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.

Poll Watch: Jay Inslee holds sizable lead over Andy Hill and Bill Bryant, PPP finds

Respected public opinion research firm Public Policy Polling has just published the results of a poll it recently conducted in Washington on 2016 races and voter attitudes towards background checks on gun sales, marijuana, and marriage freedom. It finds that both Governor Jay Inslee and Senator Patty Murray are in excellent shape for reelection, leading all potential Republican opponents.

The poll (PDF) surveyed eight hundred and seventy-nine registered voters from May 14th to May 17th, yielding a margin of error of plus or minus 3.3%. 80% of interviews were conducted over the phone and 20% were interviewed over the Internet to reach respondents without landline phones.

PPP found that both Bill Bryant and Andy Hill have very low statewide recognition. Most voters surveyed didn’t know enough about either to give an opinion. Voters are split about equally on Inslee’s job performance, with 41% saying they approve and 42% saying they disapprove (a statistical tie).

Asked to choose between Inslee and Bryant, 46% said they would pick Inslee and 34% said they would pick Bryant.

Interestingly, Hill fared even worse. 45% said they would pick Inslee in an Inslee-Hill race, while only 31% said they would pick Hill.

Congressman Dave Reichert has better name recognition than Bryant or Hill, but does only as well as Bryant against Inslee, garnering 34% to Inslee’s 45%.

PPP also tested a McKenna/Inslee matchup for 2016. McKenna does better than Hill or Bryant in a hypothetical rematch, but still trails Inslee by five points (43% to 38%), which PPP points out is more than he lost by in 2012.

Patty Murray, meanwhile, is in good shape too, with 47% approving of her job performance to 39% who don’t approve. Murray beats out Dave Reichert, Jaime Herrera-Beutler, and Cathy McMorris Rodgers by more than ten points each. Perhaps not surprisingly, she does the best against McMorris Rodgers.

In a hypothetical matchup with Rob McKenna for U.S. Senate, Murray prevails by five points (46% to 41%) over the former Attorney General, just like Inslee.

While this polling suggests that McKenna would be the strongest candidate the Republicans could field in 2016 for either governor or U.S. senator, it doesn’t appear that he is interested in either race. Republicans might want him to step up to the plate again, but he may have no desire to end up as the next Dino Rossi, which is understandable. Bryant is already running against Inslee, with Hill soon to join him, but Republicans still need to find a candidate to challenge Murray.

It’ll be hard to find someone who can beat Michael Baumgartner’s anemic numbers from 2012 against Maria Cantwell, considering how thin the party’s bench is.

PPP also found that Washington voters feel very good about their recent decisions to legalize marijuana, require universal background checks on gun sales, and allow all couples to marry regardless of sexual orientation.

56% of respondents support marriage equality and marijuana legalization, while 68% of voters support universal background checks on gun sales.

Join the coalition opposing I-1366 – Tim Eyman’s most destructive initiative yet

This November, in addition to choosing leaders at the city, county, and port level, Washingtonians will very likely be deciding the fate of the most destructive initiative that Tim Eyman has ever proposed: Initiative 1366.

I-1366 is a clone of last year’s I-1325, which failed to make the ballot because Eyman wasn’t able to find wealthy benefactors willing to underwrite it.

I-1366 would slash the state sales tax by about 13%, robbing our state treasury of around $1 billion (that’s billion, with a b) a year in revenue if the Legislature doesn’t pass a constitutional amendment requiring a two-thirds vote to raise revenue. Possibly inspired by the 2013 government shutdown, it’s Ted Cruz-style blackmail.

Eyman is now trying again, and this time (possibly thanks to the help of several Republican state senators) he has big money lined up, which means he should be able to buy his way onto the ballot. A handful of very rich right wing donors has so far supplied over three quarters of a million dollars for Eyman’s campaign coffers, and Eyman has spent about that much on paid signature gathering, through his associates Roy Ruffino and Eddie Agazarm.

Including $250,000 in loans that he has taken out against his home (which he will probably find money to repay, as he has in the past), Eyman has accumulated over $1.1 million to date for I-1366. That total will probably go up when Eyman’s treasurer uploads PDC reports for the current month of May.

With I-1366 destined for the ballot, the team at NPI is working to build a coalition to fight the initiative so that it receives the fierce, vigorous opposition it deserves, like we did two years ago with I-517, Eyman’s self-serving initiative on initiatives.

We already have a number of great partners. The King County Democrats and TaxSanity were the first to sign up, and the list opposing I-1366 now also includes the League of Women Voters of Washington, Fuse Washington, the Washington State Democratic Party, and many local Democratic organizations.

But we’re looking for more. We want the biggest, broadest coalition possible working to defeat I-1366. Readers, if you are involved with one or more organizations that cares about effective government, fully funding our public schools, fixing our broken tax code, and upholding our state Constitution, please ask those organizations to join our cause as soon as they possibly can.

To make things easy, we’ve got a model resolution you can provide to the boards or governing bodies of organizations you work with. This model resolution can be tweaked or adapted as desired, but it’s also well-polished and can be adapted as is once an organization has added its name to the Therefore clauses.

After an organization you work with has taken a position, it’s important they let us know by filling out the form on the NO on I-1366 website so we can update the list of organizations that are opposed to Eyman’s diabolical plot force lawmakers to choose between sabotaging our state Constitution or blowing a massive hole in the state budget. The loss of $1 billion a year in state sales tax revenue would destroy the little progress that’s been made to date towards McCleary compliance and creating an even bigger school funding deficit.

Like I-517 and I-1125/I-1033/I-985 before it, I-1366 is beatable, but only if those of us who care about Washington’s values and Washington’s future come together to stand up to the extremism of Tim Eyman and his wealthy benefactors.

Take a stand against I-1366 today, and join the effort to send this unconscionable initiative to the political graveyard that it belongs in.

Steve Fields files to run against John Marchione for Mayor of Redmond

It’s official: We have a contested mayor’s race here in Redmond!

Earlier today, businessman and government effectiveness enthusiast Steve Fields, a longtime resident of the Bicycle Capital of the Northwest, filed his candidacy to run for mayor of NPI’s hometown, challenging incumbent John Marchione.

“Redmond is changing very fast. We are building everywhere. We have endless traffic congestion. Our parks and recreational facilities are deteriorating, and our neighborhoods are being ignored while we focus our investment on the changes in downtown. We’re losing the beauty that is Redmond; we are losing confidence in leadership that just doesn’t seem to be able to catch up to the growth smattered all over,” Fields said in a press release announcing his campaign.

“The current Mayor talks about the importance of city government living within its means. We have the tools to live within the city’s means – in fact, it’s the law in our state. But will city leaders’ decisions allow small businesses, people who are retired, and working families living in Redmond to live within their means?” he asked.

Fields is pledging to run a grassroots-oriented campaign. He says he will doorbell extensively in an effort to meet voters and understand their concerns.

“I’m ready to listen, something that’s become a lost political art. I’m also ready to hear new ideas and build community engagement that’s real, not contrived meetings that lack spirit and authenticity,” he promised.

Fields, sixty-two, has a long resume with management experience, much of which can be viewed on LinkedIn. He is a co-owner of Down Pour Coffee Bar, a well-reviewed coffee spot here in Redmond. He previously worked for the City of Seattle and for King County in a number of different roles: strategic advisor, business manager, and project manager. Prior to that, he worked at Western Wireless and Nextel as Regional Finance Manager and Regional Capitol Manager. He has a B.S. in Accounting from San Diego State University.

Incumbent Mayor John Marchione is finishing his second term as the city’s chief executive. He has a coveted position on the Sound Transit Board of Directors and serves as board chair of the Cascade Water Alliance, a municipal corporation supplying fresh water to five cities and two water and sewer districts.

Prior to becoming mayor, Marchione was the chief financial officer (CFO) for the Meydenbauer Center in Bellevue, and a Redmond city councilmember.

Marchione was first elected in 2007 in a three-way race with Holly Plackett and Jim Robinson (also veterans of the Redmond City Council), capturing over 57% of the vote. He ran unopposed for reelection in 2011. This time around, though, he’s got competition… which is nice to see. Healthy democracies require contested elections.

Redmond’s city council positions, on the other hand, could use more candidates. As of this evening, only one candidate has filed for each position – and three of them are incumbents seeking reelection (Hank Myers, Hank Margeson, and David Carson).

Bill to fast-track Trans-Pacific Partnership blocked in U.S. Senate (for now)

Divisive trade promotion authority legislation the White House is seeking to put the Trans-Pacific partnership on a fast-track to passage ran off the rails today, with the United States Senate voting mostly along party lines not to invoke cloture on the bill. The legislation could still come up again, but at least for the time being, it is blocked, much to the displeasure of Mitch McConnell and Barack Obama.

Fifty-two senators voted to proceed to final passage on the bill, not counting McConnell, who switched his vote from yes to no so that he could bring the legislation up again later. Forty-four senators voted to filibuster.

Although a number of Democrats support granting President Obama the fast-track authority he wants (including, unfortunately, the Pacific Northwest’s Patty Murray, Maria Cantwell, and Ron Wyden), they all voted to filibuster today, with the lone exception of Thomas Carper of Delaware.

The reason? Leverage. Fast-track is a major priority for Mitch McConnell, the top Senate Republican. He wants it bad. Knowing this, Democrats insisted that McConnell bring up three other semi-related pieces of trade legislation as well.

The first, called Trade Adjustment Assistance, is meant to help workers who find themselves out of work due to foreign competition. Another  pertains to custom and trade enforcement, and has provisions concerning currency manipulation. The third would set up trade preferences for nations in sub-Saharan Africa.

McConnell refused to bring up the latter two bills, and so the Democrats stuck together and filibustered the fast-track bill.

“The group is concerned about the lack of a commitment to trade enforcement, which is specifically the customs bill,” Wyden explained to reporters, speaking for himself and other pro-fast-track Democrats. “Until there is a path to get all four bills passed… we will, certainly most of us, have to vote no.”

The White House tried to downplay the failed vote as a “procedural snafu”.

But Jim Dean of Democracy for America characterized it much differently.

“Under intense pressure from progressives, the Senate voted 52 to 45 to block debate on Fast Track legislation that would have forbidden Congress from making amendments to the TPP,” he wrote in an email to DFA supporters.

“Nearly everyone expected the White House to win this cloture vote comfortably. Now, pro-corporate administration officials and Republicans are scrambling, trying to figure out what to do next.”

“This vote is more than an amazing but isolated victory. It’s irrefutable proof that the Warren wing of the Democratic party can defeat the TPP. Our activism is working. Democrats are waking up and realizing that votes to support a pro-corporate agenda over working families will have real, lasting consequences.”

(Full disclosure: NPI President Robert Cruickshank serves as a senior campaign manager for Democracy for America.)

The roll call from the Pacific Northwest broke down exactly along party lines:

Voting Aye: Republicans Mike Crap and Jim Risch (ID), Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan (AK), Steve Daines (MT)

Voting Nay: Democrats Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell (WA), Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley (OR), Jon Tester (MT)

Republicans Marco Rubio and Lindsey Graham did not participate in the vote. Democrat Cory Booker also did not participate.

Faye Garneau, Suzie Burke, NECA keeping Tim Eyman’s initiative factory lubricated with cash

Thanks to a mix of new and old wealthy benefactors who have been filling his campaign coffers with megabucks, Tim Eyman appears to have all the money he needs to buy his way onto this November’s ballot with the destructive, hostage-taking initiative that he tried and failed to qualify last year.

Reports just filed with the Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) by Eyman’s treasurer show that Eyman and his associates received a number of five and six-figure checks for the month of April, the third month of activity for Initiative 1336.

I-1336, as mentioned, is a clone of I-1325 from 2014. It would slash the state sales tax by about 13%, wiping out around $1 billion a year in revenue… unless the Legislature capitulates to Eyman by next April and votes for a constitutional amendment to permanently require a two-thirds vote to raise revenue, in violation of the plan of government that our founders gave us.

Eyman already has Republicans in the Legislature ready to vote for such an amendment, but ironically, because amendments require a two-thirds of each house to pass, he needs the support of Democrats. I-1366 is designed to blackmail Democrats into voting for I-1366 by taking Washington’s kids hostage.

While the state’s major businesses and trade associations have stayed away from I-1366, Eyman has managed to persuade a number of very wealthy right wing individuals to give him boatloads of money to pay petitioners to collect signatures for I-1366. The biggest benefactor to the campaign thus far is right wing developer Clyde Holland of Vancouver, who has given $300,000.

Longtime Eyman benefactor Kemper Freeman, Jr., the owner of the Bellevue Collection (Bellevue Square, Lincoln Square, Bellevue Place) ponied up $100,000, while Kenneth Fisher and Robert Rotella contributed $25,000 each.

Data: Public Disclosure Commission | Chart: Northwest Progressive Institute

As the updated chart above shows, the most recent wealthy benefactors to pump money into Eyman’s I-1366 are Faye Garneau, Suzie Burke, and the National Electrical Contractors Association’s Puget Sound chapter.

Seattle denizens Garneau and Burke became Eyman donors (or, in the words of the Seattle P-I’s Joel Connelly, sugar mommies) last year when Eyman manufactured a statewide initiative to the Legislature to overturn Seattle and SeaTac’s $15/hour minimum wage laws. Eyman was unable to get the larger business community interested, however, and the measure did not get off the ground.

NECA PS has given Eyman money for years, but usually in smaller amounts.

NECA, Garneau, and Burke accounted for % of Eyman’s haul for April. Here’s a rundown of the bigger contributions that came in:

  • $100,000 from NECA, received April 11th
  • $50,000 from Garneau, received April
  • $45,000 from Burke, received April
  • $10,000 from Clark County Commissioner David Madore
  • $10,000 from Jon Thrift of Vancouver
  • $5,000 from Walter T. Pereya of Sammamish, owner of Profish
  • $5,000 from William Connor of Bellevue
  • $5,000 from Perry J. Langston of Snohomish

A further $19,344.33 came in from other contributors. The campaign’s C4 states that a total of $249,344.33 came in for the month of April. That’s a quarter of a million dollars… about on par with March and February.

Eyman has now raised over $1.1 million for I-1366, including his loans to himself, which he will probably repay with money not needed for signature gathering.

To date, Eyman has transferred $750,000 to Citizen Solutions for signature gathering, and spent another $69,143.15 on additional expenses, mostly related to mailing. That means that as of the end of April, $328,330.88 was unspent – enough to pay back the loans, with some money left over.

It’s safe to assume at this point that Eyman will be on the ballot with I-1366, since he has the megabucks to buy his way on.

NPI is organizing a coalition to fight I-1366, and we welcome the involvement of organizations that readers are involved in. At the NO on I-1366 website, you’ll find a model resolution to use to take a position against I-1366, along with more information about the initiative’s cost and consequences.

Having fought Tim Eyman for over thirteen years, we know he has a knack for convincing wealthy right wing donors to give him lots of money to underwrite destructive initiatives. He has created a very profitable business out of selling bad ideas. But, as we showed two years ago when we mounted an incredibly successful campaign against I-517 with our coalition partners, Eyman is not unbeatable.

We’re committed to building a diverse and broad-based coalition to take on I-1366 and defeat it. Join us, and help ensure that Tim Eyman’s latest and most destructive initiative gets the opposition that it needs and deserves.

Sherril Huff confirms retirement as King County Director of Elections; won’t run again

King County’s incumbent Director of Elections Sherril Huff confirmed this morning what political insiders and a number of activists have been hearing over the last few days: She’s retiring from the job and will not run again this year.

In a news release sent to NPI, Huff said she had been planning to run for another four-year term, but decided against it for “personal and health considerations”.

She did not elaborate.

“It is with some sadness that I made this decision,” she said. “I love my job, my team of dedicated professionals, and the work we do to ensure transparent, efficient elections for the 1.1 million voters in our state’s largest County. I was looking forward to continuing this service, but after consulting with family, friends and colleagues, I am making the right decision to step down after this year.”

“I’m particularly proud of the advancements we have made in ballot tracking, improving technologies to speed counting and processing, and improving accessibility through vote by mail, drop boxes, multi-language voting materials, and other efforts to increase participation,” she added.

“I know I am leaving the office in a strong position as a state and national leader, and will enjoy the remaining months in office.”

Huff’s decision to retire creates an open seat, which will undoubtedly attract a few candidates. The position is one of two countywide jobs on the ballot this year. The other is Assessor, a job currently held by Lloyd Hara. He is seeking reelection and is opposed by challenger John Arthur Wilson. Both are Democrats.

Shoreline City Councilmember Chris Roberts, who is a colleague of mine on the Washington State Democratic Central Committee (WSDCC), plans to seek the position, and is working on launching a campaign.

Another candidate may be Julie Ann Wise, who serves as Huff’s deputy. Wise resides in Maple Valley and is eligible to seek the position. She has not made any comments that the team at NPI is aware of about seeking the position. But she could run.

King County voters made the position of elections director an elected one several years ago through a charter amendment. Prior to that, it had been an appointed position. Huff had been the previously-appointed director, chosen by Executive Ron Sims, and she successfully ran to keep her job in a special election, beating out a field of mostly unqualified candidates that included Pam Roach and David Irons.

Now that Huff is departing, King County will have its first really open election for elections director, a position that is unique in Washington State. (In the state’s other counties, elections are administered by auditors, who are directly elected.)

Filing Week 2015: A look at who’s filed in key races as of Monday afternoon

Welcome to Filing Week 2015!

Today through Friday, elections officials around the state will be accepting formal declarations of candidacy from Washingtonians who have decided they want to run for office at the local level (and, in a couple legislative districts, the state level).

There are many important contests within King County on the ballot this year,  so we’ll be keeping a close watch on its filings. We will also look at filings in other key counties, like Snohomish, Whatcom, and Pierce.

This post is the first in a series of Filing Week reports we’ll be bringing you at regular intervals until the close of filing five days from now.

King County

County Level
No one has yet filed to run for office at the county level.

Port Level
Ken Rogers has filed to run against Republican Bill Bryant for Position #5. Rogers has been assembling a campaign and raising money since around mid-March. His website lists endorsements from the Machinists, King County Council Member Dave Upthegrove, and State Representative Mia Gregerson.

Only a few candidates have filed to run for mayor or city council so far. Most positions do not have a candidate yet.

Mayoral candidates in King County cities so far include:

  • Dave Hill in Algona
  • Mary Jane Goss in Lake Forest Park
  • Ken Hearing in North Bend
  • Gary Nitschke in Pacific
  • Denis Law in Renton
  • Allan Ekberg in Tukwila

In Seattle city council races:

  • Chas Redmond and Arturo Robles have filed for Position #1
  • Sandy Brown has filed for Position #5
  • Sally Bagshaw has filed for Position #7
  • Alon Bassokhas filed for Position #9

In Shoreline, two candidates have already filed for Position #2, currently held by Chris Eggen: Jessica Cafferty and Keith Scully.

In Kent, two candidates have filed for Position #1: Bailey Stober and Rich Brandau.

In Maple Valley, Cathy Hilde and Dana Parnello are squaring off for Position #6.

In Bellevue, incumbents John Stokes and Jennifer Robertson have filed for Positions #1 and #7, respectively. In Kirkland, Dave Asher and Toby Nixon have also filed for reelection, to positions #4 and #6.

President Obama unwisely ratchets up feud with Senator Warren over fast-track, TPP

In a just-published interview with political columnist Matt Bai, who now writes for Yahoo, President Barack Obama has unwisely chosen to ratchet up his feud with Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts over the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and fast-track legislation that would require a final version of the TPP to receive an up or down vote in Congress not subject to amendment or filibuster.

“She’s absolutely wrong,” Obama said when Bai asked about Warren’s opposition, apparently not even waiting for Bai to actually ask a question.

Obama didn’t stop there.

“The truth of the matter is that Elizabeth is, you know, a politician like everybody else,” he told Bai. “And you know, she’s got a voice that she wants to get out there. And I understand that. And on most issues, she and I deeply agree. On this one, though, her arguments don’t stand the test of fact and scrutiny.”

This isn’t the first time Obama has gone after Warren on TPP, and judging from this interview with Bai, it’s unlikely to be the last, either.

The President is making a serious mistake by belittling and dismissing the concerns Warren has raised. He says Warren is “wrong”, but doesn’t go much further than that. He hasn’t addressed Warren’s arguments on the merits.

And that’s because he can’t: The trade scheme he’s defending is a secret. The American people haven’t been allowed to read any of the drafts. Only members of Congress have been given an opportunity to look. (Their staffs have not been afforded the same privilege, and they can’t take materials home.)

Obama’s rebuttal of criticisms leveled at fast-track and TPP by the AFL-CIO and senators like Warren pretty much boils down to My position is defensible and supported by reason, yours isn’t … which is very condescending.

Or, to use Obama’s actual words:

I had a conversation with all the labor leaders before this started,… I’ve had a conversation with some of the more progressive members of Congress before. And I’ve listened to their arguments. And, as I said before, generally speaking, their arguments are based on fears. Or they’re fighting NAFTA, the trade deal that was passed twenty-five years ago, or twenty years ago. I understand the emotions behind it. But when you break down the logic of their arguments, I’ve got to say that there’s not much there there.

Obama may not want to admit it, but emotions are behind his position, too. After all, humans are feeling creatures.

We can claim that we make decisions based on cool reason, but research has shown this is a myth. People are emotional beings first, and rational beings second. We are constantly using the rational part of our minds to justify decisions and choices made on the basis of what we are feeling.

We can see from Obama’s word choice that he’s not reacting dispassionately to Warren at all. These are not the words of a person reasoning with a cool head.

He’s frustrated – because he’s watched as Warren and her colleagues, including Sherrod Brown and Bernie Sanders, have rallied the Democratic Party’s progressive base to their side, against the trade promotion authority legislation he wants, and the multi-nation trade pact it is meant to fast-track.

The White House has been trying to win over wavering Democratic lawmakers through rides on Air Force One and presidential visits to states like Oregon.

What Obama doesn’t seem to realize is that he has nothing to gain and everything to lose by turning on his base and ratcheting up a public feud with Elizabeth Warren. Every time he dismissively declares that Warren is “wrong”, he diminishes his credibility and gives Warren a bigger bully pulpit from which to respond.

Attacking your base is dumb politics. Republicans know this, which is why they try to avoid it. Sometimes, their frustration boils over, and we hear the likes of John McCain or Pete King grumble about the Tea Party’s influence within the Republican ranks. But that’s usually only when the Republican base is demanding a very extreme, unpopular course of action (like forcing DHS to partially shut down) that would cause severe short-term damage to the Republican Party’s image.

The Democratic base’s opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership is based both on principle and on evidence. The much-hyped trade pacts of the past have been bad for American workers, bad for America’s manufacturing sector, and bad for our economy. They’ve resulted in fewer jobs and bigger trade deficits.

And yes, NAFTA is a good example.

Since the administration refuses to share the text of the TPP, it can’t be fairly evaluated, but what has leaked so far is extremely troubling.

If President Obama wants to leave office flying high, then he should stop spending valuable political capital pursuing fast-track authority that most Americans do not want him to have, and get back to championing policy directions that will actually strengthen Americans’ health and prosperity.

It seemed for a time that the White House had realized that working with the Democratic base was the way forward. Since the 2014 midterms, the President has backed strong net neutrality rules (which the FCC subsequently voted to adopt), opposed drilling in the Arctic Refuge, took executive action on immigration, and opened a new chapter in U.S. relations with Cuba.

All of those actions generated a lot of goodwill, and deservedly so. The President should be building on his successes and reaching for higher heights. Instead, he’s jeopardizing the goodwill he’s earned by ineffectively pushing a secretive trade pact that neither the Democratic base nor the American people want.

The President’s decision to single Elizabeth Warren out for criticism is particularly boneheaded. Warren is a transformative leader who understands how to build grassroots power. She relishes opportunities to go up against narcissistic captains of industry, lenient regulators sleeping on the job, or wayward Democratic presidents. Attempting to marginalize her is a fool’s errand.

Wall Street banks, which wield enormous power and influence in our nation’s capital, have found this out the hard way. They’ve discovered, much to their horror, that going after Warren just makes her stronger.

Their many attacks on her have backfired spectacularly, beginning with when they mounted a furious behind-the-scenes campaign to ensure she wasn’t nominated to be the permanent head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

When Obama decided to nominate Richard Cordray instead of Warren, they thought they’d won. They were wrong. Warren soon became a candidate for U.S. Senate, seeking to reclaim Ted Kennedy’s seat in Massachusetts. The banks spent heavily against her, but she handily beat them and their lapdog Scott Brown.

Following the election, the banks lobbied to keep Warren off the Senate Banking Committee. And once again, they failed. Warren was named to the committee and has since used her position to exercise badly-needed oversight over Wall Street and the federal agencies that are supposed to regulate Wall Street.

It’s taken a few years, but the banks and their lobbyists have started to realize that picking fights with Warren just isn’t worth it.

As former Treasury official Tony Fratto recently told Bloomberg Markets: “It would be foolish for financial institutions to get into a head-to-head with Senator Warren… It’s exactly what she wants, and it’s a debate you can’t win.”

Having now been President for six years, Barack Obama knows that the Republican Party’s base will reflexively oppose anything and everything he proposes. He can’t win with them. As we have seen, there are a fair number of Republicans in Congress who will always vote as the base demands, and who cannot be corralled, cowed, or bought off by Republican congressional leadership. John Boehner has little influence over these people, and Obama has none at all.

Pursuing a Clinton-style triangulation strategy with the Republican Congress on any issue is thus not a smart move for the White House. John Boehner and Mitch McConnell are simply not partners that Obama can trust or depend on.

Obama is setting himself up for failure by dividing his own party and projecting the weaknesses of his own sales pitch for fast-track and the TPP onto the Democratic Party’s progressive leaders. He doesn’t even have the support of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid for this legislation, which really says something, because Pelosi and Reid have a long history of closing ranks behind the Obama White House.

If the President continues to lash out, as he did in today’s interview with Bai, he will find himself with fewer friends and allies. I can’t imagine that is what the White House wants. But that’s what is going to happen to them. The more they blunder, the more political power and moral legitimacy they cede to Elizabeth Warren.

Sound Transit CEO Joni Earl to retire next year after University Link opens

One of the most transformative, dynamic, and capable civic leaders the Pacific Northwest has ever seen will soon be stepping down, leaving behind a great legacy, but also giant-sized shoes in need of filling.

Joni Earl, sixty-one, has been at the helm of Sound Transit for nearly a decade and a half. Under her direction, ST went from rudderless, dysfunctional organization to model public agency in the span of just a few years.

Sound Transit CEO Joni Earl

Sound Transit CEO Joni Earl speaks at NPI’s 2013 Spring Fundraising Gala. (Photo: Lincoln Potter/Samaya LLC for NPI)

Today, to the consternation of Tim Eyman, Kemper Freeman Jr., and their ilk, Sound Transit routinely delivers projects on time and under budget. It is building a rail spine for Puget Sound that will ultimately link together dozens of cities and hundred of neighborhoods, including NPI’s hometown of Redmond.

The first segments of that rail spine opened in 2009 as Central Link and Airport Link. They will be followed next year by University Link and Angle Lake Link.

Along with the rail spine, Sound Transit has developed a commuter rail system (Sounder) and large network of Express bus routes to give the people of Puget Sound more options for getting to and from work. Ridership on Sound Transit’s buses and trains has soared over the last few years and shows no signs of stopping. It will see a large jump next year when University Link begins ferrying riders between downtown and the University District.

At the time that Joni became chief executive officer, Sound Transit was in dire straits, struggling to get its fiscal house in order, in danger of losing federal matching funds for light rail construction, facing multiple lawsuits from transit opponents, and watching its public support wither away.

When Joni came in, she changed all that. Working together with former King County Executive Ron Sims, she stabilized the agency, got it on a steady footing, and set about doing the work that Sound Transit was created to do. Now, more than a decade later, as she prepares to leave, ST is firing on all cylinders.

Joni will be greatly missed as Sound Transit CEO. It’s hard for me to imagine Sound Transit without her. In so many ways, she personifies the agency.

But, as Joni herself would tell us, a strong, healthy organization works to eliminate single points of failure. Sound Transit has many other fine, talented people working for it, including people who have worked for and alongside Joni for years, which is one reason why the agency hasn’t skipped a beat despite Joni’s recent absence from the office. (She has been gone since last April on medical leave).

I have no doubt that the values and best practices that she instilled while ST’s leader will remain even after she has departed as CEO.

This region owes Joni Earl so much. She is a personal hero of mine and I will be forever grateful to her for her service and leadership.

Sound Transit Board Chair Dow Constantine says that Sound Transit will launch a national search to find the best person to succeed Joni after she retires.

“Joni has provided visionary leadership since the formative years of Sound Transit,” said Constantine. “From the delivery of Sound Move to the success of ST2 to the planning for ST3, her work is remaking our region around reliable mass transit. Her successor will inherit an able, professional, well-respected organization.”

“The Sound Transit Board and staff have tackled huge challenges and have successfully provided the first mass transit system in our region,” Earl said. “I am so proud of what they have done. It has been both a privilege and an honor to serve as CEO of Sound Transit. Now, as the agency prepares for Sound Transit 3, it is time to hand the reins over to the next staff leader.”

Sound Transit is currently led by Acting CEO Mike Harbour, who is Earl’s deputy. Harbour does not intend to be a candidate for the job of CEO.

Rachel Notley, Alberta New Democratic Party riding to victory in massive, historic upset

Something that can only be described as monumental, unprecedented, and incredible is happening right now in the greater Pacific Northwest: The New Democratic Party, the most progressive of Canada’s major political parties, is riding to a massive, historic victory in Alberta, often described as the country’s most conservative province.

Canadian news networks are projecting that the NDP, under charismatic Leader Rachel Notley of Edmonton, will form government for the first time ever.

And it will be a majority government, to boot.

Rachel Notley

Rachel Notley, Alberta’s next premier, is shown at an NDP campaign rally (Photo: Don Voaklander, reproduced under a Creative Commons license)

As of 8:05 Pacific Time (9:05 PM Mountain Time), the CBC tally showed that the NDP was leading for 56 seats, while the Wildrose Party (one of two major right wing parties in the province) was leading for twenty seats. The incumbent Progressive Conservatives (the other major right wing party… and yes, that’s actually what they call themselves) lead for only nine seats.

The numbers continue to shift as returns come in, but it’s definitely safe to say that the NDP has broken through and won a victory of unprecedented proportions. Alberta is like the Texas of Canada; as NPI President Robert Cruickshank says, “The NDP winning in Alberta is like Elizabeth Warren getting elected governor of Texas – with a Democratic majority in the Legislature.”

“It is an orange wave,” declared a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation anchor, noting that the incumbent Progressive Conservatives might not even form Her Majesty’s opposition. They trail the Wildrose Party by nearly a dozen seats.

The Globe and Mail, Canada’s newspaper of record, called it “a sign of a seismic shift in politics in Canada’s most small-c conservative province“.

NDP supporters cheer at a campaign rally

NDP supporters cheer at a campaign rally (Photo: Don Voaklander, reproduced under a Creative Commons license)

The NDP was able to do it in part by capitalizing on voter dissatisfaction with the Progressive Conservatives, who have ruled Alberta for four decades.

Years of corruption and mismanagement left voters yearning for change, and the NDP offered a positive, progressive vision for the province (including a platform that calls for raising taxes on the wealthy) that resonated with voters.

NDP Leader Rachel Notley made history by running a compelling and error-free campaign that was able to deftly overcome the attacks and the scare tactics of the Progressive Conservatives and their disgraced leader Jim Prentice.

NDP challengers were able to oust Progressive Conservative incumbents in a large number of battleground ridings, particularly in the Calgary area. (Calgary is Alberta’s largest city; a riding is the Canadian equivalent of a district.)

Notley and Prentice have yet to speak, but when they do, we’ll update this post.

8:41 PM UPDATE: The current numbers:

  • New Democratic Party: 54 seats (will form government)
  • Wildrose Party: 21 seats (will form opposition)
  • Progressive Conservatives: 10 seats
  • Liberal Party: 1 seat
  • Alberta Party: 1 seat

The NDP has hovered above fifty seats in the tally for over an hour. Forty-four seats are needed to form a majority government. The NDP has that and then some.

8:50 PM: The Canadian Press has a nice article which puts the election in context. Here’s an excerpt which talks about the election from Notley’s point of view:

For Notley, the victory is a vindication of the pioneering efforts of her father, Grant Notley. He helped found Alberta’s NDP and kept the movement alive as the sole NDP member of the legislature in the 1970s. He died in a plane crash in northern Alberta in 1984, two years before his party made its first big breakthrough in 1986 and became official Opposition.

The NDP has never come close to power in Alberta since it began contesting votes in 1940. Its previous high-water mark was 16 seats and almost 30 per cent of the popular vote in 1986.

Notley ran on a policy platform of social change, promising to invest more in schools and hospitals, while increasing taxes to corporations and the wealthy.

9:05 PM: Progressive Conservative Leader Jim Prentice has delivered his concession speech in Calgary. Prentice announced that he has resigned, effective immediately, as the party’s leader.

“While I am personally saddened by the decision, the voters are always right in our democracy,” Prentice said, looking both sad and grim, but maintaining his composure. He said that he had spoken to Rachel Notley of the NDP and congratulated her, as well as Brian Jean of the Wildrose.

“As the leader of the party, I accept responsibility for tonight’s outcome,” he said. He thanked his party’s supporters for their hard work, adding “Clearly, however, my contribution to public life is now at an end.”

He also announced that he is resigning from the Alberta Legislative Assembly seat that he was just elected to, which means there will be a by-election in his riding not long from now. (A by-election is the Canadian term for a special election).

CBC commentator Stephen Carter described the defeated Progressive Conservatives as a rudderless, collapsed party with no future. That may sound like a harsh characterization, but without power to hold them together, can the party survive? They’ve been beaten tonight not only by the NDP in terms of ridings won, but also the Wildrose Party – though they did manage to beat the Wildrose in terms of the overall share of the vote (28% to 24.7%).

9:21 PM: Here’s a map of the current results, courtesy of Daily Kos Elections.

Map of Alberta election results with 73% reporting

Map of Alberta election results with 73% reporting (Daniel Donner)

9:26 PM: The CBC just carried Wildrose Party Leader Brian Jean’s speech.

“Wow, what an incredible election. What a change in Alberta,” he began. “It’s very, very unbelievable. It was just a few months ago that pundits said that the Wildrose Party was dead… Wildrose proved them wrong.”

“Do you know why? The Wildrose Party is not about one person. It’s not about one MLA. It’s about all Alberta. We are a movement.”

“My goodness gracious, we’re the official opposition. We’ve got like twenty seats!” he exclaimed later, marveling at his party’s electoral performance.

“Thirty-seven days, and we have prospered, mightily. We have done amazing things,” Jean declared to cheers and applause. He went on to criticize the Progressive Conservatives, saying they had reaped what they had sown.

“I would like to congratulate Rachel Notley. She ran a very good campaign.”

“It is an NDP majority government. We will work to keep them on their toes.”

9:37 PM: Rachel Notley is making her way towards the stage at the NDP party in Edmonton to deliver her victory speech as premier-designate.

Supporters are loudly chanting “NDP! NDP! NDP!” as Rachel waves to the crowd.

9:56 PM: Wow, what a speech! Some of the highlights:

“Well, my friends…. I think we might have made a little bit of history tonight. Change has finally come to Alberta. New people, new ideas, and a fresh start for our great province,” she began. “Now, you know, Albertans are a gracious people, and tonight, I want to be gracious. I’ve just spoken to Premier Jim Prentice. He’s served our province in many roles, for many years… and I want to thank the Premier for the enormous contribution he has made to our province.”

“I’ve also just spoken to Brian Jean, leader of the Wildrose Party. Brian, I want to say: Through your courage in the face of family tragedy, you have earned the respect of every Albertan, and I’m looking forward to working with you.”

“And let me say to our amazing campaign team: Thank you for your extraordinary efforts. I haven’t done the math yet,” she said, pausing as she was interrupted by wild, jubilant cheers from her supporters, “but I think we have elected the most women in the history of this province.”

“To the people of Alberta, I want to thank you for putting your trust in our party,” she said. “I’m deeply humbled, and I want to pledge to you, the people of Alberta, that we will work every day to earn your trust.”

“In this province, we’re optimistic, we’re forward-looking, we’re entrepreneurial, and we’re careful with the family budget,” she declared.

“That is the kind of government that we will work to be.”

“Together, we need to start down the road to a diversified economy,” she added, acknowledging Alberta’s addiction to oil. “We need to end the boom and bust roller coaster that we have been riding for too long.”

She said she was looking forward to working with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper on projects that affected the province. Supporters booed at the mention of Harper’s name, but Notley smiled and simply reemphasized her sentiments.

“The weather is what it is, but spring has arrived,” she said.

“A new day has begun. You voted for change. For better healthcare. For better schools. And we will answer your call.”

Beaming, she concluded by remembering her mother and father, saying she was honored to continue her father’s life work. “I know how proud he would be of the province we all love,” she said. (Supporters chanted, “Grant! Grant! Grant!”)

Her final words: “Friends, my name is Rachel Notley, and I want to thank you for electing me as your next Premier!”

Department of Ecology, oyster growers cancel plans to spray neurotoxin in Willapa Bay

Hallelujah! Via a news release sent by the Department of Ecology:

Following discussions over the weekend, the Department of Ecology and the Willapa-Grays Harbor Oyster Growers Association (WGHOGA) have agreed to cancel a recently issued permit for use of imidacloprid to control burrowing shrimp.

“One of our agency’s goals is to reduce toxics in our environment,” said Ecology Director Maia Bellon. “We’ve heard loud and clear from people across Washington that this permit didn’t meet their expectations, and we respect the growers’ response.”

The permit came at the request of WGHOGA for an alternative to carbaryl, a pesticide used since the 1960s. The permit placed strict usage rules on a new U.S. EPA approved registration of imidacloprid, a commonly used pesticide, to control the population of burrowing shrimp in Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor.

The shrimp burrow into shellfish beds, making the ground too soft for oysters, causing them to suffocate.

“We believe we have no choice but to withdraw our permit and address these issues to the satisfaction of our customer base, and the public,” said Don Gillies, president of the WGHOGA, in the letter requesting withdrawal of the permit.

The WGHOGA submitted the letter withdrawing their application for the permit on Sunday, May 3. Ecology staff will now complete the paperwork to cancel the permit on Monday, May 4.

The cancellation of this permit is a huge victory for the people, flora, and fauna of the State of Washington. Ecology made a grievous error by giving the oyster growers association permission to spray a toxic pesticide in Willapa Bay in the first place. They erred once more when they tried to defend the plan once people found out about it, instead of recognizing and admitting they’d made a mistake.

The whole reason we have a Department of Ecology to begin with is to ensure that our air, water, and soil are protected… particularly from harm inflicted by companies and industries that carelessly put profit ahead of planet.

In this case, Ecology let the people of Washington down, big time. They told WGHOGA yes when they should have said, “NO!”

It’s worth noting that Ecology has for years allowed oyster growers to spray other chemicals into our waters to kill burrowing shrimp – which is a native species! – so that they could continue farming non-native oysters en masse.

It’s sad that, instead of realizing, maybe nature’s trying to tell us something, Ecology went along with WGHOGA’s plan to spray a neurotoxin-laden pesticide not meant for use in an aquatic environment in Willapa Bay.

But apparently it was business as usual, which is indicative of a serious problem with how Ecology is operating. As I said, Ecology’s mission is to protect Washington’s air, water, and soil. It’s not to protect the bottom lines of Washington’s businesses.

Perhaps Ecology needs a change of leadership. At the very least, its existing leadership need a serious talking-to. Ecology must reorient itself so that its work is truly guided by Washington’s values and by sound science.

This is important. We simply can’t continue to do things the way we’ve done them in the past. It isn’t sustainable. It won’t do. We are better than this.

Even if Ecology failed us, we can at least be thankful that the media did its job for once. WGHOGA’s plan would have almost certainly gone ahead were it not for the negative publicity that was generated by the outstanding journalism of Bill Donahue and the fine column-writing of Danny Westneat. It sparked a needed public outcry.

Bill and Danny packed an effective one-two punch, shining a much needed spotlight on a very bad decision. Thanks to them, the people of Washington had an opportunity to weigh in and speak out against this absurdity before the oyster growers began pumping toxic chemicals out of helicopters and into Willapa Bay.

Vashon parks levy, Enumclaw school bond cross 60% minimum threshold for passage

Some good news to share this afternoon: The latest numbers uploaded by King County Elections following today’s ballot count show that two ballot measures to fund parks and public schools in two different areas of King County are now passing, after having been short of the sixty percent threshold in earlier counts.

The first, a parks levy on Vashon-Maury Island, had been very close to begin with, but just shy of the magic three-fifths needed in the first count on Tuesday and the second count yesterday. Today, that changed.

The Yes vote climbed to 60.59% from 59.79% yesterday with the tabulation of one hundred and ninety-nine more votes in favor. The No vote shrank to a corresponding 39.41% with the addition of a smaller number of no votes.

Passage of this proposition will allow the Vashon Park District to replace an expiring levy that pays for maintenance and operations costs. Some specifics:

The proposed four-year capital levy would authorize the collection of levy amounts estimated to be not more than $0.50 per $1,000 of assessed value in each of the years between 2016 and 2019. The tax rate of approximately $0.50 per $1,000 of assessed value projected for the first year of collection in 2016 would equate to $50.00 per year (or $4.17 per month) for a $100,000 home.

To pass, the Vashon parks levy has to attain a 60% yes vote and either (1) a minimum of 1,253 yes votes or (2) a minimum turnout of 2,088 voters, in accordance with RCW 36.69.145. It looks like it will meet both criteria.

Meanwhile, in Enumclaw, a proposition that would allow the school district to issue bonds for school modernization has inched over that same three-fifths threshold. With 3,827 votes in favor, the Yes side now stands at 60.09%, up from 59.18% yesterday. The No side stands at 39.91% (2,542 votes).

The Enumclaw bond needs a 60% yes vote with a minimum turnout of 3,561 voters (in accordance with the Washington State Constitution’s Article VII, Section 2(b)). Given the positive trend we’ve seen since Tuesday, it looks like it will also pass.

South King Fire and Rescue’s bond proposition for firefighting gear isn’t faring as well. It’s still stuck in the upper fifties, and it doesn’t look like it will pass. It needs a 60% yes vote, but it’s only getting 57.52%.

The fate of other ballot measures we discussed on Tuesday night – including King County Proposition 1, which is passing with ease – remains unchanged.

April special election results: King County public safety radio network levy winning big

Minutes ago, King County Elections published the results of the first round of ballot counting for the April 2015 special election. While there are no offices up in this election, voters in a number of jurisdictions were asked to decide the fate of a number of ballot measures, including a countywide levy to replace a major portion of the region’s aging public safety radio network (King County Proposition #1).

NPI supported a “Yes” vote on this measure, and we are delighted to report it is passing with an overwhelming margin of nearly two to one. Here are the results:

Approved: 64.99% (162,458 votes)
Rejected: 35.01% (87,527 votes)

In a statement sent to NPI, King County Executive Dow Constantine praised the lopsided yes vote, saying it was critical for first responders.

“A reliable emergency radio network is the lifeline that keeps all of our communities safe, used thousands of times a day by police, firefighters and medics in every corner of our county,” Constantine said.

“I want to thank the voters of King County for acknowledging the need to replace a dangerously outdated system and ensuring that our first responders have the tools they need to communicate during life-threatening emergencies.”

In the City of Sammamish, voters are giving the thumbs up to a nonbinding plebiscite asking whether the city should create an initiative and referendum process. 55.25% currently stand in support of bringing direct democracy to the city, while 44.75% are opposed. Around 5,500 of the city’s residents have weighed in, with more votes to be counted in the days to come.

In Klahanie, an exurban neighborhood bordering Sammamish that has been part of unincorporated King County since it was built, residents are overwhelmingly supporting a proposal to join the City of Sammamish.

A staggering 86.83% of Klahanie voters participating in the election are backing annexation, while just 13.17% are opposed. Around 11,000 people live in the area that will be added to Sammamish. 2,156 of those who are of voting age are backing the proposal to join Sammamish. Just 327 are opposed.

The looming annexation will bring Sammamish’s population to around 66,000, surpassing nearby Redmond (although perhaps not for long).

In greater Covington, a proposal to increase the sales tax to pay for road maintenance is failing, 53.27% to 46.73%.

Proposals by South King Fire and Rescue and the Emunclaw School District to issue bonds for fire equipment and school modernization aren’t doing well, either. To pass, a bond proposition has to win a sixty percent yes vote in an election with forty percent minimum turnout – the so-called sixty/forty rule. Neither of these bond propositions is currently meeting the 60% threshold, though both are close.

Enumclaw’s bond proposal is currently getting a 58% yes vote. The South King Fire & Rescue bond is receiving a 57% yes vote.

A proposition to renew the Vashon-Maury Island parks levy, on the other hand, was closer to passage, with 59.52% voting yes (60% needed). 1,657 votes have been cast so far in support and 1,127 in opposition. The margin of passage will need to tick up by about half a percentage point for the measure to succeed.

It’s Special Election Day! Have you voted?

In many jurisdictions across Washington State, today is a special election day. While it is common knowledge that we hold a Top Two election in August and the general election (which is really more like a runoff, thanks to Top Two) in November of every year, state law also provides for two special election windows: one in February, and one in April. The April special election period concludes today.

In King County, there are several measures on the ballot. Just one is countywide – the others are confined either to cities or special districts.

So if you live in King County and are registered to vote, you got a ballot with at least one measure on it. That’s Proposition 1, which would fund the replacement of the region’s aging radio network for first responders. NPI supports a “Yes” vote on this levy; more details about it are available in this post.

Sample ballot for April 28th, 2015 special election

Also on the ballot in King County:

  • The City of Sammamish is asking its residents, in a nonbinding plebiscite, whether they would like the powers of initiative and referendum to be added to the city charter. Most cities in King County have direct democracy.
  • Citizens in the Klahanie neighborhood in east King Coutny will decide whether they would like to join Sammamish. Presently, Klahanie is in unincorporated King County. Sammamish is proposing to annex Klahanie after voters there repeatedly declined to join Issaquah. Many residents of Klahanie have previously expressed a preference for Sammamish over Klahanie.
  • A levy to pay for street resurfacing, enhanced asphalt patching and crack sealing is being considered in the greater Covington area.
  • South King Fire and Rescue is seeking approval to issue bonds to acquire new firefighting equipment. To pass, this proposition must receive a 60% yes vote, and at least 40% of the voters in the jurisdiction must participate.
  • The Enumclaw School District is also seeking approval to issue bonds, for school modernization. The 60/40 rule will be in effect for this measure too.
  • Vashon residents will decide whether to renew their parks levy.

Measures are also on the ballot in other counties in Washington State.

If you were sent a ballot, be sure to fill out and send it back in, either through a post office, or by taking it to a drop box. Don’t blow off this special election: vote and exercise your civic responsibilities!

We’ll have analysis of the results tonight after 8 PM.

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