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Postman on Politics

Chief political reporter David Postman explores state, regional and national politics.

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November 30, 2007 8:33 AM

Nothing to see here

Posted by David Postman

I am on my way to a weekend conference on election issues. I am not planning to blog from S.F., so I hope everyone has recovered from the oh-so special session and has a nice weekend, too.

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November 29, 2007 8:48 PM

Gregoire says session had nothing to do with Eyman

Posted by David Postman

Gov. Christine Gregoire tonight signed the 1 percent property tax cap passed in the special session. She also signed the second bill passed by the Legislature, the property tax deferral program for middle-income families. She said that second bill was part of what she needed to do to secure enough votes to reinstate I-747.

Gregoire said that she didn't think the session had anything to do with Tim Eyman, sponsor of the original initiative. She was not happy with Eyman's claims that she and the Legislature had not done enough.

Gregoire: And my message to him is if he'd like to participate in the legislative process, run for office.

PoP: But why? It seems like he's doing pretty well without having to be governor or run for the Legislature. He passes an initiative, the court throws it out as unconstitutional and the Legislature rushes to put it into law. They did it with 695, too.

Gregoire: I actually don't think he's doing pretty well. He needs to get some help in writing initiatives. We're spending how much money and how much time in court proceedings because the initiatives are not written as they should be? That's what the legislative process is all about — to allow full and complete vetting and amendments and opportunities to do the sorts of things that can clean up a bill and give it a much greater chance of success through the court process.

So I don't know if you can call that success, to be honest with you. And the fact of the matter is, this has nothing to do with Tim Eyman as far as I'm concerned. I think the voters said very clearly what they wanted. And he may have written something. But the fact of the matter is my motivation is what the voters had to say. And the voters said they're fearful about whether they're going to be able to keep their homes.

It's been implemented now for five years or more. It is, in fact, the way we've been doing business. So I don't think this is a rush to judgment by the Legislature. I think it is exactly what the voters want to have done.

PoP: But they only got to have that say and say they want it done because Tim Eyman put it on the ballot. The Legislature has not passed a property tax cap.

Gregoire: You know, I can't say that they wouldn't have, though. They did something today that he hasn't suggested.

PoP: The deferral you're talking about.

Gregoire: Yeah.

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November 29, 2007 4:00 PM

In the Senate UPDATED: Tax cap bill passes 39-9

Posted by David Postman

Before the Senate takes up the 1 percent property tax cap members are debating a second bill that would create a property tax deferral program for mid-level income homeowners. The bill, SB 6178, comes at the request of Gov. Christine Gregoire and is sponsored by Sen. Claudia Kauffman, D-Kent.

Kauffman says the bill would help those who need it most who are in "real danger of losing their homes." The bill would allow people to defer property tax payments, but they'd have to pay back taxes, with interest, if the property is sold or the owner dies. The deferral would be available to households making up to $57,000-a-year and allow them to defer half their tax payments.

Sen. Joe Zarelli, R-Ridgefield, said the bill would push people further into debt because of interest charges that would accrue. Republicans have been describing the bill today as a form of predatory lending that would trap homeowners with large debt owed to the government.

"That's really what this is, payday lending by the state of Washington," Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, said.

The bill passed 27-21

All Republicans in the Senate voted no, as did four Democrats: Tim Sheldon, Brian Hatfield, Steve Hobbs and Jim Kastama.

The Senate is now, at 4:20 p.m., taking up the 1 percent cap bill.

Republican Don Benton also tried to amend the bill. He wanted to prohibit use of unused tax capacity that local taxing districts may have saved up.

"The underlying bill restores half the people's will," Benton said. "My amendment restores the other half."

Democrats challenged the amendment, just as happened in the House, saying that the amendment was outside the scope of the bill.

Lt. Gov. Brad Owen hasn't ruled yet. The Senate is standing at ease.

The Senate went back in about 5:30. Benton's amendment was ruled out of scope and tabled. Senators are now debating the bill and will vote soon.

Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, spoke against the bill and said Initiative 747 "should never have been passed by the voters in the first place." She said it has done more harm than good because local services have been starved of funding.

Republicans in the Senate are being more upbeat about the bill than most House Republicans were. Benton said the cap was a "step in the right direction and provides certainty" about increases in property tax rates. And he said how glad he was that the governor called the special session.

Sen. Mike Carrell, R-Lakewood, began his floor speech this way: "I am very happy tonight to be voting in favor of Initiative 747." He said it was a "great move" and that his constituents will be happy to have tax increases restricted even a little.

The bill passed 39-9. Voting no were Democrats Darlene Fairley, Ken Jacobsen, Adam Kline, Kohl-Welles, Joe McDermott, Ed Murray, Craig Pridemore, Harriet Spanel and Brian Weintstein.

Zarelli just told reporters he was happy with the Legislature's work today.

"The point is, where in history has a Legislature come into special session for the purpose of cutting taxes. Has that ever happened?"

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November 29, 2007 3:25 PM

PDC staff recommends dismissal of Rossi complaint

Posted by David Postman

The staff of the state Public Disclosure Commission will recommend next week that the commission dismiss a complaint alleging Republican gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi used his non-profit foundation, Forward Washington, as a front for his 2008 campaign.

A staff report says:

Based upon the information gathered during the course of the investigation, as evaluated against statutory provisions and case law, PDC staff believes insufficient evidence exists to support a determination that Dino Rossi was a candidate for governor for the 2008 election prior to accepting his first campaign contribution on October 12, 2007.

Additionally, PDC staff believes that insufficient evidence exists to support a
determination that Forward Washington Foundation acted as a political committee.

State Democratic Party officials filed the complaint in June with the PDC, which enforces the state's campaign finance rules. The staff has been investigating the complaint since then.

Rossi has said he formed Forward Washington last year to offer solutions to the state's most pressing problems. As the foundation's president, he was paid $75,000 a year and traveled around the state speaking and raising money on behalf of the nonprofit.

He stepped down from the foundation in September, and publicly announced his plans to run for governor on Oct. 25.

Democrats said that since Rossi filed papers with the PDC for a 2008 campaign in 2005 — while he was engaged in a legal battle over the November 2004 election — he was a declared candidate and should not be able to take donations for Forward Washington that weren't reported as campaign contributions.

But the PDC staff says:

Mr. Rossi stated that the reports filed with the PDC as being for the 2008 election cycle did not pertain to any campaign for office. He stated that he submitted these reports only on the advice of PDC staff in order to raise funds for expenses related to the election challenge following the 2004 gubernatorial election. PDC staff found no evidence that Mr. Rossi mischaracterized the advice the PDC gave him, or that the expenses disclosed on reports filed subsequent to the 2004 election supported a 2008 campaign effort.

In fact, a thorough PDC investigation "did not find any documents or witnesses to support a conclusion that Mr. Rossi was intending to run for governor in 2008. All his public statements as well as those private ones obtained by PDC staff remain consistent that he had not made up his mind to enter the race for governor" before leaving the foundation post.

Rossi's campaign just issued this statement:

"I'm very happy that after a long investigation the recommendation from the PDC staff is that all charges be dropped. From the very beginning of the Forward Washington Foundation, we bent over backwards to make sure we were complying with all public disclosure requirements.

"This was obviously a desperate attempt by Christine Gregoire's agents to smear me, and it didn't work."

MORE: The state Democratic Party issued this statement from its attorney, Kevin Hamilton:
Democratic Party attorney Kevin Hamilton issued the following statement:

"This decision is seriously wrong-headed. The PDC staff and Republican Dino Rossi have created a huge loophole in the law that allows unregulated campaign activity. Though dishonest about it, Rossi has obviously been campaigning all year, while keeping his financial backers secret.

"Even if the PDC won't force Republican Dino Rossi to come clean, if he believed in transparency and openness he would voluntarily disclose who's been bankrolling him all year. The voters of Washington have a right to know which special interests are funding Republican Dino Rossi's political activities, even if he's skated through a giant loophole in the law.

"We're obviously very disappointed and will be evaluating our legal options."

MORE: Rossi spoke to Ralph Thomas, who sent me this:

Rossi said he thinks Gregoire should have to answer for all the "vile things" party leaders have been saying about him.

"I want her to retract them. I want her to apologize for that because it came from her people," Rossi said.

UPDATE: After the special session today, Gregoire took a few question from the press. Ralph Thomas asked her about the staff recommendation form the PDC.

Click here to hear his question and Gregoire's answer.

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November 29, 2007 2:29 PM

Chopp touts progressive record

Posted by David Postman

A theme in the run-up to today's special session has been the Democratic left's unhappiness with the Democratic governor and legislative leaders for embracing a Tim Eyman-crafted tax cap. At least it's been a theme here, so House Speaker Frank Chopp said he wasn't surprised when I asked him about it at a press conference this morning. He said he'd would vote proudly for the tax cap. And he is prepared to answer criticism from the progressive wing of his party.

"Now if you want a long list of all the progressive things we've done in the Legislature with our strong majorities and a great governor, I'd be more than happy to give it to you. I actually typed it. It's over 50 things that are very progressive, very positive for public schools, for health care — particularly for children — job development, for higher education, for transportation. I can go on and on."

He said later that he compiled the list himself. Unfortunately it's on his home computer and he didn't have a copy here today. This is not to say that Chopp has been inundated with complaints from his liberal friends. He said that as of a few days ago he had heard from all of three constituents. And he represents the 43rd District, one of the most liberal in the state.

The left is trying some new ways to be heard, though. By this morning legislative leaders were to be presented with a petition signed by more than 2,000 people asking them to reject Gregoire's plea to approve the 1 percent cap. Fuse, a political group in Seattle, wanted the governor and the Legislature to take a broader look at property tax reform.

In a plea to supporters to sign the online petition, Fuse's Chris McCullough wrote:

Please sign our petition today — we have to send the Legislature a powerful message demanding real property tax reform in Washington State, not a Tim Eyman stunt.

...

There are other potential solutions as well, but the Legislature is focused on Tim Eyman's approach, and won't seriously consider anything else without a powerful message from their constituents.

I wrote a little about Fuse when they first started last summer.

Speaking out against plans by Gregoire, Chopp and other leading Democrats is one of Fuse's early attempts to exercise what muscle it may have. The group hopes to both push Democratic lawmakers to "uphold progressive values" as well as to add more Democrats in all levels of government in the state.

Fuse's executive director, Aaron Ostrom, told me the other day that in general he thinks Gregoire has a pretty strong record. But tax reform is important to the group and opposing the governor and Democratic leaders now, he said, "is just one of those things we couldn't duck."

"This is just a lost opportunity to make the tax system more progressive and more fair," he said. "We are going to be an honest voice for progressive issues and we have to play it straight."

And Fuse sees Eyman as a bad guy.

This doesn't mean that a lawmaker who votes today for the limit won't get Fuse's support. And it certainly doesn't mean the governor won't. But Fuse hopes to train and deploy volunteers for the campaigns of the group's top-rated candidates. Others could still get votes of Fuse members, but not their labors.

Ostrom said:

"It's one thing to vote for the lesser of two evils, but working for the lesser of two evils is a totally different thing."

That's sort of the point David Goldstein is making today, too. He does so in his inimitable style:

Clearly the governor has no qualms about screwing her party's progressive base, a political miscalculation mired in a profound lack of understanding of what it is, exactly, the base actually does. (Hint: we don't just vote.) But our local representatives, who are, theoretically, more in touch with their constituents... they should know better. I'd wager there isn't a legislative district Democratic organization in Seattle that would endorse reinstating I-747, and yet I'd be surprised if a majority of the Seattle delegation didn't vote to approve the governor's plan. I'll be counting. And I won't be the only one.

Oh, it's not like most of us progressive activists would ever abandon the party, or refuse to cordially work with representatives who cross us, it's just that I want to make it absolutely clear that those who accuse bloggers like me of being "tools of the Democratic Party" have it exactly backwards: the Democratic Party is our tool, and we intend to use it to enact our agenda. And that's how it should be.

I am one of those who thinks some bloggers are party tools. And I think this is a rare occasion where Goldstein and some other liberal writers are nearly as hard on one of their own as they are about the opposition. I can't think of many times where I've read such a clear condemnation of party rulers.

And that takes me back to something I wrote earlier today. I think the special session is a win for Republicans, even if they didn't claim it. There are at least some Democrats ticked off by the special session. They won't vote for Dino Rossi. But for now at least they'll find something other than the governor's race, or boosting Democratic majorities in the Legislature.

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November 29, 2007 2:02 PM

Who voted how in the House

Posted by David Postman

Here's a link that will get you to the roll call for the House vote on the 1 percent tax cap. The eight no votes were Marilou Mary Lou Dickerson, Jamie Pedersen, new legislator Sharon Nelson, Eric Pettigrew, Sharon Tomiko Santos, and Helen Sommers, all of Seattle; and Sam Hunt of Olympia and Geoff Simpson of Covington.

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November 29, 2007 11:54 AM

The House vote UPDATED: Bill passes 86-8

Posted by David Postman

The House is in session to consider the 1 percent cap limit. Speaker pro-tem John Lovick ruled out consideration of a Republican amendment that would have expanded the bill to also include "banked capacity." Lovick says the bill is short and simple and it would remain that way.

Rep. Christopher Hurst is the sponsor of the bill. He's up urging members to vote yes, saying that his constituents worry about losing their homes, and echoing Gov. Chris Gregoire, in saying people see home ownership as the foundation of the American dream.

"This bill helps protect that dream and i think that's why we're here today," Hurst said. He said things like banked capacity are "collateral issues" and shouldn't be part of today's debate. He said:

"This bill makes things exactly the way they were prior to the Supreme Court's decision. This will give the citizens exactly what they voted for in 2001. It does nothing more and it does nothing less. ... It would be disrespectful to the voers to add or subtaract to a decison they have already made."

Republican Rep. Ed Orcutt is saying that he wishes the Legislature would go further today that simply reinstating 747. "Even under that 1 percent cap, voters have been concerned about how much their proeprty taxes are going up," he said.

But he said he was glad that at least the 1 percent limit would be saved.

"I think the Supreme Court was a little bit off base, to say the least. ... I'm one of the voters who voted for Intiative 747. I knew what I was doing and I believe that most of the voters knew what they were doing when they voted for Initiative 747."

A half dozen or so members have spoken, so far all in favor of the bill.

Geoff Simpson, who I just wrote about in the previous post, is the first opposition voice heard.

"I feel kind of like the Lone Ranger here. I'm rising in opposition, although I agree the Supreme Court did make a mistake. The people knew what they were doing. They were getting a bargain. I like bargains."

But he says voters weren't given a choice of how best to restrain tax growth. And 747, he said, is bad public policy.

Rep. John Ahern, R-Spokane, said the Supreme Court was wrong to say voters didn't know what they were doing when they voted for 747.

"In other words, it was an insult to the voters, their intelligence, kind of a slap in the face. And it hit me too because I voted definitely for that."

Rep. Mike Armstrong, R-Wenatchee, said what I thought was probably the best approach for Republicans: Declare victory over the ruling Democrats.

"Our side of the aisle is very, very pleased that the governor heard our cry for this special session. We are ecstatic to be here."

He added that the 1 percent cap is just a "finger into the hole in the dike" and the Legislature needs to come back.

The special session is a victory for Republicans, those in the Legislature and the one running for governor, Dino Rossi. They were out front calling for the emergency session and the governor and Democratic lawmakers followed.

My sense listening to the debate, though, is that declaration has been overshadowed by Republican criticism of the Legislature not doing more today. Maybe House Republicans are just modest. We'll see what happens later in the Senate.

The bill passed 86-8. One lone celebrant clapped.

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November 29, 2007 10:48 AM

The question of the day

Posted by David Postman

I think the dilemma for many Democratic lawmakers today was summed up in this question to legislative leaders, asked by public radio's Austin Jenkins:

"Do you see the 1 percent cap as good and sensible public policy, or do you see that you're here today to enact the will of the voter?"

Jenkins asked the question at a crowded press conference with Democratic leaders of both chambers. It wasn't meant to be a gotcha. He's an earnest young reporter. But around the room there were nervous chuckles, even from House Speaker Frank Chopp as he thought for a moment before answering:

"I believe very strongly that the voters knew what they were voting on with the 1 percent cap. That's what we're here to do, reinstate the 1 percent cap. I think generally there are people out there in the public who would like us to essentially be able to approve additional property tax increases when it's for targeted things. I mean, if you look at the history around the state, there's been numerous proposals by local governments to raise taxes which have passed the voters.

"So, I think it's a combination of efforts there."

Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, said her members have differing views of how best to control tax growth, and she added:

"Obviously we also have our differences of opinion about Tim Eyman."

She said that today's vote will be a case of lawmakers reflecting the political realities of their districts.

"There were districts in Seattle, and here I think in Olympia, that rejected 747 and legislators that feel strongly that the best way to represent their constituents is to vote no on the bill. And then there will be others that feel like, and I think Sen. Kauffman expressed this quite well recently, her district wants it and she's happy to be here to be able to speak for them in that regard."

UPDATE FROM THE HOUSE CHAMBERS: Not all lawmakers will look to see how their constituents voted on I-747.

In the House wings, outside the closed doors of the Democratic Caucus Room, Rep. Geoff Simpson didn't need to hear any more of the discussion among his colleagues. He said he'll vote no on reinstating I-747.

"It may cost me my job," he said. Simpson, a Kent fire fighter and a former Covington City Councilman, said he's sure that voters in his southeast King County district supported 747. But he thinks 747 is bad public policy.

"I voted against 747 at the polls and I'll vote against it here. Hopefully I'll be judged on the body of my work and not a principled stand on a tax measure that prevents us from solving murders, fighting fires and saving lives."

Simpson had hoped to offer an amendment to the tax cap bill today. He wanted to index the tax limit so it could rise with inflation. But he said that a House attorney told him that the amendment would be ruled out of order as being outside the scope of the bill's title. The bill, House Bill 2416 was written with a title designed to keep it identical to what voters approved. It is called, "An Act Relating to reinstating the one percentproperty tax limit factor adopted by the voters under Initiative Measure No. 747 ..."

A little over 11:30 a.m., the House is getting read to debate the bill.

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November 29, 2007 10:02 AM

The special session begins

Posted by David Postman

In recent years Tim Eyman has shown up in Olympia as Darth Vader, a gorilla and a prisoner. This morning he showed up pretty much as a politician. He loves costumes, but he didn't dress the part today. He was dressed in Mukilteo casual: khaki cargo pants, hiking boots and a pullover atop a T-shirt.

But he ducked questions like a veteran pol, launched a partisan attack and said even though lawmakers were set to do exactly as he had wanted, it's not enough. And maybe that's only fair given that Democratic lawmakers will codify Eyman's initiative while trying to convince all that it has nothing to do with Eyman himself.

Gov. Christine Gregoire called lawmakers in to special session today to pass a law limiting annual increases in property tax collections. They're expected to do that by day's end, and what they'll pass will be exactly what Eyman has long said state voters and deserve: a 1 percent statewide cap on property tax increases.

The action is needed because the state Supreme Court threw out Eyman's voter-approved Initiative 747, which imposed the limit in 2001.

But for Eyman, it's no longer enough to watch Democrats who once railed against him and his anti-tax ways embrace his policies. Eyman appeared outside the Senate chambers this morning to say what Democrats will pass is a sham because it doesn't deal with so-called "banked capacity." You can see a good explanation of banked capacity in this Q&A in this morning's paper.

"Gregoire and the Democrats don't care about taxpayers," Eyman declared. The bill they're expected to pass, he said, "Is 1 percent in name only."

But he was asked, by me and others, why, if it is so important to restrict use of banked tax capacity, didn't he deal with it in his own initiative? And if the bill does everything his very own I-747 did, did he pull a fast one on voters, too? No answer to that.

The Legislature today is set to do exactly what Eyman wanted voters to do, the same thing he argued that the Supreme Court should do. But instead of declaring victory — and rightfully watching Democrats eat some tax-flavored crow — Eyman says the Legislature is trying to fool the public.

Not all lawmakers are happy about being here to impose an Eyman initiative on the people. As Eyman talked to the press outside the Senate chambers, Sen. Adam Kline, D-Seattle, stood nearby with a thick pile of papers in his hand. As Eyman finished his press conference, Kline confronted him.


You can hear their confrontation here.

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November 29, 2007 7:22 AM

The star of last night's YouTube debate

Posted by David Postman

CNN started the debate among Republican presidential candidates with this, from Arlington, Snohomish County, resident Chris Nandor:

I loved watching the candidates react when Nandor sang about them. Mike Huckabee looked like he actually thought it was funny. Romney, not so much.

Nandor is well-known on Sound Politics, where he comments as "Pudge" and he gives readers there an insider's view of the debate.

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November 28, 2007 2:39 PM

Rep. Dunn: Inappropriate comment was free speech

Posted by David Postman

An attorney for state Rep. Jim Dunn, R-Vancouver, says the lawmaker's inappropriate comment to a female legislative staffer was constitutionally protected speech. And the punishment handed down by fellow Republicans, he argues, is discrimination against Dunn because of his race and age.

You can read the details here of the ham-handed, barroom, come-on that Dunn says was a failed attempt at humor. Dunn has apologized for the comments. But he's fighting back against the loss of some of his pay and all of his committee assignments, as ordered by House Minority Leader Richard Debolt, R-Chehalis.

Dunn will lose per diem payments because of lost committee assignments. His attorney, Shawn Newman, says in a letter sent to the House counsel today that "a member's compensation can only be suspended if he or she is convicted and sentenced for a felony."

Newman says that not only was Dunn's conduct in the Tri-Cities hotel bar not illegal, it was constitutionally-protected free speech. Newman wrote to House Counsel Timothy Sekerak:

The undisputed facts are that the isolated comment was not made in a "workplace" but in a bar after dinner to someone who does not report to or work for my client. Despite inferences to the contrary, there was nothing illegal about his sarcastic comment. What is illegal is the retaliation against my client for exercising his free speech rights.

Newman also argues that Dunn is a victim of discrimination.

Let me be perfectly clear. My client, who is both a Native American and over 40, has been the victim of disparate treatment based on what you confirm as a "single situation" while other House members who have engaged in illegal and/or unprofessional conduct have not been similarly treated. Consider, for example, those representatives who have been seen publicly drunk, charged with DUI/DWI or subject to on-going investigations by the legislative ethics board for conflicts of interest.

Sekerak told Newman in a letter last week that the ban on travel and loss of committee assignments "was a step taken after discussing the situation with Representative Dunn and his admission to inappropriate conduct below the standards set by the House for a respectful workplace." He said that the state Constitution gives the House authority to discipline its members.

"At this time the House considers the matter closed."

Dunn will keep fighting, though. Newman said in his letter that he is appealing Dunn's punishment to the Executive Rules Committee. He asked for a hearing within 10 days.

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November 28, 2007 1:38 PM

Your chance to be heard on property tax cap

Posted by David Postman

There will be two public hearings tomorrow morning on Gov. Chris Gregoire's proposal to reinstate a statewide property tax limit. The House hearing is at 8:15 a.m. before the Finance Committee. It will be in House Hearing Room B, in the John L. O'Brien Building.

The Senate Ways and Means Committee will hold a hearing at 10:45 a.m. in Senate Hearing Room 4, in the Cherberg Building.

The House and Senate will also be considering tax deferral bills. The House is scheduled to take the first action on the tax cap. The Senate will do the deferral bill. Then they plan to swap.

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November 28, 2007 11:27 AM

Poll shows Clinton and Giuliani would be even here

Posted by David Postman

A new University of Washington poll shows that in a general election between Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani, voters here would be evenly split between the two New Yorkers. That would make Giuliani the most popular Republican here since Ronald Reagan.

But what may be most interesting in the latest results from the Washington Poll is that among Democrats, Clinton leads Barack Obama 44 percent to 29 percent. But in a hypothetical match between Obama and Giuliani, Obama leads 50-42.

That's because Obama does better than Clinton or Giuliani among independent voters. Matt Barreto, one of the UW political science professors collaborating on the poll, tells me:

Hillary is preferred by Democrats, but overall, Obama has higher favorability ratings among the entire electorate. Notice on the crosstabs, slide 6, that Hillary does better among Dems, but among the Independents, Obama makes up huge ground. Hillary loses to Rudy by 10 points among Independents, while Obama beats Rudy by half a point among Independents.

You can see more on the Washington Poll here.

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November 28, 2007 9:24 AM

Obama here next month

Posted by David Postman

Barack Obama's campaign tells Eli Sanders that the senator will be here Dec. 11 for a Generation Obama event.

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November 28, 2007 8:48 AM

You, me and YouTube on TV tonight

Posted by David Postman

Tonight at 5 is the CNN/YouTube debate with Republican presidential candidates. After the show, at 7 p.m., Danny Westneat and I will host a call-in show so you can talk about what you saw. You can also ask questions of our guest, GOP consultant Todd Myers. The show will be on TVW statewide and you can watch it on the Times Web site.

I can only hope that this question makes the cut:

You can see other submissions here. The questions have been vetted by CNN journalists. And they're looking for a certain sort of question.

"This debate is to let Republican voters pick from among their eight candidates," said David Bohrman, Washington bureau chief and senior vice president for CNN. "We are trying to focus mostly on questions where there are differences among these candidates."

So don't expect to see a question about gay marriage. And I'm sure this one about hemp from YouTube user bigfatpothead will be left on the digital cutting room floor.

That question likely falls into what Bohrman told the New York Times qualifies as "lobbying grenades."

"There are quite a few things you might describe as Democratic 'gotchas,' and we are weeding those out," Mr. Bohrman said.

Democrats did their YouTube debate in July. At that time, some of the major Republican candidates said they wouldn't participate when it came time for their party's show, citing a variety of reasons. I think it was a mistake for Republicans to put off the debate until now. Somehow a YouTube debate seems almost passé. If Republicans had followed up quickly, they would have been closer to the head of the curve. And their scheduling conflicts and such that put off the debate until now made the Republican frontrunners look like fuddy-duddy techno-fobes, to use a technical term.

But what Republicans have going for them is a real race. We're just weeks from the first vote of the 2008 primary season and recent days have seen increasing clashes between Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney. The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza considers how the debate will play out in that environment.

Will that animosity carry over to Wednesday night's get-together? We're betting it will. And, while it will be fascinating to watch how Giuliani and Romney take shots at one another (and who gets the best of the rhetorical back and forth), the more important element of the debate will be how the other candidates react. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee has made up considerable ground in Iowa thanks to his "Mr. Nice Guy" routine, and he may get another chance to cast himself as the positive alternative if Romney and Giuliani engage in an extended battle on Wednesday night.

Watch the debate, and then turn to TVW or the Times Web site. Because CNN is aiming the show at Republican voters, I hope we hear from some of the GOP faithful about how you think your candidates did. But everyone is welcome to call.

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November 28, 2007 7:42 AM

Port Townsend does its own thing

Posted by David Postman

The Port Townsend City Council voted to raise property taxes last night. On a 4-3 vote, the council decided to raise taxes above the 1 percent cap that is likely to become law again Thursday. To increase property taxes above 1 percent, the council not only rejected the plea Gov. Christine Gregoire made to local governments, but had to rescind a local law that required a public advisory vote before using so-called "banked capacity" to raise taxes more than 1 percent.

The Port Townsend Jefferson County Leader has the story.

Several residents spoke against the increase Monday night, and none spoke in favor. "Everything can't be fixed on the backs of homeowners," said Brigida Knauer.

Jim Hagen argued that rescinding the advisory vote requirement would overrule the trend shown by city voters in three recent elections (approving the advisory vote requirement in 2001, rejecting a 53 percent increase in property tax revenues in 2004, and rejecting a utility tax increase from 6 to 10 percent in 2007).

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November 27, 2007 8:18 AM

One town rushes to raise taxes

Posted by David Postman

The Port Townsend City Council will hold a special meeting tonight to consider raising property taxes. The council wants to act before Thursday when the Legislature is expected to impose a statewide tax cap. To clear the way for the increase, the Port Townsend City Council voted Monday night to rescind a law that would have required a a public advisory vote on the tax hike, according to the Port Townsend and Jefferson County Leader.

Reporter Barney Burke writes in the PT Leader that if the city had stuck to the 1 percent limit it would have been allowed to raise taxes on a $300,000 home by $4.22. Under the city's plan, though, that tax bill would go up $46.40. And Burke reports that it's not clear what happens if the city raises taxes tonight and the Legislature reinstates the 1 percent cap Thursday.

At issue in Port Townsend is what's called "banked capacity." When local governments raised property taxes less than the limit, they were allowed to bank the difference for future tax increases.

Gov. Christine Gregoire has asked local governments to refrain from raising taxes over the 1 percent limit until the Legislature acts. She says that since I-747 passed overwhelmingly statewide, the people have spoken and local taxing districts should not take advantage of the small window of opportunity to raise taxes above the limit.

Port Townsend would use its new tax money to balance next year's budget. The money would go to a trust fund for the city library, to maintain the city pool and to match private funds being raised to build a new pool, according to the Peninsula Daily News.

The vote last night to rescind the law requiring an advisory vote was 4-3. But from what City Manager David Timmons told the Daily News' Evan Cael, it doesn't look like local officials are too worried about the governor's call for tax restraint.

"I understand that it's a political issue in Olympia more than a reality here," Timmons said.

"People have reminded us that the city of Port Townsend did not support any of the Eyman initiatives. They rejected them all."

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November 26, 2007 4:04 PM

Vancouver editor knocks gov's media operation

Posted by David Postman

The editor of The Columbian had a column over the weekend showing readers what it can be like to deal with the governor's press office. Lou Brancaccio wrote that his reporters were looking to get a comment from Gregoire about an investigation they had done into problems with local child care providers. In a column written as a letter to Gregoire, Brancaccio writes:

Erin Middlewood and Stephanie Rice -- our reporters who labored over this excellent series -- tried three times to get in touch with you.

At one point we received this e-mail from your press secretary, Lars Erickson:

"We've completely scheduled all of the governor's media interview time for the next month."

That was before the package of investigative stories, dubbed "Daycare Nightmare," was published. After publication, Brancaccio tried himself, talking with Interim Communications Director Lloyd Brown. He says Brown "wasn't all that happy with our quoting him. Especially after he said you wouldn't talk because our investigation would make you look like you have been 'asleep at the wheel.'"

The Columbian got to talk to Gregoire, just hours after the editor told Brown to let the governor know he would "bring the hammer down" on her for refusing to talk.

(But Lou, you're not really surprised that a "statement from the governor" wasn't really written by the governor, are you?)

You can see The Columbian's reporting project here.

There are many more reasons for the governor to talk to The Columbian than to not. Here's just one: Dino Rossi talked to the paper about the child care investigation and got his name into a headline.
And he issued a press release knocking Gregoire -- not just for what's happening with child care, but for not talking to the paper.

"This story also repeats a pattern of the incumbent " she takes credit for good things even if she had no part in them but hides herself from public view when problems are revealed within her government agencies," said Rossi.

I wrote recently about Rossi's refusal to be interviewed about a subject because it wasn't one of his chosen campaign themes. I said that at least Gregoire faces the press regularly at her media availabilities. But The Columbian's investigation is not the sort of thing a reporter wants to ask about in that setting. You don't want to give away an exclusive.

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November 26, 2007 9:41 AM

A Democrat struggles with political reality of tax vote

Posted by David Postman

Sen. Craig Pridemore, D-Vancouver, told me last week that when the Legislature convenes Thursday he would be a certain no vote against reinstating a 1 percent property tax cap.

But he told fellow Democratic senators in an e-mail last night that he's now not sure what to do. His constituents want Initiative 747 codified in law, and Pridemore thinks his vote could decide his political future. The e-mail describes what seems like some uncomfortable political realities facing Democrats in this week's special session.

Fellow Senators: I know a lot of you were interested in finding an alternative to simply reinstating I-747 on Thursday and I had hoped to provide you with one. After profound review and after the past few days of getting hammered (including by close friends and family), it's immensely clear to me that I don't have the political support in my own district to carry out a fight like this. I know I could have survived it under normal crcumstances, but I can't when I'm standing against a Democratic Governor AND against Democratic Senate and House leadership. It's hard to tell people this is bad for local governments when so many Democrats are smiling and saying it's no big deal. :-)


I'm not sure how I'll vote yet. If I vote No to reinstating it, I know my political future will be over after this term (next year). If I vote Yes, I'm not sure I really want to do this any more anyway. I obviously have a lot of soul-searching to do... again. I sincerely just want to get through it without buying a pack of smokes! :-)


For those of you who know this is bad public policy and do vote your conscience, you have my sincere respect always.


Craig

I did not get the e-mail from Pridemore himself. But he told me this morning that he's gotten responses from four colleagues.

One expressed extreme disappointment with me for not standing by sound public policy; the other three expressed sympathy for the situation we've all been placed in.

While Pridemore says that opposing the 1 percent limit means he has to stand against Gov. Chris Gregoire and legislative leadership, he said that Senate leadership has not lobbied him -- or anyone else that he's heard -- to vote for the cap.

MORE: Gov. Chris Gregoire talked with reporters this morning about the upcoming special session. I asked her about Pridemore's perspective and she didn't disagree that there are other lawmakers who feel the same way. And the governor said she knows what they're going through:

"I understand the dilemma. I'm acutely aware of it. I had to go through that mental exercise myself. But I will tell you that I shared with the majority leader and the Speaker of the House last legislative session that I felt that we were going to need to reinstate the 1 percent cap if the state Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional. So, I'd already gone through that mentally myself.

"The fact of the matter is, to those who feel that way, I would say to them, "Come with me to town hall meetings across the state.' You can feel the nervousness of people because of the escalating costs of their homes, yet their income doesn't change at all, that they are literally .. going to be run out of their homes, which is to them the American dream."

(Senate Majority Lisa Brown told me this morning that she doesn't recall Gregoire telling her that the 1 percent cap would have to be reinstituted in the court threw out 747. She said there was a more general discussion during the legislative session, but that she didn't remember Gregoire stating her support for a 1 percent lid.)

Gregoire said that before she called the special session she asked Democratic leaders in the House and Senate to poll members on how they'd vote on a 1 percent cap. But the "tipping point" she said that convinced her to call the Legislature into session was a handful of local governments that said they planned to take advantage of the Supreme Court decision and raise taxes above the 1 percent cap.

I asked Gregoire if she was imposing her political judgment for local officials, who in some cases said they felt comfortable that their voters would support a larger increase. She said:

"The fact of the matter is the people spoke. It isn't me. It isn't me. The initiative was voted on by the people of the state of Washington and it passed pretty overwhelmingly. So I think the people of the state of Washington made their point. They passed the one with 2 percent. They passed the one with 1 percent. Now it's up to us to do it right so it withstands constitutional challenge.

"I'm not putting my opinion instead of the local governments'. I'm just saying the will of the voters has to be carried out."

Brown said she thinks Pridemore may be overstating the political dilemma created by the tax cap vote.

"There's no doubt that property taxes are an issue in every district. ... However, as a legislator you have the ability to communicate with your constituents about what you're doing and why."

Brown said she told Gregoire there was not a lot of support for the 1 percent cap among Senate Democrats. In general, the Senate doesn't like to be rushed. Senate Democrats considered some property tax measures last session and had planned to do more next year.

The special session "comes at an inopportune time for our perspective," she said. But even with Democratic opposition, she has no doubt that the 1 percent cap will pass the Senate Thursday.

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November 26, 2007 9:27 AM

Graham murder becomes national political issue

Posted by David Postman

At TIME.com, Eli Sanders -- moonlighting from his job at the Stranger -- has a story about how a local murder has become an issue in the presidential campaign, particularly on the Republican side. The man accused of killing Brian and Beverly Mauck, Daniel Tavares Jr., was released last summer from a Massachusetts prison by a judge appointed by Mitt Romney.

On the campaign trail former New York mayor Giuliani has called on Romney to explain his decision to appoint Judge Tuttman.

...

Taylor Glasenapp, a spokesman for the victims' families, told TIME that as a conservative-leaning voter, he'll be watching closely to see how Romney and other Republicans handle the law-and-order politics surrounding the tragedy. "This is now a huge issue for me in the presidential election," said Glasenapp. "Something has to be done about this."

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November 23, 2007 8:18 AM

Taking the day off

Posted by David Postman

I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving. I'm going to take the day off, stay away from the blog, hang out with family, eat leftovers and finish the debates that raged around the dinner table last night.

See you next week.

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November 21, 2007 10:55 AM

Constitutional questions about 601 go unanswered

Posted by David Postman

The state Supreme Court agreed unanimously this morning to uphold increases in tobacco and alcohol taxes approved by the 2005 Legislature. But no substantive constitutional issues were settled. For the second time the court sidestepped the issue of whether the 1993 voter-approved Initiative 601 was constitutional. In 1994 the court declined to rule on a challenge to implementation of the law, saying the plaintiffs could not yet show any harm from the measure.

But there is much interesting debate in four separate concurrences issued in today's case.

For the first time, two justices on the court wrote clearly that they think the limits on spending and tax increases in I-601 are unconstitutional. Two others clearly disagree, but the majority avoid what Justice Tom Chambers wrote is the "elephant in the courthouse."

Opinions from Chambers and Chief Justice Gerry Alexander seem almost like an invitation for more legal challenges to initiatives, particularly Tim Eyman's I-960, which voters approved this month.

Chambers and Alexander say that 1993's I-601 violates the state Constitution because it requires a public vote for the Legislature to raise taxes above limits set by the initiative. That is an intrusion, they say, into the Legislature's constitutional powers.

Chambers wrote that he was sorry the court did not rule on the overriding constitutional questions around 601.

At its core, this case is about that constitutional question. Certainly, we can avoid this question. But we have the undoubted power to decide it. I think we should.

There's no question how Chambers would decide the question.

Answering the underlying question is principled, is definitive, and will serve the public good. I would hold that I-601's referendum requirement is an unconstitutional intrusion into the legislature's plenary power to pass laws. See Const. art. II, § 1; Larson, 156 Wn.2d at 759; ATU, 142 Wn.2d at 242. Our respect for the text and for the checks and balances of our constitutional system of government demands no less.

....

Just like the legislature, the people must conform to the requirements of the constitution when exercising their legislative authority under the Seventh Amendment. I-601 — and its legislative descendents — is unconstitutional because it purports to condition an entire class of legislation on voter approval. That is direct democracy. That is not our system.

Alexander agreed, writing that 601, known as the Taxpayer Protection Act, "is an unconstitutional intrusion into the legislature's plenary power to pass laws." And he too wishes the majority had gone further today.

I agree with the majority that we should decide a case on statutory grounds, rather than constitutional grounds, when possible. Majority at 4 n.7. In this case, though, I believe we must necessarily decide the constitutional issue. I say that because in order to determine whether the Taxpayer Protection Act (TPA) (chapter 43.135 RCW) or Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 6896 (the 2006 amendment) are constitutionally valid, it is necessary to determine first whether the people may constrain the plenary powers of the legislature by initiative.

Chambers says 601 is unconstitutional because it takes away the Legislature's constitutionally-guaranteed powers and, by requiring public votes for what the Constitution says is the Legislature's job, is an attempt to amend the Constitution. And that can't be done by initiative.

That is one of the very issues that opponents of I-960 hoped would stop a vote on this year's Tim Eyman-sponsored tax limitation. But the court said that it would not rule on the issue since the initiative had not become law and no one could yet show any harm.

Justice Jim Johnson wrote his concurrence to dispute Chambers' argument. They have a clear disagreement about the power of the Seventh Amendment to the state Constitution, which created the right to initiatives and referenda. Chambers believes:

The power of initiative and referendum does not give the people the power to condition a future state law on future approval of the people, any more than it gave that power to the legislature.

That, he said, preserves the "core aspect" of the Legislature's power. But Johnson says Chambers misses the reality behind the amendment:

Ironically, that amendment, allowing direct legislation by the people, was intended as an antidote to just such thinking (as was the concurrent Eighth Amendment providing for recall of public officials). The amendment's words make this point clear: "The legislative authority of the state of Washington shall be vested in the legislature . . . but the people reserve to themselves the power to propose bills, laws, and to enact or reject the same at the polls, independent of the legislature."

Johnson also refers to Article 1 of the state Constitution:

All political power is inherent in the people, and governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, and are established to protect and maintain individual rights.

He says that makes it clear, with or without the power of initiative, that the representative democracy that Chambers says is paramount is not meant to be absolute.

Rather, our government exists "to protect and maintain individual rights." Wash. Const. art. I, § 1. Representative government is a tool to those ends, and when not fulfilling the purpose of protecting individual rights, the people can protect those rights on their own with an initiative or a referendum.

...

Those campaigning for Washington's Seventh and Eight Amendments undoubtedly would have preferred wise legislators providing them with competent service. "But we seldom get such service, and we many times need the power of Direct Legislation so that we may lock the barn before the horse is stolen."

That last quote comes from the 1912 campaign for the Seventh Amendment. It is from a campaign flyer from the Direct Legislation League of Washington. Johnson provided a link in his opinion to a PDF of the flyer at the Secretary of State's site.

It's pretty interesting to read the campaign material. The rhetoric has changed little in 95 years. Much of it could have been written by Eyman. Here's the passage that Johnson quotes from:

Of course, it is not proposed that the people shall do much of the law making, for all have their private affairs to attend to and do not wish to be unduly bothered with these matters. We shall always need the services of trained legislators, and so long as they give us faithful, disinterested and reasonably wise service, we shall not interfere. But we seldom get such service, and we many times need the power of Direct Legislation so that we may lock the barn before the horse is stolen. Without these powers we are not truly self-governing, but merely elect other men to govern us who have, for the most part, been selected by party bosses and machines.

Under our present system the sole law-making power is vested in the legislature. The great store of integrity and political wisdom that rests in the mass of the people is lost because we allow a few legislators, often controlled by corporate and other selfish interests, to dictate the whole policy of the state. The legislature should advise and lead, but when that body misleads we must have the power to stop it. When this power is once vested in the people, the legislature acts in such a way as to almost obviate the necessity of its use.

Justice Richard Sanders, a strong supporter of initiatives, does not engage Chambers in his concurrence. Instead, he disputes the thinking of the majority. While the majority did not reach the constitutional questions about I-601, it went too far for Sanders in bowing to legislative power. He says, in fact, the majority's thinking is "profoundly un-American in theory."

Sanders wrote:

The majority's unexamined claim in reality invites a totalitarian regime and is inconsistent with the founders' understanding of the social compact.

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November 21, 2007 8:36 AM

Supreme Court backs Legislature's '05 tax plan

Posted by David Postman

The state Supreme Court today upheld the Legislature's interpretation of the Initiative 601 spending limit, overturning a Superior Court judge's ruling that lawmakers' manipulation of the limit "trumps the intent and spirit of 601."

Snohomish County Superior Court Judge James Allendoerfer ruled last year that the Legislature's 2005 tax plan had artificially manipulated the spending limit in order to spend more than legally allowed. And he said that was done to avoid having to ask voters to approve the tax increases.

The decision is not on line yet. (It is now; see below) But the majority opinion was written by Justice Mary Fairhurst and signed by Bobbe Bridge, Charles Johnson, Barbara Madsen and Susan Owens. Chief Justice Gerry Alexander, Justice Richard Sanders, Justice Jim Johnson and Justice Tom Chambers all wrote separate concurrences.

The lawsuit was filed in 2005 by the Evergreen Freedom Foundation, the National Federation of Independent Business, the Building Industry Association of Washington, the Washington Farm Bureau and the Washington State Grange.

Fairhurst wrote that a legislative fix in 2006 cured any problems with the 2005 tax package. She wrote:

It is a fundamental principle of our system of government that the Legislature has plenary power to enact laws except as limited by our state and federal constitutions. Each duly elected Legislature is fully vested with this plenary power.

The opinions are posted now. Here's the majority and concurrences by Alexander, Sanders, Chambers, and Jim Johnson.

The majority leans heavily on the argument that lawmakers cannot be bound by laws passed by previous Legislatures, or by laws passed by voters.

No legislature can enact a statute that prevents a future legislature from exercising its law-making power. That which a prior legislature has enacted, the current legislature can amend or repeal. Like all previous legislatures, it is limited only by the constitutions. To reason otherwise would elevate enactments of prior legislatures to constitutional status and reduce the current legislature to a second-class representative of the people.

What is true of statutes enacted by the legislature is likewise true of initiatives, for when the people pass an initiative, they exercise legislative power that is coextensive with that of the legislature. A law passed by initiative is no less a law than one enacted by the legislature. Nor is it more. A previously passed initiative can no more bind a current legislature than a previously enacted statute.

There were public records issues at stake, too, in the case. But the court did not rule on that. The plaintiffs argued that e-mails from legislative staff should be public records. The state argued that they should be protected by legislative privilege.

Sanders uses his concurrence to take aim at the majority's deference to the Legislature.

I understand that the majority's view to be the state legislature is virtually unrestrained except insofar as the legislative action countervenes some express prohibition in the state constitution. Although this claim has been repeated by rote in several of our decisions, I am unable to find a single one which explains its rationale, much less critically examines its premise. I challenge the majority to either do so here or dispense with this careless rhetoric.


The assertion seems to be based on an erroneous presumption that state governments have inherent powers — a presumption that contradicts the basic premise of all American governance that all power resides in the people except insofar as it has been delegated to the government.

Sanders argues that the majority ignores the very roots of our form of government. He concludes with this:

I fear for our Republic each step the majority takes toward achieving its counterrevolutionary premise. One cries outrage when the majority purports to recognize "a fundamental principal of our system of government," which is in reality absolutely antithetical to those true principles of our Republic, which are indeed fundamental.


Aside from that, I concur in the remainder of the majority's opinion.

Reaction: Jason Mercier, a spokesman for the Washington Policy Center, a conservative think tank, called the ruling a "punt." He was working for the Evergreen Freedom Foundation when the suit was filed.

"I'm thankful that 601 still exists and by default, 960 still exists. But it's disappointing to learn that the Legislature cannot be held accountable for breaking the law. All they have to do is — a year or two years later— pass a new law that says 'Hey what we did that was previously wrong is now OK.'"

MORE:
Evergreen Freedom Foundation President Bob Williams says in a statement:

"This is nuts. ... The trial court ruled that the legislature had 'gamed' the FY 2006 spending limit and it should be reduced by $250 million. That means the tax increases were over the limit.

..

"So our rights are reduced to mere expectations now. ... It was our right to vote on the 2005 tax increases. That was the law. The legislature broke that law, but the Court is giving it a pass."


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November 20, 2007 4:07 PM

An alternative to the 1 percent solution?

Posted by David Postman

When the Legislature convenes next week there will be at least some Democrats not ready to go along with the governor's call for them to quickly pass a 1 percent property tax cap. I was exchanging e-mails today with Sen. Craig Pridemore, D-Vancouver. He's a vice chairman of the Ways and Means Committee and one of the committee's most influential members.

Pridemore is a definite no vote on a 1 percent cap. He has been trying to find a compromise. Pridemore told me:

I am hoping to work with some other senators to come up with a more realistic and sustainable cap, something along the lines of population growth + inflation with a maximum of 6%.

The call for a special session makes it very difficult to formulate a responsible alternative and still get time to build support for it.


It's unlikely that Gregoire won't eventually get her way, particularly with the House Democrats signed on to the deal. But if Pridemore and a group of Democratic senators look for an alternative, there may be something more resembling debate in the Senate.

MORE: Add another no vote, maybe seven more. Sen. Darlene Fairley, D-Lake Forest Park, says she, too, is a definite no. By her count there are eight Democratic senators committed to voting against a 1 percent cap. That's far from enough to stop it, and Fairley concedes there's not much the opponents can do.

"Very few people want to stand in front of a running train, but some of us will because there's a point to make: This hurts local governments."

Fairley said other Democrats oppose it too, but those from swing districts "cannot vote no" because of the certain political fallout.

UPDATE: You can add Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles to the list of no votes. She made that clear in a comment on an earlier thread.

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November 20, 2007 9:05 AM

Critics of I-747 watch Olympia with skepticism

Posted by David Postman

With Democrats rushing to reinstate a statewide property tax cap, it's sort of hard to imagine that at one time the Tim Eyman-sponsored measure was thought of as a life-threatening political ploy.

Christian Sinderman, a political consultant who advises some of the Democratic officials now committed to approving a 1 percent tax cap, ran the 2001 campaign that tried to defeat Initiative 747. He said in the heat of the campaign that the tax cap would hurt services provided by local governments:

"We're not saying the ambulance isn't going to show up. We're saying it might take longer, and that could cost lives."

The criticism continued after it became law and was challenged in court. When a Superior Court judge ruled against the initiative, one attorney involved in the case was quoted as saying:

"I-747 was actively harming the parks, schools, libraries, streets, and other public investments required to manage growth successfully."

Gregoire now describes the tax cap in much the same way that Eyman did: It provides certainty to taxpayers. The debate in Olympia now covers the political spectrum from Democrats saying a special session is needed to pass the cap, to Republicans saying it's about time.

But around the state there are people and groups that have not yet come around on I-747. There are those who funded a nearly $900,000 campaign to stop the initiative on the ballot. And when that failed, other groups got involved for a successful legal challenge.

Today they watch with a growing sense of frustration and, in some corners, cynicism as Democrats once again become the vehicle for putting an Eyman idea into law. Chris Dugovich, president of the Washington State Council of County and City Employees, the top funders of the 747 opposition campaign, told me yesterday shortly before the special session became official:

"To go back to 1 percent, that's just a knee-jerk reaction. I just hope it's not more about the elections next fall than good government."

Dugovich's union donated more than $200,000 to the campaign. Other Democratic supporters were big givers, too. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, gave $50,000. The state labor council gave $30,000. Boeing and the Washington Education Association each put in $25,000. Microsoft's Bill Gates gave $20,000. Paul Allen's Vulcan, Inc. gave $10,000.

Dugovich is resigned to the fact that the Legislature will impose a tax cap. He said "there's got to be some kind of thoughtful process, though" because 1 percent is still too restrictive. He said he'd like to see a limit indexed to inflation.

He also reminded me that in 2001 Eyman bragged that the 1 percent limit was revenge for a legal challenge to the 2 percent limit voters had previously approved.

The political campaign to stop I-747 fell far short. The measure passed with nearly 58 percent of the vote. It's that overwhelming result that lawmakers are reacting to today. Voters in 37 of 39 counties approved the tax limit. Only King and Whitman voted no.

The Whitman County Commission decided the county would sue to overturn the initiative. Whitman became the lead plaintiff in the suit along with the Seattle-based Welfare Rights Organizing Coalition and Futurewise, an environmental group.

From the Whitman County seat of Colfax, County Commissioner Greg Partch said yesterday that, like Dugovich, he's hoping for something more nuanced than a 1 percent, across-the-board, cap for every taxing district in the state.

"It would be a real shame if they just sat down an codified it. They have an opportunity here to take a look at our property tax system. I don't think a one-size-fits-all works for taxes, One percent in Whitman County is $37,000. How far can you go on $37,000?

"They need to put things in perspective and that's what we're hoping the Legislature will do."

But Partch, a Republican serving as chairman of the commission this year, doesn't sound optimistic.

"The people in the Legislature are running scared. Who in their right mind will take up a tough subject like property tax reform? It's going to take some people with a lot of guts and to stand up and do it. And we'll find out who those people are."

The other plaintiffs have been disappointed in the governor's and Democratic lawmakers' new-found enthusiasm for I-747. Erin Welch, interim executive director at the Welfare Rights Organizing Coalition, said:

"It's surprising that Democrats and the governor now are saying, 'Yes, we need to keep taxes low.' One percent, which is below the rate of inflation, for a state that has a pretty regressive tax system, is harmful to the community."

It seems unlikely that the anti-747 forces will have much influence in the special session. I wonder, though, what happens next year when Eyman will push yet another initiative. Are we to believe the horror stories opponents will tell about what will happen? And what to think when legislators -- who next week month will likely approve a 1 percent limit -- next complain about the difficulties of governing by initiative?

There are those on the left who have long tried to say that Eyman is washed up. But the truth is he continues to be a powerful force in Washington. The Supreme Court can't stop him. And now one of the largest Democratic majorities to ever run the Legislature has signed on to his team.

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November 19, 2007 1:10 PM

Romney talks trade, immigration during visit

Posted by David Postman

Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney came to Seattle this morning and brought up something we haven't heard much about in this campaign: Trade. He said his strong support for free trade distinguishes him from Democratic candidates for president, but also said he would push beyond what President Bush has been able to accomplish in lowering barriers for U.S. commerce. And if the WTO stymies the United States, Romney said he would negotiate separately with countries for what he envisions as a "Reagan Zone of Economic Freedom."

Romney met the press this morning at a private air terminal at Sea-Tac. He began with a statement about trade He pointed out that some Congressional Democrats has been reluctant to expand free trade.

"In my view this is a time when America should be opening markets for our goods -- making sure the agreements constitute a level playing field -- but don't' close down America. Don't put up walls around America. People here in Washington respect and understand that a lot of our jobs are associated with selling goods and services around the world. And I'll make sure that continues to be the case."

That was the sort of rhetoric that many presidential candidates used to talk about when visiting Washington. But as Sen. Patty Murray said this summer, it's getting harder for even the most parochial supporters of trade to be as enthusiastic as they once were.

Romney has been talking about trade this month on the campaign trail. He also touched on the issue early this year in a February speech to the Detroit Economic Club

Romney said this morning he supports every pending trade agreement. He says the president should be given fast-track authority to negotiate more agreements. He said that agreements should be strengthened to include better protection for U.S. intellectual property rights and to stop currency manipulation by China.

It's a push for stronger environmental and labor standards, though, that has made trade a hard sell in the Democratic Congress. Romney said there's no question both issues have to be considered, particularly to try to stop child labor and other practices "that are antithetical to our values." But he sounded reluctant to let less stark differences on the environment or labor hobble a trade agreement.

"Those are part of the mix that you obviously consider in an agreement. But one of the key things in agreements with foreign nations is whether the trade will be advantageous for us or not. And trade generally is."

Also on trade, Romney said he supports federal money for job retraining. But he said he didn't want that money going to government. He said it'd be better to give it to employees looking to further their training or to employers who could pay tuition costs for workers.

There were also several questions about immigration, which Romney has been emphasizing in recent days. He was asked about Rudy Giuliani's defense how as mayor he ran New York City as a sanctuary for illegal immigrants. Romney said:

"A sanctuary city policy draws more illegal immigrants into the country. It's wrong."

He said he considers drivers licenses or tuition aide for illegal immigrants to stem from the same sort of perspective.

"This sanctuary state of mind is not necessary to preserve the law."

He said that as president he would work to cut federal funds to cities that don't enforce immigration laws, as he argues New York did under Giuliani, and would cut federal highway dollars to states that give driver licenses to illegal immigrants and cut education money for any state that gives them tuition assistance.

Romney spent about 30 minutes answering press questions. He left for Microsoft where he will meet with employees and then on to an evening fundraiser at the home of wireless entrepreneur Wayne Perry.

ALSO: If you want to watch a video of Romney's media availability, the Times' Hilary Buckley was there with a camera and posted here.

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November 19, 2007 9:23 AM

Correction: Rossi money wasn't raised so fast

Posted by David Postman

In the PI this morning Neil Modie takes an interesting second look at Dino Rossi's early fundraising.

Without specifically saying so, Rossi left the impression last week that he raised money more quickly following his announcement than he actually had.

His campaign reported last week that he brought in "over $463,300 during the month of October. He announced his candidacy for governor on October 25th."

That prompted erroneous news reports that he had raised the entire sum within a week after the announcement.

Count me among those who got it wrong. I wrote the day the Rossi campaign announced its numbers:

GOP gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi says he raised more than $463,300 in the last six days of October, and $110,000 in the first two days of this month.

I asked that day to see the actual reports, which would have steered me away from the erroneous impression that the money all came in over those six days, but the campaign said they weren't available.

It's still an impressive fundraising start. And the Rossi campaign didn't say anything inaccurate in its press release. But it was easily misunderstood, and the campaign made no effort to try to clarify the widespread misimpression that exaggerated the actual fundraising performance.

The PI political blog reported the day of the Rossi press release.

In the week between his announcement and the end of October, the Republican raised more than $463,000 for his race against Democratic Gov. Chris Gregoire, his campaign reported Thursday.

And the AP, in a story published throughout the state wrote:

Republican Dino Rossi said he collected more than $570,000 during the first nine days of his 2008 campaign for governor.

...

The total included more than $463,300 raised in the last week of October, following Rossi's Oct. 25 campaign kickoff.

This is the second time this fall where my coverage of advance publicity of fundraising didn't match reality. In the first case, Dave Reichert's campaign told me incorrect numbers. In this case, I assumed something I shouldn't have. I don't know yet if I'll stop reporting all such PR efforts, but I'll certainly be more careful and skeptical.

UPDATE: The AP's Curt Woodward is reporting that Rossi spokeswoman Jill Strait has apologized "if you feel like you were misled. I agree that we could have clarified that the first check came in on the 12th.''

AP reports:

After apologizing, Strait claimed that ``there was never a secret'' that Rossi decided to run for governor on Oct. 11, the day before he collected his first donations.

That statement is untrue: when asked about an impending Rossi campaign shortly before the official Oct. 25 announcement, Strait refused to offer any details of Rossi's plans, saying only that he would be talking about his political future.

Strait, however, maintained Monday the campaign's Nov. 8 fundraising statement was technically accurate.

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November 19, 2007 7:51 AM

Romney visits today

Posted by David Postman

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney will be in the state today for three events. He meets with the press in Sea-Tac before making his way to Microsoft for the latest in a series of candidate meetings with employees there. Tonight he will be in Medina for a fundraiser at the home of wireless entrepreneur Wayne Perry and his wife, Christine. It's a top dollar event where donors will pay $2,300 for a photograph with Romney or $1,000 for the general reception.

Washington has been good for Romney's campaign bank account. He has raised more money here -- $537,690 -- than any other Republican candidate, and more than every Democrat except Barack Obama, according to OpenSecrets.org.

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November 16, 2007 3:58 PM

Burner's review of Demo presidential candidates

Posted by David Postman

Democrat Darcy Burner was in audience last night for the Democratic presidential debate in Las Vegas. She posted her thoughts at DailyKos but — spoiler alert — here's the good stuff:

* Joe Biden is brilliant in making his responses just a bit flip and very funny. I wish he'd figure out that his plan to end the war in Iraq could be a way to capture voters if he just explained it to them.

* Bill Richardson is skillfully running against DC — which he should be, given what the American public thinks of DC right now. I wish he would find a way to speak clearly and simply without making it ambiguous whether his stances are bold or naive.

* Dennis Kucinich is embracing his positions rather than dancing around them. That's brave.

* Hillary Clinton is the only candidate really listening to the other candidates when they speak — even nodding when she agrees. I wish she would make a bold, clear, shocking statement of principle so that it was easier to make that emotional leap to her.

* Barack Obama is using audience feedback to adjust his tone as he goes after the other candidates; he's being much bolder about testing limits in the debate than the others. I wish he would spend more time being as inspiring as he's capable of being, and less time attacking; we could use more inspiration.

* Chris Dodd really seems to be having fun.

* John Edwards is as angry as many of the voters I talk to in my district about what's going on, and I have little doubt he'd go to the mat for them. I wish he could find a way to make more of his optimism about the American people show through the anger, though.

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November 16, 2007 2:33 PM

Romney here Monday

Posted by David Postman

I don't have details yet, but Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney will be in the Seattle area Monday. Has anyone gotten an invitation for a fundraiser yet? I understand there will be some press availability, unlike during his last visit.

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November 16, 2007 9:41 AM

Republicans wait to see who emerges as nominee

Posted by David Postman

I went to the King County Republican fall dinner last night to hear Mike Huckabee speak. There was also a media availability with the former Arkansas governor. The story I wrote along with Sherry Grindeland didn't make the homepage this morning, but you can read it here.

I learned this: Many Republicans remain undecided about the race for their party's presidential nominee. And they're not just undecided, but decidedly lackadaisical about the GOP race. It's not that they don't like their choices. But in talking to Republicans and looking for tell-tale signs of buttons and stickers among the crowd, it's clear that few have made up their minds. And most of the Republicans I talked to last night said they'd be enthusiastic about whichever candidate emerged as the nominee — as long as he could beat Hillary Clinton.

Some of this laissez faire approach may come from a creeping pessimism among Republicans about 2008. Huckabee addressed that in his speech:

I'll tell you, Republicans have had a pretty tough couple of years. And one of the reasons is because a lot of folks went to Washington and they forgot what they were told to do. We didn't control spending. We didn't fix the borders. We didn't come up with alternatives for domestically produced energy that helps us be free. We didn't really change the tax system. We didn't fight corruption. We didn't show a level of really functional government that managed crises and did the kind of things that people really expect us to do.

And as a result, last fall Republicans took a thrashing. And unfortunately there are some Republicans who think, 'Oh, our brand has been irreparably damaged and we're going to have a tough time in '08.' Well, believe that if you will. I am convinced that if we remember who we are, get back to our principles and articulate them to the American people, then for the same reasons we once had a majority of the governorships and the House and the Senate and the White House and the state legislatures, we'll have it again. Because this country does look for leadership that is clear, that has vision for the future.

Huckabee is a nice guy and delivered one of the most positive speeches I've heard from a presidential candidate. There was virtually no criticism of any individual, and more self-critique of Republican failings than attacks on Democrats. (And I didn't catch one reference to the "Democrat Party," so Huckabee may not have gotten the GOP talking points.)

The tone of the speech could explain the muted response to Huckabee. It was polite of course. Huckabee may have entertained the crowd and inspired some, but no one was jumping to their feet and you couldn't say he revved up the base.

Maybe it's just the professionals who are revved up. In the lobby of the Westin last night, two local conservative talk show hosts had an impromptu debate about the candidacies of Huckabee and Fred Thompson.

KVI's Kirby Wilbur is a self-described "Fred Head" and has backed Thompson since before the former Tennessee senator entered the race. KTTH's Dave Boze backs Huckabee.

Wilbur called Huckabee a "pro-life Democrat." Boze thinks Thompson's running a lazy campaign. Wilbur would even back Rudy Giuliani over Huckabee, saying at least he knows where Giuliani stands on the issues. Not Boze, who scoffed at Giuliani's conservative credentials.

Wilbur: Here's the fundamental truth: This country will never elect an ordained minister. I don't think they will. I think that's against Huckabee, he's an ordained minister.

Boze: He can brag about getting 48 percent of the African American vote in Arkansas.

Wilbur: And he can brag about coming from Hope, Arkansas. What happened last time we elected a president from Hope, Arkansas?

Nearby was Joe Fuiten, pastor of Bothell's Cedar Park Church, who endorsed Huckabee Thursday. He obviously disagreed with Wilbur's claim that a minister is unelectable in America. Fuiten said:

"Because you were once a pastor means you turn off the rest of your brain?"

Huckabee's Republican critics say he's too liberal and that as governor he pushed to expand government programs and raised taxes. Huckabee argued that he also cut taxes. But his supporters don't shy away from the tax increases. In introducing Huckabee at the King County dinner last night, Sarah Rinlaub pointed out that the governor raised taxes to pay for road construction. (Not an applause line.)

And Fuiten, too, said tax increases for transportation or even to expand children's health programs are not at all disqualifiers for someone backed by evangelical Christians.

"You can't just say you oppose homosexual rights and oppose abortion and then not care about children. You can't be a Christian or just a good person part of the time."

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November 15, 2007 8:11 AM

Rossi says pharmacists shouldn't have to sell Plan B

Posted by David Postman

Republican gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi thinks pharmacists should be able to decide whether or not they want to sell the Plan B emergency contraception pill. There's been some question about where Rossi stands on the issue, particularly since last week when a federal judge suspended state rules that required pharmacist to dispense the morning-after pill.

Rossi spokeswoman Jill Strait told me by e-mail:

Rossi supports the decision by Judge Leighton and believes that pharmacists should not be forced to do something that is against their conscience or religious beliefs.

In 2006, the state Pharmacy Board was prepared to adopt regulations, supported by the Washington State Pharmacy Association, that protected the right of conscience. Unfortunately, Gregoire refused to let the board do its job and interfered. She threatened the board to see things her way and they ultimately complied with her heavy-handed tactics.

The federal judge put the brakes on Gregoire's strong-armed approach and protected the constitutional rights of pharmacy professionals following their consciences.

I had wanted to talk to Rossi himself about this. It's an issue that Gregoire has had a high profile on. But Strait said:

This is not a topic he has been campaigning on and will not be doing an interview on it at this time.

(I hope that as the campaign goes on we don't only get to talk to Rossi directly about those things that he chooses to campaign on. The governor doesn't always give straight answers, but at her regular media availabilities at least we get to ask.)

By coincidence, four minutes before I got Strait's e-mail, Gregoire's office put out a statement from her about the judge's decision. She reaffirmed her position.

"This is about private medical decisions between patients and their physicians and pharmacies filling doctor prescribed medications.

"While this court decision weakens protections for victims of sexual assault, and interferes with a women's right to choose, it also allows any patient to be denied their medication for no apparent reason.

"Third parties should not come between doctors and patients in medical decisions. This is about the right of personal privacy and medical access."

Sidebar: Bothell Pastor Joe Fuiten says Gregoire is persecuting Christians. He said in a column at his Frankly Fuiten site

Christians in Washington State should not overlook the Governor as a persecutor of moral and religious conscience.

...

The Governor has been behind a move to deprive pharmacies and pharmacists of their religious rights.

Fuiten has been deeply involved in the legal challenge against the pharmacy board rules. He told he me has worked closely with the Olympia store owner who challenged the pharmacy board rule. The store owner's attorney is a deacon at Fuiten's Cedar Park Church, and the attorney's husband and father both work for Fuiten.

Fuiten is a Rossi supporter and says he hopes to help him as much as he can in his campaign against Gregoire. But he told me that he has had not connection with Rossi or his campaign on the Plan B issue.

AN EVENING UPDATE: I just ran into Fuiten at the King County Republican Party fall dinner. He says he hasn't been involved in the legal side of the Plan B challenge, but in helping to organize support for the Stormans, the family that owns the Olympia grocery store that has been the focus on a boycott. Fuiten said that he has worked to build support for the store from Olympia-area churches to counter the boycott.

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November 14, 2007 3:32 PM

Pastor Fuiten to endorse Huckabee for president

Posted by David Postman

Bothell Pastor Joe Fuiten tomorrow will endorse former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee during a Bellevue appearance by the Republican presidential candidate. National Christian conservative leaders have made news in recent days with presidential endorsements. Pat Robertson announced he's backing Rudy Giuliani and the National Right to Life Committee backed former Sen. Fred Thompson.

Fuiten said in a statement released by Huckabee's campaign:

"Mike Huckabee is a person of judgment and character who can be relied upon to make strong decisions as President. ... He represents my values."

Fuiten was state chairman for Social Conservatives for Bush-Cheney in 2004 and an increasingly prominent voice in conservative politics. He is pastor of Cedar Park Church in Bothell.

Huckabee arrives in the area as polls show him surging among Republican candidates for president. Huckabee will be doing several events tomorrow, including a media availability before he speaks to King County Republicans at their annual fall dinner.

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November 13, 2007 8:23 AM

Not everyone happy to see Dems back tax limit

Posted by David Postman

Gov. Christine Gregoire was quick to call for a 1 percent cap on property tax increases after the Supreme Court threw out the voter-approved limits in I-747. And while that went against what Gregoire had earlier thought was a workable limit, many of her supporters were quick to back the governor's move as a political necessity that would do little harm — see comments here and here.

But not all Democrats are so forgiving. Daniel Kirkdorffer writes at On the Road to 2008 that "a 1% cap on any tax increase is an illogical, and unrealistic limitation."

He says the governor was pushed into supporting the limit by her Republican opponent, Dino Rossi and I-747 sponsor Tim Eyman.

I-747 proponents will tell you "the will of the people" is at stake here. Oh really? November 2001 turnout was only 45.51%, meaning only 25.11% of eligible voters actually voted for it. That's hardly a huge representation of "the will of the people", and it was 6 years ago. Since then our purchasing power has declined significantly as the dollar has tanked against world currencies and commodities have become far more expensive.

We live in a different world.

In a rare slap at a ruling Democrat, Andrew Villeneuve at the Northwest Progressive Institute Official Blog suggests Gregoire is a sell-out.

Reimposing Eyman-style draconian limits is the wrong answer, and Democrats who are talking about doing just that are selling out on their values and failing to lead. It's time to look at ideas like a homestead exemption or a circuit breaker. It's time for Olympia to fix this problem and not surrender to Tim Eyman and his allies, including Dino Rossi. And it's definitely time for the progressive movement in Washington to go on the offense and fight for real fiscal responsibility.

At Washblog, Noemie Maxwell says reinstating the Eyman-authored tax cap would be a boon to the rich.

A 1% cap on property tax is, in fact, a tax cut — as this is below the rate of inflation. It has regressive impact in a state with already seriously regressive tax structure, giving more advantage to wealthier people (the percentage-based savings on a $2 million house is a bit more than what I save on my house, for example). It has serious negative impact on rural areas especially. And it starves the funding for public services and infrastructure.

There's still some question about how enthusiastic Senate Democrats are about the plan. But it's a good bet that the 2008 Legislature will approve a 1 percent cap on property tax increases. In fact, as Peter Callaghan makes clear in his column this morning, recent history tells us the odds are even better than a good bet.

Gregoire's decision shouldn't come as a surprise. It is an election year, after all. And the cap did pass easily. And the voters just passed another Eyman initiative that makes it more difficult to raise taxes. And most governments are doing okay financially, so there is no immediate fiscal crisis.

All that — plus the aforementioned tendency of politicians to join popular parades rather than stand in front of them — makes the 1 percent cap a near certainty.

Conventional wisdom would tell you that there's little political downside to Gregoire backing the conservative's tax limit. After all, the likes of Kirkdorffer, Villeneuve and Maxwell aren't going to vote for Rossi next November. But one of the lessons of Gregoire's thin victory in 2004 is that sometimes voters just don't vote. That year many Democrats voted for John Kerry and Patty Murray, but skipped the governor's race. The balancing act for Gregoire is to know how much she can afford to ignore the left-leaning side of her base.

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November 12, 2007 1:50 PM

For Veteran's Day: The story of the Marlboro Marine

Posted by David Postman

I just finished reading an amazing L.A. Times story by the news photographer who made the so-called Marlboro Marine famous, and then found his life linked to the soldier in ways he never could have imagined. If you have the time, read part one and part two. It's worth it.


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November 12, 2007 11:53 AM

None of state's "strong women" yet back Clinton

Posted by David Postman

In the Times this morning there's a story about how the state's top three Democrats, Gov. Christine Gregoire and Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, have not endorsed Hillary Clinton for president. That didn't bother Clinton when she was in town recently and said she loves being in the state because we're not afraid of "strong women."
The argument that women politicians need to stick together has not convinced any of the state's top three politicians to back Clinton, though none have endorsed anyone else, either.

Gregoire reiterated her position that she doesn't want to endorse in the Democratic primary while fellow Gov. Bill Richardson is in the race.

"I don't think many Democratic governors have endorsed anyone," Gregoire said, adding that once Richardson either drops out or wins the nomination, more governors will announce their preferences.

So far nine of 27 Democratic governors in the country have endorsed either Clinton or Illinois Sen. Barack Obama. Clinton has won backing from Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe, Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine and New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer duh, not Richardson. Obama is backed by Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine.

As to what happens when Richardson "either drops out or wins the nomination," Gregoire has already made it clear that she thinks Clinton will win the nomination.

David Broder went to the National Governor's Association in July when only a handful of governors had endorsed in the presidential race. He pointed out that the governors' reluctance was far different from their rush in 2000 to back Al Gore and George W. Bush.

He found a variety of excuses.

John Lynch, a New Hampshire Democrat, says he is concerned about protecting the primacy of his state's primary, so he wants to assure everyone a fair shake by staying uncommitted. Bill Ritter, the freshman Democrat in Colorado, says that because he will play host to the Democratic National Convention he does not want to offend. But Ritter rejects the notion that Richardson has some claim to Colorado's support because he comes from a neighboring Mountain West state or because he is a Hispanic with ties to that important Colorado constituency.

...

In reality, the governors' neutrality speaks to the failure of anyone in either party to put a clear stamp on this election.

...

Some see the governors' coyness as a way of positioning themselves for possible vice presidential nomination, while others suggest that neutrality is a polite way of saying no to peers or former peers who are running — Richardson, Romney, Huckabee and former Wisconsin governor Tommy Thompson.

Isn't it nice to know politeness isn't dead in politics today?

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November 12, 2007 9:54 AM

Is Obama running just because he's black?

Posted by David Postman

That's what famous California liberal, and former radical, Tom Hayden says. Ordinarily something Hayden says may not seem very important in a presidential campaign. He's the former California state senator who was once married to Jane Fonda. But his name was mentioned by Barack Obama and he responded in a piece at Huffington Post.

Hayden was ticked off by this quotation from Obama in a recent New York Times Magazine profile:

The Democrats have been stuck in the arguments of Vietnam, which means that either you're a Scoop Jackson Democrat or you're a Tom Hayden Democrat and you're suspicious of any military action. And that's just not my framework.

Hayden took it personally.

Barack, I thought Hillary Clinton was known as the Great Triangulator, but you are learning well. The problem with setting up false polarities to position yourself in the "center," however, is that it's unproductive both politically and intellectually.

What jumped out at me most in Hayden's post was his argument that Obama is running based mostly on his race.

Your problem, if I may say so out loud, and with all respect, is that the deepest rationale for your running for president is the one that you dare not mention very much, which is that you are an African-American with the possibility of becoming president. The quiet implication of your centrism is that all races can live beyond the present divisions, in the higher reality above the dualities.

First off, what would happen if it was a conservative Republican, not a liberal Democrat, who said Obama's deepest rationale for running was his race? I can tell you what would happen, there'd be outrage followed by calls for the now-de rigueur apology. But more substantively, is race the reason for Obama's centrism? What then is Clinton's? She after all runs most as a centrist. Is it her gender that underlines her call for Americans to live in the "higher reality above the dualities?" If you read Hayden's full post you see he doesn't like to be thought of as a point on anyone's triangle. He doesn't want to be an extreme.

But he has a point about Obama running against triangulation at the same time he uses it to position himself within the Democratic party. Just yesterday in Iowa, Obama railed against campaigns like Clinton's where candidates "don't answer directly tough questions. You don't present tough choices directly to the American people for fear that your answers might not be popular. You might make yourself a target for Republicans in the general election.

"Triangulating and poll-driven positions because we're worried about what Mitt or Rudy might say about us just won't do it."

I wonder what Scoop Jackson Democrats think of being another point on Obama's war triangle? Thoughts?

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November 9, 2007 4:19 PM

Gregoire backs Eyman's property tax cap

Posted by David Postman

The day after the election I wrote about Democrats' argument that Tuesday's conservative-leaning results were due to low turnout and should not be read as any voter discontent. I wondered:

Will Democratic candidates in 2008 be confident enough of that to ignore the rumblings of voter discontent? After I-695, remember, Democratic lawmakers who opposed the measure quickly put much of it in law after it was thrown out by the courts.

I just got back from Seattle and found a statement from Gov. Chris Gregoire about yesterday's Supreme Court decision throwing out Initiative 747.

"I plan to push for legislation that establishes a one percent cap on annual property tax increases. I am already in discussions with legislative leaders on the best next steps to make sure we can implement this correctly.

"I am urging local leaders and taxing districts to not increase their tax levies, based on the court decision, to give the legislature time to act.


"The voters approved Initiative 747, it has been in place for five years and I think we need to leave it in place."

Some history: Last year Gregoire was much less certain about how low the property tax cap should be set.

She declined to state a position on the correct percentage, but indicated that perhaps neither the old number nor the 1 percent cap is the best solution.

The 6 percent, she said, clearly begins to tax people out of their homes and the 1 percent limit appears to cause cutbacks on core local services that people need.


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November 9, 2007 8:30 AM

Party with the FCC tonight

Posted by David Postman

The FCC will hold a hearing in Seattle tonight on media ownership. The commission has scheduled seven hours for taking testimony from the public and hearing from panels of experts. The hearing will be at Town Hall, beginning at 4 p.m. I heard commissioner Jonathan Adelstein on the Dave Ross show Thursday and he said they'd stay until everyone had their say. At Crosscut, Chuck Taylor says, "Could be the best party in town."

Also at Crosscut, O. Casey Corr writes about FCC Chairman Kevin Martin. Adelstein, a Democrat, talked a lot about Martin, a Republican, on the Ross show. He said that Martin forbids him from talking to FCC staff about media ownership issues. He said FCC reports that back stronger rules for media concentration are essentially covered up the commission.

You can see the agenda here. The FCC will stream audio of the meeting at its Web site.

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November 8, 2007 4:00 PM

Power of the pro tem

Posted by David Postman

One could argue that if Tim Eyman hadn't gone looking for experienced legal counsel to draft his 2001 property tax measure it could have survived Supreme Court review. Instead, Initiative 747 was thrown out on a 5-4 vote this morning.

There are a couple of names you may not recognize signed to the majority opinion. Stephen Brown and Teresa Kulik signed as justice pro tems, meaning substitute judges. The two are judges on the Court of Appeals Division III in Spokane. Brown was filling in for Justice Mary Fairhurst and Kulik for Justice James Johnson. And both pro tems voted with the majority, giving the edge to Bobbe Bridge's argument that voters were deceived by the initiative.

Johnson, then a veteran appellate attorney, drafted I-747 for Eyman. Eyman's earlier tax measure, I-722, was already being challenged in court and he wanted to find someone who could craft an initiative that would withstand scrutiny from the state's high court.

Johnson gave up his practice after he was elected to the Supreme Court in 2004. As Eyman's former attorney, Johnson recused himself from hearing the I-747 case. If Eyman hadn't hired Johnson, the justice would have participated in the case decided today. I have little question he would have ruled with his fellow conservative, Richard Sanders, and signed the dissent. That would have made five votes to uphold I-747. I'm not yet sure why Fairhurst was recused from the case. But my bet is she would have voted as her pro tem did and joined the majority.

Pro tems are selected from among retired and active court of appeals judges. According to court rules, names are drawn at random and the judges are asked if they can serve, with the most senior judges getting preference for the assignments.

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November 8, 2007 3:43 PM

Rossi says he already has $500,000 for campaign

Posted by David Postman

GOP gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi says he raised more than $463,300 in the last six days of October, and $110,000 in the first two days of this month. Rossi announced his candidacy Oct. 25 and the campaign just put out a press release announcing the figures, though official reports have not yet been filed with the Public Disclosure Commission. They are due Saturday.

The Rossi campaign said that the $463,300 is three and a half times more than he had raised by the end of October 2003 in the early days of his first run for governor. Campaign spokeswoman Jill Strait said the campaign has already spent about $42,000 so far. But that is not a final number for last month and could change by the time reports are filed Saturday.

Gov. Christine Gregoire has raised about $3.25 million so far in her (officially unannounced) re-election campaign. October fundraising reports filed so far show Gregoire raised $321,000 last month. While at least some fundraising reports have been filed, reports showing the monthly total and the amount of spending have not. Last month the Gregoire campaign was showing about $2 million cash on hand.

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November 8, 2007 10:58 AM

The governor's race a year out

Posted by David Postman

The UW's Washington Poll says Democratic Gov. Christine Gregoire and Republican Dino Rossi start out in a very close race. The race starts within the margin of error.

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November 8, 2007 8:28 AM

Supreme Court throws out Eyman property tax limit

Posted by David Postman

The state Supreme Court this morning ruled that the voter-approved property tax limit in Initiative 747 is unconstitutional. The court ruled 5-4 to throw out the Tim Eyman-sponsored state and local property tax limit. The majority said:

I-747's challengers argue that the initiative failed to accurately set forth the law that it sought to amend in violation of article II, section 37 because the text of the initiative claimed to reduce the general property tax levy limit from two percent to one percent, but in reality it reduced the limit from six percent to one percent. We agree.

The initiative was passed overwhelmingly in 2001. It limited increases state and local property tax collections to 1 percent a year, unless voters approved a higher increase.

King County Superior Court Judge Mary Roberts ruled it unconstitutional in 2006, saying voters were deceived, or at least confused. In 2000, voters approved another Eyman initiative, I-722, which capped increases at 2 percent. Roberts said that voters believed they were changing the limit only from 2 percent increases a year to 1 percent.

But by the time I-747 was on the ballot, the Supreme Court had thrown out I-722 as unconstitutional. As Ralph Thomas wrote in May when the Supreme Court heard arguments on the I-747 case:

Roberts said voters were not aware that they were actually considering a much more dramatic limit.

The coalition that sued to overturn I-747, including Whitman County and groups that advocate for the poor, argued in a brief to the Supreme Court that voters had been "hoodwinked into passing I-747."

"Every citizen has the right to accurate information on the day they vote," attorney Knoll Lowney told the court Tuesday. "Voters are not second-class lawmakers."

The state constitution requires that initiatives which amend existing laws include the full text of what's being amended. Because I-747 was drafted while I-722 was still in effect, it included the language of the 2 percent limit. But by election day 2001, I-722 had been tossed out by the court and that law had reverted to the pre-2000 version.

The majority opinion, written by Justice Bobbe Bridge, says

Here, at the time of the popular vote, the text of I-747 did not accurately set forth the law that the initiative sought to amend. Voters' Pamphlet at 15. The text of I-747 led voters to believe that I-747 would generally reduce the property tax increase limit from two percent to one percent. Id. In fact, the initiative generally reduced the property tax increase limit from six percent to one percent.

Bridge said that's true even though voters could have gotten the full story from reading the voter's pamphlet.

While complete review of the attorney general's explanatory statement in the Voters' Pamphlet might have explained the relationship between pre-I-722 law and the changes proposed by I-747, article II, section 37 does not simply require that notice of an amendatory initiative's impact on existing law be somehow available to voters. "[T]he act revised or the section amended" must be "set forth at full length." Wash. Const. art. II, § 37. Nothing in the plain language of article II, section 37 or in our case law interpreting it suggests that information in the Voters' Pamphlet can cure the type of textual violation of article II, section 37 that occurred here, where the initiative's inaccuracy strikes at the substance of the amendment's impact. ...

...

At best, review of the entire Voters' Pamphlet reveals ambiguity as to the effect that I-747 would have on existing law. ... We, therefore, conclude that the Voters' Pamphlet does not cure the defect in the text of I-747.

The ruling came in a 5-4 decision. The majority was signed by Barbara Madsen, Susan Owens, and two pro-tem judges, Stephen Brown and Teresa Kulik. Justices Jim Johnson and Mary Fairhurst did not participate.

The dissent was written by Justice Charles Johnson and signed by Chief Justice Gerry Alexander and justices Richard Sanders and Tom Chambers. Johnson says the majority doesn't give voters enough credit.

No reasonable argument can be sustained that voters were in any way misled or confused by the effect of I-747, which expressly and was specifically aimed at lowering the tax growth to one percent. The majority seems to suggest that the voters are unable to think or read for themselves, when in fact our democratic process is based on the assumption that voters do in fact read and understand the impact of their votes.

Johnson wrote that there are cases where the constitutional provisions have not been met because a law was "confusing, vague, or not contained in the initiative itself." But he says that wasn't the case with I-747.

The title of I-747 is crystal clear, and the body specifies what laws are being amended and the effect of the amendment. If a voter were to simply read the text of the initiative, the voter would have understood that I-747 reduced the property tax levy limit to one percent.

This is not misleading.

Eyman, who had a victory at the polls Tuesday with a measure designed to limit state tax increases, had predicted this morning that the court would rule in his favor. But, he said in an e-mail statment, if he was wrong and I-747 was tossed out

then local governments will go on a reckless rampage and radically jack up property taxes. It'll be like pigs at the trough.


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November 8, 2007 8:06 AM

Bill Sherman concedes

Posted by David Postman

Democrat Bill Sherman called County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg yesterday, conceded the race and congratulated the Republican. Sherman issued a statement this morning that included this:

"Dan ran a smart and effective campaign, and his message of carrying on the legacy of Norm Maleng clearly resonated with voters. I have said all along that he is a decent man, and I still believe that to be the case. I wish him well as the newly elected King County prosecutor, and I am sure he will continue to do a good job filling the shoes of the beloved and respected Maleng, whose tragic passing affected all of us deeply.

"Despite the final outcome, I am proud of the race we have run. Through the campaign I strived to be honest and forthcoming about who I am, what I believe and what I had to offer the people of King County. In the end it was up to the voters to decide, and they chose to go in a different direction. I respect that decision."

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November 8, 2007 7:47 AM

McCain looks for boost from Boeing scandal

Posted by David Postman

Boeing's tanker scandal is featured in a new TV ad from Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign. McCain led the fight to stop Boeing from getting a $23 million Air Force contract after questions were raised about conflict of interests between the aircraft company and a Pentagon official.

McCain's efforts sparked an investigation which resulted in jail sentences for Boeing's chief financial officer and a top procurement official with the Air Force. The campaign calls the ad "Guts." You can watch it here.

ANNCR: When special interests and bureaucrats conspired to spend 30 billion of your tax dollars on a defense contract boondoggle, everyone looked the other way.

Everyone except one man.

One man has the experience to know it was wrong and the courage to stop it.
Corruption exposed.

Billions saved.

Wrongdoers jailed.

All the candidates for president say they'll stop wasteful spending.

One man has actually done it.

JOHN MCCAIN: I'll stop wasteful spending by Congress. Restore trust in government.

JOHN MCCAIN: I'm John McCain and I approve this message.


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November 7, 2007 2:07 PM

The day after

Posted by David Postman

There's no doubt that Tuesday's electorate was in a conservative mood. Voters rejected the roads and transit tax hike, made it harder for lawmakers to raise taxes in the future, kept the super-majority standard for school levies and approved a constitutionally-protected budget reserve account.

Tax increases were rejected across the state. In Thurston County, state government's company town, voters turned down a social services/criminal justice tax increase. In Clark County, a fire levy was close, but appears to be failing. A Dupont park district measure was beat easily, so was a Kennewick hospital levy. Yakima County voters could not have sent a clearer message about taxes. About 81 percent of them voted against an advisory ballot measure asking whether the county should consider raising car tabs to pay for road projects.

Election night I talked with Democratic campaign consultant Christian Sinderman. He cautioned against making too much of the results because it was looking like a low turnout, and in off-year elections that often means a more conservative bent to the electorate. Others say the same, and I know that it is generally true.

I'm not sure that theory fully explains the success of the anti-tax, anti-spending, vote last night. But for the sake of argument, let's say it does. Will Democratic candidates in 2008 be confident enough of that to ignore the rumblings of voter discontent? After I-695, remember, Democratic lawmakers who opposed the measure quickly put much of it in law after it was thrown out by the courts.

We're told the economy is humming in Washington. Unemployment rates are close to an all-time low. The state is projecting its largest budget surplus for next year. Voters, though, may be ahead of the economic indicators. Tim Eyman told me this morning:

"Everyone's feeling real queasy about the economy. You throw in the stuff about the mortgage crisis and voters aren't feeling comfortable. Gas prices are going up. ... There clearly was a wave and we happened to be there to catch it."

Is that wave the start of a political sea change? That'd be Republicans' best hope of regaining any meaningful presence in state politics. House Minority Leader Richard DeBolt issued a statement saying:

Last night's election results are a repudiation of a culture failure that permeates government at many levels. A state under one-party rule has resulted in the same people, touting the same old ideas with the same results.

I think DeBolt's describing this in cultural terms is interesting. Gov. Christine Gregoire has worked to create a culture where government, and government spending, is something to be proud of. She worked hard this year to shape a message that spending is an investment in the economy and creates jobs. Gregoire said in January that the big increases she wanted — and got — in the state budget were signs of "exciting times."

"I think the fact that we're headed to that size of the budget is simply an indication that we put people to work and the economy is booming."

Voters said they aren't feeling the excitement. Government spending doesn't seem to be a confidence booster, even though it is helping to drive the economy.

How will Gregoire react to the election results? She's traveling today and as of now unavailable for comment. She's on her way to D.C. to pick up an award for her management of state government. Will she stick with that strategy? (It's award-winning, after all.)

Or will she say she got a different message from voters? One of the early indicators will be her response to the passage of I-960. Will the governor say the voters have spoken and that she and the Legislature need to change how they do business? Or will she look at it as an unconstitutional incursion? Will she back a legal challenge to the initiative?

Is this all good news for Dino Rossi's gubernatorial campaign? It certainly doesn't hurt. Only someone in deep denial can say there was not some consistent theme to yesterday's vote. And that theme plays well into Rossi's constant criticism of state spending.

But I was reminded this morning of something former state Republican Chairman Chris Vance once said. He was asked why Washingtonians approve conservative initiatives espoused by Republicans but vote Democrats into office. And they have done that over and over again:


"They like our ideas, they just don't like us."

It will take more than a tax-queasy electorate to unseat an incumbent. Rossi has to do what no Republican gubernatorial candidate has done in recent times: Tie that discontent to the Democratic incumbent.

Republicans, of course, think Rossi is a candidate that voters can like as much as they dislike taxes. They're confident he can capitalize on what looks the day after at least as a vote of not-so-much-confidence in government. State Republican Party spokesman Josh Kahn said:

"Any signs of discontent are very, very good for Dino's prospects."

Those are my initial thoughts on the election. What do you think? What would you advise the governor to say in response to the results? I didn't get into transportation issues here. But what should the next step be there?

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November 6, 2007 11:37 PM

More from Seattle's newest city council member

Posted by David Postman

Will Mari has this late-night report from Tim Burgess' victory party:

Soon after new results were posted at 11 p.m., Burgess made a preliminary victory speech. After hearing what Della had said, Burgess called his supporters to attention.

"Sixty-one percent ain't bad. I look forward to being your city council member for the next four years."

He acknowledged that his final vote tally may dip slightly from where it was late tonight. But he was being treated as the clear winner. Council members Tom Rasmussen, Peter Steinbrueck, Jean Godden, Jan Drago and Sally Clark stopped by to pass along congratulations, along with former Seattle mayor Charles Royer.

"He was saying for days that he was going to lose," said Burgess' daughter Kim, who works for the United Way of New York.

But that doesn't appear to be the case.

"Drinks are on Tim!" yelled a man from the crowd.

"I'm not sure about that," Burgess said.

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November 6, 2007 11:28 PM

Incumbent in trouble on Valley Medical Center board

Posted by David Postman

I had originally written that two incumbents on the board of Public Hospital District No. 1, Valley Medical Center, were trailing. The incumbents had been tagged by opponents with not providing oversight as hospital administrators misspent public money on a hospital election campaign.

But returns show challenger Anthony Hemstad trailing incumbent Chair Carole Anderson while challenger Sue Bowman leads incumbent Gary Kohlwes.

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November 6, 2007 10:52 PM

Dem chair Pelz says "partisanship matters"

Posted by David Postman

I talked with Democratic Party Chairman Dwight Pelz about 30 minutes ago at the Westin. He was reading the early results as bad news for Bill Sherman's run for county prosecutor.

"We weren't given much of a chance when Norm Maleng died and we took a hard run at it."

Sherman, who has not conceded, may have been hurt by a general conservative bent to the low-turnout day. I asked Pelz, though, if he had any second thoughts about the strong emphasis Sherman and his Democratic supporters put on the partisan nature of the prosecutor's race.

"The 46 percent demonstrates that partisanship matters."

And Pelz said that many Democrats are unhappy with Democrats who backed Republican Dan Satterberg instead of Sherman.

"There was a lot of attention paid to a few rogue Democrats who deserted the party."

Two names immediately came to my mind, Sen. Adam Kline, D-Seattle, and Jenny Durkan, the prominent Democratic attorney. But Pelz said party members he's heard from are upset about "elected Democrats." There's no interest, though, in trying to get the party to reprimand Kline or any other official.

"We think the party label means something. We want Democrats to respect the term 'Democrat.'"
And what about the governor, who ticked off at least one liberal commentator by staying neutral in the race?
"Governors don't take a position on county races."

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November 6, 2007 10:18 PM

A celebratory mood for Burgess, Della concedes

Posted by Richard Wagoner

This report comes from UW student election-night stringer Will Mari:

The mood is celebratory at Bricco della Anna Regina, a posh Italian restaurant on Queen Anne Hill. The candle-lit interior of the restaurant resounds with congratulatory small talk, helped along by copious amounts of red wine and finger-foods.

Initial results from King County show Tim Burgess ahead of Seattle City Council incumbent David Della with 61 percent of the vote. He's busy fielding TV interviews and high-fiving supporters.

Still, Burgess says the night isn't over.

"If the 10:30 batch is strong, we're good," he says, referring to the next round of results. "Anything can happen."

But he's optimistic and appears a little taken aback by his apparently strong lead, a sentiment echoed by his wife, Joleen.

"We're ecstatic," she says. "We didn't expect anything like this."

Katie Burgess, a junior majoring in business communication and marketing at the University of Portland, is on hand to cheer on her dad. And she's not as shy as her parents about declaring victory.

"He was hoping for, like, 55 percent," she says. "I was so nervous. I heard earlier today that it might be really close."

Meanwhile, Della is already talking about what's next for him. Our UW helper Cailin Magruder reports that Della told his suppporters at the China Gate restaurant:

"Public service to me is about making a difference in people's lives and you can do that outside of public office."

And in an interview, Della told Magruder:

"I think we worked hard and had a solid plan. I'm proud of my accomplishments on the city council. The voters spoke and I'll accept it."


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November 6, 2007 8:45 PM

Eyman's "Jim Dunn moment"

Posted by David Postman

That's what Eyman called it, though it doesn't strike me as quite so bad. Eyman is in the back room at Mick Kelly's. A woman walked up and was standing at the perimeter of his crowd. Eyman thought it was the waitress and announced her arrival to his chums and asked them to order up.

"I'm not the waitress," I heard her say. She soon left. Eyman told me the woman told him she was a writer for The Stranger.

Nicely played, Tim.

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November 6, 2007 8:36 PM

None of the above

Posted by David Postman

King County Councilwoman Jane Hague got a good first count on the absentee ballots. But it'll be interesting to watch the write-in votes in her race against newly minted Democrat Richard Pope. With the early count, there were more write-ins than in the races with unopposed candidates or, shall we say, lightly opposed as in Dow Constantine's race against Republican John Potter.

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November 6, 2007 8:05 PM

In Burien with Dan Satterberg and Tim Eyman

Posted by David Postman

As I drove up to Mick Kelly's in downtown Burien the bright lights were on out front and the TV trucks had their antennas up. Never mind that it was 15 minutes before the polls closed, Tim Eyman was out front declaring victory for his latest initiative, I-960.

The rest of us will have to wait to see if voters approve his latest tax-fighting measure. Eyman has got his act down so pat he says it doesn't really matter whether it wins or loses on the ballot.

"Thanks to the campaign for I-960, the people forced the government and its representatives to explain themselves," he said, reading a prepared statement to the small knot of reporters. And he explained, as I've heard him say before, that initiatives can have "a political message and a legal message." The legal message actually requires the initiative to pass. But the political one, he says -- and there is some evidence of this -- can live even without approval by the voters.

There's no better example of that than Eyman's first success, I-695. The courts threw it out and Democrats who had opposed it on the ballot were quick to adopt the key pieces of the measure through legislation, signed by a Democratic governor.

Eyman said he will have another initiative next year, though he wouldn't say what that will be. He was surrounded by a group of supporters, including Michael Dunmire, his financial patron.

The big crowd at the Irish pub is sporting a lot of "Satterberg" stickers. This really is his party. The first results just came in and -- though only a handful of votes have been counted in the first tally of absentees -- Satterberg was glad to see they went his way, 54/45.

Satterberg's band, the Approximations, will play later. Satterberg plays bass.

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November 6, 2007 5:06 PM

Davy Crockett played dirty

Posted by David Postman

The New York Times has a great interview with Joseph Cummins, author of Anything for a Vote: Dirty Tricks, Cheap Shots, and October Surprises.

Q: Has campaigning gotten any more civilized over time? How have mudslinging and other forms of negative campaigning evolved throughout U.S. history?

A: I think the mudslinging definitely is still a big part of our election process, but it's less broad and vulgar. For instance, there is less aimed at other people's physical attributes. The 19th century was very big on that. In the election of 1800, one of the dirtiest in American history, the venomous hack writer James Callendar (secretly hired by Thomas Jefferson) assailed then-President John Adams as a "repulsive pedant" and "a hideous hermaphroditical character," whatever that means. Later in the 19th century, Martin Van Buren was accused of wearing women's corsets (by Davy Crockett, no less) and James Buchanan (who had a congenital condition that caused his head to tilt to the left) was accused of have unsuccessfully tried to hang himself. Oh, and Abraham Lincoln reportedly had stinky feet.

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November 6, 2007 2:04 PM

A good reason to make endorsements

Posted by David Postman

because when you get ticked off you can un-endorse. And Seattlest found something wrong with every candidate.

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November 6, 2007 9:43 AM

Happy Election Day

Posted by David Postman

I voted at the comfort of my dining table and once again did not miss that bit of old school democracy known as the polling place. I'll be away from the blog for most of the day and will return about when the polls close, or -- as they say on KIRO radio -- whenever news breaks.

Tonight I will be assisted by a group of my UW students. They will be hitting the campaign parties and trolling for good quotes. So if you see them, help them out, point them to the important people and say something pithy.

A note to those who may end the day as a losing candidate or campaign manager: All is not lost. Hold on to those campaign signs, they could be a future collectible.

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November 5, 2007 5:26 PM

Republican in trouble for "inappropriate" conduct

Posted by David Postman

A Republican state legislator will be removed from his committee assignments and be prohibited from spending travel money or collecting per diem after "inappropriate" conduct following a recent legislative meeting.

Rep. Jim Dunn, R-Vancouver, was sent a letter this afternoon from Republican Leader Richard DeBolt. It says, in part:

"As we have discussed, your recent conduct in the presence of House members and staff following a meeting of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Education was inappropriate."

There are no details in the letter about the conduct in question. I have been trying to reach Dunn since this morning.

The letter also says that the House Clerk, after consulting with DeBolt, will not reimburse any travel or per diem expenses except for the Legislature's pre-session meetings in Olympia and during the 2008 session itself.

DeBolt has also asked House Speaker Frank Chopp to remove Dunn from his Appropriations Committee seat, as well as every other standing or select committee he serves on.

Dunn represents Clark County and the 17th District. It's a swing district. His House seatmate is a Democrat, Deb Wallace.

Word of Dunn's reprimand and punishment comes the week after Rep. Richard Curtis, R-La Center, also in Clark County, resigned from the House after his Spokane sex scandal erupted.

MORE: I just spoke with Dunn. He says a small incident is being blown out of proportion. But another lawmaker who witnessed the incident says Republican leadership did the right thing in coming down hard on Dunn for "highly inappropriate" comments to a female staffer.

Dunn said that the incident occurred about three weeks ago in Tri-Cities. After the subcommittee meeting, a group of legislators and staffers were having drinks. He says he did make an inappropriate comment to "a young lady." He was buying her a drink and said something like, in his words, "I'm buying you this so I can take you home, something like that."

"I made it and I knew it as a bad remark," he said. There were 20 to 30 other people around, he said. "If I meant it, I wouldn't have said it in a crowd."

Dunn said he met with DeBolt and other Republican leaders Friday. DeBolt, he said, asked him to resign. He said someone in the meeting threatened that if he didn't resign his wife would find out about his behavior. Dunn says he had already told his wife what happened and she fully supports him staying in and fighting.

"I told him, 'Richard, you know I'm not going to resign.' It was an inadvertent bad remark. I apologized for it to the young lady. It was uncalled for."

But Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos, D-Seattle, was at the table that night and says Dunn is telling a sanitized version of events. She said Dunn joined a table of legislators and staffers and insisted on buying everyone a drink.

When the female staffer asked why he was buying her a drink, Dunn made his comment. Santos would not repeat it for me, but said it was "far more explicit" than Dunn's version and "highly inappropriate."

"I was sitting with a Republican member and I know that Republican member was absolutely mortified."

She said that Republican leadership did the right thing in reprimanding him and that DeBolt sent a strong message to other legislators about inappropriate behavior.

Dunn, who says he's from the "extreme right-wing faction of the party," said he opposed DeBolt becoming Republican leader, backing Rep. Bruce Chandler, instead, and he may now be a victim of that. Dunn also said there was an earlier incident involving a claim of sexual harassment against him, but says he was cleared in that case.

That case, according to Dunn, began when he forwarded an e-mail from one legislator friend to another. The e-mail included a naked picture of the first legislator's new wife. He says all his e-mails were automatically copied to his legislative assistant, a woman, who received the e-mail with the naked photo and complained to House leaders that she felt it was aimed at her.

Dunn said there was an inquiry, but that nothing came of the charge.

He says he will not be pushed out of the Legislature. He is flabbergasted that it is fellow Republicans punishing him and not the opposition Democrats.

"I don't understand why they're putting this out. Let Frank (Chopp) put it out."

Dunn thinks his fellow Southwest Washington Republican, Richard Curtis, should not have quit the Legislature last week.

"They should not have pushed Curtis out. ... I would advise him to drop out because it's not my kind of lifestyle. But we have people like that in the Legislature who are doing a good job for their constituents and as far as I knew Richard was doing a good job for his constituents. ... He was forced out by the party without any kind of conversation with the constituents who lived in the 18th District."

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November 5, 2007 2:44 PM

New West Seattle legislator sworn in

Posted by David Postman

West Seattle Blog has the story.

UPDATE: A good point in the comments:

Actually, isn't she a Maury Island legislator?

Posted by hmm at 08:46 PM, Nov 05, 2007

I wonder if that's a first.

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November 5, 2007 10:28 AM

MySpace and Facebook now officially uncool

Posted by David Postman

Olympia ... Secretary of State Sam Reed launched today an agency MySpace page and Washington State Elections Facebook group. Both are part of an unparalleled effort using social media to engage all of Washington's citizens.

Here's the MySpace page, with this sad notation:

Sam has 0 friends.

These are not our Sam Reed on Facebook. (NOTE: That link doesn't show it apparently, but there are other Sam Reeds on Facebook already.)

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November 5, 2007 9:36 AM

Election pop quiz

Posted by David Postman

I'm a little late in getting this up, but here's the 2007 PoP General Election Quiz. The winner will receive some excellent Seattle Times swag.

E-mail me your guesses by midnight tonight. Please be sure to put in the subject line: "Election quiz."

Include in your e-mail your guesses on which side will win in the following races:

R-67

I-960

HJR 4204

SJR 8206

Prop. 1, Roads and Transit

David Della v. Tim Burgess

Bruce Harrell v. Venus Velázquez

Jane Hague v. Richard Pope

Dan Satterberg v. Bill Sherman

Darlene Flynn v. Sherry Carr

Sally Soriano v. Peter Maier

Steve Sundquist v. Maria Ramirez

Also, what will the vote split — expressed as a percent of the vote — be in these races:

Godden v. Szwaja
Della v. Burgess
Satterberg v. Sherman

Good luck to all. Winner will be announced after the election is certified.

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November 3, 2007 3:39 PM

GOP in with big, last-minute help for Satterberg

Posted by David Postman

The state Republican Party has made a huge, last-minute donation to help acting prosecutor Dan Satterberg keep the office in GOP hands. The county prosecutor has been a Republican for six decades and today Satterberg, as acting prosecutor, is the last Republican to hold a county-wide position in King County.

The party gave Satterberg $81,015 Friday. In total, the state party has given the campaign $126,621 in direct cash support.

Satterberg's Democratic opponent, Bill Sherman, has been worrying about such a last-minute contribution since large donations were made to the party by people connected to Satterberg. In part, Sherman's campaign has pointed to the party donations as evidence that Satterberg is not as non-partisan as he claims. (Satterberg has said he would work to make the office officially non-partisan if elected to a full term Tuesday.)

Recent donations to the state party included $10,000 from Nelson Lee, a deputy county prosecutor. His wife, a cousin and the cousin's business also gave money directly to Satterberg's campaign.

In addition, last month John Hennessy, president and CEO of the construction company Nuprecon, gave the state party $5,000. In 1994 the county prosecutor's office dropped charges against Nuprecon and another construction company for alleged violations of the Clean Air Act. The companies had originally been charged after asbestos may have been blown through the ventilation s ystem at Valley Medical Center. The Puget Sound Air Pollution Control Agency had said employees of the companies knew they were breaking the law.

But Satterberg was quoted at the time as saying there was not clear evidence that the workers knew that there was asbestos in the building. The Times reported:

Nuprecon's President John Hennessy was elated. He has claimed his innocence all along and blamed the agency and an assistant prosecutor for "zealotry."

Late last month, Satterberg returned $770 in contributions from Republican activist Lori Sotelo. Satterberg's office had reviewed possible charges against Sotelo in relation to a voting registration challenge she filed, but decided against it. Satterberg said he did not want it ever to look like someone who was not charged later rewarded him with a contribution.

Satterberg told me today he had no concerns about the state party donations.

Satterberg said he didn't know if the $5,000 contribution from Hennessy was fueled by the asbestos case. Satterberg said he talked with Hennessy who told him he's angry that Sherman brings the case up as an example of the prosecutor's office being soft on environmental crime.

"He was livid about that and it was case that should never have been filed."

Satterberg said today there was only the slimmest of evidence of wrongdoing in the asbestos case, based on a whistleblower and no samples of the dust that was allegedly swept into the hospital's ventilation system.

Satterberg said that Hennessy called Sherman after complaining to state Democratic Chairman Dwight Pelz, a friend. Sherman spokesman Sandeep Kaushik confirmed the same details, and said Hennessy did call and talk with Sherman.

He said he was upset after he heard Bill talk about the case and wanted him to stop. He also said he was grateful to Dan and Norm for dismissing the case, that it was a bad case and that there was more to it than had appeared in the papers. Bill told him that he was not going to stop talking about the case, but if Hennessy had more information that would put the situation in a different light, Bill would be happy to take a look at it. Hennessy never followed up or sent him anything.

I'm trying to reach Hennessy.

The Nuprecon case was initially filed by deputy prosecutor Lynn Prunhuber. She has since left the office and has donated $1,400 to Sherman's campaign.

The Sherman campaign sent me a statement saying they "believe this was a well planned scheme to earmark money for the Satterberg campaign in violation of campaign finance limits." Sherman says Satterberg, with the help of the Republican Party, "duped the press and public" by claiming to be non-partisan while counting on GOP money in the final days of the campaign. The statement says:

In his 22 years in the prosecutor's office he never once raised the possibility of making the office a non-partisan one, trumpeting this issue only in the campaign's final weeks. For much of that time we believe he has been fully aware that huge cash infusions from the party would be made in the last days of the campaign to throw the election in his favor, and has made spending decisions accordingly.

Donors cannot earmark party donations for a specific candidate. And state Republican Party Chairman Luke Esser said there was no strings attached to any donations.

"I actually am not sure why John Hennessy sent the money. I haven't spoken to him for many months. ... Earmarking is not allowed and we would certainly not allow any contribution that would have any earmark attached to it or pledge, promise or the idea that it would be earmarked."

Hennessy is a regular donor to GOP candidates.

Esser said that the party raised $400,000 in October and Hennessy's donation was only a small portion of that, though he was quick to add how much he appreciated it and hoped for more.

Satterberg said his acceptance of the party money will have no effect on his efforts to make the office non-partisan.

"It is ironic that I'm getting help from the Republican Party even though they are well aware of my desire to make the office non-partisan. I do expect they would rather have me running a non-partisan office than Mr. Sherman running a partisan office."

And he said, the state party may be putting in extra effort "out of respect for Norm" and to keep the prosecutor's office as a Republican bastion.

UPDATE: I talked to Hennessy this evening. He said he didn't try to direct the money in any way. He said if he wanted to influence the prosecutor's race he and his wife could have maxed out to Satterberg.

And he clearly remains angry about the asbestos case.

"This is an example of a prosecutor just out of control. It was just a bizarre case."

Hennessy said he spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on attorney fees because he refused for two years to settle the case.

He said he never followed up with Sherman because after talking to the candidate and reviewing the case he felt so angry he had to put it all aside. He said Sherman would not listen to him, even though Hennessy said it was clear Sherman did not know details of the case.

If he was trying to defeat Sherman, he said, "I'd put a lot more money than that in."

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November 2, 2007 1:05 PM

Bloomberg to mayors: Put progress above politics

Posted by David Postman

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg will soon address a lunch meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors' climate summit.

You can see more of what he plans to say in this earlier post. But how would his pollution tax work?

Bloomberg's plan is an alternative to the better-known cap-and-trade system to control pollution. Cap-and-trade sets limits on emissions that get tighter over time. Companies either have to stay below the limit or can essentially "buy credits" from others that would allow higher emissions. That system was created during the administration of George H.W. Bush, but today it is more popular among Democrats, including Rep. Jay Inslee. He said earlier this year:

The economic benefit of an American cap-and-trade system on greenhouse gas emissions will be to spur investment in new clean-energy technologies that could be exported to China and the entire globe. We can create high-wage jobs here by supplying green technologies to the world.

But Bloomberg in the advance text of his speech said that caps and trades are an indirect approach. He'd rather just charge a fee for pollution.

Cap-and-trade is an easier political sell because the costs are hidden — but they're still there. And the payoff is more uncertain.

...

There are also logistical issues with cap-and-trade. The market for trading carbon credits will be much more complex and difficult to police than the market for the sulfur dioxide credits that eliminated acid rain. And there are political issues — because the system is subject to manipulation by elected officials who want to hand out exemptions to special interests. A cap-and-trade system will only work if all the credits are distributed from the start — and all industries are covered. But this begs the question: If all industries are going to be affected, and the worst polluters are going to pay more, why not simplify matters for companies by charging a direct pollution fee? It's like making one right turn instead of three left turns. You end up going in the same direction, but without going around in a circle first.

A direct charge would eliminate the uncertainty that companies would face in a cap-and-trade system. It would be easier to implement and enforce, it would prevent special interests from opening up loopholes and it would create an opportunity to cut taxes.

Bloomberg also will talk about linking the new pollution tax with a reduction in the federal employment tax. He didn't specifically include that in his proposal, but said it is a promising idea.

After all: Employment is good, pollution is bad. Why shouldn't we lower the cost of the good and raise the cost of the bad? Studies show that a pollution fee of $15 for every ton of greenhouse gas would allow us to return about $500 a year to the average taxpayer. And a charge on pollution would be less regressive than the payroll tax, because the more energy you consume, the more you would pay.

There is already reaction to Bloomberg's speech. Sightline, the former Northwest Environment Watch, has posted an interesting critique by senior researcher Eric de Place. He has what he admits is a wonky take on Bloomberg's criticism of cap-and-trade.

As far as I can tell, Bloomberg completely ignored the right way to do cap & trade, which starts with auctioning the credits, not giving them away for free.

This is what he says has been ignored by Bloomberg:

AUCTIONED CAP & TRADE — This is the best system, but Bloomberg's remarks seemed to ignore this possibility entirely. In this system, instead of passing out credits for free, the government would hold regularly scheduled auctions. The big advantages are: 1) The cap puts a firm limit on pollution and drives emissions down over time; 2) It raises revenue that can be used to invest in ghg reductions, or cushion consumer impacts, or both; 3) It activates the power of the market to seek out the cheapest and most efficient reductions first, and to prioritize; and 4) It tips the playing field away from big historic polluters and toward leaner and cleaner competitors. One of the potential drawbacks of this system is that it has emissions certainty, but price uncertainty. (It's the inverse problem of the carbon tax.) So there is some risk of price volatility. There are, however, a number of good ways to reduce volatility (such as banking, borrowing, trading system linkages, and so on). These tend to be treated as technical details of the auction system, but they're actually pretty fascinating.

But there's also excitement about someone of Bloomberg's stature speaking out about a way to control emissions. de Place calls the speech a bombshell and says someone else at Sightline will soon be writing about "Bloomberg's awesome framing" of the issue. (That post is now up here.)

MORE: Bloomberg is now delivering his speech. He said that mayors and some governors have taken action on global warming. But he says the federal government, Congress and the administration hasn't done anything meaningful. He laughed at pollution control measures that set goals far out in the future, like one bill that set new standards that have to be reached by 2050.

"Do you know how many people in Congress will be in office, much less alive, in 2050? If I ever saw ducking, that is the ultimate. ...

"There is no substitute for federal leadership. Leadership is not waiting for others to act, or bowing to special interests, or making policy by polling or political calculus. Leadership is about facing facts, making hard decisions and having the independence and courage to do the right thing, even when it's not easy or popular. ... We've all heard people say, "It's a great idea, but for the politics.

...

"We've got to put progress over politics."

MORE: Is Bloomberg running for president? He knows the question will be asked. He said that on Halloween trick-or-treaters urged him to run for higher office.

"I should mention I was wearing a Steven Colbert mask at the time."

Jokes aside, Bloomberg sounds like an insurgent candidate running against the Washington establishment. He criticized subsidies for corn-based ethanol, which he said may be good agricultural policy, "but you can't argue that it's good for consumers or the environment." And at the same time, the government charges a tariff on sugar-based ethanol.

"Everyone knows that politically-driven policies are costing taxpayers billion while providing only marginal carbon reductions. ...

"We should demand of those running for office an explanation of explicitly what they will do."


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November 2, 2007 12:16 PM

Meanwhile, at Seattle city hall

Posted by David Postman

11:26 a.m. - Clay Bennett announces he's filing to move the Sonics to Oklahoma City.

11:58 a.m. - City Council sends out news release declaring Nov. 5 J.P. Patches Day.

The honor recognizes the work of Julius Pierpont "JP" Patches', Mayor of the City Dump, and his alter ego Chris Wedes for the memorable lessons he taught generations of children growing up in Seattle.


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November 2, 2007 12:06 PM

Bloomberg on climate change

Posted by David Postman

Here are some excerpts from the prepared text of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's Seattle speech:

How do we do it? I think we need a strategy that embraces four basic principles, and I'd like to briefly outline them today. First, we need to increase investment in energy R & D. Right now, we're spending just one-third of what we were in the 1970s. If we really want to be able to manufacture competitively priced biofuel and solar power, if we really want to sequester the carbon dioxide released from coal, we have to be willing to make the commitments that will drive private capital to these projects — and right now, we're just not doing that.

Second, we have to stop setting tariffs and subsidies based on pork barrel politics. For instance, Congress is currently subsidizing corn-based ethanol at 50 cents a gallon — and you can argue that's good agricultural policy, but you can't argue that it's good for consumers or the environment. Because it isn't. Consumers pay more for food, and producing corn-based ethanol results in much more carbon dioxide than producing sugar-based ethanol. But are we subsidizing sugar-based ethanol? No! We're putting a 50-cent tariff on it. Ending that tariff makes all the sense in the world, but for the politics. Everyone knows that politically driven policies are costing taxpayers billions while providing only marginal carbon reductions — but we need leaders who will do something about it!

Third, we have to get serious about energy efficiency — and the best place to start is with our cars and trucks. In 1975, Congress passed a law requiring fuel efficiency standards to double over 10 years, from 12 miles a gallon to 24, with incremental targets that auto manufacturers were required to meet. But since 1985, Washington has been paralyzed by special interests. If the same incremental gains had been adopted for the last two decades, think of where we would be now! We'd all be saving money at the pump, we'd be producing less air pollution and greenhouse gas, Detroit would be in a stronger competitive position and the "Big Three" may not have lost so many more jobs. (Just yesterday, Chrysler announced another 12,000 job cuts.)

Those job losses hurt hard-working Americans, and we have to ask ourselves: Do we want even more middle-class factory workers to be handed pink slips and left to look for service jobs at half the wages? Because that's the direction we're heading in if we continue to fall further and further behind other countries in producing fuel-efficient vehicles. The current Senate energy bill would raise Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards from 27.5 to 35 miles per hour by 2020. That's nowhere near the leap we made from 1975 to 1985, and many foreign cars are already getting 35 miles to the gallon. Even so, U.S. automakers are trying to water down the Senate bill — and if Congress caves, you can bet the loudest cheers will be heard in Japan. Raising fuel efficiency standards is the best thing we could do for U.S. automakers — and it would've been done years ago, but for the politics.

Fourth and finally, we have to stop ignoring the laws of economics. As long as greenhouse gas pollution is free, it will be abundant. If we want to reduce it, there has to be a cost for producing it. The voluntary targets suggested by President Bush would be like voluntary speed limits — doomed to fail. If we're serious about putting the brakes on global warming, the question is not whether we should put a value on greenhouse gas pollution, but how we should do it. This is where the debate is moving, and I'd like to briefly touch on the pros and cons of the two approaches that are most often discussed: creating a cap-and-trade system, and a putting a price on carbon.

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November 2, 2007 11:46 AM

On the waterfront

Posted by David Postman

http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/11/02/bloomberg-calls-for-tax-on-carbon-emissions/index.html?hpI'm at the swanky Waterfront Seafood Grill on Pier 70. In the bar, in fact. But it's not a drinking lunch. I'm covering a noon speech by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg as part of the 2007 Mayor's Climate Protection Summit. I knew I was at the right place because outside were a half-dozen government SUVs. Apparently it takes a lot of horsepower to fix global warming.

Bloomberg is expected to make a specific proposal during his speech, according to AP. He will call for national "pollution pricing" that would raise taxes for companies based on how much greenhouse gas they release into the atmosphere.

Bloomberg also was set to announce that he will travel to the Indonesian island of Bali next month to be a guest participant at the United Nations climate conference, where nations will start discussing a replacement for the Kyoto Treaty. It aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions and expires in 2012.

According to a copy of his prepared remarks for the Seattle gathering, Bloomberg's pollution tax plan envisions a fee of $15 for every ton of greenhouse gas. It would be "revenue-neutral," meaning that the proposal by the Democrat-turned-Republican-turned-independent includes a tax cut that would return $500 a year to the average taxpayer.

Bloomberg is still being talked about as a possible independent presidential candidate. He'll meet with reporters afterwards and I'm sure that question will be asked.

The New York Times has the full text of Boomberg's speech at the bottom of this story.

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November 2, 2007 9:27 AM

Party money flows in prosecutor's race

Posted by David Postman

After more than a week of worrying about Republican Party money being pumped into Dan Satterberg's campaign, Democrat Bill Sherman is getting help from state Democrats.

The Democratic Central Committee reported that it donated $30,000 to Sherman Tuesday. Sherman spokesman Sandeep Kaushik said the campaign has not received the check yet, but is expecting it today.

Kaushik said this morning that the Sherman campaign has been "raising alarm bells" with state Democratic Party officials about the GOP money Satterberg was collecting.

Satterberg continues to get more of that. The state Republican Party gave him $38,274 Thursday, according to reports his campaign filed with the PDC. Satterberg — who says he thinks his office should be non-partisan — has gotten more than $45,000 from the state party and $17,500 from the King County Republican Party. The party has also paid for mailings for Satterberg.

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November 2, 2007 8:48 AM

West Seattle's likely new state rep

Posted by David Postman

The 34th District Democrats have chosen Sharon Nelson as their first choice to replace Rep. Joe McDermott, who has moved up to the Senate. The district met last night and Nelson won the top spot over Toni Lysen and Greg Doss, whose names will be forwarded to the King County Council as second and third choices for the appointment.

Nelson won the vote easily, according to Josh Feit's account. Nelson is an aide to County Councilman Dow Constantine. A Maury Island resident, she has been active in the ongoing effort to stop expansion of gravel mining on the island. She worked with former Sen. Erik Poulsen last session to try to get the Legislature to stop the expansion. She says in a statement on the 34th Dems Web site:

She saw, during the session, that our super majority of Democrats were not always progressive on the Maury Island issue and other issues.

On a side note, I was looking at Nelson's candidate questionnaire. The candidates were asked:

4. Have you ever supported or given money to a candidate from another party in a partisan race? If so, to whom and why?

Nelson's answer:

Yes, I gave $100 to Jane Hague after Richard Pope filed for the County Council position. Pope is not a Democrat.

I wonder how many other Democrats have done the same? Are you Democrats out there planning on voting for Hague over Pope?

(Thanks to the 34 District Democrats for making it easy to follow the news of the appointments and updating their Web site with lots of good info on the candidate.)

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November 1, 2007 3:52 PM

Gregoire honor makes her the cover gov

Posted by David Postman

Gov. Chris Gregoire has been named one of nine Public Officials of the Year named by Governing Magazine. Gregoire gets cover treatment from the magazine, which says that a year in office "even Republicans were conceding that Gregoire had brought state government a transparency it had never known before." No doubt there were Republicans singing her praises at times, but many GOP lawmakers may be surprised to see the accolades for the transparent governor.

I was a little surprised to read that she was "allowing reporters and citizens into regular meetings where department heads frankly discuss the details of agency performance and how to improve it." I didn't know what I was missing at those Government Measurement, Accountability and Performance meetings. Seriously, I'll have to check one of those out.

If the short profile jammed with high praise wasn't enough to have the Tums coming out at the Rossi campaign today, the quotes from House Republican Leader Richard DeBolt.may do the trick.

"We're not always ideologically aligned," says DeBolt. "But I think she's a good manager and that she's doing a good job of running the state."

Has that been pasted into a campaign flyer yet?

MORE: Here's some more people who might be surprised by all the talk about the Gregoire Administration's openess.

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November 1, 2007 8:55 AM

Insurance industry sets campaign spending record

Posted by David Postman

I posted a report Wednesday from city hall reporter Bob Young about record-breaking fundraising by city council candidate Tim Burgess. There are other records falling, too.

The insurance industry money behind the opposition campaign to referendum 67 now totals at least $10.7 million. The previous record for a campaign opposing a ballot measure was the $6.6 million raised mostly from tribes to oppose 2004's I-892 which would have expanded non-tribal gambling.

In county council races, Keith Ervin reports this morning that Republican Jane Hague's $450,000 campaign is a record, too. But as the case with Burgess, Hague hit the high mark with a lot of her own money. She has donated more than $100,000 to her campaign.

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Recent entries

Nov 30, 07 - 08:33 AM
Nothing to see here

Nov 29, 07 - 08:48 PM
Gregoire says session had nothing to do with Eyman

Nov 29, 07 - 04:00 PM
In the Senate UPDATED: Tax cap bill passes 39-9

Nov 29, 07 - 03:25 PM
PDC staff recommends dismissal of Rossi complaint

Nov 29, 07 - 02:29 PM
Chopp touts progressive record

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