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.

House Democrats unveil “Families First” budget proposal, embrace capital gains tax

Lawmakers representing Washington State’s House Democratic majority took the wraps off of their budget this afternoon, offering a starkly different plan for the next biennium than the Senate Republicans did last week.

“Our approach to the budget is ‘what’s best for kids?’ This budget and our [education funding] plan is what’s best for kids,” the caucus tweeted during a press conference highlighting key elements of the proposal.

The draft House Democratic budget calls for $44.7 billion to be invested in Washington’s public services over the next two years. $3 billion in new revenue would be raised to support these investments.

Key aspects of the budget that differ from the Senate Republicans’ proposal:

  • Freezes college tuition at Washington’s public colleges and universities: “Unlike our colleagues in the Senate who have chosen to raise tuition, our budget freezes tuition,” says Representative Drew Hansen.
  • Doesn’t reject federal money for healthcare: “Unlike the Senate Republicans we are accepting the Medicaid Transformation waiver, over $1 billion in federal funding,” says Representative Eileen Cody.
  • $350 million investment in mental health includes money for salaries: “Our biggest investment [in mental health] is actually in paying those folks who are providing mental healthcare both out in the community and in our hospital settings — to make sure that folks can actually get the care that they need. And that’s probably the most fundamental difference between the Senate Republican budget and ours,” said Representative Laurie Jinkins.
  • Doesn’t raise property taxes on families in suburban or urban school districts through a “levy swipe” scheme.

The centerpiece of the revenue component of the plan is a capital gains tax on the wealthy, which House Democrats estimate would raise approximately $715 million during the next biennium. The tax would only be levied on Washington’s 48,000 richest taxpayers. The other 98.5% would be unaffected. Sales of single family homes as well as retirement accounts would be exempt.

Washingtonians are overwhelmingly in favor of levying a capital gains tax on the wealthy to meet our state’s paramount duty. Last year, NPI found that support among Washingtonians for a capital gains tax had increased to sixty-five percent.

The specific language of our capital gains tax question was as follows:

Do you strongly support, somewhat support, somewhat oppose or strongly oppose taxing the capital gains of wealthy individuals to help pay for public schools, colleges and universities?”

These were the answers:

  • Support: 65%
    • 46% “strongly support” a capital gains tax
    • 19% “somewhat support” a capital gains tax
  • Oppose: 33%
    • 9% “somewhat oppose” a capital gains tax
    • 24% “strongly oppose” a capital gains tax
  • 2% answered “not sure” 

More than three-fifths of our respondents also agreed that schools are underfunded and that the State of Washington should increase revenue to invest in them.

Our question:

Do you strongly agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree or strongly disagree with the following statement: Washington’s public schools are underfunded, and we need to raise state revenue to fully fund them?

These were the answers:

  • Agree: 63%
    • 45% “strongly agree” that we need more revenue for schools
    • 18% “somewhat agree” that we need more revenue for schools
  • Disagree: 32%
    • 18% “somewhat disagree” that we need more revenue for schools
    • 14% “strongly disagree” that we need more revenue for schools
  • 6% answered “not sure” 

Our survey of 679 likely Washington State voters was in the field from June 14th-15th, 2016; all respondents participated via landline. The poll, conducted by Public Policy Polling, has a margin of error of +/- 3.8% at the 95% confidence level.

Washington has the most upside down, regressive tax code in the nation, as the chart below shows. The lowest income families currently pay the most in taxes, while the wealthiest families pay the least. That’s inequitable and unacceptable.

State & Local Taxes in 2015 by income

The House Democratic budget brings us a step closer towards ending this inequity.

Governor Jay Inslee praised the proposal in a statement issued through his office.

“When I rolled out my budget proposal in December, I was very clear that any final budget must meet two criteria: 1) Fully fund education; and 2) Protect vital state services for our most vulnerable,” the Governor said.

“The House budget does both those things. Their proposal fully and amply funds education while protecting critical services for our families and communities. The budget the Senate approved last week fails on both counts. That budget calls for large property tax increases and makes minimal new investments in education while cutting services to our students, their families and vulnerable people.”

“I am pleased we have two legislative budgets on the table and I look forward to working with the Senate and House over the coming weeks so we can reach agreement on a budget that fully and amply funds education and works for all Washingtonians,” the Governor added.

NPI commends the House Democratic caucus for crafting a budget that would put Washington State on the road to progressive tax reform.

The next step is to go from words on paper and pixels on screen to action: the House should demonstrate to Washingtonians that it is ready to enact these ideas into law so that voters appreciate who’s really standing in the way of revenue fairness: the Senate Republicans.

Rick Hegdahl elected President of NPI for 2017-18; Diane Jones elected Vice President

Spring has often been called the season of renewal, and we’ve always thought it’s as good of a time as any to recalibrate and reorganize. To that end, each March, before we file our yearly report with the Secretary of State’s office, our board holds its annual meeting. The principal business of this meeting is the election of NPI’s directors (for terms of two years) and officers (for terms of one years).

NPI’s 2017 annual meeting was held earlier today. At that meeting, we reelected four of our current board members (Robert Cruickshank, Rick Hegdahl, Essie Hicks, Mario Brown), added a new board member (Diane Jones) and bolstered our Advisory Council (reappointing Kathleen Reynolds and appointing Marisa Peloquin).

In addition to being elected to new terms on the board, Rick and Diane were unanimously chosen by their fellow directors to join NPI’s leadership team as President and Vice President-Secretary for 2017-2018, succeeding Robert Cruickshank and Gael Tarleton, respectively.

Robert and Gael each ably served NPI for three years in those roles, and I deeply appreciate their service and steadfast commitment to our organization. Robert and Gael remain an integral part of our team and I know they’re as delighted as I am to see Rick and Diane stepping up to take on these important responsibilities.

Rick and Diane will be working closely with NPI Treasurer Garrett Havens and I to keep NPI rolling forward at a time when the right wing controls our federal government. (Garrett was elected to serve a full term as Treasurer of NPI today as well; he’s been doing a wonderful job for us since taking on the role last year.)

Rick Hegdahl

NPI President Rick Hegdahl (Photo: Lincoln Potter/Samaya)

Rick’s experience and wisdom will be invaluable in ensuring NPI continues to grow, flourish, and expand its work. These are difficult days for our country, and an effective resistance needs insightful research and imaginative advocacy. NPI is committed to raising America’s quality of life by lobbying for the enactment of legislation based on the logic of our nation’s progressive values and principles.

Last year, Rick celebrated ten years of involvement with NPI, having joined our staff way back in 2006 after he returned from deployment in Kuwait.

Rick served in the Navy for twenty four years as Petty Officer, participating in Operation Noble Eagle with Mobile Inshore Undersea Warfare Unit 101 (responsible for providing seaward security in Puget Sound) from 2001-2002.

After voluntarily extending his tour of duty, he deployed with Naval Coastal Warfare Group One and Mobile Inshore Undersea Warfare Unit 106 to the Port of Ash Shuaiba, Kuwait in support of Seaward Security Operations for Operation Iraqi Freedom from December of 2002 until July 2003.

In April 2005, he was again recalled to active duty, re-trained as an Inshore Boat Unit with MIUWU 101, and deployed to Kuwait. In March of 2006 he returned home, started a home remodel and repair business, and retired from the Navy.

Rick now serves as a National Field Organizer for He has experience organizing support for a broad array of progressive causes — from renewable energy development to nuclear nonproliferation. Through his work with VoteVets, he helps veterans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan continue to be involved in strengthening their country through activism and public service.

Rick was instrumental in the planning and execution of NPI’s very first Spring Fundraising Gala in May 2008, as well as the seven successive galas we’ve held.

Rick’s good humor, hospitality, and optimism have often boosted our spirits and helped keep us on track as a team. He is a tremendous role model and a dependable leader. NPI simply wouldn’t be the organization it is today without Rick’s contributions; I thank Rick for all he’s done and look forward to working with him to take NPI to the next level at a crucial juncture in our nation’s history.

I am also very happy to have the opportunity to work alongside Diane Jones, our newest board member and NPI’s Vice President-Secretary for 2017-2018.

Diane is a veteran electrician with decades of involvement with IBEW. For ten years, she also owned a commercial salmon troll permit and spent many summers fishing in southeast Alaska. She has organized support for a number of progressive causes through the Jefferson County Democrats.

In 2015, Diane served as campaign chair/coordinator for WAmend, working with NPI Advisory Council member Steve Zemke to qualify Initiative 735 to the Legislature. The campaign was successful, and last year, I-735 appeared on the November ballot after the Legislature took no action on it.

Voters overwhelmingly approved I-735, making Washington the eighteenth state to go on record in support of a federal constitutional amendment declaring that corporations are not people and money is not speech.

Diane joined our Advisory Council last summer and has attended nearly every event we’ve held in the past year. We are thrilled to have her as part of our team.

Diane exemplifies a great many of the traits we value highly at NPI. She is an excellent listener, long term thinker, and problem solver.

Most importantly of all, she is a doer — a person of action. She has a track record of getting things done. She is one of the very few activists around who has led a successful, mostly volunteer signature drive for a statewide initiative.

Congratulations to Rick and Diane — and on behalf of NPI’s staff, other boardmembers, and community of supporters, thank you for stepping up. We are fortunate to have you as part of our leadership team.

Trumpcare implodes as feuding Republicans face the reality that they don’t have the votes

We’re going to win at every single level. We’re going to get rid of Obamacare, we’re going to win on health care, we’re going to start winning on every level. I say it kiddingly, but I mean it 100 percent: We’re going to win, win, win! We’re going to win so much, you’re going to get sick and tired of it. You’re going to say “Mr. President, we can’t take it anymore, we’re winning too much! Please, we don’t want to win that much anymore, we can’t take it, Mr. President!” And I’m not going to care — we’re going to keep winning!

— Donald Trump on the campaign trail last year (March 16th, 2016)

Conceding that they simply don’t have the votes to pass the massive wealth transfer that they falsely call a replacement for the Patient Protection Act, Paul Ryan and top House Republicans today threw in the towel on H.R. 1628, canceling a planned vote that Donald Trump had insisted be held only hours earlier.

Despite having a large majority in the U.S. House of Representatives and despite having control of the rest of the federal government, feuding Republicans were unable to marshal the requisite number of votes needed to pass the wealth transfer scheme disguised as a health bill that the Trump regime wanted.

“We’re going to be living with [the Patient Protection Act] for the foreseeable future,” Paul Ryan conceded in a news conference following the decision.

Abandoning the swagger he had previously showed, he acknowledged it was a defeat for the Republican Party. “I will not sugarcoat this, this is a disappointing day for us… This is a setback, no two ways about it.”

A furious Trump says he blames Democrats for the collapse of the legislation.

“We couldn’t get one Democratic vote and we were a little bit shy, very little, but it was still a little bit shy so we pulled it,” he told The Washington Post.

Of course Trump blames Democrats; as far as he is concerned, Democrats are to blame for everything that doesn’t go his way. All Democrats did here was say no — and they don’t even control any branch of the federal government anymore.

Neither Trump nor Ryan ever made any attempt to work with Democrats to develop legislation on healthcare. And that is because they didn’t want to. They are not interested in expanding access to healthcare for the American people.

What they are interested in is gutting our country’s social contract and enrich the already wealthy with a $1 trillion tax cut. And they wanted Democratic participation (more like capitulation) so they could claim later that the destruction of the Patient Protection Act was bipartisan. They wanted Democrats to simply lay down, betray their principles, and cough up some votes in support of one of the most monstrous, atrocious bills ever seen in the U.S. House of Representatives.

But Democrats — remembering the enormous political capital that was expended to pass the Patient Protection Act in the first place — wisely refused to have anything to do with Trumpcare. They stood united in their opposition. And they have been rewarded. They and the millions of Americans who spoke out against this bill have won the day. Republicans, despite being in power, have lost.

Governor Jay Inslee led the way in lauding the implosion of H.R. 1658.

“Today 600,000 Washingtonians beat Congress, and can rest easy knowing that Speaker Ryan and President Trump have failed in their misguided attempt to destroy health care in America,” said Inslee. “Today’s decision to cancel the vote on [Trumpcare] — legislation that would have taken coverage away from twenty-four million Americans — is an enormous victory for Washington.”

“This victory didn’t happen by chance. Thousands of Washingtonians made their voices heard at town halls and in phone calls and emails to Congress. The Republican plan to take away health from millions of Americans and give tax breaks to millionaires was unacceptable.”

“I’m pleased that President Trump and Speaker Ryan have indicated that they will move on, and give up their effort to repeal this landmark law that has done so much good in Washington, and across the United States.”

“Today is a victory for 24 million Americans who will continue to have health care,” agreed U.S Representative Pramila Jayapal of Seattle.

“It’s a victory for older Americans who won’t have to pay thousands more in premiums. It’s a victory for women who can continue to access critical birth control and lifesaving care. It’s a victory for people with pre-existing conditions who won’t be penalized for things beyond their control. It is a victory for all of us.”

“If this bill comes to the House floor again, we will organize and defeat it. We know when we organize, we win. We cannot be complacent. This is just another fight in a series of battles. But today, we can say that we protected care for tens of millions of Americans across the country.”

“Republicans spent seven years vowing to turn back the clock on health care for women, seniors and families—but it took just a few weeks of them trying to jam Trumpcare through Congress to realize that people across the country absolutely reject their plans to increase premiums, cut millions of people off of their insurance coverage, eliminate women’s health care options, and put the insurance companies back in charge of health care decisions,” said U.S. Senator Patty Murray.

“This victory will make all the difference in the lives of patients, families, and seniors nationwide. I am so grateful to the millions of people who spoke up, not just for themselves but for friends and neighbors—for access to Medicaid and Planned Parenthood, and for a country that works to make sure all families have affordable, quality health care. Today shows just how powerful your voices are.”

“We will be vigilant in defending against continuing efforts to put the interests of insurance companies and the wealthy ahead of patients’ health and welfare. I fear that while Trumpcare was dealt a significant blow today, the terrible ideas that underpin it will live on with Republicans in Congress and the White House. I hope that Republicans will learn from this, and instead, put people over partisan politics and work with us to build on the Affordable Care Act and make health care even more affordable, more accessible, and higher quality.”

“We’ve been preparing for the worst at the state level, drafting legislation to help backfill losses in coverage if the ACA is repealed, and urging our state’s congressional delegation to do whatever they can to preserve coverage for Washingtonians,” said Democratic State Senator Annette Cleveland of Clark County, the ranking member on the Senate Health Care Committee.

“If Congress is unable to repeal and replace the ACA, a lot of very vulnerable Washingtonians will be able to breathe a huge sigh of relief.”

“The health care of more than 600,000 Washingtonians is at stake,” pointed out Eileen Cody, Chair of the House Health Care & Wellness Committee. “Hundreds of thousands of people across our state have better care and have more secure futures thanks to the ACA. Under the TrumpCareLess Plan, all of those people could lose their access to care and that cannot be allowed.”

“If Republicans crafted legislation that lived up to the promise of ‘insurance for everybody’ at lower cost, they would have broad support for their efforts,” said U.S. Representative Suzan DelBene (WA-01), who delivered a blistering floor speech lambasting the bill earlier in the day.

“But it’s clear this bill left middle-class families, seniors, women and people with disabilities far worse off. Allowing 24 million Americans to go uncovered is just wrong,” DelBene added. “Since coming to Congress, I have worked tirelessly to find commonsense fixes to our nation’s healthcare laws.”

“We should build upon the reforms we’ve already made to expand coverage and reduce costs — this bill did none of that. Instead, most Americans would have ended up paying more for less, while millions more would find coverage completely out of reach. I’m relieved we were able to stop this dangerous legislation before it completely destabilized our nation’s healthcare system.”

NPI to NW Republicans: For the good of our region and country, vote NO on Trumpcare

Editor’s Note: The following was transmitted by facsimile this evening to the offices of Dave Reichert, Greg Walden, Dan Newhouse, and Cathy McMorris Rodgers. All of the aforementioned individuals represent portions of Washington and Oregon in the United States House of Representatives as Republicans. We are republishing this communication here on the Cascadia Advocate as an open letter.

Dear Representatives Reichert, McMorris Rodgers, Newhouse, and Walden:

Tomorrow, at the behest of Donald Trump, the House of Representatives is poised to vote on a bill that would eviscerate the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, signed into law seven years ago today by President Barack Obama.

We implore you to put the good of our region and our country before party and vote against this disastrous, ill-conceived legislation.

You may not have supported the Patient Protection Act or voted for it when it was before Congress in 2010, but it has been a lifesaver for countless Americans, including many of your own constituents. Despite glitches with its implementation, the law has helped millions of people gain access to sorely needed healthcare.

Many of the Americans who benefit most from the Patient Protection Act work long hours at multiple jobs, or are busy caring for ill relatives, or are raising their children. They simply do not have time to reach out to you to explain how passage of H.R. 1628 would hurt them. They do not have the means to employ professional lobbyists who can speak for them and advocate for them.

But they are precisely the people you should be thinking of as tomorrow’s vote approaches. Each one of them has a story.

Kandy Kimble of Kittitas County is one of the Pacific Northwesterners whose lives have been profoundly changed for the better by the Patient Protection Act.

“Self-employed for many years, she went without health insurance, planning to wait a few more years until she was eligible for Medicare,” explained Governor Jay Inslee’s office in a Medium post published shortly after the new year.

“In 2014, she had a health emergency when eight bleeding ulcers were found. A three-day hospital stay in intensive care resulted in a bill of almost $70,000. After she was discharged, she sought insurance coverage through Washington Healthplanfinder, the insurance exchange.”

“She was later diagnosed with a life-threatening heart condition. Thanks to her insurance, she is able to receive the medication she needs and regularly visit with a cardiologist. Kandy will be eligible for Medicare this September.”

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that gutting the Patient Protection Act will result in tens of millions of people losing their health insurance nationwide.

A few days ago, those of you representing districts in Washington received a letter from Governor Inslee and Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler warning that H.R. 1628 would be catastrophic for the Evergreen State.

They summed up the dire consequences as follows:

  • 700,000 people will lose coverage (600,000 through Medicaid, up to 100,000 in the individual health insurance market)
  • The uninsured rate will go up from 5.8 percent to 15 percent — higher than before the ACA and higher than projections of ACA repeal with no replacement
  • To cover those losing Medicaid coverage would cost the state $1.3 billion per year by 2023 ($1.8 billion by 2028)
  • A new penalty is put in place when a consumer or patient tries to purchase insurance after a break in coverage.

The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) and the Department of Consumer and Business Services (DCBS) say the impact to the Beaver State will be similarly awful.

Their analysis finds that Trumpcare would:

  • Reduce coverage: As many as 465,000 Oregonians will lose health coverage, including approximately 80,000 next year. Oregon’s uninsured rate will triple from 5 percent to more than 15 percent.
  • Reduce federal funding: To maintain Medicaid enrollment, we estimate the AHCA [Trumpcare] would shift $190 million in costs to Oregon starting in 2020 approaching $1 billion in 2023. The cumulative cost shift would be $2.6 billion over the next six years.
  • Reduce economic activity: [Trumpcare] risks the loss of more than 23,300 health care jobs that were created in Oregon after the ACA was implemented.

But perhaps what is most damning about H.R. 1628 is that the Congressional Budget Office has calculated that H.R. 1628 would actually result in more people being uninsured than if the Patient Protection Act were simply repealed.

“One million more Americans would have health insurance with a clean repeal than with the Republican replacement plan, according to CBO estimates,” noted The New York Times’ Margot Sanger-Katz in a report published two days ago. This finding alone is reason enough to vote down this immoral, irresponsible legislation.

Research shows that Americans are resoundingly opposed to H.R. 1628.

Respected pollster Quinnipac reported today that 56% of respondents surveyed are opposed to Trumpcare, with only 17% in favor. That’s a three-to-one margin. Every age demographic, gender, and ethnicity opposes the bill, Quinnipac says.

Your colleague Jaime Herrera-Beutler has already decided to vote no on H.R. 1628 as presently constituted. “In the final analysis, this bill falls short,” she declared in a statement released by her office today.

Your colleague Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania went even further with his appraisal.

“I believe this bill, in its current form, will lead to the loss of coverage and make insurance unaffordable for too many Americans, particularly for low-to-moderate income and older individuals,” he said, offering a blunt assessment.

Representatives, in medicine, there is an axiom that guides the work of doctors, nurses, and caregivers: First, do no harm. Trumpcare woefully fails this precept and deserves to be rejected by the U.S. House.

On behalf of the board and staff of the Northwest Progressive Institute and in solidarity with the millions of Americans opposed to Trumpcare, I urge you to put the people of our region and country first by voting NO on H.R. 1628.


Andrew Villeneuve
Founder and executive director
Northwest Progressive Institute

Robert Cruickshank
Rennie Sawade
Operations Director
Gael Tarleton
Vice President-Secretary
Dominic Barrera
Staff Writer
Garrett Havens
Greg Evans
Grassroots Organizer
Ralph Gorin
Christian Cahua
Research Analyst
Essie Hicks
Kaylinne Shaffer
Staff Writer
Rick Hegdahl
Patrick Stickney
Mario Brown

Tim Eyman vigorously endorses Senate Republican budget that raises property taxes

Sounding very much like a spokesman for top Republican Senator Mark Schoesler of Ritzville, Tim Eyman this morning sent out an email offering a ringing, fervent endorsement of the Senate Republicans’ proposed budget for 2017-2019, which would increase property taxes on many Washingtonians.

“Here’s how my day went yesterday: drove to and from Olympia through horrendous traffic both ways, testified at a 1:30 pm hearing where I spoke out against a horrible anti-taxpayer bill, sat in on and listened to Governor Jay Inslee’s hysterical press conference, and then testified at a 3:30 pm hearing in favor of Senate Republican’s no-new-taxes budget (which I said earned an A+ on the taxpayers report card),” Eyman wrote in an email to his followers.

After heaping scorn on Governor Jay Inslee’s bold and excellent ideas for revamping our upside down tax code, Eyman reemphasized his endorsement: “The Senate Republicans have proposed a sustainable $43 billion budget that doesn’t unilaterally impose tax increases. That’s a serious budget.”

No, it’s a scam.

I’ve been organizing opposition to Tim Eyman initiatives for over fifteen years. I can’t remember Tim Eyman ever endorsing a multibillion dollar tax increase.

But I guess there’s a first time for everything.

Last month, Eyman offered a tacit endorsement of this scheme; now he’s offering an overt one. Perhaps he’s feeling less ashamed at having sold out.

What Senate Republicans are trying to do here is truly shameful. They want to raise the property taxes of Washingtonians who are primarily represented by Democrats, while lowering them on Washingtonians they represent. That way, they can falsely claim to have addressed the Supreme Court’s McCleary decision while having secured a reduction in property taxes for their own constituents at the same time.

Our public schools would remain underfunded, while property owners in urban and suburban school districts would be required to pay more in property taxes. The Republicans’ “plan” is a giant, self-serving wealth transfer.

It wasn’t that long ago that Tim Eyman was calling foul on this very idea.

As I noted in a post last month, back in April of 2015, Tim Eyman was loudly excoriating the Senate Republicans for proposing a similar property tax levy swipe, and calling on Governor Inslee to save the day. Here’s what Eyman said then:

RE: Senate Republicans propose massive property tax hike — will Inslee save the day?

Candidate Inslee ridiculed the so-called “property tax levy swap.” He repeatedly called it a “gimmick”. He said it was “a classic maneuver by politicians in Olympia.” He said it was a “shell game” that raised taxes on nearly half of all property tax payers. He tore into it with vigor and verve. He was emphatic. He was unambiguous.

The people elected a man who adamantly opposed this.

Will Governor Inslee come riding to the rescue when it comes to the Senate Republicans’ bill (Senate Bill 6109) which does exactly what he ridiculed? In today’s Tacoma News Tribune, they report the Republicans’ bill “would raise property taxes in more than 40 percent of Washington’s school districts.”

Inslee despised it as a candidate, will he stop it as Governor? Can we count on him to protect us from this massive property tax hike?

That email was written Tuesday, April 23rd, 2015 — almost exactly twenty-three months ago. Here we are in 2017, and Tim Eyman is cheering on the levy swipe scheme he once called a massive property tax hike. Why? I think it’s because Eyman reached an understanding with the Senate Republicans.

His deal with them may be a consequence of the disintegration of his initiative factory. Eyman craves relevance, but his base of donors continues to shrink, and he’s been unable to get any of the initiatives he’s recently proposed off the ground.

Meanwhile, he remains under investigation by Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s office for serious, flagrant public disclosure law violations. Ferguson’s office is also suing him and his committees over an array of additional violations.

Eyman has slowly been transitioning from initiative pitchman to Olympia lobbyist; he makes regular appearances in front of House and Senate committees, testifying in support of or opposition to legislation he’s interested in. However, he has not registered as a lobbyist, even though lobbying is arguably now his occupation.

Each side benefits from the new arrangement. Eyman is now inside the Senate Republicans’ tent and repeating the party line, which means Republicans don’t have to worry about him undermining their schemes at inopportune moments.

For Eyman, an alliance with the Senate Republicans means he’s less alone in difficult times. (Eyman made a big show of distributing photos depicting him with members of the Senate Republican caucus back in the winter.)

Eyman’s latest initiative, I-1550, would ironically cut property tax revenue by 25%. Passage of I-1550 would devastate the vital public services we all rely on and ruin whatever budget the Legislature and Governor Inslee eventually agree on.

Eyman announced I-1550 weeks ago, but so far it appears to be just another one of his recent crop of fake initiatives — meaning an initiative he’s pretending to try to qualify so he has an excuse to send out twice-weekly fundraising emails.

Senate Republicans likely know that Eyman’s fundraising has dried up and thus are unconcerned about I-1550 or its potential impacts. They figure an aging Eyman still makes a good attack dog. And the desperate, disgraced initiative promoter has decided to embrace the role they want him to have.

Trump regime declares war on rail: Budget would eviscerate Amtrak, light rail funding

Passenger rail service in the United States of America is now officially under an unprecedented assault following the release of neofascist Donald Trump’s regime’s “budget blueprint”, which proposes gutting most of what’s left of Amtrak’s national network of intercity rail routes and yanking away funding promised to regions like ours for the expansion of badly needed high capacity transit systems.

The ultra-right wing Heritage Foundation is believed to have had a major hand in the crafting of the “budget blueprint”, as it resembles their own sick and twisted “vision” for the future. Amtrak would be extremely hard hit and reduced to a regional provider of rail service, with all cross-country routes eliminated.

“It’s ironic that Trump’s first budget proposal undermines the very communities whose economic hardship and sense of isolation from the rest of the country helped propel him into office,” noted National Association of Railroad Passengers President Jim Mathews in a statement blasting the Trump regime’s plans.

“These working class communities—many of them located in the Midwest and the South—were tired of being treated like ‘flyover country.’ But by proposing the elimination of Amtrak’s long distance trains, the Trump Administration does them one worse, cutting a vital service that connects these small town economies to the rest of the U.S. These hard working, small town Americans don’t have airports or Uber to turn to; they depend on these trains.”

NARP has assessed that the Trump regime’s budget would:

  • Eliminate all federal funding for Amtrak’s national network trains, which provides the only Amtrak service to 23 states, and the only nearby Amtrak service for 144.6 million Americans;
  • Eliminate $499 million from the TIGER grant program, a highly successful program that invests in passenger rail and transit projects of national significance;
  • Eliminate of $2.3 billion for the Federal Transit Administration’s “New Starts” Capital Investment Program, which is crucial to launching new transit, commuter rail, and light-rail projects.

Amtrak’s Empire Builder, which provides service from Seattle to Chicago, serving communities in Washington, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Illinois, would be among the routes that would be eliminated. The Empire Builder is one of Amtrak’s most beloved and scenic routes. It passes by many natural wonders, including Glacier National Park in Montana (perhaps someday to be renamed The Park Formerly Known as Glacier due to climate damage).

Meanwhile, agencies like Sound Transit stands to lose a great deal of money too. ST has been counting on receiving federal dollars to expand Link light rail service.

“It’s distressing that the new administration seeks to slash funding for the very type of infrastructure investments the president has consistently supported,” said Sound Transit Board Chair and Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers. “People in the region just voted for $54 billion to help fund mass transit with the assumption we’d continue receiving federal support. Now we’re being told that sensible transit projects are not a priority. We’ll work hard with our congressional delegation to ensure transit remains a top priority for federal transportation funding.”

“The move to zero-out federal funding for regional infrastructure projects is a body blow,” said a grim Sound Transit Chief Executive Officer Peter Rogoff, who served as Federal Transit Administrator during a portion of the Obama years.

“Shortly after joining Sound Transit, I reduced the agency’s federal grant assumptions to levels that seemed more reasonable to sustain over the long term. We did not anticipate a scenario in which the federal government would completely walk away from the table after decades of partnership with cities across America.”

It is worth remembering that Link light rail would not exist at all today had the administration of George W. Bush and the 2003-2004 Republican Congress not agreed to provide funding to Sound Transit to construct the initial line. Or that the extremely popular University Link extension was paid for mostly with federal dollars.

It’s hard to find words to describe the Trump regime’s budget blueprint.

Immoral, cruel, unconscionable, boneheaded, idiotic… all of those words are applicable, and yet somehow don’t seem expressive enough.

This budget proposal isn’t merely awful; it’s certainly more than horrific. It’s monstrous. And not simply because it guts funding for rail projects. The National Endowment for the Arts would be terminated. Meals on Wheels would be gutted. Vital public service after vital public service would be slashed.

This Trump proposal is like the most diabolical initiative Tim Eyman ever came up with, but applicable to the whole country — and on steroids. It’s evil in the form of a wannabe budget. It’s a death sentence for countless of America’s most vulnerable.

Congress cannot and must not pass a budget that resembles anything like what Trump henchman Mick Mulvaney and his cronies published today.

To do so would be one of the most destructive, mean-spirited, and self-defeating acts in the history of the United States. It cannot and must not happen.

It is vital we all speak out against this travesty and let Republican members of Congress like Dave Reichert, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Jaime Herrera Beutler, Dan Newhouse, and Greg Walden know it’s completely and totally unacceptable.

Want to save on tickets to NPI’s 2017 spring gala? Act now to get the early-bird rate

Readers, we are just forty-eight days away from our 2017 Spring Fundraising Gala on Mercer Island (Saturday, April 29th at 6 PM), and we’re looking forward to sharing details of our speaking program with you.

Before we announce who our speakers are, though, I want you to know that you still have an opportunity to buy a ticket to the gala at our early-bird discount.

We’re holding early-bird ticket sales open until tomorrow (Monday, March 13th) at 8 PM Pacific Time. After that point, regular rates will be in effect.

Purchase now to save 17%-25% off the regular price!

Our gala is the biggest event that we put on every year, and it is by far the best opportunity to meet the NPI team in person and learn about our work. Our goal is for all of our guests to be able to spend a memorable evening with family, friends, and fellow activists, and support NPI’s vital work at the same time.

Chris Reykdal speaking at NPI's 2014 Spring Fundraising Gala

Then-State Representative (now Superintendent of Public Instruction) Chris Reykdal speaks at NPI’s 2014 Spring Fundraising Gala (Photo: Lincoln Potter/Samaya LLC)

In recent years, we’ve been honored to have leaders like U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell, Attorney General Bob Ferguson, U.S. Representatives Adam Smith, Denny Heck, Derek Kilmer, and Suzan DelBene, Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal, and Sound Transit CEO Joni Earl as part of our speaking program.

There are three ticket rates:

  • Individual ($75, temporarily discounted to $60; admits one person.)
  • Household ($120, temporarily discounted to $100; admits an entire immediate family.)
  • Living Lightly ($25, for students and activists on limited incomes.)

To buy a ticket at any of these rates, just go to the gala page.

Your payment will be securely processed by Authorize.Net, which is a division of Visa, Inc. Your credit card details will be protected by best available encryption.

If you’d rather not use a credit card, simply mail a check for $60, $100, or $25 to:

Northwest Progressive Institute
PO Box 264
Redmond, WA 98073-0264

Put “Gala” on the memo line. We’ll send you a confirmation.

Thanks to everyone who has already purchased a ticket and invested in expanding NPI’s insightful research and imaginative advocacy!

Washington State House of Representatives sends revised “levy cliff” rescue bill to Inslee

Legislation that would rescue school districts in Washington State from the so-called “levy cliff” is on its way to Governor Jay Inslee following an overwhelming vote of approval in the Washington State House of Representatives.

By a vote of eighty-seven to ten, the House voted to give its assent to Engrossed Senate Bill 5023, originally sponsored by Senator Lisa Wellman (D-41st District: Mercer Island, Bellevue, Sammamish, Issaquah). ESB 5023 cleared the Senate last night in a near unanimous vote after difficult negotiations between Senate Republicans and Senate Democrats were successfully concluded.

The Senate officially summarized the bill as follows:

  • Delays for one year changes to the formulas for calculating school district maximum maintenance and operation levy authority, and corresponding local effort assistance.
  • Requires local levy revenue to be deposited in to a separate sub-fund beginning in calendar year 2018.
  • Provides that the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction must approve the use of maintenance and operation levy proceeds prior to a levy proposition election.

The House’s official summary was a bit more detailed:

  • Delays for one year changes to the formulas for calculating school districts’ maximum maintenance and operation levy authority, and corresponding local effort assistance.
  • Requires districts to submit a report to the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction detailing the programs and activities to be supported by a maintenance and operation levy, prior to submittal to the voters for approval.
  • Declares that enrichment beyond the state-provided funding in the omnibus appropriations act for the basic education program components under basic education funding statute s is a permitted use of maintenance and operation levies.
  • Requires school districts to establish a separate sub-fund for levy revenues.

ESB 5023 is similar to HB 1059, which the House passed back in January, but which has languished in the Senate ever since. ESB 5023 was passed without hearings in either house, although HB 1059 received a hearing on January 11th.

The roll call was as follows:

Roll Call
ESB 5023
Schools/excess levies
Final Passage

Yeas: 87, Nays: 10, Excused: 1

Voting Yea: Representatives Appleton, Barkis, Bergquist, Blake, Buys, Caldier, Chapman, Clibborn, Cody, DeBolt, Dent, Doglio, Dolan, Farrell, Fey, Fitzgibbon, Frame, Goodman, Graves, Gregerson, Griffey, Haler, Hansen, Hargrove, Harmsworth, Harris, Hayes, Holy, Hudgins, Irwin, Jenkin, Jinkins, Kagi, Kilduff, Kirby, Klippert, Kloba, Koster, Kraft, Kretz, Lovick, Lytton, MacEwen, Macri, Manweller, Maycumber, McBride, McCabe, McDonald, Morris, Muri, Nealey, Ormsby, Ortiz-Self, Orwall, Pellicciotti, Peterson, Pettigrew, Pollet, Reeves, Riccelli, Robinson, Rodne, Ryu, Santos, Sawyer, Sells, Senn, Slatter, Smith, Springer, Stambaugh, Stanford, Steele, Stokesbary, Stonier, Sullivan, Tarleton, Tharinger, Van Werven, Vick, Volz, Walsh, J., Wilcox, Wylie, Young, Chopp

Voting Nay: Representatives Chandler, Condotta, Dye, Kristiansen, McCaslin, Orcutt, Pike, Schmick, Shea, Taylor

Excused: Representative Johnson

Democrats voted unanimously in support of the bill and were joined by thirty-seven Republicans. Ten Republicans refused to lend their support.

Governor Inslee is expected to sign ESB 5023 in due course.

Congratulations, Tanika Padhye, and welcome to the Redmond City Council

Yesterday evening, at its March 7th business meeting, the Redmond City Council selected Tanika Padhye to fill the vacancy created by the January resignation of NPI Advisory Council member Kim Allen, who stepped down due to having an increasingly travel-centric work schedule.

Padhye, forty-three, was previously a member of the city’s Planning Commission and has served more recently on the Parks and Trails Commission. She holds degrees in law from Northeastern University and psychology from Texas A&M.

In the mid-2000s, Padhye worked for the city of Seattle as a civil rights investigator and for K&L Gates as a staff attorney.

“I feel strongly about connecting with Redmond residents because it creates a healthier government that is a reflection of the people it represents,” said Padhye in a news release published by the city.

“I have complete confidence in Councilmember Padhye’s ability to serve the people of Redmond, and I look forward to working with her as a new Council colleague. Her years as a resident of Redmond and experiences as a Commissioner on the Planning and most recently the Parks and Trails Commissions have prepared her for this role,” said Council President Hank Margeson.

The Council selected Padhye from among three finalists. There were thirteen applicants for the position following Allen’s notice of resignation.

Padhye will serve through November at least, and longer if she runs for and wins a full four year term. The position she’s been appointed to is normally open in local election years that follow a presidential election year — like 2017.

Positions #2 and #6, currently held by Councilmembers Byron Shutz and John Stilin, will also be subject to election this year.

The City has yet to update its Council roster page with Padhye’s official contact information, biography, or portrait — and we hope that can be done no sooner than the close of business tomorrow.

Congratulations, Councilmember Padhye, and best wishes in your new role.

House Transportation Chair not interested in messing with Sound Transit’s governance

A bill recently passed by the Washington State Senate that would oust Sound Transit’s current board of directors and set the stage for a hostile takeover of the agency by right wing, anti-rail forces is destined to die in committee, House Transportation Chair Judy Clibborn indicated in an interview published this morning.

Speaking to the Seattle Times’ David Gutman, Clibborn (D-41st District: Mercer Island, Bellevue, Issaquah Sammamish) made it clear she doesn’t like the bill. She had previously committed to giving it a hearing in remarks made to Melissa Santos of The News Tribune. But it sounds like that’s all the bill will get.

As Sound Transit embarks on a decades-long project to add 62 miles of light rail to the Puget Sound region, the Republican-controlled Senate passed a bill last week that would revamp the agency’s leadership, likely resulting in all current board members being replaced in 2018.

That proposal appears dead on arrival in the Democratic-controlled House, where Rep. Judy Clibborn, who chairs the House Transportation Committee, the bill’s next destination, says she has no interest in it.

“I don’t know that we get a lot of efficiency by going down that road,” said Clibborn, D-Mercer Island. “I’m not real intrigued by that idea.”

It’s great to hear that SSB 5001 is unlikely to advance in the House of Representatives. But it’s still important we show up to speak out against this bad bill. Proponents dominated the hearing on the Senate side because they were organized and the transit community didn’t show up in opposition.

A hearing on SSB 5001 is likely to be scheduled for the week of March 13th.

Clibborn has (to her credit) shown a willingness in the past to put the kibosh on inappropriate schemes to mess with Sound Transit’s governance.

Ten years ago, this organization was fighting against a similarly bad bill – SB 5803 – which had sailed out of the Senate under the radar of transit advocates. NPI began working to organize opposition to the bill following the Senate vote. Thankfully, Clibborn and the House Transportation Committee put the brakes on the bill, and it unceremoniously died when they decided it did not deserve to move forward.

As a result of that decision, Sound Transit was able to continue rolling forward free of misguided interference. It successfully won approval for a Phase II expansion the following year and then won approval for a Phase III expansion last year (2016) utilizing new revenue authority granted to it by the Washington State Legislature — revenue authority that SSB 5001 prime sponsor Steve O’Ban voted for.

The Seattle Times’ David Gutman also reached out to the governor’s office regarding the bill and found out that Inslee opposes SSB 5001 too:

Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee, likewise, is not gung-ho on reorganizing Sound Transit. “He’s confident the current board structure can get the job done,” said Tara Lee, an Inslee spokeswoman.

So are we.

We concur with Clibborn that the Legislature has serious, actual priorities that need attending to. Empowering Sound Transit to more fairly collect vehicle fees is certainly worth a discussion. The current archaic formula that Sound Transit inherited from the state stinks, and it ought to be scrapped and replaced. There’s a better formula that’s actually already on the books, as Gutman pointed out.

Sound Transit needs to be able to build the system that it promised, and vehicle fees are an important part of the financing mix. Sound Transit has sold bonds that older  vehicle fee revenues are pledged to. The Legislature must not jeopardize Sound Transit’s funding or credit rating if it takes any action to address this issue.

Tim Eyman’s Initiative 1550 would enrich the wealthy at the expense of the rest of us

As Washington homeowners received their most recent property tax bills, disgraced initiative promoter Tim Eyman couldn’t resist trying to exploit their concerns by announcing his intent to qualify an initiative to the November 2017 ballot that would cut property taxes by twenty-five percent. Like Eyman’s I-1366, which was struck down as unconstitutional last year, its ramifications would be devastating.

Eyman’s Initiative 1550 is really a form of reverse Robin Hoodism – take from poor and middle income families and give to very rich.

Those who own multimillion dollar homes would suddenly see their tax obligations reduced by tens of thousands of dollars. However, if you own a more modest home, say in Kent, you would only save a mere $75 a year.

King County Assessor John Arthur Wilson

King County Assessor John Arthur Wilson, author of this guest post, speaks at Permanent Defense’s Fifteenth Anniversary Celebration on February 15th in Kent (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI).

Eyman wants to make our worst in the nation, upside down tax code even more regressive by gutting the closest thing we have to a progressive revenue source.

But the false allure of Initiative 1550 doesn’t stop there. In King County, it would slash general fund revenues by about $116 million a year.

Although Executive Dow Constantine and Deputy Executive Fred Jarrett have done a great job of promoting efficiencies and cost saving, taking that much money out of the county’s budget would force horrific, draconian cuts – in public health, public safety, transportation, best starts for kids, and aid to refugees and the homeless.

And that Kent homeowner would get whacked twice.

First, that $75 would hardly cover family dinner out at Olive Garden.

Second, vital services that family might depend upon – for their kids in K-12 schools, for keeping their community and environment safe, and providing transportation so people can get to work, school and recreation – would be gutted.

Forced to suddenly cut $116 million out of the budget, that’s the only choice the people of King County would have. Imagine if your household budget was abruptly by 25%. What would you do? What could you do?

And for other communities and counties, it would be even more dire.

Eyman’s I-1550 would also eliminate the personal property tax that businesses pay. This would be devastating to communities like the City of SeaTac. I-1550 would deprive city coffers of $10.4 million annually – 16% of the city’s budget.

And other corporations around the state would reap multimillion dollar tax cuts, too. Indeed, some of the largest corporations in King County would end up paying no property taxes. This is tax revenue that supports vital public services.

And for smaller counties across the state, Eyman’s initiative could well effectively drive them into bankruptcy. More rural counties, dependent upon forestry, fishing and agriculture, would find themselves hard pressed to provide basic law enforcement and fire protection. Schools would be robbed of the resources needed simply to pay teachers to educate our children. Even basic maintenance of critical infrastructure — sewer, water roads — would become impossible.

And who would run those bankrupt counties? Well, not the locally elected commissioners. More likely federal bankruptcy judges in Seattle or Spokane.

For those in rural counties across Washington, it would be a devil’s bargain – get an illusionary property tax cut at the very real risk of being robbed of self governance. For the state’s wealthiest homeowners and corporations, Initiative 1550 would be a windfall. But for everyone else, especially taxpayers in central and eastern Washington, it would be a lose-lose catastrophe.

I understand the raw appeal of an initiative that would cut property taxes to frustrated homeowners trying to survive on modest or fixed incomes. Our tax code is broken and unsustainable. We have become way too reliant on property taxes. Compounding that, King County’s red hot real estate market, that combined with property taxes, makes housing more and more unaffordable.

I’ve talked to far too many seniors and homeowners who are sincerely worried they are being taxed out of their homes. That’s totally unacceptable.

But so is Eyman’s meat axe approach. Eyman’s I-1550 sales pitch creates a false sense of benefit without any consideration of the impacts. Instead of letting Eyman monopolize our public discourse like he’s been allowed to in the past, we need to restart a statewide discussion about modernizing our antiquated tax code.

John Arthur Wilson is the King County Assessor. In addition to serving the people of King County as Assessor and Deputy Assessor, he has contributed to the well-being of Washington State as a public affairs consultant and a journalist.

POSTSCRIPT: One way to actually make property taxes fairer would be to implement a homestead exemption. Last year, an NPI research poll found broad support across Washington for this idea. We asked:

Do you strongly support, somewhat support, somewhat oppose or strongly oppose legislation that would reduce property taxes for middle and lower income households, while slightly increasing them for wealthy families, with no loss of revenue to public services?

These were the answers:

  • Support: 67%
    • 42% “strongly support” property tax fairness
    • 25% “somewhat support” property tax fairness
  • Oppose: 31%
    • 14% “somewhat oppose” property tax fairness
    • 17% “strongly oppose” property tax fairness
  • 2% answered “not sure”

Our survey of 679 likely Washington State voters was in the field from June 14th-15th, 2016; all respondents participated via landline. The poll had a margin of error of +/- 3.8% at the 95% confidence level.

Jeff Sessions must resign — immediately

When Jeff Sessions was being scrutinized by the United States Senate for the vitally important position of United States Attorney General, he was asked by Senator Al Franken what he would do if “anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign” was found to have communicated with officials of the Russian Federation.

Sessions answered: “I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign, and I did not have communications with the Russians.”

We now know that Sessions perjured himself. Via The Washington Post:

Then-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) spoke twice last year with Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Justice Department officials said, encounters he did not disclose when asked about possible contacts between members of President Trump’s campaign and representatives of Moscow during Sessions’s confirmation hearing to become attorney general.

One of the meetings was a private conversation between Sessions and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak that took place in September in the senator’s office, at the height of what U.S. intelligence officials say was a Russian cyber campaign to upend the U.S. presidential race.

The United States cannot have an attorney general who lies under oath to Congress. Jeff Sessions must resign, immediately, for the good of the office he holds and the good of the country he professes to love.

Top Democrats are, thankfully, calling for just that. Nancy Pelosi:

Jeff Sessions lied under oath during his confirmation hearing before the Senate.  Under penalty of perjury, he told the Senate Judiciary Committee, ‘I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians.’ We now know that statement is false.

Attorney General Sessions has never had the credibility to oversee the FBI investigation of senior Trump officials’ ties to the Russians. That is why Democrats have consistently called for Sessions to recuse himself from any oversight of the investigation.

Now, after lying under oath to Congress about his own communications with the Russians, the Attorney General must resign. Sessions is not fit to serve as the top law enforcement officer of our country and must resign. There must be an independent, bipartisan, outside commission to investigate the Trump political, personal and financial connections to the Russians.

Elizabeth Warren:

It’s a simple q: “Have you been in contact with anyone connected to any part of the Russian government about the 2016 election?”

Jeff Sessions answered “No.” Turns out he met with the Russian Ambassador. Two months before the election.

Now Jeff Sessions is AG – the final say on the law enforcement investigation into ties between the Trump campaign & Russia?

What a farce.

This is not normal. This is not fake news. This is a very real & serious threat to the national security of the United States.

We need a special prosecutor totally independent of the AG. We need a real, bipartisan, transparent Congressional investigation into Russia.

And we need Attorney General Jeff Sessions – who should have never been confirmed in the first place – to resign. We need it now.

Elijah Cummings:

It is inconceivable that even after Michael Flynn was fired for concealing his conversations with the Russians that Attorney General Sessions would keep his own conversations secret for several more weeks. When Senator Sessions testified under oath that ‘I did not have communications with the Russians,’ his statement was demonstrably false, yet he let it stand for weeks — and he continued to let it stand even as he watched the President tell the entire nation he didn’t know anything about anyone advising his campaign talking to the Russians. Attorney General Sessions should resign immediately, and there is no longer any question that we need a truly independent commission to investigate this issue.

We agree. Jeff Sessions must resign immediately. And if he refuses to resign, Congress should remove him through impeachment.

Washington State Senate approves new Republican scheme to sabotage Sound Transit

With the “aye” votes of four Democratic senators, the Washington State Senate this morning passed a bill originally sponsored by Republican Steve O’Ban that would wipe out Sound Transit’s federated board and replace it with a panel of transportation czars hailing from eleven specially-drawn districts.

The roll call was as follows:

Roll Call
SSB 5001
3rd Reading & Final Passage
Yeas: 29 Nays: 20

Voting Yea: Senators Angel, Bailey, Baumgartner, Becker, Braun, Brown, Conway, Darneille, Ericksen, Fain, Fortunato, Hasegawa, Hawkins, Honeyford, King, Miloscia, O`Ban, Padden, Palumbo, Pearson, Rivers, Rossi, Schoesler, Sheldon, Short, Walsh, Warnick, Wilson, Zeiger

Voting Nay: Senators Billig, Carlyle, Chase, Cleveland, Frockt, Hobbs, Hunt, Keiser, Kuderer, Liias, McCoy, Mullet, Nelson, Pedersen, Ranker, Rolfes, Saldaña, Takko, Van De Wege, Wellman

Senate Republicans had signaled recently that they were going to make SSB 5001 a priority bill, so today’s floor action was not unexpected. The bill passed out of committee several days ago with the help of Steve Hobbs and Kevin Van De Wege. Both of them voted against the bill on final passage.

What was incredibly disappointing was that four Democratic senators who should have known better — Bob Hasegawa, Guy Palumbo, Steve Conway, and Jeannie Darneille — voted for SSB 5001.

In doing so, they betrayed Sound Transit and the progressive movement.

It is vital to understand that the purpose of this legislation is to give the right wing an opportunity to gain control over Sound Transit, its projects, and its revenue streams starting in 2018. The bill kills off the current Sound Transit Board starting next year and requires that a set of eleven new districts no one will be able to keep track of be drawn for the purposes of electing a panel of transportation czars.

These czars would then assume control over Sound Transit.

As structured now, the Sound Transit Board is invulnerable to a Kemper Freeman Jr.-funded hostile takeover. It has eighteen members, seventeen of whom are local elected officials. These include the King, Pierce, and Snohomish county executives, and fourteen city/county councilmembers or mayors appointed by the executives. The eighteenth member is the Secretary of WSDOT.

This federated board model was actually created by the Legislature back in the 1990s, and it’s working just fine. There’s no reason to do away with it. Unless, of course, you’re an anti-rail Republican who wants to mount a hostile takeover of Sound Transit with the aim of thwarting Link light rail from expanding.

We have defeated bills like SSB 5001 before and we can do so again. But this is an all hands on deck situation. Every activist and every organization who was involved in helping to pass Sound Transit 3 last year needs to pitch in to ensure that this bill gets a burial in the House of Representatives.

Three days ago, HuffPost asked: What would happen if a presenter announced the wrong winner at the Oscars? Now we know…

Talk about foreshadowing.

On Friday, the Huffington Post ran an article asking, What would happen if a presenter announced the wrong winner at the Oscars? The article, written by Matthew Jacobs, discussed several hypothetical scenarios that might result in the kind of gaffe that loomed over the finale of last night’s Oscars telecast.

Jordan Horowitz corrects the record at the 89th Academy Awards

La La Land producer Jordan Horowitz holds up the correct Best Picture envelope, showing that Moonlight has won. (Photo: Eddy Chen/ABC, reproduced under a Creative Commons license.)

Quoted in the article was one of the two people responsible for the tabulation and distribution of the awards envelopes: Martha Ruiz of PricewaterhouseCoopers, who currently shares the responsibility for Oscar balloting with Brian Cullinan. Ruiz told Jacobs that they have safeguards in place to ensure there are no snafus.

It’s him checking me and me checking him, and we do it multiple times against each other to make sure that when we leave and are ultimately handing the envelopes to someone, we’re very confident they’re getting the right envelopes and the contents in them are accurate.

Evidently, those safeguards failed last night, because Ruiz’s partner Cullinan somehow managed to give Warren Beatty of Bonnie and Clyde fame the wrong envelope before he walked out on stage with Faye Dunaway.

Screen captures from last night’s telecast prove that Beatty was given a second copy of the envelope and card for Best Actress in a Leading Role — an award that went to Emma Stone for La La Land — instead of the Best Picture envelope.

Some viewers have expressed confusion at why there is more than one envelope for each award, but the simple explanation is that redundancy is very important. Presenters enter from different sides of the stage, and if something were to happen to one set of envelopes, there’s a second set that can serve as backups.

Beatty’s reaction upon opening the envelope he’d been given was one of confusion. He looked up and then at his co-presenter Dunaway without disclosing what he’d seen. Then, after she prompted him to speak (“You’re impossible. C’mon!”), he showed her the card. Without pausing to study it closely herself, she mistakenly pronounced La La Land the winner.

“I want to tell you what happened,” Beatty said a couple of minutes later to a shocked audience. “I opened the envelope and it said, ‘Emma Stone, ‘La La Land.’ That’s why I took such a long look at Faye, and at you. I wasn’t trying to be funny.”

The unanswered question now is why no one ran out on stage immediately after Dunaway’s pronouncement to make an immediate correction.

“It doesn’t sound very complicated, but you have to make sure you’re giving the presenter the right envelope,” Cullinan himself wrote on Medium not long ago.

He failed to do so, and this may be his last Oscars gig as a consequence.

Cullinan also boasted “we always do a good job” and declared the Academy has “absolute trust in us and what we do”. It would seem that trust has been shaken.

Cullinan spent a portion of last night excitedly tweeting photos from backstage. He has since deleted those tweets, apparently out of embarrassment.

His firm, meanwhile, was forced to issue a public apology and promise to investigate what happened. But even the apology was in error: it claimed the mistake had been “immediately corrected”, when in fact it had not been. It was a full two minutes before the audience at the Dolby Theater and millions watching around the globe were informed that Moonlight, not La La Land, had really won Best Picture.

Congratulations to Moonlight, the real Best Picture winners for 2017!

POSTSCRIPT: PricewaterhouseCoopers has taken full responsibility for its error and confirmed that they and they alone were at fault.

This is the statement they should have released to begin with:

PwC takes full responsibility for the series of mistakes and breaches of established protocols during last night’s Oscars. PwC Partner Brian Cullinan mistakenly handed the back-up envelope for Actress in a Leading Role instead of the envelope for Best Picture to presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway.

Once the error occurred, protocols for correcting it were not followed through quickly enough by Mr. Cullinan or his partner.

We are deeply sorry for the disappointment suffered by the cast and crew of “La La Land” and “Moonlight.” We sincerely apologize to Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, Jimmy Kimmel, ABC, and the Academy, none of whom was at fault for last night’s errors.

We wish to extend our deepest gratitude to each of them for the graciousness they displayed during such a difficult moment.

For the past eighty-three years, the Academy has entrusted PwC with the integrity of the awards process during the ceremony, and last night we failed the Academy.

Better late than never. Props to PwC for owning their failure and being willing to say We failed. That’s important. Accountability matters.

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