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11/2/2010 General Election Seattle, King County, Washington

It's voting time again. I still don't know why I bother. But here I am. Scroll down to see details about why I am voting the way I list.

  • Initiative Measure No. 1053 - No

  • Initiative Measure No. 1082 - No

  • Initiative Measure No. 1098 - No

  • Initiative Measure No. 1100 - No

  • Initiative Measure No. 1105 - No

  • Initiative Measure No. 1107 - No

  • Referendum Bill No. 52 - No

  • Amendment to the State Constitution Senate Joint Resolution No. 8225 - Yes

  • Amendment to the State Constitution Engrossed Substitute House Joint Resolution No. 4220 - No

  • Charter Amendment No. 1 Amendments to the Preamble - No

  • Charter Amendment No. 2 Amendment of Section 690 - Campaign Finance - Yes

  • Charter Amendment No. 3 Amendment of Section 890 and New Section 897 - Collective Bargaining - No

  • Proposition No. 1 Sales and Use Tax for Criminal Justice, Fire Protection, and Other Government Purposes - No

  • Seattle School District No. 1 Proposition No. 1 Supplemental Operations Levy - No

  • United States Senator - Patty Murray

  • United States Representative Congressional District No. 7 - Jim McDermott

  • State Representative Legislative District No. 46 - Position 2 - Phyllis G. Kenney

  • Seattle Municipal Court Judge Position No. 1 - Edsonya Charles

  • Seattle Municipal Court Judge Position No. 6 - Karen Donohue

  • State Supreme Court Justice Position No. 6 - Richard B. Sanders

Initiative Measure No. 1053 - No

This initiative would require either a 2/3s majority in both houses of the state legislature or a vote of the people to raise or increase taxes or fees. If this sounds familiar it's because it is. The first initiative that won to do this was I-601 in 1993. But the legislature worked around that by declaring everything under the sun an emergency and thus exempted from the 2/3s requirement. Then I-960 passed in 2007 to try and close this loophole. Which the legislature responded to by essentially passing a law that says "um... we'll ignore I-960 until July 2011". This is legal because apparently under the state constitution the legislature can modify an initiative two years after it passes. So now we have 1053 to try and put 960 and 601 back on the books.

That all having been said the assertions that 1053 will cause California style problems doesn't seem sensible to me. California's problems stem from the need of a 2/3's majority to pass a budget. I-1053 doesn't affect passing the budget, it affects raising taxes.

That having been said there are some fun things in I-1053 that really worry me. For example, it has a nice section exempting all intangible property from any form of taxation. That was snuck into 3(c).

While I previously supported I-960 I have now largely changed my mind. I see this bill more and more being about stopping the taxation of corporate entities and less and less about keeping spending under control. Just take a walk over the Public Disclosure Commission and you can see all the entries from folks like BP, Conoco, steel companies, etc. You can tell a lot about someone by their friends and I-1053's friends are not the kind of folks I'd hang out with.

Initiative Measure No. 1082 - No

This initiative would give employers the ability to buy worker's compensation insurance from private parties, currently they have to buy the insurance from the state. I have a number of problems with this initiative. The first is, why the heck is this an initiative? This is a standard piece of legislative work, it has no business being made an initiative. Rather this is really just special pleading from super rich corporations who can afford to buy enough votes to get on the ballot. Just look at the people who have dumped hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to get this thing passed, it includes builders and insurance companies. Oh, I know how hard it is for them to be heard in Olympia and therefore I'm sure an initiative was the only way to get their thoughts heard. Um... sure.

But next lets look at the initiative itself. Workers compensation insurance pays out when a worker is injured on the job. It was a major innovation in the US that let workers get paid for injuries without first having to prove companies negligent. This was a big deal because few workers had the cash to bring the lawsuits. So everyone won when we created essentially a 'no fault' system. But using private insurance for workers compensation is little more than an absolute guarantee of worker abuse. The reason is that in any accident there are three parties involved - the worker who is hurt, the company who is paying the insurance and the insurance company who has to pay out to the worker. Two of the three parties have a very strong interest in screwing the worker out of money. The company has to pay higher insurance rates if it has a high pay out and the insurance company has to lose money in the payout.

Today the state acts as the insurance company and while not a perfect solution it at least is a heck of a lot closer to neutral than an insurance company would be. And while it's true that the state would still be involved now there would be a new and very powerful party who has a strong interest in making sure workers don't get compensated.

Initiative Measure No. 1098 - No

This initiative is so slimy I had to take a bath after reading it. First off, Washington state has a seriously regressive tax system. This single largest source of income is sales tax accounting for nearly 50% of our general funds for 2009-2011. This is just awful. It literally means the poor pay a much higher percentage of their income in taxes than the rich do. It's a morally bankrupt system. I'd love to see it changed. Unfortunately 1098 does nothing to fix anything.

1098's theoretical purpose is to tax them rich people. It introduces an income tax that applies to people who make $200,000 (for individuals) or $400,000 (for couples) of income or more. But anyone who thinks the limits are going to stay there hasn't studied their history. When the U.S. Income Tax was introduced it also only targeted the rich. But not for very long.

Furthermore 1098 doesn't lower sales tax. It lowers property tax. Guess what, poor people don't own property. So in fact this tax does absolutely nothing substantive to stop the grotesque fleecing of the poorest of the poor. Instead it tries to buy off the middle class by throwing in a property tax reduction but of course that will be poor compensation when the two year limit on changing the initiative passes and suddenly the middle class find themselves the target of the rich man's tax.

We need social justice and while I suspect that an income tax of some sort will be part of the required solution this initiative doesn't take us down the right road.

Initiative Measure No. 1100 - No

I grow weary of special pleading. Why does Costco, Safeway, Wal-Mart and the others who have funded this initiative get to use the initiative process rather than going through Olympia like everyone else? What, the poor mega-corps can't afford enough lobbyists to have their voices heard?

This initiative would change the law so that hard liquor could be sold by someone other than just the state. As a rule I like the idea of getting the state out of businesses I don't think are core to the citizens and selling alcohol doesn't seem core to me.

But there are details of this initiative that make me unhappy. First, it sets a ridiculously low and constant fee for a liquor distributor and retailer license. $2000 to sell alcohol and $1000 each year for a license. And this applies regardless of how large the seller is. That's nuts. Trying to police numerous Safeways is much more expensive than a local wine shop but both would have to pay the same fee. This anti-small business slant makes sense since the effort is mostly funded by mega corporations.

The initiative also prevents liquor license money from being used for purposes other than enforcing liquor rules. There are some cases where a lock box makes sense, highway funding comes to mind, but I don't think the logic applies here. If the state wants to raise revenue by increasing liquor license fees to pay for other things that's fine with me.

I don't believe this issue has any business being on the ballot and I don't think the specifics are good. So I'm voting no.

Initiative Measure No. 1105 - No

This is another initiative to allows private stores to sell alcohol and get the state out of the alcohol business. This one is paid for by a distributor for Miller/Coors beer in and around our area and Young's Market Company who is another alcohol distributor. I know, more poor corporations who can't afford lobbyists to be heard in Olympia. It breaks your heart, doesn't it?

This initiative doesn't just close existing liquor stores but kills current liquor taxes and orders the state to come up with new ones. Of course if I-1053 passes that may not be possible. I'm sure that breaks the distributors hearts. Although to be fair it does introduce a new tax on gross alcohol sales but according to the fiscal impact statement this will still reduce total taxes by at least $700 million dollars. Money the distributors don't have to pay.

I also like how the distributors wrote themselves in some nice provisions that restrict who can distribute alcohol. I see, so they get to maintain close control on their part of the supply chain while freeing up everything else? Seriously?

Oh and this initiative is at least 16 pages long. If the citizens are going to vote on something it has to be simple enough for citizens to understand. 16 pages of dense legalese doesn't make the bar. As far as I'm concerned this initiative is just another abuse of the initiative process.

Initiative Measure No. 1107 - No

Oh look, another example of the super rich trying to do an end run around Olympia. Sigh... this one is by the American Beverage Association (ABA) that has poured over $10,000,000 into trying to undo a tax set up by our elected representatives. You know, the ABA, the folks who sell sugar water. Again, I'm sure the poor people in the ABA can't afford lobbyists either. Doesn't the attempt to balance the budget on the back of sin taxes just break your heart?

Now why would the ABA spend that $10,000,000? Easy, to save over $70,000,000 a year in taxes. Shesh, can I get an initiative to reduce just my taxes? I wonder how much it would cost to get that on the ballot. "Don't tax Yaron!"

In any case, what we have here is yet another example of abusing the initiative process. Just say No.

Referendum Bill No. 52 - No

This is a bill to raise funds for the explicit purpose of making schools more energy efficient by issuing over $500,000,000 worth of bonds. This one was passed by the state legislature but requires the approval of the public since it exceeds state mandated debt caps.

Now I have no trouble with priming the fiscal pump by spending money during a down turn. But is energy efficiency really the place where our tax dollars need to go when it comes to schools? How about investing in, I don't know, the schools themselves? The arguments that our schools have mold, lead, asbestos, etc. As well as arguments about saving money by making buildings last longer are both misleading at best. I actually read the section of the bill on the bidding process for those who want grants and it focuses on one and only one issue - energy efficiency.

If this bill was really about saving money by extending the lives of buildings and making the building environment healthier then the grant process would be written to focus on that. But the criteria in the bill talk about only energy efficiency.

I think this bill is a bait and switch. It's a hobby horse for those who want to spend money on new energy technologies which explains why one of the bill's biggest supporters is McKinstry a building company that deals in energy efficient projects.

I don't mind spending money but I do mind wasting it. And I especially don't like being misled. I don't think this is where Washington state should sink almost $1,000,000 (which is the total cost once interest is accounted for).

Amendment to the State Constitution Senate Joint Resolution No. 8225 - Yes

The Washington state constitution puts a limit on how much debt the state can take on. But the way that limit is calculated it assumes that Washington state must pay for all of its own debt. And historically that's the way things worked so it was fine. But the Federal government has started a new program called Build America Bonds where rather than making debt tax exempt instead the Federal government agrees to directly pay part of the interest on the debt.

Here's the key part, the Federal government, not Washington state, would pay for part of the debt costs. The formula used to determine Washington State's debt limit didn't foresee the possibility that someone other than Washington State would pay part of the State's debt. The end result is that we literally have to give up free Federal money because it would cause us to exceed the debt cap even when we don't have to pay the debt! That's just silly.

This amendment would change the constitution to explicitly allow the state to take into account debt that someone else will pay and therefore let us access the money. This will not increase the total debt we take on since it only lets us expand debt when someone else is paying for that debt.

This seems like a no brainer to me.

Amendment to the State Constitution Engrossed Substitute House Joint Resolution No. 4220 - No

This amendment gives judges much wider latitude to reject giving someone accused of a crime bail. I believe that is a big mistake. We (in theory anyway) live in a country which believes in innocent until proven guilty. This amendment would change that assumption. It would allow judges to essentially assert someone is guilty before any trial or jury decision and allow the judge to throw the defendant into jail until the entire trail process is over. Being in jail significantly hampers someone's ability to defend themselves and tars them with a presumption of guilt.

Furthermore judges already have a tool to handle the situation this amendment foresees, the judge can charge as high a bail as they would like. So while one can argue that in practical terms this amendment is really a nullity in truth we shouldn't be amending our constitution unless there is clear and overwhelming evidence that it is necessary (such as with Resolution No. 8225).

So I'll be voting no on this one.

Charter Amendment No. 1 Amendments to the Preamble - No

This would add some touchy feely words to the King County Charter (sort of like our local constitution) about services to rural areas. While I am happy to see services provided to rural areas I don't like changing constitutions without compelling reason and I just don't see one here.

Charter Amendment No. 2 Amendment of Section 690 - Campaign Finance - Yes

Candidates are required to file information about campaign contributions and expenditures both with King County and with the State Public Disclosure Commission. This is pure duplication and this change in the charter would remove the legal requirement for the duplication, allowing candidates to just file with the State Public Disclosure Commission. This makes a ton of sense to me.

Charter Amendment No. 3 Amendment of Section 890 and New Section 897 - Collective Bargaining - No

Today when public safety employees negotiate working conditions and pay contracts they do so with the county executive. This amendment would change that so that public safety employees would conduct working condition negotiations with the Sheriff (who is independently elected) but pay with the county executive.

Since we are electing a Sheriff it seems appropriate to give the Sheriff control over the conditions for which they will be held accountable by the voters. On the other hand by splitting working conditions and pay with the first going to the Sheriff and the second to the executive we create the very real possibility of the public safety employees playing one off the other.

Today the Sheriff has input into the bargaining process and while the current system may not be ideal this bifurcation does seriously worry me. I can easily imagine myself being convinced to support this measure but I haven't found the evidence or arguments I need to do so. So for now I'm voting no.

Proposition No. 1 Sales and Use Tax for Criminal Justice, Fire Protection, and Other Government Purposes - No

Wow, this one is really cynical. It advertises itself as being about police, fire fighters (and my personal favorite) improving the juvenile justice system (gotta love them poor kids!). What it does is raise sales taxes by 0.2%, one of the most regressive taxes around. If we need to raise more money go for property taxes, don't raise income on the backs of the poor.

But the details are more interesting. First, it requires that $9,500,000 of road funds be diverted to the police for use in unincorporated parts of King County. Also only 1/3 of the income raised by the sales tax is required to go to police/fire services. The rest can be used anyway the county or local cities want. So much for the photogenic policy, fireman and kids.

Trying to threaten citizens that core services will be thrown away if they don't agree to tax themselves more is little more than extortion. It's sad how quick everyone is to threaten core services since they know citizens will likely vote for more money for those. The reality is that 87% of the King County budget consists of dedicated funds that are targeted at specific purposes. Rather than changing the law to raise regressive sales taxes we should be changing the law to retarget some of those dedicated funds.

Seattle School District No. 1 Proposition No. 1 Supplemental Operations Levy - No

This proposition would raise property taxes in the city of Seattle and use the money for Schools. But in what ways would it help schools? Seattle schools have been a real nightmare. Shall we talk about Discovery Math or the lawsuit it created? Should we talk about Seattle Public Schools mishandling of their finances? And of course the proposition itself calls out where the money is mostly supposed to go, to fund the 'strategic plan' called 'Excellence for All' which appears to be more about hiring consultants and central administrators than teachers. I'm not happy with Seattle Public Schools. I don't want to give them more money until they prove they can responsibly spend it. So I'm voting no.

United States Senator - Patty Murray

  • Dino Rossi - He starts his candidate statement with plain nonsense. Trillion dollar budget deficits are not inherently bad and the stimulus package if anything failed because it wasn't big enough to substitute for the loss in demand. He then invents a phantom socialist threat of a government taking over everything. Which is equally nonsense. It's actually the opposite, the government paid all the bills but didn't both to get any real compensation for the American people for the risks taken with their money. The government should have taken over the entities it helped and then sold them to make back its cash. And the arguments that taxes are going up for working families is just a bald faced lie. But whatever, it's clear Mr. Rossi is more interested in mindless populism than a reasoned argument of facts. He won't be getting my vote. I thank him though for having such an absurd candidate statement, it saves me time.

  • Patty Murray - Ick. She voted for the Patriot Act. She was tested and failed completely. She took the cowards way out instead of doing what she swore to do, to protect this country and its freedoms. I deeply don't want to vote for her but I only have two choices and as usual I have to pick the lesser evil, even though it is still evil. So Ms. Murray, deeply reluctantly, gets my vote.

United States Representative Congressional District No. 7 - Jim McDermott

  • Jim McDermott - He had the backbone to vote against the Patriot Act and in general he is a certified Seattle Tree Hugger. Easy to vote for.

  • Bob Jeffers-Schroder - It makes sense that if one wants to take out a tree hugger one brings in an even bigger tree hugger. I read through his website but what didn't come across to me is any ability to actually get done the very tree hugger friendly issues he espouses (everything from fighting global warming to reducing the military). In other words, how can I be sure that Mr. Jeffers-Schroder will get anything done while in Congress? Mr. McDermott on the other hand has a well proven record so for now I'll go with him.

State Representative Legislative District No. 46 - Position 2 - Phyllis G. Kenney

  • Phyllis G. Kenney - Her website is content free. Her 'On the Issues' page lists some bullet points with no text. But she has tons of endorsements and lots of awards not to mention a nice biography of her past accomplishments. Those she lists in loving detail. But as to the future? Nothing substantive. Still the Muni league gives her a Very Good (although not Outstanding, which says something given her long background in politics).

  • Beau Gunderson - He seems to be running mostly to show other young people (I guess I'm an old person now) how easy it is to run. But the point, if I may, is not to run. It's to win. And Mr. Gunderson says very little about what he would do if he did win so I really have trouble taking him seriously. I don't give a damn about age, I do care about positions, he doesn't seem to have many. Which is really unfortunate because given the content free nature of Ms. Kenny's website I was looking for someone else to vote for. The Muni league gave him only a Adequate rating. So Ms. Kenney wins mostly be default. Unfortunate really.

A comment on judicial races

In evaluating judges I look for a number of things. Ratings, contributions and judicial philosophy. Thankfully there is a site that rolls all of this up very nicely - votingforjudges.org. It's an awesome one stop shopping place for information on candidates.

Seattle Municipal Court Judge Position No. 1 - Edsonya Charles

  • Edsonya Charles - Qualified/Adequate/No Review. Not great ratings and especially not great ratings compared to her opponent. She has raised $26,324 of which we has spent $3,852.89. Given the issues I call out below I would be willing, even with her dismal ratings, to vote for Ms. Charles but then I see articles like this one that make me think again. Sigh this whole race stinks to high heaven. The charges that McKenna violated ethics rules in running for office are sounding more and more credible. It's clear that Ms. Charles has made many enemies both in the attorney general's office and on the Seattle city council but is that bad or is she just doing her job? I'm not really sure what the right choice here is but my concerns regarding McKenna are too serious for me to dismiss. So mostly out of confusion I'll vote for Charles.

  • Ed McKenna - Exceptionally Well Qualified/Very Good/Exceptionally Well Qualified. Yikes, he pretty much smothers his opponent in terms of the ratings. Unfortunately he also does so in terms of fund raising having raised a total of $48,791.89 of which $17,662.68 is his own money. He has so far spent $13,182.09. Not good. You take money, you can't be neutral. It's that simple. To see the corruption in action here is a good article about this particular race. I also am not particularly happy with the idea of a prosecutor sitting on the bench. A judge needs to be able to see all sides of an issue and especially enforce the idea that one is innocent until proven guilty. But I have trouble seeing someone who has spent years of their life helping to put people in jail showing the proper bias toward innocence.

Seattle Municipal Court Judge Position No. 6 - Karen Donohue

  • Karen Donohue - Well Qualified/Very Good/Exceptionally Well Qualified/Exceptionally Well Qualified/Exceptionally Well Qualified. So lawyers definitely like her. Alas she has raised more money ($30,980.12 of which $5,450 are her own money, she has so far spent $12,419.43) than her opponent who has raised none. I like none. I also looked at Ms. Donohue's website where the first 3 of her reasons for running are about cool technology (that I agree can make a difference but still...) and her last reason has something to do with the people who come before the court. Still at least she says something and her ratings are great. Neither can be said for her opponent.

  • Michael Salvador Hurtado - Qualified/Good. Eek. Not awesome ratings at all. But I love the fact that he hasn't raised any money. That's what a judge in my opinion should do. Unfortunately he doesn't help to make up for his awful ratings by actually explaining anything about himself. His website is completely content free, nothing about his philosophy. How am I supposed to vote for a blank slate?

State Supreme Court Justice Position No. 6 - Richard B. Sanders

  • Richard B. Sanders - He has two ratings one from the King County Bar Association and the other from the Municipal League and they are Well Qualified and Good. His opponent takes him to the cleaners when it comes to ratings. Justice Sanders also has raised about $50,000 more than his opponent. He also signed a particularly obnoxious opinion that ended up banning gay marriage in the state of Washington. Of course his opponent says he would have ruled the same way although not with the same opinion. I am more or less stuck where I was several years ago when I last voted for Justice Sanders. I think he is a strong, independent voice on the court. I don't always agree with him but I suspect we are in fact safer with him on the high court.

  • Charlie Wiggins - His ratings are off the board. Exceptionally Well Qualified/Exceptionally Well Qualified/Outstanding/Well Qualified/Exceptionally Well Qualified/Exceptionally Well Qualified and Well Qualified. In each rating that he shares with Justice Sanders he came out on top. But in reading his website and other materials his position seems to be more about how Justice Sanders is bad then how he is good. A number of allegations are made against Justice Sanders, essentially that he has an agenda that he puts before the law, but honestly I just don't see any of them sticking.

8 Responses to 11/2/2010 General Election Seattle, King County, Washington

  1. V says:

    While I don’t agree w/everything, I find you highly entertaining and must admit many of our beliefs align. Nice summary!

  2. Jenn says:

    While doing research as I fill out my ballot I stumbled across your delightful site. Thank you! I love how you break everything down and show me new points of view I wouldn’t of otherwise thought.

  3. Jenn says:

    Oh yah, I even had to make corrections to my ballot after reading how you broke everything dpwn so I could understand it. You rock!

  4. Jenn says:

    Res 4220 makes me shudder at the thought of an innocent person being put in jail with no bond but then the other side of me says surely they couldn’t deny bail on a so called “first time offender” could they? Seems to me that This would be someone who was a repeat offender but it doesn’t really say. So as tragic as the events that triggered this Amendment are I don’t think it will prevent another as like you mentioned the judge can set the bail as high as he or she would like if they deem it nesessary. I do believe this will pass because of the way it is worded though I can see people voting for it not realizing it could harm a truly innocent person.

    • Administrator says:

      I’m glad the post was useful. In regards to 4220, all the initiatives are intended to be read in such a way that people not paying attention will vote for them. For example, two people I know who I believe to be very intelligent, when I asked them about 1098 (the initiative to introduce an income tax) both said “Oh, who cares, it’s only for the super rich?” In each case I just stared at the people for a second and you could see the light go on over their heads and both responded more or less the same way “Oh, wait, they’ll just reduce the income line won’t they?” Uh huh. But that’s the point. As long as an initiative can ‘seem’ harmless or useful then how many people will bother to check the details?

  5. Jenn says:

    I find it incredibly sad that politics have to be handled that way that they actually have to try to trick people.

  6. HJ says:

    On the race between Sanders and Wiggins, if you look at the history on Sanders, he has been disciplined for an ethical violation. He is heavily back by the BIAW the same people who wrote and paid for initiative 1082. There is a reason why that lobbyist group likes him on the court.

  7. jay says:

    thanks man, was looking to find some data on the collective bargaining side. i agree with you there, helpful!

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