Former Seattle homeless man to the city: Shack encampments are hurting the homeless | Op-Ed

Every addict’s story is different, but we all share one thing: In every case our lives got worse after we started using drugs. Every person in recovery has something in common, too: our lives didn’t get better until we stopped.

Before I started using heroin, I was what you’d think of as a success story. I led a fortunate life as a teenager and young man: prom king in high school, graduated college with honors… I was a real go-getter. By 30 I had a business with 20 employees. There were some rough times during my 30s. I got depressed after my divorce and did some drinking, but I eventually sobered up on my own. When the Great Recession hit, my company went downhill like a lot of other contractor businesses, and I was forced to shut it down. At that point, I was feeling burned out and hopeless, and that’s when I fell into addiction. I was 42.

At first the heroin gave me energy and motivation; it helped me cope with the depression and stress. But it was an illusion. As my addiction worsened, I started injecting heroin. I moved into an RV and spent most of my time and money supporting my habit. I sold drugs, stole things, scrap metal, catalytic converters, or whatever I could get my hands on. At one point, I had a $200 a day habit. I started sleeping with a gun.

I think something people need to understand is that things always get worse for an addict; they never get better, and they never even stay the at the same level of bad as long as you’re actively using. I eventually lost the RV I was living in, and started staying in a car. Then in a tent, and finally, on Seattle streets. I was on food stamps and state assistance, but it wasn’t enough to keep me in a place. Detox and treatment were options, but I wasn’t compelled to pursue them. My friends and family would have helped me get treatment, if I had asked for it, but I had burned every bridge with them, and they weren’t going to come looking for me.

Anyway, for me, recovery was so far off, the only thing I could think about was avoiding withdrawal. There’s nothing an addict fears more than withdrawal, which starts happening in 12 hours if you don’t keep the drug in your system. It happened to me a few times. What does withdrawal look like? It’s horrible. Painful. Shaking, convulsing, hallucinating. All you can think is: Get money, get dope, get money, get dope.

Eventually, my health started to go, just like it does for any addict. I was in and out of the hospital, with abscesses on my arms. I ended up as little more than a skeleton, with gaping holes in my arms. It was here I finally hit bottom. When I had nowhere else to go and was physically declining—this is what finally compelled me to get clean. I got into the Salvation Army’s recovery program at their Adult Rehab Center. Now I’m clean and sober with a job painting, and I live in South Lake Union right where the city wants to put a tiny shack encampment.

I’m frustrated thinking about it. Most of the people who wind up in there will be addicts. Just as most of my friends still out in the streets are, and just like I was. Putting them in a shack isn’t helping them. It would not have helped me. I’m thankful no one offered me a shack, because I would have taken it and who knows if I would be clean today.

These folks are not thinking rationally. They’re not capable of making good decisions. If someone had offered to set me up in a shack and paid for my living expenses, I would never have gotten sober. I’d probably be dead now. You can give an addict a house to live in, a ton of money, a job. Nothing helps until you take away the drug.

I specifically chose to live in South Lake Union after I got clean because this was a relatively drug-free place. As a recovering heroin addict, every day is a battle. On weaker days, it’s hard to walk past people shooting up and have the dealers approach, as it happens in other areas of Seattle. But now the city wants to bring drugs into my neighborhood, and honestly, I am afraid for my sobriety. I feel that the city is working against people in recovery. We’re trying to stay clean, but the city is putting those in recovery at risk to help other people continue their addictions. Why not make Seattle into a welcoming place for people in recovery?

What about instead of having shack villages that turn a blind eye to drug use, we made getting into recovery a package deal with housing? I might support something like that. But the deal they’re offering now? No. That’s bad for everyone.

Commentary | Find a Long-Term Solution to Net Neutrality

Another summer, another round of debate over so-called net neutrality. It is remarkable because there has been so much back-and-forth inside the Beltway the past few years—even though the internet blossomed for its first 25 years without politicians addressing it much at all. Congress needs to end this game of political football and find a long-term solution.

It would be a comical situation were it not for the uncertainty it creates for investors. They left their money on the sidelines after 2015, representing the first decline in internet investment outside of a recession. 2015 happened to be the year when the Obama Administration started regulating internet service providers (ISPs) like public utilities under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934, a law that was written to address the growing networks of landline telephones. 

Fortunately, the current Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Ajit Pai, abandoned this approach in 2017 in favor of a light-touch regulatory environment he believed would encourage innovation. But now Democrats in Congress have resurrected net neutrality once again, choosing to pander to their liberal base by threatening to use the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to overturn Chairman Pai’s decision.

This isn’t leadership; it’s just lazy. Congress should not retrofit antiquated laws to impose on modern issues; if it identifies a contemporary problem, ostensibly like net neutrality, then it should go through the actual effort of devising a contemporary, bipartisan legislative solution. Lawmaking is supposed to be hard because the Founders didn’t want unnecessary laws—or regulations by fiat.

As a writer and advocate, I talk with small-business owners regularly, including those in rural Washington state. Many of them are concerned that the regulatory red tape will create an environment far too complex for small startups and independent ISPs to compete.

As a result, it will be more and more difficult to build their networks and expand into underserved communities like rural America. In fact, 10 percent of all Americans and nearly 40 percent of rural Americans lack access to high-speed broadband capable of 25 Mbps or more.

That’s the real problem, not conspiracy theories about fast lanes and slow lanes. There is widespread agreement among the major ISPs that users should be able to go wherever they like online without fear of selective discrimination against different websites, internet traffic, or data. But heavy net neutrality restrictions are unnecessary, especially the preposterous public utility rules, and few things are truly as neutral as a free marketplace without government interference.

We need a law that ensures lasting open internet protections without the harms of utility-style regulations, one that will provide consistency for consumers and business certainty for investors, and is crafted to deal with specific factors unique to the internet.

Let’s have the debate; let’s hear from the on-the-ground stakeholders—all of them. Last summer, we heard from plenty of internet industry insiders on the matter. In fact, tech giants leveraged their considerable political clout to organize a “Day of Action” to demonstrate in favor of the 2015 decision. The only problem is, relatively few real people showed up. This time, let’s hear from real people.

In the meantime, the CRA has moved to the U.S. House of Representatives. In order to keep the economy growing and innovation on the rise, they must vote “no” on this misguided legislation.

Nansen Malin resides in a small beach community in Southwest Washington and uses technology to operate her business and maintain the involved lifestyle of the big city.

 

Complaint filed by former AG against Supreme Court Justice Mary Yu for appearance at teachers union PAC event

UPDATED: Since first publication, the entire complaint against Justice Yu has been appended to the bottom of the post.

State Supreme Court Justice Mary Yu might have stepped on her gavel last month when she took the stage to speak at a political gathering of the state teachers union.

According to reports, Yu took the stage at the April 21 Washington Education Association Political Action Committee meeting in Spokane to “rising applause” before she began speaking, although no video, audio, or transcript of her remarks have been made available to the public.

Charges that Yu acted improperly and violated multiple sections of the state’s code governing judicial conduct were documented in a formal complaint by former Attorney General Ken Eikenberry to the State Commission on Judicial Conduct, Northwest Daily Marker has learned.

In Eikenberry’s letter dated May 2, the three-term former chief attorney for Washington state stated that Yu’s appearance at the event created serious doubts about her impartiality in cases that will come before her.

Specifically, Yu and her fellow justices are schedule to hear oral arguments Thursday in a case that could decide the future of charter schools.  The WEA, who also gave substantial financial support to Yu during her election campaign, is a chief plaintiff in the suit.  During Yu’s 2016 election campaign, the WEA “maxed out” their direct contributions—$2,000—and two political action committees that had received large sums from the WEA spent $107,266.67 in independent expenditures on Yu’s behalf.  It is not possible to know the degree to which the WEA influenced the decisions of others to donate to Yu’s campaign fund or the PACs.

The case that the court will hear arguments in this week is the second legal attempt by the teachers union to kill charter schools.  The first case the union lodged sought to declare the schools unconstitutional. The Supreme Court delivered its ruling only days before many of the charters were scheduled to open in September 2015—the charter school law as passed did not meet constitutional muster.

Yu joined that majority ruling to shut many of the schools down, a decision that proved temporary when the legislature passed a fix that allowed charters to begin operating with full statutory authority.  The WEA was not deterred, however, and brought a new suit which was dismissed by a King County Superior Court judge due to a lack of merit.  The union appealed the judge’s decision to the Supreme Court, who are schedule to hear oral arguments this week.

The WEA is also a plaintiff in the open-ended McCleary case.  The next word from the court on McCleary—expected later this year—will decree whether efforts undertaken by the legislature to direct more of the budget into funding of K-12 education are sufficient.  The union has already made its position clear that they are no satisfied with how much was spent toward teacher salaries.

The 11-member Commission on Judicial Conduct that will examine Eikenberry’s claims has constitutional authority to investigate ethics complaints and to provide due process before rendering a decision that may or not be have binding legal authority, depending on its recommendations.  In extreme cases where serious conduct violations have occurred, the commission could decide to recommend a judge be removed from the bench.  A final determinati0n would be made by the state Supreme Court.

In other words, a complaint from a former attorney general and a member of the bar in good standing will need to be taken seriously, and if taken seriously could have material consequences for the Yu and the court.

For her part, Yu could take the bite out of some of the questions contained in the complaint by recusing herself from cases the WEA is a party to, but in an interview with the Tacoma News Tribune Yu said she would not step back from the charter school case and downplayed her appearance at the WEA event.  From the News Tribune:

In a phone interview with The News Tribune … Yu dismissed questions of her ethics and said she would not recuse herself.

Yu said the WEA made it clear to the crowd she was not commenting on any pending or potential future cases. She said she was at the Spokane gathering simply to foster public discussion and to promote her effort to get judges into K-12 schools to teach about the legal system.

Yu also said she was already in Spokane for an unrelated matter and did not travel from Western Washington specifically for the event — an annual gathering that often hosts speakers.

“There was no question I had an agenda and that was I want (teachers) to invite judges into the classroom,” Yu said.

The spokesperson for the WEA also told The News Tribune that there was no video or audio recording “available” of Yu’s appearance for the media to review.

The concern raised by Eikenberry and others that Yu has provoked a perception that she is too closely entangled with the WEA is essential to address.  If the public gives in to believing that the judiciary are just allies of factions or narrow interests, we can discard faith in things like equal protection under the law as foundational principles that must be perpetuated.

It seems unreasonable to categorize questions about the propriety of Yu’s appearance as “pure nonsense,” such as the editorial board of the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin did.  Truthfully, if anything seems nonsensical and strained it is the Union-Bulletin’s suggestion that the complaints about Yu are tantamount to asking her to live a monastic life of isolation.  The editors would have us believe that forcing Yu to maintain distance in this situation is a restriction on her personal life.  One would hope that she has a richer social circle than the WEA’s leadership can possibly provide because with her judicial position comes a responsibility to maintain public trust.  If that means that her “personal life” can’t include intimate chats like the one in Spokane to a group that will lobby her decision on a matter that will quite actually impact the personal lives of thousands of students and families seeking a choice in education, well, maybe those are the trade-offs that come with the honor of wearing the gown.

Below is the text of the letter Eikenberry transmitted to the Commission on Judicial Conduct.  Only limited personal information in the heading has been withheld.

Dear Commissioners:

This is a complaint for multiple violations of the Washington Code of Judicial Conduct against Washington State Supreme Court Justice Yu.

According to media reports, on April 21, 2018 Justice Yu gave a speech before the Washington Education Association Political Action Committee (“WEA-PAC”) at the organization’s meeting in Spokane.  According to its website the purpose of WEA-PAC is to “recommend and elect pro-public education candidates to office. WEA-PAC makes recommendations in races for statewide, legislative and local candidates.  Its funding originates from the union dues of teachers paid to the Washington Education Association (“WEA” or “the teachers union.”)

According to one report, Justice Yu smiled upon being introduced for her speech and was greeted with “rising applause. “   There apparently is no recording of the contents of the speech though Justice Yu claimed subsequently that she simply informed those in attendance of her willingness to visit high-schools and a discussion of her personal background.   It is not known whether she received a fee or any other benefit for her warmly received speech.

Justice Yu is familiar with the organization that gave her such a gracious welcome.  In 2016 it donated the maximum amount of $2000 to her election campaign for state-wide office as a Supreme Court Justice.  The teachers union that funds WEA-PAC also has been involved in litigation in at least two high-profile cases currently pending before Justice Yu and the other Justices of the Washington Supreme Court and are due to be resolved within weeks. The teachers union is a plaintiff in El Centro de la Raza v. State,  Case Number 94269-2 which is set for hearing on May 17, 2018.  The teachers union also is part of a consortium of education groups who are a plaintiff in the McCleary v State Case Number 84362-7.  The court has imposed a deadline of September 1, 2018 for the state to comply with previous orders in favor of Plaintiffs (including the teachers union.)

Justice Yu’s speech violated the following provisions of the Code of Judicial Conduct:

Cannon 1 provides:

A JUDGE SHALL UPHOLD AND PROMOTE THE INDEPENDENCE, INTEGRITY, AND IMPARTIALITY OF THE JUDICIARY, AND SHALL AVOID IMPROPRIETY AND THE APPEARANCE OF IMPROPRIETY.

Here in providing a speech to a political action committee which had donated to her judicial campaign and whose sponsoring organization is a plaintiff in two cases pending before the court, Justice Yu failed to uphold the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary.  She also failed to avoid the appearance of impropriety.  Those defending the litigation in opposition to the teachers union could rightly wonder whether she could be impartial in hearing their claims.

Cannon 2 provides:

A JUDGE SHOULD PERFORM THE DUTIES OF JUDICIAL OFFICE IMPARTIALLY, COMPETENTLY, AND DILIGENTLY

Rule 2.3 provides:

(B) A judge shall not, in the performance of judicial duties, by words or conduct manifest bias or prejudice, or engage in harassment, and shall not permit court staff, court officials, or others subject to the judge’s direction and control to do so.

Rule 2.4 provides

(C) A judge shall not convey or authorize others to convey the impression that any person or organization is in a position to influence the judge.

To the extent the speech was a part of her official judicial duties, by providing a speech to a political action committee which had donated to her judicial campaign and whose sponsoring organization is a plaintiff in two cases pending before the court, Justice Yu failed in her duty to fulfill her judicial duties impartially.  She also failed in her duty to not manifest bias or prejudice in her words or conduct regarding parties with matters pending before her court.  Finally these actions also caused her to fail in her duty to not convey the impression that any organization is in a position to influence her.

Cannon 3 provides:

A JUDGE SHALL CONDUCT THE JUDGE’S PERSONAL AND EXTRAJUDICIAL ACTIVITIES TO MINIMIZE THE RISK OF CONFLICT WITH THE OBLIGATIONS OF JUDICIAL OFFICE.

Rule 3.1 provides in pertinent part:

A judge may engage in extrajudicial activities, except as prohibited by law* or this Code. However, when engaging in extrajudicial activities, a judge shall not . . . (C) participate in activities that would undermine the judge’s independence, integrity, or impartiality;

To the extent that Justice Yu’s speech was independent of her official role as a Supreme Court Justice and constituted extrajudicial activities as contemplated by the Code,  by providing a speech to a political action committee which had donated to her judicial campaign and whose sponsoring organization is a plaintiff in two cases pending before the court, the Justice failed to conduct her personal and extrajudicial activities in such a manner so as to minimize the risk of conflict with the obligations of judicial office.  She also failed to abide by the restriction to avoid participation in activities that would undermine the judge’s integrity impartiality and independence.

Cannon 4 provides:

A JUDGE OR CANDIDATE FOR JUDICIAL OFFICE SHALL NOT ENGAGE IN POLITICAL OR CAMPAIGN ACTIVITY THAT IS INCONSISTENT WITH THE INDEPENDENCE, INTEGRITY, OR IMPARTIALITY OF THE JUDICIARY

Rule 4.1 provides that except as permitted by law a judicial candidate is forbidden from “making speeches on behalf of a political organization or nonjudicial candidate.”

Here by providing a speech to a political action committee which had donated to her judicial campaign and whose sponsoring organization is a plaintiff in two cases pending before the court, Justice Yu violated her obligation to avoid political or campaign activity inconsistent with the independence integrity or impartiality of the judiciary.

It may be instructive to consider the Washington supreme court’s opinion in In Re: the Disciplinary Proceeding Against Sanders, case number JD 12 (Wa 1998).  In that case the Washington Supreme Court ruled that some brief remarks made by a sitting Supreme Court Justice at a pro-life rally did not constitute violations of the code in part because his conduct did “not lead to a clear conclusion that he was, as a result, not impartial on the issue as it might present itself to him in his role as judge.”  In that case there is nothing in the decision to suggest that he had received any campaign donations from pro-life groups (or their political action committees that he was addressing) nor that those groups had active litigation pending before him.

Here Justice Yu received thousands of dollars in donations from the group she was addressing and as noted above will shortly be in a position to render decisions in which they or affiliated organizations are directly involved.  There was no doubt recognized by the members of the political action committee  who provided the “rising applause” to a yet undelivered speech by Justice Yu.  The content of her speech even if benign is irrelevant- it is the appearance of impropriety that the code seeks to avoid.

I respectfully request that you proceed with the allegations in this complaint.

Sincerely,

Kenneth O. Eikenberry

Former Legislator, Former State Attorney General, and former State GOP Chairman.

 

Tacoma’s red light camera vendor could be on precipice of financial collapse

A government vendor with contracts in Tacoma appears to be on the verge of bankruptcy, according to a report it released to its home country regulator earlier this week.

The contractor’s slide is raising questions with Tacoma officials about whether to continue dealings with the company, or move on, with speculation that its financial condition and ability to continue operating long-term are unlikely to improve.

Australia’s Redflex Traffic Systems, a supplier of traffic cameras to Tacoma, lost nearly $12 million over the last six months according to a report it filed with the Australian Securities Exchange, and which was obtained by opponents of traffic cameras.

Apparently, Redflex benefited from the recently-passed GOP tax reform package, but it was not enough to stop the bleeding.

Redflex originally shot to public attention in the US after being implicated in a Chicago criminal bribery scandal. A former executive of the company claimed in 2014 it had “bestowed gifts and bribes” including in Washington State.

According to traffic camera opponents, Redflex has been relying on fresh investments from shareholders to stay afloat. However, the company says that due to the termination of a contract in New York and less money flowing to the company via its contracts in Mexico, it is still losing money. Its legal situation in Chicago has apparently been a driver of financial misfortunes before this most recent period.

Reportedly, Tacoma officials are set to review their contracting arrangements with Redflex in the coming days.

 

[featured image: trekandshoot]

OPINION | (Not) A time for dithering: Inslee’s failure to lead on transparency would be a significant political moment

The legislature made a very bad decision last week when 83 members of the House and 47 members of the Senate voted to pass ESB 6617, a bill that would reject a court’s ruling that the legislature is subject to state law requiring government agencies to allow public access to their records.

ESB 6617 was rammed through at high-speed and with a spirit of unity that we don’t often see in Olympia. But even as lawmakers were high-fiving in the wings, a critical response came booming from every corner of the media.

Notwithstanding some very odd attempts to defend the bill, including a meandering and somewhat incoherent explanation by newly minted state Senator Manka Dhingra of the 45th legislative district, outrage over the legislature’s attempt to maintain a tight grip on public records continued to build.

The 12 largest daily newspapers across the state have each published front-page editorials condemning the legislature’s bill and urging (or, in many cases, demanding) that Inslee veto the measure. Television and radio news hosts have aired commentaries and asked viewers to call the governor’s office.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson, the state’s top legal authority, told the Seattle Times in plain language that Inslee should send the entire bill back to the House and Senate.

And former attorney general Rob McKenna on his blog also issued a harsh rebuke to the legislature for a process that “was improper and showed contempt, unintentionally or not.”

And then there are the voices who really do speak loudest—those of the people. As of Thursday afternoon, Inslee’s office reported that it had received nearly 17,000 calls, emails, on the subject most of which asked for a veto.

Nevertheless, as of Thursday afternoon, voters are still waiting for Inslee to step out and inform the public of what action he will take, if any.

To veto, he would humbly admit that a statement he gave to MSNBC’s Chris Hayes that he has no authority to act was wrong.

If Inslee hesitates and allows the bill to become law, then his answer to Hayes that he “can’t [veto], unfortunately, because they have a veto-proof majority, unfortunately, so I don’t have control at this moment” will come back to haunt him when he runs for his next office because it hints at an unwillingness to lead.

It will haunt him first because he is wrong and because perpetuating the misleading idea of a “veto-proof majority” under which the governor has no power will be remembered as a dodge – a vain effort to avoid having to lead. We know it’s a dodge because, as others have noted, these terrifyingly impenetrable veto-proof majorities in the past didn’t stopped Inslee when the cause is something he truly cares about.

When last year Inslee deleted business and occupation tax relief out of a budget that had been negotiated by the legislature – passed by a so-called veto-proof majority – Inslee felt the courage surging through his veins. But on the issue of open and transparent government he publicly frets but has no muscle in right hand to perform the simple task of scribbling his name on the veto line and saying to the lawmakers, “No, this is bad law. Do it again.”

That’s why it probably won’t be the need to support the principle of open government that convinces Inslee to veto. It will be his own political ambitions that pull him over the line.

We hear that Inslee wants to be president someday. Presidential voters are known to vote without reason sometimes, cleaving to a candidate because of a connection made in moments that offer insight into the candidate’s character. This is Inslee’s moment and he is dawdling, dodging, and dithering it away.

But there is still time. He has until midnight Thursday to make up his mind.

OPINION | Gov. Inslee must veto Legislature’s effort to thwart public access to lawmaker’s records

American physicist and co-father of the atomic bomb Edward Teller said, “Secrecy, once accepted, becomes an addiction.”

Late last week, in a secretive and soul-crushingly bipartisan process, lawmakers in Olympia conspired to prove Teller right.

Washington state legislators this session needed to deal with a Superior Court judge’s decision in a lawsuit brought last year by several media organizations and others that ruled that lawmaker’s records are not exempted from state public records laws. The mandate for lawmakers was to create a system for providing the public the same transparency as all other state and local government agencies are legally required to provide. They chose to do the opposite. Instead of embracing the liberating power of sunlight, the vast majority of lawmakers passed a bill that would consolidate firm authority over their own records: Senate Bill 6177.

The process used to ram through SB 6177 matched the cloistered and cynical spirit of the measure. It was introduced in the Senate on Wednesday and without a hearing or open debate was voted on in both the Senate and House on Thursday.

The roll call in the Senate was 47 yea, 7 nay, and one member was absent. Almost immediately the House held its vote and the margin was nearly identical – 83 yeas, 14 nays with one member excused from voting. The roll calls are posted after this article.

SB 6177 is the assurance of a pack of wolves to a flock of sheep that a wolf committee will guarantee that all sheep-related requests will receive action… except the ones they deem in conflict with wolf survival.

Although technically complying with the court’s ruling, SB 6177 would establish a system under which old records would be off-limits from the public and new ones would only be disclosed after the legislature itself decides on whether they can be released. Those decisions would not be subject to judicial review if SB 6177 becomes law. It is the quintessential case of politicians trying to make a promise to the public with their fingers are crossed permanently behind their backs.

SB 6177 is the assurance of a pack of wolves to a flock of sheep that a wolf committee will guarantee that all sheep-related requests will receive action… except the ones they deem in conflict with wolf survival. Sheep, shepherds, and watchdogs alike should rest easy. Right? No, of course, all non-wolves should be on alert.

Our lawmakers must understand that their legitimacy for doing all of this fancy government stuff stems from informed consent; fully informed consent can’t be given without more public knowledge of the process and the players involved in creating laws and public policy.

The people have a fundamental right to judge whether their interests are being served by their elected representatives. In fact, we should take this opportunity to collectively downvote the supposed and oft-quoted wisdom of 19th century German statesman Otto Von Bismarck that lawmaking and sausage-making are activities best not seen too intimately by the public. Not only does it make good sense to put an asterisk beside Bismarck’s thoughts as they might not emanate from the American school of democratic thought – his own political career was perpetuated less by electoral consent than by a series of appointments to successively higher offices – but it’s also a matter of precaution. As consumers of Olympia brand sausage, we can learn to stomach some of the grist and gristle as a necessary step toward getting rid of some of the tainted meat and rodent hair.

SB 6177 now sits on Gov. Jay Inslee’s desk waiting to either be signed (or not signed) into law – only a veto by the governor can give lawmakers a mulligan to reconsider their decision.

Roll Calls of Each Legislative Body on ESB 6617

Washington State Senate

Washington State House of Representatives

[Featured image: jfergusonphotos]

Gerrymandering not a problem for Washington state, new analysis finds.

Gerrymandering is real, but is it a problem in Washington state? New analysis finds, no, not so much.

You may have noticed a topic emerging in fringe political conversations, perhaps to be forced through into the mainstream dialogue just in time for the 2020 election: gerrymandering.

As gerrymandering could be a backdrop issue used by the left to frame a narrative the next election cycle – messaging like ‘systemic inequities in how we do elections’ is your early warning code to know that the issue is being played – it’s fair for Washington state voters to ask whether their state’s districting process is working.

In its most blatant manifestation, gerrymandering – the drawing of political boundaries to exaggerate political advantages for a particular party – is a means for a dominant party to protect its own power. “Packing” and “cracking” districts for that purpose is a data-driven enterprise, and so it makes sense to use a data-driven analysis to determine whether it’s being done.

A new analysis done by the data science group at Voter Science asked a simple question: “Is Washington state gerrymandered?” The group’s finding was, no, at least in the way the legislative district map has been drawn.*

The Voter Science statistical analysis method follows accepted techniques to identify what are called “efficiency gaps” – patterns in elections results in legislative and statewide races that indicate districting has been manipulated. The complete report can be read on the group’s blog and boils down to the following conclusions:

  1. The legislative results are within proximity of the statewide governor results. And when measured across a wide range of candidates, there is no consistent advantage from district boundaries over a pure statewide vote.
  2. The house and senate GOP caucus performances do perform exceptionally well – particularly compared to the statewide performance of most GOP candidates. But this appears to be more due to the caucuses picking candidates to fit their district rather than gerrymandering.
  3. If we deliberately create theoretical gerrymandered districts via computer simulation, the potential GOP advantage would be significantly higher than what we witness.

The data and analysis are well worth diving into for those interested in becoming more educated on a subject that could become a talking point in the near future.

 

  • Full disclosure: I have a minority stake in Voter Science, but I had no role in developing these findings)
[image credit: ventanamedia]

Recipe: Pasta Rustico with Sausage, Peas and Cream Sauce

Serves 4

Ingredients

1 lb. pasta (casarecce, penne or bucatini)

1 tbsp. olive oil

1 lb. Italian sausage, mild or spicy depending on taste

2 tbsp. butter

1 1/2 cups cream

1 cup frozen peas

Freshly ground black pepper

1 cup grated parmesan cheese

Instructions

Into a large pot of salted, boiling water, add pasta and cook until al dente. Drain, but do not rinse.

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add sausage and brown, breaking into medium-size pieces until cooked through, about 6 to 8 minutes; remove onto a plate lined with paper towels to drain.

Add butter to pan and when melted add cream; bring to a boil and then turn heat down to medium. Reduce until sauce has thickened and will coat the back of a spoon, about 8 minutes. Season with pepper to taste. Return sausage to pan, add peas, and stir to combine. Remove from heat and add pasta to pan. Before stirring to combine pasta and sauce, sprinkle cheese over pasta. Stir to combine and serve.

State Republican Party Chair Susan Hutchison to step down

As the saying goes, it’s out with the old and in with the new at the Washington State Republican Party with a surprise announcement Tuesday morning that chair Susan Hutchison will step down on February 4, according to an official release.

“The WSRP is in a robust financial position with a bright future. I expect that 2018 will result in many exciting wins for the GOP in our state—among them, Dino Rossi will hold the 8th Congressional seat, the Republicans will move into leadership in the State House of Representatives by flipping at least one seat, and there might even be some surprises in the State Senate,” Hutchison said.

Hutchison was elected chair in 2013 to serve out the remainder of outgoing Chair Kirby Wilbur‘s term after he stepped aside to head up the Young America’s Foundation’s journalism program. She was re-elected in 2015 and 2017 to consecutive two-year terms.

According to the WSRP’s announcement, the man or woman who will serve out the remainder of the current term will be elected at the party’s state committee meeting scheduled for January 20 in Moses Lake.

Northwest Daily Marker was also shown an email Hutchison sent to members of the state committee and executive board, a graceful exit note in which she offered her insights about the qualities the party should seek in her successor but did not offer any hints about her future plans.

It’s not a secret that the party has struggled to contend with voter angst regarding Pres. Donald Trump, particularly in suburban parts of Western Washington where Republicans had experienced some success in recent years. However, last year’s loss of the 45th legislative district state Senate race has been quietly discussed among insiders as an early warning of a possible tsunami ahead. Hutchison was a strident supporter of Trump throughout the bumps, gaffes, and sporadic flourishes of the 2016 presidential race.

The complete release from the WSRP is as follows:

Susan Hutchison Stepping Down as WSRP Chairman

The longtime Chairman of the WSRP, Susan Hutchison, announced today that she will step down from her leadership role on February 4, 2018. “The WSRP is in a robust financial position with a bright future. I expect that 2018 will result in many exciting wins for the GOP in our state—among them, Dino Rossi will hold the 8th Congressional seat, the Republicans will move into leadership in the State House of Representatives by flipping at least one seat, and there might even be some surprises in the State Senate, “Susan said.

Elected soon after the 2012 elections, Susan took over a party that was demoralized and broke. As a skilled fundraiser, she substantially increased small-dollar and major donor contributions. “Unlike the Democrats, we don’t have the public employee unions writing us big checks to keep the lights on, so we depend on the investments of more than 7,000 loyal Republicans throughout the state.” That money is used to win elections at every level of government, with emphasis on those serving “under the dome” in Olympia. In fact, during Susan’s chairmanship, the GOP flipped 9 seats to the Democrats’ 3 takeaways in Olympia.

As leader of the 125-member State Central Committee, Susan is known for fairness and respect for other’s views. “Whether at the State Committee meetings or the huge State Convention, Chairman Hutchison presides with strength and skill. Everyone trusts her to hold the balance between allowing every voice to be heard and maintaining order,” says Caleb Heimlich, who has served under two chairmen as WSRP Executive Director. “We all think she is a great leader.”

Chairman Hutchison is recognized at the RNC for her professional management of the WSRP and has trained others how to turn their state parties around. “I’m particularly proud of the talented men and women who serve alongside me. Together, we have grown the resources that political parties need to help candidates, volunteers and elected officials. Training, voter registration and identification, data, messaging and fundraising are some of the services we provide.”

Susan serves on the RNC Executive Committee, appointed by RNC Chairman Ronna Romney McDaniel who also asked her to be on the Transition Committee in early 2017. “I’m pleased that the national party recognizes the quality of the three members of the Washington delegation, including Jeff Kent, National Committeeman and Fredi Simpson, National Committeewoman, alongside whom I have been honored to serve,” Susan said.

Susan was elected to the Debate Committee during the 2015-16 Republican Primary season. “The highlight of that long and unique Primary contest was our voters selecting a candidate who would go on to win the Presidency. I never doubt the voters’ wisdom—it’s the core of democracy,” Susan said. “President Trump has made good on his promises in 2017 and I look forward to what 2018 will bring.”

Susan is in her 5th year as Chairman, having served twice as long as the average tenure of her 7 predecessors. “I have loved this job–especially the challenges. I hope I will be remembered for being strong and courageous, standing up for Republican voters.”

Election for a new WSRP Chairman will be held at the winter State Committee meeting on January 20, 2018 in Moses Lake. After a two-week transition, the new Chairman will start February 5, 2018.

 

GOP should ignore the Democrats Goldilocks game-playing and move ahead on meaningful tax reform

I know one of the big criticisms of the tax reform bill is that the GOP moved it too fast and without enough input from the left. Then again, when doesn’t the left criticize what the GOP is doing?

As with any major policy overhaul, there are hairs to split if we choose to do so. But sometimes moving quickly to bring relief to a nation of overburdened taxpayers is more apropos than sitting quietly together and fretting over whose feelings are going to be hurt because they weren’t consulted early enough, long enough or just plain enough.

Two facts jump out at me as the tax reform debate rages. The first being that our tax code needs an update yesterday. The major reforms put in place by President Reagan were well suited to that time and economy…over thirty years ago. So yes, it is time for some codified tax reform and yes, the Republicans are in charge while it happens.

The other fact is big-D Democratic policies are bad for business. Any economic philosophy that champions government participation and depends on the government as a competent and key player is bound to fail, usually to the tune of billions of taxpayer dollars. A conservative approach is by definition pro-growth and pro-people. As a business owner (a few times over) and entrepreneur, I know firsthand what it takes to run a business well. I can tell you that spending what amounts to weeks of time and tens of thousands of dollars to comply with a tax code written a decade before cell phones were even a thing (they came into widespread use in 1996, for you younger readers) is not any business owner’s idea of best practices. The tax code needs to be simpler. Taxes on small businesses need to be lower. The current tax code doesn’t account for either of those so guess what? Time for some tax reform.

Entrepreneurs and small business owners are the bedrock of the American economy. If we want to keep America great domestically and as an international economic powerhouse, we need to make changes that pave the way for this to happen. I’m not saying government needs to make a way, I’m saying government needs to get out of its own way. The GOP tax reform plan will loosen the vise grip our tax code has on the throats of American businesses. More room to breathe in business means more hiring, more investment in our businesses, more goods and services produced to the benefit of all. Yes, even to the benefit of a government that will still be collecting taxes from these thriving, expanding businesses and their employees.

Conservative values result in life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Conservative values are driving this tax reform and conservative values will win the day when Congress votes on its final passage and sends the bill to the president. Representatives Reichert, Herrera Beutler, Newhouse and McMorris Rodgers deserve credit for supporting this package, and I hope they’ll stay on board as the final package emerges in the next few days.  Conservative values don’t depend on the approval, applause or even the participation of the left.

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