Saturday, October 30, 2021

The Political Desk: Summing Up

So, we end the week with a summation of endorsements. As a reminder, here are the Strangers' smack-talky suggestions. Here are the Seattle Times' fears and fever dreams. Here's the Progressives, and the local transit blog. Here are the Urbanist's. UW's The Daily.The Seattle Medium. And here is a neighbor's recommendations. 

But you gotta vote. At the time I am writing this, there have been approx. 220,000 votes turned in, out of 1.4 million potential voters in King County. That's about 16%. Pitiful.  Further, almost half of those who have voted are 65 or older. So unless you want us old folks steering the car, you might want want to get your ballots in.

You can mail it in. You can drop it off. But you gotta vote.

In meantime, here's a summary of endorsements and recommendations from Grubb Street.

Advisory Vote No. 36 - Engrossed Second Substitute House Bill 1477 -  Maintained

Advisory Vote No. 37 - Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 5096 -  Maintained

Advisory Vote No. 38 - Second Substitute Senate Bill 5315 -  Maintained

King County Charter Amendment No. 1 Preamble - YES

King County Charter Amendment No. 2 Initiative, Referendum and Charter Amendment Timelines and Processes - YES

King County Executive Joe Nguyen

Metropolitan King County, Council District No 5Shukri Olow

Port of Seattle Position 1 - Ryan Calkins

Port of Seattle Position 3 Hamdi Mohamed

Port of Seattle Position 4Toshiko Grace Hasagawa 

Mayor of Kent: Dana Ralph

City of Kent Council Position Number 4 -  Cliff Cawthon

City of Kent Council Position Number 6 - Brenda Fincher 

Kent School District No. 415, Director District No. 4 Awale Farah

Kent School District No. 415, Director District No. 5 - Tim Clark

Soos Creek Water and Sewer District Commissioner Position No. 4 - Darold Stroud

Soos Creek Water and Sewer District Commissioner Position No. 5 - Logan K. Wallace

Public Hospital District No. 1 Commissioner District No. 2 Dustin Lambro

Public Hospital District No. 1 Commissioner District No. 4 Monique Taylor-Swan

So now I'm going to talk about Disney World, if you don't mind.



Friday, October 29, 2021

The Political Desk: Guest Editorial

 So in talking with a friend, she said that she agreed with much what I said, but not everything. And I volunteered the space here for her to give her own recommendations. So here is Janice Coulter, formerly of the Social Security Administration, who does not have a blog, and is spouse to our resident Tolkien expert, Sacnoth:


If all politics is local then have I got an election for you. Aside from 1 fellow running unopposed in a judicial race and the three advisory votes all the November 2, 2021 contests are on the county, city, and even further down the ballot than that level. But that doesn’t mean that this election isn’t important. Whoever wins these races is going to have a serious impact on our lives so we’d best pay attention.

First up the Advisory Votes. Think of these as gentle political warm up exercises. You can stretch your political thinking to its limits knowing full well what you decide will have no consequences whatsoever.  

Advisory Vote No. 36 — You’re asking me if I’m willing to pay 24¢ per month per phone line increasing to 40¢ per month per phone line beginning in January 2023 for a suicide prevention hotline? Yes I am willing to spend $1.20 per month (3 lives X 40¢) to save a human life.  Maintained. 

Advisory Vote No. 37 — I’d be happier with this tax if corporations were also subject to paying 7% tax on capital gains of more than $250,000 but for now I will have to settle for taxing rich real people while the fake ones go scot free. Maintained

Advisory Vote No. 38 — Captive insurers have done the near impossible. They’ve made traditional insurance companies into almost sympathetic businesses. Maintained 

Then comes the slightly more rigorous King County Charter Amendment votes. These votes have consequences but no one is going to suffer regardless of how you vote. Except for maybe the team responsible for the typo being corrected via Amendment No. 1. Let’s use this election to end their suffering.

King County Charter Amendment No. 1 — I have to look up the difference between insure and ensure every time so my heart goes out to the folks who have been staring this mistake in the face.  It’s silly that it must be put to the voters and past time to correct the mistake. Yes 

King County Charter Amendment No. 2 — Speaking of silly questions, Yes King County should comply with Washington State laws.

Now that we’re fully warmed up it’s time for the heavy voting. None of these folks have access to nuclear weapons codes but that doesn’t mean they don’t have the capacity to change our lives for decades to come. Don’t take my word for it. Ask the people of Flint, Michigan if they wished that they had been paying attention to who ran their water district.

King County Executive — You know what you did Dow Constantine! If you hadn’t disrespected Kent at the start of the pandemic I would have happily voted you in for another term. But you did and you’ve got a competent challenger so Joe Nguyen gets the vote.

Metropolitan King County Council District No. 5 — Dave Upthegrove is another candidate that I would gladly have voted for again if only … Multiple agencies that have endorsed him in past elections threw their support to his opponent. How did Upthegrove go about wooing them back? He demanded to know if they dropped him because he’s a White Guy (apparently being openly gay doesn’t count as being a minority in King County) and threatened their funding. He of course denies he said any such thing. So what does he do with everything hinging on his credibility? He claims credit for fighting Sound Transit to “save a landmark South King County business.” While there’s no arguing that Dick’s Drive In is a landmark Seattle business they opened their first and only South King County restaurant on December 12, 2018. So while he might not be technically lying he’s not being entirely honest at a time when he’s up against a competent opponent. Shukri Olow gets the vote on this one.

Port Of Seattle

Commissioner Position 1 — Ryan Calkins is exactly the kind of policy wonk with fresh ideas that I enjoy voting for.

Commissioner Position 3 — Vote Hamdi Mohamed because Stephanie Bowman fought against the $15 per hour minimum wage.

Commissioner Position 4 — Vote Toshiko Grace Hasegawa because she’s willing to put actual detailed plans on the table instead of the usual platitudes.

City of Kent

Here’s where it gets interesting so I’ll get the easy endorsement out of the way first.

City Of Kent Council Position NO. 6 — Brenda Fincher has been doing good work. She earned my good opinion when she responded via email, telephone, and an in-person visit on a weekend the first time I contacted her. She’s kept my good opinion by continuing to do good work. 

My next two picks are about creating a team. If Dana Ralph is your choice for mayor then you should also vote for Toni Troutner. Their views align and they would work together to achieve their goals. If Dawn Bennet is your choice for mayor then you should vote for Cliff Cawton because their views align. Both teams share the same goals (reduce homelessness, bring jobs to Kent, fight crime, etc.) but they have fundamentally different approaches to solving our problems.

City of Kent Mayor — I’ve generally been happy with Mayor Ralph’s work but I am throwing this one to Dawn M. Bennett because it’s time to try new approaches to the same problems we face year after year. Both Ralph and Troutner want to continue to throw more and more police at problems that Bennett says can be better addressed with a different approach. Rather than have 7 full time police officers devoted to working with Kent’s homeless population (they steer them towards services, help them get SSN cards and IDs, etc) Bennett wants to have social workers take on that job. She’s also the only candidate who is talking about solving the affordable housing crisis by instituting rental caps. How much Kent rents have gone up in the last few months is a regular feature in the Kent Reporter. Prices are only going to get higher with the light rail extensions opening in 2024. We really need to do more than throw platitudes at this problem.

City of Kent Council Position NO. 4 — Cliff Cawthon because he would work well with Dawn Bennett. 

Kent School District No 415 Director District 4 — Awale Farah gets the vote because his opponent, Bradley Kenning, is intent on carrying on the tradition that only the Germans should own up to their crimes against humanity. 

KSD No. 415 Director District 5 — Tim Clark gets the vote because while both candidates seem genuinely concerned about the students Clark has the credentials and experience necessary to make the tough choices.

Public Hospital District No. 1 Commissioner District No. 2 — Dustin Lambro won on the endorsements. AG Bob Ferguson endorsed him for this nonpartisan position. 

PHD No. 1 Commissioner Position No. 4 — Monique Taylor-Swan because she’s a board member of Caregivers Union SEIU 775 and the union should have a seat at the table. 
Thank you, Janice. I'll do my own summing up tomorrow. 
More later,

Thursday, October 28, 2021

The Political Desk - And The Rest

 Now we're getting really down into the weeds - these are small offices, rarely well-paid or well-regarded, but vital to the functioning of the community at a local level. And the thing is, these are positions which probably have more direct impact on your immediate community and how your vote has more of an effect, since the voting pool is smaller.

First up, the School Board.

Kent School District No. 415, Director District No. 4 Awale Farah walks in with a good resume, a solid background in the community (yes, I'm going to recommend someone from the Kiwanis Club), and a strong endorsements. His opponent in a Q&A with the Kent Reporter is concerned that teachers are exposed to Critical Race Theory. Kent is the most diverse city in the state, so, yeah, let's not expose people to equality. Anyway, go with Awale Farah.

Kent School District No. 415, Director District No. 5. This one is a little easier on the soul. This blog has endorsed Tim Clark before for the position, and he gets good marks both as a former councilperson and a former teacher. I like putting teachers on the school board. Ms. Franklin has good chops as a representative of the communities they serve, but I have to give Mr. Clark the edge. The Q&A with the Kent Reporter is here.

Then there are the Special Purpose Districts- which involve water, sewers, and the local hospitals. I am usually grasping at straws at this point, relying on what reporting is available as well as the Voter's Guide. And what I have said in previous elections.

Soos Creek Water and Sewer District Commissioner Position No. 4 - Gail Anderson gave me nothing to work with for the Voters' Guide, so I'm going with incumbent Darold Stroud.

Soos Creek Water and Sewer District Commissioner Position No. 5 - I've recommended Logan K. Wallace before, since he's an engineer and I think that's good thing for the position. But in addition, I got a sponsored link to his campaign page on Facebook where he effectively is doing an AMA (Ask Me Anything). People came up with specific questions, and he delivered specific (sometime deeply wonky) answers. He also had the typical collection of  comments like "All Politicians are Bad" and "You showed the map in Blue! Don't you know that Blue is a communist color!" and responded like a grown-up. So. Logan K. Wallace.

Public Hospital District No. 1 Commissioner District No. 2 - Jim Griggs and Dustin Lambro are the candidates.. A while back, our local hospital, Valley Med, gave up local elected control to trustees from University of Washington Medicine, which is to say, the majority on the board are these trustees, with some elected officers. Every election we see candidates who are against this change. Dustin Lambro is against it, and says that if he cannot change it, he'll step down. I'm good with that promise. Also, lots of endorsements. So, Dustin Lambro.

Public Hospital District No. 1 Commissioner District No. 4 - Monique Taylor-Swan and Katie Bachand are the candidates. Both look good on paper, but I'm going with pro-union: Monique Taylor-Swan.

 And that's it for my ballot. Of course, there's stuff going on beyond my little patch of the Shire, so I may mention that as well.  

More, of course, later. 


Wednesday, October 27, 2021

The Political Desk: City of Kent

The bad news is that the major Seattle papers don't really care about a suburb this far south. The GOOD news is that the Kent Reporter has done an admirable job interviewing the candidates and publishing the results. Go take a look at them and see what you like. Me? I tend to lean towards incumbents that have been doing the job well, unless I get impressed by the challenger. Elections at this level are very much a a job review, with a candidate waiting in the wings in case the job should suddenly open up. 

This year we have been deluged in mailers, all of them thankfully positive and supportive of their own candidate. The incumbents may have gotten a deal on printing, since all of them are the same size, while the challengers come in a variety of sizes. But let's get on with recommendation:

Mayor: Dana Ralph has shown she's got the chops, but I have to say I think Dawn Bennet would be a fine choice as well. Gods, I feel spoiled by competent candidates!

City of Kent Council Position Number 2: This blog does not endorse unopposed candidates as a matter of course. Satwinder Kaur is running unopposed. Pity, because if she had an opponent this blog would recommend her. 

City of Kent Council Position Number 4: Tina Trouter has done an admirable job, but Cliff Cawthon rolls in with a fistful of solid endorsements and the policy background that will help in the position.

City of Kent Council Position Number 6: I have done Brenda Fincher a disservice over the years. She has been there time after time, but has always gotten a "yeah, I guess" from this blog. Lemme give her a hearty recommendation this time. 

More later,

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

The Political Desk: Any Ports in a Storm

 So let's talk about the Port of Seattle. Their purview has been the airport and the docks, and so it is a pretty big deal. Over the years it has been a hotbed of minor political brushfires and scandal, and my go-to involving political shenanigans.

Not this year. Not only has the Port Authority kept its nose politically clean for a while, but  several of the challengers come across as strong candidates. In many cases, both sides have achievements they can point to, and are not political tyros. And both sides are relatively close together on matters of trade, employment, and the environment, and can point out specific instances of this. 

If anything, I would prefer to see more not on the airport, but on what they can be doing to help alleviate the global shipping crunch. One big reason - the port is too small for the mega-carries that have come online in the past decade - but even so we have ships on the water, waiting to dock. Is there a way to help take the load off LA?

I usually tend to lean towards the incumbents in cases like this. If they haven't been screwing up, they should keep their jobs. But that is a low bar, and I really am looking at their credentials, their statements, and their endorsements. For that reason, I'd recommend:

Port of Seattle Position 1 - Ryan Calkins - Incumbent, competent, capable, well-regarded.

Port of Seattle Position 3 - Both incumbent Stephanie Bowman and challenger Hamdi Mohamed look good, say the right things, and wave a fistful of impressive endorsements. Mohamed edges out with concern for the local communities. Hamdi Mohamed.

Port of Seattle Position 4 -  Amusing thing - the Seattle Times has been running a lot of pieces on how a citizen's initiative, run by Incumbent Peter Steinbrueck's father, saved the Pike Place Market from urban redevelopment. That's probably just because we're moving up on 50 years since that salvation, but it does a lot to put the Steinbrueck name out there. Toshiko Grace Hasagawa is pulling down the endorsements. Both are good, bu I think Toshiko Grace Hasagawa will be better. 

But I'm going to be honest, this is a situation where you the voters do not have a bad choice. Enjoy the feeling while it lasts.

More later,

Monday, October 25, 2021

The Political Desk: King County

There are some interesting things going on at the county level, but first we must do a little bookkeeping. King County has a Charter, and if we're going to mess with that charter we have to put things to a vote. Often this is minor, minor, stuff, but still, we put it to a vote. I'm not as indignant about this as I am about the advisory votes, since it does involve really checking with people. This is very much a be bear-with-me-we'll-get-to-the-juicy-stuff-soon sort of thing.

King County Charter Amendment No. 1 Preamble is correcting a typo. OK, quit laughing. In addition to "Change Insure to Ensure in All", it also puts forth Equity and Promotion of a Superior Quality of Life as goals. OK. Vote YES. 

King County Charter Amendment No. 2 Initiative, Referendum and Charter Amendment Timelines and Processes has to my mind its own typo (I believe in serial commas, thank you), but is to bring such things as initiatives, referendums, and charter amendments into line with the state. Sure, why not. Vote YES

And FINALLY, we get to the point of voting for living, breathing candidates. 

This one has some serious activity. A lot of it involves areas that I don't vote in, because of the quirky way we've divied up the county council.

King County has an executive and a council. The council is divided up into nine regions which elect people to the council. So while you may have have some say in your elected officials, you can't necessarily run the board. This year we are looking at the Executive and the odd-numbered districts. And while I can't vote in some of these, I will pass on the highlights for your enjoyment. 

King County Executive - Dow Constantine has done a good job over the years, and I am normally disposed towards people who do a good job over the years. However, at the start of the COVID crisis, he had set up a quarantine motel in Kent. That's cool. But he did it without conferring with the local Kent government. Surprise!. His challenger, Joe Nguyen, is full of promise, short on experience. Both men are intent on confronting homelessness, promoting safety. Both would fit under the "Progressive" banner. It is a tight choice, and at the moment, I'm going to say Joe Nguyen, but we are in the fortunate position of having a choice of a good and better. 

Metropolitan King County, Council District No 5 - This is my district, and should be relatively quiet normally. Dave Upthegrove (still a great name) is challenged by Shukri Olow, and both candidates also come from the Progressive end of the scale. But a huggamugga emerged from when some traditional Upthegrove supporters switched their endorsements to Olow. Supposedly Upthegrove's campaign responded with threats of HIM no longer supporting those groups in legislation. The campaign denies they made those threats, but the information came from several formerly supporting groups. It is a mild political scrum of who-said-what. I'm going to with Shukri Olow on this one, but note that Upthegrove's mailer notes that he has a orange tabby named Dobby. So there's that.

Then there is some stuff for the Council that I can't vote on, but this year there has been more of that type of activity than usual than usual. In addition to the Upthegrove huggamugga, we've seen activity in other districts as well. 

District 1: Ron Dembowski is running with minimal challenge, so naturally he should get his own scandal - Verbal abuse against a chief of staff leading to that chief's resignation and subsequent lawsuit.  Dembowski has been admonished and owed up to his sins, which is easier to do when you don't have much of a challenge.

District 3: This should be a straight up fight between Centrist/Conservative Kathy Lambert and Centrist/Liberal Sarah Perry. Then the Lambert campaign released a mailer accusing Perry of being a puppet of Bernie Sanders, fellow councilmember Girmay Zahilay, Kshama Sawant, and Kamala Harris. Or, to put it in other terms - a jew, a black man, and two women of color. The cringe meter went to 11 on this, old reliables like the Seattle Times pulled their endorsement of Lambert and she stepped down from all her positions on the council. This is one incident, but didn't she have anyone on her campaign to double check this thing to see if it could go horribly, horribly, wrong? If you live in the District, go with Sarah Perry.

District 7: No one seems to have a major problem with incumbent Peter von Reichbauer. The Times likes him, the Stranger skips over this position entirely, and the Progressives over at Fuse declare there are "No Good Choices". But we'll mention this here since we're running the full list.

District 9 has been Reagan Dunn's since the middle of the last decade, with the borders moving eastward all the time to keep him viable. Once, long ago, he represented my district, so I keep tabs. In the Primary he has a weird self-own on his stand on the homelessness problem ("Its a problem, it's worse than it was, so re-elect me!") but has settled into a more law-and-order approach for the general. His opponent is Kim-Kahn Van, who is from the Renton City Council. Sounds like a good time to upgrade.

And that's it for King County - next up, the Port Authority!

More later, 

Sunday, October 24, 2021

The Political Desk: Statewide

So, I'm back from Disney World (and it was a lot of fun, good food, masks in abundance, thanks for asking), and I expect you've all filled out your ballots already and we can get on with book reviews.

Eh? You haven't touched the ballots since I left? Fine. No, no, that's fine. No worries.  Let's just get this over with.

I mean, I understand. This is in many ways not an important election, but also is an important election because all elections are. When the Washington State Election Voters' Pamphlet showed up a couple weeks back, and it was a bit ... anemic, in the words of a friend. All the major statewide offices were up last year, and the only candidate for judge on my ballot (Court of Appeals, Div 11, Dist 1) is running unopposed (This outlet does not endorse in situations where there is only one candidate, but merely offer our congratulations). 

In addition to a sparsity of statewide measures, the ballot leads off with is the lamest of the lame. We have is a trio of dreaded advisory votes, the lasting political legacy of anti-tax grifter and accused chair thief Tim Eyman. You've heard me whinge about advisory votes before - badly worded questions that scare people about tax measures that don't necessarily affect them. Close a loophole? That's a tax measure. Continue a tax? That's a tax measure. Fix a previous measure? Oh yeah, that's a tax measure. 

And it doesn't mean much, other than a push-poll to allow you to growl at Olympia for using your hard-earned dollars for the community good. It is electoral spam. It wants to know if you want to sell your house. It's been trying to get in touch with you about your car's warranty. It claims to be from the Social Security administration, and wants you to know that it will be dispatching officers to your house unless you buy it a gift card. At its most charitable, it is a way of taking the political body's temperature, but not a very good one.

It is so bad that both the Seattle Times and the Stranger agree that it is pretty miserable as a method of trying direct democracy. AND the local progressives have put a web site, stating a lot of what I've been saying for years - that this a waste of time and effort, is used badly, and you should vote Maintained anyway.  

OK, enough kvetching. Here is what they got. 

Advisory Vote No. 36 - Engrossed Second Substitute House Bill 1477 - A tax on telephone lines to help expand and fund behavioral crisis response and suicide prevention.  Yeah, Vote Maintained.

Advisory Vote No. 37 - Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 5096 - A tax on Capital Gains over a quarter of a million bucks. You made over a quarter of a million bucks on Capital Gains? How nice. This is a pin-prick of a tax operating at that level, so naturally it must be stopped. Yeah, vote Maintained.

Advisory Vote No. 38 - Second Substitute Senate Bill 5315 - A tax on captive insurers. What is a captive insurer? It is when a company forms its own insurance company to offer insurance, effectively paying itself for health care without supervision and avoiding taxes that other insurance companies must pay. This closes a loophole in the existing laws, so, naturally, so it must be stopped. And of course, I say vote Maintained.

OK, That's it - more later

Friday, October 15, 2021

The Delayed Re-Opening of the Political Desk

 So, the ballots have shipped, the media recommendations are trickling in, and we are looking at another election. And you're going to have to wait a while for me to pontificate on it, because, well, I'm a little busy.

OK, fine, I'm going on vacation. But I will get back to it before election day, OK? If you want to go ahead, without me, here are a few resources:

The Seattle Times, which tends to promote centrist/conservative/pro-business candidates and policies (unless it doesn't), has been making recommendations here.

The Stranger, who in the years since they legalized pot have swung around to a more pro-density, anti-car agenda (but still snarky) can be found here.

Neither one of these reaches much further south than the main gate of T-Mobile Park, which is a pity. But for the hyper-localized news, the Kent Reporter has been doing an excellent series of interviews of the candidates, can be found here (with an apology that you're going to have to do some digging - the reporter responsible covers a lot of ground).

Seattle Transit Blog is here. I'll add others as they show up.

And here's the Voters' Guide for King County. Ballot measure here, and candidates here.

The great majority of positions are listed as non-partisan. The candidates, however, are not.  One of the things to look at when going through the guide is to check on endorsements. Who do your local pols support? Who gets the endorsement of the police, the unions, or the conservation groups? One regular red flag for me is usually candidates with the backing of the Chamber of Commerce, but after the drubbing they took last year trying to buy their way onto the city council, they've been quiet. But check out who is standing with the candidates. Also a good idea is to look at who is getting funding from whom.

This electionis one of those small but important one, particularly for your local offices. Nothing national, and the state-wide elections consist of those useless election-spam advisory votes and a judge running unopposed. And there is a lot of interesting stuff going on in various areas because I can't vote on. Seattle's got a strong mayoral race, but I'm not in Seattle. There are also some interesting races for King County Council, but I don't vote in all of those.

Be patient and do your research. I'll check back. 

More later,