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.

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

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

Scene at the University Link ribbon cutting

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

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

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

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

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

Riders detrain after inaugural "Golden Ticket" ride

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

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

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

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

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

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

Getting to University Link

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy your ride!

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

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

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

Details for each are as follows:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Link light rail train exiting tunnel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Representative Lillian Ortiz-Self, D-21

Representative Lillian Ortiz-Self, D-21

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

These are our ticket rates:

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

Buy a ticket to the gala




Click above to buy a ticket using a credit card.

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

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

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

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

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

See you on April 1st!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Windstorm lashes western Pacific Northwest, felling trees and knocking out power

A powerful windstorm rolled through the Pacific Northwest today, felling trees, knocking out power, and forcing the closure of roads and bridges.

Gusts of more than sixty miles per hour were reported in many places, like Seattle’s Discovery Park, which recorded a peak gust of sixty-six miles per hour at 4 PM.

Winds were also fierce on the Washington and Oregon coasts, where even more powerful gusts were reported.

March 13th Windstorm Gusts

March 13th Windstorm Gusts

The Washington State Department of Transportation shut down the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge across Lake Washington and the Hood Canal Bridge due to high winds. No estimate was given for when either might reopen. Part of Highway 99/Aurora Avenue North also had to be closed due to downed power lines.

A large truck tipped over on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, necessitating an emergency response and a cleanup. Fortunately, no one was hurt.

Downed tree on Interstate 405

A downed tree on Interstate 405 forced traffic to merge into a single lane (Photo: Washington State Department of Transportation)

Several Washington State Ferry runs were cancelled or running behind schedule.

Sound Transit advised riders to expect long delays.

“Please expect delays today on all Sound Transit Express Sunday routes as a result of high winds and fallen trees causing blockages on multiple roads ways and highways. Visit the WSDOT website or check media reports for updated information,” the agency said in an emailed alert.

A falling tree in Seattle’s Seward Park crushed a vehicle with occupants inside, killing a man. A toddler also inside the vehicle survived and was rescued by passersby. The toddler was taken to Harborview Medical Center.

More than 200,000 were said to be without power in the greater Seattle area. More than half of those are customers of Puget Sound Energy. PSE says it could be some time before everyone affected gets their power back. Crews cannot work when conditions don’t allow, and it’s still pretty blustery out in a lot of places.

Snohomish PUD had at least 27,000 customers without power. Both suburban and rural neighborhoods were affected, according to the utility’s outage map. Tacoma Power’s outage map likewise shows places all over the county without power.

Authorities are reminding residents to report and stay away from downed power lines, avoid grilling indoors (it can cause death due to carbon monoxide poisoning), and delay or cancel trips if at all possible due to unsafe road conditions.

Washington State Legislature adjourns 2016 session Sine Die; special session needed

Not long ago, the Washington State Legislature adjourned its 2016 regular session Sine Die, following the adoption of HCR 4417 by the House and Senate.

Though the regular session is now officially over, lawmakers cannot head home just yet, as their work is unfinished (surprise, surprise). Governor Jay Inslee plans to call a special session of the Legislature so that supplemental budgets can be completed, but he says he wants an agreement drawn up tonight — and he’s prepared to start vetoing bills if legislative leadership can’t get something worked out.

Inslee will take action on a number of bills tonight at 10 PM, his office announced. There will be no public bill signing ceremony. Around 10:30 PM, the governor will hold a media availability and will disclose details regarding the special session that he plans to call. Special sessions can last for up to thirty days, but it’s unlikely members of the House and Senate will want to burn up the clock in an election year.

“It’s legislators’ job to pass a budget, yet Republicans in Olympia seem to think they work in Washington D.C., not Washington State,” said Washington State Democratic Party Chair Jaxon Ravens. “They have been more focused on hyper-political attacks on the Governor rather than doing their job.”

“Perhaps if they didn’t waste their time on political stunts like firing Lynn Peterson or spending precious floor time for a bill to discriminate against the transgender community, we could’ve gotten a budget done on time.”

The banging of the gavels was preceded by several retirement announcements.

Longtime Senators Mike Hewitt and Jim Hargrove announced today that they will not be seeking reelection later this year, which means some reshuffling is about to happen. (Hewitt represents a district that usually elects Republicans to the Legislature; Hargrove represents a district that usually elects Democrats.)

Also not seeking reelection are Senators Karen Fraser (D), Bruce Dammeier (R), and Don Benton (R). Fraser and Dammeier have opted to seek higher office rather than run for new terms in the Senate. Fraser is one of four Democratic legislators running to replace Lieutenant Governor Brad Owen (also retiring), while Dammeier wants to become the next Pierce County Executive, succeeding Democrat Pat McCarthy.

The Washington State Constitution stipulates that in even-numbered years, regular sessions shall not be of a duration longer than sixty days, which is why legislative leaders need Inslee to buy them more time by calling a special session.

Though legislators were able to agree on raises for the State Patrol and other minor improvements to public services, they did not take any meaningful steps to address Washington’s chronic school funding crisis. Instead, the Legislature passed a symbolic bill which committed the next Legislature to work on the problem.

If we had to grade the Legislature on this year’s session, we’d have to stamp an F at the top of the report card. Our public schools badly need more funding, and the Legislature has refused to take any meaningful steps towards making that happen, despite being sanctioned by the Supreme Court.

NPI to honor Representative Jim McDermott at 2016 Spring Fundraising Gala on April 1st

Three weeks from tomorrow evening, on Friday, April 1st, 2016, NPI will be holding its eighth Spring Fundraising Gala at the Mercer Island Community & Event Center. As in years past, we’ve been working hard to put together a strong speaking program for the event. We’ve previously announced that our keynote speaker for this year will be U.S. Representative Adam Smith, and our master of ceremonies will be Secretary of State hopeful Tina Podlodowski.

U.S. Representative Jim McDermott

U.S. Representative Jim McDermott

Tonight, we’re elated to share the news that we will also be joined by U.S. Representative Jim McDermott, who we’ll be honoring for a lifetime of service to our state and our country. 2016 is Congressman McDermott’s final year in office, and we’re glad to have the opportunity to thank him in person for all of the good works he has done as a member of Washington State’s congressional delegation.

Representative McDermott is known for many things, but perhaps he is best known for standing up against the invasion of Iraq at a time when most elected leaders at the federal level — including many Democrats — were foolishly putting their trust in warmongers George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld.

Representative McDermott caught a lot of flak in 2002 for for suggesting that George W. Bush was willing to mislead America into war. He memorably declared:

It would not surprise me if they came up with some information that is not provable, and they’ve shifted. First they said it was Al Qaeda, then they said it was weapons of mass destruction. Now they’re going back and saying it’s Al Qaeda again.

McDermott was ridiculed by the right wing at the time, but his assessment was prophetic. If his colleagues in the House and Senate had listened to him, there would have been no vote in Congress to authorize George W. Bush to invade Iraq. Hundreds of thousands of lives and trillions of dollars would have been saved.

Aside from courageously standing up to neoconservative war schemes, Representative McDermott has also worked to reform the foster care system, reduce trafficking in conflict minerals, and improve Americans’ healthcare access.

His legacy of public service goes back even further than 1988, when he was first elected to Congress. In the 1970s, he was elected to the Washington State House of Representatives (for one term), and later to the Senate (for three terms).

We hope you’ll consider joining us as we honor Representative McDermott at our eighth Spring Fundraising Gala. If you haven’t yet bought your ticket yet, we urge you to do so now using one of the buttons below.

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

These are our ticket rates:

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

Buy a ticket to the gala




Click above to buy a ticket using a credit card.

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

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

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

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

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

See you on April 1st!

Senate concurs with House’s amendments to charters bailout, sending it to Governor Inslee

By a vote of twenty-six to twenty-three, the Washington State Senate has concurred in the House of Representative’s amendments to E2SSB 6194, Steve Litzow’s bill to bail out charter schools, which were declared unconstitutional by the Washington State Supreme Court in League of Women Voters last autumn.

The vote was mostly along party lines, though Democrats Mark Mullet and Steve Hobbs crossed over to help the Republicans pass the bill, while Republicans Brian Dansel and Kirk Pearson joined the remaining Democrats in voting against it.

E2SSB 6194
Charter schools bailout
Senate vote on Final Passage as Amended by the House

Yeas: 26; Nays: 23

Voting Yea: Senators Angel, Bailey, Baumgartner, Becker, Benton, Braun, Brown, Dammeier, Ericksen, Fain, Hewitt, Hill, Hobbs, Honeyford, King, Litzow, Miloscia, Mullet, O’Ban, Padden, Parlette, Rivers, Roach, Schoesler, Sheldon, Warnick

Voting Nay: Senators Billig, Carlyle, Chase, Cleveland, Conway, Dansel, Darneille, Fraser, Frockt, Habib, Hargrove, Hasegawa, Jayapal, Keiser, Liias, McAuliffe, McCoy, Nelson, Pearson, Pedersen, Ranker, Rolfes, Takko

E2SSB 6194 now heads to Governor Jay Inslee. Inslee has not said what he will do with the bill. We at NPI urge him to veto it in its entirety.

As we said yesterday in our open letter to the Legislature:

Your paramount duty is to fund our public schools. It is not appropriate to tell the one million children in our public schools that they must wait at least two more years for that duty to be met while at the same time suddenly coming up with new money for private charter schools.

We’re extremely disappointed that majorities in each house have seen fit to ignore the Supreme Court’s orders in McCleary, leaving over a million kids in the lurch, while bending over backward to ensure that the twenty-two lobbyists working for a charter schools bailout got what they and their employers wanted.

The Supreme Court, a coequal branch of our government, spoke loudly and clearly when it said charter schools are unconstitutional, just as it did in McCleary when it ruled that Washington’s schools were being massively underfunded. But legislators aren’t listening. They’ve been held in contempt. They’ve been fined. They’ve been repeatedly instructed to do their jobs. And yet, they collectively refuse to act.

Proponents of this legislation keep talking about saving schools.

If the majorities that passed these bills really care about Washington’s kids, why aren’t they working on progressive revenue reform to get our public schools the funding they need? Our public schools are the schools that need saving — not charters!  The wealthy interests that favor diverting public money to schools that are not publicly owned and operated for the benefit of all have more than enough money to keep the eight remaining charters open without a dime from taxpayers.

Governor Inslee should recognize this and uphold the Supreme Court’s decision in League of Women Voters by vetoing E2SSB 6194. If the legislative branch will not respect the decisions of our judiciary, at least the executive department should.

Liveblogging the eighth 2016 Democratic presidential debate from the great Northwest

Good evening, and welcome to NPI’s live coverage of the eighth Democratic presidential debate of the 2016 cycle. I will be watching and sharing impressions of the debate as it progresses. This debate is being held in Miami, Florida, and is being broadcast by Univision and CNN.

You can livestream the debate from Univsion’s website. There are both English and Spanish livestreams. 

There are two candidates left seeking the Democratic nomination for President of the United States: Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

Tonight’s debate will be the second since Super Tuesday.

The moderators are Maria Elena Salinas and Jorge Ramos from Univision and Karen Tumulty from The Washington Post.

We will begin our live coverage at 6 PM, when the candidates take the stage.

UPDATE, 6:09 PM: We’re off and running with Hillary Clinton’s opening statement. Though the moderators are speaking in Spanish and English, the candidates are speaking in English. Clinton emphasized job creation and comprehensive immigration reform in her remarks. Sanders also emphasized combating the climate crisis.

UPDATE, 6:11 PM: First question went Hillary Clinton. “What went wrong in Michigan?” Univision asked. Clinton smiled and pointed out that she won most of the delegates and votes overall last night. She noted that Sanders has been running a competitive campaign throughout the nominating season.

UPDATE, 6:13 PM: Ugh, an emails question. Come on, Univision. Enough.

UPDATE, 6:15 PM: What is this — Fox Noise Channel or Univision? Seriously — Jorge Ramos just asked Hillary Clinton: “If you get indicted, will you drop out?”

Clinton refused to dignify it with a response.

UPDATE, 6:19 PM: We’re still not talking about issues. Instead, we’re talking Trump. Is he a racist? Karen Tumulty asked. Both candidates criticized Trump when giving their answers, but refused to simply say, “Yes, Trump is a racist.”

UPDATE, 6:21 PM: We’ve moved on to the topic of comprehensive immigration reform. Clinton says, “I’m staunchly in favor… and have been so over the course of my career.” It’s now Sanders’ turn to answer.

UPDATE, 6:27 PM: The candidates are having a pretty sharp back-and-forth about how progressive their positions on immigration reform are. They’ve each accused each other of taking positions that aren’t progressive.

UPDATE, 6:28 PM: We’re heading to a commercial break.

UPDATE, 6:33 PM: We’re back and talking about deportations.

UPDATE, 6:36 PM: “I would not deport children,” Clinton says in response to a question from Ramos, adding that her position is “Stop the raids.”

UPDATE, 6:37 PM: Sanders promises he won’t deport children.

UPDATE, 6:39 PM: Sanders is talking about the 2007 bill again. Clinton is accusing Sanders of supporting indefinite detention of immigrants ten years ago.

UPDATE, 6:48 PM: Question from the floor… what would you do to stop deportations? Sanders says we need to unite families, not divide families, citing the story of a U.S. solider whose wife was deported. Sanders called such travesties “beyond comprehension”. Now, turning to Clinton — what’s your plan?

UPDATE, 6:50 PM: Clinton’s praising the asker of the question for her courage. “It is time to bring families together. I don’t think there’s any doubt we must do more to let stories like yours be told,” she said.

UPDATE, 6:52 PM: Karen Tumulty is asking Clinton about polling that suggests people don’t view her as trustworthy. “It’s painful for me to hear that,” Clinton says. “This is not easy for me…. I’m not a natural politician like my husband.”

UPDATE, 6:55 PM: Tumulty asks Sanders, do you think Hillary Clinton says one thing to Wall Street bankers and another thing in public? Sanders says we’d know for sure if she released the transcripts of her speeches.

UPDATE, 7:03 PM: Again, have to wonder, is this Univision or Fox Noise? Jorge Ramos is now asking a Benghazi question. He had to talk over loud booing from the audience. After showing a clip, Ramos asked Clinton, “Did you lie to them?” (referring to families who were killed in the attacks.)

Clinton pushed back hard, to loud applause.

UPDATE, 7:09 PM: Another break has come and gone.

UPDATE, 7:16 PM: The candidates are talking about jobs, especially for Latinos. Sanders was in the middle of an answer when he was told, “Your time is up.” The moderators have been pointlessly interrupting the candidates all night, and it’s been really, really, annoying. Just let the candidates debate, Univision.

UPDATE, 7:26 PM: The candidates just finished rehashing a debate they’ve had before on healthcare. We’re now talking about the climate crisis… finally got a good question from the Univision moderators.

Sanders says we need a political revolution to effectively bring down emissions.

Clinton says she’ll move quickly to invest in resilience and mitigation while trying to cut emissions. She says she’ll uphold President Obama’s executive actions on clean power and clean air, which are being challenged in court by Republicans.

In his second stab at the question, Sanders called for an end to fracking and called on Clinton to embrace his plan to fight the climate crisis.

UPDATE, 7:32 PM: Next question is a good one. Do you agree with Elizabeth Warren’s criticism that President Clinton and President Obama have relied too heavily on advisors from Wall Street?

UPDATE, 7:34 PM: Clinton says she supports Tammy Baldwin’s legislation to address the revolving door and suggests Sanders should be attacking George W. Bush more, instead of criticizing her husband and President Obama.

UPDATE, 7:35 PM: Heading to another break.

UPDATE, 7:39 PM: We’re back. Next questions are about Cuba. The candidates are being asked if they support and will continue President Obama’s Cuba policy.

Univision also had another gotcha question — this time for Sanders.

UPDATE, 7:48 PM: Next question… what qualifications would you look for in a Supreme Court nominee? Clinton’s slamming the Republicans for saying he’ll refuse to consider President Obama’s nominee to succeed Justice Antonin Scalia. She reminded the audience about Bush v. Gore. Before Sanders could get a word in edgewise, Univision cut to commercial.

UPDATE, 7:54 PM: Time for closing statements. “I am going to take on those economic barriers,” Clinton said cheerfully, thanking those members of the audience and viewers on Facebook who submitted questions. “I would be honored to have your support in the upcoming primaries on Tuesday.”

“This has been a wonderful debate, but time being limited, some of the most important issues have not been asked [about],” Sanders said, proceeding to return to his themes of income inequality and the dominance of money in politics.

UPDATE, 7:57 PM: We’re all done. Jorge Ramos is delivering some final remarks. Behind him and the other moderators, we can see the audience. It’s very diverse, and it definitely looks like a cross section of the United States of America.

NPI to legislators: Support Washington’s kids by funding our public schools — not charters

Editor’s Note: This evening, the Washington State House of Representatives is expected to take up a bill that would restore public funding for private charter schools, in defiance of the Washington State Supreme Court’s clear ruling in League of Women Voters v. State of Washington. NPI is asking members of the House and Senate to oppose this legislation. We laid out our reasoning in the following message sent to lawmakers this morning, which we are releasing as an open letter.

Dear Representatives:

We are troubled to hear that the House of Representative may vote on a bill to provide public money to private charter schools.

We write to urge you to vote NO on Senate Bill 6194 or any other bill that would provide taxpayer money to charter schools.

Approving such a bill would be the first step in the defunding of our public schools and would be a slap in the face to the one million children in our public schools who are still waiting for the Legislature to fulfill its constitutional duty — as well as its obligation under a court order — to fully fund public schools.

Across America, school districts are facing financial problems due to the existence of charter schools. Because money follows the student, public schools lose money when a student enrolls in a charter school.

In Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, Newark, and other cities, public school districts are being forced to slash budgets and undermine classroom supports because of the growth of charter schools. That hurts students who aren’t lucky enough to live near a charter school or win an enrollment lottery.

At a time when the Legislature is being held in contempt of court for failing to fund our public schools, it would be indefensible to create a whole new budget crisis for our public schools by passing a bill to resurrect funding for charter schools following the Supreme Court’s decision in League of Women Voters.

Meanwhile, the record of the charter schools themselves is mixed — at best.

In states like Ohio and Florida, charter schools have been a vehicle for fraud and waste of public tax dollars. Charter schools do not necessarily provide a better quality education. A recent Stanford CREDO study said that just under 40% of charters — two out of every five — are “significantly worse” than public schools and only 17% can be considered better.

By rejecting SB 6194 and other charter school bills, you are not closing down anyone’s school. You are not kicking any child out of a classroom. The wealthy interests and PACs that are bombarding you with calls and emails have more than enough money to keep those eight charter schools open indefinitely.

It is no more appropriate for the state to give taxpayers’ money to a charter school than it is to give it to a parochial school.

Your paramount duty is to fund our public schools. It is not appropriate to tell the one million children in our public schools that they must wait at least two more years for that duty to be met while at the same time suddenly coming up with new money for private charter schools.


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

Ted Cruz leads Donald Trump in Idaho Republican primary; Rubio, Kasich far behind

Today, Idaho became the first state in the contiguous Pacific Northwest region to hold a nominating event in the 2016 presidential contest. The polls have now closed in the Gem State’s Republican primary, and here are the early results:

Idaho Republican Primary: March 8th, 2016

With 95 of 955 precincts reporting.
(includes absentee precincts where applicable)
Last updated Mar 8 2016 9:27PM Mountain Time

Candidate Votes Percentage
Ted Cruz 5,779 39.1%
Donald J. Trump 5,066 34.2%
Marco Rubio 2,227 15.1%
John R. Kasich 1,193 8.1%
Ben Carson 284 1.9%
Jeb Bush 77 0.5%
Rand Paul 61 0.4%
Chris Christie 24 0.2%
Mike Huckabee 34 0.2%
Carly Fiorina 13 0.1%
Lindsey Graham 11 0.1%
Peter Messina 0 0.0%
Rick Santorum 23 0.2%

Unofficial early results are here.

It’s still early, but there’s no doubt Ted Cruz is off to a good start. He has a small but important lead over Donald Trump. Rubio and Kasich, meanwhile, are at a distant third and fourth place, and probably won’t be contending for victory in this election.

Thirty-two delegates are at stake in Idaho. It is not a winner-take-all state, so no matter how well Ted Cruz does, he’ll still be splitting some delegates with Trump.

POSTSCRIPT: Cruz cruised to victory in this contest.

Idaho Republican Primary: March 8th, 2016
With 963 of 963 precincts reporting.
(includes absentee precincts where applicable)
Last updated Mar 9 2016 4:04PM

Candidate Votes Percentage
Ted Cruz 100,928 45.4%
Donald J. Trump 62,466 28.1%
Marco Rubio 35,333 15.9%
John R. Kasich 16,515 7.4%
Ben Carson 3,884 1.7%
Rand Paul 834 0.4%
Jeb Bush 937 0.4%
Mike Huckabee 357 0.2%
Chris Christie 355 0.2%
Carly Fiorina 241 0.1%
Rick Santorum 210 0.1%
Lindsey Graham 79 0.0%
Peter Messina 27 0.0%

Bernie Sanders, Hillary Sanders running neck and neck in Michigan Democratic primary

It’s once again Primary Day somewhere in America. Today, voters in Michigan and Mississippi went to the polls to cast votes in those state’s Democratic and Republican primaries. It was a good night for Donald Trump all around, as he defeated his Republican rivals in both states. And for Hillary Clinton, it was a good night in Mississipi, where she handily dispatched Bernie Sanders.

But in Michigan, it’s a different story.

In Michigan, defying pretty much everybody’s expectations, Bernie Sanders currently has a lead of several thousand votes. Sanders was behind by twenty points in preelection polling, but he’s held a small, steady lead that alternatively shrinks and grows by small amounts since the polls closed.

Take a look:

Michigan Democratic Primary, March 8th, 2016

48% reporting as of 7:06 PM Pacific

Candidate Percentage Votes
Bernie Sanders 281,812 49.8%
Hillary Clinton 273,069 48.3%
Other/Uncommitted 10,519 1.9%

Keep in mind there are still a lot of votes left to be counted.

Wayne County, where Detroit is located, is notoriously slow at counting votes. It is definitely helping to keep Clinton competitive, as it’s going for her by a substantial margin (nearly 60% Clinton). And yet Sanders is still ahead statewide.

UPDATE, 7:48 PM: Bernie Sanders remains ahead. Plenty of Hillary-friendly areas are still counting votes though, including Detroit and Flint.

Michigan Democratic Primary, March 8th, 2016
70% reporting as of 7:48 PM Pacific

Candidate Percentage Votes
Bernie Sanders 410,181 50.9%
Hillary Clinton 380,679 47.2%
Other/Uncommitted 15,348 1.9%

UPDATE, 8:22 PM: Bernie Sanders has stuck to his lead in Michigan like peanut butter sticking to jelly. Clinton is running out of time and votes.

Michigan Democratic Primary, March 8th, 2016
84% reporting as of 8:22 PM Pacific

Candidate Percentage Votes
Bernie Sanders 478,351 49.9%
Hillary Clinton 461,365 48.1%
Other/Uncommitted 18,880 2.0%

UPDATE, 9:30 PM: The projections are in… and Bernie wins!

Michigan Democratic Primary, March 8th, 2016
95% reporting as of 9:30 PM Pacific (4,592 of 4,830 precincts)

Candidate Percentage Votes National Delegates (est.)
Bernie Sanders 50.0% 561,379 65
Hillary Clinton 48.% 539,812 57
Other/Uncommitted 1.9% 21,368 0

POSTSCRIPT: The final tally….

Michigan Democratic Primary, March 8th, 2016
100% reporting

Candidate Percentage Votes National Delegates (est.)
Bernie Sanders 49.8% 595,222 65
Hillary Clinton 48.3% 576,795 57
Other/Uncommitted 1.9% 22,626 0
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