Issue #195

Editor’s note

This edition of Daily Clips will be the final one under the present format. The time and work involved in producing this feature is proving to be unsustainable for a strictly volunteer effort. We are as committed as we can be at KCDCC to informing Democrats of the news and issues of the day, to help us all function more effectively as citizens and activists. So rather than bringing the breaking news, which is duplicated elsewhere, we’ll be selecting one story a day from the “To Think About” category, as in-depth and as packed with hard information as we can find, on a political or policy issue  of the day, summarizing it and linking to it as we do now. These stories might be local, statewide, or national. Please stick with Daily Clips, even at one article a day, to give you something to think about, and something to act on. Thanks for reading.

King County

Gap analysis reveals large unmet demand for affordable, high-quality preschool in Seattle

Children read at a preschool in Seattle

Children read at a preschool in Seattle

Implementing universal Seattle-wide high-quality preschool isn’t really a controversial topic within city hall; both the mayor and the council have voiced their unanimous support. But how to fund it, and to what extent, may make for a more contentious debate. That’s why the early learning “gap analysis” released Thursday will prove so crucial to the council’s deliberations, as it fleshes out the scope of the challenge the city faces. According to the report, there are currently about 12,280 three- and four-year-olds living in Seattle, of whom between 27 percent and 37 percent are not enrolled in any sort of formal preschool or child care program. The report makes no effort to speculate on the quality of existing programs, but it seems likely that many would not meet the “high quality” standard the council will ultimately adopt. The Stranger, 1-30-14.

Insurance questions drive Seattle’s rideshare debate

Gray areas cloud insurance coverage for ridesharing services like Lyft and Uber. That became clear Thursday during a Seattle City Council discussion where an insurance expert outlined his industry’s concerns about app-based ridesharing services. Resolving lingering questions surrounding insurance coverage will likely be central to the Council’s final push toward a set of rules for the taxi-like tech upstarts.  Council staffer Tony Kilduff said companies like Lyft and Uber are concerned that if they expand their $1 million policies to cover drivers waiting for passengers, “they face the potential to be gamed.” The city requires taxi drivers to carry $325,000 commercial liability policies that also cover $100,000 per-person and $300,000 per-incident coverage for collisions with uninsured or underinsured motorists. Uber recently added underinsured and uninsured coverage to their $1 million policy. Taxi and flat-rate for-hire drivers have complained that they have to pay for commercial policies that can cost $450 per month, while competing against rideshare drivers paying only for personal auto coverage. Crosscut, 1-31-14.

Harry Bailey: It’s time for a new SPD ‘road map’

Interim Seattle Police Chief Harry Bailey talks of “resetting” the department before a permanent chief is hired.


Three weeks into his new job, Interim Seattle Police Chief Harry Bailey has made changes that might normally occur over three years. Operating with a mandate from new Mayor Ed Murray to accelerate the pace of reforms to curtail excessive force and biased policing, Bailey has quickly assembled his own command staff while helping usher some of the old guard out the door. Bailey won’t talk about the reasons behind the departures, calling them personnel moves. But in an interview Wednesday, Bailey said he and his staff have been working 12 to 14 hours a day developing a “road map” for the future and “resetting” the Police Department before a permanent chief is hired. Seattle Times, 1-29-14.

Bellevue police chief to retire in April

Bellevue Police Chief Linda Pillo when she was still a patrol officer and DARE officer.

Bellevue Police Chief Linda Pillo when she was still a patrol officer and DARE officer.

Bellevue Police Chief Linda Pillo will retire April 15, which happens to be her 28th anniversary with the police department and 35th year of public service. Pillo started her career in law enforcement with the Mercer Island Police Department in 1979. Interim City Manager Brad Miyake highlighted the police chief’s successes in an email to city staff, particularly how “she helped blaze the trail for women in the field of law enforcement.” Pillo was Bellevue’s first female captain, major, deputy chief and chief. A decision on who will ultimately become the next police chief for the city of Bellevue will be left to the city’s next city manager. Miyake has been serving in the position since Steve Sarkozy resigned from the position in May. Bellevue Reporter, 1-30-14.

Op-ed: Federal Way children’s education is not a bargaining chip

Federal Way Mirror columnist Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn.


Are you mad at the Federal Way school district over the school board’s travel, the superintendent’s salary, or the grading system? If so, how mad are you? Are you mad enough to vote no on the upcoming levy, just to teach the school board and the superintendent a lesson? Are you mad enough to take it out on the children we are trying to educate and prepare to be responsible adults? Are you mad enough to eliminate resources, some teachers, and other staff that help our children learn? Are you mad enough to shoot yourself in the foot? And do you really think that reducing school district funding by 20 percent is the answer? Bob Roegner, Federal Way Mirror, 1-30-14.

The State

State Senate breaches blockade of Washington Dream Act

Bailey: Did she jump or was she pushed?

Bailey: Did she jump or was she pushed?

The long-blocked Washington Dream Act, which would allow state financial aid to college-bound sons and daughters of undocumented immigrants, appears headed for passage by the state Senate as early as Friday. A breakthrough was announced by Sen. Barbara Bailey (R-10), chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee, who last year blocked a vote and said recently that the Dream Act was “not a priority.” It came on the same day that Republican rulers in the U.S. House of Representatives announced they will move ahead with legislation that would allow undocumented residents to remain legally in the United States. Whatever the reasons and motives behind it, the Bailey breakthrough set off celebration in Olympia. The legislation, assuming it reaches his desk for signature, will help educate “the next generation of innovators, builders and entrepreneurs who will strengthen and grow Washington’s economy,” Gov. Jay Inslee said in a statement. Seattle P-I, 1-30-14.

State studies charging for road use — by the mile

Next year, some Oregon drivers will start paying a cent and a half for every mile they drive — rather than a 30-cent tax on every gallon of gas they pump. Washington, while far behind, has quietly been inching down the same road. Replacing the gas tax with a “road usage charge” would help ensure drivers pay their fair share regardless of their car’s power source or gas mileage, according to a report this month from a Washington task force that includes the Legislature’s transportation budget writers. Charging drivers by the mile or for a fixed time period would cost more to collect than the gas tax but would reap more in proceeds over the long haul, according to the task force convened by the Transportation Commission. A Washington state spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union said the group hasn’t examined what’s under consideration by the Transportation Commission but has privacy concerns about the government tracking where people are going. Tacoma News Tribune, 1-30-14.

Meet the Republican Senators who want to pay teenagers less than minimum wage

Senator Holmquist Newbry, Senator Baumgartner, Senator Parlette, Senator Braun

Senator Holmquist Newbry, Senator Baumgartner, Senator Parlette, Senator Braun

While the rest of us are fighting to increase the minimum wage, this crew is fighting to extend sub-minimum wage to all teenagers in Washington, making it easier for businesses to pay 85% of the current minimum wage to teen employees. The state of Washington currently pays teen workers aged 16-17 the same minimum wage as adults ($9.32/hour), with minors under age 16 getting paid 85% of minimum wage ($7.92). SB 6471 looks to pay teen workers ages 14-19 the sub-minimum rate for summer employment, and SB 6495 would seek to extend the sub-minimum rate to all employees ages 14-19 who are training for new jobs. The only problem is that neither bill includes restrictions, requirements, or established parameters around what constitutes a training period, or how many times someone could be hired into a job as a trainee. Under these bills, if you’re a teenager in Washington state, you could effectively be paid less than minimum wage until you turn 20 years old. The Stranger, 1-30-14.

Safety and equipment flaws, lax standards cited in refinery blast

A charred tower is seen behind security outside a Tesoro refinery gate in Anacortes after an explosion.

A charred tower is seen behind security outside a Tesoro refinery gate in Anacortes after an explosion.

An April 2010 explosion that killed seven people at an Anacortes refinery occurred in part because Tesoro Refining failed to use safe equipment, had poor inspection procedures and allowed its employees to regularly work in unnecessarily dangerous situations, according to an early draft of a federal investigation released late Wednesday night. After a four-year investigation, the federal Chemical Safety Board determined that the deaths happened after cracks and fissures in a damaged heat exchanger caused a metal pipe to rupture as it was filling with flammable material. The process of restarting the refinery’s heat exchangers had led to so many leaks and fires in the past that workers had come to view that risk as normal. Tesoro didn’t even investigate all the previous incidents, the chemical board found. But the board’s investigators also determined that refinery industry standards were too lax and largely voluntary and that state regulators had neither the resources nor competence to make sure refineries adequately followed them. Seattle Times, 1-30-14.

The Nation

Mayor says NY will settle suits on stop-and-frisk tactics

New York mayor Bill de Blasio

de Blasio

New York City will settle its long-running legal battle over the Police Department’s practice of stopping, questioning, and often frisking people on the street—a divisive issue at the heart of the mayoral race last year—by agreeing to reforms that a judge ordered in August, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday. In making the announcement, which he said he hoped would end a turbulent chapter in the city’s racial history, de Blasio offered a sweeping repudiation of the aggressive policing practices that had been a hallmark of his predecessor, Michael R. Bloomberg, but that had stoked anger and resentment in many black and Latino neighborhoods. He essentially reversed the course set by Bloomberg, whose administration had appealed the judge’s ruling. New York Times, 1-30-14.

‘Bette in Spokane,’ cited in McMorris Rodgers’ speech, declined health insurance options

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) gave the Republican response to President Obama's State of the Union speech Tuesday night.

McMorris Rodgers

The woman described only as “Bette in Spokane” during a nationally televised address by U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers said Wednesday she had no idea her frustrations over increasing insurance premiums would become part of the Republican attack on health care reform. Not that Bette Grenier, a critic of the Affordable Care Act, minds that much. But the “nearly $700 per month” increase in her premium that McMorris Rodgers cited in Tuesday night’s GOP response to the State of the Union address was based on one of the pricier options, a $1,200-a-month replacement plan that was pitched by Asuris Northwest to Grenier and her husband, Don. The carrier also offered a less expensive, $1,052-per-month option in lieu of their soon-to-be-discontinued catastrophic coverage plan. And, Grenier acknowledged the couple probably could have shaved another $100 a month off the replacement policy costs by purchasing them from the state’s online portal, the Health Plan Finder website, but they chose to avoid the government health exchanges. Spokesman-Review, 1-30-14.

Top House Democrat to retire at end of current session

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) will step down in January 2015, he said in a statement released Thursday.


Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) will step down in January 2015, he said in a statement released Thursday. He is a close ally of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and ranking member of the Energy and Commerce Committee. “After 40 years in Congress, it’s time for someone else to have the chance to make his or her mark, ideally someone who is young enough to make the long-term commitment that’s required for real legislative success,” Waxman said in a statement. “I still feel youthful and energetic, but I recognize if I want to experience a life outside of Congress, I need to start soon. Public office is not the only way to serve, and I want to explore other avenues while I still can.” Waxman, who was first elected to Congress in 1974, has become well known particularly for his work on environmental issues and was one of the top House Democrats in developing the Affordable Care Act. Talking Points Memo, 1-30-14.

Why the 1 percent are freaking out

The co-founder of one the nation’s oldest venture capital firms fears a possible genocide against the wealthy. Residents of Manhattan’s tony Upper East Side say the progressive mayor didn’t plow their streets as a form of frosty revenge. And the co-founder of Home Depot recently warned the Pope to pipe down about economic inequality. The nation’s wealthiest, denizens of the loftiest slice of the 1 percent, appear to be having a collective meltdown. Economists, advisers to the wealthy, and the wealthy themselves describe a deep-seated anxiety that the national—and even global—mood is turning against the super-rich in ways that ultimately could prove dangerous and hard to control. The collective result, according to one member of the 1 percent, is a fear that the rich are in deep, deep trouble. Maybe not today but soon. Politico, 1-30-14.

To Think About

The charter school bill 1240 and the 1%: an analysis

If only they had channeled all of the money represented above into our public schools in Seattle rather than into financing the corporate takeover of our educational system, we would have full time librarians, nurses, career counselors, enough teaching assistants to handle the increased load of data collection that is to occur, as well as alleviate our crowded classrooms. There would be field trips, after school enrichment programs in all of our schools, books, fully equipped science labs, a well rounded after school sports program, civics classes, sewing classes, cooking classes (remember those?), drama, art in art rooms rather than art on a cart … the list continues, and I know that parents reading this post can add other programs and resources that we have lost over the years due to a lack of adequate funding of our schools. Now the venture/vulture capitalists, and anyone who wants to make an easy buck, are swarming our state. Dora Taylor, Seattle Education 2010, 1-29-14.

Issue #194

King County

Developers sue to make Seattle more developer-friendly

A coalition of several developers filed a lawsuit in King County Superior Court on January 15 that would make Seattle, already booming with construction cranes, more friendly for developers. Their issue? One of the city’s affordable-housing programs. Since 2006, the city has struck a deal with developers in the downtown core: In exchange for setting aside a few modestly affordable units or paying fees toward a city housing fund, developers get to build taller buildings. For example, developers could build a 400-foot tower where they’d otherwise have to keep it under 300 feet. The Seattle City Council raised those fees by about one-third in December 2013. In their lawsuit, which cites three Supreme Court decisions, the developers claim that fee hike is “an out-and-out extortion.” So they’re asking a judge to invalidate that higher fee, making it cheaper and easier to build the tallest buildings allowed downtown—while throwing even fewer scraps to the city’s growing affordable-housing needs. The Stranger, 1-29-14.

Citizens weigh in on Seattle’s next police chief

Seattle City Council member Tim Burgess, center, meets with University District residents to discuss hiring a new police chief.

Seattle City Council member Tim Burgess, center, meets with University District residents to discuss hiring a new police chief.

The people of Seattle have started weighing in on what they want in their next police chief. At the first of seven community workshops to be held around the city over the next ten days, citizens from the University District told workshop leaders that they want the mayor to choose an innovative leader, someone well connected to the community, someone who will go into the neighborhoods and listen to feedback, someone who will embrace reform, not fight it. Sources tell KING 5 that close to two dozen people have already expressed interest in the police chief’s position and the application process hasn’t even opened yet.  The mayor is expected to name a search firm later this week. KING, 1-29-14.

Six apply so far for Kent City Council seat

Ken Sharp resigned Jan. 16 after only two weeks in office because of pending first-degree theft charges.


Six people have applied so far for the vacant Kent City Council position. The early applicants include Dean Carlson, Elliot Heifetz, Richard L. Mauser, Michael Sealfon, Lauren Stephan, and Cheri Stewart, according to an email Tuesday from City Clerk Ronald Moore. Sealfon is the only one who has recently run for the council. He lost to Dana Ralph in a 2011 City Council race. He also applied for a council vacancy in 2008 filled by Jamie (Danielson) Perry. The position became vacant when Ken Sharp resigned Jan. 16 after only two weeks in office because of pending first-degree theft charges. His resignation left the seven-member council one person short. People who have lived in the city limits for at least one year and are registered voters can apply through Friday, Feb. 7. Kent Reporter, 1-29-14.

The State

Inslee backs Laurent in race for state Democratic Party chair

Gov. Jay Inslee has weighed in on the race for state Democratic Party chair, endorsing former Planned Parenthood political director Dana Laurent.


Gov. Jay Inslee has weighed in on the race for state Democratic Party chair, endorsing former Planned Parenthood political director Dana Laurent. In a letter to Democratic party activists, Inslee and his wife, Trudi, called Laurent “an authentic grassroots leader” with “a proven track record both a Democratic volunteer and as a successful political strategist.” The endorsement comes ahead of Saturday’s scheduled Democratic Party meeting in Vancouver at which about 170 members of the state Democratic Party’s executive committee will meet to elect their next leader. Dwight Pelz, the current chairman, announced his retirement in September. Seattle Times, 1-28-14.

Inslee outlines plan for schools

Gov. Jay Inslee on Tuesday renewed his call for ending tax breaks to generate money for public schools and a cost of living increase for thousands of teachers.


Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee Tuesday renewed his call for ending tax breaks to generate money for public schools and a cost of living increase for thousands of teachers. But the first-term governor’s proposal met immediate resistance from Republican lawmakers who defeated the same approach a year ago. Inslee outlined a plan to raise $200 million a year by getting rid of seven tax breaks, including a sales tax exemption on bottled water and a provision allowing some out-of-state residents to avoid paying sales taxes on purchases in Washington. He wants to pour about $130 million into books, supplies, electricity, and other operating costs of school districts for 2014-15. About $74 million would cover a 1.3 percent cost-of-living pay adjustment for employees of schools and community and technical colleges. It would be the first COLA for them in five years. Everett Herald, 1-29-14.

House passes bill to require statewide paid sick leave

Rep. Laurie Jinkins (D-27)


House Democrats passed a bill Wednesday that would require all employers with more than four full-time workers to provide paid sick leave. HB 1313, which now goes to the Senate, would require companies to provide sick leave on a tiered scale. The more people a business employs, the more leave it would have to provide. Small- and medium-sized companies would provide one hour of sick leave for every 40 hours worked. Large companies, with 250 or more employees, would provide one hour for every 30 hours worked. The smallest businesses would be capped at 40 hours of total sick leave. The largest would have a 72-hour cap. “No working family should be forced to leave a sick child at home or go to work with the flu for fear of losing their paycheck,” Rep. Laurie Jinkins (D-27), the bill’s prime sponsor, said in a statement. “Today’s paid-sick-days bill means they won’t have to.” It’s unclear, though, if the bill can pass the Senate. Seattle Times, 1-29-14.

Bill would eliminate sales tax on guns and ammo

Rep. Jason Overstreet (R-42)


State Rep. Jason Overstreet (R-42) is sponsoring a bill, HB 2529, that would exempt purchases of guns and ammunition from state sales tax. “The legislature finds that firearms and firearm ammunition are an essential, indivisible, and inextricable part of the right of a free people to bear arms for the purpose of defending themselves against unlawful aggression, and to protect and secure their individual rights, their liberties, and the preservation of free government. The legislature intends to encourage the purchase of firearms and firearm ammunition within the borders of Washington state to ensure the economic health of Washington-based retail businesses by providing a sales tax exemption for the purchase of firearms and firearm ammunition within the state,” the legislation says, in part. Four other Republicans have joined the Whatcom County legislator in sponsoring the measure. Bellingham Herald, 1-28-14.

Lawmakers dispute whether Puyallup or Yakima is ‘state fair’

Rides at the Puyallup Fair

Rides at the Puyallup Fair

A battle of the fairs is brewing in Olympia, and legislators are taking sides. The event formerly known as the Puyallup Fair changed its name to the Washington State Fair in 2013. It has the largest attendance of any fair in the state and is one of the largest in the world. But its new name was not a designation decided by a legislative body. Instead, the change came as part of a rebranding effort by organizers of the fair (Editor: which no one paid any attention to). But Rep. Norm Johnson (R-14) wants to designate the Central Washington Fair in Yakima the “Official State Fair of Washington.” He claims he’s not looking to start a quarrel with Pierce County lawmakers. Rather, HB 2622 would be official recognition of the Central Washington Fair’s history as the state’s original fair, he said. His proposal would not require the Puyallup fair to rename itself yet again. Olympian, 1-29-14.

Tomás Villanueva: A man for his people

Retired farmworker advocate Tomas Villanueva cries as he listens to speakers at a ceremony in his honor hosted by Washington Secretary of State's office Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014 in Seattle. Villanueva, 72, was a pioneer among Latino advocates, founded United Farm Workers of Washington state and worked to get farm workers health benefits, improved housing and the minimum wage


There are pages and pages of history on Tomás Villanueva, Washington state’s most storied farm-worker rights advocate. But those who share in his struggles may not know the full story of the man. They experience it when they collect a fair paycheck at the end of each week in the orchards, when their families are cared for at the Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic, or when they’re able to abandon a slumlord for quality affordable housing. Yes, they earned it, but it was Villanueva, 72, along with the state’s first group of farm-worker advocates from the 1960s, who helped persuade the state to recognize those rights. Villanueva’s fire in the heyday of his activism was matched by his charm and compassion. Those who know him best, many of whom gathered Tuesday in Seattle for a ceremony in his honor, describe a man who transcended class and ethnicity. Yakima Herald-Republic, 1-29-14.

The Nation

Unpopularity of the House could turn Senate races

Democrats have been critical of Representative Steve Daines' vote on a spending bill.


To Representative Steve Daines (R-MT), his vote this month against a 1,582-page, $1.1 trillion spending bill was at once a stand for fiscal sanity and a protest against spending cuts to rural communities, a “constructive no,” as he put it last week. His opponents in the race for Montana’s open Senate seat quickly labeled it a vote against increased funding for the Indian Health Service, Pell Grants for low-income college students, mental health benefits for veterans, and traumatic brain injury assistance for those who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, and also an effort to dry up the clean water supplies of rural Montanans. The attacks on that one vote from Montana Democrats, including a possible challenger in Lt. Gov. John Walsh, highlighted a vulnerability to the Republicans’ quest for control of the Senate: They draw heavily from the unpopular House for candidates. New York Times, 1-29-14.

Republican Congressman threatens reporter

Embattled New York Republican Rep. Michael Grimm threatened to “break” a NY1 reporter and throw him off a balcony after President Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday night. The confrontation occurred on Capitol Hill when reporter Michael Scotto followed up questions about the President’s speech by pressing the congressman on a federal investigation into his fundraising. In a statement issued early Wednesday morning, NY1 Political Director Bob Hardt said, “It is extremely disturbing when anyone threatens one of our reporters – let alone a U.S. Congressman. The NY1 family is certainly alarmed and disappointed by the behavior of Representative Grimm and demands a full apology from him. This behavior is unacceptable.” But Grimm said he was the victim of a “cheap shot” interview and offered no apology. Later he did. New York Daily News, 1-29-14.

Tea Party groups suffer another huge defeat—are they toast?

The strong bipartisan House vote Wednesday for the farm bill was the third major defeat for conservative lobbying groups since the government shutdown, a sign that they’re losing their stranglehold on the House Republican majority. The trio of defeats: The October bill to re-open the shuttered government and avert a catastrophic debt default (with no strings attached), the December budget agreement to raise spending and mitigate automatic sequester cuts, and now the farm bill to renew agriculture subsidies and food stamps. Tea party groups such as the Club For Growth and Heritage Action fought these initiatives every step of the way and threatened to use their scorecards to downgrade lawmakers who voted for them. In October, they lost the battle when Speaker John Boehner put a clean bill on the floor to fund the government and avert default (although most Republicans voted against it). But the budget and farm bill agreements each passed with the support of 70 percent of House Republicans, a more troubling sign for the tea party groups. Talking Points Memo, 1-29-14.

Expanding financial services is available route for the Postal Service, report says

Are prepaid debit cards and small loans the answer to the financial woes at the U.S. Postal Service? Maybe, according to the agency’s watchdog. The Postal Service inspector general issued a report Monday recommending that the agency expand its financial services to meet the needs of underserved communities. Researchers estimate that the agency could earn $8.9 billion in annual revenue if it captured 10 percent of the interest and fees generated by the 68 million Americans on the fringes of the banking system. Those dollars could reverse years of losses at the Postal Service, which has struggled with waning demand and a congressional mandate to prefund retiree health benefits. But formidable barriers facie the agency. Any changes to the business would require congressional approval, a Sisyphean task considering the contentious political wrangling over the future of the Postal Service. Washington Post, 1-27-14.

To Think About

Costly to the core: Why one expert says the Northwest’s only nuclear plant should be shut down for good

Columbia Generation Station, located on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, has been operating since 1984.

Columbia Generation Station, located on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, has been operating since 1984.

Robert McCullough, one of the nation’s top utility consultants, was one of the first to figure out Enron Corp. was behind the power shortages and blackouts that darkened California in 2000 and 2001. In congressional testimony in 2002, McCullough revealed exactly how the Texas energy giant crippled the economies of Western states by manipulating electricity markets. His work led to billion-dollar settlements and criminal convictions. Over the past 35 years, McCullough has often worked on complex disputes out of public view. But in December, he released the results of an investigation that affects anyone in the Pacific Northwest who pays a utility bill. He spent nine months examining the economics of the region’s only nuclear power plant, the Columbia Generating Station, which sits on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in southeastern Washington. McCullough is hardly anti-nuke — as a Portland General Electric executive 25 years ago, he fought to keep PGE’s now-closed Trojan Nuclear Power Plant open. But his report on the Columbia Generating Station leads to an unmistakable conclusion: It should be shut down. Pacific Northwest Inlander, 1-30-14.

Issue #193

(Daily Clips will not publish Wednesday, January 29, so that the editor can attend the January meeting of the King County Democratic Central Committee. See you there.)

King County

Sawant to take home $40,000 in pay out of her $117,000 City Council salary

Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant


During her successful campaign for Seattle City Council, Socialist Alternative candidate Kshama Sawant repeatedly promised to take accept no more salary than the average Seattle worker. Monday, in a press release, she announced what that specifically means—$40,000 a year after taxes—and what she plans to do with the remainder of her $117,000-plus salary. “After paying taxes, the remainder of my salary will go to a Solidarity Fund to help build social justice movements. Throughout the year I will be making donations from this Solidarity Fund to causes such as workers’ strike funds, and environmental, civil rights, and women’s rights campaigns.” Sawant promises “regular and transparent accounting” of her Solidarity Fund, and has already pledged two donations: $500 to Puget Sound SAGE and $15,000 The Stranger, 1-27-14.

After the Machinists’ vote, labor seeks new directions

Seattle's Labor Temple, with its distinctive neon sign

Seattle’s Labor Temple, with its distinctive neon sign

The idea of coming together in common cause is woven into Washington’s social fabric, especially into its union history. But labor has suffered reversals before, and it suffered a large one on Jan. 3, when the Machinists union voted by a narrow margin to abandon the Boeing pension plan. At stake was a key production line. Now union members and leaders  are asking themselves – how can the labor movement recover when one of the strongest unions in the country buckled under the pressure? Seattle’s roots in the labor movement are deep. This was the site of the nation’s first city-wide general strike in 1919. The old Labor Temple in Belltown, with its mid-century features and famous neon sign, is still the central place where the labor movement comes together. KUOW, 1-27-14.

The State

GOP-led Senate demotes Sen. Hobbs to co-chairman of committee

Sen. Steve Hobbs (D-44)


State Sen. Steve Hobbs (D-44) accused the GOP-led majority of the Senate of playing politics Monday when it made him co-chairman of the Financial Institutions, Housing, and Insurance Committee. “This is the first step of them caving in to the right wing of their caucus,” Hobbs told reporters after the Senate voted 26-23 to remove him as chairman of the panel and make him and GOP Sen. Jan Angel (R-26) co-chairs. Hobbs speculated he was made co-chairman for several reasons, including his support for a measure–backed by Democrats and opposed by the GOP–that would require insurance companies to cover abortions. He also noted that both he and Angel are up for re-election this year. Seattle Times, 1-27-14.

House passes minority voting bill; prospects in Senate are dim

Rep. Luis Moscoso (D-1) was the prime sponsor of HB 1413.

Rep. Luis Moscoso (D-1) was the prime sponsor of HB 1413.

Democrats in the House of Representatives Monday passed HB 1413, that aims to expand minority voting rights, but the bill is likely to die in the Senate. On a 53-43 straight party line vote (2 Democrats absent), House lawmakers approved the Washington Voting Rights Act, which opens the possibility of court challenges to cities, counties, and school districts to push them to switch from at-large to district elections in areas where large minority groups are present. The measure now heads to the Senate, where it is not expected to pass. The Senate is controlled by a Republican-dominated coalition. Republicans in the House opposed the measure. At the heart of the measure is the history of elections in central and eastern Washington where the population of Latinos has grown but minority advocates say representation in local offices remains low due, the bill’s backers contend, to at-large representation. Associated Press (Tacoma News Tribune), 1-27-14.

Lawmakers question safety of crude-oil trains

In this Dec. 30, 2013 file photo, a fireball goes up at the site of an oil train derailment in Casselton, N.D

In this Dec. 30, 2013 file photo, a fireball goes up at the site of an oil train derailment in Casselton, N.D

As U.S. oil production soars and additional Canadian oil resources are becoming available stateside, crude oil is being shipped by rail through communities with greater frequency. Washington is no exception. Oil-laden trains carrying crude from the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota pass through the South Sound every day or two, headed to refineries in Tacoma and Anacortes. Export terminals on the drawing board for Vancouver and Grays Harbor are likely to send even more trains across the state. Some may come through the South Sound. How many, how often, and along which routes are questions without clear answers. So far, the oil and rail industries are not saying much, which has stirred enough worry that Washington state lawmakers and local community leaders are starting to look into it. With that uncertainty in mind, Democratic Rep. Jessyn Farrell (D-46) has proposed HB 2347. Farrell said she is seeking more sunlight on the operations of oil companies and railroads that are shipping crude oil by rail. She said she also wants to give the Department of Ecology and communities more tools so they can anticipate and respond quickly to spills. Olympian, 1-27-14.

Railroad tank-car safety questioned decades before oil concerns

Railroad tank cars are unloaded on a loop track at a refinery in Delaware City, Del.

Railroad tank cars are unloaded on a loop track at a refinery in Delaware City, Del.

Long before crude oil and ethanol were transported by railroads in large quantities in minimally reinforced tank cars, other flammable and poisonous materials were riding around the country in the same cars, threatening major cities and waterways. Federal regulators might be weeks away from issuing new safety guidelines for tank cars carrying flammable liquids, after a series of frightening rail accidents over the past six months. But the type of general-service tank car involved in recent incidents with crude oil trains in Quebec, Alabama, and North Dakota – the DOT-111-A – has a poor safety record with hazardous cargoes that goes back decades, raising questions about why it took so long for the railroad industry and its federal regulators to address a problem they knew how to fix. Bellingham Herald, 1-27-14.

Legislators like chances for toxics bill in Senate

Rep. Kevin Van De Wege (D-24)

Van De Wege

The three North Olympic Peninsula legislators are hopeful a bill banning certain carcinogenic flame retardants from child products and upholstered furniture will make it through the state Senate after a strong showing in the House last week. HB 1294, also dubbed the toxics bill or the Toxic-Free Kids and Families Act, passed the state House of Representatives 72-25 Wednesday. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Kevin Van De Wege (D-24), would prohibit the sale, manufacture, and distribution of children’s products and upholstered furniture containing a type of chemical flame retardant known as Tris. The bill passed by a wider margin Wednesday then it did last legislative session, when 53 Representatives supported it and 43 opposed it on an effectively party line vote. Van De Wege said he sees the number of Republican representatives crossing the aisle to support his bill Wednesday as a good sign.  Peninsula Daily News, 1-26-14.

The Nation

The state of the State of the Union? It’s a mess

Former President Jimmy Carter looked pained while delivering a State of the Union address.

Former President Jimmy Carter looked pained while delivering a State of the Union address.

“I must say to you,” President Gerald Ford said to us, in 1975, “that the state of the Union is not good.” In the same spirit of candor, I must say to you that the state of the State of the Union is not good. I don’t mean tomorrow night’s speech. I mean the State of the Union Message as an institution. This may not rise to the level of economic inequality as a national problem, but the speech is no less in need of fixing. The litany of grievances about the State of the Union is as long as the litany of proposals, ideas, appeals, and admonitions that the speech always contains. George Will has called it “undignified … vulgar … a tiresome exercise in political exhibitionism.” To William Gavin, former speechwriter for Richard Nixon, it is “a national embarrassment.” The most common complaint is that it is a laundry list, which is an insult to laundry lists. It is more a laundry bag, a sort of national hamper, into which rumpled articles are stuffed. Other critics agree with Justice Antonin Scalia, who has called the event a “cheerleading session,” or object to the occasionally inspiring, but usually cynical or cloying, spectacle of the guests in the House gallery, who are typically veterans and first responders. The critics are right about nearly all of it. I say that as someone who was complicit in two State of the Union addresses, in 1999 and in 2000—some fifteen thousand words of text, not one line of which will ever be carved in granite. Jeff Shesol, New Yorker, 1-27-14.

Union membership gains nationwide; WA ranks 4th

The number of workers in unions in 2013 rose by 162,000, with the increase of 281,000 workers in private-sector unions offset by the decrease of 118,000 public-sector union members, according to data released Friday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Strong gains in construction and manufacturing jobs were offset by what the AFL-CIO called “politically motivated layoffs of public-sector workers” last year. Washington state posted a strong increase of 106,000 total jobs in 2013 with union membership increasing by 33,000 members. In the state-by-state breakdown, Washington ranked No. 4 in terms of union density in 2013, with the state’s 546,000 union members accounting for 18.9% of the overall workforce — nearly one in five Washington workers – up from 18.5% the previous year. Only New York (24.4%), Alaska (23.1%) and Hawaii (22.1%) and have higher unionization rates than Washington. Neighboring Oregon ranks 12th in union density (13.9%). The Stand, 1-27-14.

Folk legend, political activist Pete Seeger dies at 94: 12 reasons why he ruled

Pete Seeger at 94

Pete Seeger in 1964

For more than 70 years there were few other musicians who stumped at tirelessly for folk music as Pete Seeger. The reed-thin singer and songwriter best known for songs such as “If I Had A Hammer” and “Where Have All The Flowers Gone?” died Monday at age 94 of natural causes, leaving behind a legacy of activism, charity, and community that will be hard to match. Seeger, who influenced several generations of activist singers — from Bob Dylan to Bruce Springsteen and Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello — not only played folk music, but served as a kind of living museum of the genre, enthusiastically performing and promoting activist music until shortly before his death. Seeger, known for playing a well-traveled five-string banjo and singing with a smile, began singing in support of unions in the 1940s, playing benefit concerts for migrant farm workers in California. In addition to stumping for the labor movement in the 1950s, he also headlined countless anti-Vietnam rallies in the 1960s and marched and sang in support of the civil rights movement. His adaptation of the spiritual “We Shall Overcome” became a civil rights anthem. He continued his activism into the 1990s and 2000s, protesting the Iraq war and marching with activist at the Occupy Wall Street protesters while walking on two canes., 1-28-14.

The paranoia of the plutocrats

Venture capitalist Tom Perkins


Rising inequality has obvious economic costs: stagnant wages despite rising productivity, rising debt that makes us more vulnerable to financial crisis. It also has big social and human costs. There is, for example, strong evidence that high inequality leads to worse health and higher mortality. But there’s more. Extreme inequality, it turns out, creates a class of people who are alarmingly detached from reality—and simultaneously gives these people great power. The example many are buzzing about right now is the billionaire investor Tom Perkins, a founding member of the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. In a letter to the editor of the Wall Street Journal, Perkins lamented public criticism of the “one percent”—and compared such criticism to Nazi attacks on the Jews, suggesting that we are on the road to another Kristallnacht. You may say that this is just one crazy guy and wonder why the Journal would publish such a thing. But Mr. Perkins isn’t that much of an outlier. He isn’t even the first finance titan to compare advocates of progressive taxation to Nazis. Paul Krugman, New York Times, 1-27-14.

To Think About

Electric Shadyland: How power companies rip you off

Mabel Buford hadn’t been home from the hospital very long when a sales rep knocked on her door in Washington DC, and announced that she could save her some money. Buford, 72, a widow who is battling cancer, told the woman she didn’t feel well. But the sales rep wouldn’t leave. For the next hour, she urged, cajoled, and pressured Buford to show her one of her electric bills. Finally, exhausted and groggy from medication, Buford relented. “I just got tired of her,” she says. The sales rep put Buford on the phone with her company, Starion Energy, to sign up. Buford, a retired federal contracts officer, warned that she had a contract with another electric provider and wanted no trouble with her bills. “She promised it would be okay,” Buford recalls. “She honest to God stood over the stoop and hugged me. I told her, ‘Don’t play with me.’ But, see, she tried it anyway.” A few weeks later, Buford got two electricity bills—one from Starion and one from her old provider. Livid, she filed a complaint with the city’s consumer protection agency, which helped her escape Starion’s contract without the termination fee the company wanted. (Starion declined to comment.) Buford’s was one of a wave of complaints rolling in across the city—and throughout the 16 states with deregulated utility markets, where a host of new retail electric companies are chasing consumers with hard-sell offers to switch away from traditional utilities like DC’s PEPCO or New York’s Con Edison. A market that lacks both regulation and transparency, with a product everyone buys and few people really understand, has proven a target-rich environment for the kind of operators previously drawn to mortgage rip-offs, long-distance schemes, and multilevel-marketing (MLM) companies. Mother Jones, Jan-Feb 2014.

Issue #192

King County

Techies not the only ones moving to S. Lake Union

Plymouth Housing's new building for homeless people recovering from addictions opened in South Lake Union in 2013.

Plymouth Housing’s new building for homeless people recovering from addictions opened in South Lake Union in 2013.

Probably not since the days of the Klondike has part of Seattle felt as boomy as South Lake Union right now. The sidewalks are crammed with blue-badged programmers, working the great tech gold rush. It’s one of the hottest real-estate markets in the country, as 12-story office or biotech complexes are rising on nearly every block. But the boom has an off-key echo. At abandoned and fenced-off relics of the old neighborhood, all awaiting their dates with the next available crane, there’s a different sort of rush going on. The homeless are moving in. Danny Westneat, Seattle Times, 1-25-14.

Is the Seattle School District squelching candid talk about race?

Center School students gather during a break in the school day to plan their response after teacher Jon Greenberg was transferred from the school.

Center School students gather during a break in the school day to plan their response after teacher Jon Greenberg was transferred from the school.

The Seattle Science Center’s recent exhibit “RACE: Why are we so different?” was so well-received,  and moving, that Seattle Mayor Ed Murray brought his key people to view it on the day he was sworn into office. One hundred yards away, at Center School, the Seattle School District has pulled the plug on “courageous conversations” about race and gender in an acclaimed class for high school seniors,  and sent teacher Jon Greenberg packing to a middle school. Squelching these conversations, which featured minority students’ personal experiences, set off prolonged protests. The involuntary transfer of Greenberg is going to arbitration, which the district is at least a 50-50 bet to lose. But the district, its 8,000 employees, and 50,000-odd students have already lost.  As Seattle becomes more a multi-ethnic city, its students should—OK, must—engage in a constructive rap about race. Joel Connelly, Seattle P-I, 1-24-14.

Rideshare use picks up sharply in King County

A Lyft car in San Francisco

A Lyft car in San Francisco

Regulations could start tightening on rideshare companies in Seattle by the end of next month—but not in the rest of King County. That’s where phone app-powered passenger pickup businesses like Lyft, UberX, and Sidecar are spreading. Their  popularity and availability are growing rapidly on the Eastside, where the Seattle City Council’s proposed regulations can’t touch the companies—not yet anyway. Lyft announced Thursday that the coverage area for its pink-mustachioed cars has expanded from the densest Seattle neighborhoods to almost the entire Eastside. Its new coverage area stretches farther south to SeaTac and Renton, north to Shoreline and Bothell, and east to Sammamish. Sidecar and UberX have been serving those areas for months as suburban demand continues to grow for services that use geo-locating smartphone apps for dispatch and cash-free transactions. Seattle Times, 1-26-14.

Federal Way to maintain current path on marijuana businesses, despite AG’s opinion

As the implementation of legalized marijuana continues throughout Washington, state Attorney General Bob Ferguson issued a “formal opinion” on the matter on Jan. 16, indicating that local municipalities will continue to have the prerogative in choosing how their cities deal with such businesses. Ferguson’s opinion will have little effect on Federal Way’s approach to marijuana-related businesses, according to city spokesman Chris Carrel. The city enacted a one-year moratorium on such businesses last November, and still plans to use the time to construct its approach to this issue. “(The city) hasn’t discussed the authority the attorney general discussed regarding being able to ban marijuana sales,” Carrel said. “To date, the city’s focus has been putting in place policies to successfully implement the legalization, as called for under the people’s initiative.” Federal Way Mirror, 1-25-14.

The State

Harbor Paper employees left with thousands in medical bills when insurance unexpectedly lapsed

Susan and Jeff Thomas, of Ocean Shores, share a moment outside of their house on Wednesday. Jeff was laid off from his job at Harbor Paper and subsequently lost his health insurance while Susan was battling ovarian cancer.

Susan and Jeff Thomas, of Ocean Shores, share a moment outside of their house on Wednesday. Jeff was laid off from his job at Harbor Paper and subsequently lost his health insurance while Susan was battling ovarian cancer.

Jeff Thomas has been through five mill closures in his 55 years. But none of them, he said, were as bad as last year’s Harbor Paper closure. Nearly a year later his family is managing to say afloat, surviving on wages earned by his wife Susan Thomas, a bar manager who makes $13 per hour. They have a roof over their head in Ocean Shores and the cars are paid off, so on the surface, the family is doing just fine. The reality is more stark. Susan Thomas has ovarian cancer and they’re on the verge of medical bankruptcy. And they’re still uninsured. Several Harbor Paper employees are in similar situations, according to Ed Mustard, another former millworker. He said that when the mill closed, employees were told they would have medical insurance through the end of May. In fact, coverage stopped in March, leaving several families with thousands of dollars in unpaid medical bills. Mustard said the company had every opportunity to inform him of the lapse. He visited Harbor Paper’s human resources office every month to pay for additional medical coverage. Management accepted his checks — even after insurance coverage had stopped. “They basically stole our money,” Mustard said. Aberdeen Daily World, 1-25-14.

Medical advocates decry insurance rules in WA on waiting period for transplants

Newly insured consumers in Washington state who purchased health plans through the online exchange might find a surprise when they comb through the fine print in their policies: They’ll have to wait 90 days from when their insurance begins before coverage for transplants will kick in. The waiting period, a holdover from the days when insurers were able to impose restrictions on coverage for all sorts of preexisting conditions, has become the latest flash point in the often tense negotiations between insurers, regulators, doctors, and consumers over the design of the new individual and small-group health plans that went into effect Jan 1. Specialists who treat patients with cancer, heart disease, and other chronic illnesses are outraged by the requirement and say there is no medical basis for it. They accuse insurers of violating Affordable Care Act provisions that prohibit discrimination against those with specific diseases. The waiting-period rule, which is in effect for policies sold by Premera Blue Cross, BridgeSpan Health, Moda Health and Group Health, applies to the entire transplant process. Washington Post, 1-26-14.

Insurer ordered to cover therapy for autistic kids

Federal Judge Richard A. Jones


For the last three years, two Seattle lawyers have been working to force health insurers in Washington to improve coverage of therapies for autistic children. Their latest success is against Regence BlueShield, in a court case brought by Disability Rights Washington and the family of a 9-year-old boy with autism who was denied coverage for speech and occupational therapy. Friday, U.S. District Judge Richard A. Jones ruled that Regence’s blanket exclusion for treatments of medically necessary neurodevelopmental therapies, including speech and occupational therapy, for children over the age of 6, violates Washington’s Mental Health Parity Act of 2006. Ele Hamburger and Rick Spoonemore of the Sirianni Youtz Spoonemore law firm have filed eight similar class-action lawsuits in state and federal courts against insurers, including Group Health Cooperative, Molina Healthcare, Premera Blue Cross and state programs such as Medicaid and the Uniform Medical Plan, which provides health coverage to public employees. Seattle Times, 1-25-14.

Spokane delegation makes its annual trek west

Spokesman-Review political columnist Jim Camden


A delegation of more than 80 Spokane-area folks arrived in Olympia last week with their annual “agenda”–some might call it a wish list–of things the Legislature could do to make life better for the state in general and the center of the Inland Empire in particular. This annual trek to the capital sponsored by Greater Spokane, Inc., herds well-briefed leaders of business, political, education, and civic groups through the marbled rooms and committee rooms and is the envy of many other cities and counties around Washington. It has prompted the sincerest form of flattery—imitation—from other communities, but many legislators still say Spokane’s full-court press lobbying remains the best. Jim Camden, Spokesman-Review, 1-25-14.

Is Steve Stuart out forever?

Columbian editor Lou Brancaccio


Clark County Commissioner Steve Stuart is out. Or he will be, that is, by this time next year. He’s opted not to run for re-election this fall. But Stuart—in my humble opinion—needed to stick around. At least a little longer. Why? Well, we have this thing going on with the other two commissioners, David Madore and Tom Mielke. You know them better as the M&M boys. They’ve created a bit of a mess in the county. As an example, they can’t seem to shake their back-door hiring of their buddy state Sen. Don Benton as the county’s environmental services director. They sneaked him in the $100,000-a-year job before any sane person could say, “What the … ” I mean, Benton couldn’t tell the difference between air pollution and au gratin. Still, he got the environmental job. So, it was Stuart who brought a measure of mothering to the M&M boys. Sure, it wasn’t easy, and, frankly, it was a losing battle. But someone had to do it. And that was Stuart. He will be missed. Lou Brancaccio, Columbian, 1-25-14.

The Nation

Hastings calls for reforms to gutting Endangered Species Act

A male spotted owl glowers at visitors to his nesting area in the Wenatchee National Forest near Cliffdell, Wash. in June, 2002.

A male spotted owl glowers at visitors to his nesting area in the Wenatchee National Forest near Cliffdell, Wash. in June, 2002.

From spotted owls to salmon, the Pacific Northwest has been ground zero for the impacts—good and bad—of the Endangered Species Act for 40 years. That’s the view of U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA-4), who heads the House Committee on Natural Resources, which is considering significant changes to the landmark 1973 legislation. Hastings believes the law takes too much of an economic toll, leaves too much room for litigation by environmental groups, and lacks an emphasis on getting species recovered and off the list. He called legislation to reform the act a priority for the year. Proponents of the Endangered Species Act, say that it’s working well and that calls for reform are actually a move to weaken protections. Yakima Herald-Republic, 1-26-14.

Justice Department inquiry takes aim at banks’ business with payday lenders

James Dillon of Trinity NC found himself in a cycle of debt with payday lenders.

James Dillon of Trinity NC found himself in a cycle of debt with payday lenders.

Federal prosecutors are trying to thwart the easy access that predatory lenders and dubious online merchants have to Americans’ bank accounts by going after banks that fail to meet their obligations as gatekeepers to the United States financial system. The Justice Department is weighing civil and criminal actions against dozens of banks, sending out subpoenas to more than 50 payment processors and the banks that do business with them, according to government officials. In the new initiative, called “Operation Choke Point,” the agency is scrutinizing banks both big and small over whether they, in exchange for handsome fees, enable businesses to illegally siphon billions of dollars from consumers’ checking accounts, according to state and federal officials briefed on the investigation. New York Times, 1-26-14.

New York teachers turn on Common Core

One of the biggest groups of educators in the country says the program's not working.

One of the biggest groups of educators in the country says the program’s not working.

The board of the New York state teachers union this weekend unanimously withdrew its support for the Common Core standards as they have been implemented—a major blow for Common Core advocates who have been touting support from teachers as proof that the standards will succeed in classrooms nationwide. “We’ll have to be the first to say it’s failed,” said Richard Iannuzzi, president of New York State United Teachers. Iannuzzi said he has talked with union leaders in other states who may follow suit. “We’ve been in conversations where we’re all saying our members don’t see this going down a path that improves teaching and learning. We’re struggling with how to deal with it,” he said. The board also unanimously voted no confidence in New York Education Commissioner John King Jr. and urged the state’s Board of Regents to remove him from office. Politico, 1-26-14.

Why won’t Obama go after criminal bankers?

On 24 September 2013, Syracuse University’s “TRAC Reports,” the only organization that tabulates the federal government’s prosecutions of elite financial crimes, headlined “Slump in FBI White Collar Crime Prosecutions,” and reported that “prosecutions of white collar criminals recommended by the FBI are substantially down during the first ten months of Fiscal Year 2013.” This was especially so in the Wall Street area: “In the last year, the judicial District Court recording the largest projected drop in the rate of white collar crime prosecutions—27.8 percent—was the Southern District of New York (Manhattan).” Thus, President Obama has kept the promise that he had made in secret to the assembled Wall Street CEOs inside the White House on 27 March 2009 (but that was leaked out),”My administration … is the only thing between you and the pitchforks.” There were certainly numerous prosecutable crimes, but no White House interest in pursuing them. Huffington Post, 1-24-14.

To Think About

Who backs the TPP and a ‘NAFTA on steroids’? ALEC

EPA Administrator Michael Leavitt addresses members of the American Legislative Exchange Council in 2004.

EPA Administrator Michael Leavitt addresses members of the American Legislative Exchange Council in 2004.

If President Obama uses his State of the Union address to launch a major push for “fast-track” authority to bypass congressional input and oversight on a sweeping Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, he will need new allies to generate support around the country. The president won’t be able to look to organized labor. Unions are overwhelmingly opposed to a deal that Communications Workers of America posters refer to as “NAFTA on Steroids.” He won’t be able to look to major environmental organizations. The Sierra Club,Friends of the Earth, and other green groups are outspoken in their opposition. If the president does go all in for the TPP, he will find himself in strange company—with one group that maintains an extensive network of political connections in states across the country and is enthusiastically on board for “the expedited conclusions and approval of the TPP.” That group is the American Legislative Exchange Council. The Nation, 1-24-14.

Issue #191

King County

City Light bills may grow 1.5%; Sawant: big business should pay

Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant


Seattle City Light customers could face a 1.5 percent surcharge on their electricity bill by August because of the light mountain snowpack and low wholesale energy prices. For a typical homeowner paying about $60 a month for electricity, that’s an additional 90 cents a month. But City Light and elected city leaders fear the shortfall in revenues is likely to continue because of climate change and the effectiveness of fracking at driving down the price of natural gas, a competitor to hydroelectricity sales. City Council member Kshama Sawant, in her first meeting as chair of the council Energy Committee Wednesday, said the burden for rate increases should not fall on economically struggling residents. “Seattle is becoming very expensive to live in. If there are any rate increases to come, they should fall on big corporations that can afford it and not on working families,” she said after the hearing. Seattle Times, 1-23-14.

Reform candidates trying to dislodge top IAM leaders

Machinists and supporters rallied against Boeing's contract offer, which passed with 51 percent of the vote.

Machinists and supporters rallied against Boeing’s contract offer, which passed with 51 percent of the vote.

The contentious Boeing contract extension offer that machinists narrowly passed earlier this month left many workers unhappy with their union leaders. This Saturday, they’ll have a chance to nominate new candidates for top positions in the union’s national headquarters. But the reform candidates face an uphill battle in their effort to dislodge the top leaders. The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers hasn’t had a contested election for its highest jobs in more than half a century. The Department of Labor last year investigated allegations that the union stymied a challenger’s attempt to run for office and found merit to the claim. As a result, the union agreed to hold a new election process under Department of Labor oversight. KPLU, 1-23-14.

Is marijuana allowed in Sea-Tac Airport?

A typical scene at Sea-Tac. What would you do with marijuana here, except for risk arrest wherever you landed with it?

A typical scene at Sea-Tac. What would you do with marijuana here, except for risk arrest wherever you landed with it?

Short answer: Yes. Long answer: Sure, but where in hell are you going to go with it? Basically, because Sea-Tac is owned and run by the Port of Seattle and not federal property, Washington’s marijuana laws under I-502 apply there. So, it’s legal for adults 21 and over to have up to an ounce on their person. And all the other rules apply, too: No displaying or using in public, no selling or handing out, etc., said Perry Cooper, a spokesman with the Port of Seattle for Sea-Tac Airport. Cooper explained that while the men and women of the Transportation Security Administration are federal employees, they have no law enforcement authority and can only report problems to Port of Seattle police. Seattle P-I, 1-22-14.

Tacoma, Seattle ports agree to talk about agreeing

Longshoremen driving straddle carriers move containers to rail at the Port of Tacoma’s North Intermodal Yard in March.

Longshoremen driving straddle carriers move containers to rail at the Port of Tacoma’s North Intermodal Yard in March.

The cooperative agreement between the ports of Tacoma and Seattle that was announced last week is either a) a pretty big deal that will benefit taxpayers and the economy of the state of Washington or, b) window dressing to distract those who have tired of the ports’ ruinous competition. The answer depends on what the two ports and their leaders do once their request to share information gets the go-ahead from the federal government. The deal, after all, isn’t an agreement to agree, it is only an agreement to talk about agreeing. Peter Callaghan, Tacoma News Tribune, 1-23-14.

Op-ed: Senate needs to deal with transportation plan–or Eastside will pay

Rep. Cyrus Habib (D-48)


Sometimes, a “do nothing” approach in the face of a daunting challenge has unintended consequences: It actually makes things worse. So it is with the transportation funding package now languishing in the state Senate. For residents of King County—and particular for those on the Eastside and Mercer Island—failure to adopt a method for financing critical transportation projects likely leads to one of two outcomes, both bad: A State Route 520 “bridge to nowhere,” or tolls on the Interstate 90 bridge across Lake Washington and Mercer Island. The ball is in the Senate’s court. They need to play—or we on the Eastside and Mercer Island will pay. Rep. Cyrus Habib (D-48), Bellevue Reporter, 1-23-14.

The State

House Democrats propose $12 minimum wage

House Democrats introduced a bill Thursday that would boost the state’s minimum wage nearly 30 percent, to $12 an hour, by 2017. Under the proposal, HB 2672, the state’s current $9.32 cent-an-hour minimum wage would increase to $10 an hour starting Jan. 1, 2015, and would get another $1 an hour bump at the beginning of 2016 and again in 2017, according to Democratic sources. After that, wage increases would revert back to the current method, which ties bumps in pay to inflation. The GOP-led caucus controlling the Senate has indicated it’s opposed to increasing the minimum wage, arguing it would put Washington state businesses at a competitive disadvantage. It’s not clear at this point if the measure will get a floor vote in the House. More than 30 House Democrats have signed onto the bill, but some members of the caucus do not support the legislation. It takes 50 votes to pass a measure in the House. Democrats control the chamber, 55-43. Seattle Times, 1-23-14.

Things turn nasty in Olympia over climate change

Sen. Curtis King (R-14)


Governor Jay Inslee


Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee and Republican Sen. Curtis King (R-14) may have set down their poison pens, but are no closer to forging agreement on a transportation funding package. Their exchange of stinging missives last week on low-carbon fuel standards continues to punctuate negotiations and imperil chances of a bipartisan deal getting inked this session. King, chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, is convinced Inslee will wait until lawmakers depart Olympia in March, then unilaterally impose tougher standards for the level of carbon allowed in fuel sold to motorists. He insists this will drive up the price of gas, and wants the governor to categorically deny he would act in such a manner. Inslee unquestionably views a low-carbon standard as a mechanism for developing cleaner fuels and a critical weapon in the fight against climate change which he’s made a signature issue in his first term. But he said he’s not discussed adopting any specific standard nor proposed anything resembling what King calls a “carbon fuel tax.” In other words, there is nothing up his sleeve and thus nothing to deny. Everett Herald, 1-23-14.

Wylie’s bill would override recent Attorney General’s opinion, deny cities and counties the option to ban pot sales


Rep. Sharon Wylie (D-49)


HB 2638 intends to override or at least clear up the controversial opinion issued earlier this month by the State Attorney General. The AG opined that, even with no clear mention of local municipal authority to throw out state voter’s supported recreational cannabis use, I-502, cities, towns, and counties can prohibit any or all aspects of the historic state’s rights experiment of personal recreational use of cannabis. Rep. Sharon Wylie, (D-49), a former Oregon State Legislator (1993-1998), has one co-sponsor, Rep. Gerry Pollet (D-46), on her bill. The bill has not been scheduled for a hearing. Washington State Wire, 1-23-14.

Committee narrowly passes Reproductive Parity Act

Rep. Eileen Cody (D-34)


With a one-vote margin, the House Health Care and Wellness Committee passed a bill that would require most insurance companies to cover abortion if they cover maternity services. HB 2148, often called the Reproductive Parity Act was denounced by opponents like Rep. Shelly Short (R-7), as limiting the choice of people who are morally opposed to abortion and don’t want insurance plans that cover it for others. But supporters like Rep. Laurie Jinkins (D-27) said the decision on whether to have an abortion should be made by a woman and the people she chooses to consult—her doctor, family, or faith community: “It is not for a business to decide, it is not for an insurance company to decide, it is not for someone else’s faith community to decide.” Committee Chairwoman Eileen Cody (D-34), the sponsor of the bill, said for years she’s had men ask her why they should pay for insurance plans with maternity services that they’ll never use. But, she added “we’re not going to change anyone’s mind either way on this.” Spokesman-Review, 1-23-14.

Ted Bottiger, former Senate majority leader, dies at 81

Former state Senate majority leader Ted Bottiger died Thursday morning at the age of 81.


Former state Senate majority leader Ted Bottiger died Thursday morning at the age of 81. Word went out at the Legislature later in the day, announcing that the former Pierce County politician had passed away. Details on arrangements were not immediately available. Bottiger, a south Tacoma native and Democrat, served the 2nd Legislative District in the Senate from 1973 until 1987. He also served four House terms during 1965-72 in the 28th and 29th districts, and left the Legislature after winning appointment to the Northwest Power Council. He was first elected majority leader in 1981 but that lasted only a couple of weeks–when Sen. Peter von Reichbauer switched to the Republican Party and shifted the majority to the GOP during a deep recession. Voters gave the Senate back to Democrats in the 1982 election and Bottiger became leader again in 1983. During his status as minority leader in the Senate, he was quoted by reporters as saying: “The role of the queen’s loyal opposition must be exactly that … We shouldn’t sink the ship.’’ Olympian, 1-23-14.

The Nation

Attorney General Herring: Put Virginia on ‘right side of history’

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, center, was joined by Chief Deputy Attorney General Cynthia Hudson, left, and Solicitor General Stuart Raphael, right, as he speaks at a press conference at his office in Richmond, VA Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, where he stated he has changed his position on the marriage equality case and now supports gay marriage.

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, center, was joined by Chief Deputy Attorney General Cynthia Hudson, left, and Solicitor General Stuart Raphael, right, as he speaks at a press conference at his office in Richmond, VA Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, where he stated he has changed his position on the marriage equality case and now supports gay marriage.

Attorney General Mark R. Herring, saying Virginia must be “on the right side of history,” today formally announced that he has concluded that Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional, and that in federal court he will speak for same-sex couples seeking to get married in the commonwealth. “Virginia has argued on the wrong side of some of our nation’s landmark cases–in school desegregation in 1954, on interracial marriage in the 1967 Loving decision, and in 1996 at opening Virginia Military Institute to female cadets,” Herring said in a news conference at the Attorney General’s Office. “It’s time for the commonwealth to be on the right of history and on the right side of the law.” Gov. Terry McAuliffe “supports the Attorney General’s conclusion and his efforts to ensure that all Virginians are treated equally under the law,” said Brian Coy, a spokesman for the governor. Richmond Times-Dispatch, 1-23-14.

Holder: Feds to set rules for banks and pot money

US Attorney General Eric Holder


The Obama administration will soon announce regulations to make it easier for banks to do business with legal marijuana sellers, Attorney General Eric Holder said Thursday. “You don’t want just huge amounts of cash in these places. They want to be able to use the banking system,” Holder said during an appearance at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center. “There’s a public safety component to this. Huge amounts of cash—substantial amounts of cash just kind of lying around with no place for it to be appropriately deposited is something that would worry me, just from a law enforcement perspective.” While Holder spoke twice of new “regulations” that were being prepared, a Justice Department spokesman said later that the attorney general was referring to legal “guidance” for prosecutors and federal law enforcement. Such a legal memo wouldn’t be enforceable in court and would amount to less than the kind of clear safe harbor many banks say they would want before accepting money from pot businesses. The federal banking accommodation, being worked out jointly by the Justice and the Treasury departments, follows decisions by voters in Colorado and Washington state to legalize the sale and possession of pot. The moves have created legal tensions, since marijuana remains illegal under federal law. One particular problem has been the refusal of banks to deal with pot-related businesses out of fears they will be accused of violating money laundering laws. Politico, 1-23-14.

No Medicaid expansion means millions more in taxes for Tennessee employers

Tennessee governor Bill Haslam (R) didn't want Medicaid expansion. Now his state's employers will pay.

Tennessee governor Bill Haslam (R) didn’t want Medicaid expansion. Now his state’s employers will pay.

Employers in Tennessee will have to pay tens of millions in new taxes annually because the state is not expanding its Medicaid program, according to a new study. The new study released Wednesday by Jackson Hewitt estimates that Tennessee’s failure to expand Medicaid could cost employers in the state between $48 million and $72 million in 2015. Nationally, the new tax penalties could reach nearly $1.5 billion each year in the 25 states that have not yet expanded Medicaid for adults. The tax penalty is somewhat hidden in the language of the Affordable Care Act, said the study’s lead author, Brian Haile, Jackson Hewitt’s senior vice president of health policy. “Just because there has not been strong enrollment interest thus far doesn’t mean squat,” said Haile, adding that low-income consumers tend to buy insurance when they get their tax refund. “There’s going to be solid enrollment,” Haile said, but adds that there might not be accurate enrollment data until May or June. “Jackson Hewitt has no position as to whether it’s a good idea or a bad idea to expand Medicaid,” Haile said, “I’m just pointing out that there will be a tax consequence to this decision.” Nashville Tennessean, 1-22-14.

Huckabee: Government shouldn’t help women who can’t control libidos

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) said that the government shouldn't help women who can't control their


Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) said that the government shouldn’t help women who can’t control their “libido or their reproductive system” by providing co-pay-free birth control and that Democrats are encouraging women to be “victims of their gender.” Huckabee made the comments during a speech at the Republican National Committee’s winter meeting Thursday. “If the Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing for them a prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of government then so be it! Let us take that discussion all across America because women are far more than the Democrats have played them to be,” Huckabee said. Huckabee argued that Democrats “think that women are nothing more than helpless and hopeless creatures whose only goal in life is to have the government provide for them birth control medication.” Huckabee also argued (with no apparent irony) that his party is not waging a war on women. Talking Points Memo, 1-23-14.

When companies break the law and people pay: The scary lesson of the Google Bus

A Google bus stopped during a recent protest

A Google bus stopped during a recent protest

Ever since Rebecca Solnit took to the London Review of Books  to ruminate on the meaning of the private chartered buses that transport tech industry workers around the San Francisco Bay Area (she called them, among other things, “the spaceships on which our alien overlords have landed to rule us,”) the Google Bus has become the go-to symbol for discord in Silicon Valley. First a Google Bus piñata was smashed to pieces at a rally in San Francisco’s Mission district last May.  Then protesters drove a fake Google Bus in the annual Pride Parade with props linking the shuttles to gentrification, eviction, and displacement.  By December, when activists blockaded an actual Google bus on the street, the city and media were primed for the street theater stunt heard round the world. This frenzy seemingly culminated yesterday when, following another morning blockade and protest and several hours of contentious public comment, San Francisco’s Municipal Transportation Authority unanimously approved a plan to begin regulating the shuttles by requiring them to obtain a permit and pay a $1 per stop fee. Bus blockaders say that the various tech companies owe San Francisco $1 billion in fines for their illegal use of the stops over the past decade.  (San Francisco Bay Guardian reporter Rebecca Bowe calculated the unpaid bill as closer to $500 million to $600 million, still a significant amount of money compared to the transportation agency’s annual budget of $800 million.)  Google, Facebook and Apple aren’t facing millions in unpaid parking fines, however, because the MTA hasn’t been writing the tickets.  Since the shuttles began using public bus stops, they’ve simply flouted the law without consequences. Salon, 1-23-14.

To Think About

The coming Common Core meltdown

The trouble with the Common Core is not primarily what is in these standards or what’s been left out, although that’s certainly at issue. The bigger problem is the role the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are playing in the larger dynamics of current school reform and education politics. Today everything about the Common Core, even the brand name—the Common Core State Standards—is contested because these standards were created as an instrument of contested policy. They have become part of a larger political project to remake public education in ways that go well beyond slogans about making sure every student graduates “college and career ready,” however that may be defined this year. We’re talking about implementing new national standards and tests for every school and district in the country in the wake of dramatic changes in the national and state context for education reform. It took nearly a decade for NCLB’s counterfeit “accountability system” to bog down in the face of its many contradictions and near universal rejection. The Common Core meltdown may not take that long. Stan Karp, Washington Post, 1-23-14.