The good, the bad, and the ugly v.2015

Back, not necessarily by popular demand, the 2015 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.) 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 and King County Voter Guide
  • For generally good candidate and issue summaries and links, check out Fuse’s Progressive Voters Guide.
  • Last year I stopped linking to the Stranger’s Voting Guide as it had become more profanely amusing than educational (and I even like profane amusement). It’s no better this year. I do, however, read it and highlight any reasoning I find compelling.
  • 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:

  • Initiative 1366: Eyman returns in “Nightmare in Washington 2015”. NOOOO on 1366.
  • Initiative 1401: Amazingly this stuff isn’t already illegal. YES! on 1401.
  • Advisory Votes 10-13: Reruns of Eyman’s earlier “Nightmares”. MAINTAIN! on AV10-13.
  • King Co. Charter Amend. 1: Even the Sheriff wants this. Yes! on Charter Amend. 1.
  • King Co. Proposition 1: The lunch that pays you to eat it. YES! on Proposition 1.
  • Seattle Initiative 122: Seattle gets to lead again. YES! on Initiative 122.
  • Seattle Proposition 1: You get what you pay for. YES! on Proposition 1.
  • For a few candidate recommendations, scroll to the bottom.

Have 10 minutes? Here's some more detail.

Initiative 1366: Eyman returns in “Nightmare in Washington 2015”. NOOOO on 1366.

I’ll keep this short. Washingtonians, in their…, their…, cluelessness – there, I said it, I’m sorry if I've offended any clueless people – have passed three Eyman initiatives requiring impossible 2/3 supermajorities in the legislature to pass any tax measure (including just closing loopholes). In 2013, the Supreme Court put an end to the madness (or so we thought) declaring all such measures simply unconstitutional, as they prevented the legislature from doing its constitutionally required job. So now Eyman wants to blackmail the legislature into changing the constitution. The initiative would require the legislature to submit a 2/3 supermajority constitutional amendment to the voters in 2016, who, because they are – you guessed it – clueless, would pass it. And if the legislature refuses, then I-1336 requires a 1-cent cut in the state’s 6.5-cent sales tax, eliminating $8B in state revenue over the next 6 years. Now would be a good time to remember that the Supreme Court is still holding the legislature in contempt of court and fining the state $100K/day for failing to close the ~$1B/year education funding gap. The only good news here is that the Supreme Court, only a few of whose members are clueless, will almost certainly declare 1366 unconstitutional, as it has several other Eyman initiatives, after the waste of only a few $M’s. So be on the right side of history and vote “No”.

Initiative 1401: Amazingly this stuff isn’t already illegal. YES on 1401.

Most of us thought that “selling, purchasing, trading, or distributing …animal species threatened with extinction” – like elephants, rhinos, tigers, lions, cheetahs, leopards, turtles and sharks – was already illegal in the US. Au contraire. Right now, the main impediment to such trading in an endangered species is the species being considerate enough to go extinct. The goal here is not to make this stuff illegal just in Washington, but to join with the other states that have already passed similar laws and build pressure for federal legislation.

More because it’s fun than informative, I’d draw your attention to the arguments against I-1401 in the State Voters’ Guide. Opponents argue “We all love elephants. This initiative doesn’t protect them. Proponents provide no evidence this ban will stop trafficking or poaching in other countries.” This is like saying “We all love humans. But proponents of laws against murder provide no evidence that such laws will completely stop murder.” We pass laws against really evil stuff not because it will completely eliminate evil, but because it hinders the evil, it slowly changes the evil culture, and it is the right thing to have laws against evil stuff. Opponents also claim that simple folks who have inherited ivory antique will go to prison if they sell it. This is just ridiculous fear mongering with, to use their own language, no evidence. Prosecutors have discretion and aren’t going to put me in jail for selling my mom’s ivory handled carving knife. (My mom, on the other hand, might kill me.)

Advisory Votes 10-13: Reruns of Eyman’s earlier “Nightmares”. MAINTAIN! on AV10-13.

I love that I get to just copy and paste from last year (and the year before that, and the year before that, and…). 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 10: The House (95-1) and Senate (46-0) directed some oil taxes to pay for oil-train spill response.

Advisory Vote 11: The House (60-36) and Senate (41-8) clarified that the marijuana excise tax should also apply to medical marijuana sales.

Advisory Vote 12: The House (54-44) and Senate (37-7) passed a transportation bill that funded road improvements, transit, bike paths, and pedestrian walkways with a small gas tax increase. It was a flawed bill made worse by the dysfunction of the R-controlled Senate, and I’m glad that folks like Rep. Hans Dunshee, Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon and Sen. Kevin Ranker voted against it. But it passed, legally and constitutionally, and your advisory vote will not change that fact. But at least a vote to Maintain is a vote against Eyman.

Advisory Vote 13: The House (60-38) and Senate (35-10) closed a $150 million tax loophole, resulting in more revenue for education.

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

King Co. Charter Amendment 1: Even the Sheriff wants this. Yes! on Amendment 1.

The council already created, via an ordinance, a civilian office of law enforcement oversight and a citizen’s advisory committee on law enforcement oversight. This measure would make them part of the county’s charter and thereby require voter approval for amendment or repeal. I think, given the extremely disturbing events involving police over the last few years, that this is a good idea. And, as is not said often enough, it is also good for the police and for public support of police (much like it would be better for teachers and public support of teachers if they were leading the charge for rigorous teacher evaluation rather than fighting it). Which is probably why County Sheriff John Urquhart, who has been a real leader for police accountability and transparency, supports this measure (undermining the opposition's argument that this isn’t needed because “Our Sheriff is extremely proactive” on these matters already).

King Co. Proposition 1: The lunch that pays you to eat it. YES on Prop 1.

This measure funds investments in families and kids, specifically “for prevention and early intervention … related to: healthy pregnancy; parental and newborn support; healthy child and youth development; the health and well-being of communities; and crisis prevention and early intervention for children and youth, including for domestic violence and homelessness.” The cost is a property tax of $0.14 per $1K of assessed value (e.g. $70 for a $500,000 home), increasing by 3% in the succeeding 5 years (e.g. $81 for that $500,000 home after 5 years). Given that King County currently spends ~75% of its general fund on the criminal justice system, this measure almost certainly is a net money saver for the county’s taxpayers. Even the Seattle Times gets it right by endorsing Prop 1, noting that “the cold-eyed assessment of social-sciences researchers … finds that $221 spent on behavioral interventions for kids in child care yields benefits (better grades, fewer disruptions, prevented crime) worth $31,741”.

Seattle Initiative 122: Seattle gets to lead again. YES on Initiative 122.

This measure is a small but important step in demonstrating to the rest of the country that you can start to get money out of politics and that we don’t just have to throw in the towel on real democracy. Seattle doesn’t have as big a problem with money in municipal politics as some other cities, but as the recent Seattle Times story of Triad trying to shakedown City Council candidate Jon Grant illustrates, we do have a problem. And just as few places other than Seattle were going to lead the country in raising the minimum wage to a non-laughable level, few places other than Seattle are likely to lead on this issue. I-122 assembles some of the best practices in ethics, lobbying, and transparency reforms from cities and states nationwide – things like closing the revolving door that moves former elected officials into lobbying jobs calling on their former colleagues – and combines them with a surprisingly affordable and innovative system of "democracy vouchers". The basic idea is to give every voter in the city more of a voice in political campaigns, by turning everyone into a prospective donor – by giving them back a little bit of their tax money to give to candidates who agree to limit their spending and their big contributions. You can read up on all the details and nuances, the history and the rationale in
this excellent series from the most excellent Sightline Institute:

Seattle Proposition 1: You get what you pay for. YES on Prop 1.

This transportation levy, known as "Let's Move Seattle" (not to be confused with the "Let's Move Seattle to Canada" campaign I'm preparing in case Trump becomes President), raises $930M over 9 years, replacing and expanding on the expiring "Bridging the Gap" levy passed in 2006. This levy funds

  • improvements to help people get around, e.g. optimizing traffic signals and completing seven RapidRide transit corridor projects;
  • maintenance of existing roads and infrastructure, e.g. repairing potholes and building 150 blocks of new sidewalk;
  • and improvements to road safety, including Safe Routes to Schools programs, improvements in high crash areas, and protected bike lanes.

This is not an inexpensive proposition and there are reasonable questions about using property taxes as the funding mechanism and the emphasis on some forms of transportation over others. But it is clear that our city's investment in transportation modes and maintenance has not kept up with its population and job growth, so let's not make the perfect the enemy of the good. Finally, and here I cut and paste from the King County Voter Guide, "the levy has unanimous support from Mayor Ed Murray and the City Council and is endorsed by neighborhood leaders and respected organizations including: Transportation Choices Coalition, OneAmerica Votes, Futurewise, Puget Sound Sage, Seattle Building & Construction Trades Council, Feet First, Downtown Seattle Association, Greater Seattle Chamber, Cascade Bicycle Club, Seattle Neighborhood Greenways and more!"

A few candidate recommendations...

Here are a few candidate races that are likely to be close, and that matter. I'll only elaborate here where the person I'm not recommending is still a reasonable candidate.

  • King County Council, District #6: Vote for Claudia Balducci!

  • Port of Seattle Commissioner, Position #5: Vote for Fred Fellemen! His opponent, Marion Yoshino, is also strong but as we saw with the backroom deal to allow Shell to stage their Arctic oil drilling operation at the port, we need someone really willing to challenge business as usual. Happily, Shell eventually decided to pull out of the Arctic. (And while on that topic, I offer my sincere apologies to anyone who voted for John Creighton based on my past recommendation.)

  • Seattle City Council races: Rather than making my own recommendations here, I'll refer you to what I consider to be a very informed and thoughtful follower of Seattle politics, Josh Feit, of Publicola:

  • Seattle School Board: Vote for Scott Pinkham, District #1. Vote for Lauren McGuire, District #3. What a mess the Seattle School Board is. Few good people are even willing to run for it these days (and the Stranger's ongoing campaign of "let's not elect anyone with actual organizational management experience, because people who know how to run a complex organization are inherently evil" hasn't helped). The recommendation of Pinkham is honestly more about what a loose cannon his opponent is; the school board already has its quota of those. While McGuire's opponent is acceptable, McGuire is the only Seattle School Board candidate in any of the races to receive an "Outstanding" rating by the Municipal League, and wouldn't it be nice to have at least one outstanding candidate on the school board?

Happy voting!