Saturday, October 15, 2011


So here's the deal, folks. I'm going to be on the road for the next few weeks, and my posting during this time will be erratic at best. Which is a problem since this space often goes into mind-numbing detail on the various elections. So I'm telling you right at the outset, that you're not going to see a lot of that this time around.

Which is a pity, because this year's off-off-year election has a lot of the meat and potatoes of government. City council members. Schools boards. Medical commissioners. County Offices. Local things. The guys who are going to do stuff that you're going to gripe about two years from now.

So I am going to cover here the stuff that has the maximum bandwidth - the Initiatives and Resolutions that everyone is going to have to vote on in Washington State. For the rest, I point to the usual suspects - The Muni League, the Stranger, the various smaller blogs that cover this stuff, and the Washington State and King County Voters Guides. And the Seattle Times as well, with a larger than normal chunk of salt applied - They spent the past three months pointing out how fouled up the Seattle School Districts are, pointed out how incurious the school board is in the matter, then proceeded to endorse all the incumbents (because, yahknow, stability is more important than curiosity).

OK, without going on too long (too late), here are the big things this year.

I-1125. This is this year's Tim Eyeman initiative. There always is at least one, and is usually notable for a) promising the voters a pony, b) screwing up government, and c) having consequences they don't tell you about. The "pony" is restricting tolls, like on the 520 bridge ( I know, how dare we put a toll on a bridge that we built in the first place with tolls). The screwing up is keeping government from moving construction funds around to needed areas, making them less responsive. The consequences are to kill the idea of light rail mass transit across the lake, since you can't toll concrete roads to pay for mass transit. That last one is why most of the money pushing this idea comes from Kemper Freeman, a big real estate wheel in the trans-Lake Washington region, who is desperately afraid that the people of Bellevue, confronted with cheap mass transit, will go somewhere else than his expensive malls to shop. The stench wafting off this is palpable. Lets go with a big NO on this one.

I-1163 - This one is a good idea in a bad year. Let's have training for the care workers for the elderly and disabled. When they are not talking about how the school board has screwed up, the Times also carries a lot of stories on badly trained or criminal caregivers. Then of course, they DON'T support this initiative, because the state is tight with money right now. So sorry, old folks - we don't love you enough to actually PROTECT you or anything. Maybe when things pick up, so keep in touch. I, my goo-goo heart aflutter, strongly support YES on this.

I-1183 - Last year, we had TWO initiatives that involved privatizing the State Liquor Stores. Both claimed to be the absolutely BEST deal possible for the state. They were voted down. Now, a new version of one of them has popped up, with an EVEN BETTER Best Deal Possible for the state. This is the Costco-backed version, which will allow hard liquor sales in stores of a particular minimum square footage (square footage that Costco has in abundance - Quelle Surprise!). The side opposing the spread of alcohol has a lot of funding from the beer and wine distributors. Wait, what? See, if this goes through, then beer and wine will be fighting for that same square footage in the store as the hard stuff (unless they take out the bakery, and you DON'T was to mess with the baked good lobby).

On this initiative, though, my conservative roots start to show through. I kind of LIKE to have an inefficient specialty store with tight regulations and a bureaucratic burden on top of it that throws a lot of money to the state that I don't pay unless I want to get sloshed. I think liquor restrictions are a pretty good thing -  I don't think of Jack Daniels as an impulse buy, and if I get to the point where the local distributor knows me by sight, I may need to cut back a little. Plus, I'm from Pennsylvania, and they wrote the BOOK on badly managed, corrupt, lousy State Stores. And Washington State hasn't seen anything of that stripe, so its not like they're doing a particularly bad job as my barkeep.

Further, has there ever been a case where privatization has helped the stakeholders of that good or service? I don't mean shareholders (the guys who make the money, and Costco just jacked up its membership - you gotta pay for all this democracy somehow), but rather the stakeholders, a group that includes employees, customers, and communities. I've drawn a blank, so despite my budding alcoholism, I have to vote NO on this one (and wait to see when next year Costco brings us and BESTEST OF BEST Deal possible).

Resolutions in Washington State are legislation that changes the state constitution, which then needs to be approved by the general populace. Sometimes they are just cleaning up language, sometimes they are more important.

SJR-8205 concerns the the length of time voters must reside in Washington to vote for President and Vice President. AHAH! It is one of these laws manipulating the rules to reduce voting that you hear about in all the GOP-dominated state, keeping people from voting! Uh, not quite. Actually, in Wash State you have to live here 30 days in order to be able to vote. But you have to live here 60 days to vote in national elections. This resolution makes it all the same - 30 days.  That's it. Yep, it makes it easier to vote and brings everything in line. Nothing to see here. Vote YES.

SJR-8206 involves the "rainy day fund", which is money put aside from the budget for times when the economy craters (like, um, now). This measure makes it possible to jack up the amount deposited in boom years ("extraordinary revenue growth"), and provides rules about taking it out ("Budgetary emergency", State employment growth below 1 percent, or we get too much money in the account). It's all not bad, but it really is a bandaid. Washington State relies on its sales tax, so in good times we boom and in bad times we have to make those hard budgetary decisions that result in bad roads and crappy schools. What we SHOULD be voting on is a more stable form of revenue, some sort of TAX on the INCOME,  perhaps,and ditching the state sales tax entirely. Still, I'm going with YES on this one.

Those are the biggies. Best of luck with the rest, stay informed, and make your voice heard. More later,