11/8/2011 – General and Special Election – Seattle, King County, Washington

I can't say any of the candidates really got me all that terribly excited, it was mostly an exercise of picking who I hated least. As for the initiatives the only one that I think is really super critical is City of Seattle Proposition No. 1 which is the school tax levy. Initiative 1183 really annoys the hell out of me and I hate CostCo for putting it out there (I especially like the tax loopholes they put in for themselves and the bans they put against their smaller competitors) but as I explain below our dear government has passed a lovely bill that I think is worse than 1183 so now I have to vote for 1183.

  • Initiative Measure No. 1125 - No

  • Initiative Measure No. 1163 - No

  • Initiative Measure No. 1183 - Yes

  • Senate Joint Resolution No. 8205 - Approved

  • Senate Joint Resolution No. 8206 - Rejected

  • County Directory of Elections - Mark Greene

  • Port of Seattle - Commissioner Position No. 2 - Gael Tarleton

  • Port of Seattle - Commissioner Position No. 5 - Dean Willard

  • City of Seattle - Council Position No. 1 - Bobby Forch

  • City of Seattle - Council Position No. 3 - Brad Meacham

  • City of Seattle - Council Position No. 5 - Dale L. Pusey

  • City of Seattle - Council Position No. 7 - Tim Burgess

  • City of Seattle - Council Position No. 9 - Sally J. Clark

  • City of Seattle Proposition No. 1 - Levy, Yes

  • Seattle Transportation Benefit District - Proposition No. 1 - Yes

  • Seattle School District No. 1 - Director District No. 1 - Sharon Peaslee

  • Seattle School District No. 1 - Director District No. 2 - Kate Martin

  • Seattle School District No. 1 - Director District No. 3 - Harium Martin-Morris

  • Seattle School District No. 1 - Director District No. 4 - Marty McLaren

Note: For brevity's sake I'm omitting any uncontested races.

Initiative Measure No. 1125 - No

This initiative would let the legislature set tolls for toll roads. This is really just a way to get rid of any new toll roads since generally the folks who are willing to buy bonds secured against toll revenue won't do so if the legislature can change the toll at any time. That's why typically tolls have to be set by an independent group according to some criteria that assures the bond holders they will get paid. The initiative also bans variable tolls, this means that time based road pricing isn't allowed. That makes it impossible to use tolls to control traffic and also requires either setting very low tolls or setting reasonable tolls and then keeping them high on evenings and weekends. The initiative would also require that all tolls be used on the highway in which they were collected (an existing requirement) and cannot be directed to non-transportation uses.

What I find particularly rich regarding the arguments against 1125 is that we can't let politicians set tolls. Why not? More to the point, with our politicians so firmly in the pocket of moneyed interests I feel pretty secure that they will set the tolls at whatever level their financial masters dictate and this won't be any different than an unelected 'independent' committee. I suspect the real reason that politicians don't want to be on the hook for setting tolls is because when the 'independent' committee raises the tolls the politicians can just throw up their hands and say 'well the committee did it'.

The Stranger claims the real purpose of this bill is to kill light rail on I-90. That's fine with me. I remember Sound Transit Proposition No. 1 and I voted against it because it did nothing substantial to help alleviate traffic (and no, this isn't an attack on light rail, it's an attack on how Washington does light rail).

But I'm actually not against tolling and I'm am for variable priced tolling so unfortunately I have to vote against this initiative as much as I would love some of the damage it would cause.

Initiative Measure No. 1163 - No

This is another blast from the past that I voted against. This was Initiative Measure No. 1029 that added extra certification requirements for long term home care workers. As I argued then this measure was a bad idea since it seemed to mostly be about keeping people out of employment as home care workers by putting in place unnecessary barriers to entry. The main arguments made for this initiative is that it mandates training (which is already mandated by law) and mandates background checks (which are already mandated by law). What would get me to vote for this initiative was proof that the current training and background checks are inadequate. I haven't seen any proof provided of either issue so I'm voting No.

Initiative Measure No. 1183 - Yes

Education is a horrible thing. Things were so simple when I began researching 1183. CostCo == Bad. They want to run small stores (under 10,000 sq ft) out of the business of competing with them on hard liquor. They don't want to increase alcohol taxes enough to make up for the damage that extra availability will do. And they want to write themselves a really nice little tax exemption where they can sell alcohol directly without the distributor mark up to re-sellers so long as those re-sellers are selling the alcohol by the glass (e.g. restaurants). Add to that the fact that CostCo tried to do the same thing (more or less) last year and got rejected and that CostCo has set a state wide record for funding an initiative and you have an obvious slam dunk no.

But then SB 5942 enters the picture. This bundle of joy was signed by the Governor on 6/15/2011. What it does is auctions off the right to the state's monopoly on wholesale hard liquor to a private distributor and closes down the state stores anyway. This private distributor will apparently pay an up front fee in return for reduced taxes. Having seen this 'sell off/rent back' nonsense before the result is typically that well connected cronies get a sweet heart deal and the state (meaning us) gets screwed.

So as much as I hate 1183 I am stuck voting for it since I think SB 5942 will almost certainly make things worse than 1183 will.

Senate Joint Resolution No. 8205 - Approved

Once upon a time someone couldn't vote in Washington State for president or vice president unless they lived in the state for 60 days. But the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that voter restrictions couldn't require more than 30 days of residency and the Washington Constitution was changed to reflect that, except for the section about voting for president and vice president. Because of the supreme court ruling the president and vice president sections can't be enforced so this remaining part of the constitution is a dead letter. This resolution will remove that inoperative part of the Washington State constitution. And yes I'm paranoid enough to have read both the resolution and the relevant part of the Washington State constitution and yes this resolution appears to do what it says.

Senate Joint Resolution No. 8206 - Rejected

This is a continuation of SJR 8206 from 2007, which I rejected. It wants to create a rainy day fund and force state money into it. This particular extension requires that any time state revenue grows 'too quickly' the surplus has to go into the rainy day fund. My logic is the same now as then. If there is extra money, let's leave it with the people and when times are bad lets have deficit spending. It's perfectly reasonable for the state to go into debt during bad times to pay for services and then pay back the debt during good times. This is certainly more sensible than handing billions of dollars over to the state to sit on instead of keeping it in citizen's pockets. Now I do appreciate the argument that in practice if revenues increase our state will just spend them. But locking that money away won't work, what our representatives pass during downtimes they will undo during good times. So if we are going to have meaningful reform of our tax system it won't come from locking away our money.

County Directory of Elections - Mark Greene

Mark Greene - O.k., let's be honest. Mr. Greene is kinda 'out there'. His web page struck me as a bit on the conspiracy side. And having held no elective office at any level (despite multiple tries) and having no apparently significant executive experience I don't think one can really say he is qualified for the position. But I just can't bring myself to vote for Ms. Huff for reasons I will describe below. So Mr. Greene it is.

Sherril Huff - By all accounts Ms. Huff is quite competent. But the director of elections position was actually created as a response to King County's undemocratic decision to switch to an exclusively vote by mail system thus open endless doors for vote fraud and coercion at every step of the process. As the director of elections I would expect her not to boast, as she has in her materials, of how well she implemented vote by mail and thus removed our democratic rights but rather how she tried to fight it every step of the way. And yes, I realize to some extent that is unfair but when you take on a job as protector of elections I expect you to do that job to the full, including lobbying to get unfair and undemocratic election rules changed.

Port of Seattle - Commissioner Position No. 2 - Gael Tarleton

Richard Pope - I was going to give Mr Pope some credit for cleaning up his act, his candidate statement was entirely reasonable on its face. But then I went to his website and its advertising his election from 2006.

Gael Tarleton - By all accounts an outstanding commissioner who has increased transparency, environment friendliness and the over all effectiveness of the port. Of course I voted against her in 2007 but oh well.

Port of Seattle - Commissioner Position No. 5 - Dean Willard

Dean Willard - Mr Willard's main qualification seems to be that he isn't Mr. Bryant. Willard is quick to point out that Mr. Bryant approved a 9% pay increase for the port CEO while the rest of the staff are capped at 3.5%. That Mr. Bryant voted against the Clean Ports Act of 2010 and that Mr. Bryant is planning on running for governor so how committed is he to the job anyway? But Mr. Willard's site has almost nothing useful to say about what Mr. Willard will do beyond some platitudes regarding jobs, the environment and accountability. In the end I'm going to vote for Mr. Willard but only because anyone insane enough to openly associate themselves with the Republican party anywhere near Seattle deserves a drubbing.

Bill Bryant - In addition to the negatives listed above I have an extended list available from the last vote for Port of Seattle position No. 5.

City of Seattle - Council Position No. 1 - Bobby Forch

Jean Godden - She is strongly pro-tunnel and I am strongly anti-tunnel so really I'm just looking for an excuse to vote against her. But no, I'm not a one issue voter so that on its own isn't enough. The muni league gave her 'good' while her opponent got 'very good'. That's worth something. Her website is pretty much content free so that didn't help.

Bobby Forch - The only part of his website that seemed to have any substance was his police plan which honestly was fairly milquetoast, re-affirming the chief, having an anonymous tip line, letting a civilian on the fire arms review board, etc. They are all good ideas but I don't see any of them really changing, for example, what happened in the battle in Seattle. I also have no idea where he stands on the tunnel. Neither candidate has said much that is really clear or useful and I think Ms. Godden's track record is pretty impressive but I'm willing to give Mr. Forch a chance and maybe see some progress in helping Seattle to have a world class police department that serves its people.

City of Seattle - Council Position No. 3 - Brad Meacham

Brad Meacham - In reading his various comments the only mildly interesting thing he said was that he wants to move to district based elections for the city council (something I think is a good idea). Honestly I can't find anything really conclusive between either candidate so I'll go for Meacham on the general principal that if you are in office and can't convince me you did something useful then you need to be out of office.

Bruce Harrell - I'm very concerned about the accusations made against Mr. Harrell that he doesn't show up for council meetings. I don't want to elect someone who won't show up for the job. Then there is the question of his support around paid sick leave. His signature issue is putting cameras on cops, while this may be a good idea I'd like signature issues like fixing our libraries, our streets, our schools, etc.

City of Seattle - Council Position No. 5 - Dale L. Pusey

Dale L. Pusey - His candidate statement is a typical "they are all screwed up so try me" line. On the other hand his website actually has some concrete things to say. His argument against the $60 car tab proposal makes sense even if I don't totally agree. It's clear that Mr. Pusey does not have the experience for this job. And yes the Muni league rated him as not qualified, which is probably true. But as I watch house break ins all over my neighborhood, see our schools going down the drain, have already given up on our libraries and sit stewing in traffic with no real alternatives I'm willing to give someone else a try. So Mr. Pusey gets my vote.

Tom Rasmussen - His candidate statement has something to do with kissing babies and hugging puppies. His website was even less useful. And of course he was a major force behind the tunnel thanks to his position as the chair of the transportation committee. Yeah, Yeah, I know, he'll win anyway. My job is not to vote for who is going to win (believe me on that one, if it was I would have been fired a long time ago) but who I dislike least (sigh...)

City of Seattle - Council Position No. 7 - Tim Burgess

David Schraer - His candidate statement had something to do with hugging trees. Oh and he loves the tunnel. Ugh. I really liked that he posted a link to the questionnaires he has filled out, major bonus points. But I read the one from Seattle Public Library and it was completely content free.

Tim Burgess - His candidate statement hit most of my issues, schools, safety and transportation. If he had thrown in the library it would have been a perfect hit. Except he is the chair of the public safety committee and the rash of home burglaries in my neighborhood have made me feel especially unsafe. On the other hand he pushed the school levy which I guess means he actually did hit all of my hot topics. On the job he has put in a residential treatment program for at risk kids, got rid of the employee head tax, pushed the Levy and other fun things. So it seems like he might have accomplished something. So I'll vote for him.

City of Seattle - Council Position No. 9 - Sally J. Clark

Sally J. Clark - Her candidate statement had something to do with building, building and more building. Honestly I think she'll do a terrible job but I'm tired of incumbents who don't seem to do anything so if I have to pick between two do-nothings I'll try the new one.

Dian Ferguson - She is as content free as Sally J. Clark. I actually voted for Ms. Ferguson in the primaries but I've decided on a new guidelines regarding incumbents. If they haven't done something interesting while in office then unless their opponents are certified wing nuts I will vote for their opponents. So I'm voting for Ms. Clark. How's that for an endorsement?

City of Seattle Proposition No. 1 - Levy, Yes

This is a levy against property taxes in the city of Seattle to provide additional funding to Seattle's schools. Funding for Seattle's schools is always a tricky proposition given their history of criminality and incompetence (do a search for "fraud seattle school district" and bring a coffee, you'll be there for a while). But let's look at a few numbers. Seattle's projected FY11 budget is $577.7 million (see page 44) to serve 47,000 students. And keep in mind that this budget was put together before the governor's proposed cuts in school funding. That works out to around $12,300/student. To put that in perspective a high end private school in Seattle costs around $15,000 in tuition plus another $2,000 or so in 'voluntary' mandatory donations.

So it might seem, thanks to economies of scale, that we should have enough money for students and not need any more. But unfortunately this is an apples to oranges comparison. Private schools don't have to deal with any form of 'problem' student. Special needs students of any type from physical to mental will generally not get into a private school. And private schools don't have to worry about breakfast and lunch programs for poor children, transportation to school, extra resources for remedial education, etc. So in fact it's quite possible that once you add it all up the average per student in public schools should actually be more than a private school because the private school simply doesn't have to carry the burden that public schools do.

So this argues to me pretty pervasively that whatever Seattle School's myriad problems they need the money, but they might not be spending it appropriately. But that's a separate subject. So I'm voting yes.

Seattle Transportation Benefit District - Proposition No. 1 - Yes

This would increase car tab fees by $60 to pay for a mixed bag of improvements to the transport infrastructure. My main problem with this proposal is that it's so painfully regressive it hurts. How the heck does it make any sense to charge everyone from those driving a junker to those with a new high end car the same amount of money? Now, one could argue that they both take up the same space (but if that's the argument shouldn't we charge by car size?) but tons of funding in this proposal goes to things that having nothing to do with cars, like sidewalks. But The Stranger, of all people, actually made to me the most compelling argument for voting yes for this proposition (besides the three ways), that we've screwed bus passengers with massive rate increases over the last several years far worse than we are screwing drivers with tab increases so it's time to share the pain. I still think it's wrong to pass something so regressive but on the list of monumental sins the amount is relatively small so I'll go with it.

Seattle School District No. 1 - Director District No. 1 - Sharon Peaslee

Peter Maier - In his candidate statement his main claim to fame is firing the superintendent, which given the situation, is a pretty good claim to have. His website was unfortunately content free.

Sharon Peaslee - Her candidate statement has the standard 'clean up the mess' claim but in terms of past history she claims to have helped break Lake Washington and Bellevue School Districts of their idiotic math curriculum, another good claim. Her website actually had some crunchy things to say in terms of flattening hierarchy, giving teachers more flexibility in curriculum, a good list of frauds perpetrated by the school district, etc. But honestly just her willingness to go after Discovery math makes me really happy so she gets my vote.

Seattle School District No. 1 - Director District No. 2 - Kate Martin

Sherry Carr - She claims credit for neighborhood-based student assignment. I'm both happy and sad about that. I'm happy because when someone moves to a location I think it's fair that they should know where their kid is going to school. A system where you can't be sure where you kid will go is unacceptable. At the same time I recognize that neighborhood based assignment means that poor kids go to poor schools and rich kids go to good schools. But still, on balance, as a parent, I think I have the right to know that if I live in neighborhood X then my child will attend school in neighborhood X. In looking at her website though she doesn't have anything to say about how the various financial frauds weren't her fault. And in general I didn't find much substantive on her website.

Kate Martin - I suspect Ms. Peaslee and Ms. Martin are at least comparing notes, their candidate statements look fairly similar in terms of key points. I read her website but it was less direct than Ms. Peaslee's, it was mostly 'teach kids stuff' from what I could read. So following my general rule that incumbents without impressive accomplishments and detailed plans get kicked out so long as their opponent isn't a wing nut (and Ms. Martin is not a wing nut from what I can tell) means my vote goes to Ms. Martin.

Seattle School District No. 1 - Director District No. 3 - Harium Martin-Morris

Harium Martin-Morris - He seems mostly famous for having voted against a bunch of bone headed things that the school board wanted to do, which again, is nice. Of course he still lost all the votes. And his website and candidate statement are content free.

Michelle Buetow - As content free as Mr. Martin-Morris's candidate statement and website are Ms. Buetow's is vacuous. It doesn't take much to get me to vote against an incumbent but Ms. Buetow didn't even meet that level. So Mr. Martin-Morris gets it by default.

Seattle School District No. 1 - Director District No. 4 - Marty McLaren

Steve Sundquist - Wow, good shot mentioning your relationship to the Democratic party right at the top of your candidate statement for a supposedly non-partisan position. That's ethics baby! I also liked the throw in about his church. Because hey, being active in the Church is super relevant for the position. Or maybe it is and that should be something I should be worried about? The rest of his candidate basically says how wonderful the board has been doing, you know, the same board that screwed the pooch left, right and center. Sigh...

Marty McLaren - She throws in her Democractic party association but much less strongly that Mr. Sundquist on her candidate statement. And she actually takes credit for the horrible 2008 math standards (you know, Discovery math). So really, neither choice is giving me much joy but oh well I'll vote against the incumbent, so Ms. McLaren gets my vote.

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