Topic: Washington state
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December 6, 2012 at 7:41 AM
Same-sex couples gathered in downtown Seattle today to get their marriage licenses. King County Executive Dow Constantine was on hand to sign marriage certificates, while syndicated columnist Dan Savage and others celebrated the landmark day in Washington State history. Here are some highlights.
November 21, 2012 at 6:00 AM
Some Washingtonians miss the satisfaction of visiting polling stations on election day. Some Washingtonians prefer the ease of voting from home on their own schedule. But no matter where your opinion falls on mail-in ballots, the correlation between them and increased voting rates is striking.
SEATTLE — Mail-in balloting has caused an increase of voter turnout as the Washington Secretary of State announced a 78.8% voter turnout to date. With one week to go until the office certifies the election results, it is thought that final turnout should land between 80 and 81%—in line with expectations.
San Juan County leads the way thus far with a turnout of 88.53%, while Thurston County (72.31%) is in last place with approximately 11,000 ballots yet to be counted. King County’s turnout is 79.34% but will likely crawl above 80% after the remaining ballots are counted.
Voter turnout has been buoyed by mail-in balloting in recent years. However, this year’s numbers falls short of the turnout in the past two presidential elections. Both 2004 (82.2%) and 2008 (84.6%) saw a greater percentage of voters turn out.
With the state rumored to be progressing toward an e-mail ballot solution similar to what is currently available for members of the military, voter turnout may continue to increase over the coming years.
October 26, 2012 at 3:40 PM
Washington Initiative 502 has supporters and opponents. University of Washington Election Eye researched each and brings you both sides of the debate.
SEATTLE — If you want to know where your chicken fillet comes from, you definitely want to know where your marijuana comes from. Chances are, your dinner wasn’t smuggled under the US-Canada border by a violent narcotics gang.
That’s one of the arguments for the passage of Initiative 502. Supporters of I-502 want to allow consumers the choice of knowing where their weed comes from—giving the public peace of mind that their dollars aren’t indirectly supporting society’s seedier elements.
“It’s just common sense,” travel guru and I-502 backer Rick Steves said in a telephone interview. “Whatever you’re consuming, you want to know where it’s coming from.”
Steves has been canvassing the state in support of the passage of I-502, which would legalize and regulate the sale of marijuana in the state of Washington. According to Steves, a key benefit of the proposed measure would be to limit the power of the narcotics gangs that have historically dominated the black market for marijuana. By allowing the taxed sale of marijuana, Washington State would achieve the dual benefit of filling state coffers while also limiting the influence of drug gangs.
Additionally, the legislation would allow state authorities to oversee the cultivation, harvest, transport, and sale of marijuana. Given the choice, Steves said, consumers will overwhelmingly purchase their drugs from reputable sources. Drawing a connection to Prohibition, where “we had people dying from poisoned gin,” Steves believes the passage of I-502 will help protect consumers.
“In the Netherlands, they haven’t arrested anyone for marijuana in 25 years,” Steves said. “You’d be crazy to buy something on the street. People go to a reputable coffee shop that’s been licensed by the government.”
“Now, we’re not going to have a coffee shop model [like the Netherlands]; we’re going to have a liquor store model,” Steves added. “Everything you’ll get will be licensed from Washington state growers. It’s smart from a consumer protection point of view. When there’s a black market criminal element, it makes sense to avoid that.”
Not everyone is so sure about I-502. On the other side of the debate is Derek Franklin, president of the Washington Association for Substance Abuse and Violence Prevention. Franklin, who boasts 20 years of experience in the substance abuse and mental health fields in various roles, believes it makes more sense to modify the existing frameworks for enforcement and prosecution.
Franklin concedes that the current system isn’t perfect, but such a drastic change isn’t in anyone’s best interests. Rather, Franklin believes that working inside the current system offers the best chances to limit access to marijuana.
“The current system is flawed,” Franklin wrote in a recent online chat with the Seattle Times. “However, legalizing an addictive substance is overkill. [We should] work to fix the enforcement system rather than legalizing across the board.”
Support of the bill varies widely, depending on location. A University of Washington poll cited by the Times has Eastern Washington voters against the measure by a 51 percent to 41 percent margin. Even in Yakima County, which struggles to contain outdoor grow operations, Sheriff Ken Irwin doesn’t see I-502 being beneficial. Irwin told Times reporter Jonathan Martin that the pro-502 crowd’s argument that legalization would hamstring the area’s narcotics gangs wasn’t a likely outcome.
“To think that by legalizing marijuana, the cartels would be out of business is just naive and absurd,” Irwin was quoted as saying. “Criminals are criminals. They would find a way to undercut the price.”
Steves disagrees with that point. He believes that consumers will eschew street transactions to buy their weed from state-sanctioned dispensaries.
“I just don’t agree with that,” Steves said. “It’s dangerous to sell drug so there has to be a pretty significant margin built in. I think that if people are given a choice, they’re going to buy from reputable source rather than a criminal source. Of course it’s going to be taxed, but I think when you take the criminal risk out, criminals can never compete on price.”
“It’s going to be a careful dance to figure out how much to tax it,” Steves concedes. “If it’s too cheap, then there’s a risk that it will be too easy for young people to get it. If it’s too expensive, then you’re opening up for the black market. There’s a sweet spot in the middle that we have to find.”
Whatever happens on election night, the legalization issue won’t end there. Many believe that I-502 would directly controvert elements of the federal Controlled Substances Act. Putting Washington State at odds with the Federal Government might lead to legal challenges – former US Attorney John McKay said in the same Seattle Times chat that the courts will eventually decide the issue.
October 18, 2012 at 7:10 AM
With the cost of higher education rising along with the level of student debt upon graduation, politicians at the national and state level need to address the issue frankly and provide real solutions.
SEATTLE — As a master’s student at the University of Washington with a small mountain of student loans, I find myself paying even closer attention to the 2012 election. And I don’t just mean listening to Mittens and BO (an unfortunate combination of nicknames if I’ve ever seen one). I think the Washington State governor’s race is just as important.
I have been educated entirely through Washington State public schools, from kindergarten through my last quarter of graduate school (not counting one year in pre-kindergarten lest some fact checker start digging). First of all, let me say thanks to anyone who has made a purchase in state for the financial support. Secondly, I need to come out of the closet, as a current Husky who did her undergrad at Washington State University.
We all know that tuition rates have shot up at colleges around the state (and country) in the past few years. But let me just put it in perspective. My final year of undergraduate study at WSU, the tuition cost $5,812, a 7% increase from the previous year. This past May, five years later, WSU approved a tuition rate of $10,874 for 2012-2013, a 16% increase from the previous year.
That’s 87% more than my final year of undergraduate. In five years.
Similar raises were made at other state universities and the proposal has been made to de-fund the University of Washington. Higher education in Washington State has been dramatically impacted by the recession over the past four years. Yesterday WSU President Floyd proposed tying the school’s tuition increases to the Consumer Price Index, so that the cost would rise with inflation.
Add to that the issue of student debt. As of 2010, the average graduate in Washington has a student debt load of over $22,000. This year total student loan debt passed credit card debt in the U.S. and has topped $1 trillion (an amount Austin Powers didn’t even use in 1999).
American Student Assistance reports that “as of the first Quarter of 2012, the under 30 age group has the most borrowers at 14 million, followed by 10.6 million for the 30-39 group, 5.7 million in the 40-49 category, 4.6 million in the 50-59 age group and the over 60 category with the least number of borrowers at 2.2 million for an overall total of 37.1 million.”
Of the 37 million student loan borrowers, around 5.9 million have fallen at least 12 months behind on payments. Combine that with high interest rates for those who default and no federal statute of limitations on collections, and it seems to me a recipe for disaster.
Maybe you think I’m overreacting. But I think the number 1,000,000,000,000 says otherwise.
Budget shortfalls and cuts today are something the younger generations are going to pay for for decades to come. Add to that higher than average unemployment rates for recent graduates, higher numbers than ever moving back in with parents, and issues with programs like Social Security and Medicare, and I think we have a recipe for disaster.
I know I sound alarmist – I swear that’s not my default setting – but this issue should be leading discussions during this election season. (Along with the environment, health care, jobs, etc., etc. Okay,we have a few issues.)
I’ve been thankful to see it as a such a focus in the Washington governor’s race, but I’d like to see it more in the national conversation. Mitt Romney promising one student a job after graduation, which he did in Tuesday’s presidential debate, isn’t enough.
September 27, 2012 at 7:00 AM
SEATTLE — The YWCA Seattle | King | Snohomish (YWCA) and their advocacy network, Firesteel, are hosting two round table discussions with the 2012 candidates for Washington state governor, Jay Inslee and Rob McKenna. Each one will answer questions about women’s socio-economic issues, domestic violence, and homelessness.
A roundtable with gubernatorial candidates is not a new thing, but this roundtable will be unique because of where it will take place: over Google+ Hangout.
So what makes this Google+ Hangout so exciting? Over the past four years, social media have been hyped for their ability to allow presidential campaigns to reach out and have two-way conversations with citizens. The reality is, with a constituency as large as the United States, it’s challenging to have legitimate conversations with potential voters. In fact, according to a recent Pew Research study, the current presidential campaigns rarely interact on Twitter. President Obama’s campaign retweets about 16% of the time, while Romney’s campaign only retweeted once in a two week span. (more…)
September 15, 2012 at 3:12 PM
Washington, D.C. — Though a bit few and far between, there are a few people here who are from the Northwest.
Speaking this morning on a panel of local leaders who oppose same-sex marriage atthe state level, Joseph Backholm, the director of the Family Policy Institute of Washington and the chair of the anti-R74 group, Preserve Marriage Washington, made it clear to the cultural conservatives that they have ideological allies far away from more “red” states.
“We’re way up in the corner, and everyone writes us off as a lost cause,” he says. “But this is a national movement, and what happens to one of us, affects everyone.”
Backholm, who’s been a crucial organizing force in gathering enough signatures to get R74 on the ballot, knows he has a tough sell to Washingtonians, especially in Seattle, to some.
But while more liberal on this issue, as a state “we are a beachhead in this movement,” he says, referring to the larger, national fight for and against same-sex marriage.
“We have the right of referendum, which is a blessing.”
That referendum, he says, forces people to make a false choice.
“People support same-sex marriage … as a way to prove that they don’t hate gay people,” he says. He compares the situation to the early anti-abortion debate in the 1970s, and the need to reframe it.
As part of that process, Backholm insists that the domestic-partnership laws in Washington give the same rights as traditional heterosexual marriage, but that the state shouldn’t be the one defining the latter.
“We must be able to penetrate that narrative [the narrative that says that voting against the referendum is tantamount to discrimination], he says. “We do treat same-sex couples equally.”
June 6, 2012 at 11:30 AM
Washingtonians began June with a new opportunity to purchase hard liquor in non–state retail outlets. The UW Election Eye team was out that first Friday looking for clues as to what the new drinking landscape looked like from the bar stool perspective.
SEATTLE — Last week marked the end of a 78-year old system and a multi-year battle to get liquor on the shelves of private retailers. During the 2010 election cycle, two initiatives were
put forth to the people — I-1100 and I-1105 — both aiming to get liquor out of the state-run stores and both failed. Last year, only one initiative was on the ballot concerning liquor distribution and it was backed by more than $20 million from Costco. And it passed.
Since last November, the state, retailers and new distributors have been moving quickly to transition from the 78-year old system. Friday, June 1st marked the first day that state liquor stores were out and private distributors and retailers were in.
Costco was not the only store to provide liquor to its customers on June 1. From Safeway to Fred Meyer, from QFC to Bartell Drugs, retailers made room for the new products on their shelves. The impacts of the new distribution system reach beyond the newly stocked shelves of grocers and the empty ones of the now defunct state stores. A privatized distribution system means new prices (for now, higher prices), new products and potentially new menus at local bars.
At Hazlewood, a craft cocktail bar in Ballard, the staff on hand on Friday had mixed feelings about the change. Tending the bar during the first happy hour of the new era, Hazelwood co-owner Keith Bartoloni described the new system as a challenge for bar owners and managers to be more resourceful. After the two main distributors, Southern Spirits and Young’s Market, bar owners are still waiting to see what products get picked up and where they will need to go to stock their bars. “Craft cocktailers will need to do a little more shopping.”
May 23, 2012 at 7:33 AM
With nine candidates running for Washington State governor, and the primary still months away, why is all the attention focused on McKenna and Inslee?
SEATTLE — In a free and fair election, should all candidates be given equal consideration? This question recently came up in the Washington State governor’s race. Nine candidates filed for the position, but only two have been invited to the Association of Washington Business debate, to be held in Spokane in June.
“The debate hosts set their own rules and they invite people based on the criteria they establish,” said Sterling Clifford, Jay Inslee’s communications director, “While Jay is open to a broader conversation, but also there is good reason to acknowledge the realities of the election and political climate. Rob McKenna or Jay Inslee will be the next governor of Washington. That is just a cold hard fact.”
Some might say that since these candidates are relatively unknown and not the primary contenders for governor, in the way that Jay Inslee and Rob McKenna are, they should not get equal attention.
April 30, 2012 at 11:30 AM
When UW Election Eye was invited to the residence of Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett, we discovered a remarkable number of similarities between Pennsylvania’s political climate and that of Washington State.
HARRISBURG, Penn. — Gov. Tom Corbett was glued to his son’s big-screen TV on Sunday, April 22, settling in to his rec room’s easy chair for a Stanley Cup playoff game between his two largest constituent cities: Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. That’s just about the time our UW Election Eye team got waved past the plain-clothed state patrolman on the mansion’s front steps and greeted by the Commonwealth’s First Lady, Susan Corbett.
“Call me Sue,” she said, reaching for our jackets and hanging them up in the closet of the Grand Hall entrance. The tone was set for our afternoon.
Minutes later, Gov. Corbett strolled across the wooden floor into a spacious, brightly lit Erie Room — wearing a light blue shirt and holding a soft drink in his left hand. If he is losing sleep over his current 39% approval rating, he sure doesn’t look like it. Even Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s approval rating is higher than Corbett’s, despite Walker facing a rare recall election in early June.
April 16, 2012 at 7:49 AM
With reporting by Alicia Halberg and Stephanie Kim
Democrats held their legislative caucuses on Sunday to help decide the party’s platform and select the presidential nominee. With Obama guaranteed the nomination, many simply didn’t see any point in attending.
Only 24 people showed up for the meeting of Washington’s 36th legislative district caucuses at Whittier Elementary in Ballard, where 15 precincts met to caucus.
Alice Woldt, former chairwoman of the King County Democratic Party and former chair of the 36th district Democrats, convened the caucuses at Whittier. She said the district had tried to reach out to potential caucus-goers using local media, calling those who came out in 2008, robocalls in the area, and having caucus officers talk to their neighbors.
“With all of the media attention on the other party, we need to build up energy and enthusiasm, otherwise people won’t think that we’ve got anything going on,” Woldt said. (more…)