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.

NPI calls on Governor Jay Inslee to uphold our Constitution by vetoing charters bailout

Editor’s Note: Two weeks ago, Republican-dominated majorities in the Washington State House of Representatives and Senate passed a bill restoring funding for charter schools and allowing new charters to be authorized, in defiance of the Supreme Court’s ruling in League of Women Voters v. State of Washington. NPI is asking Governor Jay Inslee to veto this legislation and uphold our Constitution. We laid out our reasoning in the following message sent to the Governor this afternoon, which we are releasing as an open letter.

Dear Governor Inslee:

On behalf of the team at the Northwest Progressive Institute, we write to respectfully urge you to veto E2SSB 6194 in its entirety and honor the State Supreme Court’s ruling that I-1240 is unconstitutional.

NPI strongly believes in public schools and elected public school governance that all citizens can participate in. Public schools are the cornerstones of strong, vibrant communities. We have a mutual responsibility to each other to ensure that our youth receive a well-rounded education. Our state’s founders considered this to be so important that the Constitution they handed down to us calls this responsibility Washington’s paramount duty. Our public schools are the only schools required to serve all children no matter their background or needs.

We also believe in the professional educators in our public schools. E2SSB 6194 prohibits employee bargaining at a charter school from affiliating with other bargaining units. This is not a progressive policy in support of worker rights — it’s an inappropriate political statement.

Our public school districts and educators are working hard to provide innovative services that meet and exceed those claimed by charters even while they are challenged with strained budgets due to underfunding from the state.

The Supreme Court spoke clearly last year when it struck down I-1240 and charters as unconstitutional in League of Women Voters v. State of Washington. We urge you to uphold the Supreme Court’s ruling and veto E2SSB 6194 in its entirety.

Although charter proponents cite the needs of disadvantaged children, the evidence from around the country shows that charter schools aren’t helping those students — and may actually be hurting them. A report released last week by the Civil Rights Project at UCLA found that charter schools are four times as likely to suspend black students than white students. Charters have also been blamed for accelerating the resegregation of American schools. A recent study by Duke University found that charter schools were responsible for resegregating North Carolina schools. The ACLU filed a lawsuit charging that charters in Delaware were causing resegregation.

The focus of Washington’s Legislature and executive department should be complying with the Supreme Court’s earlier decision in McCleary and producing a viable plan to raise the revenue required to fully fund our public schools.

The Legislature must do more than simply define basic education. It must provide publicly-governed school districts with the resources they need to carry out their mandate. We have over a million children in our public schools, and they’re not getting the support they need.

Sadly, at the same time the Legislature was blatantly ignoring the Supreme Court’s most recent McCleary order, which imposed sanctions on the state, majorities in both houses were intently listening to the nearly two dozen lobbyists who descended on the Capitol Campus to lobby for E2SSB 6194.

The results of the just-concluded special session and regular session that preceded it once again demonstrate the power of money in our state’s capital. Those who already have fortunes are well-positioned to ask for (and get) money out of the Legislature for their priorities, while middle and low income families are not.

Unlike the legislators who voted for E2SSB 6194, you were elected statewide to represent all Washingtonians.

We urge you to be an advocate for the more than one million public schoolchildren who cannot afford dozens of lobbyists in Olympia working on their behalf to ensure their schools are properly funded in a timely fashion. Veto E2SSB 6194, and let the well-off proponents of charters fund those schools, while keeping public money flowing solely to public schools, as our founders intended.

Sincerely,

Robert Cruickshank
President
Northwest Progressive Institute
Andrew Villeneuve
Founder and executive director
Northwest Progressive Institute

Labor movement finally catches a break as Supreme Court deadlocks in Friedrichs case

A right wing attempt to severely weaken public sector unions ended in failure today when the Supreme Court announced in a one-sentence ruling that it would not overturn its 1977 decision allowing such unions to charge non-members agency fees to cover the cost of representing them in collective bargaining negotiations.

Presumably, the remaining members of the court’s right wing bloc (John Roberts, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy) desired to set a new precedent and overturn the 1977 decision, but were effectively stopped by the progressive bloc (Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Stephen Breyer).

With Justice Antonin Scalia no longer on the bench, the right wing bloc lacked the five votes it needed to decide the case in favor of the Republican Party and its right wing allies, who desperately wanted a ruling out of the Court that would greatly weaken unions like the National Education Association (NEA) or AFSCME, which generally support the Democratic Party and progressive causes.

When public sector unions negotiate contracts, they do so on behalf of entire groups of workers, not just those who wish to belong to the union. It is therefore completely appropriate and reasonable that the workers who benefit from those negotiations pay a fair share service fee to the union.

U.S. Senator Patty Murray applauded the outcome, which affirmed a ruling by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals leaving intact the current agency fee system.

“This is good news for workers, unions, families, and the economy,” Murray said. “With the lower court ruling being affirmed by a deadlocked Supreme Court, this latest assault on the ability of teachers, nurses, and other public servants to organize and make their voices heard in the workplace has been beaten back.

“The economy is only truly strong when it is growing from the middle out, not the top down—and unions are key in making that happen. When unions are strong, workers can fight for higher wages, more opportunities, and greater economic security for themselves and their families. Many Republicans are going to keep working to tilt the scales in favor of the biggest corporations and the wealthiest Americans by making it harder for workers to band together and fight to improve and protect their wages and benefits. But as a nation, we should not turn our backs on empowering workers through collective bargaining and making sure that workers have a strong voice at the table—and this decision today upholds that principle.”

“While a deadlocked Supreme Court happened to result in a positive outcome in this case, this is one more reminder that we need a fully functioning Supreme Court to protect the rights of workers, women, and families across the country. Now that the President has nominated Judge Merrick Garland, Senate Republicans should do their jobs by giving him all due consideration, a hearing, and a vote.”

Happy Easter 2016!

Stained glass window depicting Resurrection scene

This stained glass window is in the basilica of the Sacred Heart in Paray-le-Monial. (Photo: Fr Lawrence Lew, O.P.)

If you are observing the Easter holiday today, please accept best wishes from all of us at the Northwest Progressive Institute. May your celebration of Christ’s Resurrection be peaceful and memorable.

And, for your reading pleasure on this joyous Easter Sunday, here is an account of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the Gospel of John (20:1-9):

On the first day of the week,
Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning,
while it was still dark,
and saw the stone removed from the tomb.
So she ran and went to Simon Peter
and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them,
“They have taken the Lord from the tomb,
and we don’t know where they put him.”
So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb.
They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter
and arrived at the tomb first;
he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in.
When Simon Peter arrived after him,
he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there,
and the cloth that had covered his head,
not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place.
Then the other disciple also went in,
the one who had arrived at the tomb first,
and he saw and believed.
For they did not yet understand the Scripture
that he had to rise from the dead.

This will be President Obama’s last Easter as President. On Friday, the President made the following statement regarding the holiday:

Michelle and I join our fellow Christians in observing Good Friday and celebrating Easter this weekend.

This is a time to remember the sacrifices made for us and hold all who suffer close to our hearts. Yet it is also a time to rejoice, give thanks for the Resurrection, and unite with Christians around the world in proclaiming, “Christ has risen; He has risen indeed.” We wish all who celebrate a blessed and joyful Easter.

The First Family celebrated Easter at the Alfred Street Baptist Chuch this morning, according to the White House pool reporter assigned to accompany the President:

Alfred Street Baptist Church is packed to the brim.

President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, Sasha and Malia are here, per White House.

Your pooler estimates 500+ attendees, plus another 100-person chorus clad in red, gold and white robes. Pool entered the church to a rousing song and then prayer.

Pastor greeted First Family, then updated the congregation on the church’s effort to aid citizens of Flint, Mich., saying they’ve sent 15,000 cases of water to affected families.

The White House posted a photo of the First Family singing at the service.

The First Family at Easter services

The First Family at Easter services

The 138th Annual White House Easter Egg Roll will take place this year on Easter Monday, which is tomorrow. More than 35,000 tickets have been issued to people from all fifty states for the event, the White House says.

Notably, the winning artwork for this year’s Easter Egg Roll comes from NPIs hometown of Redmond, Washington. Per the White House:

Felicity Ng is a 10-year-old in 4th grade at Audubon Elementary School in Redmond, Washington. Her artwork was chosen as the 2016 Easter Egg Roll Program Cover. Felicity enjoys drawing, writing, and playing piano, and wanted to create a patriotic egg design to commemorate President and Mrs. Obama’s final Easter Egg Roll.

Congratulations, Felicity! What an honor.

NPI boardmembers reflect on their 2016 Democratic presidential caucus experiences

Editor’s Note: Although NPI is not affiliated with a political party, does not endorse candidates, and does not engage in electioneering for or against any candidate, NPI’s leaders are involved in Democratic politics as individuals, and participated in this morning’s Washington presidential precinct caucuses.

As our boardmembers each reside in a different precinct in the Puget Sound area, we asked them to share a few words about their caucus experience. The commentary and reporting that follows reflects the personal views of each individual member of the board, and not NPI as a whole. 

NPI Director Gael Tarleton, reporting from SEA 36-2511:

What a great morning! I walked into North Beach Elementary at 9:20 am, and precincts were divided into two large spaces. By 9:45 it was standing room only in the gym, so my precinct and 2 others were designated to relocate to the school library.

Turnout was astonishing – hundreds of people, maybe as many as 700? I didn’t have time to go into every single one of the caucus areas but estimated about 300-350 in the gym.

It was so fun – fifty-nine people of all ages caucused in my precinct. Some brought their kids or grandkids. Some were long-time residents and some had just moved to Seattle from other states. Mona McPhee, our PCO/Caucus Chair, did not arrive until 10:20 AM. The group had elected me to serve as Caucus Chair in case she didn’t show. But she did make it, and did a fantastic job running the caucus. I was appointed Precinct Secretary to take the official minutes. Three others volunteered to do ballot counting and tallying of delegates.

Then we did speeches. Bernie supporters split up their 3 minutes comments between two speakers. A total of 6 people spoke for Hillary (very economical use of words!).

No one changed their preferred candidate after the speeches, so the original vote count stood: 33 for Hillary at 56 percent, 26 for Bernie at 44 percent, none uncommitted.

The caucuses quickly selected their delegates and alternates – 3 delegates for Hillary, 1 delegate for Bernie. A few of our caucus goers did not agree with the formula being used to allocate our 4 delegates‎. We did all the tallying and allocation decisions in front of the caucus.

Before we adjourned, one of the delegates asked that we all commit to voting for the Democratic Party nominee. She said, Please don’t decide to not vote if your choice is not the nominee. We are Democrats and we must vote. This election may decide the fate of our democracy and everyone needs to vote. We all applauded and said “Yes”!

We adjourned at 11:22 AM.

Many thanks to the 36th District Democratic volunteers who ran the North Beach Caucuses! It’s a lot of work and things went smoothly, especially in light of the huge turnout.

NPI President Robert Cruickshank, reporting from SEA 36-2520:

It was clear from the first caucusgoers to show up to our precinct meeting at Whitman Middle School in Northwest Seattle that Bernie was going to have a big day, and that’s how it turned out. The final count in our precinct was 59 votes for Bernie and 15 for Hillary, which produced a 5-1 split among our precinct’s delegates.

As we got the caucus under way, State Representative Noel Frame – celebrating her birthday today by chairing her precinct’s caucus – led the entire room in a rousing chant of “this is what democracy looks like!” and urged participants to continue the fight for progressive values in downballot races.

She got a very positive reception to that important message.

We had a revealing moment at our precinct caucus. There was one vote for “uncommitted,” and she took her 3 minutes to ask supporters of both candidates if they would commit to voting for the Democratic presidential candidate in November – even if that candidate wasn’t the one they supported today. Every single one of the precinct caucus participants raised their hands.

Despite Republican hopes, our party will be united to stop whichever extremist the GOP nominates for president this year.

NPI Director Mario Brown, reporting from Edmonds 40:

My precinct, Edmonds 40, had 57 total ballots. I assigned a tally clerk and Secretary. My neighbors were there early and en masse. We could not all fit in the hall for the 10 AM introductory speech.

I was asked to give the donation pitch. I asked who was ready for Hillary and got applause and the I asked with was feeling the Bern and got thunderous applause.

Then we broke into our precincts and I collected all the forms.

We did a count and told the group the results, people continued to come in before the final count and we are very proud to say the we counted every vote. We did allow speeches while the count was being done, but no one switched. ‎

In the end, we had 5 delegates and Bernie got 4 and Hillary got 1. Everyone left feeling heard and included and ready do more.

NPI Treasurer Essie Hicks, reporting from ISS 05-2806:

I have been preparing for the Issaquah Middle School Area Caucus for several months because I was helping to run it with my good friend Ava Frisinger, who has led several caucuses. I had the support of great people in the 5th Legislative District, who met frequently to train each other on how to successfully run a caucus, and familiarize ourselves with all of the forms. I loved meeting new friends along this learning process and talking with Hillary and Bernie supporters.

My morning started at 7 AM. I packed my car full of all my supplies, equipment, and double checked my checklist. I showed up as early as Issaquah Middle School would allow me to, and started setting up a sign in desk outside, a whiteboard with suggestions, political materials, and started putting volunteer buttons on early arrivals.

I was so grateful to get so many willing and helping hands. We all set up the tables, precinct signs, and technology together and before I knew it the room was full of people trying to find their precinct.

Websites were down, people were milling around with their smartphones, the Information Desk was full, and we were all working together to help each other. Everyone was helping.

I was so happy to meet people who were just observing. They were not eligible to vote. They just wanted to be there and see how it happened. They were just happy to help.

Some people came too late, and that made me really sad, because I could see how much they really wanted to participate.

We successfully closed our caucus and stayed later with precincts who needed extra help. We discussed resolutions and cleaned up together. People helped me pack my van, and many volunteers stayed with me until every single thing was done. After the car was packed, I drove to Carnation where 5th District Caucus leaders kept rolling.

We unpacked all of our gear and our district leaders had everything laid out so we could sort through everything, tally our results and get them into the State Party. Our little band of 5th Legislative District volunteers is clearly growing. One of the precinct leaders who we had to call to ask a question of, said, “Well, if you have a question, and I can help, I’ll just come down there.” She stayed until 10:30 PM tonight. It is now 11:55 PM, and I’m now ending my night with this little story about my 2016 Caucus experience which I will never forget.

Thank you to all of the Democrats of the twenty-five Issaquah Precincts which Ava Frisinger and I had the pleasure of leading through a successful Caucus. I hope to see all of you in the next four years or so. Thank you for helping each other, helping me, and making this a great experience. We are electing a Democrat in 2016.

NPI Director Ralph Gorin, reporting from Meander:

In my area, big crowd. We filled the middle school cafeteria and gym.

In my precinct there were 21 participants (counting surrogate forms).
15 for Hillary, 6 for Bernie. 2 delegates for Hillary, one for
Bernie. My precinct adjourned at 11:20 AM.

In my area, the statistics were reversed compared to my precinct:
about 2 to 1, Bernie over Hillary. I stayed to help other precincts and to help with the cleanup. We were done with it all by 1:30 PM.

Lots of people stayed to help.

with more reports to follow.

Bernie Sanders wins Washington’s 2016 Democratic presidential precinct caucuses

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders will likely wind up with a commanding victory over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Washington’s 2016 Democratic presidential precinct caucuses, early results suggest.

Washington Democratic Caucuses — Preliminary Results
Saturday, March 26th, 2016

Candidate Percentage Legislative Delegates National Delegates
Bernie Sanders 74.7% 5,536 (so far) 18 (est)
Hillary Clinton 25.1% 1,931 (so far) 5 (est)

The state party has an official results page powered by the Associated Press.

“Washington, thank you for your huge support! It is hard for anybody to deny that our campaign has the momentum,” the Sanders campaign tweeted.

The Clinton campaign has not yet reacted to the mass media’s projections that Sanders will win Washington (as well as Alaska), but earlier today, it was urging supporters in those states plus Hawaii to turn out for Hillary.

Clinton’s campaign anticipated that Sanders could do well in Washington, Alaska, and Hawaii, which are all caucus states.

Wisconsin and Wyoming will be the next states to hold nominating contests, on Tuesday, April 5th, and Saturday, April 9th.

After that, the race shifts to the Atlantic seaboard, with contests in New York, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island.

Congratulations to Bernie Sanders on his impressive victory in Washington State, and kudos to everyone who had a hand in making Washington’s Democratic presidential precinct caucuses happen this morning.

LIVE from Safeco Field: Bernie Sanders returns to Seattle for final rally on caucus eve

Good evening from Safeco Field! It’s a beautiful spring evening here in Seattle’s SoDo neighborhood, where Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is making his final Evergreen State appearance ahead of Washington’s 2016 Democratic precinct caucuses. Sanders is hoping for a big victory in Washington to demonstrate that Hillary Clinton doesn’t have the nomination locked up yet.

Sanders greets the crowd with fresh humor, saying he had dreamed of standing at home plate in a Major League Baseball stadium as a child, but thought he would be at bat rather than giving a speech.

After thanking supporters for the massive turnout, Sanders announces that he foresees the momentum from a victory in Washington translating to subsequent wins in California and Oregon.

In his now famous call-and-repeat about the average donation of $27, Sanders announces that his campaign has now received over 6 million individual donations, a new record for American political campaigns. Reminding voters that Hillary Clinton’s campaign relies heavily on super PAC spending, Sanders calls for his Democratic primary opponent to release the transcripts from her paid speeches to large corporations and Wall Street banks.

Sanders congratulates the City of Seattle for passing a $15 an hour minimum wage, and calls on the nation as a whole to follow suit. Without noting last years ballot measure in Seattle, the candidate also calls for public campaign financing nationwide.

The stump speech takes a somber tone as Sanders shifts from wealth inequality to discriminatory policing, calling for demilitarization of police departments and prosecution of officers who break the law. He announces legislation that he has introduced to remove cannabis from its current status as a schedule I controlled substance.

“They deserve the whole damn dollar!” Sanders declares in reference to the fact that women still make only 79 cents on the dollar compared with their male counterparts.

Emphasizing the importance of infrastructure investment, Sanders notes that Flint is just one of many cities where Americans are being forced to endure conditions that make aspects of the standard of living (i.e water source) in the world’s most prosperous nation comparable to third world countries.

Reminding the crowd of a time before women had the right to vote, before same-sex couples had the right to marry, Sanders declares that there will always be those who say “think smaller.” Despite his detractors within his own party, Sanders doubles down on the importance of taking on the insurance lobby to establish a single payer health care system, and establishing a $15 an hour federal minimum wage.

“Real change comes from the bottom up… when millions of people come together and say ‘enough’ with the status quo… if we stand together, there is nothing we cannot accomplish!”

In closing, Sanders declares that with a high voter turnout, his campaign will secure a win in Washington on the way to the Democratic nomination.

 

Bernie Sanders is coming back to Seattle… and he wants you to help him fill Safeco Field

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is headed back to Seattle for what promises to be one of the biggest political rallies of all time in the history of the Pacific Northwest and the United States.

Sanders will attempt to fill the Seattle Mariners’ home stadium of Safeco Field with tens of thousands of supporters for a massive free rally that will take place on Good Friday, on the eve of Washington State’s 2016 Democratic presidential precinct caucuses. Here is the campaign’s guidance for the event:

Join Bernie Sanders for a rally in Seattle, Washington.

Friday, March 25th, 2016
Safeco Field

1250 1st Ave South
Seattle, WA 98134
Doors open at 4 PM

This event is free and open to the public. Tickets are not required, but RSVPs are strongly encouraged. Admission is first come, first served.

For security reasons, please do not bring bags and limit what you bring to small, personal items like keys and cell phones. Weapons, sharp objects, chairs, and signs or banners on sticks will not be allowed through security. Parking is available at the Safeco Field Garage and CenturyLink Event Center Garage for a fee.

Public Transportation: Light Rail stop is on Central Link line stadium station stop. Sounder line is King Street Station stop.

You may RSVP for the Safeco Field rally here.

As the campaign notes, Safeco Field is well served by transit. Take advantage of Sound Transit’s Link light rail or Sounder commuter rail to get to this rally. Or make use of a Metro or Sound Transit route that serves the International District. (For example, the 550 connects Bellevue to downtown Seattle using bus ramps that allow the buses to drive directly off the expressway into the Transit Tunnel.)

NPI will offer live coverage of the rally on Friday evening.

Be aware that that the Secret Service and law enforcement have had difficulty effectively and efficiently moving people through security checkpoints at recent local events for Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. If you want to be assured of getting in and getting a good seat, arrive early and be prepared to wait a while.

A few tips:

  • Dress in layers so you’ll be comfortable no matter the weather.
  • Travel light. Don’t bring a lot of gear. It’ll slow you down.
  • Bring a paperback novel to read.
  • Go with friends so you’ll have company to talk to while waiting in line.
  • Hydrate before showing up to wait in line at Safeco.
  • Load up some tunes or podcasts on your smartphone or music player to listen to while you’re waiting to get in.

If you’d rather not fight the crowds, you can follow along with us here on the Cascadia Advocate and on In Brief, as well as watch a livestream.

Also, for those on the other side of the mountains: Bernie Sanders will be coming to Yakima for a rally on Thursday afternoon. Doors open at 4 PM.

Thursday, March 24th, 2016
Yakima Valley SunDome at State Fair Park
1301 S. Fair Park Avenue
Yakima, WA 98901

You may RSVP for the Yakima event here.

March 22nd results: Bernie Sanders prevails in Idaho/Utah; Hillary Clinton wins Arizona

Democratic activists and voters in three more states had the opportunity to participate today in the process of choosing a candidate to carry the Democratic Party’s standard in the 2016 presidential elections.

In Arizona, frontrunner Hillary Clinton won easily. With nearly 90% of precincts reporting, she had 58% of the vote, to Sanders’ 40%.

Arizona Democratic Presidential Primary Results
Tuesday, March 22nd, 2016
Precincts Reporting (412 of 487)

Candidate Percentage Votes
Hillary Clinton 58% 230,546
Bernie Sanders 40% 157,774
Martin O’Malley (inactive) 1% 3,547

Speaking at Rainier Beach High School in Seattle, Clinton thanked Arizonans for her victory there, as supporters roared their approval.

But Sanders had his own victories to celebrate. In Idaho and Utah, both caucus states, he won by huge margins, blunting Clinton’s win in Arizona.

Via the Idaho Statesman:

Bernie Sanders soundly defeated Hillary Clinton in Tuesday’s Idaho Democratic caucus, winning across the state by margins as high as 4-1 in a turnout that easily surpassed the previous record year of 2008.

Statewide results gave Sanders 18,640 votes, or 78 percent, to Clinton’s 5,065 votes, 21. percent.

The enormous turnout delayed the start of the caucus by more than two hours in Boise, where Ada County Democrats gathered. Final results were reported at 12:20 a.m, with Sanders winning approximately 80 percent of the more than 9,000 votes cast.

Here’s a breakdown of the results:

Idaho Democratic Caucuses
Tuesday, March 22nd, 2016

Candidate Percentage Votes Est. Delegates
Bernie Sanders 78.2% 18,640 17
Hillary Clinton 21.20% 5,065 6

Sanders performed just as impressively in Utah:

Utah Democratic Caucuses
Tuesday, March 22nd, 2016

Candidate Percentage Votes Est. Delegates
Bernie Sanders 79.37% 34,140 19
Hillary Clinton 20.32% 8,739 6

Each candidate ends the night having added about the same number of unpledged/grassroots national convention delegates to their total.

The Democratic contest now moves to Washington, Alaska, and Hawaii, which will all hold caucuses this Saturday. The Washington State Democratic caucuses are the big prize, with one hundred and one delegates at stake. The Clintons have been stumping here over the last forty-eight hours, and Bernie Sanders spent Palm Sunday 2016 holding rallies in three of the state’s urban centers. His campaign has indicated he will return for additional events later this week.

Sound Transit’s University Link light rail extension opens to the public for free rides

Flanked by King County Executive Dow Constantine and the Emerald City’s First Gentleman, Michael Shiosaki, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray this morning used a giant pair of ceremonial scissors to cut open a ribbon at the entrance of Sound Transit’s new Capitol Hill Station, signaling the opening of Sound Transit’s University Link light rail to the public after seven years of construction.

Scene at the University Link ribbon cutting

Confetti cannons fired after the ribbon was cut, creating a festival-like atmosphere (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

A large crowd of “Golden Ticket” winners, who’d just taken their first ride on U-Link, burst into cheers and applause as confetti filled the air and began streaming back into the station to get on trains going north to the University of Washington and south to Westlake Center in downtown Seattle.

The ceremonial ribbon cutting ended an hour of opening morning festivities that began with a “Power Up” celebration at the University of Washington Station (led by Executive Constantine), an inaugural ride for the Golden Ticket winners (who were joined by members of the media and VIPs) and a second “Power Up” celebration at the Capitol Hill Station (led by Mayor Murray).

Murray proceeded to shake hands with the first few dozen people waiting in line to go into the Capitol Hill Station, thanking them for their patience during construction and their participation in the opening festivities.

And with that, the Capitol Hill and University of Washington Stations officially opened for business. They’ve been very busy all morning long, but Sound Transit has done an excellent job keeping people moving. The agency is running three-car trains at six minute intervals to handle the demand.

Riders detrain after inaugural "Golden Ticket" ride

Riders detrain after inaugural “Golden Ticket” ride (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

As a thank you to taxpayers, Sound Transit is offering free rides up and down the line all day long. (Click the link to open a virtual commemorative ticket good for unlimited free rides on your smartphone prior to boarding at any station.)

So far, it’s been smooth sailing, with no glitches or delays of any kind.

Happy, smiling passengers are getting their first taste of what it’s like to zoom underground between downtown, Capitol Hill, and the University of Washington… a trip that takes just eight minutes or less.

Inside and adjacent to the new stations, there are musicians, food trucks, informational booths, and games for all to enjoy.

Sound Transit and the City of Seattle invite you to come on down and experience University Link for yourself. It’s your turn to ride!

Getting to University Link

Sound Transit recommends you walk, bike, or take the bus to get to one of the new stations. Or, alternatively, you can get on Link itself at one of the original stations, and travel north to reach Capitol Hill and the University of Washington.

Get there. There is no parking at either station. Transit, biking, ride-sharing and park-and-ride are all great ways to get to the event. Special event shuttle service will connect Northgate Transit Center to University of Washington Station during the event.

Be prepared. We’re planning for sunny skies, but Northwest weather in spring can be unpredictable. Stay comfortable by dressing in layers and keeping a small umbrella handy. Many areas will be covered.

Get social. We love to hear from you! Share your launch day experience with #ULink2016 on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

We’re here for you. For your convenience, our customer service office will be open during Launch Day. They can be reached at 1-888-889-6368 from 8 AM to 5 PM.

Enjoy your ride!

Bernie Sanders to rally with supporters this Sunday in Seattle, Vancouver, and Spokane

Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign has announced that it will be holding a series of big rallies across Washington this Sunday in advance of the Evergreen State’s Democratic precinct caucuses on Saturday, March 26th.

The campaign events will be held in sequence, with the first in Vancouver Sunday morning, the second in Seattle in the late afternoon, and the third in Spokane in the evening. Each rally is free and open to the public. Tickets are not required, but RSVPs are recommended. Entrance to the rallies will be on a first-come, first-served basis. Arrive early if you wish to be assured of getting in.

Details for each are as follows:

Vancouver Rally
Doors open at 11 AM
Hudson’s Bay High School (Vancouver, WA)
1601 E McLoughlin Blvd
Vancouver, WA 98663
RSVP here

Seattle Rally
Doors open at 2 PM
KeyArena at Seattle Center
305 Harrison St
Seattle, WA 98109
RSVP here

Spokane Rally
Doors open at 6 PM
Spokane Convention Center – Ballroom 111ABC
334 West Spokane Falls Blvd.
Spokane, WA 99201
RSVP here

NPI will bring you live coverage of the Seattle rally on Sunday evening, March 20th, so pull up the Cascadia Advocate then if you can’t make it but wish to follow along.

Sound Transit’s University Link light rail extension: An incredible experience

Yesterday afternoon, as rays of sunlight broke through the cloudy skies above our region, Sound Transit invited representatives of regional and local media outlets to join agency leadership for a special University Link light rail preview ride and tour of the new University of Washington and Capitol Hill stations.

University Link opens to the public this Saturday, March 19th, at 10 AM, six months ahead of schedule and two hundred million dollars under budget. It is a vital, much-anticipated northward expansion of Central Link, which currently connects Westlake Center to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Seatac.

The entire segment runs underground, like the subways of New York, Boston, D.C., or Philadelphia, and is therefore not susceptible to getting stuck in traffic.

Riding University Link is an incredible experience. The stations are beautiful and thoughtfully designed, from the entrances to the mezzanines to the platforms. The public art you’ll see is mesmerizing. But the best part of all is being able to step onto a train and zoom between neighborhoods in the span of just a few minutes.

Going from the UW to Capitol Hill in three hundred seconds, bypassing all the traffic congestion above ground, is quite the sensation. It’s never been possible before now due to our lack of a subway. Above ground, you can walk, bike, take a bus, hail a taxicab, or summon a ridesharing service to get between neighborhoods.

But you can’t get between Capitol Hill and the UW campus in four minutes on any of those modes. Especially not at rush hour, as writing staff of The Stranger discovered in October of 2014 when eight of them competed with each other to go from the weekly’s offices on Capitol Hill to the College Inn.

Link light rail train exiting tunnel

A Link light rail train exits a tunnel, entering the Capitol Hill Station (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

University Link is going to fundamentally reshape mobility in Seattle and beyond. The addition of these new stations will likely result in a huge ridership boom. A week after opening day, Metro and Sound Transit will introduce revised bus routing to provide better connections with the new stations.

There will be new routes, too, like the 541, which will run between Redmond’s Overlake neighborhood and the new University of Washington Station.

University Link is going to simplify getting around for a lot of Seattleites and visitors to Seattle. It means more one seat rides for more people, and simpler trips for still others. For instance, a Rainier Valley resident who wants to get to a Huskies game at Hec Ed or Husky Stadium can now get there using their own two feet and the train. A prospective visitor to the UW campus can use Link to get from the airport or Amtrak to a hotel and to campus, so as not to have to bother with a car.

Getting this system built wasn’t easy. Sound Transit had to overcome a lot of hostility and cynicism, as I explained to KING5’s Josh Green for his story on the preview ride. The agency dug itself into a hole in its early years due to project mismanagement and became a target of Tim Eyman. Fortunately, Sound Transit’s board found the perfect person to turn everything around: Joni Earl.

Joni has now been succeeded as Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff, but she remains involved as CEO Emeritus. Rogoff pays tribute to her at pretty much every opportunity, which is appropriate, since it was her leadership that transformed Sound Transit into the high performing agency it is today.

ST’s recent track record of success has mostly silenced the naysayers of yesteryear, who used to constantly trash light rail as a bad investment.

Occasionally, a critic will pop up and complain that the system should have already been built out to Northgate by now. These same anti-rail critics are the ones who vociferously argued that Link should be canceled altogether back at the turn of the century, when Sound Transit conceded it needed to restart its planning process.

It’s worth keeping in mind that had those critics gotten their way, light rail never would have been built at all. Link would have suffered a similar fate to that of Forward Thrust. We’d still have an all “rubber tire” transit system running on roads, and we’d be lamenting our failure to invest in a rail spine to complement our bus network and provide reliable transportation through our congested corridors.

Thankfully, wiser heads prevailed and ensured that Central Link got built. That was followed by Airport Link. Now we have University Link opening, which is a huge milestone, and that’ll be followed by Angle Lake Link later this year.

Federal assistance secured by Senator Patty Murray was crucial in making Link a reality. The federal government stepped up to provide most of the money for University Link, and is very happy with its investment. (U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx will be here Friday to help dedicate the new extension.)

If you would like to try out University Link for yourself, you may do so beginning Saturday morning, when the new extension will be open to the public. Leading up to that, Sound Transit has special launch and commemoration events planned. We will bring you extensive coverage of those events as we celebrate the inauguration of service to our region’s two newest light rail stations.

LIVE from Olympia: Washington’s Supreme Court hears oral argument in Lee v. State

Good morning from Olympia! NPI Treasurer Essie Hicks and I are here at the Temple of Justice, the meeting place of the Supreme Court, to listen to oral argument in Lee v. State, the legal challenge to Tim Eyman’s I-1366. Attorneys representing each of the parties in the case will have an opportunity to summarize their arguments before the nine justices of the Court.

I will post updates throughout the hour as we go along.

UPDATE, 9:10 AM: The first attorney to present is Richard Stephens, who represents Tim Eyman and his associates. Eyman is one of the defendants in the case, but he’s also one of the appellants, because he was on the losing side when the case was decided in King County Superior Court.

Since stepping forward to begin his presentation, Stephens has been peppered with skeptical questions, primarily from Justice Debra Stephens, but also from Justices Mary Yu, Susan Owens, Sheryl Gordon McCloud, and Mary Fairhurst.

The main line of questioning from the justices concerns the defendants’ argument that I-1366 is simply conditional legislation that is within the scope of the initiative power. Justice Owens asked if an initiative that would roll back the sales tax unless the Supreme Court lifted its McCleary sanctions would be constitutional; while Justice Stephens wanted to know if an initiative that threatened to roll back the sales tax unless the governor resigned would similarly be constitutional.

These are very, very good questions. The justices have clearly done their homework and came prepared to challenge the defendants’ attorneys’ arguments.

UPDATE, 9:20 AM: Callie Castillo is up now, representing the State of Washington. She’s arguing I-1366 was about “tax reform” (we completely disagree), and therefore the initiative doesn’t violate Article II, Section 19, the single subject rule, which applies to bills and initiatives alike. (The single subject rule was devised by our founders to prevent logrolling — the lumping together of dissimilar policy objectives under one piece of legislation.)

UPDATE, 9:27 AM: Pacifica Law Group’s Paul Lawrence is now speaking for the plaintiffs, who are the respondents in this appeal.

The crux of the case against I-1366 is that it:

  • contains two subjects, in violation of Article II, Section 19;
  • runs afoul of Article XXIII because it attempts to invoke the constitutional amendment process, which only the Legislature may do;
  • abridges the 2016 Legislature’s plenary powers.

UPDATE, 9:38 AM: The justices have posed some interesting hypotheticals for Paul. Justice Charlie Wiggins, for instance, wanted to know if the Legislature could have constitutionally adopted a measure like I-1366.

Lawrence immediately answered no. The single-subject rule, he noted, applies to bills as well as initiatives. He also observed that the 2016 Legislature can’t bind a future Legislature. “You can’t restrict their options,” Lawrence said.

UPDATE, 9:46 AM: Paul is doing a splendid job of explaining why the provisions of I-1366 (the massive sales tax cut and the provision that attempts to dictate a constitutional amendment) aren’t severable.

The Court must therefore strike down the initiative in its entirety.

UPDATE, 9:58 AM: Paul Lawrence has finished his presentation and Callie Castillo is back up for rebuttal (using the balance of her time).

Castillo was interrupted right off the bat when she stated that the people have the same powers as the Legislature. “Wait a minute,” said Justice Gonzalez, pointing out under Article XXIII, only the Legislature has the power to propose constitutional amendments. (The people do not have that power.)

Castillo acknowledged the people don’t have the power to propose amendments, but reemphasized her argument that I-1366 is a “legislative act”.

State Representative Lillian Ortiz-Self to speak at NPI’s 2016 Spring Fundraising Gala

With the season of renewal less than a week away, and NPI’s 2016 Spring Fundraising Gala not far behind, it’s now time for us to announce who the final speaker at this year’s gala will be. Previously, we had the pleasure of revealing that U.S. Representative Adam Smith would be our keynote speaker and Tina Podlodowski would be our master of ceremonies. We also announced that we will be honoring U.S. Representative Jim McDermott for a lifetime of public service.

Representative Lillian Ortiz-Self, D-21

Representative Lillian Ortiz-Self, D-21

Tonight, we’re thrilled to announce that State Representative Lillian Ortiz-Self of Mukilteo will help anchor this year’s speaking program.

Representative Ortiz-Self was appointed to the Washington State House of Representatives two years ago, succeeding fellow Democrat Marko Liias, who moved over to the Washington State Senate. Both represent the 21st Legislative District.

Aside from her service as a state lawmaker, she has co-chaired the Educational Opportunity Gap Oversight and Accountability Committee, and was a member of the Governor’s Commission on Hispanic Affairs, the Achievement Accountability Workgroup, and the Student Discipline Task Force.

As a counselor at the Everett’s North Middle School, Representative Ortiz-Self understands firsthand the importance of fully funding our public schools. She currently serves as the Vice Chair of the House Education Committee. She also sits on two other committees: Transportation and Early Learning & Human Services.

Last week, during the long and sometimes tedious House floor debate over Steve Litzow’s bill to divert lottery money to charter schools (2ESSB 6194), Representative Ortiz-Self brightened up the House chamber a bit by introducing an amendment requiring that members of the Washington State Charter School Commission and members of charter school boards file personal financial affairs statements (F1s) with the Public Disclosure Commission, just like legislators and school board members do.

Republicans were initially opposed to the amendment, but after hearing Democrats’ arguments in favor of it, Matt Manweller stood up to say, “You’ve won us over”. Most Republicans subsequently voted in favor, and it passed. It was one of the few amendments that the Republicans and the Larry Springer-led pro-charters faction of the House Democratic caucus agreed to add to the bill.

Representative Ortiz-Self voted against 2ESSB 6194 on final passage. We greatly appreciate both that courageous “no” vote and her work on the transparency amendment that the House agreed to add. We desperately need more champions for Washington’s youth like her in the Legislature.

We hope you’ll consider joining us and our distinguished speakers at our eighth Spring Fundraising Gala on April 1st. If you haven’t yet bought your ticket yet, we urge you to do so now using one of the buttons below.

A household ticket admits all the members of an immediate family and is a good value if you plan to attend with your spouse or children. (The gala is a family-friendly event, and young people of all ages are welcome!).

These are our ticket rates:

  • Individual ($75, admits one person)
  • Household ($120, admits an entire family)
  • Living Lightly ($25, for students and activists on limited incomes)

Buy a ticket to the gala

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Click above to buy a ticket using a credit card.

Here’s what else you can expect at our 2016 Spring Fundraising Gala:

  • A full dinner buffet with vegetarian and vegan choices
  • Beer and wine selections from our cash bar
  • Opportunities to mingle with fellow activists and elected leaders
  • A chance to win a scrumptious dessert for your table at our second annual Dessert Dash, organized by our Host Committee
  • A family-friendly atmosphere

If you’d like to RSVP for the gala on Facebook, you can do so here.

Students who want to volunteer to help put on the event can get in the door free. If you’re interested in volunteering, please get in touch with us.

In the weeks to come, we’ll be sharing more details about our 2016 gala, including the names of our other speakers. We hope you’ll help us make our biggest event of the year a success by buying your ticket and committing to attend.

See you on April 1st!

Washington State Supreme Court to hear oral argument in Lee v. State tomorrow morning

Tomorrow morning, the Washington State Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral argument in Lee v. State, the post-election legal challenge to Tim Eyman’s I-1366, which narrowly passed last November amidst record low voter turnout.

I-1366 was an attempt by Eyman to coerce the Washington State Legislature into overturning a previous Supreme Court decision, League of Education Voters v. State, which held that previous initiatives by Eyman to require a two-thirds vote to pass any revenue bills were unconstitutional. I-1366 threatened to wipe out $8 billion in funding for schools and other public services unless the Legislature agreed to reverse the League of Education Voters decision by April 15th, 2016.

However, in January, King County Superior Court Judge William Downing struck down I-1366 in its entirety, agreeing with plaintiffs that the initiative was unconstitutional in multiple respects. Downing’s decision was immediately appealed to the Washington State Supreme Court, which will deliver a final verdict.

For the last several weeks, the Court has been accepting briefs from attorneys representing the plaintiffs, the defendants, and amici. Tomorrow, the makers of those briefs will summarize their arguments before the nine justices of the Court. Each side is allotted twenty minutes to present its case.

Back in January, after our victory in Superior Court, I wrote a post explaining why Eyman can expect the Washington State Supreme Court to affirm Judge Downing’s ruling. Eyman had brashly, confidently predicted victory prior to the morning Downing published his ruling, and was seemingly stunned when it went completely against him. But he needn’t have been. As I wrote in the aforementioned post:

We have been saying for two years straight that what became I-1366 was unconstitutional. We drew that conclusion from a plain reading of the initiative’s text and the Washington State Constitution. Our conclusion was reinforced by talking with experts who teach or have familiarity with constitutional law.

I-1366 is unconstitutional because it is outside the scope of the initiative process,  contains multiple subjects, infringes on the Legislature’s exclusive power to propose constitutional amendments, and also abridges the Legislature’s plenary powers.

I-1366 is arguably Eyman’s most constitutionally defective initiative yet, which is really saying something, because most of the initiatives Eyman has gotten past the voters in the past have been struck down by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional. While a single fatal defect can result in an initiative’s demise, I-1366 happens to be chock full of fatal defects. It’s easy pickings for an experienced litigator like Pacifica Law Group’s Paul Lawrence, who ably represents the plaintiffs.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s office, meanwhile, has the unpleasant, unenviable task of mounting a defense of I-1366 as required by law. Given I-1366’s plethora of defects, they have an extraordinarily weak case, and have had to result to legal acrobatics to reach the conclusion that I-1366 shouldn’t be struck down.

This is evident from their briefs, which simply aren’t persuasive.

Eyman, not surprisingly, thinks the arguments that Ferguson’s team has come up with are gold, and has gushed over their work product. When the case was at the Superior Court level, Eyman sent out an email to reporters that heavily excerpted one of the briefs submitted by Assistant Solicitor General Callie Castillo.

(At least they have one satisfied customer. I’m guessing Eyman won’t be as charitable to Ferguson’s office when and if they file suit against him for serious violations of Washington’s public disclosure law.)

Judge Downing thoughtfully considered the arguments proffered by the state and by Eyman’s attorney and rejected them… all of them.

Eyman professed himself to be quite impressed with Downing after having watched the oral argument. In a subsequent email to reporters, he declared:

Some judges are poker players who keep their cards close to their vest; Judge William Downing didn’t go with that approach today.  He signaled early and often that he wasn’t buying what 1366’s opponents were selling.

You might think that having been in and out of court so many times over the years, Eyman would have learned something about how the judiciary works. But apparently not. It’s very common for judges and justices to play devil’s advocate with attorneys at oral argument. A good jurist always reads the briefs submitted by counsel ahead of time to understand the case. Oral argument gives jurists an opportunity to challenge each side’s attorneys with probing questions.

Eyman mistook Judge Downing’s line of questioning of Paul Lawrence as a sign that the judge was on his side. But as he soon discovered, Downing wasn’t on his side. He was simply covering all of the bases before handing down a ruling.

Eyman is still convinced that his side’s arguments, which have been repackaged for the Supreme Court’s consideration, are “excellent” and “brilliant”. I rather doubt the nine popularly elected justices of our state’s highest court will agree.

Unless they wish to break with decades of precedent and settled case law, they’ll affirm Judge Downing’s ruling, relegating I-1366 to the dustbin of history.

Eyman may not be resigned to that outcome, but he seems prepared for it, at least. His latest email to followers acknowledges the possibility that the Supreme Court will strike I-1366 down. If that’s what happens, Eyman says he’ll “fight back with follow-up initiatives”. Presumably, that means he’ll move ahead with the unconstitutional I-1366 sequel he’s said he’ll try to qualify to the ballot this year.

Some observers of Washington politics have openly wondered if Eyman deliberately writes defective initiatives, so as to have an excuse to keep shaking his electronic tin cup year after year. Why else does this pattern keep repeating itself?

While it’s certainly true that Eyman profits whether he wins or loses, my view is that Eyman is a con artist who likes to see what he can get away with. His initiatives are strategic power plays, intended to immobilize progressive organizations, fracture the Democratic Party, defund public services, and sow mistrust in government.

Up until Judge Downing struck down I-1366 in January of this year, Eyman was flying high (or he thought he was, anyway). Wealthy benefactors had stepped up to fund the I-1366 signature drive, the courts had declined to block I-1366 from the ballot, and I-1366 had passed in the November 2015 general election. And all of this happened against the backdrop of Eyman being investigated by the Public Disclosure Commission for serious violations of our public disclosure laws.

But now I-1366 is crashing and burning. Thanks to Judge Downing, it’s unenforceable for the time being.

If the Supreme Court affirms, we’ll be able to give I-1366 a final burial.

The Legislature, meanwhile, has refused to give Eyman what he wants. Republicans, who are in Eyman’s corner, tried to push through a constitutional amendment to require a two-thirds vote for revenue bills. But, to Eyman’s consternation, Democrats stayed unified, voting to uphold our Constitution and nixed the amendment, which (ironically and appropriately) needed a two-thirds vote to pass.

Beginning at 9 AM tomorrow, we’ll be offering live coverage of the oral argument in Lee v. State here on the Cascadia Advocate. We invite you to follow along as we share our observations and thoughts on the case.

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