Goodnight, and have a pleasant tomorrow

One thing I did when I went in and told my boss, Kitsap Sun Editor David Nelson, that I was taking a job elsewhere was I promised him I wouldn’t write a “Goodbye” column. Those kind of farewells can be so full of self-importance and blindness. It’s blindness to the fact that the majority of readers, and “majority” is really underselling it, are fortunately incapable of giving a bark about some fool who got the notion that writing stuff that happens for a living is not going to write stuff that happens anymore. Not for a living, anyway.

I mean, I don’t read farewells from people leaving their jobs at the toaster manufacturing company, the shipyard, or the bar. Even some politicians make less noise when they leave the business.

Hasta la vista, baby. (California Motor Speedway 2006. Photo by Larry Steagall.)

Hasta la vista, baby. (California Motor Speedway 2006. Photo by Larry Steagall.)

I stayed committed to my promise to David for about a week, figuring I’d leave a note on Facebook that a few people would notice. It would be enough for those who wondered what happened and to make clear that I didn’t get fired. Because I operate under the perhaps misguided notion that I have a reputation worth protecting, I cared a whit about that.

But your accountant will let you know if the party’s over and that you might ought to consider getting your money laundered by someone else. So as my final day approached I shifted in my thoughts about this. I got the notion to create a farewell that wasn’t so much like the ones I’d seen that had become so tired. There have been so many journalists leaving the business in the last 10 years that it’s nearly impossible to not swim in the exit pieces. I crafted a short message on top of a picture of a cowboy riding off into the sunset, then accidentally let it post sooner than I wanted to. For 15 minutes or so you had the chance to see it.

Even that seemed too self-serving and emotional, so I took it down.

The reason I came back to write something is because I don’t want to quit this job without saying one thing, even if it is in a tortured farewell.

If you’re curious why I would leave, my first answer is simply that it is time. I believe everyone involved wins in this. I loved being a journalist for the last 16 years, but I never operated under the assumption or even the hope that it would last forever. I said before on Facebook that this is amazing work. I mean it. I’m sure I’ll miss parts of it, particularly the people I got to meet as a reporter, especially including my coworkers. We cover things that are boring to most people, other things that are exciting to many and news that is tragic to everyone. In all of those experiences I was always amazed by the graciousness of those who somehow had faith that talking to me might do some good.

And that gets to the one thing I wanted to say: Thank you.

To leave without saying that seemed ungrateful.

The other reason I leave is because the right opportunity became available. On Monday I go to work in the Kitsap County Auditor’s office as education and outreach coordinator. If you run for something here you will probably talk to me. I’ll be taking on other communications tasks in the office as well, applying what I’ve learned here and learning new skills.

For my closing number I leave you with a song that I think reflects the emotions of someone who looks back on a career path he hopes did some good and probably wasn’t as great as he wishes he were.

Please come see me and hang out with friends at Story Night.

Again, thank you. As always, go Dodgers! And my apologies to David. I hope this doesn’t get me fired.

Bold prediction alert: Trump won’t win

It’s tempting to get mad at the national media for either A. Giving Donald Trump too much attention, or B. Discounting his chances at winning. If I were to pick one, for me it would be A. I suspected he had no chance, and for reasons I will show you I think the data bears that out.

Donald Trump
Donald Trump

The national media, as tough as it might be to offer, deserves a little slack. While the chattering class might be faulted for how it covers Trump, it can’t legitimately ignore someone who is leading a 17-person field aiming for the most powerful position in the world.

My sense from the beginning was that Trump’s popularity has a peak that settles somewhere south, way south, of 50 percent of the Republican Party. That by itself isn’t a problem. Ohio Gov. John Kasich, for example, might only have 5 percent support. Trump wins, right?

Not necessarily. The bigger issue for Trump, assuming he really does want to do anything besides boost his brand, is that those who feel negative about him represent more than 50 percent of the Republican Party. Kasich might only have something around 5 percent support, but that’s among 17 candidates. If you put Kasich, or Marco Rubio, or Scott Walker, or Jeb Bush one-on-one against Trump, the Donald gets crushed every time.

The way to illustrate this is by mapping out a ranked-choice election process. Ranked-choice is where a voter gets to pick a candidate in order of priority. After one round, the candidate with the least number of votes is removed. If that’s your candidate, your vote goes to the candidate who was your second choice. You keep removing the candidate with the lowest number of votes until you get someone who has more than 50 percent.

Highly unscientific ranked-choice voting scenario.
Highly unscientific ranked-choice voting scenario. Click on the image to see a larger version.

I mapped out that kind of process using an adjusted version of a Rasmussen Poll. I took the undecided voters and assigned them to the candidates proportionately. With George Pataki getting zero percent, no one picks anything up when he gets eliminated. When former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore was removed, I divided his 1 percent among the seven other candidates who had been governor. When Santorum exited I split his 1 percent between Ben Carson and Mike Huckabee, a Christian split. Lindsay Graham’s votes went to senators, Rick Perry and Bobby Jindal to governors, Mike Huckabee to governors and Carson, Rand Paul to a split of three candidates, etc. I was guessing the whole way, so there is no way this example is based in too much fact.

But don’t interpret that to mean that I’m underestimating Trump. I felt fine in only adding votes for Trump when two other never-been-elected candidates, Carly Fiorina and Carson, were removed and in the last round. I figured Trump might get votes from people who don’t want to vote for another Bush. In the end I think I was far too generous to think that Trump could get 40 percent of the Republican Party vote.

Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight makes this same point, probably and not surprisingly, better than I do.

“I’ve seen a lot written about how Trump’s candidacy heralds a new type of populism. If it does, this type of populism isn’t actually very popular. Trump’s overall favorability ratings are miserable, about 30 percent favorable and 60 percent unfavorable, and they haven’t improved (whatever gains he’s made among Republicans have been offset by his declines among independents and Democrats). To some extent, the 30 percent may like Trump precisely because they know the 60 percent don’t like him. More power to the 30 percent: I have plenty of my own issues with the political establishment. But running a campaign that caters to (for lack of a better term) contrarians is exactly how you ensure that you’ll never reach a majority.

It’s those high numbers of people who don’t like Trump that make me think he would lose in a one-on-one against almost all 16 of the other candidates.

Silver is making a similar case on the Democratic side, that Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders might have seen his peak. But it’s for different reasons. Sanders saw a surge in his poll numbers as people got to know him. Now that everybody knows who he is, you can expect the momentum for him slow to what Silver calls a “slog.”

Unlike Trump, though, Sanders doesn’t have high unfavorability numbers within the party. This means a lot of Democrats won’t vote for him, but they still like him. If he was the only choice they wouldn’t have to hold their noses when they voted. Trump can’t say the same thing.

Silver contends Sanders could win a couple of states. It’s more likely those would be caucus states, where the candidate decision is made by the most passionate within each party. In 2008 Barack Obama did enjoy a small margin of victory over Hillary Clinton in the national popular vote, but where he really sealed up his delegates was in caucus states.

Sanders could win in Washington. Based on the crowds, even with the interruption, he has lots of support here. In 2008 Obama received 68 percent of the caucus vote to Clinton’s 31 percent. Ten days later he won the primary by three percentage points.



Request to block initiative 1366 goes before King County judge on Friday

Voter initiatives have been found to be unconstitutional in the past, but voters usually get to weigh in before the courts intervene. Several plaintiffs, including King County Elections Director Sherrill Huff, filed suit to block Initiative 1366 from appearing on the general election ballot.

The Tim Eyman-led measure would direct the Legislature to send a constitutional amendment to the ballot. If the Legislature refused, the state’s sales tax take would be reduced from 6.5 percent to 5.5 percent, which in the near term would mean a loss of $2.8 billion per biennium, according to John Stang’s Crosscut piece.

The constitutional amendment Eyman wants would require a two-thirds majority in the House and Senate to approve any tax increase. Voters have approved the two-thirds requirement before, but most recently the court struck down one initiative that created a constitutional amendment, saying those have to start in the Legislature.

Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman, issued a response today urging the court to let the ballot measure go on the November ballot. She took no stand on the initiative itself, but said voters should weigh in.

“The subject matter of I-1366 is not outside the scope of the people’s initiative power, and the courts have made it a practice to avoid pre-election review except in ‘limited and rare circumstances’ that do not apply here,” Wyman said in a statement.

The lawsuit argues that the initiative’s intent, despite its path to get there, is to amend the constitution. The argument against allowing it on the ballot relates to the cost to taxpayers by having it on the ballot across the state and the usurpation of power normally left to the Legislature to begin a constitutional process.

“In the absence of an injunction, Ms. Huff, Ms. Hall and the taxpayer Plaintiffs will suffer irreparable harm from incurring the expense of an invalid and needless election as well as the harm caused to all taxpayers by unlawful government action,” the plaintiff’s complaint argues. “Additionally, in the absence of an injunction, the Legislator Plaintiffs will suffer irreparable harm to their constitutional rights under Article XXIII as representatives of the sole body that can lawfully initiate the constitutional amendment process.”

The case will go before King County Superior Court Judge Dean Lum at 10 a.m. Friday.

Huff was formerly the Kitsap County Auditor for eight years between 1979 and 1986 and Bremerton’s deputy mayor.

Eyman was in Bremerton in May 2014 talking about the initiative. Here’s the audio.

Who is your pick for president today?

We want to be careful with our use of metaphors when we suggest we are limiting your choices, so I will make no reference to weapons being pointed anywhere. Nonetheless, let me make this clear. We want you to tell us who, if you had to choose today, would be your pick for president among the current field of Republicans and Democrats.

The survey is on the right side of this page.

Grab your snacks. This show lasts another 15 months.
Grab your snacks. This show lasts another 15 months.

We included all 17 declared Republican candidates, the five declared Democrats, and Vice President Joe Biden, because he has not definitively said whether he will run. Even though rumors persist about Democrat Elizabeth Warren and 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney, we left them out because they have both said they will not. We also left out the other parties. That could change in the future.

This question comes a few hours before 10 Republicans occupy the main stage and seven get a forum nicknamed “the kids’ table” for the first major debate of the 2016 campaign season. Democrats are waiting until October to start their live arguments.

Carly Fiorina’s name is first because I alphabetized all 23 candidates, then drew a number to determine whose name would appear first.

One reason I wanted to do this was because of a question Travis Couture, Mason County Republican Party chairman, asked on Facebook Wednesday, whether he knew anyone whose first choice was Jeb Bush. I thought it was a great question. When I see people speak up online, it’s for Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders. I might be missing someone, but it’s not Jeb Bush. He rates relatively high in the polls, but that doesn’t seem to translate into bigtime support among the online comment gallery. I did see a few people express appreciation for what Donald Trump has been saying, but those people didn’t say whether he’d be their first choice for president.

In the New York Times on Thursday Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz said America deserves a “servant leader.”

“Our country is in desperate need of servant leaders, of men and women willing to kneel and embrace those who are not like them. Everyone seeking the presidency professes great love for our nation. But I ask myself, how can you be a genuine public servant if you belittle your fellow citizens and freeze out people who hold differing views?”

That is probably a wish for someone who already won the job, not for someone trying to get it. There will be belittling aplenty for the next 15 months.

Local push to stop corporate campaign funding

On primary election day a number north of a dozen and south of two dozen showed up at state Sen. Tim Sheldon’s office in Shelton to encourage action for a future election. They plan to be at state Sen. Jan Angel’s office on Wednesday.

What they’re asking for is an amendment to the U.S. Constitution declaring that corporations are not people and that money does not equal speech.


This comes within days after former President Jimmy Carter told an interviewer that the United States has become an oligarchy with bribery the prime way of getting things done.

“So, now we’ve just seen a subversion of our political system as a payoff to major contributors, who want and expect, and sometimes get, favors for themselves after the election is over.” — Former President Jimmy Carter

A House Bill, HJR 34, supporting a Constitutional Amendment to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision,  was introduced in 2013 and U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer signed on as a co-sponsor. There were 75 co-sponsors on that bill. Every one was a Democrat, which for now probably gives you an idea of what the chances are of the amendment having any chance at all. We do not live in bipartisan times.

This year’s bill, HJR 22, has 136 co-sponsors, including Kilmer and one Republican. A Senate version, SJR 5, has 39 co-sponsors. Sen. Patty Murray is one. Sen. Maria Cantwell is not. No Republicans have signed onto the Senate version. (These sentences were added after this post was originally published.)

There is a separate bill, HJR 48, that only had eight co-sponsors. Kilmer is not among them.

The amendment will surely be proposed in future sessions until it passes or the appetite for the argument goes away. That there could be a national incident that influences the electorate to get Congress’ attention is one way sentiment behind this idea could change.

The local effort takes a different tack, getting voters to back the idea and hoping that reluctant members of Congress from this state take notice.

WAmend, the Washington Coalition to Amend the Constitution is the group behind the local petitioning effort, and the move to get signatures for a 2016 ballot initiative that would urge our members of Congress to get the Amendment process and our legislators to vote for the Amendment when it’s our turn to vote.

The group has a letter from legislators to members of Congress, a letter that has 24 signatures. They come from 23 Democrats (Every one except Sheldon) and one Republican, Mark Miloscia, who used to be a Democrat. One more signature and they have a majority.

On Aug. 17, David Cobb, who is the founding member of the national organization Move to Amend, will be speaking locally. The event runs 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Eagle Harbor Congregational Church, 105 Winslow Way West on Bainbridge Island.

The video that follows recalls a visit by the “Ben” of the Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream company, Ben Cohen, when he visited Kitsap a year ago to drum up support for the effort.

Bryant believes he is a better fit for governor than Inslee

A week ago we introduced you to Bill Bryant, Republican candidate for governor. He stopped by the office before heading over to friends hosting him for Whaling Days. That introduction was largely biographical. Here we deal with issues.

Bryant, as you might expect, takes issue with current Gov. Jay Inslee, the Bainbridge Island Democrat elected governor in 2012, on a host of issues.

Republican candidate for governor Bill Bryant
Republican candidate for governor Bill Bryant

First off, Bryant says as a Republican representing Seattle as a Port of Seattle commissioner, he has to work across the aisle to get things done. Over the years most of his political contributions have gone to Republicans, but there have been a few to Democrats, including the $500 he gave then Congressman Inslee in 1994. That demonstrates, he said, his willingness to be bipartisan. “You will see it not only in who give money to, but in who gives money to me,” he said.

Bryant said Inslee’s record is less bipartisan, and said a letter sent by 25 House Republicans, including Kitsap Caucus members Jesse Young, Michelle Caldier and Drew MacEwen, made the case that Inslee can’t effectively cross party lines. “There’s a feeling that this governor cannot pull people together and cannot get things done,” Bryant said. “There is a big difference between being a congressman and being a governor.”

This is, of course, contrasted by Inslee’s comments this week in front of the Kitsap Sun editorial board where he praised the Legislature for what it accomplished this session. It shouldn’t have taken so long, he said, but what emerged at the end was significant.

Bryant built a business helping businesses export internationally, said he worked closely with former Gov. Chris Gregoire and has a relationship with ports throughout the state. He said it’s critical to keep the Puget Sound ports attractive. Where ports in California are largely importing products staying in that state, much of what arrives in the Pacific Northwest goes to the Midwest, so it could just easily come in through Vancouver, BC or Oregon.

The port commissioner said he’d try to encourage more tourism among an audience already coming her, cruise customers. He said the average stay from them now is two days, but he’d like to see it double to four.

Where Bryant is likely to see his loudest critics during his run is with those critical of the port for voting to allow Shell’s Arctic drilling fleet to dock in Seattle. He said the votes against the Shell drill from coming her was “symbolism at the expense of the middle class.”

“I will never take a position that does nothing for the environment, but costs middle class jobs,” he said.

The Arctic drilling exploration had already been approved by the Obama administration, he said, and the there was no threat from the rigs that were here. He said his first question in any issue like this would be whether it could damage the Puget Sound. “If there was any chance of an oil spill I would have been out in a kayak.”

Bryant is critical of Inslee’s cap-and-trade proposal, saying it would influence local companies to relocate. That, he said, would mean Washington’s air would be cleaner, but because those companies would be operating in places with more lax standards, the planet would not be cleaner. He favors instead incentives to companies to offer new technology to operate with less pollution. That also means encouraging hydro power.

On education Bryant favors diverting some juniors and seniors out of traditional high school curriculum in favor of training them for jobs that pay well and don’t require traditional college training. He said there are jobs on the Seattle waterfront that meet that standard, offering middle class wages after 18 months of learning on the job. He said owners of some companies are leaving the state in part because of the regulatory environment, but also because there isn’t a readily available workforce.

So far Bryant has raised about $422,000 and spent $73,000, according to Public Disclosure Commission documents. Inslee has raised $1.4 million and spent $1 million. Another Republican candidate, Javier Lopez, has not raised or spent any money.

Gun club permit issue aired in Tacoma

The question lives on over whether an operating permit for a gun club is an issue of safety or land use. Wednesday morning lawyers for the county and the Kitsap Rifle and Revolver Club made their arguments in front of a Court of Appeals commissioner in Tacoma.

Washington Appeals Court Division II Commissioner Eric Schmidt hears argument s from Dennis Reynolds, attorney for the Kitsap Rifle and Revolver Club.
Washington Appeals Court Division II Commissioner Eric Schmidt hears argument s from Dennis Reynolds, attorney for the Kitsap Rifle and Revolver Club.

The club is appealing the preliminary injunction that stopped shooting at the Seabeck Highway property in April. Commissioner Eric Schmidt said he hoped to have a written decision on the appeal before a Kitsap Superior Court hearing on whether to make the preliminary injunction permanent until the club files for an operating permit. What’s in place now is an emergency measure.

Dennis Reynolds, speaking for the club, told Schmidt the club believes the operating permit, which he referred to as a “special use” permit is essentially the same as a conditional use permit, which makes it a land use issue. As such, he said, the county doesn’t have the right to stop operations at the club for noncompliance with the new law, unless it can show what the legal world calls “great injury.” He said the injunction should not be in place until the courts sort out how the new law should be enforced. “Right now we have a club that’s effectively put out of business,” Reynolds said.

The land use issue has been effective before on another court involving the same two parties.  An earlier Court of Appeals ruling agreed with a Pierce County Judge that the club was a “public nuisance,” because it had expanded beyond what it had been granted under a conditional use permit, but disagreed with that judge that shutting the club down was the right remedy.

The county argues that the conditional use permit and the operating permit are separate issues. Christy Palmer, deputy prosecutor said the conditional use permit deals with zoning, while the operating permit deals with safety. “We want to ensure the safety of the community. We want to make sure bullets don’t leave the range,” she said.

An operating permit would require the club to show, using descriptions and drawings, how it will maintain a safe range. The Poulsbo Sportsman Club applied and, last I heard, was one drawing short of approval, but is still in operation. KRRC didn’t apply, which is why they’re not allowed to be in business, Palmer said.

Reynolds, who earlier said the club had lots of respect for Kitsap Superior Court Judge Jay Roof and that it took its time considering whether to appeal, later in the hearing questioned whether Roof had been able to rule fairly. The club has taken issue with the comments Roof made in April when he rendered his decision, saying he had been threatened and praising the County Prosecutor Tina Robinson for thinking beyond politics in seeking the injunction.

Poor turnout a consistent reality across the state

On Tuesday we posted a story showing voter turnout in Kitsap County at right around 12 percent as of Monday. With Tuesday numbers we’re now at about 13.2 percent, according to data released by the Washington Secretary of State’s Office.

As low as our turnout is, across the state it is worse at 10.2 percent. That does include incomplete data from a couple of counties. Okanogan County is so far reporting that out of 5,357 ballots sent out for two primary races, only three ballots have been returned. The Secretary of State’s Office confirms that number is incorrect, but the correct number won’t be reported until tomorrow.

The only county larger than Kitsap that has higher turnout is Spokane County, which as of Tuesday is at 15.6 percent. King County turnout is at 8.3 percent. Pierce is at 7.5.

Douglas County is the highest at 41.6 percent, but that’s among 322 votes. Jefferson County is at 22 percent and Mason is at 18.4 percent.

Secretary of State Kim Wyman predicted 26 percent turnout, but as we pointed out in Tuesday’s story, if April is any indicator we are two-thirds the way of where we will be by next Tuesday, which would put the state’s projected total at about 16 percent. It will take a significant late run across the state to beat that.

Here are the state numbers county-by-county, with the total, Kitsap and its neighbor counties highlighted. Five counties are not included because they do not have primaries.


Once a financial contributor, now an opponent

Bill Bryant, Republican candidate for Washington governor
Bill Bryant, Republican candidate for Washington governor

If you have been paying attention at all to politics lately it has either been for the primary we have going on right now or for the presidential election next year. We do have candidates running for governor in 2016, however, and two of them have a connection that at least one of them didn’t know about.

Bill Bryant, the first person to officially throw his name in the ring running for Washington governor in 2016, is in town for Whaling Days this weekend, invited by friends here. He stopped by the office to meet us and to talk about his thoughts on what a governor should do. We’re assuming incumbent Gov. Jay Inslee, a Bainbridge Island Democrat, is running, too, unless he has other plans. We asked once, but he didn’t confirm or deny.

Bryant grew up in Hoodsport, then Olympia, went to college at Georgetown and returned to Washington, where he runs an international trade company in Seattle . He is also a commissioner for the Port of Seattle.

Republicans haven’t had one of their own in the governor’s office since John Spellman left the office in 1985. Bryant believes he can win because he will do better than other Republicans have in Seattle, having represented the city for the port. We’ll get to the issues later next week.

Make no mistake, Bryant cites big differences between himself and the governor. But in 1994, when Inslee was running for a second term in Congress from Yakima, Bryant was one of his contributors. According to the campaign finance tracking site, Bryant gave Inslee $500. Inslee lost that campaign as part of the Republican Party’s “Contract with America,” then moved to Bainbridge Island, and a few years later began a new Congressional career.

Bryant didn’t remember contributing to the campaign, but said that in his business he was working with international governments, the Washington apple industry and government officials, including Inslee, to open up foreign markets for the state’s signature crop. He said he probably had a friend who invited him to a fundraiser and that he likely made a contribution.


In 2009 he gave another $500 to Democrat Patty Murray for her U.S. Senate re-election bid against Republican Dino Rossi, though he voted for Rossi, he said. Bryant has contributed often to political campaigns, most often, but not always, to Republican candidates. He financially supported Rossi’s runs for governor, John McCain’s 2008 presidential run and George W. Bush during both of his campaigns.

Next week I’ll write more about the visit and will discuss the encouragement to run he received from 25 House Republicans, including three from the Kitsap Caucus.

FEC – Frozen Election Commission

If you ever wondered what the Federal Election Commission does, for the last few years it’s pretty much been not much, if anything.

That’s troubling to some and not others. Troubling to many because the agency is charged with being the referee when it comes to campaign finance. With a presidential election on the horizon the agency’s oversight of the millions raised and spent could play a factor in the race. Others say the agency’s inertia is just fine, that things should be obviously bad before the agency determines money was raised or spent in violation of federal election laws.

You can have a bagel or a doughnut at the party because the commission couldn't agree on which to provide. You think I'm kidding, don't you.
You can have a bagel or a doughnut at the party because the commission couldn’t agree on which to provide. You think I’m kidding, don’t you.

U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, takes the view that gridlock on the commission is hurting democracy. He introduced a bill, nabbing a couple of Republicans to join him that would make it easier for the commission to make a decision, something it hasn’t found easy to do for some time now.

The FEC was created in 1975 as a response to the Watergate scandal. Election violation questions go to the commission. To prevent partisan decision-making on the oversight board Congress decided to have it made up of three from each of the two major parties. In the past the commission has been able to make decisions by breaking ties on a regular basis. Not so much lately.

The commission has become so clearly divided that for a party celebrating the organization’s 40-year anniversary, commissioners could agree whether to sever bagels or doughnuts, according to a New York Times piece that goes to painful detail into how dysfunctional the commission is. Members compromised and provided both, a rare act of the commission actually accomplishing something.

Kilmer would change that by changing the makeup of the commission to two from each party and one non-partisan representative. Finding a non-partisan is possible, and the concept appears to have worked with Washington’s Redistricting Commission.

There is reason to suspect the bill won’t go far. Despite the appearance of two Republicans as cosponsors, party members generally are not inclined to do something to make the commission more active. The Times piece illustrates this.

Republican members of the commission see no such crisis. They say they are comfortable with how things are working under the structure that gives each party three votes. No action at all, they say, is better than overly aggressive steps that could chill political speech.

“Congress set this place up to gridlock,” Lee E. Goodman, a Republican commissioner, said in an interview. “This agency is functioning as Congress intended. The democracy isn’t collapsing around us.”

And a Time Magazine piece (Kilmer is quoted in the article.) detailing how the agency can’t even hire a lead attorney seems to make the same case that getting this to the President’s desk is going to be a tough sell.

GovTrack.US gives the bill a 2 percent chance of becoming law.

Giving offense an official stamp

We’ve had conversations about offensive words and phrases here before. This On the Media segment offered what I thought was a new angle. Someone wants to trademark a phrase some would consider offensive, but it’s happening at the same time that NFL team from Washington, DC was rebuffed in its efforts. If that hadn’t been happening, my guess is this request would have been approved.

Sheldon goes after teachers, Democrats go after Sheldon for skipping work

In competing press releases sent out on Tuesday Tim Sheldon takes teachers to task for missing work for a strike and for not using a strike day to come to Olympia. Washington State Democrats say that’s Sheldon operating under a “Do as I say, not as I do,” program, citing his absences from county meetings.

We had a story on the hearing.

The dueling press releases follow:

Continue reading

When best to avoid an election

With final filing results in there are 13 races in which no one expressed an interest in running. As much as it might offend your sense of public participation in democracy, this is probably a good thing.

For example, three of the races are for the Crystal Springs Water District. All three commissioner positions are available and no one has applied. What this means, assuming that continues through next Friday, is that all three positions will go to whoever is in office now.

I don’t know exactly how many customers the water district has, but it can’t be many. In 2011, according to a Washington State Auditor’s Office report, the district reported $3,840 in revenues.

Since local agencies participating in elections have to pay their share for them, a public agency taking in less than $4,000 in revenues is probably not going to be criticized by its constituents for avoiding the election completely. If someone gets tired of being commissioner, that commissioner can quit. The other two board members can go through the process of picking a new one, and then that commissioner can fail to file to run forever and still keep the job for life.

As long as everyone in the district agrees to avoid elections at all costs and because of all costs, this works out. I haven’t talked to anyone at Crystal Springs, or at the Old Bangor Water District, which also has three positions available, or the Port of Waterman, which has two spots in play. I can’t say they’re doing what I’m suggesting could be done. I am saying they probably are and that it’s probably OK with everyone who lives there. Someone can prove me wrong by filing to run.

Bremerton could sever its coordinating council ties

196HThe countywide organization that gets local governments working as a team in a quest for federal and state dollars could be on the verge of a losing its biggest city.

On Tuesday the executive board of the Kitsap Regional Coordinating Council voted 8-4 to maintain the status quo in determining how best to develop countywide policy when it comes to voting.  This concluded, according to Poulsbo Mayor Becky Erickson, 16 months of disagreement primarily between representatives from Kitsap County and the city of Bremerton.  It’s possible that vote could spell the end of Bremerton’s membership in KRCC. Greg Wheeler, Bremerton City Council president, said this is sure to be a big topic at the council’s May 13 study session.

And in the end, no matter what happened Tuesday or what happens in the future, no one besides those in government might notice a tangible difference. This is a bigtime inside baseball dispute we in the newsroom were not sure was worth covering, because it was potentially inconsequential no matter how the board or the city council voted.

Under the existing interlocal agreement among the KRCC members, for any policy measure to pass there must be a quorum present and two county commissioners must vote “yes” and at least two cities must have a majority voting “yes” as well. All three county commissioners are members of the board. Bremerton has three members, Bainbridge Island, Port Orchard and Poulsbo each have two and the Port of Bremerton has one.

At Monday’s KRCC meeting Bremerton City Council President Greg Wheeler said the Bremerton City Council was not comfortable with what he called the county controlling the process.  He made a motion to change the voting requirement to a regular quorum. In that situation, if no county commissioners were in favor of a proposal but everyone else in the room was, motion carries.

Rob Gelder, county commissioner, said the county was the one agency in the room representing every resident of the county. And even if all the incorporated areas were taken out of the county’s resident count, it still represents two-thirds of the county’s residents, those who live in unincorporated areas. Furthermore, he argued, the county can’t act unilaterally, because two cities have to be on board for any measure to pass.

KRCC acts as a local conglomerate of interests designed to coordinate pursuit of state and federal funding. The group sets priorities and then acts more or less in unison with the Puget Sound Regional Council or the Legislature. It’s not always exactly like that, because as Wheeler said every member of either KRCC or PSRC is there to represent their government’s interest, but for the most part the group operates as if working as a team nets better results than trying to go it alone.

Wheeler said the issue first arose when in response to KRCC Executive Manager Mary McClure’s decision to retire. She was working for KRCC as a contractor and there was some talk of hiring staff instead. As part of that consideration the way local agencies paid for membership also came up. Wheeler said the cost of having a staff went up a lot, and the reconfiguration of the funding formula hit Bremerton pretty hard.

KRCC pulled the funding question, but the board voting formula remained an issue for Bremerton.

That’s not universal. Patty Lent, Bremerton’s mayor, said Tuesday she was against the motion forwarded by her city’s council and voted against it.

Port Orchard Mayor Tim Matthes, Port Orchard mayor, supported it, saying he didn’t think anyone would take advantage of the process. “We’ve been so cooperative, so I don’t see this little change making a difference,” he said.

Erickson disagreed, saying the KRCC board had been arguing these issues for 16 months. “We don’t get along very well,” she said. She said the change could eliminate the county’s voice completely, even though it represented everyone.

A hybrid proposal would have kept the current quorum requirements in place for major policy issues, but gone to a more simple quorum process for smaller matters.

Ed Wolfe, county commissioner, said he applauded the steadfastness and passion of Bremerton, but voted against the proposal. His biggest argument was that the issue has to stop taking up any more time. “It’s time to put this to bed and get on with the people’s business,” he said.

The “yes” voters included Wheeler, Daugs, Matthes and Axel Strakeljahn, Port of Bremerton commissioner.

The “no” votes came from Gelder, Wolfe, Lent, Erickson Poulsbo City Councilman Ed Stern, Bainbridge Island City Council members Anne Blair and Wayne Roth and Port Orchard City Councilman Jeff Cartwright.

Charlotte Garrido, county commissioner, was absent from the meeting.

Wheeler said Bremerton leaving KRCC is on the table, but said even if the city does leave it doesn’t mean it won’t still work in cooperation with the county’s other agencies. Should the city decide to quit its KRCC membership, it would take six months under the KRCC agreement to completely sever the tie, so the organization and the city wouldn’t be free of each other until the end of the year at the earliest.





Is Brad Owen considering retirement?

Lt. Gov. Brad Owen speaks at a salmon tasting in Taiwan.
Lt. Gov. Brad Owen speaks at a salmon tasting in Taiwan.
KING-5 TV has some pretty strong evidence that Lt. Gov. Brad Owen, who represented the 24th and 35th Legislative Districts in the Legislature for 20 years, is considering retirement at the end of this term. Owen’s office is not giving any public clues, but the station got emails through public records requests that make the case retirement is a real possibility. And there’s the rationale for keeping that consideration mum:

(Owen aide Ken) “Camp recommends not announcing plans to retire as it could result in the office losing some of its funding: ‘Another consideration is that if we let them know you’re definitely retiring, the Governor and the Legislature may try to reduce the budget. I’m not a fan of telling OFM [Office of Financial Management] that you’re retiring at this point so that they don’t have a reason to cut our budget and because if we formally tell people you’re retiring they’ll just start writing you off and making you irrelevant.'”

Owen’s Lt. Gov. bio mentions that he’s been in office since getting elected in 1996. He lives in Shelton and represented the 24th Legislative District in the House from 1977 to 1983 and the 35th Legislative District in the Senate from 1983 to 1997. When he left the Senate after getting elected as lieutenant governor, he was replaced by party appointment by Lena Swanson, who then lost the next election to Tim Sheldon.

The job entails acting as governor while the governor is away, being president of the Senate and taking a large role in the state’s international trade missions.

Updated — Solid reasons to give a Bush-Clinton contest the edge

The Los Angeles Times has an informative piece showing why Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton have one clear edge in seeking the presidential nomination from their parties.

Because neither are currently working for any government, they’re free to pile up money using Super PACs as long they don’t say that they are running for president. For Clinton, who for the time being seems to be the only serious contender on the Democratic side, this could be a moot issue until she emerges as the nominee.

For Bush it’s a bigger deal, because as of right now the Republican field is competitive. To his advantage is that the other main contenders all have government jobs.

“Bush did declare he would impose a total cap on how much each donor could contribute, according to the Washington Post. But it wasn’t the $5,000 maximum that those in the race are limited to asking for by law. It was $1 million.”

Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul are all prohibited from coordinating with Super PACs. The governors, Chris Christie and Scott Walker, might have state rules prohibiting them from raising money from organizations that do business with their states.

Bush is under no restriction, he believes. The Federal Elections Commission could argue otherwise, but critics contend it doesn’t do that often enough.

UPDATE: Turns out Ted Cruz has proven adept at raising money, at least the Super PACs supporting him have. The Washington Post reports the Super PACs supporting Cruz $31 million in a week.

Updated — Chinese flag on Washington capitol campus

On Friday some activists got on their iPhones and agreed that on Saturday they’d throw on their Wolverine work boots to beat tracks down to Olympia to protest the “communist” Chinese flag flying on the capitol campus.

I first learned of the controversy from a Facebook thread started by Mason County Republican Party Chairman Travis Couture, who asked, “So can someone please explain to me why the hell we are flying a communist Chinese flag at our capitol? (Rhetorical) We cant have a ‘Christmas’ tree or a Gadson flag but we can have a communist flag?”

As for the tree question, that call is made by the Association of Washington Business, because it’s their tree and it’s part of a fundraiser they’ve been doing for kids for 26 years, according to this story from the (Spokane) Spokesman-Review.

Gateway Pundit and Fox News declared that “patriots” removed the flag.

The governor’s office answered that the flag was up because there was a delegation visiting from China and that the flag was removed after they left. The same was done earlier this year when delegations from Austria and Finland were here. On Monday the flag of Scotland was raised in honor of Tartan Day.

The video in one of the links above shows the flag being lowered, with a couple of Gadsden-flag bearing witnesses and a voice on one of the videos saying, “This is what happens when America speaks.” That the activists had anything to do with the flag’s removal is questionable, but not completely clear to me. First of all, it looks to me that the state staff removed it, not some roving gang of patriots. The guy has a specific tool to lower the thing. It all looks quite orderly. Jaime Smith, a spokeswoman for the governor, said it was state personnel that removed it. But she also told Huffington Post, “Our state’s Department of Enterprise Services was going to lower the flag shortly after that anyway.” The “anyway” in that statement makes me wonder if even if the protesters didn’t remove it themselves, if the lowering was expedited by the complaints. She clarified in an email to me later that, “The flag would have been lowered anyhow, was my point to HuffPo.”

China makes products we use, like boots, phones, most of our shoes, other clothing and even, according to one Amazon reviewer, Gadsden flags. (That’s the one with the snake and the “Don’t Tread on Me” mantra.) We as a nation also owe China, or the Chinese, a lot of money. I can’t argue whether it’s a good idea to fly any other nation’s flag at our capitol campus, but if you’re going to, how do you decide which nation to exclude?

And obviously I don’t know what kind of phones the protesters use or the boots they wore, but they might want to check the labels, even on those flags.

UPDATE: I asked state officials from the governor’s office and from the Department of Enterprise Services some additional info. Some on Facebook are asking about flag protocol.

Smith sent me a list of other nations’ flags that have flown in the same place for the same reasons. Here they are.

Austria 2015
Finland 2015
Germany 2014
Peru 2014
United Kingdom 2014
Japan 2013 and 2014
India 2013
Italy 2013
Canada 2013

We also received a detailed explanation from Smith on the flag’s placement and the criteria for when a foreign flag gets raised.

“We fly the flag of a foreign country in the Flag Circle when a high level government representative of a country recognized by our government meets with a statewide official. Countries like Iran and North Korea are not recognized and we would not fly their national flag under any circumstance.

“The US government formally recognizes countries. A state does not. In 1980 the United States formally recognized the People’s Republic of China.

“International flag standards and the flag code of the United States specifically state that the flags of sovereign nations need to be flown from separate staffs and at equal height. No national flag should be higher than any other national flag. State flags and banners are different.

“When the US and other national flags are flown together, the U.S. flag should be in the position of honor and to the right of other flags. We orient our flags to the north steps of the Legislative building as the prominent feature of the most significant building. So looking at the flags from the steps, the U.S. flag is always to the right and a foreign flag is to its left. If you look at the flags from the Temple of Justice, however, it looks backwards. The flags have been oriented in this way for more than 20 years. With the flags in the conference room they are oriented to whomever is speaking at the podium, so to the speaker’s right, but audience’s left.”

Regarding the lowering of the flag, I’ve got a second person saying it was state staff that removed the flag during a normal course of duty. Linda Kent from DES sent the following.

“DES received an email Friday afternoon from the Governor’s office informing us that the Chinese ambassador had departed, and that the flag could be taken down. The email also contained a reminder that the Scottish flag should be put up by Monday morning.

“In the past, there has not been a specific time frame for flags to come down. Basically the building and grounds crew works the changing of flags in between other duties on the Capitol Campus.”

I agree with one critic who said we have bigger issues to worry about. My reason for diving in has much to do with Fox News’ coverage, which was shown Monday on the show “Fox and Friends.” The coverage obviously involves no original reporting and seems to rely solely on the accounts offered on sites like Gateway Pundit. Somehow I expect more from the news organization with the tagline “Fair & Balanced,” and the one that can legitimately brag that it is the most trusted news network in the nation.

Here’s how the two major state budgets differ

If you want a quick, spoken explanation of the differences in the House Democratic and Senate Republican budgets, Robert Mak has you covered.

Rachel La Corte from the Associated Press gave you a written explanation on Tuesday.

Senate Republicans offer a tuition cut and reject a collective bargaining agreement the governor’s office reached with state employees. The party then offers $1,000 per year to all state employees. A statement issued by the Washington Federation of State Employees argues that the Legislature can reject an agreement, but not make a new proposal.

“If contracts are rejected, the process calls for a return to negotiations. In this instance, Senate budget writers have by-passed our rights by instead authorizing flat raises of $1000 per full-time employee (prorated for part-time positions) per year of the two-year biennium. Under the collective bargaining statute, they cannot offer alternatives. In this case, the Senate has offered an alternative that is illegal under the law.”

State Sen. Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard, highlights the “no new taxes” feature of the Republican budget, making no mention of the state employee clause. State Sen. Tim Sheldon, the Potlatch Democrat who caucuses with the Republicans, also highlighted the “no new taxes” feature of the Senate budget, but also addressed the collective bargaining rejection. He said the budget, “Provides a flat $2,000 annual cost-of-living increase for state employees – meaning 25,000 state workers will see a larger increase than under agreements bargained between the governor’s office and public employee unions.”

Those were the only locals who commented.

Their full statements follow.

Continue reading

Angel, Eyman not seeing eye-to-eye on this one

hpim4414It took a while, but we heard back from state Sen. Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard, regarding an email blast Friday critical of her from initiative guru Tim Eyman.

This issue comes from a bill Angel cosponsored with two other Republicans and a Democrat. It passed 41-8 in the Senate earlier this month, with all three Kitsap senators voting in favor. All but one of the eight who voted “no” were Republicans. That’s seven Republicans voting, “no,” which means 18 favor the bill. The legislation is in the House now.

The bill would require that any initiative that the state budget office determines will either add more than $25 million in costs or cut more than $25 million in revenues to the state have the following statement added to the initiative title on the ballot, “The state budget office has determined that this proposal would have an unfunded net impact of [amount] on the state general fund. This means other state spending may need to be reduced or taxes increased to implement the proposal.”

Eyman said the emails reveal Angel’s true intent was to stop some initiatives from happening, naming possible voter actions authored by the Washington Education Association and the Service Employees International Union.

“This is extremely disturbing.  Having legislators plotting and scheming to ‘stop’ certain initiatives ‘from getting on the ballot’ is a gross abuse of power.  It doesn’t matter whether it is politicians conniving to block liberal initiatives or politicians scheming to undermine conservative initiatives,” Eyman wrote.

Angel responded by email saying, “I am a co-sponsor of this bipartisan bill  SB5715 which is a ‘transparency’ issue for the voter to help make a decision  when voting. It passed in a strong bipartisan fashion off the Senate floor with a vote of 41-8.  The ballot title would include a fiscal note only under certain circumstances and doesn’t affect the citizen initiative process at all.”

What follows is Eyman’s email blast to supporters and reporters, Angel’s response and video from Wednesday’s House hearing.

Continue reading

Adele Ferguson’s shoes

Doing an interview during the 1950s. Contributed photo / Secretary of State’s Office. Copyright 2015 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Doing an interview during the 1950s. Contributed photo / Secretary of State’s Office. Copyright 2015 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

There was far more material than I could use in the story about the passing of Adele Ferguson. Here are some more comments I think you’ll enjoy. There could be a few more. I received some written stories, but I’m double-checking to make sure the writers would be fine with me including them. Check back. They’re good ones.

“I always liked Adele because she would stab me in the front.” — Former Gov. Dan Evans. This quote actually was told to me by David Ammons, former AP statehouse reporter now with the Secretary of State’s office, but Evans confirmed that he said it.

“She was the den mother in a moveable feast. She was absolutely hilarious; I’ve never known a better story teller.” John Hughes, former editor of the Aberdeen Daily World, now overseeing the Secretary of State’s Legacy Project.

“They called her’Senator Adele,'” Rachel Pritchett, former Kitsap Sun reporter who met Adele in the 1980s. Pritchett was a communications staff member in the state Senate at the time.

“She was tough as nails, but she was also very feminine and dressed smartly. She was not feminist in the modern sense of the word. She pushed for the right for women reporters to wear pants on the floor.” — David Ammons

“She was a phenomenal asset to Bremerton. She defended Bremerton and she defended the Navy to the hilt.” — Ralph Munro, former Washington Secretary of State

“Adele was great. She could swear and drink with the best of the backroom politicians.  I remember one time late in Warren G. Magnuson’s career he came into the office assisted by two of his aides. They had hold of each of his elbows so he wouldn’t fall down. He stopped right next to my desk to steady himself and catch his breath. He still had about 30 feet to go to get to Adele’s office and made it in another couple minutes. The next day in her column Adele called Magnuson ‘robust and healthy.’ That was so far from the truth, but only Adele could get away with that. All the top politicians made appearances in her office. She was one of a kind, and I really liked her and got along great with her because she called them like she saw them, except for Warren G.)” — Terry Mosher, former Kitsap Sun reporter

“She was the only media person who sat through the Gamscam trial from day one to day end, so she had an opportunity of hearing all the testimony and listening to the various witnesses. She was a steadfast in my defense in that time and continued to be so.” — Gordon Walgren, former state legislator who served about two years in prison in connection with the Gamscam scandal.

“She was such a person of such stature. The Kitsap Sun should be so proud.” Rachel Pritchett.

“She never did go for a tape recorder to record. She was about the last reporter who depended on her own shorthand, but she easily the most accurate reporter that covered me.” — Dan Evans

“Adele could punish when she thought you did something wrong. Several times she would lay me out, but we were always friends.” Norm Dicks, former congressman.

“She was bigger than life for me when I was very young.” — Rachel Pritchett

“She gave as good as she got. She was deliciously bawdy and funny. Boy could she write.” — John Hughes.

“She had more insight in the capitol building than anyone, by far. She could smell a story two or three days before the next guy knew there was even one coming.” — Ralph Munro

“At times she would be salty. She could be critical, but she was always fair.” — Norm Dicks

“Feisty. Opinionated. Conservative. She had her own ideas and carried them out as best she could. Most of all she was a good friend.” — Gordon Walgren

“If Lehman (John Lehman, former secretary of the Navy) was at the Rotary or the Chamber of Commerce and he and I had gone fishing that day, she wanted to know all the details.” Norm Dicks, explaining Adele’s love of salmon fishing.

Dan Evans said Adele was covering an event in Washington, D.C. and was sitting next to him. A button came off his sport coat. She looked in her purse and found a sewing kit and sewed the button back on. “It was the last thing you would expect out of adele. She said, ‘You tell anybody about this and I’ll kill you.'”

“I was sitting next to her. I asked her what it would take to get onto the Bremerton Sun. She said, ‘Not much, apparently.” — Rachel Pritchett

One of Adele’s fellow Olympia reporters was on deadline to send in a column, but “he was so drunk there was no way he could have written that column.” Adele said, “‘I wrote the column for him. I knew how he wrote.’ I don’t think you could get away with that nowadays.” — Dan Evans

“She would invite people into her office and say, ‘Don’t sit down.” — Rachel Pritchett

When I got to spend those four days up there, (Hughes interviewed Adele over four days for the Legacy Project oral history about Adele. about the fourth day I decided it would not be imprudent. I allowed myself to have a little beaker; I think it was MacNaughton’s. I kissed her on the forehead and she said, ‘Don’t be fresh.’” — John Hughes

“She was a superb political reporter. She feared no one and she was always up front in her feelings.” Dan Evans

Point of personal privilege: In the first six years I worked for the Kitsap Sun beginning in 2002 I knew Adele Ferguson mostly through her columns in the local biweeklies and from her questions at debates during election season. It was in 2008 that things changed for me. We attended both county party conventions, offering coverage for our different publications. Again, she was writing for the biweeklies. I was writing for the paper she had been the voice of for almost five decades.

At the Republican convention the party gave her a Barnes & Noble gift card. I sat next to her at the Democratic convention and the party didn’t give her any gifts, but several delegates came to the table to say “Hello” to her. This was the first time I ever had a lengthy conversation with Adele and I was charmed like you wouldn’t believe. Maybe if you ever met her you would believe it.

A few things charmed me. One, she was a vivacious story teller, and I’m a sucker for stories. Secondly, she had all kinds of respect from a large number of Democrats that day. Certainly they didn’t like her politics, but they loved her. Third, she said she used the gift from the Republicans to buy Barack Obama’s books. Fourth, for all that she had accomplished she didn’t ever treat me as anything but a peer, and given her history and all she accomplished she had every right to act superior.

After that I got to meet with her at her home in Hansville when the state made her one of three oral history subjects. At other times I would call her when I needed a quote about someone with political history here in Washington or for other various reasons. In every instance she was gracious to me. I know others can’t say that. I guess I was a lucky one.

It is true that she wrote columns later in life that were unsupportable. Not that many, but how many does it take? Set that aside for a moment and consider the woman’s life as a whole. We, both women and men, walk through doors she opened. It’s hard for me to imagine some of our open government laws existing without reporters like Adele Ferguson, who called nonsense on secrecy. Women, particularly journalists, owe their opportunities to Adele and others like her.

I’m 53 and I enjoy political reporting, but I’m content in the reality that my chances of ever filling Adele’s shoes as a political reporter are slim. Perhaps that time has passed for anyone, but even if it hasn’t it would be akin to matching the greatness of a Willie Mays or Sandy Koufax. She meant that much. Big shoes.

For me, even though Adele will be remembered generally for her work as a political reporter, I’ll remember her most through two stories she told me at that Democratic convention. From that moment on I was a fan. She also told them to John Hughes, who wrote her biography and oral history for the state’s Legacy Project. Those stories will conclude this insufficient memorial. Allow me to add one more thing. I’m really going to miss Adele. I feel lucky that I ever got to meet her.

Now, here are the stories, both involving shoes. I’ve taken these stories from Hughes’ work, The Inimitable Adele Ferguson.

Continue reading