Callaghan: Despite denials, Senate shake-up smacks of politics

By Peter Callaghan December 12, 2012 6 a.m.

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.

Callaghan: Corporate tax breaks from states often fail to pay off

By Peter Callaghan December 5, 2012 6 a.m.

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.

Callaghan: Inslee must show justices progress on school funding

By Peter Callaghan November 28, 2012 6 a.m.

Somewhere between declaring victory and being sworn in comes the realization that while the campaign was hard, governing is harder.

Callaghan: It's about time adults took control in college athletics

By Peter Callaghan November 21, 2012 6 a.m.

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.

Peter Callaghan: Sweden shows U.S. how to avoid self-imposed strife

By Peter Callaghan November 15, 2012 6 a.m.

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.

Callaghan: Accommodate Washington voters, not political insiders

By Peter Callaghan November 14, 2012 6 a.m.

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?

Callaghan: Suddenly, it's not as cool to be an undecided voter

By Peter Callaghan October 31, 2012 6 a.m.

I'm Peter. And I'm an undecided voter.

Callaghan: Despite all the bluster, negative campaign ads ineffective

By Peter Callaghan October 3, 2012 6 a.m.

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.

Court's message on basic education lost on Legislature

By Peter Callaghan September 26, 2012 6 a.m.

Someone really needs to tell the Legislature that it lost the court case known as McCleary v. State of Washington.

Callaghan: All you need to know about the state of the horse race

By Peter Callaghan September 19, 2012 6 a.m.

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.

Callaghan: Underdog goes over top to land debate with Cantwell

By Peter Callaghan September 12, 2012 6 a.m.

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.

Callaghan: Holding primary elections earlier is secondary issue

By Peter Callaghan September 5, 2012 6 a.m.

Today's column is another three-for-one special.

Callaghan: It's ignorant to assume votes against judge are ignorant

By Peter Callaghan August 22, 2012 6 a.m.

Maybe they didn't like Ben Harper.

Callaghan: Several spins on how state's primary election played out

By Peter Callaghan August 15, 2012 6 a.m.

Three columns for the price of one about the Aug. 7 primary:

Callaghan: Waiver forces changes in Washington school system

By Peter Callaghan August 1, 2012 6 a.m.

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.

Callaghan: The way to fight a liar is with plenty of truth, not a gag

By Peter Callaghan July 25, 2012 6 a.m.

"Your eye doctor could kill you."

Callaghan: Washington again a spectator in presidential election

By Peter Callaghan July 18, 2012 6 a.m.

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).

Callaghan: Real reform ignored amid battle over charter schools

By Peter Callaghan July 11, 2012 6 a.m.

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.

Callaghan: Health care decision can be viewed through many lenses

By Peter Callaghan July 4, 2012 6 a.m.

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?

Callaghan: With campaigns behind him, Gorton comes into focus

By Peter Callaghan June 27, 2012 6 a.m.

Nothing boosts a politician's credibility like putting "former before the title.

Callaghan: Education the primary reason for a voters' pamphlet

By Peter Callaghan June 20, 2012 6 a.m.

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.

Callaghan: Liquor initiative wasn't crafted to lower booze prices

By Peter Callaghan June 10, 2012 6 a.m.

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.

Callaghan: Question of fairness arises in state teacher pay debate

By Peter Callaghan May 30, 2012 6 a.m.

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.

Callaghan: If you have to self-evaluate, at least make it interesting

By Peter Callaghan May 23, 2012 6 a.m.

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.

Callaghan: State learns little from effort to link lottery, education

By Peter Callaghan May 16, 2012 6 a.m.

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.

Callaghan: Top two primary system not as bad, or good, as predicted

By Peter Callaghan May 9, 2012 6 a.m.

I know, we should consider it a compliment.

Callaghan: Senator’s banishment lasted until GOP needed her vote

By Peter Callaghan April 11, 2012 6 a.m.

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.

Callaghan: As local media show respect, national TV swoops in

By Peter Callaghan April 4, 2012 6 a.m.

What does Matt Lauer have that we don’t have?

Callaghan: Court ends Vancouver man’s fight for fair redistricting

By Peter Callaghan March 21, 2012 6 a.m.

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.

Callaghan: School reformers losing PR battle, winning the war

By Peter Callaghan March 14, 2012 6 a.m.

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.

Callaghan: State lawmakers should say N-O to NRA license plates

By Peter Callaghan February 29, 2012 6 a.m.

Like bikes? There’s a plate for that.

Callaghan: State takes hard way to reach education reform

By Peter Callaghan February 22, 2012 6 a.m.

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.

Callaghan: Bipartisanship alive and well in Washington Legislature

By Peter Callaghan February 15, 2012 6 a.m.

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.

Callaghan: 'Snow wimps' should embrace stereotype and enjoy the day off

By Peter Callaghan February 1, 2012 6 a.m.

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.”

Callaghan: Gingrich’s S.C. win may make Washington relevant

By Peter Callaghan January 25, 2012 6 a.m.

Newt Gingrich has accomplished something I didn’t think was possible.

Callaghan: The initiative is a tool, not an ideology

By Peter Callaghan January 18, 2012 6 a.m.

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.

Callaghan: New use found for gerrymandering

By Peter Callaghan January 11, 2012 6 a.m.

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.

Callaghan: State budget among top political stories

By Peter Callaghan January 4, 2012 6 a.m.

Here’s one guy’s chronological list of the Top 10 political stories of 2011.

Callaghan: Legislators gamble on supermajority

By Peter Callaghan December 25, 2011 6 a.m.

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.

Callaghan: Group doesn’t pass straight-face test

By Peter Callaghan December 14, 2011 6 a.m.

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.

Callaghan: Washington’s in uncommon pickle

By Peter Callaghan December 7, 2011 6 a.m.

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.

Callaghan: Sales tax vote pits 'halfs' and 'half-nots'

By Peter Callaghan November 30, 2011 6 a.m.

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.

Callaghan: Maybe voters too tired to be angry

By Peter Callaghan November 27, 2011 6 a.m.

The opposite of anger isn’t always happiness. Still, some will read into the Nov. 8 election results that voters are no longer angry.

Callaghan: Gregoire wants to share budget pain

By Peter Callaghan November 2, 2011 6 a.m.

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.

Callaghan: How would liquor initiative affect cost?

By Peter Callaghan October 26, 2011 6 a.m.

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?

Callaghan: Redistricting still a partisan process

By Peter Callaghan October 19, 2011 6 a.m.

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.

Callaghan: Lawsuit will help clarify free speech

By Peter Callaghan October 12, 2011 6 a.m.

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.

Callaghan: Starbucks CEO brews up leadership

By Peter Callaghan September 25, 2011 6 a.m.

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.