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Saturday, March 05, 2005

They Just Aren't Trying 

Yeah illegal voting is bad (even thought I'm in favor of letting felons vote, the fact is they can't). However, it's clear that Rossi's people aren't even trying to be accurate. So they put together a list that's clearly bunk, and then they expect us to believe them.

Attorney David McDonald said Democrats had begun comparing some of the Republicans' lists of suspect voters with sign-in sheets from polling places and found that six of the seven people listed as having voted twice had not actually cast two ballots. Nor had a ballot been cast on behalf of at least one of the 45 deceased people recorded as having voted, according to McDonald.

Rather, he said, those voters were mistakenly credited for votes cast by people listed next to them on polling-place books. He displayed some of the erroneous credits on poster-size charts during an afternoon news conference.

"It would not have taken more than a few minutes to look at the records and see if there was a basis for an outrageous charge," McDonald said.



Friday, March 04, 2005

Open Thread 

Another one in case you have something to say over the weekend.



Mental-Health Parity 

Passed the Senate. And Gregoire should sign it sometime this week.



McDermott on Kos! 

His first diary "as the world's least senior blogger." It's about social security.

First, the President's "plan" switches your benefit calculations from "Wage Indexing" to "Price Indexing." Wage indexing keeps pace with rising standards of living over your working life. Price indexing just keeps pace with inflation. By switching wage indexing to price indexing, the Republican plan reduces retiree benefits.

In fact, the younger you are, the bigger bite this Republican shell game will take out of your benefits. Someone who is 30 years old today will lose about 25 percent of expected monthly retirement benefits (that's a conservative estimate). Today's five-year-old will experience a 45 percent benefit cut and each successive generation loses even more.

Next, we have what's called the Carve Out. The Republican plan would divert one-third of the taxes that are currently targeted toward Social Security into private accounts. In order for Social Security to continue to pay benefits after a third of its resources are diverted, or "carved out", the federal government would have to borrow the missing money, largely from foreign lenders.



Thursday, March 03, 2005

"If you’re the kind that prays" 

Governor Gregoire and Senator Prentice were lobbied by a large group of people from the Church earlier this week as part of Catholic Advocacy Day. There was also smaller groups that dealt with other legislators. And while there were social issues out front, the major themes were caring for the poor.

She asked faith communities, service groups and volunteer organizations to partner with the state so that no one turns their back on people in need.

Gov. Gregoire and fellow Democrat, Sen. Margarita Prentice of Seattle, who chairs the Senate Ways & Means Committee that will help craft the state’s biennial budget this session, told the church advocates there is no easy way out of the budget hole. They said they’re going to need public support to carry through the tough decisions ahead.

“We either have to raise taxes by a billion dollars…which is unattainable…or cut services by a billion dollars…which is unconscionable,” Sen. Prentice said. “So what I’ve been saying to everybody is, ‘Okay, I know what you want, but when you get out there you’d better help us round up the votes (of support) because they’re going to be very, very difficult to get.”

She said she tells groups: “If you’re the kind that prays – do it…because it’s going to be the most difficult kind of year.”

...

Norma O’Neill, a member of St. Michael Parish in Olympia, was attending her first Catholic Advocacy Day. “We elect our legislators, and therefore if we don’t get behind them and show them we’re behind them, they aren’t going to be effective,” she said.

Social ills such as abortion and poverty wouldn’t be so prevalent if people followed Jesus’ mandate to love one another, O’Neill said. “If we don’t take care of each other – no matter who they are…then we’re going to have the same repeated evils,” she said.

...

Healthcare concerns included a request for additional state funding to enable more working-poor families to receive health insurance coverage through the state’s Basic Health Plan. Lawmakers also were urged to support two health-care related bills currently making their way through the Legislature. Substitute House Bill 1154 would require health insurance plans to provide mental health services on a par with physical health services; Substitute House Bill 1441 would provide health insurance coverage to all children in the state by 2010.

The advocates also asked lawmakers to vote against two bills promoting embryonic stem cell research -- Senate Bill 5594 and House Bill 1268 – because the research would destroy human life. The Catholic Church supports research against debilitating diseases such as Parkinson’s and diabetes if adult stem cells are used, because it does not destroy life.

Legislators also were asked to add $20 million to the state’s Housing Trust Fund, which enables nonprofits such as the Archdiocesan Housing Authority and Intercommunity Mercy Housing to build or rehab affordable housing for working-poor families.

Gov. Gregoire, in her remarks to the church advocates, said she is concerned about the lack of health care coverage for all. She noted that one of her first acts as governor was to prevent 26,000 children from losing their Medicaid coverage this year.
I know some of you may be uncomfortable with the Church lobying the state. Certainly I'm about as big a proponent of the wall of separation between church and state as you can be. But religious people of course should have a place at the table in any democracy. And the goals of reducing poverty and helping people out when they're down on their luck is shared by religion and the state.



Open Thread 

Probably light posting until Monday edition. But the cool thing is I get to climb the Columbia Bank of America Tower on Sunday.



Tobacco Settlement Money 

Helen Sommers is saying we should use some of the settlement money to fill the gap in the budget. Gregoire is against it and so are the republicans.



Half way 

We're half way through the session and the Democrats still have work to do. We've got to make sure mental health parity, the 50% on school levies, and the capital budget with increased school construction make it through both houses. And we have to make sure there's a good overall budget.



SMP 

I'm not sure I like the newly designed SMP website.



Local Blogging Around 

FuturePol talks about land use issues. And the nexus between local and federal officials.

Oly Scoop thinks Rossi should concede on TVW. The interview is today, and something tells me he won't actually do it.

DFW has info on the 7th District grassroots festival.



Bush's Tax Hike on Western Rate Payers 

Stilwell has the skinny on Senate Budget Committee Chairman Judd Gregg's opposition to Bush's rate hike above operating costs at Bonneville. Hopefully it will be DOA and not put in the House version and then agreed to in the conference committee.



Spokane Gay District 

Salon does a piece on the prospects for a gay district in Spokane. And they use it to talk about gay rights in the conservative parts of the country.

But the main opposition comes from conservatives and evangelicals. One Spokane church leader, Walton Mize, bishop of the Christ Holy Sanctified Church, has warned of an "underbelly" of gay culture that will attract sexual predators and be a risk to children. Other evangelical groups have distributed antigay literature to city officials claiming that gays will bring disease and mental illnesses into Spokane. Penny Lancaster, leader of an influential body of evangelical groups called Community Impact Spokane, has said the city risks becoming a "gay Mecca."

So far city officials have maintained silence on the idea, which has come entirely from the private sector and does not involve any money from local authorities. But Spokane's gay groups are not backing down. "We need to be visible. It gives validation to who we are," said Reguindin. They are already deep in talks with several developers and have chosen their target area in the city. But they have not revealed its location, fearing opposition groups will buy property there to drive up prices and sink the project.

...

The gay-district planners want their idea to act as a model to smaller towns. "If we can do it in Spokane, we can do it anywhere," Aspen said. But they admit that being openly gay in many parts of America is an exercise in fear. "We live in fear every day. That is part of being gay right now," said Reguindin.

There are also some victories. For 90 minutes school board members were lambasted by students, parents and teachers for canceling the gay dance. At the end a board spokeswoman apologized, admitting that the cancellation was an unfortunate mistake. "It will never happen again."



More on Lieberman 

Here's Ezra Klein's view:
Joe Lieberman is a Democratic senator who is considering defecting from the party and providing bipartisan cover to a President whose plan would be bad for the young, bad for the old, bad for the deficit, and bad for the country. Joe Lieberman's "task" is to be a good Democratic senator who combines smart progressive ideas with long-term strategic thinking in ways that advance the Democratic party's ideals and materially improves the lives of average Americans. Joe is failing at this task.
Here's hoping that Cantwell doesn't decide to follow Joe's lead.



Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Cowlitz County Tax Hike to Combat Meth 

It would be a .2% sales tax and it would go to programs dedicated to dealing with meth. The county is still looking at it, and it would go onto the ballot before it is enacted. Some of the specifics are that it would be for 15 years and would be about $2.3 million each of those 15 years.



Underage Gambling 

I don't understand why anybody would play games they're set up to lose. Hell, I don't understand why you'd play games like poker with anybody you didn't know personally (so you can gloat later). I read the greed section of Dan Savage's book, but it still didn't seem appealing. But maybe it has something to do with growing up in a place where it was illegal.

Anyway Goldy has info on what Maria Cantwell is trying to do to prevent underage gambling. She sent a letter to the Surgeon General, and is getting info out. While she doesn't have any specific legislation lined up yet, this is a good start.



No New Taxes Budget 

This is absolutely the right way to go. First see what you could do if there was a no new taxes budget and then say what's worth saving with tax increases. That way we can still save what's important and have fewer new taxes. Of course the Republicans think it's a trick because we're going to pay state workers.

Finkbeiner noted that a package of proposed health benefits and raises for state workers and teachers was not on the list of likely cuts. If the state reduced the size of the package, some of the proposed cuts could be avoided, he said. "They're not even willing to consider state-employee salary increases. It shows their priorities are out of whack."



5.5% 

Unemployment is down. But a large amount of that is a long term trend to more public sector jobs.

The state presently has 43,000 fewer private sector jobs than it had in January 2001, Pauer said. The public sector (federal, state, and local government employers) filled 40,000 positions during that period, which masks the private sector's continued deficit, she said.



First Major Deadline 

Ah the fun of folks scrambling to get something out of committee. The first major deadline of the session is upon us. All bills have to have passed committee in at least one house or they're not going to become law this year. The PI has a list of some of the bills that either died or probably will die today.



Saving Hood Canal 

WashBlog has the info from Priorities for a Healthy Washington about HB 1458 / SB 5431.



Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Dear Joe Lieberman, 

I know you're getting a lot of angry letters from Democrats about social security. And many of them are from out of staters like myself. But I have to urge you not to meet Bush half way on his plan to destroy the bedrock social safety net in this country.

I was very glad when Al Gore picked you to be his running mate. You had the best defense of choice of any elected official. When people on the right talked about abortion as a values issue you said our values are better. You were one of the only Democrats willing to call our values better than the Republican's.

I remember when you came to Seattle and gave a stump speech. You were easily the best speaker. Better than Gore. Better than any of the local politicians, many of whom I think are top notch. I shook your hand afterwards, and was glowing for the next couple days.

While I didn't support you in 2004, I did defend you. I don't know how many times I said, "no, that's not censorship, it's regulating an industry that preys on children." I pointed to your record on a variety of issues. You're not a rightwinger at all.

But if you lend your support to the elimination of social security, you'll have lost another supporter. I'll make a point of giving some cash to any primary opponent. Social security is too important to mess around with.

sincerely,

Carl Ballard

...Edited and sent



Evergreen Politics Interviews Andrew Villeneuve 

Of the NW Progressive Institute. It's pretty interesting, and has ways you can help if you're so inclined.



New Director at TAM 

Stephanie A.F. Stebich



The Republican Agenda 

Progressive Majority Washington has some of the Republican bills that won't be law any time soon.



That's Sir Bill to you! 

Well, he won't be called Sir, but Bill Gates will be knighted on Wednesday. Maybe the SEIU will be a little more more respectful next time.



Gregoire lobbies for Bases 

She's in DC today for a meeting of the National Governors' Association. While she's there, she's lobbying senior Pentagon officials about the base closing commission.

Gregoire was joined in the 30-minute meeting with Grone by Democrat Reps. Rick Larsen and Norm Dicks. Grone's office will make the early decisions about which facilities will be considered for closure.

Neither Gregoire nor Larsen would say if they're especially worried about specific bases, but congressional aides and military analysts say Whidbey Island Naval Air Station and the Navy port in Everett might be at risk.

As part of the sales pitch, Gregoire presented Grone with a four-page letter signed by her and the four leaders of the Legislature outlining the merits of the state's bases.

"Our bases are at the forefront of our nation's defense and are uniquely suited to become a model for our military in the years to come," the letter said.

Gregoire also said she would advise Grone that the state has earmarked $10 million to help repair or update critical infrastructure around bases, including sewer systems, and to purchase private property near bases to ensure an adequate "safety zone."



Schools 

SEIU Local 775 (home care and nursing home workers) are not happy with Bill Gates' speech asking for more money for schools. From an email:

Reacting to news reports of Bill Gates speech at the National Governor's Association, in which he said he was "appalled" at the lack of education funding and "political will" to improve schools, SEIU Local 775 turned the spotlight on Microsoft's hypocrisy.

"This is a hugely profitable corporation that comes to the legislature year after year demanding massive tax
b reaks,

sends its royalty income to Nevada to avoid paying $150 million/year in state taxes, and then complains that there's no money for schools?" said SEIU Local 775 President David Rolf. "Instead of lobbying for tax breaks, Bill Gates should put his money where his mouth is and lobby to reinstate the estate tax for him and other millionaires."

According to statistics from the Washington Education Association, $150 Billion/year in revenue would fund 400 new teachers to help reduce class size.



DNA 

The House passed a law allowing convicts to request DNA testing. It also mandates that the police preserve DNA evidence.



Monday, February 28, 2005

Whack a (tax) Loophole 

A fun little web game. It tells about the state tax loopholes and then says the amount you whacked how much that could pay for healthcare for children.



Ferries 

Senator Rockefeller (who's district includes Kingston and Bainbridge and is near Bremerton) says that some ferry routes are charging more than enough to pay for 100% of costs. He wants to make it 80%, to make it tougher for DOT to raise costs, and to take into account necessity to communities.

Sen. Phil Rockefeller, D-Kitsap County, in his testimony yesterday before the Senate Transportation Committee, took aim at unauthorized action of the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT). He noted that fares for the Kingston-Edmonds run and the Bainbridge-Seattle run are more than 120 percent of the routes’ actual operating cost. The only goal sanctioned by the legislature, adopted after passage of I-695, was for fares to recover 80 percent of the system’s operating cost. Rates are determined by WSDOT and the State Transportation Commission.

“I’ve never seen ferry customers as riled as they are right now,” Rockefeller said. “These rate increases have gotten out of control.”



Health 

The Longview Daily News has a good rundown of some of the 120 healthcare bills introduced this session. From the proposal to increase taxes on businesses that don't offer healthcare, to the malpractice stuff.



County Stuff 

This article deals with two things. First a poll that Martin Durkan Jr paid for and says is horrible for Sims. However he won't release any specifics, and his polling firm says he's full of crap.

The mid-February survey by Hebert Research Inc. asked 420 voters whether the Democratic county executive should be re-elected and to choose between him and each of several potential opponents. Sims "didn't do well at all" in the poll, said Durkan, a developers' lobbyist and frequent nemesis of Sims on land-use issues.

However, Jim Hebert, whose business research firm conducted the survey for Durkan, gave a sharply different assessment yesterday.

Without detailing the poll results, Hebert said his findings showed that Sims "is about as strong as any particular major incumbent. ... If Ron truly wants to continue as county executive, I don't think there will be any change in the office, at least as I see it.
Second the two races where two incumbents from the same party will square off. Irons and Ferguson both sound whinny in the article. Maybe it's because Ferguson is running against my favorite elected official.

"I don't think it's any secret," Ferguson said. "I supported reducing the council and I was punished for that. I don't think anyone really believes that David Irons and myself, the two people who supported reducing the council, had their districts eliminated" by happenstance.
I think that the Edmonds/Ferguson race is going to be the most interesting this year. Both of them won their first election against incumbent Democrats. In both cases they simply out worked them. Because Ferguson was more recent and in a larger district that was in Seattle, he got more attention. He beat Cynthia Sullivan who had been on the council for 2 decades. Carolyn Edmonds won a 3 recount nail biter that makes the governor's race look wide open against an incumbent and another challenger in a primary for state legislature.

One thing the article mentioned that I hadn't thought about is the nominating convention. That means that the decision may be made in a smoke filled room in May (who am I kidding, if anybody's smoking it'll be outdoors). I say let them both run as Democrats, maybe we won't even have to deal with a Republican in November. I was planning on sending out a questionnaire latter in the year, but maybe I should push it up to sometime in late March.



Sunday, February 27, 2005

99.8% 

Hmm. That's better than 99% right? Or 98%? Of course we should always strive to be better, but the notion that King County isn't good because it's only much better than the national standard is a bit of a joke, don't you think?

There are two salient points to take from this analysis: first, electoral error rates can run to at LEAST 1%--and I say at least, because the figure cited only refers to votes not counted, leaving out invalid votes that are accidentally counted. In fact, as the article points out, "The National Commission on Election Reform has recommended that states reduce their error rates below 2 percent no matter what mechanism they use [emph mine, again]." Below two percent? So what does it say about a county with a new database and record numbers of voters, when they manage to achieve an "error rate" about one-TENTH of the national standard?

Secondly--and this has great relevance to any case the Rossi team might advance in the courts as to the uncommon irregularity of their election loss--the only reason anyone can profess to be shocked at the level of inaccuracy, is because they haven't been paying attention, or the races have never been razor thin as the governor's race was. Mary Lane, John Carlson, Sharkansky and the rest of the echo chamber want Washingtonians to believe than an unsurpassed level of sloppiness and blithe inexactitude is responsible for a complete mistrust in the results. One thousand voting felons!!! Accepting that at face value for the moment, is that good or bad? How many felons voted in 2000? How well do other rights-restorative states do? Was the process fixable under current law?



I was Wrong 

I don't know how I missed Josh Feit's column in this week's Stranger since it's one of my favorite reads in any given week. But sometimes when you have a hard copy on a lazy Sunday afternoon you read things you miss online. And this week's deals with a monorail story in the Seattle Times that I linked to a week or so ago.

Given the way the Times reported it, I figured the bid monorail bid was $200 million over the cap the voters approved in 2002. Turns out the bid is actually a quarter billion below that. So I'm sorry I took the bait. If a similar article had been in the Weekly, I almost certainly would have looked at it more skeptically. But I thought that the Times could separate their editorials and their news better. I'd say it won't happen again, but it probably will.

The "damning" article didn't include an essential bit of info. Namely: $200 million over WHAT? For example, the Sound Transit overrun--as I've said--is $2 billion above what voters agreed to in 1996. Was the Times saying voters were going to be on the hook for $200 million more than the $1.75 billion they agreed to spend when we voted for the monorail project in 2002? The plan they gave the thumbs-up to again last November? Well, since the Times' article lacked an essential detail--namely, $200 million over WHAT?--the Times wasn't able to say the monorail was going to spike costs (they just didn't have the goods to honestly report that). But that's what the Times wanted to say. It's definitely what they implied. Listen to their blustery follow-up editorial: "The sole bid to build the monorail was $200 million higher than expected. It would have been nice to know about this gap before the November 2 election, when the people of Seattle were asked for their opinion on the monorail."

Well, it also "would have been nice to know" what the Seattle Times actually meant by a $200 million gap. Not finding this crucial bit of info anywhere in the Times coverage--Times editors should have demanded this important context from their reporter--I asked the reporter myself. Your paper has written: $200m over. Over what? I e-mailed.

The reporter, Mike Lindblom, e-mailed back that he meant the bidder's starting proposal was $200 million over basic estimated system costs of $1.3 billion. That means, according to the Times, the bidder's first offer was about $1.5 billion. So it turns out that the Times was running screamer headlines and finger-wagging editorials because the initial monorail bid was potentially $250 million below what voters approved. The headline could have been, "Monorail bid starts out $250 million below voter-approved price." Instead, the Times, not even knowing where the bid stands today, scared voters with a misleading front-page story and an ill-informed editorial.



Hey Artists 

The SMP is looking for artwork on sites where they will build the Green Line between now and when it's demolished.

SMP encourages innovation and experimentation. This project is an opportunity to experiment with open, empty spaces and materials generally not used in permanent public art works. Works will be sited from three months to a year, depending on the construction schedule of the Monorail Project.

All artists must be residents of the State of Washington.

Fee: $1,500 – $3,000 per installation for fees and materials, depending on size, complexity and duration of the art installation. SMP will promote artists on its website, in print materials and with signage.

Application Deadline: Friday, March 25, 2005, 5 p.m.



Lake Whatcom 

The lake is pretty clean, but needs some work as it's sliding to more polluted.

"Water quality changes in Lake Whatcom show a subtle shift from very clean source water to water which is still clean but on the path to slow decline," the report says.

Algae can change the taste and odor of water, increase particles in water and, when mixed with chlorine used to treat drinking water, form byproducts that increase long-term risk of digestive-system cancers.

The amount of these byproducts has been increasing in Bellingham drinking water in recent years, although the city is not using more chlorine, according to the city report.

Federal rules now allow drinking water to have up to 80 micrograms of these byproducts per liter. They currently allow this as an average of measurements from several sites, but will no longer allow such averaging next year, meaning all sites will have to be under 80.

Bellingham's drinking water average has been well below the threshold, with samples of up to 65.4 micrograms per liter (at Pacific Highway on Sept. 7, 2004).



Public Records 

Brenda knows more about the state disclosure laws than me so I hope she chimes up at some point. But there are two laws being proposed. McKenna wants to codify the attorney-client privilege that the supremes ruled on last year.

Critics say that formalizing a law on privilege could hamper the public's ability to find out how government is operating and what kind of advice officials are relying on when they make decisions affecting taxpayers.

"Government lawyers are paid by the taxpayers," said Michele Earl-Hubbard, a Seattle media lawyer and member of the Washington Coalition for Open Government, who also has done records-law work for The Olympian. "They wear two hats."

...

In the middle of the fight is McKenna, who campaigned on a platform of having more open government. He drafted the legislation -- Senate Bill 5735 and its mirror, or companion, House Bill 1758. The bills offer clarification and keep government officials from hiding documents just because a lawyer got a copy or because a lawyer attended a meeting, McKenna's office says.
The other law being proposed would increase fines for non-compliance with the state public disclosure laws. My old Senator is against this, and that's too bad. But I do like how the Olympian can't be bothered to verify if she was on a city council or not (yes, by the by).

Sen. Darlene Fairley, D-Lake Forest Park, said she is a former city council member and thinks that fines can be burdensome on officials who are making good-faith efforts to turn over records. She opposes increased fines, favors a government right to reject overly broad requests for records and favors codifying the attorney-client privilege in law.

"When you're a local government, you have to be able to talk to your attorney. ... I know the newspaper won't agree with me, but you have to," Fairley said.

As a council member, "you're usually a regular person who doesn't have a clue. ... Especially in a small town, you can't work that way."



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