Tuesday, October 31, 2023

The Political Desk: All Together Now

 Literally, there is so little on the ballot this time, that I want to put everything down in one sitting. No Initiatives. No Advisory Votes. The EVEN numbered districts of King County are voting, but Grubb Street is in the 5th, so there is nothing there. The only state-level judicial positions are unopposed, as is the King County Assessor (which is not horrible). Now, nearby Seattle's got a LOT going on (Seven out of Nine council seats), but we're not in Seattle. But let's see what is on the rest of the ballot. 

King County Director of Elections - This is the largest King County position we have a race in. I've complained previously about this becoming an elected position, but in truth incumbent Julie Wise since that time, has done a primo job in her time in office, and has, in Amazon-speak "Earned Trust". Her opponent is a right-wing election-denier talk show hosts who runs for things, loses, and complains about the game being rigged against right-wing election-deniers. Yeah, I'm going with Julie Wise.

Port of Seattle Position 5 -  Position 2 had no competition, but we have two candidates for Position 5, and we there is even a scandal (being the Port and all). It's not much of one, but it was duly reported in the Seattle Times. Incumbent Fred Felleman used his position to try to gain admittance to a lobbying group meeting that he was not otherwise allowed to attend. Yep, that's it. Small potatoes in comparison to the Port's heyday, but perfectly fitting with this year's theme of low election expectations. I'm going to recommend Fred Felleman in any event, but we'll need to keep an eye on him.

City of Kent Council, Positions 1, 3, 5, and 7. I tend to favor incumbents and endorsements here. Not blowing things up is a major consideration, along with keeping your nose clean. I know, it feels like a lot to consider, but this year's crop is generally good at it.

  • Position 1 - Marli Larimer - Ms. Larimer was appointed to the position in 2018, and hasn't made of mess of things. Her opponent didn't put anything in the voter's guide. 
  • Position 3 - John Boyd - Former Navy, Former Boeing, now retired. has a fistful of endorsements. Sure, let's give that a shot.
  • Position 5 - Bill Boyce versus no-one. Yeah, it is part of the trend. 
  • Position 7 - Zandria Michaud. Her opponent has a Tacoma PO Box for a campaign address, and has a platform of "I dunno, what do YOU want me to do?" Politics is not about choosing a lunch place.

Kent School District No. 415 Director District 2 and 3 - Position 1 has no opposition (of course), and the one piece I've found on the candidates has them all discussing the importance of communication. And there is some frustration over the previous bond issue failing  (see below). Here's what I got.

  • Director District 2 - Both candidates have a solid endorsements, but I am going with Andy Carter for this one.
  • Director District 3 - I am leaning towards the incumbent Leslie Kae Hamada, but note that the WEA has endorsed Donald Cook.

Kent School District No. 415, Proposition 1 (Replacement of Expiring Educations and Operations Levy) and Proposition 2 (Capital Projects and Technology Levy). Last election, Kent voted down a bond issue for widespread capital improvements in the last election. These are more refined and targeted levies, broken into two chunks. The difference between a levy and bond is that a bond vote allows the district to raise money through taxation by guaranteeing the bonds, which are then sold of the open market, while a levy is a direct property tax. But the BIG difference as far as voters are concerned is that a bond requires a 60% approval, which a levy just has to make 50% (go figure).

In any event, the two levies are pretty much what is on the tin. Both propositions are replacement levies for funding that is going away. There is some concerned opposition in the Voter's Guide on these. The stated argument against is that we don't do enough for the schools, so we should not give them more money without more oversight. I'm a fan of oversight and transparency, but it sounds like a meta-issue (What type of oversight? Beyond the School Board itself?) as opposed to something that shows up on the proposition itself.  At the same time, a different group has lodged official complaints against the school board for promoting the levies (like announcements at high school football games). So, the district is being simultaneously too transparent and not transparent enough. OK, then.

Regardless, I am a YES on both of these. I am willing to fund education, AND I think they that more communications is always good.

Special Purpose Districts - OK, we are FAR down in the weeds on this one, and barring any breaking scandals, I have to base it on their Voters' Guide statements and endorsements.

  • Soos Creek Water and Sewer District Commissioner Position No. 1 -  Alice Marshall is listed on the District's site as being a Commissioner since 2010, and I have to say the District's done a good job - we had to drop a small bundle when our septic field finally failed and hooked up to to the district sewer, but I think that's a more responsible approach than increasing rates in the face of more development. 
  • Public Hospital District No. 1 Commissioner District No. 1 - And I am a little torn on this one, Erin Smith Aboudara has been fighting the good fight in the ongoing relationship with UW Med, but Anthony R. Berkley comes in the door with a fistful of political and union endorsements. I'm going to go with Anthony R. Berkley but this is a race between two good candidates.

And that wraps the ballot from Grubb Street (and it WAS longer than anticipated). I'll tune in later with the results. 

More, as I usually say, later. 

Monday, October 30, 2023

The Political Desk: News and Snooze

 So the Washington State Voters' Guide (and later, the ballot) showed up in the mailbox, which for me is the opening gun of the November election. And for my neck of the woods, it is a little bit boring. At the state level, we are voting on three positions. All judgeships. All unopposed. Seattle is a hotbed right now - seven positions out of nine on the City Council are up, but since Grubb Street is not in Seattle proper, we don't get a vote.

And this is exactly what bothers me about moving elections to all-even or all-odd years. Without a "marquee" race, there is very little draw for the average voter. Already, everyone is gunning up for next year, which in addition to the Presidential Race, we are revising the entire Executive Branch of the State (Governor is retiring, everyone else is shuffling positions around). But this year? There's not going to be an overwhelming amount of voters.

But you know what is missing this time? Those horribly-written Advisory Votes. These were toothless push-polls that at best let people vent about how Olympia is raising money. Finally, after many years, they are banished. So that means we don't know where the money is? Well, no. There's a new web site that lays out the State's spending right here. Not as urgent as grabbing one piece of legislation and shoving it in your face as outrage fuel, but a good tool. 

Mind you, the dearth of choice at the state level is mitigated slightly by the fact that the King County Voters' Guide  has also shown up, which handle the County, City, and School Board elections. Which is good, meat and potatoes stuff, but still not the attention-grabbers you see at the State and National level. 

What does that mean for the Political Desk? Mostly business as usual. I will pass through the ballot, but only make recommendations on races that are really races. So for folks who are not local, and are expecting theatre, book, and game reviews, you might want to just take the week off. The Seattle Times has their recommendations (mostly centrist-pro-business, behind a soft paywall - smooth move, guys) and the Stranger has theirs (mostly progressive, pro-renter and consumer). Fuse has a list of progressive endorsements as well, but it dovetails neatly into the Stranger's with less snark. Crosscut gets into money raised and issues here, but doesn't get outside the major metros. Talking about school board elections is pretty rare, but the Washington Educational Association has its here

Everyone else can take a break. For those of us in our hyper-local locality, let's turn over our ballots and begin.

More later,

Sunday, October 29, 2023

Play: A Fair Folk Tale

 Islander Conceived & Originally Directed by Amy Draper, Stage & Associate Direction by Eve Nicol, Book by Steward Melton, Music and Lyrics by Finn Anderson. Seattle Rep through 19 November.

This was excellent, Standing Ovation excellent, which is not what expected from a highly technical, two-person musical.

Let me first deal with the now-standard frustrations with parking up near the Seattle Center. Usually the LB and I park in a small parking lot in a nearby bank. This time, all the slots were filled and there was a sign saying that Event Parking was $20. OK, we went to our backup site half a block away, which was full with a sign saying that Event Parking was $40. So we hit the large parking garage near the Climate Pledge Arena, where Event Parking was $70. We quickly tweaked that something was going on at the arena, and hit a garage on the other side of the Center, near the opera house. Cost there was $25, had copious free space, and a living human being was taking the money at the gate. Fortunately we left with plenty of time to get there, so we made curtain with ease.

Oh, and the something going on at arena? It was a tournament for DOTA 2. So computer games are my own worst enemy.

Anyway, as I was saying, Islander is excellent. Here's the overarching plot: Kinnan is a small island off the Scottish coast, which exists in its own sense of mystic isolation from civilization on the bigland (mainland). The community is dying, as more folk are moving to the mainland, and there are heated discussions about abandoning the island entirely or toughing it out without government support. Eilidh (pronounce AY-lee) is the youngest inhabitant on the island, and first finds a dying whale on the island's shoals, then a mysterious new arrival, Arran, who claims to be a native of the lost island of Setasea and a keeper of whales. Add to all this Eilidh's dealing with a long-distant relationship with her mum on the mainland, with her aging grandmother still on the island, and with the various inhabitants on the island and you have a rich broth to work with. 

For our performance Lois Craig was Eilidh and Julia Murray was Arran (two other actors switch off for other performances), and they are, well, excellent. Both in the strength of their voices and in their acting chops. In addition to the two women, they are everyone else on the island - the marine biologist, the local radio DJ, the very pregnant neighbor, the grandmother, the mother, and various other natives, including Paul, who is missing his garden gnome. They switch off characters continually in several songs, creating a rich medley of the islanders and giving a Northern Exposure vibe of the quirky townsfolk. It is all a tall order, and Craig and Murray pull it off seemingly effortlessly.

So. Two person musical with heavy use of looping - taking the notes and playing them back immediately, allowing the actors to build and harmonize with their own voices. This is a highly technical show from an audio standpoint, and the tech people deserve a round of drinks for their achievement (several people in the audience paused on the way out to congratulate the person running the sound board). He and his looping tech provided a third character on the stage. 

Yes, it is another show on tour, but instead of Canadian Acrobats we're dealing with Scottish actors/singers. And the accents can be a little thick sometimes (there is a glossary in the program book), since we are dealing rural Scots accents in song. But Islanders pulls it off to a great degree that I did not see as possible, and I think Craig and Murray set a high bar with their voices.

So, a worthwhile afternoon, even if it was in competition with a computer game tournament. Recommended

More later, 

Saturday, October 07, 2023

Theatre: Bodies in Motion

 Passengers Directed, written, and choregraphed by Shana Carroll, Seattle Rep, through 15 October.

Our Seattle Rep season kicked off with a time change - instead of the usual 2 PM curtain, it was moved to noon. Not sure if it is a one-shot or the new normal, but the end result was an easier drive and more available parking, even though it involved getting up earlier on a Sunday morning.

But it was worth it. I think I've mentioned that one of the good things about subscribing to a season is that I would end up at performances that I would never normally go to. In this case, it is a Canadian acrobatic troupe. It is my understanding that if you live in Montreal you are automatically entered into the ranks of a performing group, and are expected to spend three months a year working on trapeze work. Sort of like jury duty in the States, but more exciting.

In this case the group is The 7 Fingers (Les 7 Doigt de la Main). And they are impressive. This particular troupe is a traveling show, and consists of (in alphabetical order) - Eric Bates, Valerie Benoit-Charonneau, Eduardo de Azevedo Grillo, Kaisha Dessalines-Wright, Marco Ingaramo, Nella Niva, Mandi Orozco, Santiago Rivera Laugerud, and Meliejade Tramblay-Bouchard (there are accent marks and the occasional carat that I am missing).

And the troupe is brilliant.  During the performance, I mentally assigned them names like Hula Hoop Girl, Aerial Apparatus Guy, Woman Being Juggled, and Comic Juggler Guy.  Each has a specialty and a moment in the limelight, but all are onstage continually, emerging from the chorus while others continue to spin and whirl on the stage itself. The continual movement on the stage is enticing and overwhelming, since so much is going on at once. It is well-organized pandemonium. 

The plot? There isn't much of one beyond "Life is Journey". Our troupe are all passengers on a train evoking the middle of the last century, and they rock in their seats, climb over the baggage carts, move their suitcases, sleep and interact like a single organism made of random parts. There is some dialogue, but it is secondary, accent marks in the flow of bodies moving across the stage. One long discussion about how "Train travel is Time Travel" is ultimately drowned out by the train whistle. It is an active world, not an explained one. Even at the end, it is clear that stories have a resolution, but travel just stops. A lot like life. 

There athleticism of the group makes my ancient knees hurt just watching them. The music, by Raphael Cruz and others, is pinpoint accurate, and the dance and movement dovetails precisely into it. It is triumph for Shana Carroll's choreography, and for the acrobats involved. Passengers is not about plot, but it has its own story, one of grace and movement. A good train trip, out of the ordinary, for the Rep.

More later,