The good, the bad, and the ugly v.2014

Back, not necessarily by popular demand, the 2014 version of Jabe’s voters’ guide! If you find this useful, please forward/post it far and wide, especially if you have some undecided friends willing to think about the recommendations. (Even better are undecided friends willing to blindly follow the recommendations.) If you prefer to forward just a link, it should be on the web by the end of Monday Oct 20. Just one request: if you disagree with something, please don’t edit or delete it, just add your exception at the top, e.g. “I disagree with Jabe’s incredibly ignorant position on I-1000.” Now the fine print:

  • The views expressed here are mine and mine alone, etc., etc..
  • I focus on ballot measures, but include a few important/interesting candidate races.
  • If you want my half-informed opinions on other races (or just want off this list) send me an email.
  • For details and generally good summaries, check out the State Voters’ Guide.
  • For generally good candidate and issue summaries and links, check out Fuse’s Progressive Voters Guide.
  • I have, with sadness, removed my link to the Stranger’s Voting Guide. In the past, even when I’ve disagreed with them, they’ve been thoughtful, analytical and funny. Over the last several years they’ve become increasingly knee-jerk, uninformative, and profane (which can be funny but isn’t, by itself, funny). Hope that changes.
  • The following will make a lot more sense if you have your ballot in front of you.


Only have 60 seconds? The Reader's Digest version:

  • The 3 most important things in this election? The Senate, the Senate, the Senate! See below.
  • Initiative 1351: Good goals, questionable intentions, bad results. No on 1351.
  • Initiative 591 & 594: Dead simple. NO! on 591. YES! on 594.
  • Advisory Votes 8-9: No Eyman initiatives, just this pointless legacy. MAINTAIN! on AV8-7.
  • City of Seattle Prop 1A & 1B: How dysfunctional can we be? YES! and 1B on Prop 1A & 1B.
  • Seattle Transportation Prop 1: If Texas secedes from the US, can Seattle secede from King County? YES! on Prop 1.
  • Seattle Citizen Petition 1: Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change… NO! on Petition 1.

Have 10 minutes? Here's some more detail.

The 3 most important things in this election? The Senate, the Senate, the Senate! See below for explanation and recommendations.

I say this in all seriousness. Nothing is more important this year than restoring functionality to the State Senate. Almost nothing has happened in Olympia in the last two years. And while I truly dislike quite a few elected D’s (one of which I’m recommending you vote against) and have voted for a few R’s in my life (well, one anyway, former WA State Secretary of State Sam Reed), in this case the fault lies squarely with the Republican control of the State Senate. But such is the state of our disengaged and ill-informed electorate that they seem to blame Jay Inslee for this. If we have two more years like the last two, in addition to every decent bill dying in committee (because the R’s are too cowardly to let anything come to an actual floor vote), the populace will be demanding a change in the governor’s mansion in 2016, no matter that that isn't the problem. This isn’t conjecture, this is absolutely intentional strategy on the part of Senate R’s. There is a simple solution. We need to just win two of the following races. Now I know that most of you don’t live in these districts. But you know people who do, so contact them and make sure they get out and vote!

  • Seth Fleetwood over Doug Ericksen in the 42nd District (in Whatcom County)
  • Matt Isenhower over Andy Hill in the 45th District (Kirkland, Duvall, Woodinville, Sammamish, …)
  • Shari Song over Mark Miloscia in the 30th District (Federal Way)
  • Tami Green over Steve O’Ban in the 28th District (Tacoma and south)
  • Irene Bowling over Tim Sheldon (they’re both D’s, one good, one terrible) in the 35th District (Bremerton, Shelton, …)

Initiative 1351: Good goals, questionable intentions, bad results. No on 1351.

This is complicated but will make more sense if you read the Washington State Budget & Policy Center’s excellent analysis of the economics of McCleary and 1351 or at least have this graph in front of you. Here’s a quick history: In 2009 and 2010, our legislature passed K-12 education reforms requiring schools to have a minimum number of teachers, principals, counselors, and other staff and to lower K-3 class sizes to no more than 17 students per class by the start of the 2017-18 school year. The 2009 and 2010 reforms set the baseline for the McCleary decision, the net result being a ~$1B annual education funding gap for the legislature to try to close. Just last month, the legislature was declared in contempt of court for failing to make any serious progress towards closing the gap. 1351 goes well beyond the previous baseline that we’re already not meeting, calling for additional reductions in class size and the hiring of ~25,500 new school staff (including ~7,500 new teachers and ~18,000 new librarians, principals, counselors, and other non-instructional staff). It specifies no funding source for the additional ~$1B required anually by 1351 but instead leaves the legislature to close an even larger ~$2B annual gap.

(Note that it is very difficult to give annual budget gap figures since, with or without 1351, the spending ramps up over time. So the numbers above are very rough estimates of annual funding gaps two years from now, just to give a scale to the budget impact.)

There is no question that we way underfund K-12 education in Washington state. There’s not even any question but that the 2009/2010 baseline is a bare minimum. And smaller classes are for sure a good thing, all else being equal (though they are not necessarily the most effective strategy above K-3). So the “tax and serve” progressive in me loves the idea of the legislature doing their job and closing this gap with increased progressive taxes, rather than through service cuts in other critical areas such higher ed (already drastically cut), social services, and environmental enforcement (none of them with any McCleary-like constitutional protection).

But that just isn’t what’s likely to happen with this legislature, no matter how many State Senate seats the forces of good manage to pick up this cycle. The Supreme Court isn’t going to be as prescriptive as to demand that the gap be closed with increased revenues. It will be instead demand that the legislature adequately fund K-12 while balancing the budget however it can. If I’m an anti-government, anti-revenue, anti-services conservative, I think my strategy if 1351 passes is clear: demand that the will of the people – including passage of 1351 but also deep aversion to tax increases from the legislature – be respected and just wait it out until the only viable option is modest tax increases and significant cuts elsewhere. (Can you spell “sequester”?)

I believe this concern, raised in the Children’s Alliance opposition to 1351, explains why progressive educational legislative leaders like State Representative and House Appropriations Chair Ross Hunter and State Senator Jamie Pedersen also oppose 1351. Some other educational advocacy groups seem worried that 1351, with is single focus on class size, will result in funds being diverted away from other more effective strategies for addressing race and poverty performance gaps as echoed in the Association of Washington School Principals’ and League of Education Voter’s opposition to 1351.

The somewhat ironic (or dysfunctional) thing is that smaller class sizes are so popular there is good reason to believe that, had 1351 included a funding source, it could have overcome our ignorant aversion to paying for the things we want and passed. But the WEA’s strategy seems to be to force the legislature into an even bigger financial hole and even worse public position to increase the chances that they will close the gap. How’s that worked so far?

Anyway, 1351 seems more ideologically tactical than pragmatic and at least as likely to hamper our ability to comply with the McCleary decision and address our K-12 performance gaps, while resulting in cuts to other critical gov’t functions, as it is to improve anything. But I have some friends who will disagree with that. That is not, however, the case with 591 and 594…

Initiative 591 & 594: Dead simple. NO! on 591. YES! on 594.

This one really is easy. A year ago, former Seattle City Council Member Tina Podlodowski wanted to find out how hard or easy it was to buy a gun. She went to and within a few hours had bought herself a semi-automatic 9-mm Beretta for $300 from an individual seller in a Shoreline area parking lot. No forms and no questions asked, not about Tina’s mental state or criminal record, or whether she’d ever fired a gun or received any training in how to handle a gun responsibly. Not even a “So you’ve decided to buy a lethal weapon” tri-fold flyer. That easy. All legal. There’s really not much point in continuing. If you think “I’m OK with that story”, then when 594 passes, you should simply move to a country with no gun laws, Somalia say, and low taxes too I’m told. If instead you think that the most basic of backgrounds checks should be done for all guns sales, then all you need do is make sure you vote No on 591 – the one that weakens our already ridiculously weak gun responsibility laws – and vote Yes on 594 – the one that strengthens them (to about one-tenth of what they are in the rest of the civilized world, but I digress). I’ll leave it to you to find the various “yes” and “no” web sites on 591 and 594, but, as a humorous aside, wanted to share one of the best arguments for 594 and against 591, which came from the “yes on 591” web site: “We saw firearms confiscated without due process in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.” Yes, that was the big societal problem there: insufficient numbers of random armed people defending their destroyed homes from other random armed people after an apocalyptic natural disaster. I’m sure Katrina would have turned out much better if only there had been easier access to guns. Really?

Advisory Votes 8-9: No Eyman initiatives, just this pointless legacy. MAINTAIN! on AV8-9.

As a result of Eyman’s 2007 initiative 960, the legislature can’t even perform its constitutionally mandated job, and eliminate an unjustifiable tax exemption or extend an existing fee, without also asking the public for their non-binding, purely-symbolic, time-wasting, money-wasting opinion. It even requires misleading “black is white and night is day” language referring to increases in state revenues as “costs”. The legislature managed to get very, very little through the Republican-controlled State Senate but it did pass, by substantial majorities, the following two measures. You should vote to “Maintain” them too, though it won’t make a damn bit of difference whether you do or don’t. Maybe someday we can stop this pointless exercise.

Advisory Vote 8: The House (55-42) and Senate (47-0) eliminated “agricultural excise tax preferences for various aspects of the marijuana industry”. Oh, it closed an unjustifiable tax break.

Advisory Vote 9: The House (61-37) and Senate (37-12) approved an “excise tax on certain leasehold interests in tribal properties”. OK, I don’t even pretend to know what this is about. Isn’t it enough that it is one of the only bipartisan measures passed in the last session?

Vote to Maintain all of these reasonable acts by the legislature.

City of Seattle Prop 1A & 1B: How dysfunctional can we be? YES! and 1B on Prop 1A & 1B.

The court has ruled that voters have to choose between 1a and 1b. Although they address somewhat different issues (childcare workers v. preschool), the potential was certainly there to develop one measure that everyone could agree upon.

This is such a sad tale. In the epitome of progressive dysfunction, the supposed “adults in the room”, SEIU 925 and Tim Burgess couldn’t come to agreement on a single preschool funding measure. Because the measures address largely different issues – childcare workers versus preschool – it was quite possible to develop a single measure, or, at the least, to modify them so that they could coexist as independent measures. Instead they ended up on the ballot as an either/or choice. So you first have to vote, Yes or No, on whether either early learning funding measure should be enacted. The obvious answer for anyone who believes in the overwhelming evidence about the critical positive impact of early learning, especially to narrow race and poverty outcome gaps, is “Yes”. Then, regadless of whether you voted Yes or No, you get to choose between:

  • 1A, which calls for: a quicker phase in of a $15 minimum wage for childcare workers than the one already passed (for all Seattle workers) by the council this last June; required enhanced training and certification for childcare workers; a goal (with no enforcement nor implementation mechanism) of early learning and child care costs of less than 10% of family income; and no identified funding source for any of it.

  • 1B, which calls for: a fairly limited (but at least funded) initial phase, four-year, early learning program, paying for preschool for 2,000 low-income 3-4 year olds by 2018; required training and certification of lead teachers.

The goals of both 1A and 1B are admirable, especially the shared goal of reducing early learning and childcare costs for those who most need the service and can least afford it. But 1B, though very modest in initial scope, at least has a funding and implementation mechanism and seems on a pragmatic path to broader application. My fear is that the clever regressives out there, after voting "No" to the first question, will vote for 1A thinking “Well, just in case Yes wins, at least 1A isn’t funded, so maybe I won’t have to pay for that one.”

The Stranger and Seattle Times agree with me – and more importantly with each other – on this one. (How often does that happen?) But, please, can we avoid this ridiculous situation in the future?

Seattle Transportation Prop 1: If Texas secedes from the US, can Seattle secede from King County? YES! on Prop 1.

After the state legislature failed to pass a comprehensive transportation package with funding for the county’s public transportation system (see “dysfunctional Republican-controlled State Senate” above), and after last April’s failed King County Prop 1 to prevent system cuts (which 66% of Seattle voters supported), the city has been forced to go it alone. The “Yes” campaign's FAQ page explains it well and the list of endorsers includes pretty much everyone I respect. The Metro bus system is hardly perfect but if we fail to pass Prop 1, it will get worse, not better, and the people harmed will be those who can least afford it.

Seattle Citizen Petition 1: Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change… NO! on Petition 1.

I still think the monorail idea of now a decade ago was a good idea and would be looking like a bargain now. And I’m torn between depression and schadenfreude that everything I and other critics said about the tunnel are coming to pass. But I’m trying to move on. If this petition to “create a citywide transportation authority to” study an extended monorail were a serious effort by a serious person to revisit the issue of a monorail system, I might, for a brief moment, be tempted by its siren call, before accepting that its time and opportunity, like my youth, have passed. Sadly (or perhaps happily, such are my mixed emotions on this subject) this is an entirely non-serious measure from an entirely non-serious person. “Champion” Elizabeth Campbell couldn’t even bother (or manage) to submit a 2 paragraph “Statement in favor” for the King County Voters’ Pamphlet. Like it’s totally blank. Oddly, the opposition still managed to complete a “Rebuttal of statement in favor” section.

Happy voting!