by Goldy, 05/31/2006, 3:10 PM

Standing room only. Literally.

In another surprising debut, Al Gore’s global-warming documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, amassed $365,787 at only four New York and Los Angeles theaters — or $91,447 per theater, the highest-ever average for a documentary. (By contrast, X3 averaged $32,554 per screen.)

An Inconvenient Truth” opens this weekend in Seattle, at Pacific Place and the Guild 45th. Every American should see this movie, and a big opening weekend is crucial to securing it wider release. So please, drop whatever you have planned and go see this movie this weekend. It could be the most important movie you ever see.

by Goldy, 05/31/2006, 1:16 PM

In looking at measures of instructional effectiveness, we looked at the 89-student K-5 Montessori program separate from the 236-student “Regular” programs for purposes of comparison across all 17 schools in the SE quadrant. The Montessori program seemed discrete and fairly self-contained, based on its location within the school building and apparent low level of instructional integration.

In looking at the programs separately, our observation was that students in the regular programs at Graham Hill fared less well than students in surrounding regular programs, and that allowing them to choose other programs would result in their being better served academically, one of the Board’s paramount concerns in this process.

That was the summary of the CAC’s recommendation to close Graham Hill Elementary, and to the uninitiated it is easy to read between the lines. Graham Hill is being closed because of the lack of “integration” between our Montessori and regular programs. It is that alleged disconnect between the two programs, a lack of “integration” and equity, that supposedly led the CAC to the unusual decision to evaluate Graham Hill as two separate schools. Indeed, Graham Hill was the only school on the closure list which had its dual programs evaluated separately, and possibly the only school in the district to be held to such exacting criteria.

Bagley, which also houses a Montessori program did not have its scores separated out by program, and John Muir, which houses a Spectrum program likewise had its test scores considered as a whole, despite personal assurances by several CAC members to the contrary.

The implication clearly is that Graham Hill’s situation is unique, and it doesn’t take much reading between the lines to see that the alleged divide the CAC is addressing is as steeped in race and socio-economics as it is in academics. Many of my readers have seen the comments by a disgruntled parent in a previous thread, charging that the Montessori program serves a predominantly white, affluent community at the expense of the largely minority, working class families in the rest of the school. And several CAC members not only acknowledged that they had heard these allegations, their comments seemed to indicate that they believed them.

When a parent tried to explain that Graham Hill has one of the most diverse populations in the city, one CAC member actually smirked, berating our PTA as one of the least diverse they had met. And when I attempted to explain to another CAC member that the reason so many SE parents attempt to send their kids to K-8 schools up North is that we do not want to send our children to Aki Kurose Middle School — our only SE option — I was pointedly told that if I truly cared about “all the children” I would send my daughter to Aki, and work to make it better… clearly implying that I did not care about all the children.

And so if the Montessori program and its parents are going to be characterized as elitist — and yes, racist — in an effort to justify closing down our school, I thought it might be useful to post a class picture of the Montessori students whose test scores are being dismissed as outliers by the CAC, in an effort to more fairly compare Graham Hill’s academic performance to that of other SE schools.

Graham Hill 1995-96 Montessori 4-5

This is a picture of last year’s Grade 4-5 Montessori class. When the CAC talks about the disparity between the Montessori test scores and those of the other students in our school, it is the 12 fourth graders in this picture whose scores they cite.

Look at the photo; it is about as diverse a class picture as you’ll find anywhere in the district. 100 percent of the 4th-graders pictured tested proficient in reading. 83 percent scored proficient in writing. 67 percent scored proficient in math.

Look at this picture and tell me: where is the racial divide?

The CAC highlights the low test scores of our children living in poverty, and then makes a point of specifically stating:

There were too few Montessori students living in poverty to report a percent meeting standard in that program, because fewer than ten Montessori students qualified for free or reduced lunch.

That’s right, the CAC wants everybody to know that there are “too few Montessori students living in poverty” to make a comparison… that “fewer than ten Montessori students qualified for free or reduced price lunch.” They apparently want everybody to know that there is an economic disparity between the two programs.

But what the CAC doesn’t highlight is that there are only twelve Montessori fourth graders in total… and that all twelve, regardless of race or poverty level, scored proficient on the reading portion of the WASL.

This is the racial and economic divide that has guided the CAC to uniquely evaluate Graham Hill as two schools. It is this lack of “integration” that allows them to say that the scores of some of our best students shouldn’t count when comparing us to other schools, but that the scores of our bilingual, special ed, and autism inclusion students should. This is the tortured excuse the district is using to shut down Graham Hill, a school that by any fair measure is one of the desirable in the SE.

Even when it comes to basic statistics, our Montessori students simply don’t count. The district and the CAC consistently understate our enrollment by ignoring our 32 preschoolers, whose inclusion would bring us up to 90 percent of planned capacity. And according to the district’s official figures, Graham Hill has one of the lowest first-choice rankings in the SE. But if you average in the 16 preschoolers who matriculate into the Montessori kindergarten every year — a kindergarten with a long wait list — our first-choice ranking would be the highest in the quadrant.

Clearly, Graham Hill has been targeted for closure; every bit of data that can be used to support this decision is being used, and every bit of data that might refute it has been ignored. Our enrollment figures, our test scores and our first choice ranking have all been distorted and misrepresented to justify closure, and our 113-strong PTA has been slandered behind our backs, and vilified to our faces.

Our school’s closure is not just mystifying and bewildering, it is downright insulting. And what I know about how little the district knows about Graham Hill leads me to question the entire school closure process, and every projection or estimate the district has used to justify it.

by Goldy, 05/31/2006, 9:04 AM

I could have ranted all night about Seattle school closings, but my fellow panelists threatened to bound and gag me. And so we invited 43rd Legislative District candidate Lynne Dodson onto the podcast to act as a kind of informal stopwatch on the subject. Lynne, a teacher herself, graciously gave us 15 minutes of her time, and I wasted most of it ranting. In an informative and entertaining manner, of course.

Joining me and Lynne in our weekly, liquored up lecture series were Mollie, Will, Carl, Lee and eventually, Gavin. Topics of discussion included school closures, immigration, Bush’s base betrayal, Will’s obsession with escalator etiquette, why Republicans aren’t funny, US atrocities in Iraq, and the WA State GOP’s proposal to reinstitute slavery. And of course, we reminded everybody to go see "An Inconvenient Truth" this weekend.

The show is 1:00:49, and is available here as a 38.8 MB MP3. Please visit PodcastingLiberally.com for complete archives and RSS feeds.

[Recorded live at the Seattle chapter of Drinking Liberally. Special thanks to Confab creators Gavin and Richard for producing the show.]

by Goldy, 05/30/2006, 6:22 PM

If you don’t have anything on topic to say, leave the school closing threads alone, and spew your hateful bullshit here.

by Goldy, 05/30/2006, 5:53 PM

Letter from Raj

If Raj Manhas is a man of his word, he will remove Graham Hill from the closure list.

Due to mismanagement and neglect on the part of the school district, Graham Hill elementary has had 8 principals in 6 years. Operating under yet another interim principal, and faced with the prospect of yet another “permanent” principal being assigned without our input, our PTA held a contentious meeting in March with district Education Director Walter Trotter, at which we were promised that our needs would be the district’s “top priority.”

At this meeting Trotter proposed a deal, in which our current interim principal would stay on for another year, so that we could have the opportunity to recruit a principal from those made available after school closures were announced. We agreed, and as an organization the PTA decided to trust the district and not push our grievances to the press (something we were extremely capable of doing.)

However, it now seems clear that at the time this promise was made, Graham Hill was already being targeted for closure. We were scammed.

I remain convinced that the entire closure process is flawed… that the CAC had neither the time, the resources, the data or the expertise to make such profound decisions, and that the district has failed to provide reliable data on demographics, enrollment projections, first-choice ranking, and estimated savings. It is also quite clear that criteria were not applied equitably within and across quadrants.

No doubt there are some schools that warrant closure, but district officials have absolutely failed to support the assertion that there is an imperative to quickly close a swath of schools now, or that it is developing real solutions to address the district’s long term structural budget deficit. And so Superintendent Manhas, I urge you to step back, take your time, and carefully evaluate each and every school on the list. Visit the schools… talk to the families and staff… walk the hallways for yourself. If you are not absolutely convinced that it is a failing school — under-enrolled, under-performing, and in a sub-par building — then delay closure. Take your time. You can always close more schools next year.

But if you blindly follow the CAC’s recommendation under the red herring that no list will be perfect, you will destroy communities that can never be put back together again, while providing no real benefit to the affected students or the district at large.

Finally, I want the superintendent to understand that I speak now, not as a representative of our PTA, but merely as an angry parent who happens to have a widely read blog at his disposal. If Raj Manhas is a man of his word he will remove Graham Hill from the closure list. If he proves not to be a man of his word, I promise that I will use what influence I have to remove him from the superintendent’s office.

by Goldy, 05/30/2006, 3:16 PM

When the so-called “Citizen Advisory Committee” announces its final school closure recommendations today at 4:30, there will likely be only one significant change from the preliminary list: Sacajawea will be saved.

I base this prediction not only on an unconfirmed report I received about an hour ago, but on a close re-reading of this morning’s editorial in the Seattle Times. ["It's about students, not the buildings."] Not only was the editorial offensive and condescending, but it appears to be specifically targeted at heading off charges of racial inequity. Somebody on the editorial board apparently knew that the predominantly white Sacajawea was off the list — “tweaks are imminent” the unsigned editorial predicted. In this context the Times editorial can be seen for what it is: a transparent attempt to shield the district from charges of racism that this decision surely will prompt.

Indeed, the whole theme of the editorial is race, berating parents for bullying district officials with “guilt trips and rhetoric designed to divide neighborhoods,” and warning against frustration “in some quarters.” And the Times goes out of its way to call out John Marshall principal Joseph Drake for raising the issues of race and discrimination while contesting his own school’s closure.

But the truth is, race has always played a role in the gross inequities between North End and South End schools, if only as a convenient proxy for socioeconomic disparities between the communities. And for the Times to attempt to preempt this legitimate discussion is truly disgraceful.

More on the Times editorial later.

UPDATE:
Looks like I was wrong, it was TOPS that was saved, not Sacawajea. Still trying to read the bullshit document without my head exploding.

by Goldy, 05/30/2006, 1:41 PM

The Seattle chapter of Drinking Liberally meets tonight (and every Tuesday), 8PM at the Montlake Ale House, 2307 24th Avenue E. I’ll be in particular need of a couple of drinks and some friendly conversation after the final school closure recommendations come out this afternoon, and the only changes will likely be to keep a couple North End schools open.

I’m told that 43rd Legislative District candidate Lynne Dodson will joining us tonight to slake her thirst after a round of doorbelling. Chances are I’ll probably talk her ear off about school closures too.

And if you happen to be a liberal drinker on the other side of the mountains, the Tri-Cities chapter of DL also meets Tuesday nights, 7 PM, Atomic Ale, 1015 Lee Blvd., in Richland. Go ask Jimmy for more details.

by Goldy, 05/30/2006, 9:20 AM

I assume the folks who design the Seattle Times‘ charts and graphs have had some training or something, because generally their artwork looks very professional. That is, when I can see it.

Like approximately 8 percent of men, I suffer from red-green color blindness, which means that we have various degrees of deficiency in seeing the two colors. So when the Times prints an illustration like today’s map of projected school enrollment — which I’m told utilizes subtle gradations of taupe and green (what the fuck is “taupe” anyway?) — they might as well just print a big circle full of colored dots so that everybody can have a good laugh at the expense of us genetic freaks.

Color vision deficiency is in fact the most common X chromosome linked genetic disorder, a classic example in both Biology and Psychology 101 textbooks, and something I’ve been led to believe is taught in good graphic design schools everywhere. Thus this lack of sensitivity to my lack of color sensitivity is not only thoughtless and rude… it’s downright unprofessional. The illustration in question was intended to graphically communicate information, not hang on your living room wall, so how hard would it have been to garishly mix in a few blues and yellows?

So, Seattle Times art department… now you know. And in case you need a little refresher course on appropriate color palettes, here are some helpful hints from the folks at Microsoft.

by Goldy, 05/30/2006, 12:22 AM

Right-wing news aggregator The Orb reports from the GOP State Convention in Yakima, and has some constructive criticism for Rep. Dave Reichert:

Dave Reichert, U.S. House Rep – He’s a good guy and my congressman, and I am going to vote for him. But I have hard time following him when he speaks. It’s not that he has a bad voice or comes off nervous or unsure of himself – it’s just that sometimes I can’t figure out what his point is. He mix and mingled 3 stories of WTO rioting, riding with Ron Sims in the towncar, and chasing down crooks that got filmed on TV… all to make the point that it’s import “to try”, and how that related to Reagan fighting the cold war. I don’t want too sound mean or picky because he’s a good man and has done a good job for the 8th district and is head and shoulders more qualified than ex-Microsoft executive product manager Darcy Burner, but in my opinion he needs to focus better when speaking to a crowd.

Of course, part of the problem could just be that Reichert simply isn’t all that bright. (At least, that’s what a number of people who know him tell me, Republicans included.) These rambling speeches, they’re not a result of lack of focus Orb – Reichert’s about as focused as he can get. No, they’re a result of a lack of intellect.

For example, did you know that Reichert once had the inside track on the Republican nomination for governor in 2004? The man with the shiny medals and shinier hair had the support of the party big-wigs all lined up. That is, until he appeared before a gathering of these very same mucky-mucks and delivered one of his trademark, higgledy-piggledy soliloquies, displaying an utter lack of knowledge of the duties of office, let alone the issues of the day. A stunned audience immediately started recruiting Dino Rossi.

Why do you think that when he ran for the nomination for the 8th CD, the usually disciplined state GOP atypically tolerated such a crowded and competitive primary, despite Reichert’s huge name ID advantage? Because party stalwarts like Luke Esser and Diane Tebelius had seen him speak before, and they couldn’t stomach nominating such an idiot.

And why do you think that Reichert staged his dramatic walkout from the candidate debates? Because the other guys hurt “The Sheriff’s” feelers? No… because his handlers knew that he would be overwhelmed even by the likes of Tebelius. (I’ve seen her work a courtroom, and I’m telling you, that’s a pretty low bar.)

You want Reichert to “focus better”…? If by that you mean stay carefully on script, well sure, that would help his campaign. But don’t kid yourself about who Reichert really is. That rambling, periphrastic mess you saw on stage in Yakima, well… that’s the real Dave Reichert. Support him if you want, but don’t pretend it has anything to do with competence or intellect.

by Goldy, 05/29/2006, 7:30 PM

Jimmy at McCranium has an interview with 4th Congressional District candidate Richard Wright.

Who’s Richard Wright? He’s the Democrat running against “Do nuthin’ Doc” Hastings, the House Ethics Committee chair who refuses to launch a single investigation of what may be the most corrupt House in modern times. That alone should be reason enough to send Wright to the other Washington.

by Goldy, 05/29/2006, 11:57 AM

US News & World Report cover on global warmingIt has been a week since King County Executive Ron Sims proposed an Office of Global Warming, and still no peep out of the Seattle Times recognizing his extraordinary vision on this issue. Back in 1988, when as a councilman Sims first proposed a similar office, the Times editorial board ridiculed his warnings as “hyperbolic clouds of rhetorical gas.” 18 years later, with the scientific consensus firmly on his side, the Times refuses to acknowledge Sims’ steadfast (and prescient) environmental leadership.

Of course the risk for local media when they stubbornly refuse to give local issues and leaders the coverage they deserve, is that they leave themselves open to being scooped by their national colleagues. And that’s exactly what happened this week, when US News & World Report hit the newsstands with a cover story on global warming that prominently features Sims and his decades-long efforts to prepare King County for the local impact of climate change.

KING COUNTY, WASH.–From a chopper buzzing the forested foothills of the Cascade mountains just outside Seattle, County Executive Ron Sims describes this as “a good year.” The craggy canvas below is a gorgeous bottle green. The lakelike reservoirs are nearly full. Crisp-white snow caps much of the Cascade Range. It’s everything one would expect in this cool, water-rich corner of the world. But residents here worry that the “good years” are becoming increasingly rare. According to scientists at the University of Washington, the Pacific Northwest has gotten warmer by 1.5 degrees since 1900, about a half-degree higher than the global average. That might not seem like much, but the effects are being noticed here, particularly in the amount of snow in the Cascades. Since 1949, snowpack in the lower mountain range, a primary source of water for the area, has declined 50 percent, raising the odd specter of water shortages in the rainy Pacific Northwest.

The culprit is unusually warm weather, which is melting snowpack and changing the precipitation cycle. More water is falling as rain–and being lost as runoff–and less is falling as mountain snow, a natural banking system that holds the precipitation until the spring, when it melts to fill reservoirs for the dry summer season. “Our water system is based on snowmelt,” Sims says. “But we’re continually losing huge volumes.”

The problem snapped into focus over the past two years, when the state was hit by a severe drought–the kind of extreme weather fluctuation that scientists expect will become more common as temperatures climb. The governor declared a statewide emergency. Ski resorts closed. Rivers and reservoirs fell to dangerous lows. For Sims, the water crisis was a worrisome sign of things to come. “How are we going to meet the needs of people and fish,” he asks, “when the snowmelt is going away?”

It’s a question haunting the 58-year-old Sims, who has made fighting the effects of climate change a central theme for much of his 10-year tenure as county executive. The quest puts him on the front line of what is shaping up to be the next battle in the climate-change wars: preparing for and adapting to a warmer climate.

Sims has always been willing to expend political capital on issues ranging from tax restructuring to health care reform to avian flu preparation, and he has once again put himself on the front line, this time in the battle over how our region should respond to climate change and other environmental threats. The controversial Critical Areas Ordinance and Brightwater sewage treatment plant are both partially intended to help buffer the county from the impacts of global warming, while light rail and other policy and infrastructure initiatives that promote urban density provide the added benefit of making our region more energy efficient.

This is the type of vision to which you’d think our local punditocracy might at least occasionally pay passing lip service, but while opinion makers often decry the lack of leadership from our elected officials, any attempt to exercise the very same is more often than not sneeringly dismissed as arrogance or folly. In the case of Sims and his initiatives on global warming, it appears that our local editorialists simply can’t see the forest for the trees that some property owners claim they should have the right to clear-cut come hell or high water. (Or both.)

But while the Times refuses to recognize Sims’ efforts to think globally and act locally as more worthy of praise than ridicule, national publications like US News are lauding him for his pragmatism.

Adaptation is more effective, experts say, when it’s handled at a regional level. That’s why a growing number of communities, in the United States and elsewhere, aren’t waiting. Sims is a good example. “Nationally, you have an administration that fights scientists,” he says. “We have said the key is to listen to scientists, not politicians.” Sims made good on his word by hiring the Climate Impacts Group at the University of Washington, a group of climate and Earth scientists who quickly highlighted the problem of melting snowpack–estimating that the area’s water supply could drop 20 million gallons a day in the future, even as demand is expected to rise. So, in April, the county broke ground on a new sewage plant, to be equipped with a $26 million facility to recycle and purify sewage into water clean enough for agricultural and industrial use, freeing up potable water for use in homes, restaurants, and businesses.

A lack of water could also leave much of the region in the dark. About 90 percent of Seattle’s energy comes from hydropower dams in the Columbia River Basin, which extends into Canada. If the annual snowpack continues to drop, a greater percentage of the supply will belong to Canada. For now, eco-friendly Seattle says that there’s little it can do other than continue to explore wind power and promote conservation.

The heavily forested area abutting Seattle, meanwhile, is by design. While all fast-growing counties in Washington employ urban growth boundaries to stem sprawl under a state law, Sims has been especially aggressive in implementing it in King County–imposing stiff environmental restrictions on private land, like requiring that green buffers remain around waterways and limiting development in some areas. Two years ago, the county purchased the development rights to 90,000 acres of working timberland for $22 million. The trees act as a huge carbon sink, absorbing greenhouse gas emissions but also functioning as a vast sponge, soaking up all that precipitation now falling more as rain than snow while relieving pressure on area levees. Controlling the development rights also means the rivers running through the land will be there to tap as a future supply for potable water.

The scientific consensus on global warming is overwhelming, so much so that Michael Shermer devotes his “Skeptic” column in the June issue of Scientific American to explaining his “cognitive flip” on the issue.

It is a matter of the Goldilocks phenomenon. In the last ice age, CO2 levels were 180 parts per million (ppm)–too cold. Between the agricultural revolution and the industrial revolution, levels rose to 280 ppm–just right. Today levels are at 380 ppm and are projected to reach 450 to 550 by the end of the century–too warm. Like a kettle of water that transforms from liquid to steam when it changes from 99 to 100 degrees Celsius, the environment itself is about to make a CO2-driven flip.

In his film “An Inconvenient Truth“, Al Gore makes an impassioned plea that it is not too late to cut carbon emissions and forestall some of the very worst consequences of global warming. But it is too late to avoid climate change entirely, as it is already taking place.

Rising temperatures and sea levels are perhaps the single greatest crisis facing our world, our nation and our region. It is time we start supporting our political leaders who are facing this crisis head on, rather than ignoring or reviling them for it.

by Goldy, 05/28/2006, 10:13 AM

Aerial photo of Seattle showing impact of global warming

I was pretty sure the Seattle Times editorial board was so ashamed over its 1988 editorial vilifying then councilman Ron Sims for proposing to create a science office dedicated to preparing for and mitigating global warming, that they were probably waiting until the big Sunday paper to issue their apology.

Hmm. Guess not.

At the time Sims was quoted as saying “I don’t think anyone disputes the reality of the greenhouse effect,” but of course the Times totally bought into the corporate propagandists who did. And they didn’t just spit back the energy industry PR verbatim, they went out of their way to ridicule Sims for daring to show a little vision and leadership:

IF THE “greenhouse effect” is exacerbated by political hot air, the world is in real trouble.

The hyperbolic clouds of rhetorical gas belched out on this issue in recent weeks could easily choke someone – or at least cloud the vision of otherwise rational people.

[...]

The point is that the sky-is-falling, icecaps-are-melting, oceans-are-rising rhetoric must be tempered by common sense.

If Sims and Laing want to study the greenhouse effect, they should buy themselves some tomato plants and a bag of steer manure – which shouldn’t be at all hard for such experienced politicians to find.

Of course, what Sims and Laing were proposing some 18 years ago was common sense: a mere $100,000 a year to study the impact of an impending climate crisis that could completely reshape both our economy and our geography. A region that was built on abundant water, and the cheap electricity and irrigation it brings, could soon face the disappearance of our crucial snow pack. In less than a century the salmon, long a symbol of our region, could become little more than that.

Here as elsewhere, rising sea levels may reshape our coastlines, submerging much of Seattle’s waterfront, Pioneer Square, the SODO neighborhood, and our entire working harbor, a lynchpin of our state economy. The aerial photo above, prepared by King County, shows the projected impact of rising levels. (View the whole image here.) The red lines mark a 10 foot rise; in the 20-foot rise that would come if only half our land-based polar ice were to melt, everything behind the blue lines would be under water.

That’s right, we just spent a billion plus dollars building two stadiums smack dab in the middle of Elliot Bay.

And of course it’s not just Seattle whose maps are redrawn. According to county projections a 20-foot rise in sea levels would flood the Duwamish all the way to Southcenter.

King County projected sea level rise

Meanwhile state, city and county governments continue to plan for the future the way they have since the Times slapped Sims around 18 years ago: completely oblivious to the overwhelming scientific consensus that says global warming is real, the impact will be devastating, and that it is caused by our carbon emissions. We are sticking our heads in the sand… sand that may soon be under 20-feet of water.

Of course I don’t really expect the Times to apologize to Sims for its cynical, mean-spirited, head-up-its-ass editorial — everybody gets stuff wrong once in a while… though rarely in such a totally embarrassing manner. But what I had hoped for was a public endorsement of Sims’ current proposal for an Office of Global Warming, and an acknowledgment of Sims’ decades-long vision on this issue.

Perhaps next Sunday.

by Goldy, 05/27/2006, 10:10 PM

The NY Times’ Frank Rich wants Al Gore to run for president:

Even so, let’s hope Mr. Gore runs. He may not be able to pull off the Nixon-style comeback of some bloggers’ fantasies, but by pounding away on his best issues, he could at the very least play the role of an Adlai Stevenson or Wendell Willkie, patriotically goading the national debate onto higher ground.

After you see An Inconvenient Truth, you’ll likely want Gore to run too.

by Goldy, 05/27/2006, 1:33 PM

Anybody who knows anything about state politics knows that this is shaping up to be a tough year for Republicans in Olympia… that is, everybody except, perhaps, our state GOP leaders:

Republican Party Chairwoman Diane Tebelius, however, said she sees no cause for concern.

“I’ve never been a believer that what might be happening in federal politics is necessarily affecting what goes on in state politics,” she said. “I think we’re going to pick up seats in the [state] House and Senate, and at a very minimum will retain all our seats in the state Senate.”

Party leaders in the state House and Senate agree. “I don’t feel like I’m going to lose any seats and I could possibly pick one up,” said Senate Republican Leader Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla.

Uh-huh. National politics never impacts local races. Tell that to all those Democratic legislators swept out in 1994.

Of course, not all state Republicans are as steeped in denial as Tebelius:

“I’m worried,” said Rep. Fred Jarrett, a moderate Republican from Mercer Island. “If it’s a bad year for Republicans everywhere, I’m a Republican.”

Fortunately for the ever popular Jarrett, he’ll easily win reelection whatever baggage the “R” next to his name might carry. And fortunately for the Dems, as one of the state Republican caucus’s last remaining true moderates, nobody in his party’s leadership much heeds Jarrett’s sage advice anymore.

But it’s not just the general political climate that sucks for local Republicans (and man does it suck), for circumstances have conspired to leave the GOP with a buttload of open seats to defend, many in swing or Democratic-leaning districts. All things being equal, Democrats were poised to pick up a few seats this year just on pure numbers.

But they’re not equal. President Bush’s approval rating in WA ranks near the lowest in the nation, while local polling consistently shows Democrats with a double-digit lead in generic preference. And in a more nuts-and-bolts measure, Democrats are out-raising their opponents in close races throughout the state.

GOP faithful may be momentarily comforted by Tebelius’s cheerleading, but there’s a good chance we may witness the beginnings of a structural realignment on her watch. Former Republican strongholds in the East King County suburbs have been trending Democratic for years, and a new class of socially progressive, fiscally moderate Democratic legislators could go a long way towards pushing many voters to redefine their party identification.

The fact is that King County — a government larger than that of 13 states — has been remarkably well managed under the leadership of Ron Sims and a Democratic council, boasting one of the highest bond ratings in the nation. Compare that to the fiscal incompetence of national Republicans who are running up the largest budget deficits in our nation’s history. Our local “Dan Evans Republicans” must wonder, which party is it that more closely represents their values?

For years, state and local Republicans have benefited from extraordinary feats of party discipline, but this strategy will not work in the face of the political disaster that is unfolding under the GOP’s one-party rule in the other Washington. Local Republican candidates who refuse to openly and honestly criticize their President and their Congress, will be viewed by voters for what they are: Republicans.

And that’s simply not an attractive brand to run on in 2006.

by Goldy, 05/26/2006, 10:18 PM

I read through the Seattle Times op/ed page today, and still no apology to Ron Sims. Maybe they’re saving it for Sunday?

by Goldy, 05/26/2006, 4:03 PM

The Seattle School District has two autism inclusion programs, one at Thurgood Marshall and the other at Graham Hill… both of which the CAC has recommended for closure. Which of course makes sense, because if there’s one thing we know about autism, it’s how easy it is for these children to make new friends and adapt to new environments.

by Goldy, 05/26/2006, 12:34 AM

I have an idea for an initiative, and I was hoping some qualified attorney in my audience might be willing to help me draft the text. The idea is simple: I would like to amend RCW Chapter 49.60 to make it legal to discriminate in housing, employment, lending and insurance… against Christians.

As a Jew, I find the so-called “Christian lifestyle” offensive, and contrary to the teachings of the Torah. The Lord commanded Moses, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me,” and yet the Christians not only worship that Jesus guy, they’re constantly praying to Saint This, or Saint That, and the Blessed Virgin Mary of Whatever. I mean… what the hell is up with that?

That savior-on-a-stick symbolism is kind of gross, holy communion seems downright unsanitary, and transubstantiation? Don’t get me started — the whole eating your god thing just weirds me out. But then, what do you expect from a religion in which the end of the world is considered a good thing?

And then there’s all that pork. That’s just plain wrong. Except for bacon, which is delicious… and of course Chinese food. Anything in a Chinese restaurant is kosher.

The point is, I’m an American, and thus it is my right to be intolerant of all those who are different from me or who challenge my preconceptions or who make me feel uncomfortable in any way. Christianity is wrong; the Torah says so. And so I certainly wouldn’t want a Christian teaching my children or coaching their sports teams… or having anal sex with that nice gay man who lives next door.

Now I know what some of you may be thinking: discriminating against Christians is not “politically correct.” But if we let Christians take out mortgages or pay insurance premiums, we’re just heading down that slippery road towards normalizing their disgusting behavior. Next thing you know they’ll be putting Christmas trees in the public square, or singing Christmas carols in the public schools, or going door to door, recruiting our children to join their freakish, cannibalistic cult.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Christians. Especially the shiksas. In fact, I love them so much that I want to change them, by helping them abandon their abhorrent lifestyle. And change they can, for unlike race or gender or sexual orientation, Christianity is a choice. After all, I don’t know any ex-homosexuals… but I know a helluva lot of ex-Catholics.

Clearly, our arrogant legislators don’t agree with my anti-Christian stance, but this is a Democracy, and thus we the people deserve the right to vote on whether Christians should be denied their rights. So please contribute to my initiative campaign, and join me in saying no to preferential treatment, no to quotas, and no to church weddings.

by Goldy, 05/25/2006, 4:05 PM

SaveGrahamHill.com

I have been writing a lot about my daughter’s elementary school, and will continue to do so for quite some time. But I’m not the only one.

My fellow parents at Graham Hill Elementary have joined together to do an incredible amount of research, analysis, creative thinking and community outreach in our effort to save our school from closure. Some of this is now available online at our new website: SaveGrahamHill.com

This new website is not only a terrific introduction to Graham Hill, it is also a demonstration of how integrated we are into the surrounding community, for it is actually the creation of Chandra Inouye, who is not (yet) a Graham Hill parent. Her daughter is only 18 months, a year and a half shy of our unique, Montessori Pre-K program.

My deepest thanks to Chandra for this tremendous gift.

by Goldy, 05/25/2006, 2:13 PM

If you want to hear Mollie and me bitch about school closings, tune on in! If want to hear me yell at Will because he doesn’t recognize the charter school and voucher movement as an integral part of the religious right’s conspiracy to turn this nation into a Christian theocracy… this is the podcast for you!

Joining me, Mollie and Will in our phlegmatic efforts to get the CAC out of our throats were infamous potty-mouth Sandeep Kaushik, 45th Legislative District candidate Roger Goodman, and the mysterious "N". Topics of discussion included school closures, charter schools, school closures, vouchers, school closures and school closures. Oh yeah, we also talked about planning for global warming, providing health insurance to all our children, vote-by-mail, Russ Feingold’s visit to Seattle, and… school closings.

The show is 1:03:52, and is available here as a 41.1 MB MP3. Please visit PodcastingLiberally.com for complete archives and RSS feeds.

[Recorded live at the Seattle chapter of Drinking Liberally. Special thanks to Confab creators Gavin and Richard for producing the show. Except for Gavin, who wasn't there this week.]

by Goldy, 05/25/2006, 11:22 AM

In the Seattle Times this morning, columnist Danny Westneat defends the Seattle School District’s school closure process:

This list may be flawed. But it’s the best one yet. It comes from the people. I say close at least some of these schools.

I like and respect Danny, but in this case, he’s less than half right. He’s right that the list is flawed, but he’s wrong that it’s better than the first. It’s simply flawed in different ways.

He’s also right that there are some schools that likely should close — under-enrolled, under-performing schools in old, crumbling or otherwise insufficient buildings — but he’s wrong to assume that the worst of these are represented anywhere on the list.

And I think Danny is overstating the case to say that this list comes from “the people.” It comes from 14 people, and for all their good intentions and hard work, they clearly don’t represent or understand many of the school communities they have slated for elimination.

The CAC had neither the time, the training nor the resources necessary to make such momentous decisions, and several of its members have admitted as much. CAC co-chair Ken Alhadeff (a man of the people?) seemed noticeably uncomfortable defending the process, offering that he did not come into this with the expertise to make these decisions. And how could he?

The CAC also had a very narrow mandate: close 12 schools without analyzing the actual fiscal impact on the district, without questioning the demographic data, without considering recent capital expenditures, and without developing a comprehensive plan for how the district should attempt to address declining enrollment and growing budget gaps. The CAC’s mandate is to close 12 schools, the decision to be made in isolation of all other factors, and with no context.

Closing a school is a huge decision, with tremendous repercussions for both the district and the local community, and thus the evaluation and the decision should be made by the people with the most expertise and the most familiarity with the individual schools… the school district itself. Instead, beaten down by the backlash from last year’s aborted closings, the district created the CAC specifically to disintermediate themselves from the decision making process, and the inevitable political firestorm. The CAC members are being used as human shields by a district that clearly lacks the leadership to make important decisions like this on its own.

Furthermore, if the whole idea of closing a dozen schools all at once wasn’t specifically intended to divide the individual school communities against each other in a perverted game of public school Survivor, somebody in the district should have had the common sense to understand that that is how it would be perceived. The risk to this strategy is that rather than playing this game, the families from these various schools would join together to scuttle the entire process, regardless of whether there might be some schools on the list that deserve to be closed. That is what happened last time around, and that is what is happening this time.

Everything about this process was flawed, and unlike Danny, I don’t believe that slapping the word “Citizen” onto the name of the committee is enough of a bandaid to save it. And even if my daughter’s school, Graham Hill, succeeds in saving itself, the whole process leaves me with deep reservations about which other communities may have been equally screwed… if inadvertently.

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the process is the fact that by splitting the CAC into subcommittees by quadrant, the published criteria were not applied equally between quadrants — and sometimes within them — while at the same time the data provided to the committee was often misleading, or downright wrong.

For example, the Graham Hill families were told that the most heavily weighted criteria used to evaluate closures was academic performance and family satisfaction, and that all the other criteria were far down the list. And one of the primary criteria used to determine satisfaction was first-choice ranking.

By that measure, using the data the district supplied to the CAC, Graham Hill didn’t fare well at all, with only 11 percent of students having selected the school as its first choice… ranking us 12th amongst South End schools.

But what the CAC didn’t know is that our popular preschool program is not included in the district’s first choice data, and that 14 to 16 four-year-olds matriculate into our Montessori kindergarten every year without making any selection at all. This would raise our first choice ranking to 15.7 percent… making it by far the most popular school in the South End! No wonder we have such a long wait lists for our Montessori kindergarten.

Likewise, the district publishes erroneous enrollment figures for our school, because it does not include the 32 preschoolers in the Montessori program. (Oddly enough, the district never forgets to bill our school for the teachers they hire to teach preschool.) And the trend line showing Graham Hill experienced a sudden decline in enrollment from three years ago, does not explain that our enrollment peaked while we temporarily absorbed students from nearby Brighton Elementary when it was closed for rebuilding, and then suddenly fell when these students returned to their home school. Three years ago we were over-enrolled, with over 32 kids in many of our classrooms… and that’s the starting point the CAC uses to measure decline?

As for applying criteria consistently, the CAC could only justify using academic performance to shut our school by separating the Montessori scores from those of the traditional program… yet at Bagley, the only other school with a Montessori program — and a school that was slated for closure last year — the scores were not separated out, and the two programs were conveniently evaluated as a whole. The same is true throughout the district, where some schools had their spectrum students’ scores separated out, and some did not. How is this comparing apples to apples?

Indeed, sitting through the town hall meeting monday night, watching the CAC’s presentation, it became apparent that all the closure decisions were somewhat subjective (as one might expect them to be, coming from human beings) with various criteria being touted after the fact to help justify the decision. School after school, the CAC cited poor building condition as a contributing factor, yet we were told point blank that Graham Hill’s $5.2 million expansion and renovation completed just two years ago did not factor into their decision making process at all. How is this possible?

Danny says that at least some of the schools on the list should be closed, and maybe they should. But from what I know about of the process I have trouble trusting any of the decisions the CAC made.

And in the end, this is all about trust. The district has never fully made the case for school closings, nor clearly demonstrated how much money would really be saved after increased busing and consolidation costs are factored in. Indeed, while the district has spent $250,000 on an outside contractor to study the fiscal impact of school closures, the report isn’t due until after the school board is scheduled to make its final decision.

Neither has the district talked publicly about a comprehensive plan to stem declining enrollment or fix what can only be described as a structural budget deficit… a deficit in which even the promised savings from school closures barely makes a dent.

So can us parents, who are being asked to sacrifice our children’s schools for the good of the larger district, even begin to trust this decision, when the district has repeatedly failed to earn our trust on a host of other issues? The truth is, we can’t.