This year, the city of Coeur d’Alene was deeply divided over which mayoral candidate could better fix the city’s divisions.
Downtown business owner Steve Widmyer and dark-horse candidate Joe Kunka argued that voting for long-time urban renewal critic and recall cheerleader Mary Souza would only pick at the scabs left after the McEuen Field fight. But Souza countered that healing Coeur d’Alene depended on voting for her, a candidate who champions public votes.
On each side, PACs lined up. The Kootenai County Reagan Republicans championed Souza, and non-partisan Balance North Idaho threw their lot in with Widmyer.
As the first vote totals trickled in, Souza was losing by 14 percentage points to Widmyer. The city council choices pushed by Souza supporters — Chris Fillios, Noel Adam and Sharon Hebert — were also losing.
In the latter days of the campaign, the groups supporting Souza began focusing less on criticizing Widmyer or Kunka, and more on firing salvos at the Coeur d’Alene Press. And a political cartoon published on Souza’s site portrays a scraggly-haired ghoul labeled “THE PRESS,” warning “Mary might be mayor! Run for your lives! BE VERY AFRAID.”
In fact, North Idaho Pachyderm Club broke from tradition and announced they would not allow Press editor Mike Patrick to speak in front of the club about the results of the elections because the paper “has been so lopsided in favor of the Widmyer slate, it is really reprehensible and disgusting.”
Widmyer, for his part, tried mostly to stay out of the fray. For a few moments, an independent Souza-bashing website called “Unfit For Mayor” popped up, but Widmyer says that, even though he didn’t have anything to do with the site, he made the suggestion that it be taken down. And it was.
“I think we tried to always take the high road in the campaign and we achieved that,” Widmyer says.
Greater Spokane Inc. and the Spokane County Commissioners certainly didn’t undersell their argument for voting for Proposition 1: They tied the very future of Fairchild Air Force Base to the vote, implying economic calamity if taxes weren’t raised to buy a series of mobile home parks located in the Fairchild crash zone.
There was no question that the properties have for decades been in a designated crash zone — and encroached on base operations — and that concern persuaded the Airway Heights mayor and most the Spokane City Council to support removing the homes.
But the argument didn’t work on the tax-averse Spokane Valley Council nor on Spokane County as a whole. Tuesday night, voters were rejecting Prop. 1 51 percent to 49 percent. As he waits for final tallies, County Commissioner Al French turns his eye to the 4 percent who turned in ballots, but didn’t take a stance on the issue.
Meanwhile, local nonprofits who planned to help relocate the current residents in the parks could have been a key ally of the county, but expressed deep concerns about the project. While Habitat for Humanity’s executive director supported the initiative, John Fisher, with Community Frameworks, remained neutral: “Our stance has always been that the timing was off, that new housing needed to be built before residents were placed.”
French worries Fairchild remains in jeopardy:
“It means the community is exposed when we go into the next round of [base closures]. I’ve got to tell you I’m very nervous,” French says, adding that there’s no way the state or county can afford to buy the properties and relocate the residents.
“There’s no other strategy we’re aware of today,” French says. “If there had been other resources we could have tapped, we would have done it.”
After $27 million and seven months of campaigning, it appears Washington won’t become the first state in the country to mandate labeling of genetically engineered foods after all. Early returns on Tuesday night showed Initiative 522 was failing statewide 45 percent to 55 percent. Voters had rejected I-522 in all but three counties — Jefferson, King and Whatcom. In Spokane, 62 percent voted against the measure.
Labeling supporters, however, were cautiously optimistic about their initiative’s chances.
“It is really too close to call. We have hundreds of thousands of votes left to be counted in King County alone,” says Elizabeth Larter, a spokeswoman for the Yes on 522 campaign.
No on 522 raised $22 million — more money than any other initiative campaign in Washington state history — to defeat the measure, thanks to multimillion-dollar donations from out-of-state biotech giants like Monsanto and DuPont Pioneer, and food-industry stalwarts from the Grocery Manufacturers Association.
After an influx of anti-labeling campaign ads hit the airwaves, an October poll showed that support for I-522 had dropped 20 points from the previous month to 46 percent. Opposition on the other hand climbed.
The Yes on 522 camp, meanwhile, raised just under $8 million. Although thousands of individual donors from Washington state contributed to the pro-labeling camp, the majority of its financial support came from out-of-state organic and natural product companies, such as California-based Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, which dedicated $1.7 million to the effort.
In California, voters rejected a similar ballot measure last year. There, labeling opponents raised five times as much as supporters.
“They took a tip directly from Vladimir Lenin — that a lie told often enough becomes the truth, and they used $20 million to tell those lies,” says Ron Cully, a Spokane volunteer for the Yes side. “I don’t think this war is over by any stretch of the imagination.”
On Tuesday, Washingtonians also handily rejected Tim Eyman’s “initiative on initiatives,” I-517, with 60 percent of the vote. The measure would have sent any state or local initiative with enough signatures to the ballot and make “interfering with signature gathering” illegal. Opponents argued that I-517 would infringe on the free speech rights of citizens who voice opposition to signature gatherers and the private property rights of business owners.
Even in a non-presidential year and in a technically nonpartisan race, Tuesday’s election sent a clear message about the city’s current political leanings. With wins for Candace Mumm and Jon Snyder, the Spokane City Council will shift from a 4-3 conservative majority to a union-backed liberal one.
In the contentious bid to fill conservative Nancy McLaughlin’s seat representing northwest Spokane, Mumm led conservative Michael Cannon 54-45 percent as of 10 pm Tuesday. The race drew more than $150,000 in campaign contributions and PAC-funded attack ads on TV and in the mail. In the end, money won the day for Mumm who out-fundraised Cannon by $25,000.
“The voters I talked to knew I’m a get-’er-done girl, and that’s what they wanted,” Mumm said among a group of supporters sipping red wine at the Kendall Yards neighborhood clubhouse Tuesday night. “They didn’t like all the politics.”
The ideological divide was clear as Cannon — who sat on Mayor David Condon’s transition team and chairs the city’s Housing and Human Services Board — aligned almost entirely with Condon. Meanwhile, Mumm stood behind liberal Council President Ben Stuckart. The candidates clashed on whether the city should implement a 1 percent property tax increase in the 2014 budget, whether the council should strengthen the city’s sit-lie law and whether the mayor’s recent moves to increase the number of exempt city positions (in which employees are appointed rather than hired through civil service) were beneficial or dangerous.
Cannon saw support from Condon, conservative councilmen Steve Salvatori and Mike Allen and a PAC funded primarily by local construction firms, homebuilder groups and City Administrator Theresa Sanders. Prominent local liberals like Rich Cowan, state Sen. Andy Billig and Stuckart lined up behind Mumm, a former TV news reporter and Plan Commission member who worked on Mary Verner’s re-election campaign against Condon. Drawing conservative ire, most of her big contributions came from local and state unions, including firefighters, health care workers and county and city employees.
Incumbent Councilman Jon Snyder, a transportation-focused member of the council’s current liberal minority, held his seat representing the South Hill, Peaceful Valley and Browne’s Addition against a challenge from Republican and former state Rep. John Ahern. While their race never got as testy as the other, Snyder criticized Ahern for being short on specifics and energy. Ahern challenged Snyder on whether he’d done enough to make the city business-friendly, promising he’d look to loosen regulations. Snyder says he was confident he’d hold onto his seat Tuesday, but was “thrilled” with the nearly 30 percent margin by which he won. Ahern, meanwhile, warned of the impact union-supported victories could have on the city.
“I don’t want to see Spokane wind up like Detroit did,” Ahern told the Inlander after results were announced. “The unions that ran Detroit pretty much over-demanded and got too much. That’s why Detroit went bankrupt. Spokane could be on the same road. You get pretty much what you ask for.”
WASHINGTON STATE INITIATIVES
Reporting of about 1.15 million votes statewide (72% of total).
Initiative 522 (GMO labeling):
Initiative 517 (petition and initiative rules):
CITY OF SPOKANE Results as of Nov. 6
CITY COUNCIL, District 2
John Ahern 35%
Jon Snyder: 64%
CITY COUNCIL, District 3
Michael Cannon: 46%
Candace Mumm: 54%
Bob Douthitt: 54%
Sally Fullmer: 45%
SPOKANE VALLEY Results as of Nov. 6
CITY COUNCIL, Position 1
Rod Higgins: 51%
Linda J. Thompson: 48%
CITY COUNCIL, Position 4
Ed Pace: 50%
Gary Schimmels: 49%
CITY COUNCIL, Position 5
Chuck Hafner: 65%
Donald (Don) Morgan Jr.: 34%
CITY COUNCIL, Position 7
Bill Bates: 66%
Fred Beaulac: 33%
SPOKANE COUNTY Reported around 8:20 pm (about 82% of ballots counted)
Proposition 1 (levy to buy mobile home parks around Fairchild):
LEGISLATIVE DISTRICT 7 Reporting of about 23,000 votes.
Brian Dansel (R): 53%
John Smith (R): 47%
COEUR D'ALENE Results reported at 11:13 pm
Joseph Kunka: 2%, 132
Mary Souza: 42%, 3,556
Steve Widmyer: 56%, 4,719
POST FALLS Results reported at 11:13 pm
Ron Jacobson: 60%, 1,365
Kerri Thoreson: 40%, 909
There's no question our political system is getting more and more complex, thanks to technology. Based on our demographics — age, gender, Facebook likes — candidates and political parties, like advertisers, target us based on who we are to sell us a particular brand of their message.
In local elections, things may not be quite so dramatic, but campaigns are utilizing new resources to know more about every voter.
Spokane County Auditor Vicky Dalton says in recent years campaigns have begun requesting information not only about voter registration, but also reports known as "match-backs." The reports, updated in real time as the elections office receives ballots and runs them through its sorting machines, show who's returned their ballot and who returned a ballot but forgot to sign it. Parties and campaigns compare all that data to their own lists of voters (think: voters in a certain neighborhood they're targeting or people who've signed up to receive their updates) and target voters on that list who haven't returned their ballots or have missing signatures.
"For campaigns, it's about resources," Dalton says. "They only want to contact voters who have not returned their ballots."
Some private companies combine publicly available information with details from other public records or web resources, and sell campaigns a detailed list of voters in a certain city or neighborhood, says Spokane County Elections Manager Mike McLaughlin.
To be clear, no campaign, party or election official can see your actual ballot or how you voted, but the following pieces of information are public:
*Voter beware: If you forgot to sign your ballot, no campaign or party should ask you for your signature. If someone returns a ballot without a signature, the auditor sends them a letter they're asked to sign and return. Some campaigns and parties have taken things one step further, gathering those missing signatures. "We do not want parties or campaigns inserting themselves in this process," Dalton says. "We do not want anyone else who does not work for my office collecting signatures and turning them in to us — or failing to."
In some of the last decade's "excruciatingly close" state and U.S. congressional races in the county, Dalton says voters have complained of candidate campaigns or parties hounding them for their vote. Take the 2008 race for a state House seat in the 6th District, which wraps around the west side of Spokane, when John Driscoll beat John Ahern by just 74 votes.
"On Election Night when everyone figured out it was going to be incredibly close, every single person who was [designated] 'missing signature' or 'no signature' was contacted over and over and over again by both campaigns," Dalton says. "We had people calling us and yelling at us, 'Make these people stop!'"
Ultimately, resistance may be futile. In this year's upcoming election, McLaughlin says he's had requests for voter records from campaigns for Spokane City Council (Citizens to Elect Michael Cannon, Friends of Candace Mumm, Citizens for John Ahern), the Washington State Republican Party, the Spokane GOP Executive Committee, the Spokane County Democratic Party, Douthitt for Spokane Schools and others.
And with negative campaign ads often hitting in the final two days before elections, Dalton says campaigns have learned they may have to double down on voters in the last moments, "and there's no point in contacting people who've already turned their ballots in."
"This is all going to change," Dalton says. "Fifteen years ago, this was just barely in its infancy, what was available about individual voters. Give it a few more years and there's going to be even more history about individual voters."
Yesterday, President Obama called him “a man who embodied the virtues of devotion and respect.”
Tom Foley, a Spokane native and former U.S. Speaker of the House, will be honored Friday at a memorial service held at Gonzaga University, and we have more details in this week’s paper. Our publisher also devoted his weekly column to Foley and the era of politics he represented.
When Foley spoke in Spokane 2006, the local Hamilton Studio prepared this documentary — poignant but often funny — about his life and career. It has been updated with an introduction that includes some of his remarks from that 2006 appearance. (For those who know little about him, you may want to start at the 4:15 mark.)
In it, Foley says: “Public office is a gift — it’s a gift of a free people. It’s the greatest gift that anyone interested in public life can receive — the confidence, the support, the hope of the American people who give you that great gift.”
In the ongoing and record-breaking battle over I-522, which would making Washington the first state to require labeling of food made with GMO ingredients, one of the main talking points is the cost. Ads from the pro-labeling side say it “won’t cost you a dime” while the anti-labeling side says it will cost a family of four $450 a year. So who’s right?
First of all, no one really knows.
As we’ve seen with other system changes — marijuana regulation, liquor privatization, health care reform — no one can accurately say how much it’s going to cost until it happens. The labeling required by I-522 would cost something. But estimates about how much and who would pay it are wildly different. Here’s what we know so far:
The state’s Office of Finacial Management offers one of the most specific estimates: $3.37 million in administrative costs over 6 years, which amounts to about 8 cents per state resident per year. But this estimate is only about costs for the state — rule development, enforcement, lab testing, etc. — and not about food production costs that could be passed on to consumers.
California had a very similar measure on the ballot last year, and the pro-labeling camp has primarily promoted a study assessing that measure. Joanna M. Shepherd-Bailey of Emory University School of Law concluded that the California measure would result in trivial relabeling expenses that companies would not pass on to consumers:
Consumers will likely see no increases in prices as a result of the relabeling required by the Right to Know Act. A substantial body of empirical literature has established that important barriers to price adjustments exist that will deter suppliers from increasing prices to pass on the labeling expenses imposed by the Right to Know Act.
The pro-labeling (and vaccine-fighting) Alliance for Natural Health, which commissioned the first study, recently released a Washington state follow-up study by the same professor. It draws the same broad conclusions and says the “improbable, worst-case scenario” would be a one-year cost of $2.20 per person. The study does not address possible increases in food production costs.
In a separate independent study commissioned by the obviously pro-labeling group Just Label It and published in September, marketing expert Kai Robertson concluded there’s no evidence that changes to labels have an effect on supermarket prices.
There are no studies that document the impact of a product’s label change on prices charged by supermarkets. This is not too surprising given the interdependence of factors that influence prices set by supermarkets, inherent “stickiness” of prices set at the wholesale level and the regularity with which many labels are changed as part of a company’s normal business practices. In sum, this study finds no evidence that changes to a food processor’s product labels affect the prices paid by shoppers.
On the other side of things, the anti-labeling side has relied on a study they commissioned by the business-friendly Washington Research Council, published in September. It estimates a initial-compliance cost of $264 million for farmers and food manufacturers.
On an ongoing basis, food manufacturers would either have to create special labels for the portion of their products sold in Washington state, or remake those products with higher-priced non-GE or organic ingredients to avoid the mandate to apply special labels. Those costs would be passed on to Washington consumers through higher food prices.
They estimate it would cost a family of four an extra $200-520 from 2015 to 2019, then $450-520 a year after 2019 when the zero-tolerance threshold part of I-522 goes into effect.
A similar study the campaign commissioned from Northbridge Environmental Management Consultants came to similar conclusions that grocery prices would rise $360 a year for a family of four through 2019, then $490 in subsequent years.
In response to a request from the state Legislature, the Washington Academy of Sciences released a report several weeks ago to answer five central questions about I-522. Unsurprisingly, one of those was about cost, and the researchers concluded that higher costs are likely.
Mandatory labeling, especially at a state versus federal level, is likely to affect trade and impose higher costs on firms producing and selling products in Washington. These costs are likely to be passed on to the consumer resulting in higher food prices.
The study doesn’t, however, put any actual dollar figures on its estimates. It points out that most of the cost to producers and food companies isn’t from relabeling, but from the need to segregate GMO and non-GMO products throughout the supply chain. (If you’re really interested in all of this, the references pages of that report serve as a good extended reading list.)
In the end, the reason the estimates vary so much is that it depends on how consumers and food companies react — and we really don’t know what’s going to happen. (This Associated Press story and this excellent NPR piece both do a good job explaining the uncertainty.)
The two main scenarios:
1. If consumers avoid products with GMO labels (or food companies fear they will), costs would probably rise.
In Europe, many companies fearful of consumer rejection stopped using GMO ingredients altogether once labeling laws went into effect in the late ’90s. A lot of labeling supporters would be happy to see this happen — but it would almost certainly cause some increase in food prices as companies reformulate their products or fight for more expensive non-GMO ingredients. This is the assumption of the anti-labeling studies that predict families’ grocery bills would increase by hundreds of dollars.
2. If consumers don’t care, costs probably won’t change much.
The cost of the actual label change would be very small for most major companies. So if people are undeterred and keep on shopping as usual, it’s fair to expect very little effect on prices. But, if this is the case, companies would likely avoid the more substantial costs of keeping GMO and non-GMO separate by just slapping the GMO label on everything — an outcome that would leave us about as uninformed as we are now.
This is the assumption of the pro-labeling studies that conclude the label changes themselves wouldn't cost much. But most people who support labeling feel that it’s part of reforming the food industry and creating greater transparency, and that won’t happen without change. It’s unlikely the goal of reform will be achieved without some cost to consumers — and the question of how much just can’t be answered until it happens.
First, it smashed the record for fundraising by a campaign opposing a statewide ballot measure.
Now, No on 522 holds the title for most money raised by any initiative campaign in Washington state history, period.
Bankrolled by out-of-state biochemical corporations and food industry heavyweights, the campaign trying to defeat GMO labeling Initiative 522 on Saturday broke the $21 million mark in total contributions, the latest campaign reports to Washington’s Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) show.
In the process, the No camp surpassed Washington’s previous high mark of money raised by any initiative campaign. The old record — set in 2011 by Costco-backed supporters of the liquor-privatizing Initiative 1183 — was $20.1 million.
The No on 522 campaign reached record ground fueled by last week’s contributions of $3.8 million from the food-industry PAC the Grocery Manufacturers Association, and $460,000 from biochemical giant Dupont Pioneer.
The Yes on 522 campaign, meanwhile, has raised about a quarter of its opponent's war chest — $6.3 million. Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps is still the campaign's biggest contributor, having poured $1.7 million into the effort. The Yes camp's latest big-ticket donations pale in comparison to the No side's recent influx of cash. Last week, Aveda founder Horst Rechelbacher, now CEO of organic beauty company Intelligent Nutrients, gave $50,000 to the campaign; health food producer Nutiva donated $35,000; and American Halal Company, maker of Saffron Road frozen foods, contributed $22,500.
The No campaign's expensive campaign strategy seems to be paying off. According to the latest Elway poll, support for I-522 is waning: 46 percent of voters surveyed said they support the measure while 42 percent said they oppose it. The difference is now within the margin of error.
Want to know where your favorite food brand stands on GMO labeling?The Cornucopia Institute has created this infographic showing which popular organic/natural food manufacturers have financially backed or opposed labeling in Washington.
Citing ongoing health concerns for him and his wife, Rep. Larry Crouse, R-Spokane Valley, announced today that he will resign from the Washington state Legislature on Dec. 31.
“This is the best job I’ve ever had, but it’s time. This decision is about family,” Crouse said in a press release. “I had an opportunity to represent a wonderful district. As I look back, it’s humbling to know thousands of voters put their faith in me. It has been a great honor to serve the people and communities of the Fourth Legislative District.”
In the 2013 legislative and special session, Crouse, 68, missed 121 votes out 694, including the vote for the 2013-15 capital budget, according to WashingtonVotes.org. Asked about his missing votes, he told the Inlander that his wife, Peggy, fell seriously ill in March, forcing him to miss both the first and second special sessions to care for her. He also had surgery shortly after he was sworn in this year and suffered from food poisoning later.
“This has been a very difficult session for me, healthwise,” Crouse said.
First elected in 1995, Crouse is the longest serving Republican in the Washington State House of Representatives. He is the assistant ranking Republican on the House Technology and Economic Development Committee, and sits in the House Environment and Local Government committees. According to the press release, Crouse will continue to assist his constituents through the end of the year.
Congrats to Sean and the city of Spokane!
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I'm looking forward to reading their contributions!
Anyone know what time the shows over?