The Dream of a Really Kick-Ass Playground Still Lives!

Yeah, yeah, I agree with the Seattle Times that we need to build a downtown elementary school to keep the downtown core family friendly (you know, like a real city). But what really jumped out at me from their editorial was this:

But opening a downtown school is also an implicit contract that Seattle will do better to make its core safe and accommodating for families. That means more vigorous attention to obvious disorder and open-air drug markets, as well as downtown playspace for children.

I have been advocating for years to build a Really Kick-Ass Playground™ in downtown Seattle. Could the editors of our city’s paper of record finally be willing to lend their voice towards this much needed civic improvement?

Drinking Liberally — Seattle

DLBottlePlease join us tonight for drinks, conversation, and, perhaps, dinner at the Seattle Chapter of Drinking liberally.

We meet every Tuesday evening at the Roanoke Park Place Tavern, 2409 10th Ave E, Seattle. Our starting time is 8:00 pm, but feel free to stop by earlier than that for dinner.

Can’t make it to Seattle tonight? Check out one of the other DL meetings this week. Tonight the Tri-Cities chapter also meets. On Wednesday, the Bellingham, Burien and Spokane chapters meet. And next Monday, the Yakima and South Bellevue chapters meet.

There are 186 chapters of Living Liberally, including sixteen in Washington state, four in Oregon and two in Idaho. Chances are excellent there’s a chapter meeting somewhere near you.

You Keep Using That Word, I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means

So, um, in an article describing the Koch brothers’ plan to spend $900 million to buy the 2016 presidential election, the New York Times amazingly writes this:

Roughly 300 wealthy businessmen and philanthropists, many of whom are not traditional Republican givers, belong to a trade organization overseen by Koch advisers, Freedom Partners. The association organizes the conference and helps corral contributions for Koch-backed groups like Americans for Prosperity, a national grass-roots organization, and Concerned Veterans for America, which organizes conservative veterans.

Honestly? Really? $900 million later, and you’re still describing Americans for Prosperity as “grass-roots”…? What the fucking headline says. Also, the dictionary:

1. the common or ordinary people, especially as contrasted with the leadership or elite of a political party, social organization, etc.; the rank and file.

Words have meanings. Or did the Koch brothers manage to buy that as well?

Open Thrad 1/26

- The health care law does whatever the GOP says it does, even if they said it did other things in the past.

– If you’re not happy about unfunded mandates, you could fund the things the voters passed rather than have a crappy amendment to the state constitution.

– Another reason to eat at Tutta Bella

– Since we’re going to hear a lot of har-har-har Algore since there’s a storm in the Northeast in January, it might be a good time to remind your uncle on Facebook or the Superbowl party next week that we had record highs here. Also, neither of those proves nor disproves global warming so much as the overwhelming scientific evidence.

– Lindy West talking to one of her trolls on This American Life was maybe one of the most amazing things I’ve ever heard.

– Either the NFL is opposed to the Marshawn Lynch victory celebration or they try to make money off it. [h/t]

Such exquisite concern-trolling hardly needs explaining but basically Hemingway thinks we can all agree it’s bad when the GOP trips over its dick because “if Republicans can’t pass wildly popular legislation protecting innocent unborn children, what’s going to happen when they face difficult legislative battles?”

– Youz guyz, I’m so sad that the Ark Park is probably going to have trouble finding an audience.

Still Waiting for a Mea Culpa from the Champions of School Closure

Seattle Public Schools are struggling to deal with a crisis of overcrowding, as enrollment continues to grow by about 1,000 students every year—roughly equivalent to the capacity of two large elementary schools! And while our priority, of course, should be on finding constructive solutions, it would also be useful if those responsible for instigating, executing, and cheerleading the district’s recent rounds of disastrously stupid school closures might own up to their errors and issue a public apology, if only to help us learn from our mistakes. I’m talking about the school board members, district administrators, civic leaders, city council members, and state legislators, past and present, who collaborated on the closure process. And yes, I’m also looking at you, Seattle Times.

The case for closing schools was always flimsy. As I wrote back in 2006, when my daughter’s school was on the chopping block:

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.

My daughter’s school, Graham Hill Elementary, was saved, I believe, largely because we were lucky to have a team of parents available with the specialized skills necessary to make the case to save it: An attorney, a civil engineer, two journalists, and most importantly, a forensic accountant. Together, we had the skill set to dig up the appropriate data, analyze it, frame it, publicize it, and threaten the district with legal consequences. We had uncovered demographic data that strongly challenged the district’s projections—data that suggested that the many housing developments then underway in Southeast Seattle (New Holly, Othello Station, Rainier Vista, etc.) would soon result in a substantial uptick in enrollment in the quadrant. And if the data was so flawed in regards to our school, we asked, how could we trust the data supporting closure of the other schools on the list?

We ultimately saved our school, but the process was brutal, and we could find no newspaper columnist or editorialist willing to question the underlying assumptions behind school closures. The “serious people” accused us of being cranks and NIMBYs—or even worse. The late Cheryl Chow, then a school board member, scheduled a midday meeting with our PTA, and then scanning the room of mostly white women (you know, the people who could afford to attend a PTA meeting at a Southend school in the middle of a work day), all but accused us of being a bunch of racists.

It was heart breaking. Years before, the one clause that I had written into my divorce agreement was that my daughter stay at Graham Hill. That’s how much we loved that school. But when her mother moved to Mercer Island before the start of 5th grade (partially in disgust over the closure process), I let my daughter switch districts without a fight. I haven’t attended a PTA meeting since.

I’m not asking for a personal apology. But as our news media and “opinion leaders” continue to cover and comment on overcrowding in our schools, it might be nice of them to mention their own complicity in this crisis. They were the ones who perpetrated the meme of an inefficient district wasting money on half-empty schools. They were the ones who egged the closure process on, and who not only refused to even question the data on which it was based, dismissively rolled their eyes at those of us who did. And it’s past time they acknowledged their role in fomenting this costly mistake.

At least that way, the next time they publish an editorial touting charter schools or common core or tougher testing regimes as the answer—or God forbid eliminating an elected school board and placing control of the district solely in the hands of Seattle’s mayor (you know, just because)—readers will be able to comfortably conclude, armed with knowledge their prior failures, that “the serious people” clearly don’t know what the fuck they’re talking about.

Friday Night Multimedia Extravaganza!

Eric Schwartz: Obama’s New Favorite Word.

Ann Telnaes: A bad taste in West Virginians’ mouths.

Jon calls out Mike Huckabee…to his face.

Mental Floss: 26 fascinating founding father facts:

Michael Brooks: Pope Francis, “Climate change is real.” Rush’s head explodes.

Maddow: Scalise, “Believe what I say, NOT what I DO.

David Pakman: Top 1% will own 50% of wealth by 2016.

Freedom Fries in Old Europe:

Larry Wilmore: Exactly what we’re going to get when we open up relations with Cuba .

Thom: FAUX News pushes faulty Gitmo numbers.

Maddow: Christian wackos & Gov. Jindal’s Presidential prayer rally???

Vsauce: Is all fair in love and war?

Roll Call: This Week’s Congressional Hits and Misses.

SOTU:

Jon: The Monsters of Money.

David Pakman: Mitt Romney’s new focus on poverty is hilarious.

Maddow: Koch brothers’ dirty money:

White House: West Wing Week.

Sam Seder and Michael Brooks: The 2016 Republican Clown Car has arrived.

Thom: Citizen’s United…five years later.

The Renewed Republican War on Women™:

Mental Floss: Misconceptions about cleanliness and germs.

Ann Telnaes: Sochi Putin and the real Putin.

Last week’s Friday Night Multimedia Extravaganza can be found here.

Bipartisanship is a Process

Look, I don’t really care if a bill is bipartisan or not. If a bill is a good idea, then the party makeup of that bill’s sponsors don’t matter as much as the number of legislators supporting it. Of course, in the state Senate with GOP control, the measures I support will probably need some bipartisan support to pass. And in the state House, I suspect most bills I like will be improved by being more partisan and getting GOP support would water them down. But whatever, the process is the process. And for people who are less partisan than me, bipartisanship is important.

If you want bipartisanship qua bipartisanship, there are ways you can reach out to the other side without compromising your values. Let’s see how whoever is in charge of the House GOP Twitter feed tried to show they are bipartisan.

“Democrat co-sponsors”? It wouldn’t have cost them anything to write “Democratic” and show they were actually committed to a process that respects both sides. I mean honestly, it’s not that big of a deal, but they could try to make their tweets a bit less self-refuting.

Also, I tried to find some context and was only somewhat successful. If I’m reading this right it looks like there have been 1229 bills introduced in both houses. If you assume half of them are in the House of Representatives, that’s most bills in the House aren’t bipartisan. I don’t know. It’s 7:30 on Friday, and this is exactly how much research I’m willing to do before I go out.

But Rent Control Would Be CRAZY!!!

Institutional investors are pouring money into Seattle’s apartment rental market, according to the Seattle Times, not building apartment buildings, but buying them: $3.8 billion worth last year alone!

The Seattle region’s rising rents, stoked by strong job growth and low apartment-vacancy rates, have made apartments attractive to pension funds, real estate investment trusts and other investors.

Some apartment buyers have also said that given the price they paid for buildings, they need to raise the rents.

Investors have swarmed the Seattle area and bid up prices. Developers of new apartments and longtime owners of older apartment buildings have found it a good time to sell, but renters in those buildings often face much higher rents or even displacement due to massive renovations.

I mean, why invest in building affordable housing when you can make much more money by buying existing housing and making it unaffordable? Hooray for rational self-interest!

Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant gets ridiculed by the serious people for advocating for rent control. And yes, I know that poorly done, rent control risks unintended consequences, and that it is currently preempted by state statute. So it wouldn’t be easy either politically or in practice. But you gotta admit that rent control would put a damper on this sort of speculation and the skyrocketing rents it produces.

To bad we’re not allowed to have a serious conversation about rent control, because even talking about it is crazy or something.

Council Shakeup Continues as Rasmussen Announces Retirement

I’ve never been all that enthusiastic about the city council’s move to district elections—I didn’t like the district boundaries, and thought it should have been 9-0 or 5-4 rather than this weird 7-2 district/at-large split. I’m also not convinced that it makes it easier to run a grassroots campaign, as big money now buys an even bigger advantage in these smaller districts. Public financing is the the more pressing reform. Or if you really want to fix what ails the council, their’s a much better and bolder reform than district elections: Proportional ranked choice voting.

But if you had hoped that the move to districts might shake up the composition of the council, forcing some of the old timers out, then you’ll be pleased with the news that council member Tom Rasmussen has decided not to run for re-election in Council District 1:

“I am profoundly grateful to have served the people of Seattle for more than 25 years, both as a member of the City Council, as Director of the Mayor’s Office for Senior Citizens and for former City Councilmember Jeanette Williams. I’ve sought to contribute to Seattle in ways that I hope will be meaningful for future generations.

This wasn’t an easy decision but, it is the right one. It is now time to direct my efforts toward the same causes I have always been most passionate about — in exciting new ways.

Well, it probably wasn’t all that hard a decision. Rasmussen may have been the most vulnerable incumbent on the council, facing a credible challenger in community activist Chas Redmond, and a vocally dissatisfied constituency back home in West Seattle. Nobody wants to be conlined. Better to go out a winner.

As for what it means for city government, I dunno. Didn’t have much of a relationship with Rasmussen, who was good on some issues and not-so-good on others. Like I wrote earlier this week, Nick Licata and his passionate liberalism will be missed. But I never really thought of Rasmussen as standing for much of anything. So I’m happy to see somebody else get a chance.

So… is Jean Godden the next to go? She’s got a couple of credible challengers in District 4, and, well, let’s be honest: She’s very old. But Godden pretty much retired to the council, so it’s hard to see much motivation for her to retire from it.

Open Thread1/23

- I am a woman. I am a feminist. And it took me 12 years to admit that someone I loved was a sexual predator.

– I’m glad that Sound Transit are so popular, but I’m still not so sure it will matter to the legislature

– Even in Emmett’s piece complaining about Crosscut and using “Olympia” as a stand in for the state government, he has more nice things to say about them than me.

– NARAL Pro Choice Washington are asking you to contact your legislator in support of the Reproductive Health Act.

– The 49ers should absolutely pick up Lane Kiffin. Maybe they can finally get a 100 yard field goal attempt.

Civil Liberties Roundup

While these roundups won’t focus directly on acts of terror, much of the debate regarding civil liberties stems from how we choose to respond to them. After the Charlie Hebdo attack, many were quick to point out that those supposedly standing up for the ideals of free expression don’t exactly have that ideal in all circumstances.

Shortly after the attacks, the French arrested comedian Dieudonné M’bala M’bala for writing that he sympathized with Jewish supermarket attacker Charlie Coulibaly. As disgusting as that sentiment is, it shouldn’t be a crime merely to have an unpopular opinion. And thankfully in the United States, it isn’t.

The allure of these laws is obvious – a desire to combat racism in general by trying to outlaw individual instances of it. But the failure of these laws isn’t just a matter of poor implementation. It’s simply impossible for any government to draw that line without a strong subjective bias. One person’s biting satire will always be another person’s offensive broadside. Trying to criminalize the latter without infringing upon the former is an impossible task. The logical end is a system where some extreme views are penalized while others are overlooked, a process that often exacerbates the underlying racial issues you’re trying to address in the first place.

Of course, the extremism exhibited by the Charlie Hebdo attackers is of a far more repugnant variety, one that doesn’t even make an attempt at pluralism. The idea that one’s religious beliefs give them the right to dictate everyone else’s speech and behavior is a far more toxic ideology than the state-based variety above. And the co-mingling of that type of religious decree and the unrestrained government power defines a number of the worst regimes around the world, who will be featured in these roundups a lot.

More recent news items…

[Read more…]

Washington State Politics Is Boring

New York political bloggers/reporters have all the fun:

The speaker of the New York State Assembly, Sheldon Silver, was arrested on federal corruption charges on Thursday and accused of using the power of his office for more than a decade to secure millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks and then covering up his schemes, according to court documents.

Mr. Silver, a Democrat from the Lower East Side of Manhattan who has served as speaker for more than two decades, is accused of a range of corrupt dealings that capitalized on his official position. They include using his position to obtain corrupt payments misrepresented as referral fees from a law firm, funneling state research funds and other benefits to a doctor who in return referred asbestos claims to the law firm where the speaker worked, and secretly helping real estate developers win tax breaks.

Say what you want about Washington State House speaker Frank Chopp, but he’s not corrupt. Hell, as loathsome as they are, not even our Republicans are corrupt (at least not in any legally actionable sense of the word). I suppose our relatively scandal-free politics is a good thing, but it sure does make it boring to cover.