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.

So much for that bankruptcy: Tim Eyman moves for his Chapter 11 case to be dismissed

Late last year, Tim Eyman sent out an email in which he claimed that Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s efforts to hold him accountable for his repeated violations of Washington’s public disclosure laws had left him with no choice but to file for bankruptcy and divorce from his wife Karen. Said Eyman in that email:

“The amount that the government, the lawyers, and others are going to take from me is the value of all my assets on the day I filed for bankruptcy. That includes our home, cars, furniture, savings, etc. It will be the bankruptcy judge, not the AG, who will decide how much I owe. I’ll then have years under a payment plan to pay that amount using future earnings and/or the sale of assets, like our home. It’s going to be the most difficult financial challenge I’ve ever faced.”

“But again, I have no choice.”

Eyman’s woe-is-me declaration instantly made headlines and prompted many people to conclude that Eyman’s finances were in precarious shape.

But as NPI reported last week here on the Cascadia Advocate, in recent filings with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for Western Washington, Eyman disclosed having nearly half a million dollars in checking accounts with three different banks, plus additional sums in savings accounts and retirement accounts, personal property valued at over half a million dollars, and a home valued at nearly a million dollars.

Eyman’s Chapter 11 filing is “based on the assumption that Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s office will be successful in winning a very large, $2.1 million judgment against him,” I explained in that post, adding: “That hasn’t happened yet and it can’t happen before January of next year, when the trial in the main State of Washington v. Tim Eyman case will take place. It is possible that Eyman and Ferguson could reach a mutually acceptable settlement agreement beforehand that entails Eyman paying a large penalty, but that seems unlikely.”

On February 28th, less than a week after I wrote those words, Eyman and his attorney Larry Feinstein conceded my point in their Motion to Dismiss:

The Debtor filed these proceedings on November 28, 2018 (Dkt #1). His petition listed two creditors: one was his former attorneys, the other is the State of  Washington. The State has asserted substantial disputed unliquidated claims against the Debtor arising from State of Washington v. Tim Eyman, et al. (Thurston County Superior Court case no. 17-2-01546-34) and State v. Tougher to Raise Taxes, et al. (Thurston County Superior Court case no. 16-2-03891-34).

Those cases are still pending.

After notice and hearing, the Court entered a Comfort Order on Exemption from Automatic Stay on January 8, 2019 (Dkt. #38).

They are proceeding according to their trial schedule. Those cases will not be brought to trial no earlier than 2020 and maybe well after that, as there are pending motions to amend the complaint(s) which will push trial even further into the future.

After due consideration, and because the amount and nature of any claims that might be asserted are years out, the Debtor wishes for his bankruptcy to be dismissed at this time.

Until such time as the disputed unliquidated claims are reduced to judgment, if any, the benefits of maintaining the expense of a Chapter 11 proceeding are outweighed by practical realities. The Debtor would not be able to propose a feasible plan until the total amount owed to the State of Washington is determined and liquidated.

If either party appeals a decision, it will be many years down the road before a final allowed claim could be dealt with and structured in a bankruptcy proceeding.

Emphasis is mine.

Tim Eyman's motion to dismiss bankruptcy filing

Eyman’s Motion to Dismiss is a clear admission that this entire proceeding was unnecessary. Tim Eyman is not bankrupt, and he did not need to file for bankruptcy. Yet he did anyway. Why? Well, perhaps Eyman was advised that filing for bankruptcy would be a way to stall Attorney General Ferguson’s lawsuit.

Normally, when a person or entity files for bankruptcy, it generally results in an automatic stay of all civil proceedings against them. And Eyman’s Chapter 11 filing did have the effect of pausing State of Washington v. Tim Eyman… but only for a few weeks. The State promptly asked for and got a Comfort Order from U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Marc Barreca giving it a green light to proceed with its case in Thurston County Superior Court under the the “police and regulatory power” exemption defined in 11 U.S. Code § 362 (Automatic Stay).

With the comfort order in hand in early January, Ferguson’s office was back in business and State of Washington v. Tim Eyman picked up where matters had been left off. But of course the bankruptcy proceedings that Eyman had initiated continued. And as his lawyer told the court, that’s been costing Eyman money:

The current bankruptcy filing has not slowed the legal expenses incurred by the Debtor but has actually increased them with the addition of US Trustee fees and bankruptcy counsel’s fees.

Those fees and expenses would lessen the eventual amounts available for distribution to his creditors.

The Debtor must devote his limited resources to where it will do the most good. It is in the creditors’ best interest for this bankruptcy to be dismissed and the pending litigation resolved.

Limited resources, ha!

No doubt Eyman is anxious to get this proceeding shut down so he doesn’t have to continue filing reports detailing his personal financial position which his opposition gets to examine, along with anyone else who might be interested.

In the meantime, though, Eyman has continued to cite his sham bankruptcy in his fundraising appeals. Emails sent by Eyman since February 28th (when he moved to dismiss his Chapter 11 case) have ended with the following plea:

“I’m still struggling to dig myself out of all the legal expenses, bankruptcy costs, and other crap that the AG’s lawsuit is costing me. If you’re willing to help, there’s three options: 1) Mail check […] 2) PayPal […], 3) GoFundMe.”

If you believe what Tim Eyman says, perhaps you’d like to buy a bridge from me.

Former Eyman attorney Joel Ard claimed in a brief filed with the court that the State of Washington does not object to the termination of the bankruptcy case. However, the State’s response to the Motion to Dismiss has not yet been submitted. It isn’t due until next week. The State did previously submit an objection to Ard’s application for attorney’s fees. Ard requested $56,087.70 despite having backed out of representing Eyman only a short time after taking him on as client.

Tim “Chairman” Eyman pleads not guilty to charge of theft in the third degree

Last month, in what has become one of the most infamous incidents of shoplifting in Washington State history, disgraced initiative promoter and political scammer Tim Eyman was caught on camera taking a Brenton Studios Mayhart Chair from Office Depot without paying for it. The City of Lacey, not amused by Eyman’s “I didn’t steal because I didn’t mean to steal” routine, charged Eyman with theft.

Today, Eyman pleaded not guilty to that charge, even though the video evidence clearly demonstrates that he did the crime (and should thus do some time):

Tim Eyman walks out with office chair

We all know what the right wing thinks should happen to lawbreakers like Eyman: No mercy! Throw the book at them! Impose the harshest possible punishment!

“Criminals don’t abide by the law. Bring back the death penalty and make ‘crime pay‘.” — Gary, a “law and order” conservative from Yakima who was featured in a recent newsletter published by State Representative Bruce Chandler

After Eyman’s plea of not guilty was entered for him by his attorney, he was ordered by the court not to have any contact with the Office Depot in Lacey that he stole the chair from. However, Eyman has already been back to the store: he even created a video with the help of a friend showing him attempting to return the stolen chair, which he was told to turn over to the Lacey Police Department.

After giving the stolen chair to Lacey Police, the video shows Eyman going back to the Lacey Office Depot and buying an identical Brenton Studios Mayhart chair.

However, it appears that at least for the immediate future, Eyman will not be setting foot inside the Lacey Office Depot, at least unless he desires to disobey a judge and get into even more trouble than he already is.

Eyman’s next court date in this criminal case is April 16th. His next civil court date is tomorrow, when he will be appearing before Judge James Dixon in the main State of Washington v. Tim Eyman campaign finance enforcement suit.

Washington State House passes bill ending the personal exemption for MMR vaccine

A provision in state law that allows parents of schoolchildren to opt their kids out of receiving a vaccination for measles, mumps, and rubella (the MMR diseases) on so-called personal or philosophical grounds may soon be abolished.

Tonight, after a long floor debate, the House of Representatives passed Engrossed House Bill 1638, prime sponsored by Republican Paul Harris. The bill amends RCW 28A.210.080 and 28A.210.090 to allow schoolchildren and kids in daycare to be exempted from the MMR vaccine for medical or religious reasons only.

The roll call was as follows:

Roll Call
EHB 1638
Vaccine preventable diseases
Final Passage
3/5/2019

Yeas: 57; Nays: 40; Excused: 1

Voting Yea: Representatives Bergquist, Callan, Chapman, Cody, Davis, Doglio, Dolan, Dye, Entenman, Fey, Fitzgibbon, Frame, Goodman, Gregerson, Hansen, Harris, Hudgins, Jinkins, Kilduff, Kloba, Leavitt, Lekanoff, Lovick, Macri, Mead, Morgan, Morris, Ormsby, Ortiz-Self, Orwall, Paul, Pellicciotti, Peterson, Pettigrew, Pollet, Ramos, Reeves, Riccelli, Robinson, Ryu, Santos, Sells, Senn, Shewmake, Slatter, Springer, Stanford, Stokesbary, Stonier, Sullivan, Tarleton, Thai, Tharinger, Valdez, Walen, Wylie, Chopp

Voting Nay: Representatives Barkis, Blake, Boehnke, Caldier, Chambers, Chandler, Corry, DeBolt, Dent, Dufault, Eslick, Gildon, Goehner, Graham, Griffey, Hoff, Irwin, Jenkin, Kirby, Klippert, Kraft, Kretz, MacEwen, Maycumber, McCaslin, Mosbrucker, Orcutt, Rude, Schmick, Shea, Smith, Steele, Sutherland, Van Werven, Vick, Volz, Walsh, Wilcox, Ybarra, Young

Excused: Representative Appleton

Three Republicans voted for the legislation: Mary Dye, Paul Harris, and Drew Stokesbary. Two Democrats voted against it: Brian Blake and Steve Kirby. One Democrat did not participate in the vote (Sherry Appleton).

A recent measles outbreak in Clark County served as the impetus for the bill; Clark County is Representative Harris’ home jurisdiction. The outbreak prompted Governor Jay Inslee to declare a state of emergency earlier this year.

According to PBS, Clark County has one of the lowest vaccination rates anywhere: seventy-eight percent, which isn’t high enough to provide effective herd immunity.

“Since January 1st [2019], Public Health has identified seventy confirmed cases and is currently investigating two suspect cases,” Clark County’s official online summary of the investigation states. “Public Health has identified one new location where people may have been exposed to measles.”

“The measles vaccine isn’t perfect, but one dose is ninety-three percent effective at preventing illness,” reads an explanation from Dr. Alan Melnick, Clark County’s health officer and Public Health director. “The recommended two doses of the measles vaccine provide even greater protection – ninety-seven percent.”

In approving HB 1638, the Washington State House is following in the footsteps of the Left Coast’s largest state, California, which has also struggled with the issue.

Following a big measles outbreak at Disneyland, California lawmakers voted in 2015 to abolish the personal exemption for vaccines in the Golden State.

“Before the change, only ninety percent of California children were vaccinated, which is below the ninety-four percent threshold public health experts say is needed to create community immunity to measles. Now, according to a study released last month, ninety-five percent of California children are vaccinated,” Governing Magazine noted in a December 2018 report presciently titled “‘Ripe for an Outbreak’: Vaccine Exemptions Are on the Rise” and written by Mattie Quinn.

Representative Harris has characterized EHB 1638 as “a small step” because it only ends the personal/philosophical exemption for the MMR vaccine.

EHB 1638 now heads to the Washington State Senate for further consideration.

Bill to make prepaid postage on return ballot envelopes permanent sails out of Senate

A bill that would make prepaid postage on return ballot envelopes a permanent voting reform in Washington State has cleared the Senate.

“This bill is a huge step forward in making Washington elections fairer and more accessible for everyone in the state,” said prime sponsor Joe Nguyen (D-34th District: West Seattle, Vashon). “For most people, the idea that you would have to pay to return your ballot, even if that only means a stamp, just doesn’t sit right. Passing this legislation removes that question and brings everyone to the table.”

Before last year’s midterms, ballot return envelopes sent out by county elections officials instructed voters to place a stamp on the envelope.

After King County decided to make prepaid postage universal within its jurisdiction, Secretary of State Kim Wyman and Governor Jay Inslee cobbled together the money to ensure the state’s other thirty-eight counties could do likewise.

But that was just a temporary measure.

Substitute Senate Bill 5063 permanently abolishes what had been tantamount to a miniature poll tax by requiring prepaid postage on ballot return envelopes at state expense. Implementation will cost an estimated $4.8 million during the 2019-2021 biennium, according to a fiscal note prepared by OFM.

It’s a small price to pay, relatively speaking, for the elimination of a seemingly small but actually very cumbersome barrier to voting for many people.

“I think we are stronger as individuals and communities when we all have access to voting and are a part of the process,” Senator Nguyen said in a news release. “I also want to thank Senator Bob Hasegawa for his years championing this legislation. We could not have accomplished this without his leadership and vision.”

SSB 5063 is one of NPI’s priority bills for the 2019 legislative session. We are thrilled to see it pass. This legislation is long overdue and we’re glad it’s finally arrived. The roll call vote on SSB 5063 was fittingly rather lopsided:

Roll Call
SB 5063
Ballots, prepaid postage
3rd Reading & Final Passage
3/5/2019

Yeas: 42; Nays: 3; Excused: 4

Voting Yea: Senators Bailey, Billig, Braun, Brown, Carlyle, Cleveland, Darneille, Das, Dhingra, Fortunato, Frockt, Hasegawa, Hawkins, Hobbs, Holy, Hunt, Keiser, King, Kuderer, Liias, Lovelett, McCoy, Mullet, Nguyen, O`Ban, Palumbo, Pedersen, Randall, Rivers, Rolfes, Saldaña, Salomon, Schoesler, Short, Takko, Van De Wege, Wagoner, Warnick, Wellman, Wilson (Claire), Wilson (Lynda), Zeiger

Voting Nay: Senators Ericksen, Honeyford, Padden

Excused: Senators Becker, Conway, Sheldon, Walsh

Three Republican Senators voted against the bill: Trump admirer and Eyman buddy Doug Ericksen, Jim Honeyford, and Mike Padden. Four senators did not vote.

SSB 5063 will next be considered by the Washington State House.

Washington State House sends bill to reform presidential primary to Governor Jay Inslee

Legislation that would make Washington’s presidential primary usable by both major political parties for the first time in state history cleared the Legislature today with an almost party-line vote in the House of Representatives.

Engrossed Senate Bill 5273, sponsored by Senator Sam Hunt, passed with a vote of fifty-four to forty-two, with two excused. The bill moves the the default date of the presidential primary from the fourth Tuesday in May to the second Tuesday in March and puts the political parties in charge of drawing up the list of candidates that will appear on their respective ballots (instead of the Secretary of State).

The roll call was as follows:

Roll Call
ESB 5273
Presidential primary
Final Passage
3/4/2019

Yeas: 54; Nays: 42; Excused: 2

Voting Yea: Representatives Appleton, Bergquist, Callan, Chapman, Cody, Davis, Doglio, Dolan, Entenman, Fey, Fitzgibbon, Frame, Goodman, Gregerson, Hansen, Hudgins, Jinkins, Kilduff, Kirby, Kloba, Leavitt, Lekanoff, Lovick, Macri, Mead, Morgan, Morris, Ormsby, Ortiz-Self, Orwall, Paul, Pellicciotti, Peterson, Pettigrew, Pollet, Ramos, Riccelli, Robinson, Ryu, Santos, Sells, Senn, Shewmake, Slatter, Springer, Stanford, Stonier, Sullivan, Tarleton, Thai, Tharinger, Valdez, Walen, Chopp

Voting Nay: Representatives Barkis, Blake, Boehnke, Caldier, Chambers, Chandler, Corry, DeBolt, Dent, Dufault, Dye, Eslick, Gildon, Goehner, Graham, Griffey, Harris, Hoff, Irwin, Jenkin, Klippert, Kraft, Kretz, MacEwen, Maycumber, McCaslin, Mosbrucker, Orcutt, Rude, Schmick, Shea, Smith, Steele, Stokesbary, Sutherland, Van Werven, Vick, Volz, Walsh, Wilcox, Ybarra, Young

Excused: Representatives Reeves, Wylie

Brian Blake was the only Democratic State Representative to vote against the bill. No Republicans voted for it, perhaps desiring to show solidarity with Secretary of State Kim Wyman, who wanted a bill that would have mandated the inclusion of a meaningless “straw poll” ballot” — a dealbreaker for the Democratic Party.

In past presidential cycles, Washington State Democrats have exclusively used caucuses to allocate and select their national convention delegates.

The party is now considering incorporating a presidential primary into its Delegate Selection and Affirmative Action Plan (DSAAP) for the first time ever.

If the party’s State Central Committee (WSDCC) chooses a primary-caucus hybrid approach instead of an a party-run caucus only approach, then caucuses would be retained for delegate selection purposes, but the primary would be used to allocate delegates to each candidate. A draft 2020 DSAAP is due to be published this week by the state party, kicking off a thirty day public comment period.

In addition to moving up the default date and removing the Secretary of State’s role in deciding which candidates appear, ESB 5273 allows the parties to request the inclusion of an “Uncommitted” option on their ballots if they so desire.

(Under Democratic Party rules, “Uncommitted” is a legitimate presidential preference, so the Democratic Party would likely take advantage of this provision if it chooses a primary as its method of allocation for 2020.)

Republicans have used the primary (when held) to allocate some of their delegates. In 2016, they allocated their entire delegation based on the primary results.

Supporters of ESB 5273 believe an earlier date will ultimately give Washington more influence over who is nominated… and give people a reason to turn out.

“A new presidential primary system would allow for greater voter participation, expanding Washingtonians’ access to democracy,” said Senator Sam Hunt (D-22nd District), the bill’s prime sponsor. “It will provide Washington voters with an easy and effective way to participate in the nomination of the next President.”

Hunt argues that a primary would be more inclusive, as caucuses are often inaccessible to those who work on Saturdays or cannot find childcare, as well as military personnel serving overseas and people working or traveling abroad.

ESB 5273 previously passed out of the Senate with bipartisan support and is supported by both of the state’s major political parties.

“This is a good move for the people of Washington State,” said Republican Chair Caleb Heimlich, “to move our primary up so that our state is actually relevant.”

The Democratic Party made adoption of a presidential primary reform bill that respects its First Amendment right of free assembly one of its legislative action priorities for 2019 last September at its meeting in Spokane.

ESB 5273 now goes to Governor Jay Inslee, who last Friday announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for President. If signed into law, Washington will join California, Texas, Massachusetts, Alabama and seven other states holding nominating events in the first weeks of March.

The state retains the flexibility to change the primary date if agreed upon by a bipartisan commission including the leaders of the major parties, the state’s legislative leaders, and the Secretary of State, currently Kim Wyman.

Washington State Democrats will make a final decision on whether to utilize a presidential primary for 2020 on April 7th when the WSDCC (which NPI’s Andrew Villeneuve is a member of) gathers in Pasco for its spring meeting.

VICTORY! Washington State Senate approves legislation to repeal Tim Eyman’s push polls

The effort to permanently abolish Tim Eyman’s wasteful and deceptive push polls is officially halfway to the finish line. This morning, the Washington State Senate approved Senator Patty Kuderer’s Senate Bill 5224 on a twenty-seven to twenty bipartisan vote, sending it over to the House of Representatives.

Enactment of SB 5224, one of NPI’s priority bills for 2019, would mean Washingtonians would no longer see “advisory votes” on their ballots every November. We call the “advisory votes” Tim Eyman’s push polls because that is what they really are. At NPI’s Permanent Defense project, we have a page that explains their true function, which is to influence public opinion, not measure it.

Three Democrats — Reuven Carlyle, Guy Palumbo, and Emily Randall — sided with most of the Senate’s twenty-one Republicans in opposition to SB 5224.

Their votes were offset by three Republicans who crossed over to help Democrats pass the bill: Hans Zeiger, Barbara Bailey, and Brad Hawkins. Not coincidentally, these Senators all serve on the Senate’s State Government Committee and heard testimony one month ago from NPI, the League of Women Voters, and King County Elections Director Julie Wise in favor of abolishing Eyman’s push polls.

The full roll call vote on Senate Bill 5224 was as follows:

Roll Call
SB 5224
Advisory votes
3rd Reading & Final Passage
3/1/2019

Yeas: 27; Nays: 20; Excused: 2

Voting Yea: Senators Bailey, Billig, Cleveland, Conway, Darneille, Das, Dhingra, Frockt, Hasegawa, Hawkins, Hunt, Keiser, Kuderer, Liias, Lovelett, McCoy, Mullet, Nguyen, Pedersen, Rolfes, Saldaña, Salomon, Takko, Van De Wege, Wellman, Wilson (Claire), Zeiger

Voting Nay: Senators Becker, Braun, Brown, Carlyle, Ericksen, Fortunato, Holy, Honeyford, King, O`Ban, Padden, Palumbo, Randall, Rivers, Schoesler, Sheldon, Short, Wagoner, Warnick, Wilson (Lynda)

Excused: Senators Hobbs, Walsh

We’ve published a statement thanking the Senate over at Permanent Defense.

For us, Senate Bill 5224 is not just about undoing a harmful Tim Eyman scheme. It is about taking a stand in favor of elections that matter. It is about upholding the principles of gathering good data. Public resources should not be wasted to put messages on people’s ballots that are designed to influence how they think.

For SB 5224 to reach Governor Jay Inslee’s desk, it must pass the House of Representatives. We’re excited about the opportunity to work with our elected representatives in the people’s House to get this bill across the finish line.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee announces climate-focused presidential campaign

Washington’s own Governor Jay Inslee has become the thirteenth major candidate to launch a bid for the 2020 Democratic nomination for U.S. President.

In a video released this morning, Inslee made his ambitions official and unveiled his campaign’s identity, trade dress, and focus: stopping and reversing climate damage.

“We are the first generation to feel the sting of climate change, and we are the last generation that can do something about it,” said Inslee in an email to potential supporters. “That’s why I’m running for president: to make defeating climate change the nation’s top priority. This is our moment to act. That’s why my first pledge to you as a candidate is this: I won’t be taking a dime from corporate polluters. Nothing. No fossil fuel money. No corporate PACs. Just you.”

“The science is clear: We have a short period of time to act,” the email goes on to say. “Whether we shrink from this challenge, or rise to it, is the single biggest question we face. Working together we can transform our economy, create a just transition, and lead the world in innovations that will drive the future!”

Inslee is the first credible presidential candidate from Washington State in a very long time. Legendary U.S. Senator Henry M. “Scoop” Jackson previously sought the Democratic nomination many decades ago, but was unsuccessful.

Inslee is hoping to at least make climate justice a burning issue in the 2020 campaign, even if he doesn’t secure the Democratic nomination.

Critics have joked on Twitter that in launching a climate-focused presidential bid, Inslee is really running for Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. But the latest climate science tells us that we’re running out of time to prevent catastrophic damage to our planet. The premise of Inslee’s campaign is that climate justice needs our full attention and our leaders’ full attention.

NPI doesn’t endorse candidates or engage in electioneering for or against any candidate. But we are glad to see Jay Inslee run for President.

He will bring a Pacific Northwest perspective to the 2020 campaign.

As an experienced governor — and thus far, the only governor to have entered the race — Inslee actually brings a lot more to the table than a focus on climate.

He may end up getting labeled a single-issue candidate by pundits and people who don’t know him well, but as a governor and a former United States Representative who has represented two very different districts in his home state, Inslee is familiar with and has positions on all the big issues our country faces, from gun safety to net neutrality to immigration and protecting the rights of refugees.

Inslee ran for Congress in 1992, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008, and 2010, and won all but one of those campaigns. In between those congressional campaigns, he also ran unsuccessfully for governor. In 2012, he left Congress to run for governor a second time and won, defeating Republican Rob McKenna.

Inslee was reelected in 2016 for a second term, defeating Bill Bryant.

No one else in the Democratic field has fourteen years of congressional experience and six years of executive experience as a governor. And with the exception of one or two other candidates, like Elizabeth Warren, none of the other contenders have the  down to earth, plucky, aw-shucks, let’s go get ’em disposition that Inslee does.

“Early to bed, early to rise; work like hell and organize. Let’s go get this job done!” is something Inslee often says to close out a speech. It perfectly encapsulates who he is: a people-centric, results-oriented leader who has consistently rejected the politics of cynicism. Inslee brings a contagious, can-do spirit to every room he’s in.

As Governor, Jay Inslee has signed legislation to make Washington one of the easiest states to cast a ballot in, ban LGBT conversion therapy, defend net neutrality, ensure women truly have the freedom to make their own reproductive health decisions, and invest in mass transit plus freight mobility.

He soon hopes to sign legislation permanently abolishing the death penalty.

And he has courageously proposed levying taxes on the wealthy to make Washington’s unfair, worst-in-the-nation tax code more progressive.

Inslee’s critics scoff at these accomplishments and point to the many challenges the state currently faces, such as with mental health and Western State Hospital.

The truth is, these challenges predate Inslee’s governorship. We all share responsibility for figuring out how to take care of the most vulnerable among us. None of us are perfect. We’ve all made mistakes. We’re human.

During Inslee’s first term as governor, Republicans controlled the Washington State Senate and turned that chamber into a graveyard of progress where good ideas went to die. Little progress was made tackling issues like mental health because Republicans like Mark Schoesler made agreeing on a budget to keep state government open the most torturous process imaginable.

In fact, in their last year of control of the Senate, Republicans refused to even pass a capital budget, which historically had been an easy bipartisan lift.

When Democrats retook the Washington State Senate in 2017 with Manka Dhingra, reestablishing a Democratic trifecta, the floodgates opened for the liberation of previously trapped bills. The end of divided government also resulted in an end to the stupid, run-out-the-clock budget games that Republicans had been playing.

In the 2018 midterms, Democrats expanded their majorities in each chamber and now are in firm control of the statehouse. They are poised to send Inslee a significant number of bills by session’s end to raise the state’s quality of life.

Inslee will have to balance governing with campaigning, especially in the near future, since the legislative session will not end until April 28th.

Republicans are laughably demanding that Inslee resign so he can pursue his “vanity” White House bid. Of course, were Inslee to do that, Cyrus Habib would become Governor of Washington State and Republicans have made it clear they like Habib even less than they like Inslee. Their posturing is to be expected, but it contributes nothing to our state or country’s political discourse.

In 2015/2016, multiple Republican governors sought the presidency without resigning from their posts, including Chris Christie, who was embroiled in scandal. Republicans naturally did not demand those men resign from their posts.

Inslee is far better situated to run for President than Christie was. Unlike Christie, he doesn’t have divided government to worry about back home. And in Cyrus Habib, he has someone who’s more than capable of filling in for him while he’s out of state campaigning. Even Inslee’s critics ought to be able to agree that Washington and the Pacific Northwest stand to benefit by having Inslee in the 2020 race.

Bill to repeal Tim Eyman’s push polls advances to floor of Washington State Senate

Happy news to share: One of NPI’s most important Washington State legislative priorities for 2019 is another step closer to the finish line.

Yesterday, the Senate Rules Committee voted unanimously to advance Senator Patty Kuderer’s SB 5224 to the floor of the Senate, where it now awaits a vote on final passage by the chamber’s forty-nine members.

SB 5224 would permanently abolish Tim Eyman’s wasteful and deceptive push polls, which Eyman falsely calls advisory votes. Nineteen of Eyman’s push polls have cluttered up Washingtonians’ ballots since 2012, but the absurd things could soon be history if the Senate takes action to repeal them and the House follows suit.

The Senate State Government gave SB 5224 a unanimous, bipartisan “do pass” recommendation earlier this month, sparking an epic Tim Eyman meltdown that included the instigation of a multi-day campaign of harassment against Republican State Senator Hans Zeiger (R-25th District: Pierce County).

The bill is now listed thirty-ninth on the Senate’s calendar order. A total of sixty-nine bills are currently in the queue waiting for floor debate.

While we don’t expect to see SB 5224 sail out of the full Senate prior to the next cutoff without opposition, it sure would be nice if it did.

Republicans have spent years complaining about waste, fraud, and abuse in government. Now they have an opportunity to vote for a simple bill that gets rid of something that’s unquestionably, incredibly wasteful: Tim Eyman’s push polls.

Huge kudos to Senator Patty Kuderer, who represents NPI’s home district, for sponsoring this bill and shepherding it to the Senate floor.

Along with Senator Manka Dhingra (Redmond’s other senator and a boardmember of the Northwest Progressive Foundation, NPI’s sibling), Senator Kuderer has proven herself to be one of the Senate’s most effective, driven lawmakers.

It’s because of lawmakers like them that the Senate has been transformed into a launchpad for ideas we need instead of a graveyard of progress.

Well done, Senator Kuderer! Now, on to the floor vote for SB 5224…

Bipartisan majority in U.S. House votes to terminate Trump’s fake national emergency

A bipartisan majority of the United House of Representatives has voted to terminate the fake national emergency declared earlier this month by Donald Trump, setting up a day of reckoning in the United States Senate that will force Republicans to publicly choose between their allegiance to Trump or the U.S. Constitution.

“Is your oath of office to Donald Trump or is your oath of office to the Constitution of the United States?,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi asked Republicans in her floor speech urging approval of House Joint Resolution 46. “You cannot let him undermine the strength of your pledge to protect and defend the Constitution.”

“We in the People’s House are the keepers of this Constitution,” Pelosi added.

“We in the Congress are the keepers of this Constitution. We in the Congress, in Article I, the Congress of the United States, spelled out very clearly in the Constitution, the powers given to the Legislative branch: the powers of the purse, the power to declare war – powers enumerated very carefully by our Founders.”

In the end, just thirteen Republicans crossed over to join two hundred and thirty-two Democrats in voting for the historic and vitally needed resolution. The final vote was two hundred and forty-five to one hundred and eighty-two.

The roll call from the Pacific Northwest was as follows:

Voting Aye [For the Constitution]: Democratic Representatives Suzan DelBene, Rick Larsen, Derek Kilmer, Pramila Jayapal, Kim Schrier, Adam Smith, Denny Heck (WA), Suzanne Bonamici, Earl Blumenauer,  Kurt Schrader (OR); Republican Representatives Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Jaime Herrera-Beutler (WA), Greg Walden (OR)

Voting Nay [For Donald Trump]: Republican Representatives Dan Newhouse (WA), Russ Fulcher and Mike Simpson (ID), Greg Gianforte (MT), Don Young (AK)

Not Voting: Democratic Representative Pete DeFazio (OR)

Washington State’s congressional delegation was nearly unanimous in bucking Trump thanks to the aye votes of Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Jaime Herrera-Beutler, which will likely come as a surprise to many Cascadia Advocate readers. Only Dan Newhouse betrayed his oath of office to side with Trump.

Oregon’s congressional delegation was also one vote shy of unanimously rebuking Trump because Democratic Representative Pete DeFazio missed the vote.

“The vote today to terminate President Trump’s unlawful national emergency declaration sends a clear message to the President and this Administration that the new House majority is serious about oversight and accountability,” said U.S. Representative Adam Smith, Chair of the House Armed Services Committe.

“House Democrats are not going to stand by while the President abuses his power by declaring a national emergency to build his wall,” Smith added. “This national emergency declaration is built on xenophobic lies and mischaracterizations about immigrants, and it is dangerous and wrong for the President to circumvent Congress by stealing funds from military readiness for his political agenda.”

“I strongly support Congressman Castro’s resolution to terminate the national emergency. We will continue to fight this unlawful power grab.”

The United States Senate is now required by law to take up the resolution. Three Republicans have already said they will vote yes (Susan Collins, Thom Tillis, Lisa Murkowski), which means the resolution is close to having the votes that it needs to pass. Collins and Tillis will face the voters in 2020 and are considered vulnerable.

Mammoth public lands bill gets resounding vote of support on final passage in U.S. House

A gargantuan-sized, long-awaited public lands bill finally passed out of the United States Congress today after receiving a resounding vote of support on final passage in the House of Representatives. The legislation, S. 47, the Natural Resources Management Act, now awaits action by the President of the United States.

S. 47 is packed to the gills with provisions that will expand America’s national parks system, permanently reauthorize the wildly successful Land & Water Conservation Fund, bolster funding for geologic hazards research and volcano monitoring (which is one of NPI’s legislative priorities), designate new National Heritage Areas, and safeguard places like the headwaters of the Methow Valley from mining.

According to Senator Maria Cantwell’s office (PDF), S. 47 includes more than one hundred and ten individual bills. The legislation has something for everyone… a classic trait of a landmark, sweeping federal bill. Cantwell was deeply involved in putting the bill together and is justifiably celebrating its successful passage.

Although it isn’t quite law yet, S. 47 passed with veto-proof margins in each chamber of Congress, so there would be no point in Trump vetoing it.

The wild and scenic Sandy River

The wild and scenic Sandy River in Oregon (Bureau of Land Management photo)

“Since Scoop Jackson championed the Land and Water Conservation Fund in the 1960s, it has given us so many opportunities for outdoor recreation and development,” Senator Cantwell said in a statement sent to NPI.

“There’s nothing better than just being outdoors – it’s such an important part of our Northwest culture. I am glad the House passed this important legislation, and I hope the President will sign it expeditiously.”

Three hundred and sixty-three U.S. Representatives voted in favor of S. 47. Sixty-two U.S. Representatives, all Republicans, voted against.

The roll call from the Pacific Northwest was as follows:

Voting Aye: Democratic Representatives Suzan DelBene, Rick Larsen, Derek Kilmer, Pramila Jayapal, Kim Schrier, Adam Smith, Denny Heck (WA), Suzanne Bonamici, Earl Blumenauer, Kurt Schrader (OR); Republican Representatives Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Dan Newhouse, Jaime Herrera-Beutler (WA), Greg Walden (OR), Greg Gianforte (MT), Mike Simpson (ID), Don Young (AK)

Voting Nay: Republican Representative Russ Fulcher (ID)

Not Voting: Democratic Representative Pete DeFazio (OR)

Idaho’s Russ Fulcher, a freshman Republican, was the lone no vote against the bill from the Pacific Northwest’s congressional delegation. Even the Trump-loving Greg Gianforte of Montana voted for S. 47, prime sponsored by Lisa Murkowski.

The National Parks Conservation Association says S. 47 will “expand national parks by more than 42,000 acres, expand the National Trails System by 2,600 miles and add 621 miles into the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System.”

Two new national monuments will be created and 1.3 million acres in public lands will be designated as wilderness, protecting them from thoughtless development.

“I’ve been fighting hard to permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund, so I’m thrilled the House has taken this important step,” said U.S. Representative Suzan DelBene. “LWCF has contributed over $675 million to Washington’s economy and helped protect some of our most precious national parks, waterways, and wildlife. By passing this legislation, we’ll be able fund more projects throughout our region while protecting our state’s natural beauty. I encourage the President to sign this bill into law without delay.”

“The Land and Water Conservation Fund is the cornerstone of environmental conservation and has helped to preserve Washington state’s public lands as well as Puget Sound’s estuaries, rivers and streams,” said U.S. Representative Rick Larsen.

“Over the last fifty years, the LWCF has helped to protect and restore green spaces like Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve, Chuckanut Bay and the Wild Sky Wilderness for the enjoyment of current and future generations.”

“This package as a whole is a huge win for protecting the natural resources and beautiful lands this country has to offer,” said U.S. Representative Kim Schrier.

“I was very happy that the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan was included in the Public Lands package. Many groups with diverging opinions all came together with the common goal of protecting our delicate Pacific Northwest ecosystem from a changing climate for decades to come. This could become a model throughout the country on how to collaborate to protect our natural resources.”

“We are thrilled by the overwhelming passage of the public lands package in the new, pro-environment House of Representatives,” said League of Conservation Voters President Gene Karpinski in a news release.

“While last year’s Republican-led Congress shamefully let the Land and Water Conservation Fund expire, this bill is a major step forward for conservation by permanently restoring LWCF and protecting more than two million acres of public lands and waters. Permanent LWCF reauthorization is a major accomplishment, and LCV urges Congress to seize this positive momentum to provide LWCF with full and dedicated funds to end the chronic underfunding of this critical program that boosts access to parks and public lands for all communities.”

Here’s a rundown of the major provisions that benefit Washington, courtesy of Senator Maria Cantwell’s press office. The wording in each list item has been edited by NPI for brevity and to remove redundant language.

  • Methow Headwaters Protection Act: Will permanently protect the Methow Valley watershed by removing 340,000 acres of Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest from potential mining development.
  • Yakima River Basin Water Enhancement Project Phase III Act: Authorizes an integrated and collaborative approach to addressing water challenges in the Yakima Valley. Will restore ecosystems and fisheries, ensure communities have access to water, help rehabilitate and repair the Wapato Irrigation Project, and extend water supplies for farmers in times of drought.
  • Wildfire Management Technology Advancement Act: Will increase safety for wildland firefighters and bring federal firefighting agencies across the country into the twenty-first century through the use of GPS (Global Positioning System) and unmanned aircraft systems.
  • Mountains to Sound Greenway National Heritage Act: Will designate 1.5 million acres of land stretching along the I-90 corridor from Seattle to Ellensburg as one of the Pacific Northwest’s first National Heritage Area.
  • National Volcano Early Warning and Monitoring System Act: (a Northwest Progressive Institute legislative priority): Improves our volcano monitoring and early warning capabilities and strengthens existing monitoring systems, including the Cascades Volcano Observatory in Washington and Oregon, to help keep communities and travelers safe.
  • National Nordic Museum Designation: Includes language designating the Nordic Museum in Seattle as the National Nordic Museum, recognizing the museum’s unique work to preserve, celebrate, and educate the American public about Nordic history, culture, and art.
  • Maritime Washington National Heritage Area Act: Will designate a majority of Western Washington’s shoreline as a National Heritage Area to help promote maritime-related tourism, economic development and maritime history as told through Washington State’s museums, historic ships, fishing culture, and other activities. This will be one of Washington’s first National Heritage Areas, along with the Mountains to Sound Greenway.

After so many years of inaction by Congress on environmental priorities, it’s a relief to see this bill pass with such sweeping margins. This is a reminder of what our legislative branch can accomplish when it is functioning properly.

NPI applauds the adoption of S.47. This was long overdue.

Now for the heavier lift: legislation to address the climate crisis.

Sound Transit says House Bill 2123 (vehicle fees) would blow a big financial hole in ST3

Legislation introduced by State Representative Mike Pellicciotti and other House Democrats would negatively affect Sound Transit’s ability to deliver voter-approved light rail, express bus, bus rapid transit, and commuter rail expansion projects, the agency said in a statement provided to NPI late this evening.

The bill’s cosponsors presently include Representatives Leavitt, Kilduff, Entenman, Ryu, Goodman, Bergquist, Kloba, Slatter, Valdez, Springer, Pollet, Pettigrew, Kirby, Stanford, Lovick, Orwall, Davis, Hudgins, Ortiz-Self, Sullivan, Walen, Senn, Thai, Mead, Robinson, Peterson, Santos, Ramos, and Callan.

House Bill 2123 concerns “the collection of a motor vehicle excise tax approved by voters of a regional transit authority in 2016.” It seeks to create “a market value adjustment program to provide a credit based on the difference between the vehicle valuation schedule used by the authority to determine the tax amount under current law and the vehicle valuation schedule in RCW 82.44.035.”

Translation: Some House Democrats want to amend the 2015 bipartisan Connecting Washington Transportation Package to require Sound Transit to use a newer methodology for determining a vehicle’s value for tax collection purposes, even though the Legislature decided that Sound Transit ought to continue using the older methodology back when the package was being put together.

Switching to that newer methodology with House Bill 2123 would cost Sound Transit a significant amount of money, agency spokesman Geoff Patrick says. Here is his full statement to the House Transportation Committee:

Members of the House Transportation Committee,

In light of the introduction of HB 2123, I wanted to provide an update and some additional information that we have had staff develop since first seeing the bill draft on Friday.

The Sound Transit Board’s officially adopted position is to work collaboratively with the Legislature on changes to the depreciation schedule as long as any negative fiscal impact can be offset by cost savings or other solutions so the agency can deliver all voter-approved projects within their adopted timelines.

Unfortunately, HB 2123, which would create a rebate program effectively moving Sound Transit to the 2006 MVET [motor vehicle excise tax] depreciation schedule immediately rather than in 2028 as currently contemplated in statute, does not meet the Board’s standard in keeping the agency financially whole.

Sound Transit staff has developed an estimate of the fiscal impact HB 2123 would have on the agency as currently drafted.

Of the $633 million revenue loss that Sound Transit would see, the bill’s proposed offset of waiving the federal share of WSDOT land acquisitions would recoup only $147 million – meaning that this proposal would restore less than 24% of the revenue lost.

In terms of the impact to Sound Transit’s overall finance plan including debt service costs, the proposal would offset roughly a fifth of the impact, leaving a deficit of just under $1.4 billion. Sound Transit staff has in the past proactively shared a number of options that would fully offset the revenue loss contemplated by this bill and would be happy to share that list with any member that is interested. I am also including a chart below with a breakdown of the impacts in a graphic format.

We will be sharing testimony in more detail during the public hearing on this bill this coming Tuesday but wanted to share this information as soon as we had it completed for your awareness.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.

Table 1. House Bill 2123 Revenue Impacts (Courtesy of Sound Transit)

Proposed Change (HB 2123)Total Revenue / Reduced CostsDebt Service ChangeFiscal Impact
(Revenue or Cost Change Less Debt Service Change)
Money Flow
MVET depreciation schedule change on 0.8%*$ (633,000,000)$ 1,141,000,000$ (1,774,000,000)Consistent flow
Waive federal share of land bank obligations**$ 147,000,000$ (229,000,000)$ 376,000,000Not consistent – varies by project schedules.
Net Offset$ (486,000,000)$ 912,000,000 $ (1,398,000,000)
* Total represents revenue lost due to new depreciation schedule for MVET beginning Jan. 1, 2020.
** Total represents land bank waiver of federal share for ST3 projects beginning in 2019.

We badly need the transit infrastructure that ST3 will create. The Legislature should be helping Sound Transit deliver these investments as fast as possible, not passing bills that take away voter-approved revenue for voter-approved projects.

The Legislature created Sound Transit in the 1990s and gave the agency the authority to propose plans to serve the people of this region with high capacity transit. The people have voted repeatedly to invest in mass transit.

Now the Legislature has an obligation to ensure that Sound Transit is successful in carrying out its voter-approved mandate. Yanking revenue — like Tim Eyman wants to do on an even grander scale with Initiative 976 — jeopardizes financing, and that means cutting or cancelling projects, which is simply unacceptable.

If legislators really want to change the valuation method, altering the terms of the Connecting Washington package, then the Legislature must ensure that Sound Transit receives 1:1 replacement funding so that its projects are not jeopardized. House Bill 2123 does not provide 1:1 replacement funding.

NPI therefore opposes it and urges the Legislature not to move it forward.

2019 Oscars impressions: America got a shorter, more diverse ceremony to enjoy

#OscarsSoWhite? Not this year!

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which has been extensively criticized in recent years for a lack of racial diversity within its ranks, took major steps to make sure that this year’s Oscars would be as diverse and inclusive as possible, with a record number of people of color presenting and accepting awards. The result was an awards ceremony that was more representative and relevant to not only the American viewing public, but to a global audience as well.

The night started with the Best Supporting Actress award going to Regina King for her role in “If Beale Street Could Talk,” adapted from the novel by noted African-American writer James Baldwin. With the win, King became just the third black actress to have won both an Academy Award and a Primetime Emmy Award.

Following King’s win, two more black women set records. Ruth Carter became the first black woman to win an Oscar for costume design, for her work on “Black Panther,” and Hannah Beachler won for production design on the same film.

“Black Panther” also won the award for Best Original Score and was nominated for Best Picture, Best sound Mixing, and Best Sound Editing.

Spike Lee, nominated for the fifth time, won his first Oscar for best adapted screenplay for “BlacKkKlansman.” In his speech, he reminded everyone that the 2020 elections are “just around the corner” and that everyone needs to do everything they can to mobilize and come together to choose “love over hate.”

When introducing “BlacKkKlansman” as one of the nominees for the best film award earlier in the ceremony, Academy Award winning singer and actress Barbara Streisand stressed how the film is based on a true story, saying: “Truth is especially precious today,” getting appreciative applause from the audience.

Her statement was no doubt a reference to the current President and the lack of concern for truth shown by him, his administration, and his followers.

Congressman John Lewis received a long standing ovation when he helped introduce Best Picture nominee and eventual winner “Green Book.

The film also won for Best Original Screenplay and Mahershala Ali won his second Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role in the film.

“The whole story is about love. It’s about loving each other despite our differences,” said director Peter Farrelly, in accepting the Best Picture award.

”Green Book” has faced some criticism for romanticizing the relationship between the real life main characters, and for the story fitting a “white savior” trope.

Also raising eyebrows was the Academy’s head-scratching decision to put Ali in the Best Supporting Actor category and Viggo Mortensen in the Best Actor category, rather than the other way around. (Ali did win in his category; Mortensen did not.)

The Mexican film “Roma” also won many awards, including Best Cinematography, Best Foreign Language film, and Alfonso Cuarón won for Best Director. Cuarón shared a long hug with last year’s winner, Guillermo del Toro, also from Mexico.

Cuarón thanked the Academy for “recognizing a film centered around an immigrant woman – one of the 70 million people around the world without workers’ rights,” and then in Spanish said thank you to his family and to Mexico.

In his acceptance speck for the Best Foreign Language Film award, he also talked about the ”invisible labor of immigrants and women.”

There were also some other groundbreaking moments for gender equity, such as “Period. End of Sentence.” winning for Best Documentary Short Subject.

”I can’t believe a film about menstruation just won an Oscar!” exclaimed Melissa Berton, one of the producers, during her acceptance speech.

Nike also debuted an ad during the telecast that stars Serena Williams, and notes how women are judged more harshly than men for their emotions in sports. Williams also was a presenter at the awards.

Lady Gaga, along with collaborators, won her first Oscar for Best Original Song for “Shallow” from “A Star is Born.”

Also winning multiple awards was “Bohemian Rhapsody“. Rami Malek won for his portrayal of Freddie Mercury, the gay frontman of legendary rock band Queen.

“We made a film about a gay man, an immigrant, who lived his life just unapologetically himself,” Malek said during his acceptance speech. “I am the son of immigrants from Egypt, a first-generation American,” he said to applause. “And part of my story is being written right now. The fact that I’m celebrating him and this story with you tonight is proof that we’re longing for stories like this.”

Kudos to the Academy for doing a better job of nominating and awarding a more diverse array of people who bring films to life, who more accurately represent all of humanity and our interconnected world community. More Oscars like this, please!

Documentary Review: “Silas” will take you inside the fight against corruption in Liberia

Picture this: A President who campaigned on a pledge to reduce corruption in  government, but then appointed family members to key government positions, as ethics imbroglios skyrocket and shady deals are struck out of public view.

No, I’m not talking about the United States, I’m talking about Liberia, where activist Silas Siakor has been leading the fight against government corruption and collusion with timber companies, who are displacing whole communities while enriching themselves and destroying the environment.

Siakor, winner of the Goldman Environmental Prize, is the subject of “Silas”, a documentary that has been on the festival circuit for the last year and which I screened at the 2018 Seattle International Film Festival.

Liberia is a country that went through twenty-five years of political instability and intermittent violence after a military coup in 1980.

Charles Taylor was President of Liberia during part of that time, from 1997 to 2003. Taylor was a warlord, funded by money from diamonds and timber. Ships were “taking out timber and bringing in guns,” according to the film.

Siakor and other activists brought evidence to the international community of human rights abuses and the plunder of the forests. A subsequent investigation led to United Nations sanctions and the downfall of Taylor’s regime. Taylor was eventually found guilty of aiding and abetting war crimes, the first former head of state to charged in international court.

It was for this work that Siakor won the Goldman Environmental Prize for Africa in 2006.

In 2005, Liberia had their first democratic elections after forteen years of civil war. The person chosen to govern was Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Africa’s first democratically-elected woman president. Sirleaf ran as a reformer, and Siakor voted for her.

Unfortunately, Taylor’s ousting did not spell the end of the government corruption and misuse of the country’s natural resources in order to enrich the select few. Under Sirleaf’s control, the government continued to oversell permits to timber companies, to the detriment of the country’s citizens as well as the environment.

The new government introduced reforms, but Siakor regularly received reports from communities that the government is failing to implement it’s new laws.

Sirleaf enjoyed a lot of international support and attention, so Siakor faced an uphill battle getting people to listen to him and other activists.

More than one million people, about one-quarter of the population of Liberia, live in the areas that have been handed over to foreign timber companies.

The government claimed in its defense that selling the timber permits were necessary to get funds for economic development. However, Siakor found evidence that there were a large number of illegal permits being issued.

Explaining the impact on communities when timber permits are issues for their land, Siakor says, “Communities become tiny islands in plantations owned by the companies. They lose their ability to grow their own food and be sustainable. They become very dependent on the company for their livelihoods.”

“They become prisoners to the companies on their own ancestral land,” he adds.

The film explains that President Sirleaf’s nephew was named Deputy of Internal Affairs, the department that oversees the Forestry Development Authority (FDA), which oversees the timber permitting process.

Siakor was secretly given a letter from someone in the FDA showing all the timber permits that were allocated. The letter showed that there had been more illegally allocated permits than legal permits through open process, with some of the biggest contracts even given, even during the civil war and Taylor’s presidency.

Confronted with the evidence of illegal permits, Sirleaf commissioned an independent investigation. Her nephew, who had by then left his position, was implicated in the investigation, which did show that permits were illegally issued.

No one was held accountable, but the illegal timber permits were voided and a moratorium was placed on the issuing of new permits. Despite the moratorium, companies continued to expand into community land, and Siakor and other activists continued to work with communities to protest and fight the timber companies.

Sirleaf is shown visiting some of the villages where protesting is happening, and telling people, “When your government and representatives sign any paperwork with a foreign country, the communities can’t change it.”

In one of the poorest communities, protesting because their land was just sold, Sirleaf admonishes them, “You have to be civil.”

Yet the efforts of communities and activists like Siakor have led to some wins, including getting one timber company to agree not to expand into community land, setting a precedent that other communities may be able to use. However, a complete change to whole model of development and forestry in Liberia is still needed.

The film then depicts Siakor waging a campaign for the Liberian House of Representatives. “You can’t just wait for better leaders to come along,” he says.

Siakor did not win his race, but since then he has founded a community radio station and is building a microfinance bank in his hometown.

Sirleaf’s term ended in January 2018.

“Silas” shows that even when fighting a corrupt government and large corporations, everyday people working together can still score wins and create change.

Some information about the film can be found on it’s website, but the information on screenings is not up to date. The Facebook page for the film seems to have more current information, though no upcoming screenings are currently listed.

Bored House Republicans waste our resources on bill mocking statue replacement task force

A group of extremist right wing state legislators in Olympia are so bereft of useful work to do that they’ve introduced a bill solely meant to heap scorn upon a bill introduced by their Democratic counterparts in the Senate last month.

HB 2120 was just dropped by fourteen Republican members of the Washington State House of Representatives. It is intended to ridicule legislation proposed by Senator Reuven Carlyle (both D-36th District) that would create a task force to recommend replacing the statues of Marcus Whitman on display in the State Capitol in Olympia and the National Statutory Hall in the District of Columbia.

“The legislature finds that under rigorous, objective review, Marcus Whitman does not meet the standards of being one our state’s top honorees,” the bill says (PDF), directing that a work group be created to find another historical figure who can be honored by the State of Washington for their contributions.

Carlyle’s bill, introduced last month, had a public hearing on January 30th. No executive session has been scheduled and it doesn’t appear that the bill will move.

A group of House Republicans led by Brandon Vick and Matt Shea, not enamored with the prospect of replacing the Whitman statue, have wasted public resources and nonpartisan staff time on a joke bill which purports to study and make recommendations on a statue to replace the bronze sculpture of Vladimir Lenin on display in Fremont, one of the neighborhoods Carlyle represents.

What’s truly pathetic is that Vick and Shea weren’t willing to put in the effort to get their facts right despite having an apparent abundance of free time on their hands. This is evident from their badly written preamble, which falsely characterizes Lenin as “one of our state’s top honorees with a statue display in Seattle.”

The bill’s first section is seemingly meant to be a condescending history lesson, but it fails at this. It is filled with passages describing Lenin’s evil acts. Hilariously, the backstory of the statue itself — which is the subject of the bill! — is entirely omitted.

The comedic geniuses behind House Bill 2120

The comedic geniuses behind House Bill 2120: Representatives Vick, Shea, Walsh, Barkis, Klippert, Volz, MacEwen, Corry, Irwin, Stokesbary, Kraft, Hoff, Harris, and Kretz

If these Republicans had bothered to learn about the history of the object they’re criticizing, then they would know that the Lenin statute was not commissioned by the State of Washington, was not sculpted in this country, and was not even intended by its maker to honor Lenin. The Bulgarian sculptor who made it, Emil Venkov, wanted to criticize Lenin as an oppressive figure and a violent man.

This is why the statue shows Lenin with rifles and flames instead of books, which is how the Bolshevik leader was conventionally depicted in communist countries.

It was commissioned in 1981 by the then communist government of Czechslovakia and displayed in Poprad prior to the collapse of the Warsaw Pact in 1989. It was subsequently recovered from a scrapyard by an Issaquah teacher, Lewis Carpenter.

Carpenter died before finding a location to permanently display the statue.

The statue almost got melted down after that, but Peter Bevis, the founder of the foundry where it was to be scrapped, succeeded in getting it held in trust by the Fremont Chamber of Commerce until a buyer could be found. To date, no buyer has been found, and the statute remains on display in Fremont.

Neither the City of Seattle nor the State of Washington are responsible for the sculpture. It is privately owned and is on display on private land.

Vick, Shea, and company could have learned all this in a matter of minutes just from reading Wikipedia, but it seems they didn’t bother. Too bad… it could have saved them from the embarrassment of being exposed as a bunch of lazy ignoramuses.

Since the United States and the State of Washington have these legal concepts called freedom of speech and private property rights, the Legislature has no authority to decide what happens to the Lenin statute.

If Representatives Vick, Shea, and their cohort aren’t interested in doing the serious work of legislating, then they should resign to give Washingtonians who would like to contribute to their state’s well-being that opportunity.

Editor’s note: The original version of this post stated that HB 2120 was a response to a different bill introduced in the Washington State House of Representatives; however, HB 2120 is actually a response to Senate Bill 5237. The text of this post and its title have been updated and corrected to reflect this.

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