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11/6/2007 – General Election – Redmond, King County, Washington

So far the most important issue on the ballot is Initiative 25. If you want any possible hope of having a meaningful vote in King County please vote yes for I-25.

This isn't an election, it's a denial of service attack! The whole point of representative democracy is that citizens have neither the time nor the background to make detailed choices about how the day to day activities of government are to be run. But in this election we am being drowned in no less than 9 different measures in addition to 14 different elected offices of which only 3 appeared on the primary. This is just nuts! The only consequence of dumping this many issues and elected offices on the citizenry is to so overload the citizenry that they either don't bother to vote or vote blindly.

  • Initiative 960 – Yes

  • Referendum Measure 67 – Approved

  • Senate Joint Resolution 8206 – Rejected

  • Senate Joint Resolution 8212 – Rejected

  • House Joint Resolution 4204 – Rejected

  • House Joint Resolution 4215 – Rejected

  • King County Prosecuting Attorney – Bill Sherman

  • King County Assessor – Scott Noble

  • Port of Seattle – Commissioner – Position No. 2 – Bob Edwards

  • Port of Seattle – Commissioner – Position No. 5 – Alec Fisken

  • City of Redmond – Mayor – John Marchione

  • City of Redmond – Council Position 1 – Hank Myers

  • City of Redmond – Council Position 3 – Dayle (Hank) Margeson

  • City of Redmond – Council Position 5 – Richard Cole

  • City of Redmond – Council Position 7 – David Carson

  • Lake Washington School District No. 414 – Director District 1 – Jackie Pendergrass

  • Lake Washington School District No. 414 – Director District 2 – Chris Carlson

  • Lake Washington School District No. 414 – Director District 5 – Ravi Shahani

  • Public Hospital District No. 4 – Commissioner – Rebecca Hirt

  • Public Hospital District No. 5 – Commissioner – Jeanette Greenfield

  • King County Initiative 25 – Yes

  • King County Proposition No. 1 – Medic One – Approved

  • Sound Transit Proposition No. 1 – No

Initiative 960 – Yes

The purpose of this initiative as far as I can tell is to make the state legislature actually honor Initiative 601 from 1993 that required a 2/3s margin on votes to increase taxes. Since then the legislature has apparently used every trick in the book to essentially ignore Initiative 601. What I-960 will do is require that any time the legislature raises taxes above the pre-approved spending limit then the legislative action won't take affect until the next general election when the people have to vote on the tax increase. The way the legislature can get around this is by declaring an emergency. Apparently this is a favorite trick of the legislature. To deal with this I-960 requires that any time the legislature declares an emergency an initiative has to be placed on the next ballot giving the voters an advisory vote on the emergency tax raise. The initiative would also require that any increase in fees must be approved by the legislature. I think that the emergency clause is a bit of showman ship and I would prefer that instead the initiative just mandate that a list be published of all bills with an 'emergency' clause to make it easy for citizens to see what their legislators are doing. I am also worried about the practical affects of requiring the legislature to approve every fee increase from just about every state agency. But I really like the idea of requiring a referendum when the legislature exceeds the spending cap and I can live with the rest to get it.

Much thanks to Toby Nixon who pointed out that I misread the text for I-960 and set me straight about what it really does.

Referendum Measure 67 – Approved

The state legislature passed a law that says that consumers can sue insurance companies in court if the insurance companies do not promptly pay out claims and that consumers can get up to triple damages if they can show the insurance company had no basis for denying the claim. Insurance companies with the highest rate of customer complaints have plowed millions into getting a referendum to have the bill overturned. From what I can tell consumers have always had the right to sue their insurers if the insurer don't pay up, what this bill changed was the inclusion of punitive damages. There is nothing like 'triple damages' to focus the mind. The triple damages also make cases that litigants could not otherwise afford to prosecute possible since it provides a big enough win to be worth a lawyer's time. To me it is simple fairness that if a company acts in bad faith then it will be punished, not just made to honor its original agreement. Will this lead to frivolous lawsuits? That is something for our courts to decide. But putting Washington in line with just about every other state in the union that allows punitive damages in these cases makes sense to me. I'm voting Approved.

Senate Joint Resolution 8206 – Rejected

This resolution creates, by modifying our state constitution, a 'rainy day' fund into which 1% of state revenues (with lots of exceptions) must be placed and can only be withdrawn under a variety of supposed 'extreme' circumstances typically requiring a 60% vote of the legislature. I sincerely doubt this rainy day fund will stay inviolate for long, especially as it keeps on growing. From initiatives to a legislature that loves to declare everything an emergency (remember the sports stadium?) I'm sure the fund will be raided. But let's assume the funds will truly be inviolate. In that case the question is – who should be sitting on the citizen's money, the citizens or the government? If 1% of revenue can be safely put into a savings fund and not used for immediate spending then this argues that the government is taxing us too much by the sum of 1% of currently collected taxes. Yes, when there are down times the government will either have to cut services or raise taxes or raise bonds. Given how inevitable this is citizens need to be prepared by having their own equivalent of the 1% fund to pay for those taxes. But I would much rather leave that money in the hands of the people to spend or invest as they like rather than in the hands of the government. So I'm rejecting this constitutional amendment.

Senate Joint Resolution 8212 – Rejected

This resolution would modify the state constitution to allow prisons to contract out inmate labor to private companies. While it is tempting to argue that inmates should have to pay while they serve time this is a slippery slope that, in truth, we are already pretty far down. As it is American now incarcerates a larger portion of its population than any other country on earth. It is my belief that at least some part of the trend of throwing our citizenry in jail to rot is the lobbying by the private/public prison industry to make everything a crime so as to generate business for themselves. This constitutional amendment would now throw in a whole new population of companies who would be making money off the prison industry and would thus add their voice and money to throwing even more people in jail. I have no desire to bulk up the prison industry any more and am therefore rejecting this measure.

House Joint Resolution 4204 – Rejected

This resolution would modify the state constitution to allow for local property tax increases above the 1% general limit to pass on a simple majority rather than the currently required super majority. I view taxes in general as being a very serious (but, alas, unavoidable) imposition on our freedom to do with our money whatever we want. I therefore like the idea that there is a high bar to raising taxes. I think this is appropriate. Contrary to some of the material I read about 4204 democracy is not mob rule. Just because the majority of people favor some course of action that does not create a requirement that the action be taken. It is perfectly fine for society to agree that some actions are sufficiently damaging that it should take a higher bar before they can be undertaken. I believe raising taxes is one of them and I especially believe this applies to property taxes which create so much uncertainty in one's spending. There are many things a resident can do to reasonably predict their future tax load. They can decide how much to work, how much to spend, how much to invest, etc. But once someone has bought a house, since housing prices are so unpredictable, it is very difficult to reasonably forecast one's future property tax burden. Even worse if a resident has a temporary cash flow problem the usual options for reducing taxes (e.g. buy less, invest in tax exempt assets, etc.) aren't available, property taxes have to be paid. I believe that property taxes are useful but they are also dangerous and so a high bar to raising them makes sense to me. I am therefore rejecting this resolution.

House Joint Resolution 4215 – Rejected

The state has a variety of educational funds which are generally bared from investing in private stocks or private bonds by the state constitution. Constitutional amendments were made in 1966 that allowed some of the funds to invest in private stocks and bonds but not all. This proposal would expand the exception to cover all state educational funds. I do not like the idea of state entities owning private stocks or bonds. It gives the state a strong incentive to intervene in the proper working of the markets. If you want to strike fear into the hearts of any company with public stock just say "CalPERS". This is the California Public Employees' Retirement System, it runs pensions for California state employees, and with $230 Billion in investable assets it is one of the biggest investors in the country. Do we really want a state run entity telling private entities how they should run their business for profit? Because CalPERS is what's known as an 'active investor' (normally a good thing, btw) and thus does make its views known to private companies and because of its size it gets listened to. Having the state both be a regulator of and investor in the private markets is a horrendous conflict of interest and we need to prevent it. In addition giving the state the ability to invest in private stocks and bonds gives a variety of companies an incentive to lobby the state to invest in their assets over others. The state needs to be an honest broker, not a partisan player. We should be looking to roll back the exemptions allowing Washington State to invest in private bonds or stocks, not extending them. I am therefore rejecting this proposal.

King County Prosecuting Attorney – Bill Sherman

  • Bill Sherman – His voter pamphlet entry and Muni League questionnaire both play up the typical fear angles but I don't see any real substantive content. Also the prosecute one case a year thing feels really gimmicky to me. Most of his Muni questionnaire was really just heart string pulling and his website is pretty much content free. Truth be told I'm pretty much reflexively ready to vote against a Republican for any law enforcement position as a consequence of the Republican party's behavior in shredding our rights since George W. Bush became president. A few mentions of civil rights and some nice reasonable commentary and I would have voted for Mr. Sherman. But alas he didn't seem able to pull it off. Yes, I'm going to vote for him, but truth be told I'm not so much voting for Mr. Sherman as against George W. Bush. Mr. Satterberg could have stopped me if his website had shown any cognizance of civil liberties issues but he didn't. Throw in the questions caused by Mr. Satterberg's Church and voting actions and I end up voting for Mr. Sherman by default but I can't say I'm ecstatic about it.

  • Dan Satterberg – I was reading his Muni League questionnaire which identified three things as his proudest achievements, the first was the drug courts (which seem like a good thing), the kids court (another good thing) and then updating animal cruelty laws. While I certainly want strong laws against animal cruelty there seems to be something decidedly calculated by identifying updated animal cruelty laws as one of his greatest accomplishments in 17 years in office. More than anything else it shows how generally content free his answers appear to be to me although his site managed to give slightly more information than Mr. Sherman's the information was mostly about past accomplishments rather than general ideas and proposed future actions. Mr. Satterberg also sat on the archbishop's council to set policy for handling complaints of misconduct in the church and then later refused to open church files. I have no idea if anything actually wrong happened but by sitting on that board Mr. Satterberg created a compelling appearance of conflict of interest. Then there was the issue of Mr. Satterberg's behavior regarding the vote recount. Lots of questions, not many answers.

King County Assessor – Scott Noble

  • Scott Noble – Mr. Noble by all accounts seems to be a solid assessor who has done an outstanding job for many years. I can't find any compelling reason to replace him.

  • Jim Nobles – Mr. Nobles apparently didn't have time to fill out his muni survey which is unfortunate as I find it a useful source of data. His website was also, in my opinion, content free.

Port of Seattle – Commissioner – Position No. 2 – Bob Edwards

See my previous article for details on the candidates. My preferred candidate Thom McCann didn't make it to the general election. My clear second choice was Mr. Edwards.

Port of Seattle – Commissioner – Position No. 5 – Alec Fisken

He was my choice in the primary as well.

City of Redmond – Mayor – John Marchione

He was my choice in the primary as well.

City of Redmond – Council Position 1 – Hank Myers

He is running unopposed.

City of Redmond – Council Position 3 – Dayle (Hank) Margeson

  • Brian Conlin – I very much like his upbeat attitude toward Redmond. But unfortunately his voter pamphlet and muni entries were content free and his website was only marginally better. On his website he makes it clear that he wants to concentrate business in Overlake and downtown Redmond (seems reasonable) and that he wants better transportation options (although no details) and he wants more money from the county trough. But this all sounds like goodness and sunshine. Redmond isn't that big a place and most of our issues are well known so it shouldn't be too hard for him to come up with specifics.

  • Dayle (Hank) Margeson – Yes, the muni league rated him higher than Mr. Conlin and that does give him a bonus point. But I can't see much difference between Messrs. Conlin and Margeson's views. Margeson's website was a bit more informative than Mr. Conlin's but not by much and they both seem to say a lot of the same things. So it's hard to make a meaningful choice but over all I liked the fact that Mr. Margeson's answers to the muni league questionnaire were more thorough and that his website gave me a least a tiny bit more insight into what he believes. So I will go with Mr. Margeson.

City of Redmond – Council Position 5 – Richard Cole

  • Michallea Schuelke – For whatever reason Ms. Schuelke did not fill out the Muni form. Which may go some way to explaining why the Muni League gave her a rating of adequate while her opponent got a rating of Very Good. Her main point seems to be that she isn't her competitor, that is, she hasn't been on the council since 1988 and unlike her competitor she would rather raise taxes on businesses than people. If Ms. Schuelke had provided more hard data about what she wants to do I might have gone with her but as it is she is only slightly less mysterious than Mr. Cole.

  • Richard Cole – His muni questionnaire as well as his website are basically content free. Ms. Schuelke actually managed to say something, even if it was mostly putting herself in opposition to her opponent. But I'll have to take Ms. Schuelke's word for what her opponent wants to do because he says essentially nothing himself. I can't say that I'm thrilled that Mr. Cole has had 5 consecutive terms on the council. Experience is great but this is getting to be ridiculous. How can someone have been in public service for so long and be such a cipher? I tried doing searches about him on the net but that didn't turn up much. His main claim to re-election is that he helped to put in place the new city planning process and he would now like to execute it. In the end I am voting for Mr. Cole but mostly because he is Marchione's right hand man and will need him to push through his agenda. Not a great reason, I know.

City of Redmond – Council Position 7 – David Carson

  • Brian Seitz – The muni league rated him very good but I honestly don't know why. His answers to the questions were banal. His main claim to election seems to be that he was a parks worker. The council is a serious job and the candidate needs experience in public service before claiming it, introducing WagEd to blogs doesn't quite cut it. His blog was a bit more interesting with some comments on transportation that caught my eye but mostly it was hand waving rather than details. I listened to his YouTube video (come on, you work for MS, use Silverlight Streaming!) and I honestly didn't hear him say anything.

  • David Carson – Mr. Carson did not fill out his muni league form. His 'issues' tab is marked Under Construction. Um… the election is in two weeks or so, when exactly did he think he would get around to filling out that section? That having been said Mr. Carson has a history of civic activity and experience with government that makes me think he is more ready to handle the job than Mr. Seitz. So Mr. Carson gets my vote.

Lake Washington School District No. 414 – Director District 1 – Jackie Pendergrass

She is running unopposed.

Lake Washington School District No. 414 – Director District 2 – Chris Carlson

  • Chris Carlson – Mr. Carlson's main point seems to be that he wants to spend more money on reducing class sizes and keep parents more informed of important changes like bus route alterations. He seems to play down his involvement with Where's the Math?, an organization trying to bring back basic math education. I looked over the Where's the Math? website and while it is a bit 'out there' a lot of what they said seemed, from my superficial review, to make sense.

  • Matt Gregory – He doesn't seem to actually have a website. I think that is unconscionable for someone running for public office, especially in a wired up area like Washington State, to not have a website. The most I could find out about him was from a Seattle Times Article. Over all I think Mr. Carlson has more to say and more energy to say it with than Mr. Gregory so Mr. Carlson gets my vote.

Lake Washington School District No. 414 – Director District 5 – Ravi Shahani

He is running unopposed.

Public Hospital District No. 2 – Commissioner – Rebecca Hirt

She is running unopposed.

Public Hospital District No. 5 – Commissioner – Jeanette Greenfield

She is running unopposed.

King County Initiative 25 – Yes

This initiative proposes putting an initiative on next year's ballot to amend King County's charter to make the director of elections an elected instead of an appointed position. The 'two step' voting process is, I believe, due to the way that charter amendments are voted on. King County will soon switch to an all mail ballot. A system absolutely designed to guarantee corruption. With a mandatory mail in ballot system only a completely incompetent executive would not twist the vote since it would be so painless easy with essentially no real chance of being caught. I honestly don't know if I will even bother voting once mandatory mail in ballots come in force in King County, what's the point? This initiative is one last, desperate chance to maybe stop this travesty by starting the process to put an independent voice into the election process. As much as I abhor the thought of having yet another elected position that must be preferable to having no meaningful vote at all.

King County Proposition No. 1 – Medic One – Approved

This proposition would increase the Medic One dedicated property tax from $0.25/$1000 assessed value to $0.3/$1000 assessed value. What's the justification for increasing the tax? Beats me. Folks like Yes on Medic One mention something about inflation and an increasingly older population but no figures of any kind are offered to prove these changes require an increase in the tax. I generally don't like special purpose propositions since they limit flexibility but in some cases I suppose that limitation is a feature. I also really like the idea of Medic One where emergency response services are consistent across many areas and not just funded on a city by city basis. I believe that just as citizens have an obligation to the state around them the reverse also holds and the quality of emergency medical services once receives should be of an equally high standard everywhere. I just wish someone would provide convincing evidence that the tax really needs to be increased. Still, for lack of an alternative I'll vote to approve.

Sound Transit Proposition No. 1 – No

$18 Billion. That's the figure the proposition's own supporters admit this transit package will cost. That is how much is to be spent from a permanent increase of both sales and car taxes. In return we are supposed to get a coherent transit system except the plan doesn't address the Alaskan way viaduct and it only provides partial funding to turn the 520 into a six lane highway. In other words, this is just the down payment, more bills to come. Near as I can tell this proposal is really just a bargain between folks who want major extensions to the road network and folks who want light rail. The deal is to tie the two together and shove the whole thing down voter's throats. And keep in mind that this is all funded through sales/car taxes which are some of the most regressive taxes around. Putting the biggest burden of our transportation on our poorest citizens makes little sense. For me the bottom line is that this proposition is a gargantuan tax and spending spree that I sincerely doubt will product anything terribly useful. What I would propose is the creation of a super transit district with the power to come up with a full fledge regional plan whose funding consisted of redirecting existing funding rather than adding a completely new layer of funding on top of the existing system. In other words I support the idea of RTID (or some other multi-county single oversight agency) but not billions in new taxes to fund it. Fund it with our existing taxes, in other words, make hard choices. Don't just add billions on top of all our existing transport taxes. I found this article on the over all project and this editorial from Ron Sims to be particularly helpful in deciding to vote against this measure.

3 Responses to 11/6/2007 – General Election – Redmond, King County, Washington

  1. David Carson says:

    I wanted to let you know that I’ve uploaded the issues page. I hadn’t realzed that it was unfinished, so I’ve put that file up so that it’s now up-to-date.

    David

  2. Teacher says:

    Your analysis of 4204 is simplistic. This is not a bill that “limits taxes” specifically. The legislature, in its infinite wisdom (sarcasm intended) has decided that school funding from the state should be limited to 80% of what is needed (by their calculations) to fund a school district. This amount is called the BEA(Basic education allowance) and is then called 100% of “Basic Education”. (Cool math, hunh?) They then expect the local citizens to fund the other 20%. The rub comes that the local citizens are required to pass these levies with a 60% vote. Yes, they are property taxes. But they fund schools for all kids. Currently, our state is 47th in the nation on what we are spending on students. And it shows. Our students are not keeping pace with the country. Over 50% of our students can not pass the basic math WASL. Bottom line–4204 should be passed. We currently use a simple majority voting system to pass all of the other public services–fire districts, roads, public stadiums. School children are the only ones being held hostage to a system that will unfairly select for the rich being sent to private schools, and the poor being stuck in underfunded public education. Do what is right on this one. Approve 4204. Marta Branch

  3. Administrator says:

    Teacher, you are pointing out that schools may not be properly funded. Which is certainly a bad thing if true and should be fixed. But that doesn’t mean the fix is raising property taxes.

    As I point out in my comments, property taxes are some of the most damaging taxes around and should only be used carefully. So while I may support a proposal to fund schools via taxes (although I would first have to be convinced that the money we are spending on schools is being spent wisely and there is a true shortage as opposed to a wastage) I don’t believe that in anyway negates the damage of property taxes in particular.

    Therefore I feel that regardless of the merit of the cause proposals to raise property taxes need to pass a higher than 50% bar.

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