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11/4/2014 – General and Special Election, Seattle, King County, Washington State

There are quite a few meaty issues on our ballot this year. There is State Initiative 1351 which would force the state to fund our schools at something like a reasonable level. An easy yes. There is Initiative Measure No. 591 which would further reduce rules on the ability to transfer killing machines (known as guns) without any form of safety check. Bad idea. No. And of course Initiative Measure 594 which would require that nobody can just hand out a killing machine without a background check, an easy Yes! We can return Jim McDermott to Washington, always a good idea. There is an infinite number of judicial races, most of which I’m not going to vote in because I believe the candidates have tainted themselves by raising money that puts them in hock to the people they are supposed to oversee and in many cases candidates couldn’t even be bothered to put up websites to fully inform voters. If a judicial candidate can’t spend the time to talk to the voters then don’t expect the voters to vote for them. For those in Seattle there is a metro bill we really need to support. For those who haven’t read one of my ballot cheat sheets before you should probably know that with the exception of Jim McDermott I generally don't vote for Democrats or Republicans.

1 Initiative Measure No. 1351 - Yes

Education is the forge of democracy. It is literally the bedrock upon which a fair society is built. An ignorant populace cannot rule itself. So we must always pay careful attention to our schools. This bill would increase funding to our schools by mandating smaller class sizes and more support staff. It still leaves school districts with flexibility on how to use this money but it sets up models to define how much money they get. Looking at the class room numbers I saw only good ideas. Most schools would have classrooms with just over 20 kids and poor schools slightly less. Based on what I’ve seen this makes a lot of sense. Our society puts a crushing burden on its poorest members and they absolutely need every advantage we can possibly provide.
This bill would cost somewhere around $1 billion a year in additional costs. Of this roughly $70 million or so will come from higher property taxes and the rest from general state funding. Now $1 billion/year sounds like a lot until you realize that the state’s entire revenue for 2015 using the baseline estimate is $33.332 billion. Yes, $1 billion is a lot but given the size of our revenue we can afford to actually invest in our fellow citizens.
Also note that currently Washington State is 47th (yes, 47th) in class size. Also note that the State Supreme Court has ruled that Washington State’s funding for schools is so derisory that it ordered it to be increased. Courts hate doing that sort of thing so you can be sure it was really, really, bad before the court was willing to step in.
Those against the bill whine that it doesn’t go mostly to teachers. Well duh, do you have any concept how many people it takes to run a school? What I like about is that the support staff it does call out are ones that schools really need like librarians, nurses, social workers, psychologists, guidance counselors and custodians. This is good stuff. Will our taxes go up? Yup. They would. And a good thing. Hopefully we can target those tax rises mostly to the rich, something we get automatically with property tax increases.
Help out school. Help our state. Help our democracy. Vote Yes!

2 Initiative Measure No. 591 - No

The first part of this bill is just bull baiting telling straight out lies about the government coming for guns. Our state constitution already prevents taking any property, including fire arms, without due process. So right away you can be sure that the intentions of those writing this bill are dishonest. They are trying to scare people by making them somehow think the law does not already protect their property. It tells you a lot about the bad intentions and low opinion that the people who wrote this bill have of the voting public. Therefore the only legally meaningful part of this bill is requiring Washington State from enacting any background check legislation until a national standard is passed. That is a violation of State rights. The whole point of the multi-state model (something our Supreme Court seems to often forget) is that it is a ’laboratory of democracy’. So long as the states don’t violate the federal constitution they are free to experiment as they see fit. This law would prevent that in the area of background checks.
My own belief is that our current background check system is filled with endless loopholes that need to be closed. Those behind this bill want the current gun free for all we have. I don’t. I’m voting No.

3 Initiative Measure No. 594 - Yes

Right now in Washington State we only require background checks when a licensed gun dealer sells a pistol. All other weapons are exempt, private sales are exempt, gun shows are exempt. Just about everything is exempt. This bill will completely change that. It requires all transfers of guns involving anyone in Washington state to be passed through a background check. To me this is screamingly obvious common sense. Guns are tools designed for exactly one purpose - to kill. We absolutely shouldn’t allow killing machines to be handed around without stringent checks to make sure they don’t end up in the wrong hands. The bill isn’t perfect. I think it still has too many loop holes. But it’s vastly better than what we have now.
Bring some measure of sanity to our state, require background checks before allowing the transfer of machines whose exclusive purpose is to kill. Vote Yes!

4 Advisory Vote No. 8 - Senate Bill 6505 - Maintained

This is an ’advisory’ vote meaning it is completely and totally meaningless. In this case the Senate voted to remove special tax benefits for the Marijuana industry.

5 Advisory Vote No. 9 - Engrossed Substitute House Bill 12787 - Maintained

This bill requires that Indian tribes be treated the same as state and local governments for tax purposes when dealing with property owned by the tribe. (Yes, I looked it up.)

6 Federal - United States Representative - Congressional District No. 7 - Jim McDermott

Jim McDermott He voted against the patriot act, he voted for health care reform (and pushes for single payer) and in general he represents a lot of the things I feel and believe. An easy yes vote.
Craig Keller I don’t vote for Republicans so this one was easy. But I read his candidates statement anyway. The sfear mongering of his voter guide entry was nauseating. Just straight up xenophobia. “Immigrants are coming to take my job!!!!”

7 State - Legislative District No. 46 - State Senator - Blank

David Frockt A Democrat. Next. I did read his candidate statement which seems to boil down to “I’ll bring home the money!”
Van Sperry A Republican. Next. His candidate statement seems to read ’give more money away to corporations’.

8 State - Legislative District No. 46 - Representative Position No. 1 - Blank

Gerry Pollet Lots of trees being hugged, nothing about making our society sane.

9 State - Legislative District No. 46 - Representative Position No. 2 - Blank

Jessyn Farrell Usual tree hugging. Still not voting for Democrats.
Branden Curtis That he is a college student doesn’t bother me. That he didn’t take his run seriously enough to even bother having a website ready does. And, anyway, still not voting for Republicans.

10 County - Prosecuting Attorney - Blank

Dan Satterberg This guy has got to be a RINO (Republic In Name Only) which I suppose is fine. But I’m still not voting for Republicans.

11 State Supreme Court - Justice Position No.1 - Blank

Mary Yu She is running unopposed but she still raised $46,255.59 at the time I looked is up. Seriously? Judges have no business raising money when it puts them directly in conflict with the folks they are supposed to be making decisions about. She has received donations from law firms, from PACs, etc. This isn’t somebody who should be sitting in the top chair in the state Judiciary.

12 State Supreme Court - Justice Position No. 3 - Blank

Mary E. Fairhurst Clearly Mary Yu is an under achiever because Mary E. Fairhurst, running unopposed, has raised $91,747.50 when I looked. And yes, from PACs, tribes and an endless stream of Attorneys. Again, someone this tainted has no business on the highest court of the state.

13 State Supreme Court - Justice Position No. 4 - Charles W. Johnson

Eddie Yoon Looking him up at votingforjudges.org I came away with the impression of someone who is simply not qualified to handle the variety of cases that a State Supreme Court justice must handle. You want to see someone with at least appellate experience much less judicial experience, he has none.
Charles W. Johnson So I have to admit, I’m kind of impressed. Even though he is running against someone he has only raised $22,938.14. Unfortunately it’s from a mess of PACs and attorneys. But given his generally good record and his low level of fund raising I got curious so I went to his website. His supporters are overwhelmingly Democrats although a few Republican organizations do get a look in. What’s scary is how many of the people giving money are judges. I realize it could be because they support Justice Johnson (or just don’t support Mr. Yoon). But it also feels like they need to pay homage so that when their decisions go before the Supreme Court perhaps Justice Johnson will be less likely to embarrass them by rejecting their decision? The same logic goes for attorneys, special interests, etc. Having to declare fealty to a Judge inherently removes that Judge’s impartiality. Having Judges raise money and get supporters seems like a recipe for corruption. Politicians are explicitly not expected to be impartial, but Judges are. How can that be when they need to run around and get people to swear loyalty to them? But on balance Justice Johnson seems reasonable so I’ll vote for him.

14 State Supreme Court - Justice Position No. 7 - Blank

Debra L. Stephens It seems like there is a line somewhere about fund raising after which I get uncomfortable. I could sorta live with Justice Johnson raising $22k but Justice Yu’s $46,255 was too much. So that clearly puts Justice Stephens’ $68,208.39 over the bar as well.
John (Zamboni) Scannell A quick look at votingforjudges.org shows that literally nobody thinks Mr. Scannell is qualified to sit on the Supreme Court. It is also probably relevant that he was disbarred by the State Supreme court for misconduct in a disciplinary hearing. I did try to go to Mr. Scannell’s website but unfortunately it wasn’t working.

15 Court of Appeals - Division No. 1 - District No. 1 - Judge Position No. 1 - Blank

Michael J. Trickey On the bright side, he didn’t raise any money. On the not so bright side I can’t find anything about the guy! He is running for election and he can’t even bother putting up a web site! Talk to us!

16 Court of Appeals - Division No. 1 - District No. 1 - Judge Position 5 - Blank

Linda Lau Another judge with no website. But at least she didn’t take money. But whatever, no website, no vote. Come on, we’re trying to be a democracy. At least pretend voters matter!

17 Court of Appeals - Division No. 1 - District No. 1 - Judge Position No. 6 - Blank

Ann Schindler No website? Check. No money raised? Check. No vote? Check.

18 District Court - West Electoral District - Judge Position No. 1 - Blank

Johanna Bender On the negative side she did raise money but only $2,615.90. Apparently in amounts small enough not to need disclosure. She does have a website! But it doesn’t work. She also has a long list of Democratic endorsements. Because, you know, judges are supposed to be partial. Not. Sigh.

19 District Court - West Electoral District - Judge Position No. 2 - Phillip Tavel

Phillip Tavel He has raised $6,688. So I immediately like him. He has a website (although not much content there). He is rated as well as Justice Chow. He has a background that seems well fit to the position. So he gets my vote. I also listened to the district candidate forum linked at the bottom of http://www.givethegaveltotavel.com/news.HTML and I was more impressed by Mr. Tavel than Justice Chow.
Mark C. Chow Apparently he has been up before the disciplinary board but apparently for relatively minor things, mostly not taking crap from a defendant who was abusive and for being a bit too familiar with other fellow Asians. Not great but I’m not going to throw someone in the drink for it. However he did manage to raise $74,033.85 for his campaign from lots of attorneys (whom I’m sure he is supposed to treat without bias when they are up before him). And his endorsements are the usual infinite number of Democrats. That having been said, I have deep respect for Justice Chow’s most awesome accomplishment, the creation of a dedicated mental health court. That is really something to be proud of. But on balance I just don’t want someone who raises this much money on our bench.

20 District Court - West Electoral District - Judge Position No. 3 - Blank

Art Chapman He has raised no money, which is good. But he also has no website. Which is bad. Next.

21 District Court - West Electoral District - Judge Position No. 4 - Blank

Eileen A. Kato She lists a website but it’s just a parked domain with nothing in it. But at least she didn’t raise any money. Nevertheless I think it’s fundamentally disrespectful to the electorate to not take advantage of the Web to educate us about your opinions and approaches. Next.

22 District Court - West Electoral District - Judge Position No. 5 - Anne C. Harper

Anne C. Harper Her candidate statement talks about the court, but not her. Thankfully she does have a website! And her website does talk about the things she did like help with Justice Bonner’s work on a community court to help with homeless people in Seattle. She did put in $2,539.50 but it looks like her own debt. So yes, you get my vote (I’m sure you care =).

23 Seattle Municipal Court - Judge Position No. 1 - Blank

Ed McKenna No listed website and a bunch of Democratic committee endorsements. So both disrespectful to votes and partial? No.

24 Seattle Municipal Court - Judge Position No. 2 - C. Kimi Kondo

Jon M. Zimmerman He attacks his opponent based on the results of the King County Bar Association judicial evaluation survey, one that has been recognized as not being statistically accurate. And um... so what? The people who she is paid to keep in line don’t like her, that could be a bug or a feature (as we say in software land). He then lists endorsements from the 46th District Democrats, Teamsters and others. So much for being impartial. I looked at his website but it really said nothing about his judicial approach or what he wanted to accomplish on the bench. And he raised $36,249.37 although $12,181 of that is debt so I assume that came out of his own pocket. The rest of the money came largely from Attorneys, perhaps the ones who will appear before him? And the final kicker, his opponent has been rated Exceptionally Well Qualified or Well Qualified by lots of folks. Jon Zimmerman was rated by one organization, King County Bar Association and they rated him as Not Qualified.
C. Kimi Kondo She is in charge of the mental health court which is good. She is also endorsed by a whole bunch of Democrats which is bad. She has a really pretty website (which I suppose the pretty part isn’t relevant but nice design is always appreciated) which explains, amongst other things, that her fellow judges elected her to a second term as Presiding Judge of the Seattle Municipal Court. She then goes to town listing her numerous (genuinely impressive) accomplishments. On the downside she did raise $25,658. I’m not happy that she raised so much money (and no I don’t care that she has apparently only spent $7,978 of it, it’s the raising that removes impartiality, not the spending) but on balance I can live with it. She gets my vote.

25 Seattle Municipal Court - Judge Position No. 3 - Blank

Steve Rosen Good news, he has a website! Bad news, it doesn’t work. What’s worse is that he actually raised $24,265 but only spent $2,500 (which probably explains his website). So he can’t bother to talk to the citizens he wants to elect him and he raises money? No.

26 Seattle Municipal Court - Judge Position No. 4 - Blank

Judith Montgomery Hightower On the good side, she didn’t raise any money. On the bad side her website doesn’t work. No website? No vote.

27 Seattle Municipal Court - Judge Position No. 5 - Willie Gregory

Willie Gregory He has a website, which is awesome. It’s almost completely content free but at least he is trying to communicate with the people who are supposed to elect him! Unfortunately he did raise money but only $2,619.33 so I can live with that.

28 Seattle Municipal Court - Judge Position No. 6 - Blank

Karen Donohue No website and in her candidate statement she openly shows her bias by listing endorsements from various Democrats. She also raised $9,680.92 of which only $300 has been disclosed so far and that disclosure is from a lobbyist. Um... no.

29 Seattle Municipal Court - Judge Position No. 7 - Fred Bonner

Damon Shadid Wow, he is on the attack against Justice Bonner. But I really don’t like that he lists a bunch of political endorsements. But he does have a website! I’m not sure why his website had to mention his brother, a world renowned middle east correspondent who died in Syria. But, it’s his brother. I’ll give that one a pass. But he raised $66,327. That is just outrageous! On the other hand everyone with a breath has rated Mr. Shadid as either well qualified or exception well qualified. No one else bothered to rate his opponent.
Fred Bonner Justice Bonner probably has the best candidate statement of any of the judges. He really shows what he has done helping to innovate in multiple ways to keep people out of jail. It’s actually quite impressive. It is true that Bonner hasn’t been going to judge’s meetings but given the vitriol involved I can’t say I blame him. And as for the Bar Association survey, that isn’t statistically accurate and anyway questionable. A hard nosed judge isn’t going to be liked. Justice Bonner has raised $14,016 of which a good $5,000 are personal loans. I still don’t like all the money but it’s a low enough number that I can just about live with it. I think Justice Bonner’s record on the bench looks solid so I’m giving him my vote.

30 City of Seattle - Proposition Numbers 1A and 1b - Question 1 - Yes, Question 2 - 1B

Proposition 1a I’m not completely sure exactly what this initiative actually does. Parts are clear. It accelerates $15/hr minimum wage for teachers. O.k. fine. But then it creates a “Provider Organization” to “facilitate communication” with the city with a bunch of requirements for that organization that make me think it’s some kind of fix up for some existing body, read the ballot, there’s a list of requirements that I bet only a tiny number of organizations can match. It then creates a Professional Development Institute that is funded by the city but run by the previously fixed up organization. The initiative states as its goal that it would reduce childcare costs to less than 10% of a family’s income but it doesn’t specify how or where the money is going to come from. Honestly this looks more like a job guarantee for a bunch of administrators than a way to get kids into early education. Arguments against 1a are that it potentially creates an unfunded mandate to provide universal preschool for all of Seattle’s children and that could cost a lot of money. I’m fine with that. As a society we must take on the protection and enrichment of our children through universal preschool education. It’s our job as adults to figure out the money, not our kids. Nevertheless I just can’t escape the feeling that 1a is a fix up for a small group of people to make money through the various organizations and training institutes mandated by the initiative. Fundamentally I just don’t trust this bill.
Proposition 1b This initiative raises property taxes to provide a voluntary program for 3-4 year olds with financial help for families that make less than 300% of the federal poverty level and with subsidies of some sort for everyone else. I would have liked to see the care be free but I can live with sliding scale. What I don’t like is that there is nothing permanent about this program. The city can make it go away at will. Even worse, this is not universal pre-school. This program is limited to 2000 children. To put that in perspective there are tens of thousands of children age 5 and under in Seattle. I don’t like this bill but it is better than nothing and given how much I don’t trust 1a, I’m willing to vote for it.

31 Proposed City Transportation Authority - Seattle Citizen Petition No. 1 - Creation of a City Transportation Authority for Public Monorail Transportation Facilities - No

This creates a committee, with a multi-million dollar budget raised from car tab fees to study the monorail. No, not build it. Study it. The damn thing has been studied to death. Enough. Let’s focus on buses and light rail. If the monorail has a role, awesome, let’s put it into the over all plan. But more millions dropped down the study bucket is a waste of money.

32 Seattle Transportation Benefit District Proposition No. 1 - Transportation Funding - Yes

The bill would put more money into transit. But it does it in a deeply awful way. First, it raises sales tax by 0.1%. Sales tax is pretty much the most regressive form of taxation we have. It’s a bad idea and hurts the people who need transit the most. Second, it raises car fees by $60. Yes, it has a $20 rebate for low-income individuals but it’s still a net $40 increase and that’s the last thing we need to do to our city’s poor. Furthermore the problem this proposition was created to solve has largely gone away. Originally King County was going to cut a bunch of routes that would hit Seattle hard. This proposition would have provided the funding to restore those routes. But in the end King County blinked and decided not to reduce routes after all.
So why am I voting for it? Because we desperately need more mass transit in Seattle. Have you ever actually looked inside a bus on any reasonably main line? It’s full! Furthermore because our network isn’t large enough most people (myself included) can’t really use the buses that well because getting anywhere requires jumping on a bus that might only run once or twice an hour and making a transfer. By massively increasing the number of buses and lines we can increase bus run rates and produce a system that could really do something about our traffic.
Seriously, have you actually driven in Seattle recently? It’s a nightmare! Traffic is off the scale and the city is growing like crazy (Seattle is literally the fastest growing big city in America). We need a lot more transit if we aren’t going to be LA in the small. So I’m voting yes.

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