While it may not be very politically correct to oppose this initiative, it fails to meet our criteria for a variety of reasons. The measure aims to stop the use of steel-jawed traps and some poisons, but it says nothing about ending trapping. Trappers can still kill the animals, just not in a way that some think is inhumane. This is special interest legislation, as it only applies to animals that are trapped for their fur. You can still trap all the rats and moles you want any way you want. And this legislation only applies to a very small number of people, as fur trapping in this state is not exactly a booming industry.
The main problem is that this legislation takes the decision making out of the hands of the professionals in the state's various agencies that regulate wildlife. Trapping is already regulated, and there are big picture issues (disease, population management) that could be impacted by such a one-size-fits-all approach to wildlife management.
None of us likes to see footage of a cute little mink caught in a big trap, but the fact is trappers kill such critters every day, and this initiative wouldn't change that. We are sympathetic to arguments against trapping certain species altogether, but that's not what's being proposed here. We recommend that the people behind this measure try to work with the agencies involved and then the state legislature to get changes made that are born of compromise.
& & No on I-722 (Tax Limitation) & & & &
Also known as the son of 695, this measure would roll back tax increases from 1999 that were passed to lessen the blow from the $30 car tab initiative. It would also limit new property tax increases to 2 percent. While it's tempting to micromanage the state's budget from the polling booth, it makes for bad public policy. Yes, there's the argument that we're only seeing such initiatives because our state legislators aren't dealing with these important issues. But it's a bogus argument, because the budget is a much more complicated thing than can be digested by the average citizen in the time it takes to read the Voters Pamphlet -- and no, that's not an insult to the voters' intelligence.
Legislators are charged with representing the needs of all their constituents, while voters are simply voting their own needs (and doing so anonymously, it's worth pointing out). Having voters determine the state's tax policy from behind the polling booth curtain is a little like letting a 3-year-old choose his own dinner. The kid will choose the candy every time, picking the immediate gratification over what is good for him and will keep his body healthy.
Also, it's important to note that 722 creates an imbalance in the tax structure by making it so that those paying taxes on more expensive property will pay proportionally less than those with less expensive property, essentially shifting the tax burden to those who can least afford it. And just as I-695 was declared unconstitutional by the courts, I-722 is expected by many legal analysts to face the same end.
& & Yes on I-728 (Education Funding) & & & &
After just stating that micromanaging the state budget by initiative is bad public policy, we are endorsing I-728, which appears to do just that. But there is an important distinction: I-728 is undoing a previous budget-related initiative that has proven to be counterproductive. When I-601 passed in 1994, it created a situation in which spending could only grow so fast. What has happened since then? Education needs and enrollment have exceeded the state's ability to fund them. Even though the revenue is there from a strong state economy, it can't be spent on education as it should be. This measure, which allows part of that surplus, lottery money and some state property taxes to be earmarked for education, won't impact other state services.
Today, Washington is one of the worst states in the nation in class size, and the education infrastructure is in some places crumbling and in most places simply lacking. Education is the one service that government provides that offers an antidote to poverty, crime and other issues that gobble up state resources later on down the line. So this additional funding can be viewed as a down payment on a more enlightened and therefore less service dependent state. After all, the best social service is a job, and pennies invested in public education now will save us real dollars later.
& & Yes on I-729 (Charter Schools) & & & &
While we aren't enrolled in the George W. Bush school of bashing public education, we do think it could be better. And what better way to improve than by experimentation. Charter schools could be created by community groups, either tied to a university or a non-profit entity, but not religious groups. Students would be given the choice to attend, and most charter schools would employ some kind of innovative teaching or focus, like the arts or foreign language. It is worrisome that students who are part of this grand experiment may experience more ups and downs than at a regular school. But the upside is that kids may find a school that fits their needs and interests better, and, in the long run, public education will be reenergized.
These will not be rogue schools; they must comply with standardized testing and hire accredited teachers. But they will answer to a different boss in whatever group sponsors the school, including the local school district. Washington already leads the nation in offering alternative schools, so the transition for local districts shouldn't be too overwhelming. And finally, charter schools offer the best chance to head off vouchers, or public funding for private schools, an idea that has gained support recently despite the damage it would do to public schools.
& & No on I-732 (Cost-of-Living Raises for Teachers) & & & &
While it's true that some public employees already have automatic cost-of-living increases, we don't think that number should grow. This is another case of micromanaging the state budget by initiative.
It is true that other states, including Oregon and California, have made more progress with their state legislatures in increasing pay for teachers. This is putting Washington at a competitive disadvantage, and we agree that it needs to be fixed with ideas like signing bonuses and forgiving student loans. But teachers have received cost-of-living increases in four out of the past eight years, so the legislature is not completely deaf to this issue, which should properly be taken up with the legislature, not the citizens.
& & No on I-745 (Transportation Budget Changes) & & & &
Paving contractors from across the state and the nation are behind this effort to reallocate the state's transportation budget. After all, if it passes, a lot more roads will be built. But at what cost? Advocates of the initiative point out that Washington has the third worst traffic congestion in the nation, but this plan will do little to change that. The maxim of traffic engineering is if you build it, they will come. Every time a new freeway lane opens, or a new exit is installed, cars immediately fill the void and rush hour stays the same mess it's always been. So the question is, do we keep rolling out more miles of asphalt for cars that burn ever-more expensive gasoline and that require municipalities to extend services ever-farther, or do we look for alternatives?
Again, this initiative is a case of micromanaging the state budget, something the initiative process should not be used to do. By reducing the budget for alternatives to only 10 percent of the total, Washington would be essentially turning its back on the future. Our expected growth tells us that everyone will not be able to drive their 3/4-ton SUV to work every day forever, but if there's no other way, what will people do? Buses, ferries and light rail would be devastated by this proposal, including the fledgling idea for a light rail line from downtown Spokane to Liberty Lake.
It's also ironic that the people behind this effort are the same ones behind I-695, which took a huge chunk out of the transportation budget as well as essentially scrapping a previous ballot measure that would have allowed communities to borrow money to do road projects. So they got their $30 tabs, and now they want all the money back that they cut out (and more) for their roads. But it unfairly -- and unwisely -- comes at the expense of transportation alternatives that will allow this state to maintain its quality of life and give people of all income levels and abilities choices in how to get around town.
& & Gary Locke for Washington Governor & & & &
While often viewed as not ideological enough by some in his own party, it is just that quality that has allowed Gary Locke to move the state forward in some significant ways in his first term. He has had to work with an evenly divided Statehouse throughout his tenure, and he has been able to pull people together just enough to implement one of the nation's best welfare-to-work programs, to lead the way in cost-cutting measures that have saved hundreds of millions of dollars and to be a strong advocate for education, health care and the environment.
Unfortunately, a split Statehouse leads to more reliance on the initiative process to get things done, as witnessed in the state Republican Party endorsing I-695 last year, which essentially gutted their own plans to pump more money into the state's transportation budget. Locke's opponent, John Carlson, one of the main proponents of I-200, which ended Affirmative Action in this state, pledges to use the initiative as a tool if elected and the legislature isn't working the way he would like. This is no way for a governor to run the state, no matter how good the initiative. Again, the split at the Statehouse is a big part of the desperation that leads to resorting to initiatives on both sides, so we hope to see a Democratic Statehouse to work with Locke, who we hope will become a bit more aggressive in his second term on some of the tough issues still facing our state.
In choosing Carlson as its nominee, the GOP has both revealed its stubbornness and its inner turmoil. It is stubborn in that it is essentially fielding another Ellen Craswell. Although Carlson is a fresh face, his positions on social issues, as revealed in his years filling Seattle's airwaves with right wing talk radio, put him just as far out there as the last GOP gubernatorial nominee. And the party's turmoil is showing in that rather than selecting a candidate from its own ranks of elected officials, it settled on a talk radio host as its best offering to run the state. While Carlson's affable style has earned him more support than Craswell ever got, the Republicans appear locked in a cycle that resembles banging their heads against the wall more than trying to win the governor's mansion. Republican governors across America, and there are a lot of them, tend to have more mainstream views than Carlson on social issues like abortion, diversity and welfare reform.
Locke, meanwhile, reflects the values of a diverse state like Washington, and he has stuck to those convictions even when they challenge his own party. He is uniquely qualified for the job, and he has shown initiative and innovation in efforts to make our state government smarter.