King County

County Council trashes vote of 33rd District PCOs, picks Gregerson over Kent’s Albertson for House appointment

Newly appointed Rep. Mia Gregerson (D-33)


The King County Council surprised many when they chose Mia Gregerson rather than Elizabeth Albertson Monday to fill the 33rd Legislative District House seat vacated by Dave Upthegrove. Albertson, of Kent, whose City Council term expires the end of this year, was picked by the 33rd LD Democrats to replace Upthegrove, who is giving up his seat next year after his election to the County Council. Gregerson, a city of SeaTac councilwoman and deputy mayor, was the Democrats second choice of the Precinct Committee Officers. “I have to say that I am very disappointed in the King County Council for not following the will of the PCOs in this matter,” said Debra Omaha Sternberg, 33rd Democrat District chair, in an email. “The PCOs were far more informed about the candidates then the King County Council was, as the council has only interviewed them for a couple of hours, but the PCOs had decided over weeks or even months which candidate they were going to support.” Gregerson will serve one year as the replacement for Upthegrove. An election next year will decide who gets the two-year term starting in 2015. Kent Reporter, 12-16-13.

Supporters of German workers protest at Amazon headquarters

Members of a number of different local unions rally at Amazon's headquarters in Seattle in support of union members from the German union Ver.di who went on strike in Germany over wages and working conditions. The banner in German translates to

Members of a number of different local unions rally at Amazon’s headquarters in Seattle in support of union members from the German union Ver.di who went on strike in Germany over wages and working conditions. The banner in German translates to “The stowers are not stowing today! Strike at Amazon.”

A group of about 30 activists, including two German representatives, gathered at the Amazon headquarters campus on Terry Avenue North in Seattle for a protest Monday. The German services union ver.di and its supporters took their fight to the company’s global hub to voice frustrations with the online retailer’s employee wages and refusal to work with German labor unions. Company warehouse conditions were also discussed. Activists at the protest wore stickers reading “We are humans, not robots” to make their employer and customers aware of day-to-day challenges that include the way workers are paid, and an inability to unionize under company regulations. The Seattle protest is part of a larger movement among German Amazon workers, who have planned a series of one-day strikes in the company’s four fulfillment centers in Germany, Courtney said. “Workers have organized under ver.di, but the company refuses to recognize the union for purposes of collective bargaining. Puget Sound Business Journal, 12-16-13.

Mike McGinn’s parting shot: ‘I do not trust elites’

Outgoing Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn


Mike McGinn walked into the Seattle mayor’s office as an outsider, and is proud to be going out that way after a bruising but rewarding four years at the job. “After four years in office, I do not trust elites and elites bearing checks,” McGinn said. ”They’re often well-meaning, the Democratic Party elites in particular.” Where is the evidence that elites distrusted him? McGinn points to the $512,000 cut from the Mayor’s Office budget at the start of his tenure, money that the Seattle City Council restored dollar-for-dollar as Ed Murray began to staff up. “Look,” said McGinn, “I was an outsider essentially. I didn’t come into office having spent 10 or 20 years building relationships with important people. It wasn’t that I didn’t kiss rings. I didn’t really know which rings to kiss. “There’s an awful lot of people with an awful lot of status in this town, who were afraid of losing that status. I was a threat to them.” Seattle P-I, 12-16-13.

The State

Labor Council seeks apology from governor for urging Boeing contract vote; snubs his Christmas party

Washington State Labor Council president Jeff Johnson


The Washington State Labor Council Monday called for Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee to apologize for urging the Machinists union to vote on a new Boeing contract. “I know what I do when I’ve offended people, particularly when I’ve offended a lot of people,” said Jeff Johnson, president of the Labor Council. When asked if the governor should issue an apology, Johnson said, “that certainly seems appropriate to me.” The backlash to Inslee’s call for a vote has been growing for several days, Johnson said, and it culminated in labor groups canceling plans to attend a holiday reception at the governor’s mansion Monday evening. Groups canceling out include the state Labor Council, the Machinists, the Washington Federation of State Employees, and many others, Johnson said. Seattle Times, 12-16-13.

State rep calls out governor, others over IAM vote

Rep. Mike Sells (D-38)


State Rep. Mike Sells (D-38) thinks Gov. Jay Inslee and U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen should give up their taxpayer-funded pensions if they think Machinists should do the same by approving a contract extension with Boeing. “I would suggest that those self-same politicians with a pension give it up for a 401(k) and put their money where their mouth is,” Sells wrote on his Facebook page Saturday. Sells, who is executive secretary of the Snohomish County Labor Council, also criticized those demanding a vote for not having the courtesy to call local labor leaders to talk about the issue. “It speaks volumes about how many of them view working people,” he wrote. Everett Herald, 12-16-13.

Boeing’s new rewards for investors fuel debate among Machinists

Boeing boosted its quarterly dividend Monday by 51 percent and authorized a $10 billion share-repurchase plan, the largest in its history. The move angered some in the Machinists union, whose members are debating whether to hold a vote on a revised Boeing proposal that mixes concessions on benefits and wages with assurances that the 777X would be built in the Puget Sound region. “Is the Boeing board absolutely tone-deaf, or are they deliberately out to enrage the IAM membership?” said Jim Levitt, a 35-year veteran Machinist at Boeing’s research center by Boeing Field. “I’m sure this news will go over like a lead balloon on the factory floor,” he added. “All this while Boeing is out to sharply cut the retirement of its hourly workforce.” Seattle Times, 12-16-13.

Hard data or Big Coal’s dream? Poll shows statewide support for Millennium terminal, opposition to gas tax increase

The site of the proposed Millennium Bulk Terminal in Longview.

The site of the proposed Millennium Bulk Terminal in Longview.

A new poll shows purports to show that a majority of voters statewide favor a coal terminal proposed for Longview, two-thirds oppose a gas-tax increase, and public confidence in the economy is on the decline. But maybe the most striking thing about the survey, released Friday by Gallatin Public Affairs and GS Strategy Group, is that for all the agitation over the last year for pro-environmental “progressive” policies, primarily from the greater Seattle area, the rest of the state just isn’t on the same page. The broad-ranging survey shows support statewide for the Millennium project at the Port of Longview at 56-34. That and more pro-polluter, anti-environment spin from Washington State Wire, 12-16-13.

Meanwhile, in news from a County Council that respects its PCOs, June Robinson appointed to 38th LD House seat

Newly appointed Rep. June Robinson (D-38)


June Robinson of Everett became Snohomish County’s newest member of the state House of Representatives Monday. The Snohomish County Council voted unanimously to appoint Robinson, a Democrat, to replace Rep. John McCoy, who became a state senator last month. She took the oath of office immediately after the council’s decision. “I am very excited,” she said. “I will go there and work hard to serve the people of the 38th Legislative District.” The appointment will last until she or another candidate is certified as the winner in the 2014 general election. Everett Herald, 12-16-13.

Liquor Board reverses itself on patient home grows

The Washington State Liquor Control Board—under heavy patient pressure—reversed itself last week, saying it will recommend to lawmakers that medical marijuana patients continue to be allowed to grow cannabis in their homes. Despite the fact that plant counts have been reduced, that represents a big victory. “We’re all in agreement on home grows,” chair Sharon Foster said of the three-member board, which also includes Ruthann Kurose and Chris Marr. The Board’s previous recommendation—that home growing be outlawed,to force patients through the recreational channels established by I-502—had produced outrage in the medical cannabis community. Because recreational pot users aren’t allowed to grow their own under 502, the rationale was to also ban patients from growing. Seattle Weekly, 12-16-13.

Clark County is not staving off lawsuit over Benton hire

Sen. Don Benton (R-17)


It appears that Clark County won’t respond to a tort claim alleging discrimination in the hiring of state Sen. Don Benton (R-17) as director of the environmental service department. The next step will be a lawsuit, according to the attorney for an employee of that department. “We will file on Wednesday morning,” said Greg Ferguson, who is representing Anita Largent in her legal claims against her employer. “The county has given three or four different stories on why Benton was hired. Soon we are going to see if they pick one or just use them all and see what sticks.” Largent, who served as the interim director of environmental services before Benton’s appointment, filed a tort claim with the county in October alleging that the hiring of Benton “violated nearly every written county policy promising equal employment opportunity, non-discrimination and fairness in hiring.” Largent, who is still a manager within the environmental services department, states in the claim that the appointment of Benton not only violated county policy, but also state law against discrimination and portions of the U.S. Civil Rights Acts of 1964. Specifically, the claim alleges gender discrimination in the hiring because no qualified female candidates were considered. Columbian, 12-16-13.

Spokane City Council expands downtown sit-lie law

You can't sit here.

You can’t sit here.

The Spokane City Council voted 4-3 to toughen an ordinance that makes it illegal to sit or lie on sidewalks in the downtown area during business hours. The Monday vote fell along a familiar political line with council members Nancy McLaughlin, Mike Fagan, Mike Allen, and Steve Salvatori casting yes votes. Council President Ben Stuckart was joined by council members Amber Waldref and Jon Snyder in voting no. The controversial measure drew nearly two hours of testimony from about three dozen citizens. The revised law makes it illegal to sit on planters or other sidewalk fixtures, including the group of structures next to Old City Hall and the Olive Garden restaurant. The change makes sitting on sidewalks illegal from 6 a.m. to midnight. The current law covers the period from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Spokesman-Review, 12-17-13.

The Nation

California Gov. Jerry Brown opposes government-imposed standards, such as Common Core, for schools

California Gov. Jerry Brown (D)


California Gov. Jerry Brown blasted the notion of government-imposed standards for public schools, saying he opposed efforts from Washington and Sacramento to dictate education policy. Using “data on a national or state level I think misses the point—that learning is very individual, very personal,” Brown said during an on-stage interview Monday with the Atlantic magazine’s James Bennet at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View. “It comes back to the teacher and the principal. The leader of the school is by far the most important factor.” When asked if he supported national education standards, Brown said, “No. That’s just a form of national control.” Brown reprised a story he tells frequently about an exam he had in high school when a teacher asked students to write their impressions of a green leaf. “Still, as I walk by trees, I keep saying, ‘How’s my impression coming? Can I feel anything? Am I dead inside?’ So, this was a very powerful question that has haunted me for 50 years.” The point, Brown said, is that “you can’t put that on a standardized test. There are important educational encounters that can’t be captured by tests.” Los Angeles Times, 12-16-13.

For Christie, lane closures at bridge attract scrutiny, if not scandal

New Jersey governor Chris Christie (R)


The issue at hand is small, even for local politics: The sudden closure, over four days, of a pair of access lanes from Fort Lee NJ onto the George Washington Bridge into New York. But in this traffic mystery, Democrats see a potential scandal that could permanently harm Republican Gov. Chris Christie, who has been riding high as a prospective 2016 presidential candidate. In September, two of Christie’s top appointees at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey ordered the lanes abruptly shut to traffic, causing days of gridlock in Fort Lee. Democrats allege that the move was political retribution against the town’s mayor, Democrat Mark Sokolich, for not endorsing Christie for reelection this year. Christie has claimed no advance knowledge of the incident and has denied wrongdoing by his administration. But that hasn’t kept Democrats here and in Washington from pouncing. The goal is to puncture the image Christie carefully cultivated of himself since Superstorm Sandy in 2012 as a bipartisan bridge-builder and trustworthy, if pugnacious, executive. His detractors say the episode reveals Christie as who they say he really is—a nasty and corrupt New Jersey politician who bullies those standing in his way. Washington Post, 12-17-13.

Virginia starts recount in attorney general race

Obenshain, left, Herring

Obenshain, left, Herring

The recount in Virginia’s attorney general race began Monday and will likely conclude toward the end of this week. Virginia’s Board of Elections certified Democrat Mark Herring as the winner by 165 votes out of 2.2 million cast in last month’s off-year election. Republican Mark Obenshain requested a recount and expresses confidence that he can still come out on top. If Herring prevails after the recount, Democrats will control all three statewide constitutional offices for the first time since 1989. Politico, 12-16-13.

In this Representative’s wingnut reality, Democrats are ‘openly hostile to American values’

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) with House Speaker John Boehner. McMorris Rodgers has sent out a fundraising letter that charges that “the Democrat party” is “openly hostile to American values.”

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) with House Speaker John Boehner. McMorris Rodgers has sent out a fundraising letter that charges that “the Democrat party” is “openly hostile to American values.”

As Democratic Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Republican Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) sat down Sunday on “Meet the Press”  discussing their bipartisan budget deal, a virulent, attack-dog Christmas season GOP fundraising letter went out over the signature of Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), a colleague of Murray’s in the Washington congressional delegation. “This is a Democrat (sic) party that has no interest in working with Republicans—one that’s openly hostile to American values and the Constitution,” said McMorris Rodgers, a member of the House Republican Leadership. McMorris Rodgers did not identify the “American values” to which her Democratic colleagues, including eight in the Washington delegation, are hostile. Seattle P-I, 12-16-13.

To Think About

Life under Republicans: North Carolina religious home schools to get taxpayer dollars

The Paramount Christian Academy in Thomasville, North Carolina.

The Paramount Christian Academy in Thomasville, North Carolina.

In July, the increasingly right-wing legislature in North Carolina passed a bill to divert $10 million from the public school budget to create vouchers that would give low-income students up to $4,200 a year to pay for private school tuition. Such vouchers are a popular conservative proposal for “reforming” failing public schools. North Carolina’s vouchers, which will become available in 2014, allow public money to go to unregulated private schools that are not required to meet any educational or teacher preparation standards. In addition, thanks to the way the law was written, the money will be available to “home schools”—literally schools set up in someone’s house. Homeschooling traditionally has been done by parents. But the state recently changed its home schooling law to allow people who aren’t parents or legal guardians educate kids in a group setting. The only requirement for such schools is that the teacher have a high school diploma, that the school keep immunization and attendance records on its students, and that it give kids a national standardized test every year. Mother Jones, 12-17-13.