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February 27, 2007

Interview with Governor Gregoire

I am an unabashed fan of Governor Gregoire, even in this time when she is taking a bit of bashing in the blogs over her reputed changes in position on the Viaduct.  I like her inclusive, get-everyone-to-the-table style of governing and think it generally works well and we’ve benefited as a state. Gov_gregoire

Every time I talk with legislators in this state about how things are going, they praise her for her ability to get things done and to give others the credit.  I talk sometimes about “transformational candidates or electeds”.  I’ve had legislators say that term fits the governor, someone who will change the way things get done in order to make sure that things get done, someone who recognizes that there is some serious need for a combination of good governing and aggressive tackling of key issues.    

Her ability to communicate to the public about what she is doing, well . . . . that is less than ideal.  She is clearly of the school that thinks that her efforts should speak for themselves.  Well, we wish. 

In a recent interview I did with her, it was clearly frustrating for her that the press focuses so much on conflict and not on the openings that she creates for resolution. 

I recently talked with the governor about two critical topics and got in a question on a third.  We went into some detail on education and global warming.  I asked a critical question about a third, the Viaduct. 

Let’s take the Viaduct issue first since we’re still on the front page. 

As a resident of Seattle, I will have to ask if there is any way the surface and transit option would be entertained by the state.

Gregoire:  Absolutely.  We did entertain it earlier but couldn’t make it work. We have a set of criteria we have to meet.  We have to maintain safety.  We have to meet capacity for both moving freight and people in that corridor. 

We’re not accommodating increases in capacity if we either rebuild the viaduct or build a new tunnel.  There won’t be an increase in today’s capacity.  It’s now somewhere in the neighborhood of 110,000 per day.

So, no matter what we do, we still have to maximize transit and surface.  No matter what happens, there has to be a comprehensive transit component.  We will need to be able to increase the capacity for moving the increase in population we are expecting.

Then, too, what we decide to do has to be fiscally responsible and friendly to urban design.

That’s why we’re working with Ron Sims.  The state is saying, “Show me what you’re talking about here”.   We’d like to see what the possibilities are.

The rest of the interview is over the fold.

Interview with Governor Chris Gregoire

Education

This is the centerpiece of Gregoire's proposals. She proposed spending $1.7 billion more on public schools than in the past budget cycle - including $130 million in new early learning policy changes and $343 million more on public schools.

Clearly your priority is on education, which I applaud.  Share a bit about why this is so important to you.

Gregoire: Our state is unique, geographically and with the number of international companies situated here.  That positions us well for the future but if we are going to succeed in a globalized economy, education has to be our #1 focus.

Every time I travel overseas to countries that are succeeding in attracting international investment, they talk about the importance of education. So, how do we transform Washington so that we have a world-class education system? 

We hear over and over that the first 5 years are the most important.  If we want our children to be able to succeed, education, and particularly early childhood education, has to be our first priority.

You are headed off to the National Governor’s Association Conference where you chair the Education, Early Childhood and Workforce Committee.  How does what you do there impact Washington’s efforts in educating our children?

Gregoire: I will showcase the early childhood education program, Washington Learns, that we have developed here.  We will also discuss the national No Child Left Behind program.  We will go to Congress and talk about changes we think need to be made in that bill which is up for re-authorization this year.  NCLB is very punitive with how it deals with children and schools.  People of all ages respond poorly to that.  We want accountability.  We are looking at the “English as a Second Language” provisions as well. In Washington State, we have a lot of children who first need to be able to speak English.  Then we can focus on the academic areas.

We also need a partnership with the federal government regarding financial costs.  The NCLB re-authorization bill now in Congress needs more focus on children.

Luckily, with more Democrats in Congress, we have more voice.

What about the issues about the math and science section of WASL?  There’s been a lot of conflict about whether to go forward with WASL because of that.

Gregoire: We’re happy about the language portion of WASL.  We’ve made great strides.  Students are scoring in the high 80’s.  So, we don’t want to change the language provisions.

The math and science section is different.  Students are scoring in the 50’s so clearly something is not working there.  Terry Bergstrom (Washington State Superintendent of Education) and I have gone forward with asking to set aside the math and science section until we have some safeguards in place for enabling students to succeed.

Global Warming

Since I interviewed Gregoire late last week, she has joined in a five-state Western Regional Climate Action Initiative, which she alluded to in our discussion here.

You have a very ambitious set of goals regarding global warming in your Climate Change Challenge.  And you’ve received kudos from a range of environmental groups for your proposals.  And what looks like cautious acceptance from business groups.

Gregoire: When we signed the Executive Order a few weeks ago, we had buy in from a wide range of groups – business, labor, local governments, environmentalists, and more.  Since then, others including a group of Catholic bishops and another group of evangelical church leaders, have come and asked to be a part of this endeavor. 

We want a broad based coalition for this to succeed over the long haul.  This may be a different strategy than other states are taking. 

Back at the National Governors’ Association, there is a small coalition of us from Washington, Oregon and California now.  We want to broaden our coalition, maybe even to include British Columbia.  Imagine the success we could have collectively if we were to tackle this issue with the support of a range of states and, maybe, British Columbia.

How do you foresee moving forward in terms of holding a broad coalition of stakeholders together, given the recent intense focus on the need for quick action?

Gregoire: We have a different challenge in Washington than other states have.  We use so much hydropower here and it is unlikely that we will be able to wring improvements out of that section of the energy sector.  So, our energy conservation has to come from other areas.  That is a different challenge than other states have. 

I’ve set some critical and ambitious goals.  Even if we fully implement what we’ve done in the last two years and, as you know, that’s a lot, it still only gets us to 60% improvements to the goals I set for 2020.  That’s where the Washington Climate Change Challenge comes in.  I wanted to put together this diverse group to come up with the ideas about how we achieve the next 40%.

Who’s invited to the table to make the specific decisions about how we move forward?

Gregoire: It’s broad-based; it’s not a closed group.  As I mentioned before, we’ve added groups that have wanted to be a part of this. We’ve also had visits from national organizations which want to partner with us.

This is a big issue.  The more groups we have at the table, the better off we’ll be as we work to implement it.

Are you supporting SB 6001 (a Senate bill sponsored by 21 Democratic Senators that focuses on mitigating the impacts of climate change)?

Gregoire:  Makes sense.  It will go through a lot before they vote on it.  I’ll look at it in detail after they’re farther along with it.  It will be different.

The big question for me, and I think a lot of people, is “Can these targets be met without a large infusion of money for mass transportation?”

Gregoire: For Washington State, it’s a challenge.  Other states which have coal may be able to do it easier.  That means that the major area of conservation for us is automobiles.  In larger cities, we will have to look at getting out of the auto.  We look to DC for being a good partner in this.  We will need federal assistance.

Jay is doing a great job with the Apollo Alliance. We’ve got wonderful delegates.

I hope that Congress will step up and take action.  It’s been a forbidden subject over the last several years.  It’s time Congress stood up and addressed the issue.

Thank you.

Posted by Lynn Allen on February 27, 2007 at 10:19 PM in Interviews | Permalink | Comments (3)

Take Action for Campaign Finance Reform

Washington Public Campaign, the wonderful organization working to bring a piece of sanity back to campaign financing in Washington State, needs our help as it comes to the stretch. 

This organization has been doing the heavy lifting of organizing and lobbying and working to change public opinion on the viability of publicly funding our elections in order to relieve candidates and elected officials of the burden of having to raise huge amounts of money.  They've trained a lot of speakers who've gone out into the communities, talking about how politicians could be less dependent on having to spend so much time meeting with rich folks  and with folks in the higher levels of corporations.

This change has already occurred in Maine and Arizona already and everybody likes it better.  The proof is that increasingly more legislators from both parties choose to take the path of government-financing, which means they cannot raise or spend money over a small threshold needed to be seen as viable candidates.  North Carolina finances Supreme Court races. 

We have a chance to enact a "first step" bill in Washington State, HB 1186, a bill to publicly fund judicial campaigns.  Remember the horrendously expensive state Supreme Court races last fall when the BIAW tried to "buy" three races?  This bill is designed to stop that cold.  Then we work on the full slate of campaign elections.       

They need us to call today!   This is the simplest way.  Just give the nice operator who answers the phone information about where you live and the bill you want to support - HB 1186.  They will get a message to your two representatives asking them to support it. 

1-800-562-6000

If you decide to go crazy and spend another 2 minutes on citizen responsibility in this direction, call Speaker of the House, Frank Chopp, at 360.786.7920.  And Sen. Margarta Prentice, Chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, where the companion bill is sitting in committee, at 360.786.7616. 

Posted by Lynn Allen on February 27, 2007 at 06:12 PM in Taking Action | Permalink | Comments (1)

Camp Wellstone Training

Can't say enough about how useful Camp Wellstone is for folks wanting to run for office, help in a campaign or work on an issue.  Progressive Majority is again sponsoring Camp Wellstone in Seattle.  It is coming right up (March 9-11) and I urge you to sign up if you want to become more involved in taking this country back.  It is filling up quickly! It is a great place for meeting other activists and future candidates. 

Two years ago when I attended, along with Goldy, Andrew, Noemie, Brian and a slew of other bloggers who didn't even know each other at the time, we saw the very beginnings of the campaigns of Eric Oemig and Darcy Burner.  Quite energizing. Here are the descriptions of the three tracks from which to choose:

Candidate Track - This track covers the fundamentals of campaigns, including fundraising, field organizing, campaign plan and budget writing, volunteer recruitment, GOTV, and media relations. (Please email Kristina Logsdon at Progressive Majority if you would like a slot in the candidate track.)

Campaign Management Track - The management track covers campaign fundamentals from the perspective of those who make it happen. Participants learn the skills that are essential to putting their candidate or team in the best position to win.

Citizen Activism Track - This track presents ideas and tactics needed to strengthen issue-based organizing. It develops the capacity of grassroots leaders to build a base, advocate within legislative bodies and build sustainable organizations. This track is recommended for individuals who are interested in moving a particular issue agenda forward.

The training will be held in Seattle and begin at 3 p.m. on Friday, March 9 and conclude at 4 p.m. on Sunday, March 11. A nominal fee of $100 helps cover the cost of meals during the training. However, Wellstone Action does offer a $50 rate for students, low income or unemployed participants.

Posted by Lynn Allen on February 27, 2007 at 01:24 PM in Taking Action | Permalink | Comments (1)

Bob Woodruff and the Casualties of War

Each day, she says, she tried to "calibrate how much hope I was going to have that day."

Those are the words of Lee Woodruff. Hope was a precious commodity for her since the day, one year ago, that her husband, ABC News anchor Bob Woodruff, was seriously injured in an IED attack in Baghdad. He had been traveling with an Iraqi convoy when the explosion hit and ripped off part of his head. Luckily for Bob, he was whisked into an operating room 37 minutes later, treated for severe brain injury and eventually recovered from the 36-day coma that followed. His wife, Lee, and their children were instrumental in his healing.

Hope Springs A Turtle has posted Howard Kurtz' WAPO article detailing the arduous recovery process that Woodruff and many of our soldiers in Iraq have faced after sustaining brain injuries in this war.  Not surprisingly, the Amercian public is not well-acquainted with these stories because, according to Woodruff and ABC News, George Bush's Pentagon is withholding information on how widespread these war injuries are.

I'm going to be giving up my usual Tuesday fare of Law & Order:SVU to watch Woodruff's report on ABC, tonight at 10 pm. I'm guessing those in the Bush White House will be watching as well, speedily crafting their dismissive response in time for tomorrow's news cycle.

Posted by shoephone on February 27, 2007 at 11:51 AM in Iraq, Media, National and International Politics, Policy | Permalink | Comments (1)

February 26, 2007

John McCain - One Tough Opponent

I fear for the Democrats chances at taking back the White House if McCain is the Republican nominee for President.  Seeing him in person at the World Affairs Club/City Club luncheon on Friday was surprising and unnerving.  I went to listen to him speak, just to assess how he'd be against Clinton or Obama or Edwards or whomever the Democrats wind up nominating.  Dscn1023_1

The talk was pretty good and very carefully calibrated to the moderate, business-oriented World Affairs Club audience.  He opened by talking about traveling with Scoop Jackson as a naval attache decades ago.  The talk itself was focused on Washington State's position as a leader in trade with Asia, about how important free trade is and about how wise it would be for us to embrace this new world of shared dominance between Asia and the U.S.   He had comments on our relationships with all of the major Asian countries.  He slipped in a few jabs at the Clinton Administration on but it was subtle enough that I doubt many people noticed.  He walked a fine line on the recent talks with North Korea, praising the Bush Administration for their efforts but warning that we have to be very cautious.  There were many times he whooped about the triumph of freedom over tyranny.  And he ended by saying that he thought Scoop would have encouraged a similar set of positions. 

Scoop Jackson probably would have approved of McCain's positions but then, had Scoop lived today, he would likely have been a Republican, a neo-con with an environmental streak, much like McCain fancies himself to be. 

McCain's choice of topics was about as safe as could be, given the focus on foreign affairs.  It allowed him to feel and sound like a man who thinks for himself and is highly knowledgeable.  He got to look like a pragmatist who will keep us safe because he is so ferocious about national security. 

McCain is both funny and facile in the way he addresses issues and answers questions.  He is able to answer difficult questions in a way that avoids the question but does so in a manner that doesn't offend the bulk of the audience.  For example, there was one interchange in the Q&A time after his talk that received a bit of press.  I think it illustrates what we are up against.  The situation should have been difficult for him but was instead an opportunity to show his humor, his willingness to take risks, and his ability to gracefully dodge questions he does not wish to answer.

And older man stood up and said, "You've been seen in the press as sucking up to the religious right.  When are you going to suck up to what we might call the old Rockefeller side of the party?" 

After a moment for laughter, McCain said, "Well, I'm probably going to get into trouble for this but what's wrong with sucking up to everybody?"  He went on to talk about having talked with 4000 young employees at Starbucks earlier, thus making it seem as if he is "sucking up" to everybody, not particularly the religious right. 

He used a question about Tony Blair to praise Blair's courage and said, "He literally sacrificed his political career because he so firmly believed in this war in Iraq."  In the press gaggle afterwards, he compared himself to Blair, implying that he too was ready to sacrifice his political career for something he believed in. 

For McCain, as for Clinton, the trick will be winning the primary.  It is reported that the Christian Right, i.e. James Dobson, Jerry Falwell and Grover Norquist are not smitten with McCain and seem not to trust him after his remarks about the nuttiness of the right in earlier years.  Odd that. 

But here in Washington State, there were a lot of Republican leaders in attendance.  We heard a day earlier that Rob McKenna had signed on to be his co-chair in Washington State.  Ralph Munro was escorting McCain from event to event.  Luke Esser and Dave Reichert and Sam Reed were all in attendance. 

I can't imagine that McCain would ever have a serious chance to win in Washington State.  But if he emerges as the candidate of the "moderate" or more pragmatic wing of the Republican Party, as it appeared to me that he might be doing, I think he might be a formidable Republican nominee in more purple states, never mind his age and his definite conservative positions.   

I am also not pleased with the idea of the Christian Right being our firewall against McCain being the Republican nominee.  For all we know, we could be getting played on this one. 

Posted by Lynn Allen on February 26, 2007 at 08:43 AM in National and International Politics, Strategery | Permalink | Comments (6)

February 23, 2007

Interview with Dean Nielsen, State Director of Progressive Majority

Washington State has a proud history of progressive activism that has ebbed and flowed over the years.  In the last couple of years, that activism is again quickening here, as around the country.

It comes out as a sense that we, the citizens, are going to have to step back in and reclaim our democracy and take responsibility for focusing our legislators on the issues like global warming and public transportation and universal healthcare and public financing and genuine accountability in government.  Not to mention that stupid war in Iraq and the horrendous difficulties we are placing our military people and military institutions under as well.   

There is a sense we are in the process of changing direction. The institutions of the left are coming to life, some slowly, some quickly; there are new organizations rising up as well.

When I first began writing on this blog two years ago, I did a round of interviews with leaders of several progressive organizations during what was the early time of this current quickening.  I wanted to both get a picture of where we were in the state and to better understand, as a returning Northwesterner, the breadth and focus of the organizations operating at the time.

I am preparing to do another round.  Then, as now, I choose to begin with Progressive Majority, an organization I described at the time as what the Democratic Party would look like if it were new and unencumbered with the baggage of an aging institution.  I now see that these two organizations have different roles.  The Democratic Party is working on shaking off the cobwebs and redefining their role in this new political world. 

Progressive Majority is new; they were built for this emerging time.

For those who are not familiar with Progressive Majority, it is a nation-wide organization begun in 2001 at the time the Republicans were at the helm of all our national political institutions.  They decided there were things that the left needed to learn from the right-wing institutions that had managed to whup the Democrats for the previous decade or more.  Progressive Majority decided to focus not on the Presidential elections but on the down ticket races.  Taking a page from the success of Emily’s List, they focus on finding progressives to campaign in state races from the legislature to fire districts and school boards.  They help those folks learn to raise money, run an effective campaign and communicate with their voters. 

Washington was one of the lucky three states chosen to start and got even luckier with the selection of Dean Nielsen as State Director.  My interview with Dean is after the fold.

P.S.  Progressive Majority is sponsoring a political training by Camp Wellstone on the weekend of March 9-11, if anyone would like to get some kick-ass help in becoming a candidate, helping run a campaign or functioning better as an activist. 

Interview with Dean Nielsen, Progressive Majority Washington

How do we grow the progressive movement in WA State?

DN: Other than through Progressive Majority?

We smile.

DN:  We need to have a counter to the right-wing think-tank.  We do good policy generation but nothing else.  The principle right-wing think tanks in the state – the Discovery Institute, Bob Williams’ Evergreen Freedom Foundation, and, to a lesser extent, Rabbi Daniel Lapin’s Toward Tradition, all have policy generation but also have huge communications groups.  The Evergreen Freedom Foundation (with it’s Scaife Foundation money) also has a huge legal apparatus. 

There needs to be a multi-issue, progressive think-tank in Washington State. With that kind of an institution, progressives can aggressively set policy with the media.  Right now there is a huge hole.

For example, KUOW will have a political hour – with someone from the right-wing think tank on one side and a journalist on the other.  What is that?

Is anything happening in terms of building this infrastructure?

DN: Sightline Institute is moving to fill that gap.  They are no longer exclusively environmentally-focused.  As part of the name change, they are going to move more in this direction.  But, it is not easy to change an organization’s focus.  It is a difficult task.  If they are going to take this role, they need to be held accountable.  They get time to see how they are doing, but they have to be held accountable.

Also, we need a 501C-3 that exclusively does voter registration.  If you think about it, there used to be a lot of organizations that did voter registration.  Once the motor voter bill was passed,  many organizations got out.  The Democratic Party should not be the lead.  You can do it with tax-deductible dollars.   

You can fit election protection into a voter registration role.  And same day registration.  Both are important but can be done on a non-partisan basis.

Progressive Majority was very successful with the legislative candidates you supported in the fall election.  Any room for gaining another couple seats in 08?

Sure.  There’s opportunity still out there, particularly in the House.  I’m aggressive.  Conventional wisdom says we’ll lose two seats in 08 in the Senate.  That’s possible.  But I’m thinking we could hold to one or break even.  We could take a run at a couple others where we have a R-Senator but House members that are Democratic.  We could move the House folks up.  In the House, there is still room for expansion but we would have to run the table.   We’ll take another run at suburban areas where we were close in 06.

At the end of the day, we have to be on the attack. 

How’s your pipeline of candidates?

DN: We are focused on a number of key down-ticket races.  We have three major county councils with races this year and hundreds of city council races.  There are ports, fire districts, school boards.  Cream rises.  If we put enough people in, people will move up. 

Nine of the 11 current Congressional members were once office holders at the state or county level.  Most statewide folks were officeholders at a lower level.

There is no secret about how this works.

The Republican Party used to have organizations that worked something like this.  It has been neglecting them since 1994, when they won big.  They had GOPAC, connected with Newt Gingrich and founded by Pierre DuPont. 

In Washington State, way back then, they talked about the Republican farm team.  It included Rob McKenna, Rick White, and Dino Rossi among others.

Anything else about what Progressive Majority that we should know about?

Progressive Majority is on the move.  We are in eight states and are adding several new states this year.  We hired a Minnesota operations person three weeks ago.  We are currently open in Ohio.  We have a huge growth rate.

We have accomplished much with a small budget and low staffing level.

Why have you been so effective with such a small staff/budget?

DN:  This market share has been so empty.  There are not many organizations that engage candidates at every level as we do.  We went to a city of about 150 votes, and helped elect the South Prairie mayor.  We saw that she has potential. - Peggy Levesque.  We’ll do those size races when we have good candidates.  Because we know that our candidates can move up from there.

We are single-focused.  And we don’t lobby.  That gives us a lot more ability to focus on what we do.  We do most of our work in the spring while others are lobbying. 

Talk about the blogging community.

DN: I’m very supportive of our local bloggers.  I think that resisting the temptation to comment on national issues is hard but essential.  The more locally focused state blogs are, the more impact they’ll have. 

There needs to be more support of bloggers.  What can bloggers do to help progressives but also what can the progressive community do to help the bloggers – in terms of resources, especially financially.

Thank you.

Posted by Lynn Allen on February 23, 2007 at 08:40 AM in Interviews, Strategery | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 22, 2007

Seattle: A World Class City -- Violence and Bigotry Included

Two nights ago the owner of my neighborhood deli was assaulted by two drunks who now sit in jail, charged with a hate crime. I hope they get convicted and sentenced to the fullest extent of the law.

Steve Saleh is a hardworking businessman. Last year, the deli's TV was constantly tuned to the World Soccer Tournament and he patiently put up with all my questions -- "What just happened? Who's winning? WHO got a red flag?". He's also a very warm and funny guy who always wishes me "good luck!" on the rare occasion I buy a Lotto ticket along with my Advil, licorice or root beer and I'm sure he means it too, since I've promised that if he sells me a winning ticket he and his family will get a nice, two-week vacation at my expense! Steve is a well-liked, valued member of my community. And I'm really angry about what happened to him Tuesday night.

Saleh, who emigrated from Yemen 20 years ago, has been the target of racism before, especially in the wake of 9/11. This time, the woman kept calling him an obscenity and "un-American" when he refused to sell her beer because of her rude behavior, he said. He asked them to leave.

They entered just before 10:30 p.m., while Saleh's 18-year-old nephew was working the counter.

"It was very hurtful to hear it and very scary to go through it," Saleh said.

But unlike Saleh's past encounters with bigotry, Tuesday's events took a violent turn. The man took off his jacket and lurched over the counter, grabbing for Saleh's throat. Saleh slid away and grabbed a metal bar behind the counter and ordered them out of his store. The man again lunged at him and Saleh pushed him away, loudly warning him.

When the man lunged again, Saleh struck him two or three times in the shoulder and ordered him to get onto the floor.

"I kept saying, 'Please don't make me hit you in the head,'" Saleh said. "I was really fearing for my life."

The drunken woman also called Steve "a terrorist", told him to "go back to where he came from" and left her teeth marks in his hand. This isn't the first time Seattle has seen bigotry of Middle Easterners take a violent turn. The fire at the Northgate Mosque and the stabbing of a woman in West Seattle were well-publicized.

9-11 didn't exactly bring out the best in everyone. But 9-11 is not the reason for hatred, it's merely a convenient catalyst, in the same way that alcohol cannot be blamed for a hate crime. The alcohol nakedly exposed an existing but, as yet, unexpressed bigotry.

My neighborhood has seen a recent uptick in violence. Earlier in the week, a few blocks from Saleh's Deli, a woman was shot in the leg when, unbeknownst to her, a personal little war was flaring up. Vandalism has become de rigueur. My elderly neighbor across the street asked me if I'd seen the new graffiti on the telephone poll in front of her house and on all the doors of the community center. Another neighbor has had his car broken into four times in the last year. My next-door neighbors, and the neighbors behind me, have had their houses broken into. Our community has shared phone calls and emails and held meetings with our precinct's police captain and community service officer. We know the drill, we have the safety information, and we want to believe them when they promise to do patrols around the playfield, in hopes of catching the thieves, the vandals and the drug dealers.

But when it comes right down to it, all we've got is each other -- neighbors who hold block watch parties, get together for potlucks and frisbee and pizza night out. We're community council members who meet regularly to continue the work of looking out for each other's needs. I'm happy to say I've never lived in a neighborhood where I didn't know everyone on my block, and the next block too.

When I walked into Saleh's Deli today, Steve was greeting all those who came by to check up on him and his family. He was wading through the gifts, the cakes and the flowers that had been amassing over the past two days. Bad things can happen in any community, even the ones that are thought to be "safe". When the sun goes down I want to know that my community feels whole and connected, no matter what's out there. I hope that tonight Steve and his family feel a little better knowing they're part of our community. I know I feel better for having them in it.

Posted by shoephone on February 22, 2007 at 11:00 PM in Taking Action, Washington Culture | Permalink | Comments (4)

Why the Libby Trial is Important

As we wait for the jury to return it's verdict in the Scooter Libby perjury trial, it's a good time to stand back and think about why this trial has been important and what we've learned from it.

A few weeks ago, I was on Goldy's radio show at 710 KIRO talking about the Libby Trial.  A young female caller, named Susie, said she didn't see why we were wasting time trying to convict this man over a simple lie when there were such important issues, such as the Iraq War, to be dealing with.  It struck me then that there has not been a widespread understanding of why the Libby Trial is important.  Even if, heaven forbid, the jury doesn't return a conviction, the trial has been worth it for everything we've learned and the focus this trial has put on Dick Cheney's role on taking us into the war.

Ever since Susie's question on the radio, I have been gathering a bunch of articles to write this post on why the trial is important.  Yesterday, the incredible Jane Hamsher of Firedoglake saved me the trouble.  She listed what she sees as the overarching narratives to emerge from the case: 

  1. The administration lied us into war and tried to abuse its power to punish the whistleblower who told the American public the truth.
  2. Scooter is the firewall to Shooter.
  3. Dick Cheney, Scooter Libby and other members of the administration conspired to keep federal investigators from uncovering their crimes.
  4. The media was complicit in spreading administration propaganda rather than doing investigative journalism, and are now helping to set the table for a pardon.
  5. The administration lied us into war and tried to abuse its power to punish the whistleblower who told the American public the truth.
  6. The journalistic standards that have been exposed in the case (witness Tim Russert, Judy Miller, Andrea Mitchell, Robert Novak and others) are reprehensible, and have undermined the public trust in the media.
  7. The degree to which this story about the lies that lead to war has been ignored by the media (relative to the feeding frenzy over a Clinton blowjob) left a huge opening that the blogs have filled.

There's also another great video-clip of Jane and Marcy talking big picture. 

Posted by Lynn Allen on February 22, 2007 at 10:40 AM in Media, National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (6)

February 21, 2007

Closing Arguments in the Libby Case

Yesterday was probably the most interesting day in the court - closing arguments all around.  Sorry to be late in my summary of it but I had that nasty 24-hour flu that's been going around - in my case probably a gift from the normally delightful 3-year old I was with over the weekend who was sick and had a nasty earache.

Jane, Christy and Marcy have a great take on the closing in their daily video-clip.  They begin by saying that they are pretty sure from the prosecutor's arguments that Fitzgerald's team will going to be going after Cheney after all.  Pretty amazing if that proves to be true.  Marcy has done an analysis of how Cheney was involved in the leak and cover-up from the beginning which I'll summarize sometime during the upcoming break from the trial, while we wait for the jury to return their verdict.  After reading Marcy's live-blogging of the closing arguments on both sides from yesterday, I personally think they will not have to take very long to convict Libby on charges of lying to the Grand Jury.  There will be an appeal of course but that will then allow Fitzgerald and team to turn to focus on Cheney.  Wow!  Truly that will be exciting.

I know.  I know.  I'm an optimist.

Peter Zeidenberg opened for the prosecution and laid out a clear argument that Libby had been lying to the Grand Jury.  He claimed that Wells hadn't made the case for Libby's innocence.  He pointed out that Libby had discussed Valerie Plame with nine people in the time period that he claimed not to know anything about her.  He discussed the Russert conversation that Libby lied about, the one that Russert says he couldn't have told Libby about Plame because he didn't know anything about her at that point.  Zeidenberg said that Libby tried to obscure where he learned this information about Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, because most everything Libby learned, he learned first from Dick Cheney.  He said it was not credible that Libby could have forgotten that he learned of Valerie Plame from the Vice President.  Then he walked the jury through what he had told the Grand Jury.

Libby Defense Team lead attorney Ted Wells began by defending himself against what he evidently saw as Zeidenberg's argument that the defense hadn't made their case.  Doing so, according to our on-sight Firedoglake team, threw him off balance and took time away from arguing Libby's case.  Wells again sought to impugn Tim Russert's testimony, saying he submits that Russert didn't lie, but that he simply didn't remember the conversation correctly and cited other public situations where Russert didn't recall events correctly.  Wells ended this first part of the defense's closing by saying that the requirement for not convicting if there was a reasonable doubt demanded a high burden of proof.

William Jeffress was up next for the defense and, according to our pals in the courtroom, was much more effective than Wells had been.  He noted that there were several reporters hearing from members of the government about Valerie Plame's part in sending her husband to Niger - Richard Armitage, Ari Fleischer and Karl Rove.

Ted Wells was up again to finish the arguments for the defense, although he was short of time, because of the time he'd taken earlier in defending himself rather than Libby.  He said that the prosecution has to provide powerful evidence to make a lying charge stick and he simply didn't think they had.  He reiterated Libby's memory problem and again talked about how very, very busy Libby was with very, very important national security issues during this time.  He ended with a plea that our gals thought was truly odd:  "Don't sacrifice Scooter Libby . . . He's been under my protection for the last month.  Just give him back.  Give him back to me." 

Marcy added that it wasn't really very convincing to see Wells go from a rushed, rational argument to fake tears in about 16 seconds. 

Then apparently Wells spent the remainder of the time with his head in his hands, not looking at anyone, while Fitzgerald finished up the prosecution's arguments very convincingly. 

Our courtroom reporters said that Fitzgerald's opening really woke the jury and the entire court up after pretty lackluster performances from the defense. 

"Madness. Madness.  Outrageous," he began.  He talked about how the defense was trying to make the jury think this was about only 2 calls.  In fact, when you looked at the full body of evidence, it was clear that Libby had talked with nine people about Valerie Plame in the time before he theoretically found out about Plame from Tim Russert.  He said that the Vice President dictated the talking points to Libby and said more than once that "a cloud hung over the Vice President".  Fitzgerald said the reason that Libby didn't tell more reporters was that the best way to get a story is to leak an exclusive not broadcast to a bunch of reporters.  He added that several people reported that when Libby talked with them, he was angry - angry that Wilson's story was getting coverage, angry that the reporters dared to say that the Vice President's request had been behind Wilson's trip to Niger, angry that people didn't realize that Wilson's trip to Niger had been a boon-doggle from his wife who worked at the CIA.  He said that people remember what they say when they are angry.   

Fitzgerald ended the closing remarks by saying that the FBI deserves straight answers and that Libby threw sand in the eyes of the FBI when he lied to the Grand Jury.  He stole the truth of the judicial system.  "You return a guilty verdict, you give the truth back."

And there it is, folks - as good a single picture of what this administration has been up to as we've had laid out for us. 

Posted by Lynn Allen on February 21, 2007 at 04:05 PM in Media, National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (3)

Mean Bloggers Threaten White House Press Corps

Apparently, the White House press corps is feeling the heat from all us mean old bloggers. They don't think it's fair that we expect them to actually behave like the fourth estate instead of chummy chum chums with Tony Snow, or whomever happens to be playing the role of WH press secretary. SusanG is pretty funny relating the recent comments from those in the hotseat:

Tony Snow and "real journalists" finally agreed on something tonight at a roundtable held for very serious people at the National Press Club: Blogs suck. They’re mean. And ... and ... and ... they actually expect reporters to do their jobs!

We’ll skip Tony Snow. Who cares? But via Think Progress, a couple of journalists had some interesting things to say, kind of opening a door into the higher minds that are raised so far above the rest of us.

NBC News’ David Gregory bemoaned how political coverage has "become so polarized in this country...because it’s the internet and the blogs that have really used this White House press conferences to somehow support positions out in America, political views."

Can you imagine that? The nerve! People actually use White House press conferences to form and support political views! And then they write about those views! Where anybody can read and see and respond and argue and fact-check them! And they haven’t been seen – not once! – at a cocktail party in DC. Next thing you know, they’ll start thinking regular old ordinary people have a right to opinions or something.

Yes, bloggers can be very scary, especially when they are scooping stories the MSM hasn't even caught wind of yet. Thoughtful analysis of the maze-like, extra-legal machinations of the White House is another threat to mainstream reporters who are terrified they might lose access for digging deep. But if it weren't for the blogs it's possible none of us would have learned about the real horrors at Abu Graib prison. We owe a lot to our fellow seekers of truth, across the nation and around the world. We, and they, are keeping the mainstream media and public officials on their toes. We're forcing them to face up to their responsiblities. Just recently, Noemie at Washblog (with assists by Particle Man and Gibney) bore down on Rob McKenna and Luke Esser to fully explain Esser's conflict of interest as an insider/outsider with the state's Republican Party and McKenna's office itself. The denizens of the MSM can complain all they want that bloggers are changing the rules of information flow, but if they were challenging the powers-that-be in the first place there wouldn't be such a void to fill.

There are millions of blogs, but some of the best are staffed and run by people who have credentials and experience that lots of mainstream reporters don't. I'm partial to political and news bloggers, and these are some that I couldn't do without:

Glenn Greenwald, a constitutional and civil rights litigator, has now been picked up by Salon.com.

Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo. Josh is a former journalist, has great contacts and knows how to get the job done.

Geoffrey Stone, a brilliant law professor at the University of Chicago, writes about civil liberties at Huffington Post.

Digby does what only Digby can do -- great analysis in the form of a well-deserved rant. Some of the most impressive writing on the web.

Media Matters deconstructs the biases and outright lies of print, television and radio media.

SteveAudio, a longtime music engineer in L.A., writes knowledgeably about music, the music business, and politics.

Hope Springs A Turtle's blog, Deep Confusion, is a must for anyone looking for powerful writing that exposes the crimes of the Bush administration -- brought to you by someone with military knowledge and experience.

Riverbend's Bagdhad Burning is, without exception, the best on-the-scene portrait of what's really going on in the country we invaded, attacked and occupied 4 years ago. She's a young woman, now sadly wise beyond her years. This blog is not for the faint of heart.

I feel grateful to these bloggers for bringing their truth, expertise and perspective to me. Funny, I never feel that way after watching the television nightly news. I'm sure David Gregory will do his best to win me back.

Posted by shoephone on February 21, 2007 at 01:10 AM in Media, National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (13)

February 19, 2007

Is the Governor Tone Deaf?

Governor Gregoire seems to be shying away from the practical applications of representative democracy. Instead of guaging the public mood, encouraging the legislature to work with her on negotiating public policy and then making the tough decisions of governing, Gregoire is lately opting for direct democracy in the form of public votes on major economic issues like the Viaduct replacement and funding for a new Sonics arena. The governor held a press conference Monday, where she seemed utterly tone deaf on the public's hostility towards a subsidy for the Sonics. She's singing the same tune as state Senator Margarita Prentice:

The Senate budget chairwoman, Democrat Margarita Prentice, who represents Renton, is championing the plan. But a new statewide poll shows little support for public financing of sports revenues, and the state House Speaker Frank Chopp, D-Seattle, may block the plan in the lower chamber. He said last week that lawmakers have much more important priorities than a sports arena.

Gregoire called herself a huge women's basketball fan and said she doesn't want to lose the WBA Storm, the Sonics or any other pro sports franchises on her watch. The new multipurpose design is "a whole lot more" than just a sports arena, she said.

She said the proposal is getting a friendly reception in Renton and that King County is now discussing the revenue package, which involves extending the taxes currently earmarked for sports venues for the Seattle Mariners and the Seattle Seahawks after those facilities are paid off.

Seeming to presume passage in Olympia, she said, "So it's up to the locals in King County -- do they want to support the tax package?"

Umm... no. They don't. The statewide poll mentioned in the article shows that 77% of state residents are opposed to public financing of sports stadiums and Seattle's voters bellowed a resounding NO to subsidizing the Sonics with the overwhelming passage of I-91. It garnered 74% of the vote. The only reason the governor thinks (hopes) a King County vote will turn out differently is because Renton, located in the county, is supposedly in favor of the tax package. This is an interesting variation on the the well-worn strategy of "divide and conquer". But the governor may be aiming very high in the short term, only to lose in the long term. The next election season is nearly upon us. Does the governor really believe that further antagonizing the base of her support here in Seattle is going to help her in November of 2008?

Posted by shoephone on February 19, 2007 at 11:20 PM in The Politics of Business | Permalink | Comments (10)

Dramatic increase of funding for affordable housing needed from state

It’s encouraging to see the increased funding in recent years for the Washington State Housing Trust Fund and the positive impact that source of funding has had on creating new affordable housing in Washington State.  Local and county governments, as well as private and non-profit funding sources, can also be given credit for their commitment to create affordable housing and for succeeding in building so many attractive buildings.  Yet the funding gap for creating affordable housing in Washington State remains enormous, and the need for affordable housing remains so great.

The state government is such a critical player in closing the funding gap for creating affordable housing.  The state can leverage much larger resources than local or county governments, and can build on the success of programs such as the Washington State Housing Trust Fund.  With larger amounts of funding at the state level, the non-profits that partner with state and local governments for funding sources will have greater resources to build badly needed affordable housing in a real estate market where land and building costs are ever more expensive.

Chuck Weinstock, Executive Director of Capitol Hill Housing explains, that even if the amount of funding for building affordable housing was doubled, we’d still only be addressing a fraction of the need.  “We’re always playing catch up with the rising costs of buying land and constructing buildings,” explains Weinstock.  He points out that, “the funds for building affordable housing have never been based on the need.”

Dramatically increasing the funding for state programs like the Washington State Housing Trust Fund will make a significant difference to address the need for affordable housing in Washington State.  Democrats have already identified funding for the trust fund as a priority, and with Democrats in the majority in Olympia the opportunity for really addressing the funding gap for creating affordable housing is possible.  Democrats can’t simply inch the housing trust fund up with small increases each session.  There must be a dramatic infusion of funding this session to really address the need to create more affordable housing.

Cross Posted on The Urban Environmentalist

Posted by EzraBasom on February 19, 2007 at 07:29 PM in Policy | Permalink | Comments (0)

State Democratic Party PCO Training

They started on time!  Who knew Democrats would begin on time? (I know, I know; I’m going to get a comment from Ivan berating my on-going questioning of Democratic Party logistical abilities.)  I drove down to the annual PCO Training and Crabfest in Lacey with Dinazina, a front-pager over at Washblog and we walked in 20 minutes late, time enough to get the Voter File Training but too late to hear the welcome by Party Chair Dwight Pelz.

I’m not going to give away secrets on what we actually learned in the day; I will focus more on the feel and the tone of the event.  I am passionate about making Democratic Party events more appealing – to bring out folks who are new to involvement in the Party and may have in the past gotten frustrated with trying to get involved in politics through the Party.   

I do have to say that I was inspired by the day.  This was not necessarily expected.  I have not been a big fan of the few state Democratic Party meetings that I’ve attended or of the crusty institutionalized thinking of the Party that I’ve seen, a very cool LD organizations excepted.  Here’s my report. 

Wes Beal – Technology Director

The Voter File is the master database that allows PCO’s (precinct committee officers) to pull off information about the voters in their district.  Stories about how out-of-date and badly managed the Voter File is are legendary.  Pretty much anyone who has worked on any of the Democratic campaigns has stories and questions about how frustrating they can be to work with. 

The Party has been on the case and there is obvious improvement.  There are also more improvements coming.  They are needed.  Wes Beal, the new Technology Director, walked folks through the process of getting on the Voter File and clarifying what the different codes mean.  When he mentioned that we could not yet use Firefox to pull information off the files, there was a round of groans from the audience.

The questioners were more focused on issues of strategy and communications than of the nuts and bolts of how to use the Voter Files.  Nice and welcoming as Wes is, the role of Technology Director does not include what the folks were asking for: how to connect to each other to assist campaigns and fill the holes that any campaign and Party organization will always have. 

I chased down Michael King, Communications Director for the state party, to ask him about developing a different strategy for involving folks in small discussion groups to pull out the contributions of people who want to help plug those holes.  I also talked with my friend, Rob Holland, new Chair of the 37th district, who says that the Chairs are likely to talk about involving people in less institutional ways at the upcoming Chairs meeting in a few weeks.  Yes, please.

Jaxon Ravens – Executive Director

Jaxon is a lively speaker.  He was up to talk about the delegate selection process for the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver.  In the 2004 election cycle, 100,000 people showed up for the Washington state Democratic caucuses.  It overwhelmed the Party and they did not have a plan in place to make use of that energy.  Jaxon says that is different now.  There are already plans to make use of the folks who want to get involved in getting a Democrat elected to the Presidency and more Democrats in Congress.

Precinct caucuses are scheduled for Feb. 9th next year, relatively early in the primary season.  Washington will sent 97 delegates to the national convention along with 13 alternatives.  Of those delegates, 51 will be elected through the caucus process.  The remaining delegates are elected partially by the 51 caucus-elected delegates and partially by the winning nominee organization.

Jaxon was applauded when he talked about the preparations already being made to involve the numbers of folks who show up at the precinct caucuses.  He went on to clarify the process of how to run the caucus meetings and select the delegates who go on to the LD caucuses and then the county conventions and the congressional district conventions.  Plus the elected Democrats who are automatically included in the delegation.

Jaxon also promised that the platform issues will be addressed more effectively at the 08 state convention than they were at the 06 state convention.  (Applause from the audience.)

Dwight Pelz – State Democratic Party Chair

Dwight is liked by this audience.  He was not on the agenda at this time but Jaxon asked him to come up for a few minutes and he was applauded.  He talked about the varying strategies that the state is talking about to involve the people who attend the caucus meetings.   

Lunch

Larry Phillips - King County Council Member

As usual, I hung out in the lobby talking with people I ran into, including Darcy Burner, who is due to speak later.  I came in just as Larry Phillips, was finishing up talking about why the grassroots matters.  He introduced the next speaker.

Aiko Schuaefer, Executive Director of the Statewide Poverty Action Network (SPAN)

One in five people in WA State are considered working poor.  That’s huge.  750,000 of people in Washington State earn $20,000 per year or less.  Only 48% of these folks vote vs. 77% of those earning more than $50,000.  If the folks who earned $20,000 or less voted at the same rate as those earning more than $50,000, we would have 30,000 more voters.

When SPAN did focus groups, they saw that the desire to vote decreases when a person doesn’t know what they are voting on and they don’t know which candidates reflect their views or know how topics affect their votes.  In addition, people in this demographic tend to move more. 

SPAN made a goal of increasing voters turnout by 2%. 

She said that the typical goal of political organizations is to focus on frequent voters.  Her contention was that if this population got the same level of attention, they would vote at a higher rate.  They decided to figure out how to get this to happen.  They realized they needed to talk about things that matter.  When they went out across the state, they went out to find out what was on the minds of the people they wanted to target.  They realized early on that folks in this demographic don’t always know about the differences between the Democratic party and the Republican party.  They also don’t understand how voting effects them directly.  How does it impact their ability to have more money or to get healthcare, for example?  They don’t see that anyone has their interest at heart. 

SPAN decided to try to build trust and create local leadership.  They talked about having their interests at heart.  It’s about being present, about seeing people as community members and being there beyond election day rather than seeing them as a means to moving your agenda. 

The other strategies the organization has focused on are to provide relevant, consistent, frequent and easy-to-understand information.  Aiko is particularly annoyed at the writing in the State Voter Information Guide and she knows that neither party doesn’t have a say in that.  SPAN is trying to get to where people are at.  For example, when they are providing a brochure about filling out government forms, they put a blurb on the back that says “They most important form you can fill out is the Voter Registration Form.” 

Tania Maria Rosario – Washington State Democratic Party Field Director

Tania is formerly the head of the Latino Vote Project in the State Party.  This is the first time the Party has had a Field Director in between elections.  Her role is threefold:  1) to continue to build the Latino vote, 2) leadership development and 3) growing the party, LD by LD.

Tania Maria worked with the PCO’s on strategy and tactics.  She encouraged participation and asked for ideas from the participants, both at the precinct level and the state level.  Her energy was remarkable and her presence on the staff indicates for me that the State Party is indeed dedicated to moving into a new era.

Michael Shadow – On Telling Your Story

Dwight introduced Michael by saying that he was going to be building on what PCOs heard at last year’s training on framing.

Michael reminded us that we debate stories, not facts, and gave examples from the war in Iraq.  “Stories always trump facts.”  He said that frames are the mental structures that people have.  They will take the facts and sift them through their frames. 

How do we know what the frames are for another person?  By the words they use.  Framing words express values.  They live deep within the synapses of each of us. 

Democrats use a different set of words than Republicans use.  Ultra-liberals and ultra-conservatives literally can’t understand each other because their frames are so critical.
What’s important when we are reaching out to other people is finding the frame that the other person has and then finding the commonality between their frame and our frame.

Michael talked about some research he did on the discussion in Olympia about budgets from 1980 forward.  In 1980, a Republican State Senator said “This issue is not about revenue.  It’s about spending.”  He was standing on the Senate floor in 2001 when he heard State Senator Dino Rossi say, “This issue is not about revenue.  It’s about spending.”  For over 20 years, the Republicans have won the framing war using the exact same frame over and over.  He said he has watched over and over again as the Democrats start out a session talking about Democratic frames and end the session responding to Republican frames.  He says it happens because the media picks up the frames of the Republicans which forces the Democrats’ hands. 

A frame consists of words, stories and visual cues.  He summed up the meaning for the PCO’s as they work their precincts.

Make your message clear.  74% of listeners tune out when they don’t understand what you are saying.  Give your listeners cues.  Get your audience to “lean-in” and then deliver THE MESSAGE.  You have only a few seconds to do this.  Here are his key points:

1.    Flatter your audience
2.    Unpack the story
3.    Why?  Because . . .
4.    Pause (to cue your audience)
5.    Let me say this:  (this is the verbal colon)

Darcy Burner – Candidate for Congress from the 8th CD in 2006

Darcy got far and away the biggest applause from this audience – plus a standing ovation. 

Darcy talked about how we rocked last year.  She talked about what she learned from the election.  After pouring over the precincts in the 8th CD, she says she has a strong sense of what our jobs are as active Democrats:

1.  Talk to your neighbors
2.  Politics is a team sport; play the game with a full team
3.  Be the conscious of the Party and our elected officials

The precincts that had active PCOs voted in higher numbers for her than the precincts that either had inactive PCOs or no PCOs at all.   The Democrats had active PCOs in only 25% of the precincts in this district.  The Republicans had active PCOs in 50% of the precincts. 

The 8th CD Democrats ran candidates in most of the legislative district and won half those seats – in an area that has historically been Republican.  However, there were no Democratic candidate in the 5th LD.  Neither seat was contested and there were a lot fewer Democratic votes cast there than anywhere else in the CD.  She challenged us to donate to candidates, to find people to run and, if necessary, to run ourselves – in order to spread the Democratic message.

She also challenged us to be the conscience of the Party and the country.  Once we've done the first two, then we hold our elected officials accountable. 

She said we can do it.  We can win everything we need to win.  But we have to be able to work as hard as the Republicans and they work hard.  She offered to call or email if you need help in convincing a candidate to run or convince a person to become a PCO. 

Dwight Pelz

Dwight reminded us of the mission statement of the Democratic Party in Washington State: elect Democrats.


Posted by Lynn Allen on February 19, 2007 at 04:20 PM in Policy, Strategery, Taking Action | Permalink | Comments (4)

February 17, 2007

A Roadmap for a Framework for Task Force Recommendations?

Sightline Institute's Eric de Place thinks so.

...the Seattle Times editorialized in praise of Washington's go-slow approach to climate policy that will "study new options for at least a year." The piece also warns against
forbidding giant new coal plants, and offers helpful bromides like:
"Legislation and public policy have to mature along with climate
science and our understanding of the threat." Oy.

On the one hand, I want to give a major shout out to Washington's leaders who are serious about big emissions reductions.

On
the other hand, I just want to shout. It's important to get things
right, but Washington does not need a road map to devise a framework
for task force recommendations to be implemented by a study group with
the guidance of a stakeholder action plan that may eventually do
something about greenhouse gases.

We need action now. We need our leadership to stake out a clearer commitment to cap and trade in the near future.

And we need to catch up with our neighbors.

Well said, Eric! 

Posted by Jon Stahl on February 17, 2007 at 08:15 PM in Policy | Permalink | Comments (0)

Public Overwhelmingly Against NASCAR, Sonics Arena Subsidies

It's not just Seattle voters who are fed up with subsidizing pro sports while health care, education and the environment suffer. According to a recent statewide poll by Elway, reported in the PI today:

Asked a general question about whether pro sports owners should pay for
their own facilities without taxpayer subsidies, 71 percent agreed,
while 23 percent called subsidies a good investment.

About 77 percent opposed use of public dollars for major sports
facilities such as the Sonics' Renton proposal. Public financing for a
NASCAR racetrack was opposed by 79 percent.



Legislators take heed.  We you to deliver results on the big issues that matter, and not to waste our time and money on ridiculous boondoggles like pro sports subsidies.  We will hold you accountable, now and on election day.

Posted by Jon Stahl on February 17, 2007 at 03:42 PM in Policy | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 16, 2007

State House Passes Ground-Breaking PBDE Ban

By a vote of 71-24, the State House passed a ground-breaking ban on industrial retardants known as PBDE's.  The environmental coalition, Priorities for a Healthy Washington, has four priorities for legislation this session and this is the first of the four to be voted on.  They say that these three toxic chemicals have been found in rapidly increasing amounts in our bodies, mother's milk, orcas and salmon in Puget Sound and along the Spokane River. 

This bill, introduced by Rep. Ross Hunter of the 48th LD, if passed by the State Senate and signed by the Governor, would be the first in the nation to ban the three chemicals (with limited exceptions).  A similar bill has been introduced in the Senate by Senator Debbie Regala of the 27th but, as often happens, the second chamber to vote usually votes on the same bill that passed the first chamber.  HB 1024 has been endorsed by a broad coalition of environmentalists, doctors, nurses, fire fighters and scientists.   The fire fighters came aboard this year for the first time because they have been assured that there are good alternatives that can be used as flame retardants. 

From the Press Release sent out by the Democrats after the vote today.

"For three years I've been fighting to turn off the spigot of toxic poisons coming into our state and harming our kids," Hunter said. "Today marks a big win for the health and safety of the kids in our state."

HB 1024 phases out use of a toxic flame retardant known as polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs. PBDEs are used in a wide range of common household products such as mattresses and laptops. Research has linked exposure to the chemical with a wide range of adverse health effects, and kids are considered most susceptible to the risk.

The only group working actively against the bill has been the chemical lobbying groups.  They've been fighting it hard since, if Washington State takes the lead, other states are likely to follow.  Yeah for us!

Needless to say, the Republicans who voted against it, are claiming the usual nonsense: 

Representative Bill Hinkle, of the 13th LD, claims that the science doesn't support this yet.  (It does.)

Representative Mike Armstrong, of the 12th LD, says that once upon a time we banned another toxic chemical and then the science changed to say it was okay.  (Um, possibly.  So, what does that say about these poisons?)

Representative Daniel Newhouse, of the 15th, claims that one of the three substances to be banned degrades slowly and isn't as dangerous as the other two.  (So, I wonder what his grandchildren would say to that?)

Representative Ed Orcutt, of the 18th, questions which whales are being effected.  (Excuse me, I'd like children as yet unborn to have a chance to see orcas in Puget Sound.)

So, aren't you glad you voted and worked to have more Democrats in our state legislature?  I am. 

For more information, check out the Priorities for a Healthy Washington site. 

Posted by Lynn Allen on February 16, 2007 at 05:17 PM in Policy | Permalink | Comments (0)

How to Get Agreement on the Viaduct Issue Replacement

David Horsey nails the process solution.  He's got the perfect plan for getting the decision-makers on the Viaduct Replacement to come to an agreement.

I remember once hearing something similar that was done in Roman times.  I have no idea if its true or not.  The Roman Empire was having difficulty with the construction on the aquaducts that provided much needed water to the city of Rome.  The story goes that the emperor required the chief architect to stand under the aquaduct when the water was first sent through.  Had amazing results. 

Posted by Lynn Allen on February 16, 2007 at 09:49 AM in Media, Strategery | Permalink | Comments (0)

White House Directly Involved in U.S. Attorney Firing

Gee, I wonder why Bush's attorney -- the "supremely" qualified Harriet Miers -- really returned to the quiet life in Texas 2 weeks ago. Could it have anything to do with the fact that she directly intervened in the firing of the U.S. Attorney from Arkansas, H.E.Cummings III? Well, as Friday's NYT reports, it's a bit more sordid than that. She was killing two birds with one stone: getting Cummings fired so the White House could free up the position for Karl Rove's deputy, and former political director for the RNC, Timothy Griffin. Blood really is thicker than water, especially when it's the blood red of Red State America.

Cummings, who was given no reason for his dismissal, is in good company. As previously noted here, Seattle's U.S. Attorney, John McKay, was also fired without reason (although lots of judges and other attorneys have surmised it's because McKay was... doing a very good job, receiving glowing reviews from the Justice Department's evaluation team, but not behaving right-wing enough). The worst dismissal may be Carol Lam's. Until yesterday, she was the U.S. Attorney in San Diego. In 2005 she exposed the many ethical weaknesses of former U.S. Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham. Once a powerful member of the House Appropriations Committee, Cunningham was indicted, tried and sentenced for conspiring to take bribes in exchange for securing multi-million dollar defense contracts for friends and fans. Carol Lam is credited with conducting the investigation and trying the case that led to Cunningham's fall from power and entry into prison. Last Tuesday, Lam indicted former executive director of the CIA, Kyle "Dusty" Foggo (all the criminals in this story get to have Wild West-like nicknames) for corruptions of his own, including wire fraud, conspiracy and money laundering. His childhood friend, defense contractor Brent Wilkes, got nailed too. Wilkes' role in providing hookers for a Foggo/Cunningham party was just breadcrumbs for a prosecutor following the trail to high-level corruption and conspiracy. Attorney General Gonzales' office is sticking to its fishy story that Lam was replaced for not capturing enough illegals crossing the Mexican border into California.

Is it just me, or does it seem odd that U.S. Attorneys involved in investigations and indictments of Bush Administration officials (and other wily Republicans) are being "disappeared" in a manner that would make the dead-as-a-doornail Augusto Pinochet stand up and take notice? Quick answer: no, it's not just me. Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, who chairs the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law, is promising hearings on this funny habit the White House and the Attorney General have of removing U.S. Attorneys without cause. Congressmen Emmanuel, Conyers and Berman have joined her in sending a letter to AG Gonzales. The letter pretty much lays it on the line:

Two days ago, Lam's investigation continued to bear fruit as a federal grand jury charged Kyle "Dusty" Foggo and Brent Wilkes with at least 11 felony counts related to their involvement with Cunningham. As Elana Schor's article in The Hill yesterday points out, "Justice Department officials have praised the Cunningham probe as the linchpin of their growing pursuit of public corruption cases, yet prosecutor Lam is nonetheless slated to step down [Thursday] after the Bush administration cited unspecified 'performance' issues in requesting her resignation late last year. Six other U.S. attorneys, several involved in ongoing corruption investigations, were dismissed at about the same time."

As you know, of those seven fired U.S. Attorneys, Lam was not the only one investigating sitting public officials before being dismissed. For example, Daniel Bogden of Nevada and Paul Charlton of Arizona were dismissed while their offices were conducting probes concerning elected officials.

Betcha ten bucks there won't be a response from Gonzales. Any takers?

Update - From the "Keep Your Friends Close and Your Enemies Closer" File:

Today's Seattle Times offers a new twist on the John McKay firing. Seems there's *a rumor* floating around Republican circles that McKay is 1) insufficiently conservative and 2) a veritable traitor! Dateline 2004: McKay refuses to go postal against the Gregoire campaign and King County Elections for a better result in the gubernatorial race. Who was behind the scenes exploding like a firecracker? Why, Ol' Reliable -- the BIAW.  Exploding, and planning to exact revenge.

Update 2: From the "It's My Party and I'll Cry if I Want to" File:

Rove's guy, Tim Griffin, is out (H/T to Lotus). TPM Muckraker's Paul Kiel just scooped that Griffin is really a 6-year old crybaby in adult clothing. He's whining that he can't get a fair shake from those mean old Democrats and that, since questions have arisen regarding his appointment, appearing at a confirmation hearing before Mark Pryor's senate committee would be just like "going before the firing squad". Somebody give the boy a hanky, please! And somebody give us a glass of bubbly.

Posted by shoephone on February 16, 2007 at 12:12 AM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (3)

February 15, 2007

Eric Oemig Introduces Resolution on Impeachment

Freshman State Senator Eric Oemig calls the issue of impeachment a moral imperative for us.  In a videotape of his announcement today to sponsor a resolution calling for Washington State to petition Congress to impeach the President, Oemig talks about how he came to the decision to sponsor a petition to Congress to impeach the President.  He has decided that the issues he came to Olympia to work on, economic issues primarily, while still important, will have to temporarily take second place to this overarching issue of our times.  He says:

I figure that November was a pretty big message but I don't think Congress got it.

He goes on to say that It makes a difference who you elect.  How true.  Washington State is now amongst a handful of state that are addressing such a petition.  However, Postman says that Speaker Chopp is not likely to set the state's other priorities to pass this petition - unless we the voters rise up and ask them to.

I have had some difficulty getting behind the idea of spending precious time in Congress (or now the Legislature) dealing with impeachment when there is so much else to try to undo and do after six years of Republican rampage.  But, over time, I've come to think that the multiple attacks on our constitution by this President and Vice President must be addressed and that impeachment is the only way to do that.  Given that the President has not listened to the American people on a range of issues, in particular the war in Iraq, I reluctantly think we have to seriously consider it.  The push toward confrontation with Iran makes this imperative.

I have thought from the beginning that when Speaker Pelosi said that impeachment was not on the table, she was really saying "Impeachment is not something that Democrats will address unless the people rise up and Republicans join in." 

Here is the list of Washington State Senators who have cosponsored Oemig's bill: Harriet Spanel, Darlene Fairley, Jeanne Kohl-Welles, Margarita Prentice, Karen Fraser, Debbie Regala, Claudia Kauffman and Adam Kline.  If, like me, your Senator is amongst them, consider writing and thanking him or her.  If not, consider writing to ask them to sponsor Senator Oemig's petition. 

And take a look at this videotape of Eric talking about why he is doing this.  It's pretty amazing.

Posted by Lynn Allen on February 15, 2007 at 11:16 PM in Media, National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (1)

Day Fifteen of the Libby Trial: Tedious Legal Wrangling

The lawyers wrangled today over the instructions that will be given the jury on Tuesday during closing arguments.  And the amounts of time each team would have to make their case.  Marcy, our amazing live-blogger, reports it all but it's still pretty boring stuff.

On the videotape today, Jane and Marcy talk today about where we are in the Libby trial and what it tells us.  They ask some questions about the enormous amount of money that people have contributed to the Libby Defense Fund.  The few contributors that they know of are neocons, such as James Woolsey.  They deduct that the entire defense has been an attempt to build a firewall around Dick Cheney, the President and the entire neocon project.  They said that everyone assumes that Libby has decided to take the fall with the assumption that he will be pardoned shortly before Bush leaves office in January, 2009. 

Today, the extraordinary Firedoglake coverage hit the front page of the New York Times.  Pretty cool.

Posted by Lynn Allen on February 15, 2007 at 09:58 PM in Media, National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Arianna and Franken in Bed

Now that Al Franken has announced his campaign to run for Paul Wellstone's old seat in Minnesota (yeah!), Arianna figures she better get the videos of he and she together in bed out for public consumption before they hurt Franken's run.  The video-clips from a couple of sketches, called "Strange Bedfellows", done in the mid-90's when Arianna was a Republican, are hilarious.   

Posted by Lynn Allen on February 15, 2007 at 11:42 AM in Media, National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (1)

February 14, 2007

Day Fourteen of the Libby Trial: The Defense Rests

. . . because, well, what else could they do? No Libby; no Cheney; no Rove.   In their daily video-clip, Jane and Jeralyn and Marcy talk about how the Libby lawyers told the judge that they had acted in good faith.  They said they didn't get most of the statements of the government witnesses until late December.  Once they saw the material, they decided it was unlikely they would put Libby on the stand. 

Hm.  Marcy added at a later time that she thought the most damning thing in the trial was the video-tapes of Libby testifying before the Grand Jury.  She said that he went from sounding honest in the first appearances before the jury to looking like he was doing anything he could to weasel out of any straight answer.  Says a lot to me. 

Jeralyn says, however, that she doesn't think that either side made their case.  That means that the closing arguments, coming on Tuesday, will be particularly important.  She also said that the jury tends to pay best attention to the person they hear last.  That's Fitzgerald.   Alright!

Here's a fun piece from Jane in a piece she wrote today: 

As a side note: Jeralyn Merritt is indulging in some informed speculation to the effect that Team Libby actually focus-grouped Dick Cheney.  The results showed that he was so loathed that the ill-will risked spilling over onto Scooter.  And thus, given that the VP comes in slightly lower in popularity than novacaine-free dental surgery, the decision was made to not put him on the stand.

Otherwise, there was not a lot today.  The jurors finally came in at about 3:15, wearing red tee-shirts and giving a Valentine's Day greeting to the court.  This evidently startled the judge and lawyers but was enjoyed nonetheless.  Tim Russert was spared another time in the spotlight on the stand when the judge decided there wasn't anything particularly relevant.  Same with the defense's desire to bring in testimony from three FBI agents to attest to how very busy Scooter Libby was.  Not relevant.  I think I like this judge.

Posted by Lynn Allen on February 14, 2007 at 09:21 PM in Media, National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Day Thirteen of the Libby Trial: Pretty Feeble Defense

In the midst of deep snow, the jury heard the last journalist, Jill Abramson, managing editor for the NYT, and John Hannah, who works in the OVP as the VP's NSA.  Since we learned today that neither Libby nor Cheney will be testifying, it fell to Hannah to present the case that Libby was very important and had a lot of important issues he was working on at all times.  It was also his job to introduce the notion that Libby was forgetful. 

That last one backfired.  A jurist asked about why a person who was so forgetful was in such an important job.  Good question.

The next key moment, which Jane called a Perry Mason moment, came when Fitzgerald cross examined Hannah.  Here's Jane:

On cross examination, Fitzgerald then inquired of Hannah if part of Libby's job was to push back if the integrity of the OVP was attacked, and Hannah said yes.  Fitz then wanted to know if, during that very critical week, Hannah wanted to go out for coffee with Scooter for a couple of hours and shoot the breeze would Scooter even have time to say yes?  Hannah started to squirm, knowing that this is exactly what happened between Judy Miller and Scooter at the St. Regis.  So a very uncomfortable Hannah replied, well, if it were really important, he's sure Scooter would do it.  Fitzgerald then wants to know if it's fair to conclude that if Scooter DID agree to go, it would be over something that was very important to him.

We are nearing the end of the trial.  Tomorrow the defense will rest.  The defense is hoping to recall Tim Russert so they can try to impugn his testimony.  Other than that, with no testimony from either Scooter Libby himself or the Vice President, there is little left for the defense to do. 

Jane, Marcy and Jeralyn on the Daily Videotape

MW - Jill Abramson

MW - John Hannah, 1

MW - John Hannah, 2

Posted by Lynn Allen on February 14, 2007 at 12:08 AM in Media, National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 13, 2007

Day Twelve of the Libby Trial: Pointlessly Interviewing Journalists

Yesterday the Libby Defense Team called a series of well-known journalists to "prove" that Libby hadn't revealed the information about Valerie Plame to them.  Jane, Marcy and Jeralyn, in their daily videotape report on the events of the day in the courthouse, said they figured every Pulitzer prize winning journalist, whom Libby had not mentioned Plame to, was called to testify.  The day's crop of journalists reporting thusly included Walter Pincus, Bob Woodward, David Sanger and Robert Novak to start, then Glenn Kessler, Evan Thomas, and Carl Ford.  Our three reporters said they really couldn't figure out what the point of it all was, except to make it clear that Libby hadn't told every reporter he talked to about Plame.  Yeah?

The rest of the day was spent with the lawyers talking to the judge about whether or not Libby needed to testify in order for the defense team to use the "memory defense".   To no one's surprise, we found out today that neither Libby or Cheney would be testifying.

MW - Lawyerly Jousting

MW - Walter Pincus

MW - Bob Woodward

MW - David Sanger

MW - Bob Novak, 1

MW - Bob Novak, 2

MW - A Gaggle of Journalists

Posted by Lynn Allen on February 13, 2007 at 11:04 PM in Media, National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Whacking Dandelions

Chris Van Dyk, of Citizens for More Important Things, who led the fight against Seattle's giveway to the Sonics, recently sent the following email, which is a great summary of the current situation with the Sonics and NASCAR in the state legislature.

It's particularly disappointing to see otherwise progressive Democrats like Hans Dunshee, who has been a hero to the environmental community, lining up behind environmentally destructive and fiscally irrational boondoggles like a NASCAR racetrack.

More below the fold.

 

Subject: Alert & Update from Citizens for More Important Things: Pro-sports Arenas Grow Like Dandelions

Working on the stadium issue is like weeding dandelions. Sometimes, it seems there are more and bigger dandelions no matter what you do. There is no rational explanation. They just appear.

State Senator Margarita Prentice has proposed, for Renton or Bellevue, at a cost of $300 million or so to taxpayers, a new $500 million arena for the Sonics. This despite the legislature having turned down the Sonics request, two years in a row, for $200 million. Despite Seattle voters giving 75% approval to I-91. Despite statewide polls showing 80% opposition to any subsidy. Does Senator Prentice think they were turned away, then, just so we could give them even more tax subsidies, now?

But Senator Prentice is chair of Senate Ways and Means, so regardless how illogical, what she thinks matters. On Tuesday, February 13, 3:30 pm, Clayton Bennett, billionaire Oklahoma owner of the Sonics, will try to justify to Senator Prentice’s Ways and Means Committee why he needs your tax dollars to build his Sonics a palatial gymnasium in Renton. This meeting is billed as a public hearing, so if you can possibly make it, please, be there, sign up, and speak out. If there are enough of us, there are other Senators on Ways & Means who do understand this issue, and they will certainly appreciate our support. If we are not there, anything can happen. If you can’t make it, send an email to your legislators, and the Governor. The list is below. Remember the dandelions.

Likewise, on Tuesday, February 20, 6:00pm, the House Finance Committee is holding a hearing on NASCAR’s bid for $145 million for a speedway on Hood Canal in Kitsap County. This proposal is an environmental disaster, and with respect to tax subsidies, it makes Clayton Bennett and the Sonics look, well, reasonable. For $145 million, the facility will be used for two—that’s right, two—races per year. You’d think Washington State government had extra cash to throw around. Talk about dandelions. We thought we had stopped NASCAR at Kitsap County government, but Rep. Geoff Simpson and Rep. Hans Dunshee have engineered an end-around local control with HB 2062. (One of the ironies is that HB 2062 is touted as a jobs bill—but it exempts construction from having to pay prevailing wages.) NASCAR is planning a legislative circus—race cars and race car drivers at the hearing--so if you can, please, be there with your voices of reason! Another point--because the area of Hood Canal where NASCAR wants to build does not have sewage systems or sewage treatment plants, most of the 80,000 spectators will be using Sani-Cans and Porta-Potties to do their business. A few Kitsap residents have suggested having the work-product be shipped to Representatives Dunshee and Simpson for further processing.

Lastly, please remember us with your pocketbook. We need contributions to fund our lobbying effort. It takes time and people to maintain a presence in Olympia—and believe me, the Sonics and NASCAR have plenty of both. (At last count, between them, they had six lobbyists.) We rely on you to write letters and emails, do research, and talk to reporters. We keep the issues alive in the media, and with a bit of cash, buy advertising. Every dollar helps. $200 tells 10,000 people on KIRO radio to call or email their legislators. Otherwise, all they will hear from are those who stand to benefit—the panhandling billionaire sports owners of the world. With your help, we can keep those dandelions weeded out of Washington’s gardens. (Mostly, it is a matter of just getting good economic information, good research, in front of our legislators. But that does take time, and having time takes money.) So, please help.


Many thanks for your support.


Chris Van Dyk & Mark Baerwaldt, Co-Chairs

Citizens for More Important Things

PO Box 4473

Seattle, WA 98194

206-854-6127

cvandyk5@msn.com


NASCAR SPONSORS WHO NEED TO HEAR FROM YOU


Dunshee.Hans@leg.wa.gov; Fromhold.Bill@leg.wa.gov; Chase.Maralyn@leg.wa.gov; OBrien.Al@leg.wa.gov; Sells.Mike@leg.wa.gov; Ormsby.Timm@leg.wa.gov; Sullivan.Brian@leg.wa.gov; Takko.Dean@leg.wa.gov; Ericks.Mark@leg.wa.gov; McCoy.John@leg.wa.gov; Pettigrew.Eric@leg.wa.gov; Williams.Brendan@leg.wa.gov; Orcutt.Ed@leg.wa.gov; Strow.Chris@leg.wa.gov; Curtis.Richard@leg.wa.gov; Haler.Larry@leg.wa.gov; Hankins.Shirley@leg.wa.gov; Armstrong.Mike@leg.wa.gov; Chandler.Bruce@leg.wa.gov; Bailey.Barbara@leg.wa.gov


HOUSE FINANCE COMMITTEE MEMBERS (THESE FOLKS REALLY NEED TO HEAR FROM YOU)


hasegawa.bob@leg.wa.gov; orcutt.ed@leg.wa.gov; condotta.cary@leg.wa.gov; conway.steve@leg.wa.gov; ericks.mark@leg.wa.gov; mcintire.jim@leg.wa.gov; roach.dan@leg.wa.gov; santos.sharon@leg.wa.gov; hunter.ross@leg.wa.gov


SENATE WAYS AND MEANS COMMITTEE MEMBERS WHO REALLY, REALLY NEED TO HEAR FROM YOU


prentice.margarita@leg.wa.gov; fraser.karen@leg.wa.gov; pridemore.craig@leg.wa.gov; zarelli.joseph@leg.wa.gov; brandland.dale@leg.wa.gov; carrell.michael@leg.wa.gov; fairley.darlene@leg.wa.gov; hatfield.brian@leg.wa.gov; hewitt.mike@leg.wa.gov; hobbs.steve@leg.wa.gov; honeyford.jim@leg.wa.gov; keiser.karen@leg.wa.gov; kohl-welles.jeanne@leg.wa.gov; oemig.eric@leg.wa.gov; parlette.linda@leg.wa.gov; rasmussen.marilyn@leg.wa.gov; regala.debbie@leg.wa.gov; roach.pam@leg.wa.gov; rockefeller.phil@leg.wa.gov; schoesler..mark@leg.wa.gov;tom.rodney@leg.wa.gov







Posted by Jon Stahl on February 13, 2007 at 08:23 AM in Policy, Taking Action | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 12, 2007

Speaker Frank Chopp out of sync with environmentalists on transportation and land use

Frank Chopp has shown leadership in Olympia on the meat and potato Democratic issues like jobs, education, and healthcare. But when it comes to creating policies that favor smart growth and transit, the speaker is out of sync and out of touch with the values of urban environmentalists.

It’s very disheartening to see Speaker Chopp’s pandering to environmentalists saying he could support an at-grade replacement for the viaduct, and a greater investment for transit. If he truly stood for a surface replacement then he would push WSDOT and the city of Seattle to replace the viaduct with an at-grade roadway and would work to create funding for transit in the legislature. In reality, Speaker Chopp appears to believe that an elevated highway is good urban planning and that waterfront stakeholders will rally around a “pro-environment” elevated highway. This idea couldn’t be further from the truth. Urban environmentalists will never accept an elevated highway for the downtown waterfront. Environmentalists advocate for an investment in open space, transit and smart growth, and they do not support elevated highways in the middle of the densest part of the state and the center of the city.

The speaker has articulated a vision and worked tirelessly behind the scenes to have a huge new elevated highway built on the waterfront in downtown Seattle, replacing a 50 year eyesore and representation of our failed national transportation and land use policies. His auto-centric vision for the downtown waterfront is a vision that holds the private space of highway lanes over the public value of open space and community. His focus on rebuilding the elevated highway, and not taking a deeper look at how to create mobility in the center of the city are the kind of policies that have contributed to Seattle being ranked as having the second worst traffic congestion of any city in the nation.

Speaker Chopp’s anti-environmental vision for Seattle assumes Seattleites don’t want to enjoy their waterfront, which could quickly become the regions premier public gathering space. The Speaker assumes that the residents of his 43rd District and the rest of the city don’t want to build community and connect with each other in the center of the city. A world-class city has more than an art museum and symphony hall. A world-class city has beautiful open spaces, an effective mass transit system and quality affordable housing downtown and throughout the city.

There is a romantic vision of Seattle, and it couldn’t be more different from the city Speaker Chopp is working to build. It’s a vision of a city that captures the qualities that made Seattle great before the age of highways took American cities in a different direction. It’s the kind of city that was built in the early decades of the twentieth century when streetcar development created neighborhoods. It’s the kind of transit-oriented development that is happening now, where neighborhoods become transit hubs with density and affordable housing and open space and thriving neighborhoods attract families back to the city from the auto-dependent suburbs. We can’t forget that downtown Seattle is a neighborhood and the number one transit hub in the city.

The famous billboard twenty five years ago asking the last person to leave Seattle to turn out the lights couldn’t ring with more irony today, in a city and state that during that time has failed to get behind the eight ball on funding for transit and affordable housing development. Speaker Chopp is clearly out of sync with his district and fellow Seattleites on transportation and smart growth and really needs to examine why his leadership in the house for the past 9 years has failed to provide funding and create policies that are pro-transit and pro-environment. In Olympia we need an advocate for improving the quality of life in Seattle, not another roadblock.

Cross Posted on The Urban Environmentalist

Posted by EzraBasom on February 12, 2007 at 10:15 PM in Policy | Permalink | Comments (4)

Joel Connelly Imagines Seattle circa 2077

Since Lynn has been away at the NW bloggers conference all weekend, I've been wracking my brain to come up with great local fodder for the blog. Wasn't happening. I'll chalk it up to the purgatory between winter and spring, where things are just on the verge of popping out. I even considered doing a decade-by-decade comparison of the Grammy winners from the last 49 years, but let's face it: pop music is a cultural wasteland and the winner's circle shows it. (Yeah, yeah - the Dixie Chicks and their shrill lead singer give me a headache. I'm still grieving the death of my favorite jazz saxophonist, Mike Brecker, who, posthumously, won two awards.)

Then I happened upon two hilarious pieces that brought me out of the doldrums. One is a rude, nasty and hysterically funny video of what Bush is really doing to this country. The other is Joel Connelly's P.I.column, in which he imagines our fair city 70 years hence -- after it's caught in the clutches of the PCP (Politically Correct Police), that is.

Magazines with pictures of male torsos were permitted, while the PCP removed publications displaying naked female bodies. It was part of a "Nickels rule" regulating display of the human body. Strip clubs are required to erect Plexiglas screens to separate dancers from patrons. Customers must wear monitoring devices: An electric shock is administered at signs of arousal.

The first impression of 2077 Seattle is of bicycles and mopeds, swarms of them, reminiscent of Beijing before China's emergence as the world's pre-eminent superpower.

The story of the city's transformation is well-known. A civic councilor named Peter Steinbrueck seized power, aided by radical school trustees, militant arts activists and a cadre of young Capitol Hill writers dubbed the "trust fund kids."

The city tore down its waterfront freeway and retreated into itself under a "new order." It is officially called "Coordination." Thousands left, many claiming to have been driven out. One major neighborhood, West Seattle, seceded.

I may not always agree with Connelly's curmudgeonly view of the world, and I don't necessarily subscribe to all the satirical take-downs in this column, but so what. I read it and laughed my ass off, because Seattle's penchant for political correctness drives me crazy to the point of total exhaustion. Agree or disagree with him, Connelly proves that the best satire serves up a slice of truth with every bite.

Posted by shoephone on February 12, 2007 at 12:56 AM in Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (1)

February 09, 2007

Senate Moves on U.S. Attorney Firings

Friday's New York Times reports that the Senate Judiciary Committee has decided it doesn't much like the way the Bush Administration is acting with carte blanche in removing the Senate's advise and consent powers. The committee voted 13-6 to send legislation to the floor that throws a wrench into Alberto Gonzales' recent habit of firing U.S. Attorneys because... well, darnit, because they're not sufficiently conservative. Anybody who grew up learning that justice is supposed to be blind and that judiciaries should act without regard for politics has been given a sad lesson, in the form of the Bush Doctrine: My Way or the Highway. But Pat Leahy and Harry Reid are having none of it. They plan to bring back some long-lost balance to the federal power structure. If you get C-Span 2, it should fun to watch the upcoming fireworks, based on this entertaining snippet from Thursday's proceedings:

"I'm going to do everything I can to get it to the floor next week", said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

"It'll be over my objection", shot back Republican Conference Chairman Jon Kyl of Arizona.

I'm starting to really enjoy the antics of those wacky Republicans.

The Democrats acted one day after hearing John McKay's comments about how he really got fired as Seattle's U.S. Attorney. Maybe they were upset because, considering that McKay was continually given such excellent reviews by Justice Department evaluators, firing him didn't seem to make any sense. And I'm pleased to report that Senator Patty Murray has gone to bat for the Constitutional balance of powers, by writing to Pat Leahy and confirming her displeasure, and the need for the Justice Department to pony up the goods on McKay's firing. As yet, the department's spokeswoman, Tasia Scolinos, said it will be a cold day in Hell before they would tell the truth about any of that.

The House is planning hearings on a bill similar to the Senate's, sometime in the next month.

Posted by shoephone on February 9, 2007 at 10:43 PM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (1)

February 08, 2007

Labor and the Benefits of Democratic Control of Congress

I remember hearing liberals sometimes say in the 90's say that there was no difference between the Democrats and the Republicans.  (Hard to believe that a decade later, given how much that difference has shown up.)  I used to say, "Look down to the second or third layers.  That's where it really shows up."

Well, here's a wonderful example.

The Employee Free Choice Act, wending its way through the House as H.R. 800 with 231 House co-sponsors, would restore the freedom of workers to choose a union.  As many as 60 million workers have said they would join a union if they could.  However, a whole set of laws introduced over the last 70 years, have allowed corporations to harass and intimidate workers and prevent them from forming unions.  Even though its theoretically legal to form unions, it often takes years for appeals to be heard by either labor boards or courts. 

Congressman George Miller of California, who introduced the bill, says:

Our broken union election system allows employers to harass, intimidate, reassign, and fire workers who support a union. This week, I introduced legislation that would enable workers to make a free and fair choice about whether to form a union. The Employee Free Choice Act is simple: it says that when a majority of workers sign cards authorizing a union, they get one, period.

The Bush administration is spending lives and dollars to try to bring democracy to other countries. It's time we had a little democracy in workplaces here at home.

Tula Connell, writing on labor at Firedoglake, says that middle-class workers, whose pay, benefits and working conditions are not improving for them as expected.  She quotes AFL-CIO Organizing Director Stewart Acuff:

[There is a] direct correlation between 25 years of stagnant, flat-lined wages and the assault on unions. Forty-seven million of us are without health care and 40 million with inadequate health care, [and] 20 percent more of us [live] in poverty now than when this decade started.

By leveling the playing field for workers seeking to form unions, the Employee Free Choice Act will improve the wages, working conditions and job security for workers who want to sign on.

Passage of this bill may well encourage a huge number of new workers to organize, which would both improve the lives of millions of workers and also increase the forces of support for Democrats and Democratic policies.  It's a to-fer.

Connell says that the bill is very likely to pass in the House and may encounter some resistance in the Senate but there too, they are making inroads. 

Posted by Lynn Allen on February 8, 2007 at 11:55 PM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Day Eleven of the Libby Trial - The Case for Libby is Falling Apart

The prosecution rested it's case against Scooter Libby today and it's hard to imagine what the heck the defense will come up with next week.  Many trial watchers assume that the defense will have to put Libby up on the stand.  From the outside it looks like a tough call.  Without Libby they clearly have little to hope for.  At this point, it's pretty much Libby's word against everyone else's.  BUT . . if Libby were to testify, the odds are probably no better that he would go free and his testimony might lead directly to the Vice President himself - if Libby were to say anything outside of "I don't recall".   Even if, miraculously, Dick Cheney took the stand and told the truth about how he asked Libby to go after Wilson, it would still pretty much result in an obstruction of justice charge and a perjury charge for Libby and the likely resignation of Cheney. 

There is very little room left for the defense to maneuver. 

Tim Russert did not budge today.  Ted Wells, the Libby Defense Team lawyer who questioned Russert, could find no clear line of questioning.  He wandered all over the map and appeared to only succeed in boring the jury. 

Then Fitzgerald did an elegant, short, and reportedly brutal cross-exam - which must have been a thing of beauty to watch. He ended with the following, according to Swopa's live-blogging, not necessarily totally accurate interaction:    

F:  Did you read indictment?    

T: Yes, I think it was released after the news conference.    

F: What did you read?    

T: Parts invoving things I was claimed to have said.    

F: What did you think of those things.    

T: That they weren't true.    

F: No further questions.

Jane and Swopa have another great video-clip.  Swopa did yeoman's duty live-blogging.  And, another Firedoglake writer, Scarecrow, lays out the argument that Libby was clearly the proxy for Dick Cheney:

Swopa - Tim Russert, 3

Swopa - Tim Russert, 4

Swopa - Tim Russert, 5

Swopa - Tim Russert, 6

Jane - No Love for Imus

Scarecrow - Dick Cheney and the Dog that Didn't Bark

Posted by Lynn Allen on February 8, 2007 at 09:55 PM in Media, National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

U.S. Attorney McKay Forced Out For Being a Moderate Republican

A few weeks ago at Washblog, Emmett O'Connell wondered if John McKay, Seattle's U.S. Attorney, had been forced out in some sort of 'Saturday Night Massacre' taking place all over the country. At the time, I said it sounded like mere rumor, but now I think I have to eat some crow because the Seattle P.I. is reporting that it's true. The paper is finally starting to ask some pointed questions, like:

If McKay was fired for political reasons, what was his sin?

Sources say McKay alienated some high-level members of the Justice Department during his vigorous advocacy for an innovative, interagency information-sharing system in Washington state that later became a national model -- the kind of program advocated by the 9/11 commission.

One former Justice Department source said McKay might be too politically moderate for the Bush administration. His brand of Republicanism is more reminiscent of President Bush's father than the current inhabitant of the White House.

Too moderate a Republican. Poppy's kind of guy. It's not enough for Bush that McKay - who he, himself, hired 6 years ago - is a Republican, the attorney has got to be certifiable wacko right wing to keep the office. It doesn't matter that FBI experts and legal experts all say McKay was doing an exemplary job (and upping the Seattle office's conviction rate in to the 87% range). Junior's intent on leaving a legacy anywhere he can.

McKay is not the only U.S. attorney who's recently been replaced under cover of darkness. And the reason it's been allowed to happen is due to a provision slipped into the re-authorized Patriot Act by Senator Arlen Specter, giving the Bush Administration the power to remove attorneys at whim and replace them without so much as the standard Senate confirmation hearing. You remember the Patriot Act - that's the legislation passed in record time back in September 2001 by a Congress terrified of the president, it's own shadow, and the prospect of being labeled traitors. The Patriot Act - the big middle finger extended to those quaint, old civil liberties we once hailed as the hallmarks of our democratic experiment. The Patriot Act is also the document that John McKay was working diligently to uphold for this president. But no matter. He was Poppy's kinda guy. So, now Bush is feverishly trying to fill the attorney's chairs with young-ish, right-minded folks who will do as they are told.

Senator Patty Murray said she finds it "deeply disconcerting that he could have been let go for political reasons". That's a nice sound bite, but I'd like to ask Senator Murray exactly what she and her Democratic colleagues - now in the majority - plan to do about it. It's not just a matter of pushing good attorneys out, it's that the re-strengthened Patriot Act allows for questionable replacements without even a cursory look by a Congress needing to conduct oversight. I have hopes that Senator Pat Leahy, the chair of the Judiciary Committee, will be looking into this, but it's time for all of our senators to start undoing some of the damage that's been done to this country - before the 2008 campaign season begins in earnest and they start skipping votes. So, as they wade through the broken glass of the last 6 years, I'd like to remind the Democrats that flying the banner of "majority" doesn't mean much until you crash the gates and really take the castle.

Sen. Patty Murray

(202) 224-2621 - D.C. office

(206) 553-5545 - Seattle office

www.murray.senate.gov/email

Senator Maria Cantwell

(202) 224-3441 - D.C. office

(206) 220-6400 - Seattle office

maria_cantwell@cantwell.senate.gov

Posted by shoephone on February 8, 2007 at 09:51 AM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (2)

February 07, 2007

Day Ten of the Libby Trial - Russert Sinks Libby's Case

In fifteen minutes of questioning by prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, Tim Russert dismantled Libby's sloppy story of hearing about Plame's identity from him.  Of course, Fitzgerald set it up beautifully.  There were another three hours of video-tape of Libby's testimony in front of the Grand Jury in the morning, ending in a wrap-up of the many conflicts by Fitzgerald.  Then Russert flatly contradicts Libby's central lie. 

And Arianna, who has been on Russert's case since the beginning of the Plame affair, was in court today for the first time.  Turns out Russert had told his story about Libby freely to an FBI agent, Jack Eckenrode, well before he fought to prevent being subpoenaed by Fitzgerald and the Grand Jury.  Jane and Arianna and the entire gang were flummoxed.  They heard Russert say that he considered anything a member of the administration said to be confidential.  They talk, in a video of their report of the day, about how the folks in the administration and the folks in the media work together to keep the truth from the public. 

Two other media folks, Andrea Mitchell of NBC and Jill Abramson of the New York Times are also fighting subpoenas tonight that would call them before the jury tomorrow.  Oh, this gets more and more interesting!

Swopa - Liveblogging the Grand Jury Tapes of Libby Squirming, 6

Swopa - Liveblogging the Grand Jury Tapes of Libby Squirming, 7

Swopa - Liveblogging the Grand Jury Tapes of Libby Squirming, 8

Swopa - Tim Russert, 1

Swopa - Tim Russert, 2

Jane - Behind the Cocktail Weenie Circuit

Posted by Lynn Allen on February 7, 2007 at 11:10 PM in Media, National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Could Greater Seattle benefit from a transit riders union?

In a county and state where the fate of the transit system rests with elected officials apathetic towards transit funding, a transit riders union could make an difference in raising public awareness about the current and future funding and service needs of our transit systems.

For example, King County Metro is a transit system that serves the largest city and the largest county in the state, yet as a funding priority it gets little attention from the large delegation of state legislators representing King County in Olympia. At the downtown courthouse, county council members spend their time fighting each other over each crumb of new funding, while across the street city officials pretend that the transit needs in Seattle are somebody else's problem.

For transit riders to be effective, as a citizen lobby, there needs to be a strategy to increase all transit funding, one jurisdiction and one campaign at a time. Without this kind of unified strategy, as activists, we find ourselves in the same boat we’ve been in for years, with bus advocates bad mouthing rail supporters, rail supporters turning a blind eye to the funding needs of the bus system and monorail enthusiasts scratching their heads and wondering what happened.

In contrast to Seattle, Los Angeles is known for the largest and best organized transit riders union. For 14 years the Bus Riders Union (BRU) has fought for increased transit service, with a focus on improving bus service for urban communities, often low-income, dependent on inadequate transit service. Yet their battle for improved bus service has often hinged on opposition to light rail expansion, including a recently expired legal agreement between BRU and the MTA (Metropolitan Transportation Authority). While the effort towards increased bus service is worthy, the effectiveness of BRU is questionable and controversial, in part because rather than fight for the maximum funding for all kinds of mass transit, with a focus on improved bus service, the union has fought against rail, to get funding for buses.

In Seattle and Washington State, I believe that if transit riders could unite together around the common political goal of improved transit service of all kinds, with a commitment to stop airing our dirty laundry in public, then we’d see the a dramatic increase in funding for transit from local, regional and state government.

Cross Posted on The Urban Environmentalist

Posted by EzraBasom on February 7, 2007 at 07:57 PM in Policy | Permalink | Comments (2)

February 06, 2007

Day Nine of the Libby Trial - Watching Libby Squirm

Jane and Swopa, our intrepid Libby trial watchers, describe a delicious process whereby Prosecutor Fitzgerald asks a series of questions of Scooter Libby in front of the Grand Jury on video-tape that take Libby from a confident witness to a squirming, twisting guy who begins to see that his story is not holding up. Other people had said things that differed from his responses and the story that the administration laid out didn't make sense over time. He gets foggy, lowers his voice, asks over and over for the question, and just generally starts to melt down.

Clearly the Libby Defense Team is not going to put Libby on the stand in person.

Prior to that part of the day, Judge Walton ruled that David Sanger of the New York Times would be compelled to present testimony. Yet another loss by the defense team.

Tomorrow, Russert comes to the stand. Much of Libby's defense hinges on his story that he heard about Valerie Plame from Tim Russert. And Tim Russert is not likely to substantiate that claim.

Pop goes the weasel.

Jane and Swopa - A Day of Libby Grand Jury Testimony (with Video)

CHS - Team Libby Opens the Door to No Libby Testimony

Swopa - Libby's Taped Grand Jury Testimony, 2

Swopa - Libby's Taped Grand Jury Testimony, 3

Swopa - Libby's Taped Grand Jury Testimony, 4

Swopa - Libby's Taped Grand Jury Testimony, 5

Posted by Lynn Allen on February 6, 2007 at 08:14 PM in Media, National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 05, 2007

Day Eight of the Libby Trial - Libby's Tapes Released

Today Judge Walton ruled that the Scooter Libby tapes of his testimony to the Grand Jury were going to be shown to the jury and also released to the public.  We will get 8 hours of his testimony tomorrow and our blogger-researchers will be able to go over that testimony in detail.  This is one of those places where this great new citizen activist online network is likely to allow us to understand more about the doings of this administration than would ever have been possible before. 

There was also a lot of additional cross-talk about the famous 1x2x6 article in the WAPO on Oct. 12, 2003 that was discussed last Thursday as well.  At one point, Fitzgerald was caught short implying that a lot of the prosecution's arguments against the OVP were related to the information in this article.  Hm.  Interesting doings to come.

There was also some additional questioning of FBI Agent Deborah Bond.  Nothing new was revealed.  It appears that Libby Defense Team lawyer Ted Wells was trying to trip Bond up by going over details of her previous testimony.  It seems to have had the effect of both annoying and boring the jury and everyone else in the courtroom which may have been the intent.  Hard to tell.

At the end of the day, the court showed this jury the first hour to two of the Libby tapes to the Grand Jury.  There will be eight additional hours tomorrow and then Tim Russert takes the stand on Wednesday and prosecution wraps up.  The mystery witness seems to have evaporated, no one knows why.

Jane is at the trial for the first time, just two weeks after her surgery.  She looks good - as this summary video-clip of the day attests to.  With her is Swopa who is taking over the live-blogging from Marcy Wheeler.

Swopa - Live blogging the Legal Jousting

Swopa - FBI Agent Bond, 6

Swopa - FBI Agent Bond, 7

Swopa - Lewis Scooter Libby, 1

Summary of the Day by Jane

Posted by Lynn Allen on February 5, 2007 at 09:39 PM in Media, National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

I-957

I don't think their signature gathering campaign is gonna get real far, but ya just gotta like the chutzpah of Gregory Gadow, who's floating I-957, which proposes to make procreation a requirement for legal marriage.

But, no, he's not a right wing whacko.  Gadow explains:

On July 26, 2006, the Washington Supreme Court issued their ruling on
Andersen v. King County, decided jointly with Castle v. Washington.
These cases sought to overturn Washington’s Defense of Marriage Act, which
bans same-sex couples from the hundreds of rights, protections and privileges
which state law provides through marriage. In their ruling, the Supreme Court
claimed a “legitimate state interest” in defining marriage
exclusively for the purpose of procreation and child-rearing. The justices
then used this interest to declare that same-sex couples are properly barred
from marriage because they are incapable of procreating.

In response, a group of concerned citizens formed the Washington Defense of
Marriage Alliance this past August. Our agenda is to shine a very bright light
on the injustice and prejudice that underlie the Andersen decision by
giving that decision the full force of law. Over the next few years, we will
propose three initiatives to the people, each focusing on a different aspect
of Andersen. The first initiative will make procreation a requirement
for legal marriage. The second would prohibit divorce or separation when a
married couple has children together. The third would make having a child
together the equivalent of marriage.

Each of the initiatives we get passed will, no doubt, be struck down as
unconstitutional by the state Supreme Court. Good; that is our ultimate goal.
Each ruling against these initiatives will also be a ruling against the basis
for keeping the state’s Defense of Marriage Act. Eventually,
Andersen will fall apart under the weight of judicial opinion, and
equal marriage – the marriage which we seek to defend – shall become a reality
in this state.






They're trying to raise $300,000 to fund their signature gathering campaign.  That suggests that they don't have much money in the bank.  Which means I think they're unlikely to make it.  Worse, I think they'll get a couple of days' worth of headlines, a few op-eds and then they will sink without a trace. 

But I wish them luck.  Maybe they'll pick up an endorsement from Rev. Ken Hutcherson or that wingbat who runs Mars Church.  That could be fun.



Posted by Jon Stahl on February 5, 2007 at 09:09 PM in Ballot Initiatives | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 04, 2007

Texas Says Goodbye to Molly Ivins

Aerialist has a wonderful diary up at Kos that relates what he saw and heard at the memorial held for Molly Ivins Sunday. This will give you just a taste of the eulogies that were offered in her memory:

Siblings Andy and Sara described what Andy called an "Ozzie and Harriet" upbringing in upperclass Houston in the 50’s and a sister who both inspired and entertained them. Struggling to keep up with his big sister on one of their many walks, Andy said he asked Molly how she could walk so fast. "Keep your eyes on the horizon," she told him, "it will make you go faster."

Not only is the diary special, told from the point of view of someone who was there, but the comments are great too. Molly brought out the very best in us.

Posted by shoephone on February 4, 2007 at 10:44 PM in Media, National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 01, 2007

Day Seven of the Libby Trial: Libby Probably Heard of Plame from Cheney

Today was a big day in the Libby Trial. The government lawyers fought fiercely with Libby's lawyers over the decision about whether or not to show the jury Scottie McClellan's statements in fall 2003 about Bush being determined that anyone who leaked classified information would be fired. Libby's lawyers were desperate to prevent this, along with the questions from the journalists that prompted that and similar statements, from being shown. In the end, McClellan's statements were shown to the jury but not the questions that elicited those responses.

Libby's lawyers are still trying to prevent an Oct. 12, 2003 article in the WAPO from being introduced. It says that 1 person leaked Plame's identity to two senior administration officials who then told six journalists. (This has come to be known as the 1x2x6 theory.) Given that the article was in Libby's files, it is likely that the government will win this one, according to Marcy.

Finally, when the lawyers were done fighting about how to proceed mid-afternoon, an FBI agent, Deborah Bond, was called to testify about the FBI investigation of the possible unauthorized disclosure of Valerie Wilson's identity to the media.

She was crisp and straight-forward. The big news: Libby told her he found a handwritten note he had made during a phone conversation with the VP. The note - the smoking gun - indicated that Cheney told him that Plame worked at the CIA's counterproliferation division and that she was married to an outspoken critic of the Iraq War. This conversation tool place back on June 12, 2003, one month before Libby was said to have received that information from Tim Russert.

Russert is scheduled to be the government's final witness, later this next week. I have to assume that it is possible that Dick Cheney will testify as well. That is what Jane Hamsher has been fighting so hard to get back to see. (She is two weeks past a surgery for breast cancer and due to show up at the court on Monday. Yeah!)

Video-clip of MW: FBI Fingers Cheney

MW - FBI Agent Bond, 1 (The Lawyers Discuss What's Admissible)

MW - FBI Agent Bond, 2 (More Lawyerly Discussions)

MW - FBI Agent Bond, 3 (Have a Witness - Deborah Bond)

MW - FBI Agent Bond, 4

MW - FBI Agent Bond, 5

CHS - Well Isn't that Interesting?

Posted by Lynn Allen on February 1, 2007 at 11:09 PM in Media, National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Cities and WSDOT must work with transit agencies to get buses moving through traffic bottlenecks

In a region where the mass transit infrastructure is dependent on several large bus systems, we must create reliability for bus routes. There are two separate issues that stand out, when we look at how to improve the speed and reliability of buses. The first issue is slow bus routes due to ongoing congestion and poor traffic management. The second issue is inconsistent and unexpected traffic delays, which wreak havoc on keeping to the published schedule.

Separating buses from general traffic and giving buses control over signal lights are the two most significant changes that would improve reliability and speed for our bus systems. Most bus routes are on arterials that are managed by cities, so a commitment on the part of cities, or whatever government agency is responsible for that arterial, to reconfigure their arterials to support buses is critical.

Already there have been many improvements made to arterials serving major bus routes. We’ve seen the positive impact from such things as signal timing or building out the sidewalk at a stop, so the bus does not need to pull out of traffic, then merge back in. Where dedicated lanes for buses are on all or part of routes, especially in places where there is consistent traffic bottlenecks, then we really start to see buses being able to move quickly and consistently on their routes. Allowing buses to control traffic lights is also important. For example if buses have a lane where the bus can avoid merging from the bus stop into traffic, and instead proceed directly from the stop through the traffic light ahead of traffic, minutes can be saved at each stop. We can make these improvements one intersection or block at a time.

While transit agencies can plan for expected congestion, and the accompanied investment of drivers and buses needed to drive at that slow pace, a much more difficult issue to deal with is unexpected delays in service resulting from special events, construction and accidents. While an individual may be late if they are caught in an unexpected traffic jam, buses caught in unexpected traffic affect the schedule for the entire day, and the hundreds of riders who depend on the schedule. City police departments and the Washington State Patrol must work with transit agencies to keep buses moving.

As a region we’re well ahead of many places in the U. S. with the carpool lanes that we’ve created on our highways. Yet, there is a looming crisis for transit, as many of these car pool lanes reach capacity. In the near future the two person carpool lane will need to be revisited to create space for the express buses that utilize car pool lanes.

With the acknowledgement that the viaduct is coming down and the need to begin the process for contingency planning, King County Executive Ron Sims released a statement on 49 capital improvements Metro could take to improve transit service in the downtown area. It is encouraging to see this kind of planning from Metro. I also enjoyed this editorial in favor of the Metro improvements from Friends of Seattle. The funding from the Transit Now measure, which passed last November in King County is also encouraging. The measure offers a financial incentive for cities throughout the county that will work to improve the speed of their routes. Metro has a goal of a 20 percent increase of speed on routes identified in Transit Now.

I’m both an idealistic and a pragmatist when it comes to the issue of getting buses moving in our cities. I believe there needs to be a recognition that with the allocation of so much space, by some estimates 25 percent, of urban land being used for transportation that some of it needs to be allocated for the exclusive use of transit, to truly create an alternative system to using a car.

Cross Posted on The Urban Environmentalist

Posted by EzraBasom on February 1, 2007 at 05:06 PM in Policy | Permalink | Comments (0)