11/2/2004 General Election – My Vote on Washington State I-872, I-884, I-892, R-55 and I-297

Washington State just loves its initiatives and referendums. The upcoming election has five of them state wide. I'm voting no on all of them but R-55 and I-297.

I-872 – NO

What: This initiative would change Washington's primary system so that in the primary people could choose any person from any party for each person. The top two vote getters would then move on to the general election.

Why: This initiative would allow for outcomes such as elections where both candidates are from the same political party. Are political parties a good idea? If I believe so then I need to vote against I-872 since it would effectively remove political parties from the equation. I think that political parties are a good idea. I think they play an important role in helping to shape a workable representative democracy. Therefore I'm voting no for I-872.

I-884 – NO

What: This initiative would increase Washington's sales tax by 1%. The money so generated would be dedicated exclusively for school funding.

Why: I know, I know, who can vote against schools? I'm not voting against schools, I'm voting against a complete failure of representative democracy. Trying to slice and dice our budget into mandatory contributions makes a mockery of representative government. I also don't believe in applying regressive solutions to solving what are effectively problems of incompetent management. We spend $9,454 per student in this state but we can't manage to reduce class size? Is the problem that we aren't spending enough on education or that we waste oceans of cash on overhead that never sees a student? Dumping more money on the problem won't solve anything. Enough with cowardly government, enough with waste, enough with regressive tax systems. The way to fix education is for our representatives to do their jobs not end run ballots that will, I suspect, do more to bloat the bureaucracy then help real students.

I-892 – NO

What: This initiative would allow existing gambling institutions in Washington to have slot machines in a number equal to those allowed for Indian reservations and then would use a portion of the money generated to reduce property taxes.

Why: Gambling has real costs in terms of damage to the community. Then again, so do factories, transportation systems, etc. In each case the community needs to look at the cost and the benefit and decide if going ahead makes sense. In this case, I believe that I-892 doesn't make sense. Of the 9% of profits that are supposed to go to a state fund from gambling proceeds to reduce property taxes only 1% of that money will go to problem gambling. I have seen nothing that convinces me that this money will be even close to enough to deal with the problems. Who knows, maybe it's more than enough, but the supporters of I-892 don't make a compelling case. What makes this initiative even more suspicious is that its numbers for estimating the money to be paid to the government assume a 75% pay out from machines (e.g. the machines will pay out as winnings 75% of the money that is put into them). I go to Las Vegas enough to know that successful slot machines have to pay northwards of 90% to keep gamblers hooked. What this means is that in practice the slot machines will have higher payoffs and hence lower profits which means less money for the state and which means less money for reducing property taxes or paying to try and treat the negative outcomes of gambling. Bottom line, this referendum is a bad deal and I'm saying no.

R-55 – YES

What: This referendum would approve a state bill that would authorize the creation of charter schools which would receive public funding.

Why: As a card carrying capitalist I like competition. I like it when people with new ideas, new ways of doing things can compete with everyone else. Our monolithic education bureaucracy does nothing to enable competition of different educational approaches. R-55 would go a small way to allowing that competition to occur and I'm all for it.

I-297 – YES

What: Do not allow the Hanford Nuclear Reservation (the most nuclear contaminated spot in North America) to accept any more waste until existing waste is cleaned up.

Why: This bill is supported by "Heart of America" an organization fighting the Yucca Mountain waste site in Nevada. I suspect the theory is that if they can get this law passed in Washington and get it through the courts then they could use a similar law to stop Yucca Mountain. But my guess isn't all that good since apparently there are unique laws that apply to contaminated sites (like Hanford) that wouldn't apply to clean sites like Yucca. Just to complicate things further a lot of the most dangerous waste in Hanford is supposed to be moved to either Nevada or New Mexico. Clearly if Washington passes this law then Nevada and New Mexico will do the same with the result that a lot of very dangerous nuclear waste will stay in Washington. The whole thing is a mess and the provision to allow for civil suits to enforce the law looks like welfare for lawyers. But regardless the damage at Hanford is extensive and I'm dubious as to the likelihood that it will ever be cleaned up without some kind of external forcing function. I think that opening things up to civil lawsuits may result in at least some real pressure. This assumes that the Supreme Court doesn't strike the law down as violating the interstate commerce clause, the ultimate eraser of all state's rights.

2 thoughts on “11/2/2004 General Election – My Vote on Washington State I-872, I-884, I-892, R-55 and I-297”

  1. i'm from long island, new york, and i'm interested in eventually making the move to seattle to escape the monotony of suburbia, without the lavish pricetag of nyc urban living. since i'm a poli-sci major, i found it imperative to research the political climate of washington state via google, to determine if the atmosphere would be conducive to my presence. i then stumbled onto this article. i found it dealt with most issues intelligently, with exception to the issue of charter schools, where i fealt you failed to acknowledge the underlying issue at hand. that issue being that most voucher programs, like that of which you speak, fund schools with religious affiliation. i find this bill a disturbing round-about way of introducing a masked effort to incorporate religious (predominantly catholic) schools with state funds. this, of course, requires tax dollars of people not sharing enthusiasm for the catholic institution to be handed over for the aforementioned purpose. when i research this issue further, i hope to find that washington failed to approve the charter schools agenda. i understand this is an issue of capitalism, and you appreciate that, but it also erodes at the separation that becomes more and more necesary in a growing christian fundamentalist society. also (this might deviate a bit off topic), don't underestimate the capability of government funded programs to succeed without competition, especially when solutions are as simple as an additional 1% added tax burden. often competition only drives people either further to the top or further to the bottom, leaving little room for equality. my belief, is that the introduction of charter schools would erode the public school system, leaving only the privileged capable of affording charter education in a position to benefit, where the poor are thereby left to suffer the crippled public school alternative. remember also that charter schools are only an option for the fairly successful and would remain that way because of the issuficient sum paid out by government through vouchers. we studied this topic thoroughly in my public policy analysis class this semester and i was not at all convinced it was the right option to choose. since i provided my email above, i would hope if you have a good argument for rebuttal you would take the time to respond. thanks.
    pete densing


  2. Charter schools and voucher programs are two very different animals. The referendum was proposing allowing the formation of charter schools. These are public schools paid for with public dollars. The difference between a public school and a charter school is that the school's curriculum is set not by the local school authority but rather by a non-profit group. This non-profit group must be sponsored by an accredited academic institution (typically a local college) and the group's proposed curriculum must meet all the various requirements that any public school must meet and must be approved by the public school system. This means that the school cannot espouse any form of religion, covertly or overtly. The purpose of charter schools is to allow schools to try different ways of teaching, different text books, different teaching styles, class systems, etc. But make no mistake, a charter school is a public school, is part of the public school system, is open to all public school students, is funded exclusively by public school money, etc. Unfortunately the referendum lost so I suppose the argument is academic at the moment.

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