Join the informed writers of The Times' editorial board in lively discussions at our blog, Opinion Northwest.
November 7, 2013 at 4:00 PM
The Times reports that Initiative 522 “trails in all but four counties.” Which four? Knowing that 522 appealed to the left side of the house, let’s use some history to guess which counties.
In 2007, Tim Eyman’s Initiative 960 required a two-thirds vote in the Legislature for tax increases, or a vote of the people, and also required the tax-advisory votes we just had. Progressives disliked it. I-960 passed in all but four counties: King, San Juan, Jefferson and Thurston. King is the home of liberal Seattle, Jefferson is the home of Port Townsend and Thurston is the home of state government and Evergreen State College. San Juan is the islands.
In 2004 Jim Johnson, a conservative attorney, ran for the Washington Supreme Court. He won in 35 counties and lost four: King, San Juan, Jefferson and Whatcom. Whatcom is the home of Bellingham and Western Washington University.
Also in 2004 in the double-recount gubernatorial contest between Chris Gregoire and Dino Rossi, Gregoire won five of 39 counties: King, San Juan, Jefferson, Thurston and Whatcom. (And for her, five was enough, barely.)
In 2000, when Maria Cantwell unseated Sen. Slade Gorton, she won in five counties: King, San Juan, Snohomish, Jefferson and Thurston. Snohomish is her home county.
Fast-forward to 2013. With some confidence, our guess about where 522 passed would be King, San Juan, and Jefferson—and that’s right. Between Thurston and Whatcom we flip a coin. (It’s Whatcom. In Thurston, as I write, Yes on 522 is at 49.81 percent, making Thurston the “No” closest to “Yes,” and it may become a “Yes” before the day is out.)
P.S., 6:10 p.m. : Thurston has flipped to “Yes.”
November 7, 2013 at 6:00 AM
The political thumping Colorado voters gave an income tax hike to pay for education left many, including me, stunned. I’ll cop upfront to not having read a single advance or exit poll. I based my predictions of victory on the proposal’s strong merit. The education initiative, Amendment 66, would have revised the Colorado constitution to allow a nearly billion-dollar increase in state income taxes, money that would have bolstered considerably the state’s per-student spending on public schools. It was not meant to be a blank check with zero accountability. The measure would have changed how state education dollars are spent, including putting a budgetary emphasis on low-income, special education, and English-language-learners. Those are the right priorities and they are similar to weighted funding formulas used by many school districts here in Washington.
But on Tuesday, Coloradans were having none of that. Funny, they minded paying more taxes but had no problem imposing hefty taxes on recreational marijuana. Those seemingly contradictory choices are explored in this Associated Press story.
So what happened? Did Coloradans want good schools but decide they were not interested in paying for them? Or were they so opposed to any reforms that they were willing to pass up the money? Or maybe voters have bigger fish to fry; this New York Times story chronicles efforts in one part of the state to secede and form a less-liberal state.
Making sense of the tax initiative’s political defeat has huge implications for Washington state. The state Supreme Court’s order to the Legislature to fund a greater share of public education comes with the challenge of finding the money. Lawmakers appropriated nearly a billion extra to education spending’s bottom line but the mix of new and redirected dollars was a feat that may prove impossible to repeat. Plus, with needed investments in early learning, K-12 and higher education, a robust, dedicated revenue stream offers an attractive long-term solution. But Washington has tried that before. Remember Initiative I-884? The 2004 initiative would have increased this state’s sales tax by 1% to build an education trust fund. Read the Times’ endorsement of that effort here. Nearly 60 percent of voters said no.
It would be great to shift the conversation away from the tired question: more money for schools or less? to what a sustainable and adequate funding system would look like. Part of the answer may lie a few states over.
November 6, 2013 at 5:11 PM
“SeaTac Minimum Wage May Set National Tone,” wrote Mike Baker of the Associated Press on Tuesday. Well, maybe. Certainly its apparent victory—it’s at 53.2 percent yes, as I write, will set a tone in progressive Seattle: Those people have it; why can’t we?
Seattle City Council candidate Kshama Sawant championed the minimum wage, and though it appears that she’s losing (latest count: she has 46.7 percent), she did surprisingly well. She vows to keep fighting for it.
As for setting a national tone, note that the vote total in SeaTac so far is 1,967 yes, 1,730 no: fewer than 3,700 people. As a sample of American opinion it’s pretty small. As a social experiment its application is also small, which is probably a good thing. People need to see how this works before they try it in a bigger place.
November 6, 2013 at 12:01 PM
Seattle voters made a series of bold decisions Tuesday night. Not only did they oust a mayor, they rejected public financing for political campaigns (Prop 1) and created a hybrid district system (Charter Amendment 19) that will alter City Council elections beginning in 2015.
Incumbent city council members Nick Licata, Mike O’Brien, Sally Bagshaw and Richard Conlin retained their seats, but prepare for a shake-up at City Hall.
All nine members are currently elected citywide. With a new system consisting of seven district and two at-large positions, voters will be able to elect a candidate who lives in their neighborhood and is more accountable for local concerns. Most other major cities already do this. A similar set-up in Seattle should liven up city council debates, which some observers accuse of being increasingly stale because the current council is ideologically aligned. Members are also hampered by the fact that they each represent the broad interests of more than 600,000 constituents. With districts, they’ll be focused on addressing the needs of about 88,000 residents.
This will be a fascinating change. Among the key questions: Which council members plan to run again under this new system? Will they compete against each other or at-large?
Below is the Seattle Districts Now map. I’ve added text to indicate where current council members live.
Faye Garneau, the north Seattle businesswoman who bankrolled the Seattle Districts Now effort with about $200,000 of her own money, says it was money well-spent if it forces future council members to prioritize and be more responsive to neighborhood concerns outside the downtown core.
“It’s my city. I love it,” she said over the phone Wednesday morning. “I want to leave it better than when I entered it. And I think it will be. ” (more…)
November 6, 2013 at 6:15 AM
Bringing down the cost of health care, or keeping it from soaring ever higher, requires constant vigilance. Those best positioned to rip off the system are more than willing to do so.
Washington is set to receive a record Medicaid fraud settlement of $21.4 million. That is the state’s share of $1.72 billion Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc. will pay states and the federal government to make the fraud charges go away. Another $485 million in criminal fines will be paid.
Washington’s participation in the settlement was announced Tuesday by state Attorney General Bob Ferguson. He explained in a statement the case was about unlawful marketing practices for two antipsychotic drugs, Risperdal and Invega. They were allegedly being peddled for “off-label” uses not approved by the Federal Drug Administration.
Janssen recently settled similar allegations in another situation. Washington state received $4.6 million in that 2012 resolution.
In the current settlement, Washington’s $21.4 million share will be divided, with roughly half going into the state’s Medicaid services system - and also for fraud detection and prevention. The other half will go to the federal government for administration of Medicaid in Washington. The feds cover half of this state’s Medicaid costs.
The pursuit of waste, fraud and abuse in the medical system and healthcare is a big, endless task. These kinds of cases build an argument for a federal single-payer system that operates with lower overhead, and provides for rigorous oversight and accounting of expenditures.
November 6, 2013 at 6:00 AM
Change is coming to the Seattle School Board. Board President Kay Smith-Blum and Boardmember Michael DeBell are leaving. Replacing Smith-Blum is Stephan Blanford, an educational consultant who won election last night over his opponent, LaCrese Green.
School Boardmember Betty Patu was unopposed in her bid to retain her District 7 seat. The third race between Suzanne Dale Estey and Sue Peters was too close to call last night. Peters was leading Dale Estey by 3 percentage points. The outcome of this race will have a huge impact on Washington state’s largest school district. Dale Estey, like Blanford, has worked both inside schools and for nonprofits working to improve public education. Many people have opinions about education, few have devoted professional and personal time to improving it.
Wednesday’s school board meeting offers a good example about what is at stake on the board. The district is in the midst of redrawing attendance boundaries, changing school assignments for some students and deciding the fate of some schools. Dozens of people have signed up to testify before the board, nearly two dozen alone signed up to speak about the takeover of the Horace Mann school building by community organizations advocating for African American students.
The board is expected to vote on whether to enter into two lease agreements that would get the organizations out of Horace Mann. It would not be a moment too soon. The project’s contractor has had a crew standing by to start work on Horace Mann since Sept 18th and estimates $100,000 in cost delays already. But that’s not the worst of it. School officials from the facilities and security departments along with outside contractors went to the Mann building on Monday about 8 a.m. and were surprised by six people who blocked them from moving through the building and threatened them physically. Are these the people Superintendent José Banda wants to enter into a partnership with? (more…)
November 5, 2013 at 7:40 AM
Tuesday is the deadline to turn in your election ballot. If you are voting by mail, your ballot must be postmarked by Tuesday. You can also drop off your ballot at a county drop box by 8 p.m.
If you have not filled out your ballot yet, check out our editorial board’s recommendations.
November 4, 2013 at 6:45 AM
Tucked into the SeaTac $15 minimum wage ordinance is a big exemption to the landmark proposal.
In the Waivers section of the proposed ordinance, available on the City of SeaTac website, Proposition 1 gives employers a break from the minimum wage, the paid sick days and other employee protections – as long as the business is unionized.
All of the provisions of this Chapter, or any part hereof, including the employee work environment reporting requirement set forth herein, may be waived in a bona fide collective bargaining agreement, but only if the waiver is explicitly set forth in such agreement in clear and unambiguous terms.
That means employers have a big incentive to cozy up with the same labor unions who pushed the idea and have contributed hundreds of thousands to the campaign. It all looks like a nice bit of self-dealing for organized labor. And it’s often overlooked. It’s missing from the Yes! for SeaTac’s “Get the Facts” and in some coverage, although it’s consistently noted in Amy Martinez’s stories for the Seattle Times.
Yes for SeaTac spokeswoman Heather Weiner said the provision gives employers and unionized employees flexibility. She cites an example: When Seattle passed a mandatory sick leave policy that has a similar waiver, Catholic Community Services negotiated with unions to delay the policy for eight months. In exchange, Catholic Community Services agreed to apply the sick leave policy to all home care workers statewide.
“If I were an employer, I’d rather have a collective bargaining agreement because it gives me flexibility. But some employers won’t do that because they don’t like CBAs,” said Weiner.
Unions have donated the vast majority of the $1.377 million raised by Yes for SeaTac as of Sunday. Max Nelson of the libertarian Freedom Foundation, writing a guest op-ed in the Puget Sound Business Journal, suggests that river of money is a wise financial investment.
Data that unions report to the U.S. Department of Labor indicate that median dues for members of Unite Here Local 8 total $471 in a year, plus other fees. At the high end, members of Teamsters Local 117 pay dues totaling $1,380 a year at median rates.
Advocates estimate that Prop. 1 would cover about 6,300 workers. If the initiative produces 1,000 new union members paying an average of $900 in dues per year, unions will generate an additional annual income of about $900,000, for a one-time investment of about $825,000. Not bad at all.
There’s a similar waiver for unions in the $15.37 minimum wage at LAX airport (per the L.A. Times); one in the San Francisco minimum wage law; and there was one in a proposed 50-percent increase in the minimum wage for big-box retailers in Washington, D.C. (it failed in September because of threats by Walmart).
Weiner said there “hasn’t been a mad rush to unionize” because of minimum wage laws at airports.
But there apparently was in Long Beach. A union waiver in a $13 minimum wage prompted several Long Beach hotels to stop fighting labor and work with Unite Here to unionize, according to the Long Beach Press-Telegram.
Does the union waiver in Prop. 1 make you more or less likely to vote for it?
November 1, 2013 at 11:46 AM
Lots of accolades in the air aimed at the College Success Foundation and the nonprofit’s co-founders, Bob Craves and Ann Ramsay-Jenkins.
The high praise is richly deserved. For more than a dozen years, the foundation has worked to increase the rate of minority and low-income students going to college. The key to its, dare I say it? success, is a powerful combination of scholarships and mentoring for students, many of whom are the first in their families to attend college.
Measurable results include awarding $140.1 million in college aid since the foundation’s inception in 2000 and the satisfaction of knowing that money helped 2,402 students earn college degrees. A community’s gratitude for the work led by Craves and Ramsay-Jenkins will be on display during the foundation’s ”Empowering Youth” luncheon at the Seattle downtown Sheraton.
Craves, a co-founder of Costco Wholesale, launched the foundation with Ramsay-Jenkins. The foundation has used a powerful combination of financial aid and mentoring to help students who often are the first in their families to attend college. The work starts inside our public schools with CSF employees and volunteers mentoring students, promoting college-prep classes and helping students qualify for financial aid for college tuition, books, room and board.
Go to their website to get a sense of the foundation’s tremendous impact on efforts to boost college going rates. But a couple of key programs include the Washington Achievers Scholarship program and the HERO Institute, an effort to promote college readiness by drawing hundreds of students in 7th through 12 grades to the University of Washington for multiple campus events. HERO stands for Higher Education Readiness Opportunity.
A Times editorial about the foundation began this way, “The College Success Foundation is … well … successful.” That success continues, and should for a long time. Young people with few resources and lots of talent are the rightful beneficiaries.
November 1, 2013 at 11:38 AM
A war is being waged in SeaTac over the minimum wage. Voters will decide Tuesday whether to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour for some airport and hospitality workers with Proposition 1. Organizers then plan to bring the campaign to Seattle, where both mayoral candidates have already expressed support.
Supporters say it would help low-income people and families achieve a better life. That’s a bit simplistic. Poor people are not a monolithic group. I argued in a Wednesday blog post that it would devastate immigrant-owned businesses. (Our editorial board has also recommended a no vote in an editorial.)
James Shin is one of those immigrants. Shin, 64, owns the Quality Inn SeaTac. In 2011, he used his life savings to buy the 104-room hotel, and he would be required to pay his workers $15 an hour if Proposition 1 passes. It would, in fact, be a crippling financial blow to Shin.
He’s not the chief executive of a hotel chain. He owns one hotel. And he used to be poor.
Shin, a U.S. citizen, immigrated here from South Korea in 1975. He had a bachelor’s degree from a Korean university, but he spoke little English. His first job in the U.S.? Dishwasher. He made $2.25 an hour. In his next job he was a janitor. “When I moved to the U.S. I worked hard. Some people didn’t want to work weekends. I worked on weekends for overtime,” he said. (more…)