by Goldy, 06/30/2009, 7:10 PM

Well… not really. I hate live-blogging. And besides, I don’t plan to stay for the whole thing. (It’s Darryl’s birthday!) But I thought I’d share a few thoughts as they come to me.

And my first thought is… where the hell is Susan Hutchison? (Apparently, she declined her invitation.)

THOUGHT:
It’s an impressively full house for a summer night at Town Hall. Not full full—I mean, not Sims vs. Hutcherson packed to the rafters full—but about as full as you’re likely to see it. (The largest audience they’ll face the entire campaign, according to Fred Jarrett.) All the more reason for Susan to show up and introduce herself to one of the most passionate and active communities in the county.

THOUGHT:
From the very first question Dow Constantine stands out from the rest… mostly as being the only candidate up there without gray hair. Otherwise, it’s all a bunch of middle aged white guys. Again… all the more reason for Susan to show up and throw a middled aged white woman into the mix.

THOUGHT:
Ross Hunter starts off by making a process argument—that he’s the most capable of bringing folks together to achieve the vision we all share—which is a pretty savvy opening response considering that there really isn’t all that much that separates the four on environmental policy.

THOUGHT:
Dow raises tax reform as an issue, blaming the legislature for failure to act. That wins brownie points with me.

THOUGHT:
It’s kinda funny to do a debate format where each candidate gets a “rebuttal” per se, when the candidates don’t really seem to disagree with other.

THOUGHT:
More on Dow’s raising the tax issue, as it appears to reflect a smart strategy on his part. Dow and Larry come in at a bit of a disadvantage as longtime council members, as to some extent they’re forced into defending county government, while Ross and Fred go on the attack. But our regressive and inadequate tax system presents legitimate grounds for Dow and Larry to attack the legislature, and thus put Fred and Ross on the defensive. Particularly Ross, who serves as chair of the House Finance Committee.

THOUGHT:
I’m doing a lot more live-blogging than I planned, but I suppose that means I don’t have to go through the effort of writing up my thoughts after the fact.

THOUGHT:
Fred once worked as a gandy dancer. (Look it up.) Who knew?

THOUGHT:
All four think it’s important to buy the Eastside BNSF rail corridor, but none seem too urgent to turn it into commuter rail. (Though Fred thinks the price is too high, and needs to be renegotiated, and as a gandy dancer, he should know.)

THOUGHT:
With nearly every answer, Larry starts off by talking about something he’s done or some board or whatever he’s served on. I suppose it’s okay strategy to highlight one’s resume, but it kinda sounds like he’s running for student body president.

THOUGHT:
Ross has the most engaging debating technique. But I’m not sure if focusing reducing overhead and squeezing waste out of the budget is going to engage this particular audience.

THOUGHT:
The biggest contrast here tonight is between Dow and Ross. At least on matters of substance.

THOUGHT:
NOTE TO STAFFERS: Please tell Larry not to talk so fast, and tell Fred not slouch (though to be fair, that may be the natural shape of his back). Oh… and this goes for all four candidates… it wouldn’t hurt to crack a smile once in a while. If Susan were there, I bet she’d be smile. (Except when she’s angry. Or maybe even then too.)

THOUGHT:
It’s not really fair to seat Fred next to Larry. It makes Fred look small.

THOUGHT:
Ross said “poop.” He has my vote.

THOUGHT:
Dow argues for a $1.50/barrel tax on petroleum to raise $100 million to help clean up Puget Sound. Ross and Fred talk about being smarter with the money we have.

On cleaning up the sound, is now the time to push for funding from the state… Fred: “Now is not the time to push for funding.” Dow: “Puget Sound can’t wait… fund this now.” Ross: “You are electing a King County Executive, not a King County lobbyist.” (Didn’t answer the question.) Larry: “Now is the time to raise the revenue.”

Do you support a county property or sales tax increase to help clean up the Sound? Fred:  “No.” Dow: “I’m not willing to dismiss this out of hand, but it is not the time for sales or property.” (Wants a progressive tax from the legislature.) Ross: “I don’t support this year adding a property or sales tax.” (And he “knows” that the people don’t support it.) Larry: “I’m not opposed to raising money locally.”

Again… this is the real conflict in this race… the council members think we need more funding or more (and more progressive) taxing authority, and the legislators think we need to spend what money we have more wisely.

THOUGHT:
I’m out of here.

by Darryl, 06/30/2009, 6:25 PM

DLBottle

It’s Tuesday, so stop by the Seattle chapter of Drinking Liberally for an evening of politics under the influence. The festivities take place at the Montlake Ale House, 2307 24th Avenue E. beginning at 8:00 pm. Or stop by early for some dinner.

Tonight’s activity? I think our time would best be spent celebrating my birthday…so beer offers and inappropriate flirtations are all welcomed.


[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7iI4jgaa_As[/youtube]

Not in Seattle? The Drinking Liberally web site has dates and times for 332 other chapters of Drinking Liberally for you to get lost at.

by Lee, 06/30/2009, 6:18 PM

A medical marijuana dispensary is now operating in Spokane:

After years of buying marijuana illegally, Judy now has a doctor’s note that says marijuana is a proper medication to ease her pain.

She buys her supply from a shop called Change. It opened two months ago and is run by Christopher Stevens, Noah Zarate and Scott Shupe.

People smoke and buy marijuana at the Northwest Boulevard store, and police know about it. The owners wrote a letter to Spokane police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick about their business; her reply stated that her officers are committed to enforcing local, state and federal laws.

Stevens, a candidate for Spokane City Council, took her reply to mean police would not interfere with the business.

I hope Stevens is correct and that the police will leave them alone. Unfortunately, that may not be the case.

Spokane County Deputy Prosecutor John Grasso handles most medical marijuana-related crimes. Police often consult him before pursuing a case, he said.

Grasso thinks dispensaries operating in Spokane, including Change, on Northwest Boulevard, are illegal because they provide marijuana to more than one person.

But it will take a police investigation to trigger prosecution, he said.

The factors in this equation haven’t changed. Either patients are going to spend their money in a safe environment with their money going towards local entrepreneurs and the local tax base or they’re going to spend their money on the black market with their money going towards organized crime groups – usually from Mexico – who have the resources to set up massive farms throughout the state and are willing to shoot it out with the police if necessary to protect their profits.

Spokane police appear to be doing the smart thing for now and looking the other way. These things sometimes change very quickly and unexpectedly though. The risk of opening up an actual dispensary in the state has been great enough that not even Seattle has any operating out in the open yet. As a result, authorized patients either grow for themselves or find someone to grow for them. Robbers or overzealous police actions sometimes wipe out a patient’s supply for weeks or even months.

Allowing and regulating dispensaries like Change is the solution to this problem. The Obama Administration opened the door for doing this by saying that they wouldn’t interfere with state dispensary laws. Three states now allow them – California, New Mexico, and Rhode Island (Rhode Island’s House recently overrode the Governor’s veto with a unanimous vote). For Olympia to leave dispensaries like Change operating in semi-legal limbo is just another failure in a long line of legislative failures on this issue.

UPDATE: A Seattle-based dispensary operator will be interviewed on KUOW today at noon.

by Goldy, 06/30/2009, 2:32 PM

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J25cDNVy1fM&feature=player_embedded[/youtube]

The Minnesota State Supreme Court unanimously declared Al Franken the winner today in the state’s closely contested US Senate race, prompting Republican Norm Coleman to concede:

“Ours is a government of laws, not men and women. The Supreme Court of Minnesota has spoken; I respect its decision and I will abide by its result. It’s time for Minnesotans to come together under the leaders it has chosen, and move forward. And I join all Minnesotans in congratulating our newest U.S. senator, Al Franken.”

Coleman’s legal challenge had long since become futile and obstructionist, but in the end he deserves credit for being a helluva lot more gracious than Dino Rossi, who to this day has never accept the outcome of the 2004 election and court challenge:

Rossi said because the “political makeup of the Washington Supreme Court” makes it “almost impossible to overturn this ruling, I am ending this election contest.”

Nobody ever accused Rossi of being a mensch.

Apart from that, two main observations:  1) I guess Washington’s election contest statutes aren’t all that bad by comparison after all. I mean, imagine how disruptive it would have been had Rossi’s lawyers prevented us from having a governor for six months?

And 2), Franken’s victory is sign of redemption to foul-mouthed satirists everywhere. If he could be taken seriously in straight-laced Minnesota, I suppose there’s hope yet for me here in hippie-dippy Seattle should I ever throw my hat into the ring. Voters really can tell the difference between being serious and being solemn, even if that nuance sometimes eludes our editorialists.

by Goldy, 06/30/2009, 9:45 AM

A coalition of environmental organizations is holding the King County Green Choice Debate tonight, from 7PM to 9PM (doors open at 6PM) at Seattle’s Town Hall, 1119 8th Ave. Four of the five candidates for King County Executive will face off, taking questions on environmental issues. Of course Susan Hutchison won’t be there, as she clearly considers environmentalists to be a hostile audience.

by Goldy, 06/30/2009, 8:40 AM

Everybody knows about the profligate spending of billionaire owners like the Dallas Cowboys’ Jerry Jones and the Washington Redskins’ Daniel Snyder. But according to a moneyball analysis of NFL spending on salaries and bonuses over the past five seasons, the Seattle Seahawks are right up there vying for the title of the league’s biggest spender.

1. Cowboys $566.89
2. Seahawks $552.42
3. Redskins $547.37

Who knew?

(FYI, for comparison, that’s about $100 million more than the teams at the bottom of the list.)

by Goldy, 06/29/2009, 5:18 PM

As Sound Transit prepares for Link Light Rail’s inaugural run, the anti-light rail folks are busy getting their crazy on

Coalition for Effective Transportation Alternatives (CETA) takes the position that all future collisions between trains and motor vehicles along the Central Link right of way would be chargeable to Sound Transit, because these collisions would be a direct, inevitable result of Sound Transit’s decision to implement a light rail right of way design that makes this type of collision possible.

What they’re essentially saying is that Sound Transit should be legally and financially liable for damages from all collisions, even when it is clearly the fault of the other vehicle’s driver. You know, hit a train and hit the jackpot… a policy that would have people plowing into trains all day long.

Yup there’s nothing quite as effective as a transportation alternative bankrupted by frivolous lawsuits. And as Martin at Seattle Transit Blog points out, it’s an argument that’s pretty damn disingenuous.

UPDATE:
Right around the time I was posting this, a Sound Transit train collided with a car at MLK and South Myrtle ST. It was, of course, the driver’s fault.

The preliminary investigation indicates the man driving the Chrysler was traveling southbound on and made an unlawful left turn against a red traffic signal into the path of a southbound light rail train at South Myrtle Street, according to police. [...] The driver was ticketed for a red light violation

According to CETA’s John Niles, that “unlawful left turn against a red traffic signal” should qualify the driver for a pretty big payday. Sweet.

by Goldy, 06/29/2009, 12:10 PM

Write a post that puts the mayoral aspirations of Jan Drago or Joe Mallahan in a less than flattering light, and I hear crickets chirping in the comment threads; maybe I’m right, maybe I’m wrong, nobody seems to really care. But dare to critique Mike McGinn and his campaign, or even just diss his electoral prospects, and man, it’s Katie bar the door, my threads and email overflowing with lengthy defenses of the environmental and community activist cum politician, along with an occasional attack on my own credibility and/or motives.

You gotta appreciate the passion. From the public and private polls I’ve seen thus far, McGinn doesn’t appear to enjoy broad support, but unlike the rest of the field, what support he has sure does run deep. Compare that to Mayor Greg Nickels, whose campaign slogan at the moment appears to be “I’m Not So Bad!”

This passionate support for McGinn—and in a similar vein, City Council candidate and fellow Sierra clubby Mike O’Brien—is on display in the thread from last Friday, a post in which I suggested the two Mikes were having trouble garnishing sole endorsements from environmental groups and leaders due to lingering resentment over Sierra Club’s failure to work and play well with others.

Plenty of folks took issue with both my analysis and my facts, and you can read their complaints for yourself. (That, by the way, is what these comment threads are really for, believe it or not… not the usual poop-flinging that tends characterize HA.) But I also heard directly from the two Mikes themselves, and there’s no doubt their personal passion more than matches that of their supporters.

O’Brien called me at home Saturday morning, and we had a long, pleasant, chatty and occasionally tangential conversation (I tend to be chatty and tangential, so no surprise there) on a wide ranging number of issues. Mostly O’Brien called to staunchly defend the Sierra Club and its reputation in the broader environmental community… so much so, that at some point I paused to remind him that as a candidate for office, he should probably spend some time actually promoting himself. (He also used the best excuse ever for getting off the phone with me:  “I gotta go, my neighbor’s house is on fire.”)

O’Brien wanted to set the record straight that Sierra Club opposed the Roads & Transit measure all the way, never made any promises to support it, and wasn’t alone in their opposition. He also touted Sierra Club’s hard work and determination to get a transit-only measure on the 2008 ballot, and ultimately passed, and pointed to their close cooperation with other environmental organizations as evidence of Sierra’s good working relationship.

All that may be true, but, as I pointed out, there were many in the broader environmental coalition who voiced a sense of betrayal at the time, and there are lingering recriminations today. These hard feelings may or may not be deserved, but they exist nonetheless, and that was really all that post was about.

For his part, McGinn defended himself, his campaign and the Sierra Club in a rather lengthy and pointed email. He too took umbrage at the notion that Sierra Club broke any promises on Roads & Transit, and defended its standing in the broader coalition. But he seemed most irritated by a prior post in which I admittedly cast aspersions on his dedication to campaigning. I wrote:

Successfully running for office, especially against an entrenched incumbent, is a near full time job, yet the last couple times I saw McGinn, he was just out riding his bike.  Not doorbelling, not fundraising, not working the crowd, just out enjoying the sunshine and riding his bike.  Good for him, I suppose. It’s a healthy passtime. But with that kinda political work ethic, I don’t think that’s a buzz you hear coming from his campaign, Craig, but rather the hiss of the air slowly escaping from McGinn’s political tires.

And McGinn responds:

The second factual error related to the statement I am “just out riding my bike” as proof that I don’t have a political work ethic. The one day you actually referenced that you saw me I was not “just our riding my bike.”  I was biking back from the West Seattle Water Taxi to my house.  I had spent the day at the Alki Summer Streets with four volunteers handing out campaign materials and talking to voters, as well as talking to folks on the Water Ferry on the ride out and back. My daughter had a scheduled soccer game at the Interbay field, which I was hoping to catch the end of.  I did not see her play, her game was already over.  Which was too bad, since the long days of campaigning and weekend events have cut my time with my kids down to very little. Maybe you should ask them how many hours I am working.  They tease me about the short amount of time between getting home and then getting on the computer or phone.

In either case, a quick phone call to me would have prevented those errors, or at least gave you more info for your column to compare to “the scuttlebutt” other people are telling you.  Other things you state are opinion, but opinions usually come after looking at the facts.  And if you ever want to learn about what my campaign is doing, feel free to give me a call.  I am happy to take a few minutes from campaign work if it helps provide some context and depth for your reporting.

Ouch. To be honest, I really only used the anecdote of McGinn on his bike as an opportunity to set up my buzz versus hiss quip. Ah well, sometimes I guess I let my snark get the best of me, so… um… sorry.

McGinn goes on to talk about issues and endorsements and issues—mostly his opposition to the deep bore tunnel, a position we both share—and again, passionately so. Which brings me back to my main point.

I love passionate politics; it’s something we don’t see enough of around here, and it’s something the two Mike’s clearly share. And if they can translate their own passion, and that of their core supporters into a broader campaign, then they’ll both stand a good chance at winning in November.

I haven’t paid enough attention to the city council races to know if O’Brien is anywhere near that point, but I just don’t see it happening for McGinn. Part of it his anemic fundraising; money isn’t everything in politics, but it is the primary means of getting your message out to the broader electorate in a citywide race, and McGinn doesn’t have nearly enough of it. And part of it is certainly the inherent challenge of an environmentalist going up against an incumbent who is perceived to be strong on environmental issues.

But even those two weaknesses aside, I just haven’t seen an effective message coming from McGinn (or for that matter, any of the mayoral challengers). Passion yes, message no. And that doesn’t make for a winning campaign.

by Jon DeVore, 06/29/2009, 11:04 AM

At the always excellent TPMMuckraker, Zachary Roth points out the lack of competition in health care.

But the notion that most American consumers enjoy anything like a competitive marketplace for health care is flatly false. And a study issued last month by a pro-reform group makes that strikingly clear.

The report, released by Health Care for America Now (HCAN), uses data compiled by the American Medical Association to show that 94 percent of the country’s insurance markets are defined as “highly concentrated,” according to Justice Department guidelines. Predictably, that’s led to skyrocketing costs for patients, and monster profits for the big health insurers. Premiums have gone up over the past six years by more than 87 percent, on average, while profits at ten of the largest publicly traded health insurance companies rose 428 percent from 2000 to 2007.

Far from healthy market competition, HCAN describes the situation as “a market failure where a small number of large companies use their concentrated power to control premium levels, benefit packages, and provider payments in the markets they dominate.”

Most Americans are not going to find this surprising, but as opponents of the public option blather on about the “free market,” it’s definitely worth keeping in mind that the health care market is about as free as the west coast electricity market was during the Enron era.

Just once I would like to see advocates of “market solutions” admit that oligopolies are a distortion in the system that have to be addressed, or things break down. But then, none of this is ever actually about “free markets,” it’s about lining the pockets of whatever industry is paying for astro-turf groups to sing the praises of “free markets.” Just substitute the words “coal” or “banking” in their arguments and it’s always the same baloney. Actual competition is the one thing they fear most.

by Goldy, 06/29/2009, 8:09 AM

A couple weeks ago I challenged Rep. Dave Reichert to prove me wrong about my cynicism over his self-proclaimed moderation, by taking the lead on climate change legislation:

Indeed, not only does Reichert have the chance to cast one of the only Republican votes for this legislation, he has the unparalleled opportunity to be the lone Republican getting out in front of this bill and leading the way. He and his handlers must know that climate change legislation has overwhelming support in his district—a pro-environment, hydro-powered district less economically dependent on fossil fuels than nearly any in the nation—so if he really wants to prove his moderation and independence (not to mention his legislative competence), now’s the time to show a little leadership and help shepherd this important piece of legislation through Congress.

But I’m not holding my breath.

Well, Reichert never took the lead on this legislation, but he was one of only 8 Republicans crossing the aisle to vote for it, so credit where credit is due, I guess. Still, he followed his usual pattern of voting with his party on procedural votes (here, here and here) before flipping sides on final passage, and as CQ points out, this vote on its on own doesn’t much qualify as a profile in courage:

Most of the 52 House members who didn’t side with their party on Friday’s climate change vote represent congressional districts that backed the presidential nominee of the opposite party in last year’s election.

A lot of these members will face competitive races in 2010, and no doubt they will be brandishing this against-the-grain vote as evidence of their political independence.

He certainly will. But whether Reichert’s independence is driven by conscience or expedience remains to be seen.

by Jon DeVore, 06/28/2009, 9:16 PM

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZrnVNZpnvRI[/youtube]

by Lee, 06/28/2009, 12:00 PM

Last week’s contest was won by ‘thunder’. It was the Driskill Hotel in Austin, Texas.

Here’s this week’s, good luck!

by Jon DeVore, 06/28/2009, 10:08 AM

The real animals, not the ones from Red Dawn.

A remote camera has captured images of a creature not seen in Washington’s southern Cascades in at least a generation: a wolverine.

The Cascade Carnivore Project recorded the images late this spring on a motion-activated camera established on Mount Adams, confirming reported sightings by hikers and another image captured on the Yakama Indian Reservation in 2005.

Sorry, didn’t mean to get the nativists all excited there. There are no commies attacking Texas this morning.

Still, kind of cool.

by Jon DeVore, 06/27/2009, 10:42 AM

Down here in Vancouver, the community is responding to last weekend’s racist graffiti. For instance:

Other community leaders have publicly denounced the incident. Clark County Sheriff Garry Lucas issued a statement this week saying, “these recent criminal acts are reprehensible and this sort of conduct should not be tolerated.”

Still not sure why efforts to do something positive about this rotten little graffiti attack seem to make some folks so upset. No, it won’t change the entire universe forever, but it might let the 16 year old kid (and many of her neighbors who were also victimized) who had her name and vile epithets and swastikas sprayed on the street know that folks care what happened and will do what they can.

Evil and good men doing nothing and all that sort of business, you know?

UPDATE—Courtesy of the rabbit in comments, it seems there has been a similar incident in Everett.

Sheriff’s spokeswoman Rebecca Hover says at least five vehicles were found early Friday with painted messages; several were painted with racial slurs.

At least two vehicle owners are minorities.

by Darryl, 06/26/2009, 11:53 PM

Sanford Sings.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jFsqcgX29xU[/youtube]
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sPVR3TcrZeU[/youtube]

(There are some 60 other media clips from the past week in politics now posted at Hominid Views.)

by Jon DeVore, 06/26/2009, 9:01 PM

In the end, most of our delegation voted for Waxman-Markley, including Dave Reichert and Brian Baird. (Props to Northwest Progressive Institute.)

Hopefully overall a start.

by Goldy, 06/26/2009, 2:20 PM

Wow. The Seattle Times editorial board really sticks it to Jan Drago this morning. I wonder what this telegraphs?

Few Seattleites doubt Nickels deserves a stiff challenge for a third term. Fewer dispute the idea that politicians take credit for a variety of things they didn’t do.

But Drago’s pitch that she will improve relations with state government is diminished when she hypes her own impact.

Good communication relies on offering accurate descriptions. Take credit for what you really accomplished and don’t pretend your role was larger than it was.

Huh. I guess Drago shouldn’t count on getting the Times’ endorsement.

Kinda funny though to see candidates fighting over who deserves more credit for pushing through an unpopular and expensive tunnel.

by Goldy, 06/26/2009, 1:13 PM

Over on Publicola, Josh bashes his head against a poll:

A new survey USA poll has some surprising results: The bag fee isn’t a lost cause. In fact, it’s slightly ahead.

Asked: “Would you vote ‘Yes’ to add a .20 fee on disposable shopping bags?” 47 percent said they would. It’s almost a dead heat. 46 percent said ‘No.’

Um, hate to dis Josh on this one (well, actually it’s fun to dis Josh), but those are terrible numbers for the Yes camp. Measures like this tend to break toward the No side. Indeed, if I were running the Yes campaign I wouldn’t feel comfortable with anything less than a fifteen point margin at this point in the process… you know, before the chemical industry floods the airwaves and stuffs our mailboxes with their propaganda.

So actually, if these numbers can be trusted, the bag fee is starting to look like a lost cause.

by Goldy, 06/26/2009, 11:43 AM

To his credit, in his most recent column Ted Van Dyk doesn’t mention Lyndon Johnson once. You gotta appreciate such self-restraint. But dissing Sound Transit’s light rail by pointing to Phoenix’s problems in financing their own… I mean… WTF?

I thought the reason light rail would never work here is because Seattle is different than everywhere else. And now Van Dyk is insisting that it can’t work here because we’re too much like Phoenix? Really?

by Goldy, 06/26/2009, 9:39 AM

It is hard to question the environmental credentials of Mike McGinn and Mike O’Brien, both having served as strong, vocal leaders in the Cascade Chapter of the Sierra Club. So why are these two passionately green candidates having so much trouble picking up sole endorsements from the broader environmental community in their respective races for mayor and city council?

Well it could have something to do with the Sierra Club’s well-earned reputation under the two Mikes’ leadership, for not working and playing well with others.

Talk to folks active with other environmental organizations and you’ll find that there’s still a lot of residual bitterness left over from the way the Sierra Club broke rank (and promises) during 2007′s failed Roads & Transit ballot measure campaign. And Sierra Club only rubbed salt in these festering wounds with their early endorsement of Dow Constantine in the King County Executive race, just a week before next Tuesday’s heavily promoted Green Choice Debate at Town Hall, sparking a flood of angry emails within the coalition of environmental organizations sponsoring the event.

“This was supposed to be an impartial forum,” one environmental leader complained to me. “Now, thanks to Sierra Club, Dow gets to come in there with the upper hand.”

Apparently, Sierra Club never promised to hold off on their endorsement until after the forum, which is why they’re not listed as part of the sponsoring coalition, but still… they couldn’t wait one week? No, that’s just not their style.

Now, after years of snubbing their noses at the broader environmental coalition, McGinn and O’Brien are asking these same organizations to hold their noses and endorse their respective candidacies. Yeah, well, good luck with that.