’s fair to say the Conservatives are right wing and the New Democrats are left wing. The Liberals are more conservative than the New Democrats, but by American conservative standards, they’re Communists.

The Bloc Québécois, on the other hand, are a regional party competing only in Canadian federal elections. Most of the seats they have held since the last election were claimed tonight by the New Democrats.

Among the Liberals swept out of office was Ujjal Dosanjh, who is slated to give the keynote address at the 2011 NWroots Conference on July 9th in Pioneer Square. Earlier this evening, following the release of the election returns, Dosanjh announced his retirement from politics, saying, “I’ve had a great run in political life and I have absolutely no regrets.”

Dosanjh has indeed had a career to be proud of. Born in 1947, he was first elected to office in 1991. He served for several years as British Columbia’s Attorney General before becoming B.C. Premier. During the 38th Canadian Parliament (July 2004 to January 2006), he served as Canada’s Minister of Health.

Dosanjh’s apparent successor is Conservative Wai Young, who he narrowly defeated in 2008 to retain his seat. Young will represent the riding of Vancouver South in the next House of Commons.

Young owes her victory in part to the New Democrats, whose candidate in Vancouver South did better than expected, costing Dosanjh precious votes.

Bill Tieleman, writing for The Tyee (a popular online magazine about news, politics, and culture which is based in British Columbia) sees the election as a defining moment and a decisive loss for Canada’s once-dominant Liberals.

Now the Tories and NDP have four years to solidify their positions — and marginalize their opponents.

[Michael] Ignatieff’s failure to connect with voters means the party will seek its third new leader in three years.

Neither a discredited Bob Rae nor an unremarkable Justin Trudeau can rescue the Liberals.

But the Bloc’s near elimination by the federalist NDP is a death blow to separatism and Gilles Duceppe’s leadership.

Near elimination is a pretty accurate characterization of the Bloc’s defeat. They lost more than ninety percent of their seats. The people of Quebec have dealt their province’s separatist movement a potentially fatal setback.

The Liberals, meanwhile, are still alive, but they’ve been greatly humbled. With their leader Michael Ignatieff ousted and more than half of their seats lost, they’ll be in rebuilding mode for a long time. Tieleman obviously don’t think that they have the ability to recover, and he certainly could be correct about that. His perspective is more grounded than mine.

I don’t follow Canadian politics as closely as I follow American politics, but my guess is the New Democrats will be able to draw a better contrast with the Conservatives than the Liberals. They seem like the future of Canada’s left-wing.

It’ll be interesting to see how they get along with Harper’s government now that they are the official opposition. They’ve never been in such a strong position at the federal level. This is a huge opportunity for them.

POSTSCRIPT: In Canada (and in other Commonwealth realms) they say government, as opposed to administration (like we do). The Harper government is thus akin to the Obama administration.

BREAKING: Osama bin Laden is dead, officials say; President Obama addresses the nation

Details are sketchy as of this hour, but America’s television networks, citing multiple sources, are reporting that U.S. forces have killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan, and have possession of his body.

President Barack Obama is scheduled to speak to the nation shortly. The administration has not officially confirmed the news, but the president is expected to do so when he speaks from the East Room of the White House.

PRESIDENT NOW SPEAKING, 8:32 PM: President Obama’s speech has begun. He has confirmed the news reports: Osama bin Laden is dead, and the United States is in possession of his body. Bin Laden was killed in a firefight centered around a compound in a suburban region of Pakistan, which had been targeted by a small contingent of U.S. forces. (The President didn’t elaborate on which branch(es) of the military contributed troops to the force).

PRESIDENT REVEALS MORE DETAILS, 8:44 PM: The operation apparently came to fruition after America’s intelligence community began pursuing a lead about bin Laden’s whereabouts last August, the President said. He disclosed that he recently signed off on a plan to make use of the intelligence that was gathered by following up on the lead. The plan was carried out, and it resulted in a firefight.

The battle at the compound was apparently very one-sided, because the President said no Americans were killed, and care was taken to avoid loss of civilian lives. The only lives lost were those of al-Qaeda operatives, including Osama bin Laden himself, and one woman used as a human shield by them.

WHAT THE PRESIDENT SAID, 9:25 PM: Here is the relevant, transcribed portion of the president’s address, concerning the operation.

[L]ast August, after years of painstaking work by our intelligence community, I was briefed on a possible lead to bin Laden. It was far from certain, and it took many months to run this thread to ground. I met repeatedly with my national security team as we developed more information about the possibility that we had located bin Laden hiding within a compound deep inside of Pakistan. And finally, last week, I determined that we had enough intelligence to take action, and authorized an operation to get Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice.

Today, at my direction, the United States launched a targeted operation against that compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.  A small team of Americans carried out the operation with extraordinary courage and capability. No Americans were harmed. They took care to avoid civilian casualties. After a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body.

MURRAY REACTS, 9:02 PM: Here’s Senator Patty Murray’s statement. Just came in. One of the first official responses from a member of Congress.

The President’s announcement tonight is tremendous news for all Americans and for counterterrorism efforts worldwide.

The superb work of our military and intelligence communities have led to the death of the mastermind of the worst attack in our nation’s history.  It is indeed a great moment.

I applaud our troops, intelligence operatives, and the Administration for never wavering in this important goal in the broader war on terrorism.

This is a particularly important day for the thousands of Americans who lost a family member, friend or loved one nearly ten years ago. And all of our thanks go to those who have been lost in our military efforts and to our veterans and their families.

This is indeed a significant moment and one that will continue to propel our efforts to root out terrorists wherever they reside. We must continue to remain vigilant and focused on the protection of the American people.

BACKGROUND FROM THE ADMINISTRATION, 9:44 PM: NPI has just learned much more about the operation from the White House. Here’s some of what we heard on a call with senior administration officials:

  • The compound where bin Laden was hiding is located in an area that is “relatively affluent, with lots of retired military,” according to a senior administration official. “It’s also isolated from the natural disasters and terrorist attacks that have afflicted other parts of Pakistan,” the official said.
  • The compound was built within the last five years, and the U.S. suspects it may have been built explicitly for the purpose of hiding the al-Qaeda leader. It was extremely well secured, with high walls, barbed wire, multiple gates, and few windows in the buildings.
  • The intelligence on this compound has been a closely-guarded secret until this evening. The information was considered incredibly important and was shared with no other country.
  • The special team that took out Bin Laden was brought in using helicopters. The administration won’t say (at least for now) which kind of helicopters were used or what mixture of personnel comprised the team.
  • Bin Laden’s body is being handled in accordance with Islamic practice and tradition. “This is something that we take very seriously.  And so therefore this is being handled in an appropriate manner,” a senior administration official said.

CANTWELL REACTS, MONDAY MORNING, 10:05 AM: Here is Senator Maria Cantwell’s statement. We received it a few minutes ago.

The long wait from 2001 is over. Osama Bin Laden’s death will be remembered as a major turning point in our efforts to fight his terrorism network. The American people are grateful for the service of all our military and intelligence community.

Today, we remember the lives of those who were lost on September 11, and we give our deepest appreciation to those who defend our freedom every day. The death of Osama Bin Laden is a major step forward in the fight against terrorism, but we must continue our efforts to confront the social and economic conditions that give rise to violent extremism around the world.

By targeting and taking out Osama bin Laden, U.S. special forces have neutralized a mass murderer who directed the slaughter of thousands of innocent people.

Our world will unquestionably safer, happier, and more peaceful without Osama bin Laden in it. It took nearly ten years, but Osama bin Laden has been brought to justice for his many heinous acts.

Mark Twain once wrote, I’ve never wished a man dead, but I have read some obituaries with great pleasure. This aphorism has been growing in popularity on Twitter, and seems to be a fitting response to the news announced by the president.

Osama bin Laden’s death is more than just a mission accomplished. It is an opportunity. It is time for the “war on terror” to be over. We cannot hope to win a war against a noun. We cannot be free if we live in fear.

As Franklin Delano Roosevelt once said:

This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself. We are playing into the hands of those who want to take away our freedoms when we voluntarily surrender our civil liberties in the name of security. (Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety).

And we are playing into the hands of those who want to take away our freedoms by occupying lands that do not belong to us.

In the end, America was made safe from Osama bin Laden by a covert raid… what amounted to a police action. The events of today just go to show that the occupations begun by George W. Bush have not resulted in a safer America or a safer world. It is time for those occupations to be ended.

And it is time for us to begin confronting the real threats humanity faces… fear, prejudice, hatred, and bigotry.

Who’s responsible for the Associated Press’s ongoing Tim Eyman worship?

A few moments ago, NPI’s news crawler alerted me that the Associated Press has just dumped another half-baked – no, make that quarter-baked – “story” out on the wire, glorifying an announcement Tim Eyman supposedly made about attempting to qualify an initiative for the ballot this year.

I say supposedly because I haven’t seen any other news outlet reporting that Tim is launching a new initiative campaign, and Tim has not (yet?) sent out an email to his supporters or posted anything at unSoundPolitics.

But it wouldn’t surprise me if he told the Associated Press they could have an exclusive, knowing that they would obligingly write up a few one-sided paragraphs for him without bothering to complete an actual story .

Here is what they published:

SEATTLE – Initiative guru Tim Eyman says he’s pushing a statewide campaign this year to make sure that the Legislature – and not the governor’s Transportation Commission – is responsible for setting highway tolls.

Last year, Eyman’s I-1053 passed, requiring that any new or increased fees require majority legislative approval. He says lawmakers violated that in the pending transportation budget by saying they would adopt whatever toll rates the commission deemed appropriate.

His new initiative – I-1125 – would require lawmakers to set tolls. It would reiterate that gas tax and toll revenue must be used on transportation spending, and it would bar tolls from one project from being used to pay for another. For example, if the state decides to put tolls on Interstate 90, that money couldn’t be used to pay for the new Highway 520 bridge over Lake Washington.

That’s all there is. This same blurb, which can’t be legitimately called a story, has already been published online by The Seattle Times, The Olympian, and a few television stations. It is essentially nothing more than a puff promotional piece for Eyman, except it’s devoid of Tim’s colorful language.

(At least in terms of entertainment value, Tim is a better writer than anybody the Associated Press employs).

The author of the blurb is predictably not identified. The byline simply says Seattle, which makes me think the three paragraphs the blurb contains were produced by somebody working out of the Seattle bureau a block south of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer Building on Elliott Avenue.

What we’re wondering is whether the person wrote the above also happens to be responsible for this, or whether the Eyman worship is a team effort.

I wish that the equation, Associated Press = Tim Eyman’s P.R. agency were unfair. After all, a wire service that’s more than century old and advertises itself as “the essential global news network” should be able to produce journalism. If the A.P. is going to bite at Tim Eyman’s fishing line, they should do more than just paraphrase whatever email he sent them. Because that’s not journalism. That’s recycling.

Is it unreasonable to expect that a news organization which claims to be objective should strive for objectivity? I don’t think it is.

We don’t operate under the pretense that we’re objective because we like to be open and upfront with our readers. Our viewpoint and our policy directions are based on the values and principles we believe in. Those values are not a secret.

The Associated Press, on the other hand, advertises itself as a not-for-profit news cooperative, “delivering fast, unbiased news from every corner of the world to all media platforms and formats”. That’s a direct quote from their website.

There’s no way the blurb above could be considered unbiased;. Eyman’s perspective is the only viewpoint in it. There is no other viewpoint of any kind represented in those paragraphs, let alone a dissenting viewpoint. That blurb might be appropriate for P.R. Newswire, but certainly not the A.P. Newswire.

As for Eyman’s initiative, I-1125, it’s dead on arrival unless Eyman has found a wealthy benefactor to fund it. Maybe his buddy Kemper Freeman, Jr. agreed to give him half a million bucks. Or maybe Michael Dunmire has agreed to resume filling Eyman’s coffers with cash. We’ll know soon enough.

There are only around two months to go until this year’s deadline for submitting ballot measure petitions arrives (it’s always in early July).

If Eyman is intending to qualify I-1125 to the ballot, he’s going to need to get hired mercenaries out on the street immediately. Two months isn’t a lot of time to collect three hundred thousand signatures.

UPDATE: So, evidently, while I was writing this post, this blurb was in the process of being turned into more of an actual story by the Seattle bureau’s Gene Johnson. Johnson is who the Albany Times-Union (of Albany, New York) credits as the author of the longer piece that begins with the blurb.

Senator Mary Margaret Haugen is consulted for the dissenting viewpoint.

The introductory paragraph has also been changed to read “frequent initiative sponsor” instead of the more one-sided “guru”.

The changes are welcome, but the existence of this longer piece doesn’t justify the A.P.’s publication of a half-baked, unfinished version. Most of the news outlets that have picked this up still do not have the full version.