Vote Chris Marr
Wash. State Senate, 6th District
Elections are always about where a candidate comes from — that’s one predictor of where he or she might be going. In the case of Michael Baumgartner, it’s been a little hard to pin down, as his website tells us that he’s always considered Spokane his home, despite being from Pullman.
Now he tells voters he’s an Eastern Washingtonian — and there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, Baumgartner’s not the only one to move somewhere to run for office — Hillary Clinton moved to New York to run for U.S. Senate, and Dino Rossi moved from Magnolia to Sammamish, many believe, to find a more Republican base from which to launch his political career. (But Rossi did wait 18 months before running for office.)
Spokane always welcomes new talent, and Michael Baumgartner has an interesting set of experiences in business overseas and as a State Department official in Iraq. But admitting you are not exactly from here can be tough on a candidate.
Nobody knows that better than local Republican Party officials. Back in 2000, when George Nethercutt was running for a fourth term — after famously promising the 5th District he’d only serve three — a guy named Tom Keefe moved to Spokane from not far away in North Idaho to run against him. The Republican campaign eviscerated Keefe for “carpetbagging,” and he couldn’t beat Nethercutt when the congressman was at his weakest.
But “carpetbagging” is an ugly charge and doesn’t describe the motives of either Keefe or Baumgartner. It does, however, hint at a deeper, more valid question: Should you have to earn a state senate seat with years of local service, or can you just buy it with a well-funded campaign, punctuated by a few well-timed attack ads?
You earn the right to represent a group of people by the time you’ve put in on civic causes, the people you’ve helped, the businesses you’ve run or the wisdom you’ve gathered just by seeing local life and times go by. Voters naturally notice a candidate who is new to the district can’t have the depth of understanding on the issues someone who’s lived here longer has.
Still, sometimes the promise of the fresh new face is, uncertain as it may be, a better choice than sticking with the incumbent.
But that all depends on the incumbent, and working against Baumgartner’s chances is the fact that Marr has been a very good senator for Spokane. In his four years in Olympia, he has built on the many years of local service he started while a business owner — as a Washington State University Regent and chairman of the board of Empire Health Services and Inland Northwest Health Services. In Olympia, he’s been leading the effort to complete the North-South Freeway and to bring a medical school to Spokane — dreams that are, at long last, coming true thanks to his leadership. He is serving our needs in Olympia very well.
It’s worth pointing out in these tough times for our state and its citizens that he also reflects the split political personality of his district; he’s pretty conservative. In fact, he voted against his own party’s final budget for not having enough cuts in it. The only tax expansion he voted for was on tobacco — a vital health issue more than a funding source.
Michael Baumgartner has his own set of experiences (but 20 fewer years of life experiences than Chris Marr) and the smarts to learn the issues that affect us most. With some deeper roots and more time in Spokane, he, too, could become an effective leader in the community.
In the meantime, we can count on Chris Marr, who proves that putting in time serving the community as a volunteer is a very accurate predictor of success as a state senator.
Vote Andy Billig
Wash. State Rep., 3rd District, Position 1
We’ll spare you the baseball clichés, but as president of the Spokane Indians, Andy Billig has been one of the region’s most dynamic business leaders for the past couple decades. It’s great to see him trying to make a move up to the big leagues in Olympia. (OK, just one baseball cliché.) Billig is exactly the kind of candidate we need to see more of as we work toward a brighter future during these difficult times.
Vote Timm Ormsby
Wash. State Rep., 3rd District, Position 1
With his own roots in construction work, Timm Ormsby’s focus has been on the middle class in his district. His perspective is just the kind we need in Olympia to get proper representation of all the state’s citizens.
Vote John Driscoll
Wash. State Rep., 6th District, Position 2
In a rematch of the close race of two years ago, John Driscoll is the clear choice. He’s been independent in Olympia, voting against the Democrats’ final budget, but he has also applied the compassion and knowledge gained as a health administrator (for the nonprofit Project Access) to his work. His opponent, for a second time, is John Ahern, who, as a state representative, compulsively voted no, often leaving his district and Spokane out of some important funding discussions. Driscoll brings the kind of temperament and personal convictions needed to succeed in Olympia.
Vote Bonnie Mager
Spokane County Commissioner
It´s a sign of just how archaic our system of three county commissioners is that we are deciding a race based on how the balance of power will be affected more than the issues themselves. As the system stands, any two commissioners can make a decision that will affect 500,000 people. You read that right — our system, born in the 19 th century, puts all that power over our lives in just four hands. Additionally, any two commissioners cannot even have coffee to discuss policy without running awry of state open-meetings laws. It’s goofy.
So Bonnie Mager’s re-election campaign is being boiled down to fighting the good fight, holding up the losing end of some key 2-1 votes. The resulting sparks offer citizens the appearance of democracy in action. In a normal, 21 st - century government, being the lonely “no” wouldn’t be much of a re-election theme. Still, to her credit, Mager has shown skill at creating more openness at commissioner meetings and by prying into the budget with new perspectives.
Al French showed himself to be a very savvy politician on the Spokane City Council, and his municipal understanding is as deep as you’ll find. Some of his ideas — like a regional planning center and looking for ways to consolidate services among the various jurisdictions — are worth a look, but in general, he’d be a third vote for what tends to be an already monolithic board.
We don’t need more 3-0 votes on the board of commissioners; what we need are two more commissioners. Short of that, providing checks and balances to this two-person majority — even if it is just via the bully pulpit and in the media — is enough to earn Mager four more years.
Vote Frank Malone
Spokane County Prosecutor
One of the big disappointments coming out of the primary election this summer was that neither of the best candidates to replace Steve Tucker — Chris Bugbee and Dave Stevens — advanced to the general election.
Frank Malone has issues — he’s a little older than is ideal and has never been a prosecutor — but he could champion the kinds of reforms the prosecutor’s office needs.
Those reforms start at the top. Rather than pursuing justice, we have a prosecutor who pursues keeping his job. Again and again, in high-profile decisions to prosecute or not, he chooses the path of least resistance. If voters weren’t clear on this, it’s been confirmed by his apparent choice to make no decision on whether to prosecute Sheriff’s Deputy Brian Hirzel for the shooting death of Pastor Wayne Scott Creach prior to the election. Instead, Steve Tucker will wait until his decision won’t affect him either way. The office should not be about his needs, but the needs of community members seeking closure and peace.
is hard, and prosecutors must routinely make tough calls and be able to
defend them in the court of public opinion. Being denied transparent,
timely decisions only adds to our overall dissatisfaction with some
parts of the local criminal justice system. Malone may just be setting
the table for the next person, but that is four years we can’t waste
waiting for Tucker to retire.
Vote Patty Murray
Rhetoric, meet reality. Last month, Dino Rossi ran into an unscripted campaign moment when he took a trip out to Whidbey Island. The plan was to get him out among the real people making the economy work without help from those big spenders in Washington, D.C. During a stop at Nichols Brothers shipyard, where state ferries are built, his stump speech was derailed a bit when he found out federal stimulus money was keeping 80 people employed there who might otherwise be out of work. At his next stop, Krieg Concrete, the CEO joined in Rossi’s rant against federal wastefulness. Whoops! Local media pointed out later that even Krieg Concrete benefited from a new road paid for by the stimulus package.
“Dino Rossi picked a strange place to pitch his ‘small government’ philosophy,” opined the local Whidbey News-Times. The Navy’s Whidbey Air Station is the island’s biggest economic generator — fully paid for by U.S. citizens. Rossi didn’t stop there to decry federal spending.
Rossi’s eye-opening trip underlines how his campaign’s theme — against everything President Obama and Sen. Patty Murray have done — isn’t the slamdunk his GOP cronies hoped it to be as they all agreed with each other during back-room strategy sessions.
Rossi has made this election pretty simple: He says what we’re doing is not working. But there are mountains of evidence to show that it is. The stimulus helped to save us from another Great Depression, health care reform is staving off out-of-control costs that were poised to bankrupt us all, and reining in Wall Street after their dangerous (but extremely lucrative) experiments with subprime mortgages was the only option to protect ourselves from the greed. Rossi wants to go back to the head-in-the-sand days of George W. Bush and repeal them all.
Every elected official deserves to be challenged and to have to defend his or her record, but this one’s easy. Murray is on the right side of each of these issues. And since her days running to PTA meetings in those tennis shoes, she’s always been on the side of the everyday citizen. That’s why she worked to save the V.A. Hospital in Walla Walla, to get Hanford cleaned up and to keep the Internet free and open. She’s also been a huge advocate for Fairchild Air Force Base and even broke with the president over deeper cuts she wanted to make to the appropriations budget.
Rossi, on the other hand, has always been on the side of big business, which is why he has said he’d like to extend the Bush tax cuts — despite the fact that doing so contradicts his other stated goal of cutting the deficit. If the Bush tax cuts were so effective at encouraging rich people and their corporations to create jobs, why is it that a decade into those cuts the nation is in massive debt and 11 million jobs short of where we should be? Greatest windfall in American history? Yes. Job creator? Not even close.
Rossi does have a fan club for his welfare-for-the-rich platform: the Bush crowd, which likes his stand so much that Karl Rove’s new PAC has spent $800,000 on his behalf to air misleading TV ads.
Rove and his gang already failed the nation once; do we really want to go back to those dark ages?
Rossi, now 51, plays the reluctant candidate well, but he’s been running for various offices (only holding one) since he was 32 years old. It’s paid off for him, as he has developed some very lucrative business deals on the power of his “brand.” But it’s a sign of how empty the Republican bench is in the state of Washington that the only person party honchos can come up with to run against Patty Murray is Dino Rossi, now facing a third straight statewide loss.
Patty Murray is one of the best things Washington state has going, and we need her to continue to be a part of the solutions — and to stick up for what’s best for the vast majority of Washingtonians
Vote Keith Allred
One of the odd byproducts of so much anger at Washington, D.C., has been that statehouses may be eluding the voters’ harsh glare. And one prime beneficiary seems to be Idaho Gov. Butch Otter, who looks set for another term despite a performance that typifies the problems with incumbents. He can’t even get his own pet projects enacted in Boise. In a state that needs a fresh approach to old problems like education funding, neither the Legislature nor the governor had much to offer.
Keith Allred’s long-shot candidacy failed to catch fire, especially in North Idaho, where he has been less visible. But in the evolution of things, perhaps a good number of Idahoans will learn there are different ideas out there about how to govern, and some of them come from — gasp! — Democrats.Vote Walt Minnick
Idaho Congress, 1st District
We knew Walt Minnick was a conservative kind of guy, but nobody could foresee how much he would borrow from the GOP playbook in his bid for the all-important first re-election. His TV ads have been pretty distasteful, grinding Raul Labrador into dust over his profession in immigration law. Winning with divisiveness is never a good recipe for bringing people together, but it is winning. And unfortunately, in our current political climate, that’s the point.
But Labrador isn’t an option, as he has already said he would use the job to advocate for far-out ideas like dismantling the Department of Education and repealing the 17th Amendment so state legislatures could choose their senators again — a practice ended because of widespread interference by lobbyists.
Minnick, known as an advocate for wise environmental balance and state business interests, will continue to represent Idaho well. And as an Idaho Democrat, he’s also a living oxymoron who has an important symbolic role to play. He proves that even in these partisan times, people vote for the person, not the party. And that independent streak is admirable in Idaho voters.
Vote Daryl Romeyn
Washington Congress, 5th District
Democrats of the 5th District, you have been forsaken — left for dead. The national and state parties have thrown in the towel, and Daryl Romeyn is the latest Don Quixote to take up the lance. It’s not all that out of the ordinary, as party honchos have carved up the nation’s congressional districts to create as many safe districts as they can; Jim McDermott in Seattle and Cathy McMorris Rodgers here are the beneficiaries in this state.
Rodgers likes to say Republicans lost their way under George W. Bush, and we couldn’t agree more (although, if memory serves, she was right there with him, voting the party line). The trouble is, they’re still lost — it’s just say “no” on everything, with hopes of regaining a majority. It’s a cynical, sad strategy when you consider how badly the nation needs all its leaders to work together to meet our considerable challenges.
GOP is successful and retakes the House, we’ll see Rodgers up there with
the other leaders as they seek to dismantle the work of the past two
years. That’s reason enough to choose Romeyn; we need to preserve the
progress that’s been made. But if Republicans do not win the majority
back, Rodgers’ anti-Obama stance will keep her on the outside of the
action, unable to accomplish much for the district. In that case, she
could focus her efforts on bringing people together on local issues
facing Eastern Washington. She could be a leader in Spokane, but we
haven’t seen enough of her here — except during the months leading up to
her campaigns. That was precisely the trap old Tom Foley fell into — he
got complacent because he never had a serious challenge and allowed his
focus to shift to the other Washington too much.
No on Washington Initiative 1053
(Two-Thirds Vote Requirement in the Legislature)
In these times of politicians allergic to compromise and who “just say no” to most everything, getting a majority plus one vote is harder than ever. That means solving the state’s problems is getting harder, too. So now we have Tim Eyman’s latest effort to paralyze the state — Initiative 1053, which requires a two-thirds majority to pass any changes to taxes or fees.
These past couple years have been among the most challenging in our state’s fiscal history, and while there have been some less-than-inspiring solutions, our legislators have, by and large, done the best they can with a very difficult situation. But in times like these, to hamstring lawmakers on details as tiny as a 25-cent user fee on 911 calls, to name but one example, simply seems perverse.
Additionally, I-1053 violates a basic premise of the American system. By allowing a small group of legislators to control the state’s future — just one-third of either the House or Senate plus one vote — we allow a minority to rule the majority. Forget about the legislator you sent to Olympia; under Eyman’s plan, it would only take 17 individuals to hold up progress for the state’s nearly 7 million citizens. That is nothing like the democracy we all hold so dear.
Our legislators are very mindful of the mood against new spending — and the need to avoid it. If you think they are not, you are free to vote them out of office.
No on Washington Initiative 1082
(Privatizing State Industrial Insurance)
One citizen sized up Initiative 1082 this way recently: “If you like dealing with claims on your auto insurance and your health insurance, you’ll LOVE filing a workers’ comp claim under 1082!” What protections will workers have under a private insurance system? The answer could be as impossible to know as learning the reason for being denied coverage on your health policy. This effort is a play to open a new market to large insurance companies, meaning higher costs will fall on small businesses and their employees hardest, as the biggest companies in Washington already self-insure.
Proponents talk about Oregon, and it’s true that Oregon does some things very well with private insurers in the mix, but theirs is also a more expensive system; Washington is among the 15 cheapest states for industrial insurance.
Privatization is good in some cases, and our state’s Department of Labor and Industries needs targeted reform. But this is not reform — this is just a grab for market share by big insurance companies.
Yes on Washington Initiative 1098
(An Income Tax for High Earners)
Like most states, Washington is in an economic crisis. Higher education keeps getting more expensive, and our social safety net is failing. In times like these, everyone is making sacrifices. Think of Initiative 1098 this way: It requires the richest citizens of our state to pitch in, too.
These talented people have been successful because of their own business acumen, but they have also been given a big assist by the state — in the form of an education, a pool of smart potential employees and a quality of life among the best in the nation. I-1098 would implement an income tax on the wealthiest 1.2 percent of citizens — just 38,400 taxpayers out of 3.2 million in the state. That would raise $2 billion per year to help keep the state dynamic enough to continue to provide an economic foundation for future growth for their companies and other endeavors. Only individuals making more than $200,000 a year and couples making over $400,000 a year would be taxed — and then only on the amount above those numbers.
Critics say it’s class warfare and soaking the rich. With headlines screaming about bank bailouts (funded by you), the corporate outsourcing of our jobs and still more of those obscene bonuses — not the rule for our state’s firms — maybe the rich are due for a little soaking? But this is not it. A couple earning $500,000 a year would pay $5,000 under I-1098. On the soak-the-rich scale, that’s closer to the raindrop end of the spectrum.
I-1098 is also a shot at making our state’s tax system less punitive toward the poor — which shouldn’t be hard, as it ranks dead last for tax fairness. Lower-income workers might pay up to 20 percent of their income in state and local taxes, while the highest-income earners could have a state and local tax burden as low as 2 percent. The only reason we are having this discussion is because our tax system is an uneven mess that the Legislature, in session after session, fails to address. I-1098 goes a long way toward cleaning it up, and if it passes, it will also level the playing field, creating across-the-board tax breaks for most of us. There will be a 20 percent cut to the state’s share of property tax collections, and it will eliminate the state B&O tax completely for 80 percent of businesses. If you’ve been wanting to vote yourself a tax cut, here’s your chance.
Such an elegantly simple and common-sense solution has critics (aka, people who make a ton of money) scrambling for arguments that will convince the rest of us. One that comes up a lot is that the rich will simply leave the state rather than pay an income tax. OK, but to where? Only seven states don’t have an income tax, so rich refugees will get a similar tax bill in 43 other states, including Idaho and Oregon.
This is a game-changer for the state of Washington — one that reshuffles the deck to make it more equitable for everyone. And it allows Washington to remain the kind of dynamic place that will grow entrepreneurs who can work their way up into that exalted income level well into the future.
No on Washington Initiatives 1100 and 1105
(Privatizing Hard Alcohol Sales)
Of course living in America would seem to guarantee your being able to buy Grey Goose vodka by the vat at Costco, but there are tradeoffs — and in the case of these proposals, they would be very costly. (These are separate but related proposals: Initiative 1100 would end the state’s liquor sales monopoly and allow retailers like Costco and WalMart to set up their own distribution networks; Initiative 1105 would end the monopoly but maintain the existing distribution networks, which deliver some dollars to state coffers.)
To begin with, common sense tells us that expanding the availability of liquor could cause more problems related to alcohol abuse. That alone is a good reason to question the wisdom of these measures. The state has a duty to regulate certain, potentially dangerous businesses.
But additionally, by putting the state out of the liquor sales business, as initiatives 1100 and 1105 would do, we would be punching a hole in our state budget to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. The proponents don’t seem to care about what these shortfalls will do to education and health care.
You could argue that the state should not be in the liquor sales business, and you would be onto something quite valid there — Washington has a goofy hodgepodge of ways to fund its budget. But how we pay for our state’s services is a discussion we never seem to have until somebody pays to collect a bunch of signatures and forces the issue. That is a failing in state leadership.
As with other ballot initiatives this season, I-1100 and I-1105 are really about massive corporations attempting to pry open new profit centers.
Yes on Washington Initiative 1107
(Repealing Certain Recent Sales Taxes)
Make no mistake, the push for this initiative — from gathering signatures to all those deceptive TV ads — is not coming from the mom-and-pop retailers of the state. No, it’s coming from out of state, primarily the American Beverage Association. There’s been an epic disconnect among proponents when they tell voters how selling soda is such a low-margin business, and yet the ABA has found $14 million laying around from that low-margin business to fund this battle.
Big Soda is terrified that their product will become the next focus for sin taxes that legislatures use to balance their books (like tobacco before it). So when Washington state went there, the ABA threw everything it could at drawing a line in the sand to keep it from becoming a national trend.
Despite this citizen-free backstory, the package of taxes our leaders pulled together as a kind of legislative Hail Mary pass — on everything from soda to bottled water to (some) candy bars — was flat-out bad policy. They knew it wasn’t a long-term solution; in fact, the Band-Aid package would expire in 2013.
These are the worst of the regressive taxes Washington is known for. Big Soda doesn’t pay a penny; it gets passed along to consumers, hitting those who can least afford it hardest. And in border counties, it’s tough to compete with Idaho and Oregon.
Initiative 1098, a responsible income tax on the wealthiest 1.2 percent of our citizens, which we recommend you support, is a much more progressive way to fund the crucial services our state performs.
Yes on City of Spokane Proposition 1
(Funding to Combat Dropout Rates)
If you ever wonder about the impact of all the crazy spending in Washington, D.C. — the wars, the bailouts, the new entitlements for seniors — take a look at our kids. In recent years, funding for early childhood programs — programs which, research tells us, work very well — has been drying up. The result? Kids are more likely to fall behind, drop out of school, wind up out of work or even land in jail.
The message from D.C. to cities and states is clear: Keep sending the money, but we have less to send back. A lot less.
In short, help is not on the way. We’re on our own. And the problems are only getting worse. Our schools are doing what they can to address the issue of too many kids dropping out, but they only have them six hours a day. Too many are coming to school not ready to learn. And yes, the schools do need reform — not wholesale, but the kinds passed (without funding to enact them) in this last legislative session. But Proposition 1 is not about education reform.
In response to the growing realization that what happens early in a kid’s life makes a massive difference, community leaders in cities like Seattle, Portland and Miami got to work. They were motivated by shocking numbers: For example, dropouts are 63 times more likely to end up in jail or a mental institution than kids who stay in school. So they developed special funds to attack the problems. Local social service agencies — many of which have watched their grants disappear — compete for those funds. Most efforts are aimed at young kids, getting them off to a good start so they stay in school. Both Portland and Seattle have liked the results enough to renew their funds for a second term.
Now community leaders in Spokane are doing the same, and voters get to decide whether to create the Children’s Investment Fund — a $5 million annual fund for fighting the dropout problem, funded by an increase to property taxes. The plan is very well organized and responsible. Agencies must compete, and winners will be chosen by a panel of local leaders, based on the proven track record of their efforts. After six years, the fund will be up for voter renewal. Proponents expect to cut dropout rates by 20 percent; if they don’t, voters can end the program. And if you are the type who just votes by the numbers, the investment will pay for itself: Research shows that every child who drops out can cost the public $400,000 in total social service expenditures. Every childhood the Fund helps to turn around is money saved.
proposal isn’t perfect, and perhaps we don’t know all the outlines of
the complex dropout problem. But we know enough. And choosing to do
nothing, when we see a crisis right in front of our eyes, is a decision,
too. That would be deciding to let it get worse. And that’s not an
Watch for more Inlander endorsements next week. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 2.