Category: Washington (Page 2 of 54)

Seattle’s biggest loser on Election Night 2016 was Kshama Sawant. Here’s why.

Kshama_Sawant_at_University_Commons_GroundbreakingIt’s clear that after last week’s elections, Seattle is in no danger of losing its place as the new West Coast capital of socialist politics.

But a reading of results on ballot measures and Seattle City Councilwoman Kshama Sawant’s comfortable re-election may obscure other indications that Seattle socialist movement has stalled, at least for now.

In general, Seattle affirmed and intensified its reputation as a bastion of liberal politics. They passed a transportation package that will move bikes — but not cars — marginally more efficiently and substantially more expensively through downtown.

Seattle voters also stood apart from the rest of Washington by rejecting yet another widely popular measure meant to constrain the state’s ability to raise taxes — Initiative 1366.

For good measure, they enacted an arguably unconstitutional, property tax-funded public campaign financing scheme, one that must have union and community organizers salivating in anticipation of opportunities for graft and electoral corruption like Seattle hasn’t seen for maybe a century or more.

One might assume that if you’re a moderate Democrat in Seattle, after all of those harbingers of civic decay rolled in, Sawant’s re-election would have come as a coup de grâce — a finishing blow.

Nevertheless, it’s easy to imagine that some of Seattle’s moderate city council members and frustrated business leaders may have quietly celebrated Election Night 2015 as “Freedom from Sawant Day.”

That’s because amid all of the signs that Seattle’s political hue has darkened from navy blue to blue-black, Sawant’s brand of militant ‘eat the rich’ socialism failed to expand either its market share or its legislative power.

As Sawant’s influence over the Seattle City Council has been enabled by belief that she represented the leading edge of a surging socialist tilt, so would the rejection of two city council candidates who campaigned alongside her on the issue of rent controlLisa Herbold (District 1) and Jon Grant (Position 8, at-large) — be recognized as the sleeper takeaway from the 2015 election: the empress has no coattails.

(Note: As of Nov. 12, Herbold only trails her opponent Shannon Braddock by six votes. Yes, that’s the number six as in half the number of eggs that go into the infamous mega-omelette at Beth’s Cafe. It’s hard to say whether a narrow win by Herbold would be interpreted as a mandate of any kind, but it seems certain that it can’t be seen as evidence of a socialist surge.)

Although Sawant’s ability to mobilize against her opponents has had moderates and progressives tripping over each other in a mad rush to move to the left, in order for those shifts to become permanent her ideological partners in crime needed to win.

Sawant may privately recognize the impact of Tuesday’s election, though socialist-friendly media may begin churning out cheap fan fiction featuring tales of secret Republican money and gerrymandered districts to explain away the losses by Herbold and Grant.

But money is just a means of activating voters, not a method of engineering votes. Voters spoke by rejecting candidates who did all but pinky swear to charter a Sawant-led caucus and form a new voting bloc if elected. Those losses dealt Sawant a double blow, politically, by depriving her of two reliable votes on her shoulders and by revealing to her adversaries that she lacks the power to unseat them.

Plain and simple: Sawant lost big time because elections matter more than choreographed protests when it comes to creating permanent political change.

I won’t cry for Kshama, but if she feels like forcing a tear or two she could reflect on the comparative success Tea Party and conservative groups have had in shifting the center of gravity in the Republican Party.

The stunning primary election ouster of then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor by Rep. David Brat (R-VA-7) in 2014 was one such event that sent a message to the GOP establishment.

Last Tuesday in Kentucky, another such message was pounded home by hardcore conservative Republican Matt Bevin, who had run an unsuccessful primary effort in 2014 to unseat Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, was comfortably elected to become the state’s next governor.

In Washington state in 2014, many Republicans held their breath through a narrow victory by Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA-4) against fire-breathing farmer and former pro football player Clint Didier.

Conservative wins are incentivizing the Republican establishment to face a reality: intense conservative urges still exist within its base. A craving for more active responses to fiscal nonsense and creeping codification of progressive social policy might have been dismissed if not for the wake-up call that only elections can provide.

Sawant is a key figure in a fringe movement within the universe of Democratic voters. Seattle elections this year were an early opportunity to transform the mobilizing strength of her movement into electoral victories and expand legislative power. She lost that battle to win the political heights. Whether more reasonable, pragmatic minds will read the tea leaves and move to circumscribe Sawant’s power inside a smaller, appropriately sized space remains to be seen.

[The story has been edited since publication to reflect the very close race in Seattle City Council District 3.]

Holding Washington and other Western states hostage over water | Op-Ed

A dominant theme washing over Capitol Hill in the waning days of the session centers on how Congress can effectively address the diverse and legitimate needs of the many Western States confronting historic drought and water issues. There are nearly two-dozen legislative proposals from both Democrats and Republicans tackling everything from the EPA’s “Waters of the U.S” regulations and carbon-reduction rules to drought relief for farmers and ranchers affecting many Western states.

Drought in Washington and across the West have caused billions of dollars in impacts and are predicted to cost billions more in the coming years.

Our elected officials have taken notice.

Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA-4) is making it his priority to facilitate the construction of new dams and reservoirs to increase Washington’s water storage capacity by introducing the Bureau of Reclamation Surface Water Storage Streamlining Act of 2015.

Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) is pushing the Yakima River Basin Water Enhancement Project Phase III Act, which provides an integrated approach to addressing water management in Washington’s Yakima Basin. As the Yakima Basin faces continued drought and climate impacts, the federal government has a responsibility to act now to prevent future impacts and costs in meeting its legal responsibilities in the basin.

This summer California Rep. David Valadao (R-CA-21) and 25 bipartisan co-sponsors — including Newhouse and Rep. Scott Tipton (R-CO-3) — introduced HR 2898, a drought relief bill that would benefit Washington, as well as California and our other Western states. It passed in the House, but was coldly received by the Senate, even though many knew that California senator Dianne Feinstein contributed to its provisions.

California Senators Feinstein and Barbara Boxer responded with an alternative, a bill that would grab $1.3 billion in federal funds for California; 12 environmental activist groups helped Feinstein and Boxer draft their measure. While these senators command respect, their bill would do little for Washington and other Western states. Rather, it would simply help expand California’s environmental mandates to our state and many others.

We need much more than that.

By some estimates more than 93 million Americans are now impacted by the Western drought. At least twelve western states are falling victim to drought conditions and receiving USDA drought relief: Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Utah and Washington. The impact of the drought ripples across the nation, which has a vested interest in food prices, the security of our food supply and the economy at large.

With over 92% of all federally owned lands located in the West, Americans are growing concerned about impacts on national parks and national forests. After all, issues concerning water, air and other natural resources cross state lines from coast to coast.

The U.S. House of Representatives’ response was to sensibly bundle its Western States package of measures into a comprehensive regional plan to address drought rather than dedicate federal funds to a single state’s crisis. A comprehensive package solves many states’ problems rather than dealing with them piecemeal.

As important as California is, and despite its historic drought crisis, a California-centric approach is myopic and unfair. The federal government must take ownership and responsibility for untangling the unwieldy web of local, state and federal government regulations that control the West’s water.

The drought is regional; it’s bigger than California and any fix should address the needs of the West, not just one state. Senators Feinstein and Boxer know that. The sooner congressional delegations across the West all band together and start treating the water crisis as an American issue of national importance, it helps our state of Washington, the West, and the nation — and that includes California.

WA-GOV | Dave Reichert stays put, Bill Bryant sole Republican running to unseat Jay Inslee

U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert (R-Auburn)

U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert (R-Auburn)

After months of speculation culminating in several weeks of deliberate rumor-stoking, the wait is over. Congressman Dave Reichert (WA-8) will not run for Washington state governor… again.

In a statement released Friday, Reichert expressed concern for the state under current Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee’s leadership, but said he believes he can best serve the people by seeking re-election to represent Washington’s 8th Congressional District. Reichert wrote:

Like so many of you, I have been extremely disappointed in the decisions coming out of the Governor’s Office — regarding our schools, the health of our children, and most recently a decision to give the Green River serial killer a chance to enjoy life in a nicer prison. We deserve better.

Yet, I believe I can better serve you now, today, in another Washington where politicians are more interested in fighting each other than fighting for America; where leadership has been in retreat, and courage has been on recess.

The fifth-term congressman and former King County Sheriff’s displeasure with Inslee’s performance seems to be shared by voters. The governor’s job approval rating in some non-published polls is soft — hovering in the mid-40s — and the most recent Elway Poll finding that only 30 percent of voters would definitely vote to give the governor a second term each indicate weakness.

Reichert’s decision to remove his name from consideration leaves Republican candidate for governor and Seattle Port Commissioner Bill Bryant with an open field to run in toward the primary, at least for now.

(The absence of any mention of Bryant in Reichert’s statement was noticed by some Republican insiders.)

Seattle Port Commissioner and candidate for governor Bill Bryant

Seattle Port Commissioner and candidate for governor Bill Bryant

Bryant knew his cue and quickly blasted an email to supporters complimenting Reichert for his public service and sending the signal that his campaign was shifting into a higher gear. Bryant wrote:

My campaign for governor of Washington State now moves into a new phase; a phase focused on the challenges confronting our kids, teachers & classrooms, on the challenges confronting communities across Washington that need family wage jobs, and on the challenges facing the Puget Sound and the salmon runs that are part of our history, culture and economy.

Our campaign needs to make some noise, offer the people an alternative leadership style, one that not only articulates a vision, but that is capable of building coalitions that gets stuff done.

State Republican Party Chairwoman Susan Hutchison issued her own statement giving praise to both Reicher and Bryant. Hutchison wrote:

Congressman Reichert has an exemplary record of public service, and the people of his district, Washington State, and the country will be well served by him focusing on his current role.

Republican Bill Bryant is running a strong campaign for Governor, meeting voters across the state and building support to replace the Governor who can’t govern, Jay Inslee.

The relatively minimal statements of Hutchison, Reichert and Bryant marked an important plot point in a story stretching back nearly three years.

Chatter among Republicans as to who could beat Inslee in 2016 began not long after Election Night 2012. Conversations took place at conferences, in coffee shops and among groups gathering through social media, but along the GOP grapevine Bryant’s name wasn’t registering in those early discussions as the top-tier choice of Republicans. Reichert, however, was mentioned often as an A-list option, a candidate with considerable name identification and a persona that matched up against Inslee’s protector archetype. In certain circles, prospects for a run by state Senator Andy Hill (R-Redmond) generated proportional excitement, originating largely from his calm leadership under fire during budget battles in Olympia and his record of winning in part of King County.

Meanwhile, Bryant went to work to build and strengthen his reach across Washington, crisscrossing the state and subjecting himself to the rigors of rubber chicken dinners at Lincoln Day events in nearly every county. He recruited grassroots activists into his campaign and racked up a significant list of endorsements including leading state legislators from both sides of the Cascades, port commissioners, as well former Gov. Dan Evans and former U.S. Sen. Slade Gorton.

Since launching his official campaign this May, Bryant has also drawn financial support, raising more than $575,000 in the doldrums of the 2nd and 3rd quarters of this year.

[Bryant’s accumulated campaign finances may have been one factor in Reichert’s decision. Reichert’s federal campaign coffers hold just over $607,000 as of Sept. 30, which would put him slightly ahead of Bryant in the fundraising contest, but the procedure for sweeping those monies over for use in a state race is tedious and could reduce the total available. (See “Inslee Discloses Details of Disputed $200K Transfer from Fed Account, Several Donors Over the Max,” Northwest Daily Marker, 9/3/11.)]

Bryant still has a lot of work to do to catch up to Inslee in fundraising. Even contending with several financing blackouts during regular legislative sessions, overtimes and triple overtimes, Inslee has amassed almost $2.4 million, though it’s worth noting that $320,000 of Inslee’s contributions in 2015 came as transfers from the state Democratic machine. Without those as early and necessary cash transfusions, Inslee’s fundraising edge in 2015 narrows to less than $280,000. Not a photo finish, for sure, but neither is it a runaway for the incumbent.

Nevertheless, Team Bryant’s early totals are a respectable ante to play in the contest ahead. As an incumbent holding statewide office, Inslee’s name identification is high and Bryant’s is relatively low; closing the gap will require more than just the candidate’s shoe leather and an army of enthusiastic volunteers.

The question of exactly how much money Bryant will need to raise depends largely on whether he remains the only candidate drawing on Republican and conservative votes in the primary. On the conservative right, there has been very little buzz about potential entrants into the primary who might appeal to voters whose tastes tend more toward Clint Didier, leaving some wondering if a challenge to Bryant from the right could still emerge late in the race.

Column | Supreme Court should apply ‘common school’ standard evenly to all schools

With all of the subtlety and compassion of a slumlord tacking a three-day eviction notice to the door on Christmas Eve, the Washington Supreme Court last week handed down a 6-3 ruling to strike down the state’s voter-approved charter school law.

The timing of the decision was callous and cowardly, coming late on a Friday heading into a three-day holiday weekend when an estimated 1,200 charter school students had either already begun classes or were eagerly anticipating the first day.

The Court took nineteen pages to justify its ruling, but their opinion can be boiled down to one idea: “[C]harter schools do not qualify as common schools.” The Court has previously ruled that schools that are not common schools cannot use funds intended for common school purposes.

That leaves one small matter — what is a “common school?” The word itself may lead the average person to believe a common school is just a school that is open to all students and does not charge tuition, but the full definition is established in precedent that goes back 106 years.

In School District No. 20 v. Bryan [1909], the Court established a set of standards for common schools. Aside from aspects of open enrollment and local control, the spirit of the decision seems to coalesce around preserving accountability to the voters for how publicly funded schools would be operated. From Bryan: [ed. bold added]

“The complete control of the schools is a most important feature, for it carries with it the right of the voters, through their chosen agents, to select qualified teachers, with powers to discharge them if they are incompetent.”

Hang on a second. You say that complete control is “a most important feature” of a common school? Agents chosen by the voters (a.k.a., school board members) need to have the ability to get rid of bad teachers?

Chief Justice Madsen and Company, I believe you’ve inadvertently raised the question of whether any schools in Washington are, in practice, constitutional.

In the sense of how schools function and whether the degree of accountability, most balanced observers of our K-12 system would have to find it falling far short of the bar set in Bryan.

By affirming the plainly written common school standard in Bryan, did the Court condemn charter schools and traditional schools alike? Because while it’s technically true that schools can act to dismiss bad teachers, the practical reality is painfully obvious. The swift and authoritative mechanism the justices were striving to protect with Bryan has — in the intervening 106 years — been subverted by a thicket of union-strewn contractual red tape that has the effect of protecting bad teachers.

Union rules have made getting rid of incompetent teachers so cumbersome that in too many cases the cure is worse than the disease, and so incompetence is internally managed. The kids suffer, particularly minority and low-income students who often can’t just move to a more expensive neighborhood in order to evacuate a school that is not meeting this basic common school standard.

This new normal across large swaths of the K-12 universe is, in fact, a large part of why voters approved Initiative 1240 in the first place.

Could the Court have decided differently? Could they have overturned Bryan and avoided sending 1,200 students into a state of educational limbo?

We’re told by proponents of an activist judiciary that constitutions are living things, and that they need to adapt with the times. Justices in 1909 were still in the process of protecting the institution of public education during its adolescence. It’s unlikely their deliberation would have included imagining a future in which unions with crushing political power would place virtual handcuffs on school boards and administrators to make the need for local control just a quaint notion; an idea that went out of fashion right along with spats on shoes and flapper dresses.

How would the Seattle or Tacoma School Districts fare if measured by a future Court against the Bryan standard, particularly if that panel of justices required evidence of local control in staffing decisions to find the common school standard had been met?

Times have changed. Chief Justice Madsen, Associate Chief Justice Johnson, and Justices Owens, Stephens, Wiggins and Yu should be able to recognize that and it was within their grasp to do something about it. They chose to maintain the status quo.

Elections matter. Of the justices who signed onto the 6-3 decision, the terms of Associate Chief Justice Charles Johnson and Justice Debra Stephens are up at the end of this year.

Teachers in Lake Washington School District Vote to Shut Down Schools May 6

Teachers in the Lake Washington School District voted on Thursday to shut down classes on May 6, the first approval by a King County teachers union to walk out to protest what they claims is a failure of the state legislature to fully fund basic education.

Educators in the largely suburban district serving the communities of Kirkland, Redmond, and Sammamish now join fellow teachers in districts in Pierce, Snohomish, Skagit, and Whatcom counties who have already conducted a one-day walkout or have voted to schedule a day of protest.

The Lake Washington Education Association’s—the union representing LWSD’s teachers—posted news of the walkout vote to its Facebook page late Thursday night.

LWEA joins Fourth Corner Locals in staging a one day  walkout against the legislature on May 6th. With an 83.5% vote of…

Posted by Lake Washington Education Association on Thursday, April 23, 2015

 

Prior to the LWEA’s announcement on social media, LWSD Superintendent Dr. Traci Pierce sent an email to parents notifying them of the impending walkout, saying the “LWEA worked closely with the district to schedule this action on a day that would minimize disruption for students and parents to the greatest extent possible.”

In the email, Pierce seemed also to speak for the teachers union, saying, “It is important for families to know that this LWEA action is not directed at the Lake Washington School District or the Lake Washington communities. We share the LWEA’s concern that the legislature should fully fund basic education.”

An official statement was also posted on the Lake Washington School District website.

Editorial | The Seattle Times Editorial Board Owes Voters an Apology

For several weeks, in three editorials, the Seattle Times Editorial Board has sunk its teeth into scandalized Democrat state auditor Troy Kelley, who this week was indicted on 10 federal criminal charges including filing false tax returns, obstruction of justice and possession of stolen property.

Their outrage commenced in response to Kelley’s unwillingness to answer questions about what federal agents were looking for when they raided his Tacoma home (March 24, 2015, “State Auditor Troy Kelley must come clean”), grew louder when his “self-imposed witness protection program” continued (April 3, 2015, “State Auditor Troy Kelley must resign”), and reached a roaring climax yesterday when the news of his formal indictment prompted nearly every Washingtonian not blood-related to Kelley to call for his immediate resignation (April 16, 2015, “Time for Troy Kelley to show himself the door”).

{Cue slow golf clap.}

Please forgive those who may not see riding atop a juggernaut of public opinion as a shining example of journalistic integrity.

Although those three full-throated editorials blistering Kelley are right on the mark they do not erase the Times’ original sin in this story—their decision to endorse Kelley in 2012 for the office he now holds onto with the stubborn strength of a desperate man.

The Seattle Times editorial board owes its readers an apology for its 2012 endorsement of the then-candidate and now indicted Kelley.

Not because we don’t all get it wrong from time to time—we all do—but because the Times got it spectacularly wrong when they had all of the reasons handed to them to get it right.

Allegations that Kelley had been involved in the shady business dealings that now form the foundation of 10 federal criminal charges were first brought forward by his opponent in the 2012 campaign, business consultant James Watkins.

(Side note: The Northwest Daily Marker reviewed the evidence as part of our decision whether to run our initial story on the allegations that now form the case against him in federal court. We felt at the time, as we do now, the allegations were valid and well-documented enough to be newsworthy and warrant further public scrutiny.)

In awarding their endorsement to Kelley, the Times chided Watkins for his having brought the allegations by posting them on a website, characterized the act as “mudslinging,” and warned that “[v]oters should be cautious about the files posted on [factcheckkelley.com]. Legal documents are rife with hyperbole.”

So, because the Times didn’t like the style of Watkin’s message it appears they felt comfortable ignoring it and then shooting the messenger for good measure.

(It should also be noted that although the Times claimed in its March 24 piece that the original endorsement “called on Kelley to release a 2011 legal settlement involving one of his former businesses.” We have read the version of the endorsement still published on the Seattle Times website and were unable to find a statement that comes anywhere close to making a clear demand of that sort. If they had, one would have expected them to call him to task at some point during the 15 months following the demand, but not a word was printed on the subject after the endorsement until the federal case became known.)

In reality, it doesn’t matter who the messenger is or what the method of their delivery may be if the message itself has some hard evidence to suggest it might be true. Putting it aside because you don’t like the style of delivery is not an acceptable practice for organizations that believe the public deserves the truth about serious allegations.

We don’t deserve the truth for moral reasons—the special protections given to the press under the First Amendment imply a covenant of sorts that must function in a legitimate democracy.

The Seattle Times Editorial Board should step forward and give readers the apology they deserve.

Democrats Join Republicans in Call for Resignation of State Auditor After Federal Criminal Indictment

Democrats in the Pacific Northwest were already having a tough year, scandalwise, and the road forward isn’t looking much better because of news Thursday that Washington State Auditor Troy Kelley was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of filing false tax returns, obstruction of justice and possession of stolen property, according to multiple news outlets.

From Q13 Fox:

The grand jury returned the indictment Wednesday, and it was unsealed Thursday. Kelley is scheduled to appear at U.S. District Court in Tacoma at 2:30 p.m. Thursday.

According to the indictment, between 2003 and 2008 Kelley operated a business that was paid by real estate title companies. Kelley allegedly had agreements with those companies for fees he could change in connection with document-tracking work. Kelley allegedly kept money from transactions with the companies, resulting in more than $2 million in stolen money.

Furthermore, the indictment alleges the state auditor failed to pay federal taxes and obstructed IRS in its efforts to collect taxes from him.

The federal investigation targeting Kelley became public in early March when the press learned that agents had raided Kelley’s home and served a subpoena for documents on the state auditor’s office. Since then, Kelley’s fellow Democrats have kept their cards close to the vest regarding any need for the auditor to step down, but all reticence disappeared on today’s breaking news as a wave of calls for Kelley to resign emerged.

In a rare display of unity, elected representatives and officials from both parties were all saying basically the same thing Thursday—Kelley must step down.

Gov. Jay Inslee, who one day earlier seemed to become semi-belligerent when a reporter asked questions about how hard he was willing to press Kelley for a meeting to discuss the investigation, put on his alpha dog collar and demanded Kelley’s resignation.

“This indictment today makes it clear to me that Troy Kelley cannot continue as state auditor,” Inslee said. “He should resign immediately. An appointee can restore confidence in the office and assure the public that the Office of the State Auditor will operate at the high standards required of the post.”

State Democratic Party Chairman Jaxon Ravens also surfaced to join the frenzy.

“Troy Kelley no longer has the trust of the people of Washington, and it is time for him to resign,” said Ravens.

On the flipside of the spectrum, State Republican Party Chairwoman Susan Hutchison was among the first to ask for Kelley’s resignation, and released a statement today in which she upped the ante by suggesting that if Kelley won’t step down, the Legislature should move to impeach.

“Democrat State Auditor Troy Kelley has been indicted for tax evasion, filing false tax returns, false declarations, obstruction, and possession of stolen property. He must resign immediately. We were the first to call upon Kelley to resign many weeks ago when it became clear that the investigation into his financial dealings would harm the reputation of the office. If he chooses not to resign immediately, the legislature should introduce articles of impeachment. The position of Auditor is responsible for holding individuals and entities in government accountable for their financial management. It is imperative that Kelley resign immediately in order to restore trust in state government.”

According to KING 5 reporter Drew Mikkelsen, Democratic lawmakers are not going to take impeachment off the table.

Kelley has scheduled a news conference for 4:00 PM Thursday and released a prepared statement to the press in which he denied the charges but has only stated that he would take a voluntary leave of absence beginning May 1.

“I am obviously disappointed that the U.S. Attorney’s office has taken this action,” Kelley wrote. “I believe the indictment has no merit and want to note that none of the allegations touch on my work as an elected official in any way.”

“Beginning May 1st, I will take a temporary leave of absence from my duties as Washington State Auditor to allow my office to continue to do its important work without distraction,” the auditor continued. “I fully intend to resume my duties after I put these legal matters to rest.”

If Kelley Does Decide to Resign, What Happens Next?

Should Kelley heed the demands of nearly every elected official and opinion leader in the state and step down, what happens next is largely a matter of timing.

A representative from the State Attorney General’s Office confirmed by email that state law provides for an interim successor to be appointed but requires an election to permanently fill a vacancy in a statewide elected office.

The election to fill the vacancy be on the next available statewide general election for which the filing period has not yet begun.

The filing period for the November 3, 2015 election begins May 11. So, if Kelley resigned on May 12, his appointed successor could conceivably be the interim acting state auditor through the November 2016 election. Some might argue that Democrats have a strong incentive to talk tough in the hallways of Olympia while slow-walking on the actual process of pressuring Kelley to move on.

[Ed. We previously reported that the filing period for the next general election began on May 12 which was incorrect. We have updated the story above accordingly.]

Gov. Inslee Gets ‘Testy’ with Press, Suggests Reporter and He ‘Go Out in the Alleyway’

The Olympia press corps were introduced to a new and significantly less cheery side of Gov. Jay Inslee’s personality on Wednesday when the Democratic governor flashed a bit of testosterone and temper after his effort to have a sit-down with scandal-plagued state Auditor Troy Kelley was called into question, according to the Seattle Times.

From the Times: [Ed. bold added]

John Stang, a reporter with Crosscut, an online Seattle news site, … [asked] why Inslee hadn’t demanded a sit-down meeting since the two elected officials’ offices are in adjacent buildings. “Isn’t that sort of weak?” Stang asked.

The question appeared to steam Inslee, who responded, “No, John, it isn’t weak, and you and I have to go out in the alleyway and decide who is weak on this. You’ve hit my hot button on that.”

Hot button, indeed.

The press snark on Twitter was priceless and made entirely at the governor’s expense.

To be fair, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie turned buffaloing the press into a political franchise capable of earning himself national media attention and mention as a possible presidential contender. But this isn’t Jersey and Inslee isn’t Christie. Most importantly, the pressure on Inslee to perform the alpha dog duties of a party leader is not likely to weaken.

In a nutshell, Kelley’s troubles do not seem likely to go away anytime soon and bullying reporters should not make reporters stop asking Inslee probing questions.

Kelley has been embroiled in controversy since it became public in March that federal agents had raided his Tacoma home and subpoenaed auditor’s office records as part of a criminal investigation. Though he has not been charged with a crime, his involvement in the investigation has allowed questions about Kelley’s business dealings prior to holding public office to resurface.

Kelley’s refusal to directly answer questions about the current investigation have prompted many including the State Republican Party and the Seattle Times Editorial Board (who endorsed Kelley during the 2012 campaign, despite swirling allegations of wrongdoing) to call for the embattled auditor to resign.

Gov. Inslee ‘Concerned’ About Apparent Federal Investigation of State Auditor Troy Kelley

State Republican Chair Calls for Kelley to Step Down

TroyKelley-001

Washington State Auditor Troy Kelley

It’s not often that Republicans and the Democratic governor of Washington state, Jay Inslee, approach anything even close to tonal harmony in their public statements, almost as rare as federal authorities raiding the home of a statewide elected official.

Both uncommon developments occurred this week after federal agents conducted a warranted search of Washington State Auditor Troy Kelley’s Tacoma home Tuesday, an event that so far has created far more questions than answers.

On Friday, the potential revelation of what federal investigators might be looking for seemed closer with the release of a grand jury subpoena issued March 5th by the United States District Court in Seattle upon the office of the state auditor.

Under the order, the auditor’s office was required to hand over personnel files, emails, and work records of Jason Jerue, a part-time employee at the auditor’s office who previously worked at Post Closing Department, the mortgage title tracking company Kelley ran before his election to public office.

In 2011, Kelley settled a lawsuit with Old Republic Title under undisclosed terms.  In the suit, Old Republic claimed that Post Closing Department improperly kept $1.2 million in fees and unlawfully moved more than $3.8 million in funds between several bank accounts.

In the run-up to Kelley’s 2012 election, the Northwest Daily Marker reviewed and reported on deposition transcripts in which Kelley and his wife both seemed to confirm some of the funds in question were transmitted to an account in Belize.

In an email sent Thursday, Washington State Republican Party Chairwoman Susan Hutchison predictably sang a bit louder than Inslee, calling for the auditor to resign.

“As State Auditor, Kelley is responsible for finding and preventing waste, fraud, and abuse in state government. The position requires the highest standards of honesty and integrity. The citizens of this state are not served when the character of the State Auditor is called into question. Allegations of wrong doing occurred during his election in 2012, and have been affirmed by the media and now the federal government. If Kelley does not immediately step down, Democrat Governor Inslee should do the right thing and demand Kelley’s resignation.” [sic]

Though not responding directly to Hutchison’s demand, on Friday his office released a statement from communications director David Postman:

“The governor is very concerned about the apparent federal investigation involving the state auditor. We hope that the auditor will work with authorities and to the greatest extent possible – and as soon as possible — be open with the public. The voters, local governments, lawmakers and our administration need to have complete confidence in Mr. Kelley’s ability to carry out the very important duties of state auditor. The auditor should recuse himself from any official action involving this investigation. Washingtonians need to be assured that the auditor’s office will be able to continue its work without distraction or disruption by this investigation.”

Of course, Inslee’s request for transparency is only that—a request—and the substance of exactly what Kelley is being investigated for is not yet known.

Nevertheless, the empaneling of a grand jury that has subpoenaed a state agency for records relating to one of Kelley’s associates in advance of a raid of the auditor’s home is certainly cause for speculation.

Bipartisan Caucus Forms in Olympia to Focus on State’s Ability to Compete in Global Economy

OLYMPIA, WA, Mar. 12 -- Seattle Port Commissioner Bill Bryant speaks at the launch of the bipartisan Competitiveness Caucus.

OLYMPIA, WA, Mar. 12 — Seattle Port Commissioner Bill Bryant speaks at the launch of the bipartisan Competitiveness Caucus.

On Thursday, a bipartisan coalition of member from both houses in the state Legislature joined to focus on matters of how best to safeguard the state’s competitiveness in the critical area of international trade.

The newly formed Competitiveness Caucus will be led by co-chairs from the state Senate—Mike Hewitt (R-Walla Walla) and Tim Sheldon (D-Potlach)—and the state House—Brian Blake (D-Aberdeen) and Susan Fagan (R-Pullman).

They received congratulatory applause in the form of a celebratory press release sent by Keep Washington Competitive, a coalition representing business, labor, trade and agriculture organizations, in which Seattle Port Commissioner Bill Bryant spoke to the relationship between a functional regulatory environment, global competitiveness and protecting jobs here in Washington.

“Across Washington, thousands of family wage jobs depend on our ports,” said Bryant. “Unpredictable policies and permitting processes can undermine our ability to keep and attract employers that provide middle class jobs, and undermine our ability to generate more good jobs in communities across Washington.”

“Keep Washington Competitive, with the help of the newly formed Competitiveness Caucus, will maintain a much-needed focus on ensuring we adopt policies that both protect our environment and communities while generating jobs.”

Here is the entire press release issued Thursday by Keep Washington Competitive about the launch of the Competitiveness Caucus:

Competitiveness Caucus Launches in Olympia
Bipartisan group focuses on regulatory issues, jobs in letter to governor

OLYMPIA, Wash., March 12, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Republican and Democratic lawmakers joined forces today in Olympia to focus on issues that will protect and enhance Washington state’s competitiveness in global trade.

The newly launched Competitiveness Caucus is a collaborative effort welcomed by Keep Washington Competitive, a coalition of business, labor, agriculture and trade groups working to highlight regulatory and trade issues essential to the state’s long-term future.

“We have a unique opportunity today to bring so many different interests together around a common issue: our economy,” said Kris Johnson, president of the Association of Washington Business and a member of the KWC advisory board. “Employers all over Washington are looking for consistency when it comes to the regulatory process. Currently, there’s too much inconsistency —they need that certainty to expand and hire more people. Keep Washington Competitive and the new Competitiveness Caucus will help maintain state-level focus on regulatory issues and the roadblocks that stand to have deep, sustained impacts on our jobs, our trade status and our economy.”

“Today more than ever before, our industry must have attainable environmental standards to continue to manufacture and export products,” said Larry Brown, Legislative and Political Director, International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers, Local 751 and a member of the KWC advisory board. “We need regulatory policies that foster job growth and encourage production and export of our products. Other states are hungry for the kind of jobs and products we offer in Washington state. We need to be positioned to compete in a rapidly changing, global marketplace.”

Co-chairs for the new Competitiveness Caucus include Senate co-chairs Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla, and Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, along with House co-chairs Brian Blake, D-Aberdeen, and Susan Fagan, R-Pullman. As leaders of the new Competitiveness Caucus, the four legislators will maintain a focus on the state’s regulatory environment and trade growth. This includes:

A timely regulatory review process lasting no longer than 18 months for proposals meeting Washington state’s high environmental standards.

An environmental framework that is predictable and obtainable, focusing on the needs of communities where projects are to be built, rather than speculative impacts.

A commitment to promoting trade growth and the diversity of employment opportunities that sustain Washington’s middle class.

“Agriculture is the second largest export category in Washington,” said Tom Davis, director of government relations for the Washington State Farm Bureau. “More than $15 billion of agricultural products were exported from our ports in 2013. It’s an economic imperative that we have the ability to move our products from farm to market and to our port facilities in a timely and reliable manner. Sound policies are needed that promote and ensure this outcome.”

Seattle Port Commissioner Bill Bryant underscored the valuable role Washington’s ports play in our state’s economic vitality. The cargo moving through the ports of Tacoma and Seattle touch about one-third of the state’s gross domestic product — and about 200,000 jobs statewide.

“Across Washington, thousands of family wage jobs depend on our ports,” said Bryant. “Unpredictable policies and permitting processes can undermine our ability to keep and attract employers that provide middle class jobs, and undermine our ability to generate more good jobs in communities across Washington.”

“Keep Washington Competitive, with the help of the newly formed Competitiveness Caucus, will maintain a much-needed focus on ensuring we adopt policies that both protect our environment and communities while generating jobs.”

As part of today’s announcement, Johnson and members of the Competitiveness Caucus delivered a letter to Gov. Inslee signed by representatives of business, labor, agriculture and trade highlighting regulatory and trade issues in Washington state. To view the letter, click here.

About Keep Washington Competitive

In 2014, AWB and representatives from labor, business, agriculture and other trade organizations formed Keep Washington Competitive, a coalition united to protect trade from overreaching regulations and to promote bi-lateral trade growth in Washington state through sound state policies and fostering a regulatory environment that encourages investment in our state trade industries. To learn more, visit http://keepwashingtoncompetitive.com/.

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