Collin Levey Twofer

There are a lot of important issues to blog on today: Kerry’s commanding speech at the Democratic convention, Tim Eyman’s hissyfit over the King County Council, the hidden agendas behind Initiative 892. But I’m on vacation, so I’ll just have some fun and take another run at Wall Street Journal Seattle Times editorial columnist Collin Levey.

A while back I gave Collin a backhanded compliment, criticizing a column for not meeting her “usual standard of ruthless clarity.” But after several weeks of meandering essays only slightly less muddled than their theses, I’m wondering if I set the bar too high.

That’s not to say that Collin can’t write. She certainly has a knack for stringing words together into an entertaining sentence; and those sentences tend to form coherent paragraphs.

But too often that’s where the coherence ends. She is so intent on leveling charge after charge against us anti-semitic, un-American lefties that I often feel like I’m reading multiple columns at once: on more than one occasion I’ve found myself stranded between paragraphs, nearly convinced that I had skipped a page.

Collin’s noncontiguous narrative is exacerbated by her minimalist segues, which often consist of little more than a carriage return and a linefeed. Indeed, many of her columns read like they were chopped up and reassembled by some deranged, Dadaist editor.

Of course Collin is not unique amongst the new breed of political commentators who cater to — and seem to be products of — our body politic’s growing epidemic of A.D.D. Whatever you might think of an equally partisan, old-timer like George Will, you have to admit that he knows how to solidly construct and defend a thesis. Collin, on the other hand, seems to prefer a shotgun literary mien that willingly sacrifices quality of analysis for quantity.

Her credibility as a chronicler of truth is further diminished by a penchant for littering her columns with piles of unsupported facts and unreferenced, single-word quotes. She scornfully dismisses her targets as liars and frauds, but does so on the basis of a lazy, connect-the-dots methodology that makes Michael Moore look like Will and Ariel Durant. (Look it up.)

For example, take yesterday’s column, in which she asks:

What or who exactly was Heinz Kerry referring to with the McCarthyite slur “un-American”?

What exactly is Collin referring to with the the un-American slur “McCarthyite”? Well, hell if I know, because Collin never bothers to provide any reference or context. By excerpting a quotation down to a single disembodied word, Collin hopes readers will infer a nefarious subtext, but for all I know Teresa Heinz Kerry may have been flouting her knowledge of condiments by accurately referring to the culinary origins of mayonnaise or Dijon mustard? Or perhaps she was reciting the “U” section of the dictionary?

Or maybe Mrs. Kerry was referring to one of the many times a Republican politician or commentator has questioned someone’s patriotism, merely for opposing the administration’s policies? The word “McCarthyism”, after all, was coined for its Republican namesake.

But like Collin, I digress… a nearly unavoidable pitfall when critiquing a column that jumps from attack to attack to attack, based on charges that have less visible means of support than Neil Bush.

Look… everybody has a right to their own opinions; I just don’t understand how Collin’s earned the privilege to express hers weekly in a major newspaper. (Well… as major a newspaper as we have in Washington state.) Compared to most people, she’s not such a terrible writer. It’s just that stylistically she’s more suited to writing blogs than editorial columns.

I betcha Collin puts mayonnaise on her fries

I’m not sure what the GOP hopes to gain by going after Teresa Heinz Kerry, but if that’s how they want to waste their time, fine with me: whatever fear might be mongered by questioning her fitness to hold the purely ceremonial title of First Lady, it is no match for America’s enduring love of ketchup.

Like her fellow travelers in the right-wing media, Collin Levey seems intent on emphasizing the Heinz in Teresa Heinz Kerry, perhaps attempting to alienate swing voters loyal to the Hunts brand (“Putting a lid on the loose lips of Teresa Heinz Kerry.”) But in this patriot’s opinion, any voter who would violate their freedom fries with Hunts’ watery, treacly, sorry excuse of a condiment is likely already in the camp of our watery, treacly, sorry excuse of a president.

Collin and her comrades can go out of their way to mention Mrs. Kerry’s Mozambique birth and Swiss education, but nothing says “American” like Heinz ketchup. And I find Collin’s attempt to scandalously connect John Kerry’s political fortunes to Teresa’s inherited Heinz fortune, nothing short of laughable in light of President Bush’s decade long service in the patronage of Enron.

I also find curious the media’s obsession with Mrs. Kerry telling a journalist to “shove it.” Collin compares it to Ronald Reagan calling a reporter a “son-of-a-bitch,” or Bush II referring to Adam Clymer of the NY Times as a “major league asshole.” (And then there’s Vice President Dick Cheney, who recently told Senator Patrick Leahy to “go fuck yourself.” On the Senate floor, no less. Ouch.)

What Collin fails to point out is that these occupants of our nation’s highest offices publicly used actual profanity, whereas Mrs. Kerry did not.

Now, I have nothing against profanity; indeed, I encourage it. Profanity is uniquely expressive, and there is nothing wrong with foul language when properly used… even in the presence of children.

For example, yesterday I attended a matinee performance of Little Shop of Horrors, with an audience at least half comprised of youngsters. Two of the biggest laugh lines for the kiddies came when the man-eating plant said “tough titties” and “no shit Sherlock.”

Can any utterance — even a profanity — be totally bad if it elicits peals of laughter from a roomful of children?

On the other hand, later that day, while battling through traffic in the streets of Manhattan, a more explicit profanity erupted from my throat. This autonomic utterance — while justified — displayed poor impulse control on my part… especially considering my 7-year-old daughter and 9-year-old niece were in the back seat.

And that’s really the point. It’s never the profanity that is bad, but rather, the context. Nearly everybody swears in private. But when a dignitary such as a President or Vice President acts so undignified as to swear in public, it calls into question both their judgment and their self-control… two qualities we value greatly in the man who has his finger on the button.

The fact that Teresa “57 Varieties” Kerry stopped at “shove it” and didn’t continue to tell the journalist exactly where, shows more restraint than that displayed by the angry men who currently occupy the White House. This is an administration that lashes out not just at reporters, but at the world. It is an administration with blood on its hands… not ketchup.

Sen. Honeyford is a perfect zero

I admit I don’t really know much about Senator Jim Honeyford (R-Sunnyside) other than his obstructionist role in the failed effort to fund problem gambling treatment and prevention during the past legislative session. He is just a state senator after all… so I feel a touch embarrassed piling on him so much.

But not so embarrassed that it prevents me from passing on the following little tidbit:

The Washington Conservation Voters recently came out with their 2003-2004 legislative scorecard, and Sen. Honeyford was the only one of 147 legislators to score 0%.

That’s zero. Zip. Zilch. A donut hole of a voting record on environmental legislation.

This is truly impressive, especially considering Sen. Honeyford’s preoccupation with shilling for the gambling industry. Legislation can be confusing, and one would expect that he might occasionally slip up and accidentally cast a mildly pro-environment vote.

At least Sen. Honeyford is a man of principles: gambling good, conservation bad.

Don’t bet on gambling industry to address problem gambling

Thank you Peter Callaghan of the Tacoma News Tribune for covering the State Senate hearing on problem gambling, that curiously refused to hear from the state’s leading problem gambling advocate, Jennifer McCausland. [Her gamble was to talk tough to legislators on treatment bill]

All the players were at the meeting of the Senate Commerce and Trade Committee. The directors of the state lottery, gambling and horse racing commissions were invited. So were the experts in the field of addiction treatment. The tribes had representatives at the table. So did the minicasinos, the charitable gambling folks and Emerald Downs.

The only person not invited was the woman most responsible for the meeting.

But then, who better to represent the interests of problem gamblers than the businesses that profit most from their addiction?

By some estimates, as much as 50% of gambling industry profits come from the 5% of the population classified as problem or pathological gamblers. So of course, these are the people Senator Jim Honeyford (the legislator a gambling industry trade journal dubbed “the best bet for expanding gambling in Washington“) relies on to create a plan for treating and preventing this devastating addiction.

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard Tim Eyman defend I-892 (Slots for Tots) by calling gambling a “voluntary” tax that people choose to pay. That is simply a load of crap.

Slot machines are scientifically designed to create compulsion, and the entire gambling business model is built on enabling problem gamblers and exploiting their weaknesses. In that respect, there is little to distinguish a casino from a corner crack dealer.

The gambling industry doesn’t want to prevent problem gambling… it’s their bread and butter. And by relying on the foxes to guard the hen house, Senator Honeyford apparently isn’t too concerned about preventing problem gambling either.

Depth takes a holiday

A couple months ago when I first turned into a political blog, I assumed I’d be writing a few hundred words, maybe four or five days a week. But as my regular readers have learned, brevity is not my strong suit.

Well, I’m on a kinda-sorta vacation, so it’s going to have to be for a little while.

I’ll still try to blog most days, but probably not with my accustomed depth. (Depth… verbosity… whatever you want to call it.)

But I am working on one really big blog — big in every sense of the word — which I plan to post before my return. So I hope you’ll keep checking back even if I miss a day or two every now and then.

If I don’t say so myself…

In the past 20 years, the property tax rate in Washington, and its burden as a percentage of personal income, have been quite stable.

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

In fact, I did say it myself, as quoted Sunday in an excellent editorial in the Columbian: “Eyman’s hand is out.”

Not only did I say it, but I can back it up. I have recently posted to a preliminary report “The truth about property taxes in Washington state.” The study points out that while Tim Eyman is correct that property taxes have increased from $1 billion to $6.25 billion since 1980, he is absolutely yanking voters’ chains by calling the increase “obscene.”

When you put the numbers in historic and economic context, you find that property tax rates, and total state and local tax burden have not only remained stable, but are actually below historic highs and the national average. This is because property taxes have closely tracked property values and personal income.

Despite Eyman’s lies, it is no secret that Washington is not a high tax state. Indeed, the state Office of Financial Management reports that in 2002, Washington was 31 out the 50 states in aggregate state and local taxes as a percentage of aggregate personal income.

Of course, none of us actually live in the aggregate and due to our astonishingly unfair tax structure (the most regressive in the nation) tax burden is too high on most middle- and lower-income households. The bottom 20% pay over 17.6% of income in state and local taxes while the top 1% pay only 3.3%.

Rather than across the board tax cuts, what we really need is tax reform that has all households pay their fair share. And for the majority of households, their fair share would be lower than they are paying now.

You get the economy you pay for

This state’s higher education system is faltering. Students are being turned away, yet employers say there are not enough trained workers to fill all of the job vacancies.

That’s from an editorial in today’s Olympian: “Tuition can be a barrier to college.”

I’m not the kind of person who likes to beat a dead horse. No wait… yes I am. And so I keep pointing out editorial after editorial (and blog after blog) about our failure to properly fund higher education, and the inevitable economic decline that will result. For example, take a look at the Olympian’s estimates of average income by educational level:

-$18,900 for a person who has not graduated from high school.
-$25,900 for a high school graduate.
-$31,200 for a person with some college education.
-$33,000 for a student with an AA degree.
-$45,400 for a bachelor’s degree.

Just as individuals invest in their own future by attending college, our state invests in our future economy by making college more accessible. Education consumes the single largest chunk of our state and local taxes, so when Tim Eyman talks about eliminating “government waste” this is what he has in mind.

You get what you pay for. If we buy ourselves a second-rate educational system, our children will inherit a second-rate economy.

Gambling industry catches more flies with Honeyford

If you were holding a public hearing on problem gambling, wouldn’t you invite the state’s leading problem gambling advocate as one of the speakers?

Apparently not if you’re State Senator Jim Honeyford (R, Sunnyside,) whose glaring failure to invite Jennifer McCausland to his Commerce & Trade Committee hearing on Monday calls into question his seriousness of purpose on this crucial issue. Once again.

I just came across a press release from Ms. McCausland’s Second Chance Washington announcing their new proposal to create an executive level office to coordinate gambling policy in Washington state. The proposal was unveiled today before Governor Locke and his working group on problem gambling. Ms. McCausland has also been invited to present her proposal before the House Commerce & Labor Committee on Monday, and a Washington State Gambling Commission working group on Wednesday.

But the following understated tidbit jumped out at me:

The Senate Commerce and Trade Committee is also holding hearings Monday to discuss long-term funding for problem gambling treatment and prevention. Committee Chair, Sen. Jim Honeyford has not extended an invitation to Second Chance Washington, but Ms. McCausland promises to be in attendance regardless.

I sure hope she’s in attendance, and if they don’t let her speak, I hope she yells bloody murder.

Ms. McCausland was the leading proponent in the last legislative session of a bill that would have provided permanent funding for problem gambling treatment and prevention programs… a bill that after gambling industry lobbyists were done with it was whittled down to little more than a stopgap measure.

But even that was too much for Sen. Honeyford, who according to the Seattle P-I killed the bill in committee, never allowing it to come to the floor for a vote. [State tosses dice on gambling]

But then what do you expect from the Senator an industry trade journal calls “the best bet for expanding gambling in Washington,” and who describes himself as sympathetic to the gambling industry’s efforts to legalize slot machines… now embodied in Tim Eyman’s initiative-for-hire I-892?

So let me get this straight: the man who controls problem gambling legislation in the Senate a) supports the most massive expansion of gambling in state history, and b) has a history of killing problem gambling legislation.

What a joke.

If we really want reasonable gambling legislation, we’re going to have to elect ourselves more reasonable senators.

C’est le jour de Collin Levey

I’d already blogged today, so I wasn’t planning to spend much time on my Thursday ritual of heaping ridicule on Seattle Times editorial columnist Collin Levey, and her latest political polemic. [By scolding Israel's Sharon, France wallows in disdain]

It certainly didn’t seem worth my effort to refute Collin’s assertions of French antisemitism… hell, the French virtually invented antisemitism in the modern sense of the word with the whole Dreyfus Affair. (Although the word itself was coined in 1873 by a German writer to replace the less politically correct “Judenhass,” meaning “Jew-hating.” History lesson over.)

And to be honest, I wasn’t quite sure what Collin was trying to say.

But I’m always a little suspicious when I see a writer excerpt comments by quoting individual words… you know, like when a movie ad quotes a reviewer as saying “entertaining” and “moving” when the original quote might be “I find it more entertaining moving my bowels.” So, apart from her Frenchified Vassar vocabulary and use of the the royal “we,” note Collin’s adoption of this selective quoting technique:

The contretemps began on Sunday, when Sharon, speaking to visiting American Jewish leaders in Jerusalem, commented on the spreading rash of anti-Semitic incidents in France and encouraged French Jews to return to Israel “immediately.” Despite Sharon’s praise for France’s efforts to calm its roiling tensions, Chirac and his foreign minister, Michel Barnier, took the opportunity to castigate the Jewish leader on the world stage, calling the remarks “unacceptable” and disinviting Sharon from a state visit until he had an “explanation.”

We wonder several things here, but first is exactly which part of the remarks they didn’t understand. The calling home of Jews to Israel has been around practically longer than Israel itself, and has been a frequent mantra for Sharon long before this week.

Of course, very few of her readers are likely to whip out a copy of Le Monde and check out the story for themselves. But it’s amazing what you can find with a couple Google searches.

Scott MacMillan writing in Slate (“Sharon to France: Send Me Your Jews“) puts Sharon’s remarks in a bit more context:

“Move to Israel, as early as possible. I say that to Jews all around the world, but there (in France) I think it’s a must and they have to move immediately.” The Israeli government often encourages Diaspora Jews to come to Israel, but Sharon’s remarks about France were particularly stinging as he said French Jews should emigrate to escape “the wildest anti-Semitism.”

This was not the usual “mantra” that Collin makes it out to be, and Sharon himself points out the distinction. And as to “disinviting” Sharon from a state visit, according to a French spokesman:

A possible visit by the Israeli prime minister to Paris, for which no date has been set, will be examined only when the explanations called for have been provided.

A possible visit for which no date has been set… it’s not exactly like they called off a wedding. And as to Collin’s shock that France would ask for a (gasp) “explanation”… well, assuming Chirac did misunderstand Sharon’s statement, isn’t that what you’d want him to ask for?

Slate goes on to show that it wasn’t just France who responded with indignation to Sharon’s remarks, pointing out that “papers elsewhere in Europe sounded similar notes.” And the New Zealand Herald (“Sharon’s warning to Jews condemned by all sides“) even quipped that Sharon should consider a career in French politics, as nobody else could unite the nation with so few words:

Left and Right, government and opposition, French Jewish leaders and French Muslim leaders: all agreed yesterday in condemning a weekend statement by the Israeli Prime Minister.

Clearly it wasn’t just Chirac and the “leftist” Le Monde who were offended. The French and other Europeans seemed to understand Sharon’s remarks quite well, and concluded that whether by intention or stupidity, they could only be incendiary in the current political climate. According to the Herald:

He went on to imply that France was dangerous for Jews because it had a “ten per cent” Muslim population. The true figure for the Muslim population in France is six per cent.

France is a dangerous place for Jews? Considering current events I’d feel a helluva lot safer strolling the streets of Paris than Jerusalem. And I’m wondering which country has the larger percentage of Muslims.

Anyway, like I said, apart from the bold GOP election-year strategy of French bashing, I’m not really sure what Collin’s point is. I just wish she’d make it without distorting events through selective quoting.

We’re educating readers, if not students

The Tacoma News Tribune editorial board chimes in on the growing crisis at our public college and university system: “Seats in public colleges, career opportunities, are fast disappearing.”

What’s being broken here is not only an intergenerational obligation, but a social compact. Washington lags far behind most other states in the capacity of its four-year schools. It supposedly compensates for this deficiency with higher-than-average capacity in its two-year colleges. The deal was, you could go to a community college, do your homework, then transfer to get a UW degree.

But this only works if there’s room at the UW in Seattle, Tacoma and Bothell – which there isn’t. Today’s 18-year-olds could well ask of today’s lawmakers and taxpayers, “Why couldn’t you provide for us the same college opportunity your parents provided for you?”

This is an issue that should create outrage, for it threatens all of our futures, not just the unfortunate members of the “baby boom echo” generation who are being denied educational opportunities. If universities are the engines that drive local economic development, ours is running out of gas.

Some of my regular readers might wonder why I am focusing on this instead of my usual obsession with tax structure and all things Eyman. Well this economically shortsighted failure to meet our “intergenerational obligation” is all about taxes.

The reason public universities across the state are shutting their doors to new admissions is because we the people have been too cheap to properly fund them. We’ve allowed lying, self-serving demagogues like Tim Eyman to convince us that state spending is out of control (it is not,) and spineless, unimaginative politicians to convince themselves that we can’t do anything to fix the most regressive and unfair tax structure in the nation… the true cause of our state’s growing crisis of revenue adequacy.

Take a look at this gem of quote in today’s Seattle P-I (“Sims, Gregoire widely split“) from Attorney General Christine Gregoire, the front runner for governor:

Gregoire added that a proposal to create an income tax would be “dead on arrival” with state lawmakers and the public. “Leadership is about getting things done,” she said.

That’s not “leadership” Christine… that’s following.

Leadership is using your office as a bully pulpit to build consensus where none existed. And while I’m not entirely convinced that Ron Sims is up to the task of persuading, cajoling and strong-arming voters into approving his tax reform proposals, at least he’s willing to spend his political capital trying, instead of just sticking his finger in the wind and accepting common wisdom.

“Pragmatic” politicians like Christine Gregoire and Gary Locke may think income tax proponents are tilting at windmills, but I’d rather fight a quixotic campaign to save our state from the inevitable budgetary meltdown, than continue to sit idly by watching middle- and low-income households ground between the mill stones.

We could implement a reform package that doesn’t cost Washington a penny more in taxes, yet easily puts an additional $600 million into state coffers. But rather than even discuss such a sensible proposal, Christine defends the status quo with misleading, Eymanesque scare tactics: “This is about whether we’re going to raise taxes as we’re trying to pull ourselves out of a recession.”

Ron’s reply is refreshingly blunt: “You can’t grow your economy with stupid, unskilled people.”

You get what you pay for folks, and right now we’re on pace to buy ourselves a second-rate economy.

I couldn’t have said it better myself

I’m really beginning to like Bill Virgin.

A couple days ago I blogged about the need to properly fund state colleges and universities, or face the inevitable negative economic consequences. [I'm an east coast, elitist, academic snob]

In Thursday’s Seattle P-I, Bill echoes some of my comments, and elaborates further on the role of universities as economic engines. [University is now key to a state's economy]

Universities have long been part of economic development, anyway, because of the research they produce that is commercialized by startups and existing companies, and because of the graduates and faculty members who become entrepreneurs.

I couldn’t agree more. (In fact, a couple days ago, I did.) But Bill goes on:

Today, though, governors and economic development authorities are deliberately and specifically designating universities as a key component in generating new economic activity, not just through training and education but as centers for creating new technologies and commercial ventures.

This is what wacky liberals like me mean when we talk about investing in the future. Thanks Bill, for pointing out a few more reasons why we’re not spending enough money on higher education!

Will cut taxes for food

Political consultant Christian Sinderman calls Tim Eyman “the state’s highest paid panhandler,” and Timmy’s out rattling his tin cup once again. [Eyman again solicits salary fund - despite setback]

Personally, I find it hard to believe that even his most fervent supporters will continue throwing good money after bad if Tim continues to fail to get his so-called “grassroots” initiatives on the ballot.

Last year it was I-807, this year I-864. Tim often asks supporters to “reinvest” their car-tab savings in his current tax-cutting scheme, but over the past two years contributors haven’t seen much return on their investment.

Tim claims to have collected 160,000 signatures for I-864, about two-thirds of his target… but I don’t really believe he came even that close. Hell, if I had been standing in front of cameras at the Secretary of State’s office trying to spin victory out of a failed petition drive, I might have exaggerated the numbers too. It’s hard to imagine an admitted liar like Tim could resist the temptation.

My educated guess is he didn’t break 100,000 valid signatures, and probably significantly less. I could write a week of blogs on how Tim screwed up this campaign, but I don’t need to give him any free advice.

Suffice it to say that the fact that Tim can’t raise enough money to hire the signature gatherers needed to qualify his “grassroots” initiatives for the ballot, suggests that there isn’t much grassroots support in Washington state for his anti-government, tax-cutting agenda. Tim might point to his gambling industry financed I-892 as evidence to the contrary, but if that campaign hints at any anti-tax fervor, it seems limited to corporate boardrooms in Nevada and British Columbia, where much of the contributions originated.

As far as I’m concerned, if Tim’s true believers want to spend their hard earned dollars paying the mortgage on his Mukilteo McMansion, more power to them. Those are dollars that won’t be spent on some other, more destructive cause.

I’m an east coast, elitist, academic snob

On Friday the P-I reported that the University of Washington has stopped accepting transfers from community colleges due to over-enrollment. [No more transfers to UW]

Let’s get straight to the point: we’re not spending enough money on higher education!

And if we don’t fix this, our economy is eventually going to go to hell in a hand basket.

Cities like Boston, Philadelphia, and even rust-belt poster-child Pittsburgh, survived the collapse of their manufacturing industries — and prospered — due largely to the influx of talent attracted to their prestigious colleges and universities. The best and the brightest don’t just grab their degrees and leave; many settle in their adopted cities, creating new businesses and industries, or attracting existing ones to the growing pool of qualified workers.

My question is, which schools are going to be the economic engines for Washington, when we won’t even spend the money to educate our own children, let alone attract talent from out-of-state?

I moved to Seattle as an adult about 12 years ago, so I don’t have the same provincial pride in local institutions as most of you natives. And I’m not ashamed to admit that from my snobbish, east coast, elitist perspective there is not a single undergraduate program in the state that I could brag to family about my daughter attending.

Or rather, I am ashamed to admit this, because I’m a Washingtonian now, and I’m embarrassed to see my neighbors talk about how hard it is to get into the UW — like it’s some kind of west coast Harvard — when in fact increased admissions competition is due to declining funding not rising academic standards.

I grew up outside Philadelphia within 20 minutes of 4 schools — Haverford, Swarthmore, Bryn Mawr and the University of Pennsylvania — where on its own, 1450 on your SATs and an A average would elicit a collective yawn from the admissions office. You show me the Washington state equivalent.

Now you can dismiss this as academic snobbery (and as President Bush proves, you can get a crappy education anywhere.) But show me a parent who wouldn’t want their children to gain all the advantages of an Ivy League education?

For whatever historical reasons, Washington is never going to have that kind of private college infrastructure. So we have to pick up the slack with our public university system.

Don’t get me wrong, the UW is a good state university… but it is only that.

And it is not going to get any better unless we fund it properly. That doesn’t simply mean more tax dollars. We also need to build the kind of multi-billion dollar private endowment that all the best schools rely on. And we need to move away from subsidizing all students equally, towards a means-tested system where tuition approaches market prices, and students receive generous financial aid based on need.

Either that, or we can continue exporting our best and brightest out-of-state.

Tim Eyman is revolting, but Renton is not

We all know that Tim Eyman can be pretty damn revolting, but are taxpayers?

According to a recent survey conducted for the City of Renton… no.

As reported this week in the King County Journal (“Renton survey: Majority willing to pay more in property taxes“) a survey of 400 residents found broad support for maintaining public services at current levels. 63% responded that their local taxes were well spent, with only 24% saying they were not.

When informed that maintaining city services and facilities would require a levy increase of 1% (about $10 per year on average) 41% supported a 1% increase, while 15% supported increasing by more than 1%. Only 11% responded that they wanted lower taxes.

That’s 56% for higher taxes, 11% for lower.

What does all this mean? Well first of all, it apparently says that Renton is a well-run city.

But it also tells you that despite years of fomenting an anti-government tax revolt, Eyman’s claims of broad support for his tax-cutting agenda are groundless. Taxpayers are smart consumers, and except for a minority of ideologues, they are willing to pay for value when they see it.

There is no question that not all local governments are as efficient and responsive as the City of Renton. But that’s all the more reason to address these local problems locally rather than through Eyman’s ridiculously over-simplified statewide initiatives that seek to punish all governments, even those already doing a good job… especially those already doing a good job.

If Eyman somehow manages to get next year’s “Son of I-864″ onto the ballot, he will be asking voters statewide to tell Renton voters that they can’t have the level of local services they want, unless they can manage a 60% supermajority to pass an excess levy.

That’s not just undemocratic. It’s just plain stupid.

Just treat Tim the same

The strategy for defeating I-892 (Slots for Tots) is to educate voters with truth: it massively expands gambling by legalizing slot machines in 4000 bars, restaurants, and bowling alleys, scattered through nearly every community in the state. If voters understand this very simple fact, the majority will vote against it.

Of course, that’s not the only reason to vote against I-892. Eileen Yoshina raises another important issue in today’s Olympian, that deserves to be talked about even if it isn’t the strongest political message. [Eyman's life would be different as an American Indian]

Anybody can look at I-892′s motto “Just Treat Us the Same,” or read Eyman’s statements and understand the subtle racist appeal. Tim is clearly trying to make this an us-versus-them debate.

But if you were down there at the Secretary of State’s office when he first announced this initiative, and heard the tone in his voice as he delivered his statement before the cameras, there was really nothing subtle about it. This was a calculated, cynical and offensive appeal to voters’ basest instincts.

“Just Treat Us the Same” is not an accidental piece of rhetoric. Tim may not intend to inflame racial tensions, but he clearly doesn’t seem to mind if that is the unintended result.