Stories by Peter
Like bikes? There’s a plate for that.
When it comes to its relationship with the federal government over education policy, Washington state responds better to sticks than carrots. Two years ago, when they were crafting education reform legislation so as to compete for hundreds of millions of dollars in Race to the Top funding, Gov. Chris Gregoire and education policy leaders fell short. The rather timid law wasn’t close to proving to the Obama administration that the state was toughening teacher evaluation methods or prepared to fix its poorest-performing schools.
The increasingly rare “old-timers” often lament the decline of bipartisanship. In the old days, Republicans and Democrats worked together, they say. Compromise hadn’t yet become a dirty word.
The snow in Tacoma is gone for now, except perhaps for the parking lot piles that will likely remain until Easter … of 2013. What also is left behind is our collective inferiority complex after being accused again by the national news media -- and anyone who has moved to the area during the last decade -- of being “snow wimps.”
Newt Gingrich has accomplished something I didn’t think was possible.
Democrats and self-described progressives who don’t like the initiative process don’t know their history. Initiative and referendum came out of the Progressive Movement of the late 1800s and early 1900s. A coalition of organized labor and the small-farm organization called The Grange pushed lawmakers to put the issue before voters as a constitutional amendment. Voters approved it overwhelmingly in 1912.
If there’s one thing regular folks know about post-Census redistricting, it’s that gerrymandering is bad. The term was first used in 1812 when then-Gov. Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts was blamed for a district so manipulated for partisan purposes that it resembled a salamander. It has become a label for any redistricting efforts that give advantage to one party over another. It should, however, be reserved for those times when hyper-partisan districts also aren’t compact and contiguous.
Here’s one guy’s chronological list of the Top 10 political stories of 2011.
Sometimes during the dance of legislation, the partners change positions. Sometimes it takes time, as when Democrats and Republicans nationally exchanged the banner as the party of the South.
The explanations presented to members of the state Public Disclosure Commission last week didn’t pass the straight-face test. Commissioners weren’t convinced that a series of mailings critical of 13 Democratic candidates shortly before the 2010 election weren’t actually campaign hit pieces. And they didn’t seem to buy that the sponsors didn’t have to register as a political committee and report their activities.
There are 147 legislators in Olympia this week — and maybe next week — and not a one really wants to be there. But can they take solace in the misery-loves-company aphorism? Are lawmakers from the other 49 states sharing the pain? Apparently not. Since the Great Recession turned legislating into a seemingly continuous set of crises, Washington is alone this time.
If Gov. Chris Gregoire gets buy-in from the Legislature — as she very likely will — we’ll all get to vote on a temporary tax increase next March. Call it the Battle of the Halfs.
The opposite of anger isn’t always happiness. Still, some will read into the Nov. 8 election results that voters are no longer angry.
When she unveiled devastating budget cuts one year ago, Gov. Chris Gregoire was resigned, though saddened. When she had to do it again last week, she was mostly just angry. Angry at circumstances that force the latest round in an increasingly sickening series of cuts. Angry at a Wall Street she still blames for the Great Recession. Angry at Congress for dithering through the August debt-limit crisis and spooking an already skittish economy. But at one point she seemed to add a new target: local governments that haven’t been as hard-hit by revenue loses as has the state.
I’m all for public safety and everything, but since the cops and firefighters featured in the dueling TV ads can’t agree about Initiative 1183, I’m left to ask: What’s in it for consumers? I know it’s crass to look at the latest plan to privatize liquor sales in Washington through such a selfish lens. We are pressured by the pro and anti campaigns to base the debate on the talking points their campaign consultants crafted. You know, will it encourage or combat teen drinking? Will it boost or deplete government treasuries? Will it make booze too available? Will it profit a few huge retailers?
When Washington voters approved an amendment to the state constitution in 1983, they apparently were motivated by a desire for political reform. The state had just gone through a rather disastrous attempt to redraw the its legislative and congressional boundaries. But a federal lawsuit tossed out the congressional plan, and good-government groups succeeded in promoting something called the bipartisan redistricting commission. Under this reform, each of the four party caucuses in the Legislature would appoint a commissioner. Those four would then choose a nonvoting chairman. Since it takes three votes — at least one from each party — to approve a plan, it demands bipartisanship.
Doe v. Reed isn’t really about Washington’s everything-but-marriage laws. It only seems that way. Those were the issues fought over in 2009 when a group called Protect Marriage Washington gathered enough signatures to put Referendum 71 on the ballot. If the effort had been successful, which it wasn’t, it would have overturned the latest legislation to broaden domestic partnership rights. But when lawyers for the group asked a federal judge to block disclosure of the names of 128,000 voters who signed R-71 petitions, it became an issue of public disclosure and open government. Are the petitions submitted to secure a referendum a place on the ballot public records? If so, can disclosure be blocked in cases where signers risk threats, harassment or reprisals for the actions? Could such threats chill the signers’ First Amendment rights? I’ve always assumed petitions were public documents, as they should be. But the state for years had determined they were not. Current Secretary of State Sam Reed had reversed that position and took on the court challenge, arguing that the infringement on speech is minimal and does not outweigh the need for transparency and fraud prevention. Reed lost at the District Court, but prevailed at the Court of Appeals and at the U.S. Supreme Court.
Howard Schultz’s recent letter to “Fellow Concerned Americans” made me reconsider my boycott of Starbucks. Mine isn’t a hard boycott. I’m not a fanatic or anything. It started five years ago when I read about Starbucks baristas dissing what they dubbed “Ghetto Lattes.” That’s when customers order iced Americanos, no water and then top off with milk from the condiment bar. It’s cheaper than an iced latte, but the baristas complained it was “stealing” milk from the company.