Saturday, January 17, 2004

The Bob Ferguson conundrum

Bob Ferguson won the King County District 2 primary for two reasons (he actually had dozens of reasons, obviously, but for the sake of this post just the two). First he doorbelled relentlessly. He probably knocked on most doors in his district. At least the Democrats. Second, he supported reducing the number of council members.

I'd like to explore what the two mean to one another. If there were fewer districts there would be a greater number of people in the district. So Ferguson, or anybody else, wouldn't be able to doorbell as high a percentage of constituents. So there is a good chance that if what he came to the council to fight for had been passed, he would have lost.

Ferguson aside, the council incumbents are already pretty entrenched, and I'd hate to see it easier for them to keep their power. Some of them would lose in the first ballot, but after that they might become more entrenched.

Ask For an Attorney and We'll Kill You

The fallout from the Ridgway plea is going to be with us for some time. Lawyers for accused cop killer Charles Champion are using the argument we'll be hearing a lot in the next few years; my client is less evil than Gary Ridgway, and you didn't kill him. Now I have no problem with this line of reasoning because I don't think Washington State should be in the death penalty business.

Here the King County prosecutor's office offers a justification.

After his arrest, ``Champion went to sleep in his jail cell,'' Fogg said. ``When we tried to interview him, he raised his head, invoked his right to an attorney and went back to sleep.''

So while you have the right to an attorney, if you ask for one you'll be put to death. Quaint.

Look Champion's accused of killing a police officer on South 99. So we aren't talking about a super redeamable person. But to say he's OK to die but the guy who killed 48 women over a decade and a half gets to live is crazy. Add to that the difference is that Champion asked for a lawyer.

Cajun Primary is No Primary

The parties really don't like the Cajun Primary.

OLYMPIA -- Washington's political parties declared Friday that if state lawmakers approve a so-called Cajun primary, the parties will hold closed nominating conventions to pick a finalist from each party for each office.
A key senator called that "cuttin' off your nose to spite your face" and said voters won't like being shut out of the nominating process.


The three major parties -- GOP, Democrat and Libertarian -- added another wrinkle Friday.

The parties told the House State Government Committee they'll be forced to hold nominating conventions to pick their standard-bearers if the Legislature passes the Cajun plan or does nothing.

So the Dems, the Repubs and the Libertarians would just opt out of the stupid system if the state adopts it. This is the way the grange wants to limit the power of the parties?

Setting the agenda

Between the opening of the gavel a week ago and February 17th (if I’m reading this right) every bill the legislature passes this year will have had a hearing. And of course many will fall by the wayside. This abbreviated pace means those of us who want change but don’t have a team of lobbyists need to call our legislators now. If you want tuition decreases, make sure your legislators know it in January. If you have some idea for an environmental bill let them know now. Want your Senator to introduce a bill decrying the Iraq war? Act now. After Feburary 17th it’s all juggling the various ideas around. There will still be amendments and such, but still the gist of the bills will basically have to have been set by one house or another.

I can’t tell you how many protests I’d seen at the state capitol demanding things that the legislature can’t do until next session. While I’ve participated in many of them I feel bad afterwards. I know some people just like to protest, but if the goal is to change the law, we should know this stuff.

Friday, January 16, 2004

Take the PI's poll

Should King County's crown insignia be replaced with a portrait of Martin Luther King Jr., for whom the county is now officially named?

I realize that these polls are just an attempt to draw you to the PI web page, but I hate to see the racists win by almost 3 to 1.

Horn in the Stranger

Yesterday's Stranger had an interview with Jim Horn about Sound Transit. Horn is the Senate Transportation Committee Chair. Horn's position is that light rail shouldn't be funded by the state.

The back page of the cliffnotes of the caucus

The caucus is a mysterious process. So I’d like to give y’all a little primer. Now I’ve gone to them previously, I’m active in the Democratic party, and I’ve been looking into them here, and I’m still somewhat perplexed by the process. So if you have any problems don’t hesitate to call me a jackass and get me to correct my mistakes.

On February 7th we’ll all go to various elementary schools, churches, and our neighbor’s houses. That’s a Saturday and for some reason the party has decided to let it be at a reasonable time, 10:00 AM. here is a list of the where the Democratic caucuses are being held.

When we’re there we’ll all select various delegates to the congressional district, state and national conventions (there is some overlap). The people in the district and state conventions will also chose delegates for the national convention. Taken as a whole, these people will be the Washington State delegates to the National convention and will vote for the president. Whoever gets a majority of votes at the convention gets to be our party’s nominee.

For reasons I don’t understand, the caucus participants will need 15% of participants to vote for someone before they can select a delegate. But they will be given the opportunity to change their mind if they are in the less than 15% category. What happens if everybody splits the vote in an 8-way race (I’m assuming nobody drops out and nobody votes undecided) producing 12.5% each? Who the hell knows? But I would guess its possible in some of the smaller precincts.

Also at the caucus we can try to add or take out or modify planks in the party’s platform. So even though most politicians won’t adhere to the letter of the platform (nor should they) they may be influenced. So here you get to tell your party officials what you think, and that in and of itself is worthwhile.

Hello dear reader,

I can’t thank you enough for selecting Cassa De Ballard for even a moment. I hope to discuss news and events of the day, with a bent toward Washington State and King County politics. The first thing is the fact that we have to call ourselves Washington State. It’s obviously because when people refer to things happening in “Washington” especially national or international reporters, the assumption is Washington D.C. Still this can be taken crazily far. In a report on NPR about the mad cow problem in Eastern Washington they referred to Governor Locke as “Washington State Governor.” As if the District of Colombia has a governor.

Anyway with the legislature starting up I thought I’d give a preview of what can be expected in the coming months.

This is a short session, because it’s an election year. That means that the biannual budget was decided last year. So while the legislature may tweak the budget, the basics are going to keep chugging along. This doesn’t mean that the legislature will be bored to tears for the next few months. There will tackle loads of issues to tackle such as:

Vouchers School vouchers have been constantly defeated at the polls. Nonetheless, the conservatives especially in the Senate think this is the year. It isn’t but a lot of blood is going to be spilled any way.

Transportation issues There may be some pressure to get Sound Transit’s finances to make some damn sense. This is good but will probably go to far. Some right-wingers will want to dismantle ST, but this is a mistake. Further, there are some issues with highway 99. The viaduct isn’t going to last in the next earthquake. What to do in its place (build a new one, build a tunnel or just have 99 run on Alaskan Way) and who will pay for it are bones of contention. Also in the North County some lawmakers want to redevelop 99, but there is a hem and haw from the business community.

Property taxes Tim Eyman is planning an initiative to reduce property taxes by a quarter, and the legislature might preempt him. They might make smaller cuts in order to say they are already working on the issue. Given that there isn’t enough money in the coffers as it is, this would be a mistake.

The new primary The Supreme Court said that our longstanding system is unconstitutional. So there are a slate of possibilities being considered. The worst is a “Cajun primary” like Louisiana put in place to keep the corrupt incumbents in power. Also on the table are more traditional party based systems, instant runoff voting or proportional representation. We’ll probably get into the plusses and minuses of each of these a bit later.

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