Saturday, November 08, 2014

Political Desk - Results

Yes, it is Saturday and the elections were on Tuesday. But the nature of Washington State's elections are they are all-mail elections, and the deadline for postmarks are Tuesday. So measures that are leading on Tuesday Night then become questionable by Friday, and there is usually one item that is still hanging fire, waiting to resolve. The Seattle Times publishes a yearly gripe that ballots should arrive on Tuesday as opposed to being postmarked, but really, its not about when the votes come in so much as counting them all. 

Mostly, the election was about returning incumbents. We may grouse about Olympia and DC, but when push comes to shove, we want to keep OUR guys and wonder why the rest of you keep re-electing the same corrupt schmoes over and over. On the national level, the election was either a biting condemnation of indiscriminate peace and prosperity, or a strong endorsement for more of the gridlock that has paralyzed us so far. Or something like that.

On to the local stuff:

Initiative 1351 (Minimum Class Size) - MAYBE - This is the one that is still unresolved, as a close gap on Election Night has closed and then flipped. Given that both the people AND the state supreme court are both leaning on Olympia to do something about education funding, maybe we will see some movement (Hah! I keed. The Senate is in the hands of the GOP, and would rather go to jail than spend money on kids). 
Initiative 951 (Ban Gun Confiscation) - NO
Initiative 954 (Close the Gun Loophole) - YES

Advisory Referendum 8 and 9 -  MAINTAIN

US Rep, 9th District - Adam Smith

Washington State Supreme Court:
Position Four - Charles Johnson
Position Seven - Debra L. Stevens

State Legislature 11th District, Position 2 - Chris Bergquist

Kent Position A (New Police Station) - YES, BUT NOT ENOUGH - The measure got a majority, which in non-Bizarro democracies would mean it wins, but not only did it need to win, it needed to win big -  with 60% percent of the vote. This is in a country where 52% is considered a "landslide". So the local police are left hanging on this. I recommend that the natives of Kent drive slowly and avoid all local speed traps - just until we sort all this out.

More later,

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Hey, A Signing!

So, I've already besieged the people on Facebook and Google+, but to fill out the trifecta, I want everyone to know that we have a signing this evening, at 7 PM, and the University Book Store for the Kobold Guide to Combat, one of our series of essay collections on various gaming subjects. It promises to be interesting, with Wolfgang Baur, Chris Pramas, Steve Winter, myself, and editor Janna Silverstein speaking up on the subject, so check it out here.

More later, after they count more votes.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Political Desk - The Jeff Recommends, 2014 edition

These type of elections are tough. It is one thing to believe whole-heartedly in a candidate or a measure and to see that, under the best of circumstance, they have a long haul to an outside shot of passing. It another to be confronted by a relatively empty ballot, populated by referendums that are advisory only and positions that have either no or token opposition.

Still, there are some measures worth measuring here, in particular the ones dealing with education and gun safety. So, go dig out the ballot from under those Fred Meyer circulars and get cracking, because while you have until Tuesday to mail it in, they will start counting early, and release the first results Tuesday night.

Initiative 1351 (Minimum Class Size) - YES
Initiative 951 (Gun Confiscation) - NO. No. Just a big steaming mug of Nope.
Initiative 954 (Close the Gun Loophole) - YES

Advisory Referendum 8 and 9. Sigh. Fine. Whatever. MAINTAIN.

US Rep, 9th District - Adam Smith

Washington State Supreme Court:
Position Four - Charles Johnson
Position Seven - Debra L. Stevens

State Legislature 11th District, Position 2 - Chris Bergquist

Kent Position A (New Police Station) - YES

And that's about it. It is not a lot, so you have no one to blame but yourself for not voting.

More later,

Political Desk - Kent Proposal A

If you've been driving around Kent the past few weeks, you'd be forgiven if you thought that the hottest big-ticket item on the ballot involved the police. There have been huge signs demanding we support public safety and our police by voting Yes on this proposition.

And what is this proposition?

The City Council of the City of Kent adopted Ordinance No. 4118 concerning a proposition for public safety and officer training facilities. This proposition authorizes public safety improvements – constructing and equipping new police headquarters, improving the firearms training range, improving the city’s jail, and completing other training and public safety facilities – to be funded through the issuance of up to $34,000,000 in city general obligation bonds, maturing within 20 years, and annual property tax levies in excess of regular property tax levies, as needed to repay the bonds (estimated average levy rate of about 19 cents per $1,000 assessed value). 

Yeah, I know - the guys who don't like I-594 because it was too long and confusing just had an aneurysm halfway through that paragraph.

But this is what we're talking about - Kent wants to build a new police station. They're split up between about four locations right now, and the jail really isn't big enough to handle all the people who have moved into the neighborhood since the current building (which used to be a library) was converted back in the long-ago. They want to put a new HQ on the site of the old one, improve the jail and firearms training area, get a secure lot for the police cars, and pay for all those big signs.

And I'm good for that. We're a bigger community than we were, and an upgrade makes sense. It is like I-1351 that led off this discussion. Yeah, it is something that we should pay for, and we should go into it clear-eyed and say yes, getting stuff costs money. And it is not like they're buying used tanks from the military (also note to the Kent Police Department: Don't buy any tanks - they won't be able to get up the hills in the winter).

So why all the huggamugga? Well, for this proposal, not only does it have to reach 60% approval, it has to have a certain minimum floor. In other words, this is a case where a low voter turnout actually HURTS the proposal, since it may just get 51% (which is enough for most laws) and or may get enough but not enough floor votes. So yeah, vote YES.

More later,

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Political Desk - 11th District State Legislature

Here's what happened in Olympia. After the last election, a couple Democratic Senators threw off their masks and cloaks and revealed themselves to be really lizard-men Republicans, tilting the upper house to the GOP. And taking their cue from the national GOP, they proceeded to not do much, such that the Supreme Court has found Olympia in contempt for not acting on basic education. So now comes the clarion call to throw the bounders out and hold the flames to the feet of the new Dem majority to get stuff done, right?

But then I realize I'm in the 11th, which sprawls down from Downtown Seattle and rounds Lake Washington to the Renton Highlands, and realize that I've already GOT Democrats in charge, and besides, we aren't dealing with a State Senator this time out. Well, there's still the holding the feet to the fire bit.

(And truth be told, I'm really kinda jealous that Grubb Street has been kicked out the 47th District, which has a talented veteran Dem (Pat Sullivan), a talented, young GOP (Joe Fain), and a guy who really should be sent to the showers (Mark Hargrove - seriously folks, consider Chris Barringer.)

Zack Hudgins is running unopposed for representative position 1. Chris Bergquist is the incumbent in position 2 against challenger Sarah Sanoy-Wright. Bergquist got in on the idea that he's been a teacher, and we need that voice in the state house. He was right then, and in the face of the current struggles, he is still right. Both the Times and the Stranger has praised the man with faint damns, so yeah, Chris Bergquist. But let's get the flames ready.

More ready. 

Political Desk - US Rep 9th

OK, US Representative. Every two years we get to check in on these guys, and despite all the huggamugga, we tend to like 'em. We may gripe and moan about Congress, and the Reps have a popularity just above ebola in the polls, but when it comes to our particular guys, the guys who represent US, we tend to stick to our guns and return the incumbents. So we usually (and sometimes sadly) DO get the representation we deserve, And things like redistricting tends to make these cases more-so, as both parties tend to favor safe districts.

And the 9th, which sprawls between Tacoma and the north shores of Lake Washington, should provide enough diversity of opinion to make it a bit of a run. In reality, we'll probably return Adam Smith to the position. And that's OK - Smith is good at the job, works hard, represents us well on a number of committees and has not embarrassed us (which, you'd think, should be less of a problem than it is in an age where John Stewart's writers just follow Congressmen around waiting for them to open their mouths and provide the material for the next day's monologue).

But let me pause for a moment for his opponent Mr. Doug Basler, Yep, he's a tad overmatched (Even the Times went for Smith), but his website is about the environment, energy, and equality. He seems steady, pro-business, and generally sane, a break from a lot of GOP congress critters. Yeah, the burning great seal of the US on the web page is a bit much, but still, this is the sort of "traditional" Republican we need in the race. More of this, please.

More later,

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Political Desk - Supreme Court Judges

So, the State Supreme Court. Big ticket items, right? Well, this year, not so much.

In Positions 1 and 3, the incumbents are running without opposition.  So Mary Yu and Mary Fairhurst will return to the bench.

In Position 4, Charles Johnson has been in office forever. Such that I went back through previous endorsements over the past decade and a half, and found out that in every endorsement, I note that Charles Johnson has been there forever, yet I still keep endorsing Charles Johnson. And part of it is because he's been good in the position, and part of it is because there never seems to be any serious opposition. So. Charles Johnson.

In Position 7, Debra L. Stephens is the incumbent running against John (Zamboni) Scannell. And it is always a warning sign when a candidate has his nickname listed in parenthesis. Further, Mr. Scannell has been disbarred, which is surprisingly is not a career-ender when talking about Washington Supreme Court justices. And he was disbarred by the person he's running against. Soooo. Yeah. Debra L. Stephens.

Sorry guys, not a  lot here. Let's just move along.

UPDATE: And, double checking my ballot, I am looking at NINE local judge positions plus the King County Prosecutor which have only a single name on the ballot. Yeah, it is a little empty out there.

More later,

Political Desk - Referendums 8 and 9

Referendum 8 says:
The legislature eliminated, without a vote of the people, agricultural excise tax preferences for various aspects of the marijuana industry, costing an estimated $24,903,000 in the first ten years, for government spending.

While Referendum 9 says: 
The legislature imposed, without a vote of the people, the leasehold excise tax on certain leasehold interests in tribal property, costing an estimated $1,298,000 in the first ten years, for government spending.

Annnnddd it really doesn't matter. Because these are advisory votes. The horses have left the barn and the legislature is shouting to you that they did it and would that be OK? But we have on the books a law from a previous initiative that when they do this, they have to put it to a vote, which they are not bound by. Yeah, I don't really get it, either, and I pay attention to this stuff. We've been doing this for a while - has the legislature ever looked at an advisory vote and changed its mind?

The thing to note is when they say these initiatives cost x dollars, they are saying that it is bringing IN that much to the state coffers over the next ten years. So a million bucks is pretty good, but over a decade, not so much. Just so you're aware.

On the juicy parts, Referendum 8 denies special agricultural tax breaks to pot growers, and Number 9 puts tribes on the same status as over governmental agencies when buying property. I go with MAINTAIN for these only because I'm cool with this.

But I am really waiting to see the Referendum where we get to vote on all the tax breaks we have awarded large corporations for "job creation". No, really, when is that one happening?

More later, 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Political Desk I- 594

Here's the text on I-594:

This measure would apply currently used criminal and public safety background checks by licensed dealers to all firearm sales and transfers, including gun show and online sales, with specific exceptions.

And yeah, it makes sense. You buy a gun from a licensed dealer, he has to work through the paperwork, and use the nation-level process to make sure you aren't forbidden to have a gun, and it takes an extra 20 minutes of your life. You buy a gun from a guy named Milt at a gun show, and you don't (and as far as I can tell, licensed gun dealers will make the check, even at a gun show). That loophole for large-scale private sales doesn't make a lot of sense. To use the car analogy, I buy a car from Milt, and we have to work out the transfer of title and everything, so why not a gun?

Yet, this seems to represent the creeping, insidious reach of the government mucking with our lives. But most of the arguments against the initiative don't seem to hold water. This does not create a new database of gun owners, but uses an existing process. We've got a study that shows that yeah, where the gunshow loophole is closed, there are fewer fatalities. Here's one where they connect repealing background checks with an uptick in murders. (I take all studies with a desire to dig through the data and a note that causality is not necessary correlation, but hey, studies). And yeah, we have a lot of cases where real criminals (like the infamous Whitey Bulger) who cannot get a gun through normal channels rely on gun shows as their firearms quick-e-mart (when they finally caught him, Bulger had 29 pieces in his possession, the vast bulk of which had not history).

The exceptions they mention in the ballot write-up? They deal with all the obvious corner cases so yeah, you can use a relative's gun without having to fill out a form, or use another's gun at a shooting range. And all these corner cases have in turn lead to the complaint that law is too long and confusing. Which sort makes the speaker sound like they would confused by the instructions on a PEZ dispenser.

So I'm going with YES on this one. This is actually something that gun proponents are always saying they are looking for - it addresses a specific case in clear terms and will not lead to the gun confiscation van coming around to your house to pick up any guns you bought since last week. Heck, even the NRA was favoring universal background checks fifteen years ago, and this is an approach that cuts down on some seriously abused forms of gun sales while leaving the regular gun owner unaffected.

More later.

Political Desk I-591

Here's the text on I -591:

This measure would prohibit government agencies from confiscating guns or other firearms from citizens without due process, or from requiring background checks on firearm recipients unless a uniform national standard is required.

I know what you're thinking - gun confiscation? What gun confiscation? Did the gun confiscation truck come by last Tuesday, when I was out, and they missed me? Should they have left a note saying they found me not at home, and I should show up to get my gun confiscated at a local Post Office between the hours of 8 and 4?

And yeah, we tend to HAVE due process, particularly when it comes to guns. So what's with this initiative?  Well mostly, it is in the second part, which limits background checks unless a uniform national standard is adopted, as well as putting the kibosh on any gun safety legislation.

And that is weird, since much pro-gun activity is tied to conservative thought (not all, but most, and definitely the loudest), and conservative thought is more about local control. Big government, after all, are the ones who are trying to TAKE AWAY your guns, according to the web forums (and apparently, I-591). Why demand a national standard in this case?

Well, because it is easier to block at the national level right now. Fewer politicos to frighten or purchase. So requiring a national standard actually weakens the law. Nice trick.

And, in a weird similarity to the normal talking points about gun safety legislation, this particular initiative is a bit overeaching in its scope. Replace the word "Firearms" with "Automobiles" and see how it reads. Yeah, I'd like to reduce the number of local laws on cars unless a national standard is required. Like, say, the speed limit. Or license plates. Or stopping fully at stop signs. Those need a national standard if you really want people to pay attention to them. And in the meantime you can stop giving me tickets on these subjects. No, really.

Apparently a vote for I-591 is also being pitched as a vote against the NEXT Initiative in the pile, I-594, which closes a loophole in the existing law. Well, that's wrong. If you want to vote against I-594, you simply vote "NO" on I-594 (and to be frank, you can Vote NO on both if that takes your fancy). You don't need another initiative, which will pretty much clog up the storm drains of the initiative process to make your point. Regardless, I'm going with NO on I-591. 

More later,

Political Desk Initiative I-1351

Here's the entry for I-1351 as it appears on the ballot:

This measure would direct the legislature to allocate funds to reduce class sizes and increase staffing support for students in all K-12 grades, with additional class-size reductions and staffing increases in high-poverty schools.

Sounds pretty straightforward, right? You like schools, I like schools. We all like schools. And as a now-registered old person, I think kids are dumb enough already, and I really don't want to slide the bar any further in the stupid direction. 

But, this will cost. There's no two ways about it. If you reduce the size of the classes you have to have more teachers (third-path option - half-day school, but nobody seems to want to bite on that one, and you STILL have to pay the teachers). And you need more places to teach. Yeah, its a toughie - just how much do YOU like educated kids?

Of course, our state legislature doesn't look particularly good in all this. They are already in contempt of court (state supreme variety) for not delivering on promised K-12 education, so they have not shown a lot of gumption in the first place. Worse yet, while the state pleads poverty for educating its kids, last term they had no problem finding 9 Billion in cuts and tax breaks to keep Boeing from shipping the assembly of a new plane out of state (the plane-maker thanked the state legislature, took the money, then shipped out about 2000+ engineering jobs, making the legiscritters looks like prize bumpkins). So yeah, left to their own devices, Olympia probably ain't gonna deliver without a lot of people making serious growling noises behind them. This is a serious growling noise.

So I say YES on this one, but go in with your eyes wide open. This is a good thing, but one that will come with a price tag. One which we really should be paying.

More later,