Saturday, November 01, 2008

Grading Gregoire

OK, smart guy. If you have such reservations about Dino Rossi, what about his opponent, the incumbent, Christine Gregoire? Surely you have an opinion about her.

I do. She is an uninspired speaker and a bit pedantic. She neither dazzles me with brilliance nor befuddles me with bullpucky. I'm not getting a lot of entertainment value out of her administration. She's a B+ kind of leader. And I'm pretty happy with that.

Mind you, I'm perfectly willing to dump all the woes of the world on the guys supposedly in charge. But the things that bug me on a national level don't seem to reach down as far as the local level. The War and the status of my 401k aren't really decided in the State House - they're the ones I yell at about traffic and taxes (more on those in a moment). And due to Washington's geographic position, quirkiness in its form of government, business climate, and yeah, leadership, we haven't done too badly for the past four years. In effect, it hasn't sucked, which for a politician is high praise indeed.

When I say quirkiness in government, I can point at we have a fully elected administrative branch, which means we get a mixed bag of views in office and sends us towards moderation. We also have a part-time legislature, which seems to remove some of the tendency for making trouble. And as a result, we have been, if not scandal free, running at below the national average for mischief.

Our state is running below the national unemployment rate and our home values haven't tanked as badly here as elsewhere. The administration has gotten awards for its transparency, and socialist rags like Forbes Magazine gives us shout-outs for being great for business. Considering that the Dems have been "in charge" for the past couple years, none of the evidence of apocalypse has manifested.

OK, what about this kerfuffle about the Native American Casinos? Big contributors to the Gregoire campaign, and in turn she has pushed legislation to help them protect and expand their franchise. Quid pro quo, right? Well, not really. The Times, that old staunch conservative paper, has let the air out of that one (though after months of listening to the GOP Governor's Association go on about "Casino Chris" in attack ads). If anything, it looks like she listened to the citizenry on this one.

And during the past four years Gregiore's leadership was tested, with the floods in Lewis County, our mini version of Katrina. She mobilized the state resources in a fashion that brought praise from Republican legislators, was there when needed, and went looking for root causes. She gets good marks for that.

But traffic? Traffic sucks. I have what is called the worst commute in the Puget Sound area - Renton to Bellevue along 405. Fifteen miles and it can take up to forty-five minutes for me. But I would be less than honest to point out that a lot of my delay is from all the construction crews on the road fixing the darn thing. Not that this will reduce my complaints, but I have to recognize that the state is at least doing something.

Heck, she's even got me mellowing on my opinion of the viaduct. I still don't believe that it should have an exit into downtown, but I could get behind a replacement elevated structure as opposed a surface street.

And taxes. Bleah. We have a truly regressive, nasty little sales tax system in the state, but until someone is going to give that third rail of state politics, a unified income tax, a big friendly hug, I don't know how I could deal with it better. The current administration, across the political spectrum, is all about moving limited resources to where it will do the most good.

We're looking at a budgetary shortfall in two years - about $30 million, at last guess, in part due to the fact that when the economy turns sour, our tax support drops. But that is a drop in the barrel compared to, say, California, which needs 9 Billion with a B dollars and right now, dammit to stay in business. Heck, we seem almost respectable.

And with all the news coming out of Alaska about corruption and abuse of perks, the worst we get out of our governor's office is this: The Governor and her friends go to a bar. She gets carded. She doesn't have her ID. They refuse to let her in. She goes home. The bar changes its sign that says "We'd card our own Mother" to "We'd card our own Governor".

Yep, its pretty boring. Right now, I can use boring. So I'm good with a desperate lack of material from the state government, and I endorse their efforts to keep themselves off these pages through hard work and low profiles.

We all can use that level of boring.

More later,

Rainfall on Grubb Street in October: 2.6"