Stories by Peter
Everyone knows that if Gov. Jay Inslee really wanted the state Legislature to finish its work quickly — especially passing a two-year budget that boosts funding for public education — he should have brought them back into special session immediately.
Here's something to contemplate during the Legislature's version of spring break: the difficult job of finding $1 billion-plus in additional state money for public schools might be the easy part of meeting the state Supreme Court's mandate in the McCleary decision.
A white tent marked something of a milestone for the long process of expanding the reach of Sound Transit's Link light-rail line in Tacoma. Inside the tent next to the Tacoma Dome station earlier this month, the latest of a series of open houses was hosted by the regional transit agency to let folks comment on plans to grow the line that has been running for 10 years.
In his first three months in office, Gov. Jay Inslee hasn't been especially active in the legislative process. Compared to his predecessor, Chris Gregoire, who was perhaps a bit hyperactive, Inslee has been more hands off. Other than his recent assertive condemnation of a Senate budget proposal, his engagement has been limited.
When he was the director of the Washington State Association of Counties, Gary Lowe was one of my go-to guys for perspective on how things worked in the state Legislature … and why. Lowe was just cynical enough to be realistic about the failings of the process and just idealistic enough to keep trying.
It's No. 51 on the "Jacobsen and Metcalf Laws of Parliamentary Democracy."
Elected officials, especially one as prominent as a governor, tend to accumulate enemies. Booth Gardner, who died Friday night, is the exception to the rule. When he left office after two terms as Washington's 19th governor, his approval-to-disapproval ratio was two-to-one -- robust enough that he probably could have won a third term if he wanted. He didn't, which is also rare for a politician (and explains a bit about why he remained popular).
Former Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire may still get asked to serve in President Obama's administration. But if the call doesn't come, she has no one to blame but herself.
The biggest surprise about last week's state Supreme Court ruling on the two-thirds tax-hike initiative is how surprised so many people were -- or pretended to be -- about the outcome. The only real mystery about the ruling was whether the court would finally find a way to endorse what most lawyers and legal scholars already knew -- that the state constitution reserves to itself the number of legislative votes needed to raise taxes.
How do you know when a politician is getting ready to restrict public access to government records? When they say how much they support public access to public records. That was the pattern during a recent hearing in Olympia on a bill to give local governments the right to drag their constituents into court to keep them from getting otherwise public records.
Should every Washington public school be assigned a letter grade, similar to grades students are given by teachers? After newly empowered state Senate Republicans recently included that concept among a trio of reform bills, Democrats and the school establishment protested. One dubbed it an example of "blaming and shaming" — blaming the problems in public education on teachers and school personnel, shaming by forcing them to wear the scarlet letter "F." The other bills would require third-graders who are not reading at grade level by the end of the school year to be held back, and would order the state schools superintendent to take over public schools that fail year after year.
Sorry, Robert Pattison. History is fine and all, but it didn't pay the bills for Philadelphia's subway system. So the transit agency accepted AT&T's offer to rename Pattison station, which serves the city's big sports stadiums.
The turnaround is nearly complete. The party that birthed the education reform movement in Washington state is now the anti-reform party.
It would be easy to make the latest chapter in the Pam Roach story all about her. Certainly, that's what the star of the bizarre but repetitive saga would like, as proved yet again by her hour-plus news "conference" recently. Her rambling recitation of history according to Pam was meant to show that she is victim, not villain. Anyone who finds her behavior offensive, troubling and even legally actionable is part of a vast conspiracy against her, she says.
The possibilities are limited only by the depth of our imaginations and our capacity for cynicism. Two state legislators propose selling naming rights and sponsorships for government buildings and other facilities. The point is to raise money for infrastructure other than from taxes or tolls.
Like any other secret organization, the Washington Legislature has its own code words, designed so outsiders don't know what's going on and will have to assume insiders have everything under control. Call it OlySpeak. Here is your decoder for the 2013 session.
What if the 2013 Legislature and the state's new governor do nothing of substance to correct the state's decades-long failure to fully fund education and meet the requirements of the state constitution? That is no longer an academic question as the Legislature seems headed for its traditional standoff between liberals and conservatives.
Nearly one year after the Washington Supreme Court ruled that the state stands in violation of its constitutional duty to fully fund education, two things are becoming clear.
You know the narrative:
New Washington state Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom kept saying that it wasn't about politics, it was about policy. In a nation where the next election usually starts the day after the last election, it is hard to separate the two. But Tom, one of two Democrats joining with 23 Republicans to form what their nice new letterhead calls the "Majority Coalition Caucus," insisted that the point wasn't power but a new way of governing.
When they were drafting the Washington state constitution in 1889, delegates argued passionately about an issue at the heart of the would-be state's economy. Should the state ban gifts of public funds to private companies? At the time, it was the railroads that sought public subsidies and often played one town against another. Since having rail connections to the rest of the country meant life or death, communities were willing to give subsidies.
Somewhere between declaring victory and being sworn in comes the realization that while the campaign was hard, governing is harder.
It shouldn't seem unusual that Washington State University President Elson Floyd has called for an independent review of an abuse allegation within his school's football program. But nothing about big college sports is usual, including at WSU. In a week's time, a star player was suspended for violating team rules and then, just before a big home game on Dad's Weekend, he issued a statement resigning from the team and accusing the head coach and his assistants of physical, emotional and verbal abuse.
It would be nice to think this country could continue to amount to something, to assume we have a future despite the recent presidential election, but if nothing much gets done to reverse policies, forget it. Instead of suffering, move to Sweden.
Now that Washington has completed its gradual slide into all-mail voting, abandoning the ritual of Election Day voting at polling places, we need a new tradition. But what could possibly replace the Norman Rockwell-esque gathering at the polls, the greetings among neighbors, the shared exercise of one of our most-cherished rights?
I'm Peter. And I'm an undecided voter.
What's the difference between a negative campaign ad and a "contrast" ad? It's negative if it attacks your side and a contrast ad if it's aimed at the other guys.
Someone really needs to tell the Legislature that it lost the court case known as McCleary v. State of Washington.
The presidential election is officially set, the pollsters are working overtime, and the Middle East is in turmoil, again. Your unanswerable questions have again been posed, and our unfathomable answers have again been made up.
I've always thought it a risky strategy for a candidate to debate an empty chair. I thought this even before Clint Eastwood's performance at the Republican National Convention.
Today's column is another three-for-one special.
Maybe they didn't like Ben Harper.
Three columns for the price of one about the Aug. 7 primary:
People involved in public education likely were thrilled at the news in July that Washington state had been granted a waiver from the increasingly onerous rules of the federal No Child Left Behind law. That's the law that was intended to get the nation's schools to improve the achievement of students via a combination of carrots and sticks. It is what pushed states to set high standards and hold both the students and the adults accountable for meeting them. But it has come to be represented mostly by the growing list of schools failing to make adequate yearly progress. Hating "No Child Left Behind" is one of the few aspects of education that unites forces that are often at odds.
"Your eye doctor could kill you."
I'm not one of those haters on the Electoral College. If it worked for Thomas Jefferson, it ought to work for us (of course, some of those who worked for Thomas Jefferson were slaves, but that's another story).
It appears backers of the latest charter schools initiative have submitted enough signatures to place it on the November ballot. That success means we now get to watch both sides try to convince us that Initiative 1240 will result in, pick one: (a) the salvation of public education or (b) the destruction of public education. It's odd, then, that something with the power either to transform or to destroy should inspire so much passion in some but so little in everyone else.
How you reacted to last week's historic U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act might depend upon the lens you look through. Is it a primarily a constitutional issue, a political issue or a public policy issue?
Nothing boosts a politician's credibility like putting "former before the title.
Be wary of budget-cutting moves made by politicians that just happen to boost the political fortunes of those same politicians. One is legislators' reluctance to pay for a voters' pamphlet for primary elections.
Thanks to Washington's liberal initiative laws, voters here get to be just like politicians, for better and for worse. Better because it is empowering to decide what passes and what fails. Worse because, just like legislators, voters might have to compromise to get something passed.
An important issue in public education in Washington is in the hands of a rather obscure group. The Compensation Technical Working Group is made up of some school administrators, school board members, policy experts and a teachers union lobbyist. They are charged with making recommendations on how and how much teachers will be paid.
It is that time of year that every employee dreads. No supply of "just-be-glad-you-have-a-job" reminders is enough to make it better. About halfway through this task, I start to fantasize about the alternative. I wouldn't have any money and that might be a problem. But I wouldn't have to write a self-evaluation, either, which would even things out. Easily.
Washington has always seemed a little embarrassed by its lottery. Not by the lottery itself, really, but by the way it takes advantage of a get-rich-quick scheme.
I know, we should consider it a compliment.
Just because state senators are elected doesn’t mean they can do whatever they want. So when Sen. Pam Roach repeatedly abused and harassed staff members, she was sanctioned.
What does Matt Lauer have that we don’t have?
Can one person take on the state’s governmental and political establishment over the recent redrawing of the state’s legislative and congressional boundaries? Yes, according to the state constitution and laws that govern redistricting. Both the 1983 constitutional amendment that created the redistricting commission and the laws passed to implement it give regular citizens a role.
While anti-school reform elements among teachers and parents have been winning the rhetoric battle, they’ve been losing the legislative war. You may have heard the talk: Those who want to start holding adults in the schools just as accountable as the kids are really out to “privatize” education. Those who seek higher standards are dupes for billionaires like Bill and Melinda Gates.
Like bikes? There’s a plate for that.