Kitsap Caucus

A blog about politics and government in Kitsap County as well as Washington state political news as it relates to Kitsap County.
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One more on the homeless bill, and then we are likely done for maybe three years

March 15th, 2014 by Steven Gardner

Ed Friedrich’s story on the bill that prolonged a real estate transaction fee to pay for housing for the homeless gives a good synopsis of what went down. We’ve paid a lot of attention to this bill in some part because of state Sen. Jan Angel’s role in stopping it from going to the floor from her committee.

Hours before the session ended Angel was able to introduce the final version of the bill that keeps the funding going, but also addresses some problems Angel and others had with the overall program.

One of Angel’s objections when the bill was in committee was that this fee is only charged in real estate transactions. While individuals who buy homes, change titles, etc. are the ones paying the fee, Angel suggested it unfair that the real estate industry was the only being asked to shoulder the burden. She has also made the case that the real estate market is cyclical, so funding for the program is subject to the market’s whims.

The final bill passed by the Legislature does not change any of that, but it puts in place the possibility that the state could find a different funding source to either supplement or replace the current fee. Following a performance audit of the program the state will convene a task force that will report on other funding possibilities by the end of 2017. Legislators would then have two years to come up with something different before facing another deadline worse than the one they just faced. Missing this deadline would have seen the fee drop and then go away. Missing the 2019 deadline set by the new legislation means the fee just goes away.

Department of Commerce statistics conclude the program has dropped homelessness in the state by 29 percent overall. For families the number is 74 percent. For individuals it’s 5 percent.

In Kitsap County the drop in homelessness appears to be well above the 50 percent target, but that assumes I’m reading the state Department of Commerce report correctly. I’ll check on Monday. In Mason County it looks like homelessness has actually gone up.

The bill also stipulates that at least 45 percent of the funding wind up in the hands of for-profit landlords. Again, assuming I’m reading the Commerce report correctly, I don’t see where that has been a problem anywhere. In Kitsap County $648,478 went to for-profit landlords in 2012. Another $177,529 went to what the state defines as “public” landlords. Nothing went to non-profits. In Mason County $112,379 went to for-profits, and that was all of it.

In the end eight senators and 22 representatives voted against the program, all of them Republicans. All nine of Kitsap’s legislators voted for it.

Below you can watch the conversation on the Senate floor, a discussion led off by Angel.


Recording fee for homeless funding likely to pass

March 12th, 2014 by Steven Gardner

The bill to continue charging the $40 fee on real estate transactions to fund programs for the homeless has a good shot of being passed. State Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island, said a Republican version would have extended the program for one year and required that 45 percent of the money go to private, for-profit landlords. Democrats are dead set against setting a fixed number on the private landlord question and want five years on the extension.

So the two sides are still talking.

If the session does get extended, Rolfes said, it will only be to be in compliance with 24-hour requirements on bills.

Nonetheless, if there is a short special session, that’s when the recording fee bill would likely be voted on, so that it can be part of the budget negotiations, Rolfes said.

Another source, Joaquin Uy from the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance emailed confirming the private landlord issue and the sunsets as key issues. He also said the two sides are debating reporting and auditing requirements.

Rolfes said Republicans have committed to passing a bill this session.


The president is funny; Obamacare enrollments climb

March 12th, 2014 by Steven Gardner

If you haven’t seen President Barack Obama’s appearance on a spoof video interview with Zach Galifianakis, stop what you’re doing and spend the next 6 minutes and 30 seconds to watch the presidential communication norms evolve. The president appeared on the comedian’s web show, “Between Two Ferns,” in an effort to reach a target audience to generate health care enrollments.

If the White House is to be believed, the move did just what it intended. For one thing, I think most people believe the interview is genuinely funny. Obama plays a good straight man to Galifianakis’ ridiculous character, but he gets in some obviously prepared jabs, too. He’s funny. More importantly to the White House is that hits on healthcare.gov spiked after the skit was published. According to Politico, hits on the site coming directly from Funnyordie.com were around 32,000 by 6 p.m. EDT Tuesday. That’s not enrollments, but that’s where enrollments start. And it’s very likely coming from just the market health care reform supporters want.

While this does show the president venturing into new territory, it’s an evolution, not a revolution. Television itself was a revolution when John F. Kennedy bested Richard Nixon in the first televised debate in 1960. Of course, they were candidates and the tone was serious. But Nixon wasn’t so serious in September 1968 when he asked, “Sock it to me?” on Laugh In. In the Nixon video linked here George Schlatter says Nixon was trying to reach a new audience. Here’s the real clip of Nixon’s foray into comedy.

Different presidents have tried different tacks to woo new audiences or to offer a message. Jimmy Carter wore sweaters and carried suitcases. Reagan, I’m not the first to point out, was a master performer. One of my liberal friends in college used to say that Reagan, as president, was a great actor. Clinton went on MTV, which was groundbreaking at the time. He was just cool enough to do it. I can’t tell you what the Bushes did, but one of them got elected twice so he did something right. I don’t think George W. or Laura Bush would do the kind of appearances Barack and Michelle Obama have done. Their styles are different, but the Obamas are fairly well suited to take advantage of the way the media is changing. Michelle Obama had what I thought was a funny appearance on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, because she could play within the strength of Fallon’s style. He is not the best interviewer, but he is noted for his skits, which then go viral. Again, this wasn’t just about being funny, Michelle Obama was there to pitch exercise.

In an age when many Americans get their news from The Daily Show, it’s not a bad approach to getting out the message. It may not be the ideal reality that more viewers are getting their news from a comedian than any other source, but it is the reality we have. So if a president has what it takes to enter this arena, then more power to him, and someday her.


Angel at center of controversy over funding for homeless

March 2nd, 2014 by Steven Gardner

State Sen. Jan Angel, the Republican elected to finish the final year of a four-year term, pulled a parliamentary move she is allowed to in her role as committee co-chair, prompting at least one howl from within her own party and a failed Democratic countermove in the main chamber.

At issue is a bill, House Bill 2368, that helps counties and the state fund programs for the homeless. Counties charge a $40 fee on real estate transactions and apply it toward state and county efforts to assist with rental housing payments, grants for transitional housing, emergency assistance, overnight shelters for young people, emergency shelters, and to help human trafficking victims and their families. Under the legislation originally passed in 2005 the fee was set to go down to $30 next year, and then to $10. This year’s bill would essentially make the $40 fee permanent.

Supporters of the bill argued that attaching the fee to documents related to real estate was appropriate, because reducing homelessness helps protect property values, keeps people out of jail and out of emergency rooms. Opponents contend that real estate fees are not an appropriate way to fund efforts to reduce homelessness and that the law was supposed to be temporary when it was written in 2005.

The bill was among those expected to be heard in a Senate Financial Institutions, Housing and Insurance Committee hearing, but Angel gaveled the meeting before the bill could be discussed. Once the gavel is hit, TVW stops recording video, but there was audio, (Start at 1:03:45) and the first voice complaining about the meeting’s quick conclusion is Republican Sen. Don Benton of Vancouver, who is hardly liberal lion. Benton, in fact, working with a Democrat from the House, had helped create the compromise bill the committee was supposed to consider. Benton asks about 2368 and Angel says, “The meeting is now adjourned.” Benton expresses disappointment. State Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, who co-chairs the committee said the bill was a bipartisan/bicameral piece of legislation everyone had agreed to, to which Angel said all parties are not in agreement. “We’ll continue to work on this during interim,” she said, to create a bill that works.

Hobbs told the (Tacoma) News Tribune that Angel was operating with orders from Senate Majority Coalition Caucus Leader Rodney Tom. Angel denied it, saying even if he had issued orders, “I work for the people of my district.”

On Friday Senate Democrats issued a statement that included comment from another Kitsap senator. “In my district, and in districts across the state, this is the most important source of funding we have to help the homeless,” said Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island. “People are playing politics with an issue that should be supported by everyone. There shouldn’t even be a second thought.”

The bill was an amended version that had passed out of the House with a 62-36 vote. All six Kitsap legislators in the House voted for the bill.

Democrats tried to pull a procedural move to get the bill heard on the main floor, but the majority caucus, including Benton, held firm in denying them. The News Tribune said the bill could be part of last-minute dealmaking before the session ends March 13.


The chance of intrigue in the 35th LD Senate race

February 21st, 2014 by Steven Gardner

If you’re watching the state political landscape and in particular the 35th Legislative District, you might have long ago stopped looking at the Senate race to focus on the campaigns being waged by two Republicans for the opportunity to unseat a Democratic incumbent.

You might be assuming that Tim Sheldon will again open an unlocked door to another term as a state Senator. The primary, though, could be interesting. And Sheldon has made some critics out of people who once were his backers, primarily people in Belfair, because of his work as a county commissioner.

Sheldon, as most of you know, is a Democrat, albeit (How should we put this?) an atypical one. For years his votes on most controversial issues have been aligned with the Republicans. The Democrats enjoyed their majority status in the chamber with his insistence on remaining a Democrat and have been safe from his maverick ways as long as the margin never got close. Once Democrats outnumbered Republicans by just three in the Senate, though, the GOP leadership was able to poach away control by nabbing Sheldon and Rodney Tom, the Democrat who once was Republican and is now the figurehead for the Senate Majority Coalition.

In Mason County, which is the bulk of the 35th, Sheldon has held strong. In 2010 he received 57 percent of the vote against Nancy (grandma) Williams, though that big margin might be deceiving, because she didn’t wage much of a campaign.

The election of 2006 might be a more telling picture. That year, one in which voters had to pick a party, Sheldon only received 43.1 percent in the primary against two challengers. One was a Democrat from the Howard Dean wing. The other was a Republican. In fact, the Democrat, Kyle Taylor Lucas, accused by many of moving into the district just to run against Sheldon, came in second place, netting 32.5 percent of the primary vote. Had she run in 2010 or this year and seen the same result, she would have been on the General Election ballot because of the state’s Top Two primary system.

So far Sheldon faces two opponents in the primary this year. Travis Couture, the Republican, describes himself on his website as “a conservative libertarian.” His arguments espousing that philosophy is clear on the website, and he delivers a message that might well resonate with the 35th District’s more conservative voters. So might his Facebook criticism of Sheldon, “Next time you see an illegal immigrant going to college on your taxpayer dime, just thank Tim Sheldon for voting to pass that this year in the Senate.”

The Democrats have Irene Bowling so far. She has run a music instruction business in Kitsap County and has been well known locally. During the selection process for the county commissioner position left open by Josh Brown, Bowling proved herself a competent candidate. She answered questions well and swayed enough precinct committee officers to make her the second choice as Brown’s successor. I have little doubt that the vast majority of people who voted for Taylor Lucas in 2006 will side with Bowling this time around in the primary. If she gets more than the 32.5 percent Taylor Lucas got, she could even emerge as the 35th District’s first choice out of the primary.

If that were to pan out, then the question becomes whether Couture can cut enough into Sheldon’s lead to do the unthinkable, putting Sheldon into third place.

One of Couture’s challenges could be raising money for the race, at least from the state party. Party organizations get to donate in big amounts. Sheldon isn’t going to get money from either party, but he already has almost $80,000. Sheldon has in the past, though, prevented Republican candidates from getting GOP party money to run against him, or so I’m told. It’s as if every dollar he gets has a huge multiplier effect. It’s early in the game, but that could be tough for Couture. If he as a first-time candidate proves especially adept at raising money and getting signs on voters’ lawns, he could make it interesting. Where Couture might make his biggest splash is on social media, which doesn’t cost a lot and can have a big connector factor.

If there is enough anti-Sheldon sentiment out there then this race could be highly entertaining. In the 2012 Mason County Commissioner primary race Sheldon received 29.4 percent of the vote as an incumbent, a half point ahead of the second-place candidate, Democrat Roslynne Reed. Sheldon won by 8 percentage points in the general election, but those 2012 numbers demonstrate he is not invincible. He does not enjoy the kind of support Norm Dicks had in the Sixth Congressional District.

If you were betting money on the 35th District race, I still wouldn’t dissuade you from betting on Sheldon. But you might look at 2012 and have reason to question your certainty. If he makes it to the general election I don’t see him losing that one. The best chance to unseat him is likely the primary. Bowling, assuming she is the only Democrat who runs, will get the votes from those leaning left. The question will be how the conservative votes will split, whether Couture can effectively make the case that he is more their representative than the incumbent.


Decode DC: Stimulus? ‘We can’t play.’

February 17th, 2014 by Steven Gardner

Here is an interesting story that serves as a good way to introduce you to a Washington D.C.-based news operation recently acquired by Scripps. Decode DC, a venture started by former NPR Congressional correspondent Andrea Seabrook, delves into the questions I would want to try to answer if I were a reporter in DC, something I did once aspire to a few decades ago. In recent episodes Decode DC delved into the sausage-making of the State of the Union speech, the ridiculous speculation about who the frontrunners are for the 2016 presidential race and the real issues behind the extension of unemployment benefits.

In a Kitsap Sun story in 2012 we looked at the career of former U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, the Belfair (but really, Bremerton) Democrat, who was retiring with accolades from folks on Capitol Hill touting Dicks’ ability to work across the aisle. Among those singing the congressman’s praises was California Republican Jerry Lewis.

When you listen to the podcast posted above, though, you’ll see that Lewis delivered the message that Republicans in early 2009 were not going to do anything to help the new president, Democrat Barack Obama. “We can’t play,” Lewis told Democrat David Obey. Not that Republicans didn’t secretly make requests, according to Obey. They just didn’t want their bosses in House leadership to know. And so you get a stimulus package that many believe was not big enough to stir as much economic activity as was needed then.

Now, this of course ignores the thought that there are many in this country who thought that the banks should not be bailed out and there should be no economic stimulus. This particular episode challenges that idea by starting from the premise that economists on both sides were saying some stimulus was needed and by showing conservative, free-market believer George W. Bush being the one asking Congress to bail out the banks. So even some conservatives were on board with the idea of government injecting itself into the economy to save the economy.

That is until a Democrat became president, overseeing two Congressional chambers also led by Democrats. You might say Republicans could afford to say “No,” because they knew Democrats would say “Yes.” This particular podcast sheds some light on what happened behind the scenes.

It also gets Obey saying something you don’t hear politicians saying very often, that many politicians in Washington are just not very bright. You’ll have to listen to hear him say why.

When new episodes post I will likely make it a regular event to post them here.

And finally, props to the suits in Cincinnati who saw fit to buy up Decode DC.


Linking teacher pay to legislator pay to boost science instruction and overall teacher pay – updated

January 31st, 2014 by Steven Gardner

A bill that would link elementary school science teacher pay to what Washington legislators earn got a Tweet from the News Tribune’s Jordan Schrader and a short mention in Crosscut, but nothing more. Why? One reason is because there is no way the bill will pass, and the bill’s author acknowledges as much.

State Rep. Larry Seaquist, D-Gig Harbor, introduced House Bill 2655, “Setting the salaries for members of the legislature,” on Jan. 23. The bill would require the Citizens’ Commission on Salaries for Elected Officials to set legislator pay at the same level as the “average elementary school science teacher.”

Right away, there is one problem with the language of the bill. Technically there is no such thing as an “elementary school science teacher.” Patty Glaser, Bremerton School District spokeswoman, said elementary school teachers certify as generalists. There is another issue that Central Kitsap School District spokesman David Beil pointed out, that because of declining enrollment the district hasn’t been hiring any teachers in any discipline.

All that aside, Seaquist introduced the bill to make a point. He said there has been an impetus to “start kids sooner in science.” So he is looking at, for example, a Central Washington University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in education, but then a master’s degree in something like biology, as a good fit in an elementary school. “We want to go in the direction of highly qualified technical teachers, bringing real science to schools,” he said. “We all know we want to go there.”

One problem, he said, is the pay the state and local districts offer teachers.

The average pay for a fresh-out-of college teacher with just a bachelor’s degree is $34,188, according to the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. Add that master’s degree and the average starting pay jumps to $41,716. That’s not far from what legislators receive, $42,106 for what is technically a part-time job. But Seaquist points out that a legislator who lives more than 35 miles away from the capitol is also entitled to a $90 day per diem to handle living-away-from-home expenses.

Seaquist makes the additional point that even the near $42,000 starting teachers with master’s degree make does not compare with what they would make in the private sector. I used an automated salary calculator on payscale.com to come up with an estimate that a brand new research scientist would be paid $55,000 annually right out of college. That same program estimated the pay would be around $80,000 after five years.

When I first talked to Seaquist he was clear his bill wouldn’t pass, but that it would get a hearing. And that’s what he wants most, for legislators to be compelled to talk about teachers’ salaries.

“What I’m trying to do is add to the weight of the argument that we have to be fully funding our schools, as the court says,” Seaquist said. “I’m really concerned that the Legislature is not standing up to fully respond to the court’s order.”

That order comes from the Washington Supreme Court’s McCleary decision, which declared that the state was not fully funding education as it was constitutionally required to do. The court gave the Legislature until 2018 to reach full funding and in mid-January determined that the Legislature’s first attempt to get there in 2013 was too small a step.

Seaquist would not limit the pay discussion to science teachers, but did so in this bill to illustrate how people with skills that are in high demand are underpaid in Washington schools. “I’m using the example of these high-demand, much-in-need teachers to point out that all of our teachers are underpaid,” he said.

UPDATE: Seaquist wrote to say he has asked the committee chairman to not schedule a hearing on the bill. He said he was mindful of the “rapidly growing workload” of the committee and asked it to be pulled.

Nonetheless, there are still two points he would make, and I’ll quote, “… a) our teachers are underpaid and b) we are having a hard time recruiting elementary school teachers with subject matter expertise, especially in the science and math areas. Although the school district gave you the technical answer “we don’t have elementary science teachers” the fact is that we are rapidly moving to STEM education in our elementary schools and these hands-on, research Master’s degree teachers are very valuable. I visited last summer at CWU’s ed school where they are developing new approaches to developing these teachers.”

So while the current reality is that elementary school teachers are generalists, Seaquist believes there will be a call for more elementary school teachers with a science background of some kind. This bill was designed to get legislators discussing that, even if he never expected it to pass.

And to answer one question, this is not the first time I’ve seen a legislator propose a bill knowing full well it would not pass. Talking about things is some of what legislators are paid to do. A bill can be akin to an idea in a brainstorming session, something that doesn’t get accepted on its face, but can be the spark for the ultimate solution.


McCleary responses range from compliant to defiant

January 28th, 2014 by Steven Gardner

You might have read the AP story about legislative pushback coming from both sides of the aisle on the state Supreme Court’s McCleary decision. Republican Sen. Michael Baumgartner has a bill that would shrink the court from nine members to five. Part of it is a response to what he sees as judicial overreach, but he also said it would save money.

During AP’s Legislative Preview earlier in January I wondered if state Sen. Mark Schoesler of Ritzville was chafing at the McCleary decision follow-up when he said, “If money were the key to education we’d all long for our kids to be in the Washington, DC schools.” If we were not in the midst of a period in which the court had demanded the Legislature spend more on schools, it would be just another political statement. Coming at this time, however, it seemed like it might be more than partisan posturing.

Jim Hargrove, a Democratic state senator, is also on the record saying he sees “separation-of-power problems” with the court’s approach.

Doug Cloud, who was one of the Republican candidates to replace Jan Angel in the House, said he sees problems with the court’s actions.

If legislators, almost all of whom say they will allocate more money to education regardless, decide to challenge the court’s authority, it could mark a precedential moment in Washington history.

Meanwhile, Gov. Jay Inslee is proposing spending $200 million more from this budget on education, including $74 million that would give teachers a 1.3 percent raise. It would be the first cost-of-living raise since 2008, despite the fact that voters approved annual COLAs in 2000. The governor also cited not just the decision, but the court’s statement that the Legislature was not moving fast enough to get to full funding by 2018.

The governor’s press release follows:
Read the rest of this entry »


This is news: Angel bills get hearings

January 22nd, 2014 by Steven Gardner

Over the first five years of Jan Angel’s legislative career one of her laments has been that her bills don’t get the attention they deserve because she was in the minority in the House chamber.

With Angel’s ascent into the Senate, that has all changed. On Monday her office issued a press release announcing that eight of her bills were getting hearings. We wrote about one of them, the bill that would allow a man who can prove he is not the father of a child to relinquish rights and responsibilities (i.e. child support) of parenthood.

In the Senate Law & Justice Committee hearing on that bill, SB 5997, Angel led off by testifying on the paternity bill, then was allowed to testify on another of her bills, one dealing with first class cities being able to employ warrant officers, so she could leave that committee to go address Angel-authored legislation in other committees.

Even more Angel news: Members of the Senate Majority Coalition want Angel to co-chair the Senate Financial Institutions, Housing and Insurance Committee with Lake Stevens Democrat Steve Hobbs. Angel does have some experience in banking and coalition leaders say they want to take advantage of that, according to the story by the (Tacoma) News Tribune’s Jordan Schrader.

No one will blame you, though, if you suspect some of this is designed to elevate Angel’s stature in Olympia, especially given that she faces re-election in November. Her opponent last November, one-year appointee Democrat Nathan Schlicher, got the opposite treatment, or so some suspect. If politics are at play, that could have an impact on whether legislation Angel supports gets enthusiastic, or any, treatment in the House.

Even if there are no political forces at play, bills often take more than one session to make it to final passage. First drafts will often have problems that are not identified until they get hearings, or at least introduced. Also , this is a short session and the time frame is crunched, something Angel referenced in her press release. Getting the eight bills heard is a good start, a great start, but any bill has to get passed in the House, too, which means someone over there is going to have to consider it a priority.

On the paternity bill Angel had expected there to be a companion bill in the House. This legislation, or some form of it, was originally introduced in the House during 2011-12 session by state Rep. Maureen Walsh, R-Walla Walla. Walsh and fellow Republican Hans Zeiger of Puyallup had thought to reintroduce the bill in the House, but according to a House Republican Caucus spokesman have decided not to, because the Senate bill was already moving.

If you want to watch the conversation about the paternity bill, it’s on the video below. It’s the first item of discussion, is interrupted briefly by the bill about warrants so Angel can go to another committee. Below the video is the text of Angel’s press release.

Read the rest of this entry »


Bainbridge records ruling a cautionary tale for Port Orchard

January 21st, 2014 by Chris Henry

The city of Port Orchard took note of a November Kitsap County Superior Court ruling that the city of Bainbridge Island must turn over personal hard drives of three city council members in response to a public records request.

In light of the ruling, the Port Orchard City Council on Tuesday considered a draft policy to formalize the understanding that personal emails of elected officials related to city business are public records.

A staff report from City Clerk Brandy Rinearson to the council also cites as a cautionary tale a 2012 records request from former City Clerk Patti Kirkpatrick, who was let go in early February of 2012 by incoming Mayor Tim Matthes. Within two weeks of her sacking, Kirkpatrick submitted her request for “all emails” back through 2010 for former Mayor Lary Coppola, Matthes and certain department heads, including those to and from council members.

City staff partially filled Kirkpatrick’s request and on May 10, 2012, said the first installment was available for pickup, but she never showed and did not respond to a letter saying the request would be closed on June 11, 2012, if the city did not hear further from her. (Kirkpatrick did not respond to a request for comment emailed to her Tuesday by the Kitsap Sun.)

Had Kirkpatrick pursued the request, it would have generated an estimated 300,000 emails — enough to fill up approximately 15 CDs. A scouring of data systems for emails that met the criteria of the request would have included elected officials’ personal computers.

Rinearson said she had a good working relationship with her predecessor, but she never learned why Kirkpatrick made the request. No lawsuit against the city ever came from it. Kirkpatrick later in 2012 went to work for the city of Pacific and was fired in February 2013 by Cy Sun, embattled mayor of that troubled city. Kirkpatrick told KIRO radio “she had no idea what she was getting into.”

Rinearson does not dispute that Kirkpatrick had a right to the records, she just wants an official policy guaranteeing she can collect any emails that aren’t directly within her control and produce them in a timely way to protect the city from a suit such as Bainbridge faces. Rinearson, a member of the Washington Association of Public Records Officers, also is the city’s risk manager.

In the Bainbridge lawsuit, three council members — Steve Bonkowski, David Ward and former councilwoman Debbie Lester — are alleged by two community activists to have used their personal email accounts to conduct city business, in violation of a city policy. Althea Paulson, a political blogger, and Bob Fortner, a self-proclaimed community watchdog, earlier this year made records requests for correspondence between the city’s utility committee chairwoman and other city officials.

The two allege that the city and the three council members did not fully disclose personal emails in a timely way. Judge Jeanette Dalton dismissed the council members themselves from the lawsuit but held the city accountable to produce the records. Her ruling on whether public records laws were violated is to come on Friday.

Unlike Bainbridge, which prohibits use of council members’ personal email accounts, Port Orchard doesn’t have a formal policy on how to handle elected officials personal emails. Council members have been advised on a number of occasions that their personal emails related to city business can be considered public records.

“My concern is this year we’ve had an increase in citizens wanting personal emails,” said City Clerk Brandy Rinearson, who is in charge of wrangling records “responsive” to requests. That’s true whether they’re official city emails or emails sent to or from a personal account.

“So I’m at the mercy of someone providing that document to me in a reasonable amount of time,” Rinearson said.

State law requires agencies to respond within five days on the status of a request but the law is vague on time frames within which installations of large email requests should be delivered.

“Bainbridge Island had a policy that got them into trouble,” Rinearson said. “We need to have certain precautions in place. … At least if we go into litigation, then we can say we followed our policy.”


Kitsap legislators (re)assume leadership posts.

January 15th, 2014 by Steven Gardner

Kitsap legislators have received their leadership assignments for what’s supposed to be the short legislative session that began this week.

State Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island, was named Senate Democratic floor leader. According to a Senate Democrats statement the floor leader’s role is to “help manage the action on the Senate floor, and to work across the aisle to ensure the debate runs smoothly. The floor leader is also the caucus point person on parliamentary procedure.” Rolfes is also the assistant ranking member on the Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee.

Potlatch state Sen. Tim Sheldon, one of two Democrats in the Senate Majority Coalition, returns as Senate president pro tempore, which means he runs the Senate floor from up front, wielding the big gavel whenever Lt. Gov. Brad Owen is not there. Sheldon is also vice chairman of two committees, Rules and Energy, Environment & Telecommunications.

New Sen. Jan Angel, elected in November, is vice chairwoman of the Senate Trade and Economic Development Committee.

Three Democrats in the House will chair committees this session. State Rep. Sherry Appleton of Poulsbo chairs the Community Development, Housing & Tribal Affairs Committee. Kathy Haigh of Shelton is chairwoman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Education. Gig Harbor’s Larry Seaquist will chair the Higher Education Committee. Bainbridge Island’s Drew Hansen is vice chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

Republican Drew MacEwen of Union is the assistant ranking minority member on two committees, the Capital Budget Committee and the Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee.


More evidence that a PCO vote is not a mandate

January 10th, 2014 by Steven Gardner

Following the story about the commissioners’ rationale behind going with the Democratic Party’s third choice for commissioner, I was copied on this letter addressed to Rob Gelder, county commissioner. It’s from Martha Lynn-Johnson, a board member for the Kitsap County Democratic Central Committee.

“You insulted the PCO’s by going with your friend; regardless of how the PCO’s voted. Ethically speaking, you should have recused yourself since you and Linda are good friends. It should have been obvious that the majority were trying to keep Linda out of the top three. I was stunned that you went to the third choice (too bad Clarence wasn’t picked instead of you). And, to add insult to injury, you say you two were being naughty, however, you’ll see how long our collective memories will be for the next two years. You will never be re-elected. You are a disappointment.

“Unhappy PCO”

One minor correction. I was the one who wrote the commissioners found themselves on the “naughty list.” Gelder didn’t say that. Just so we’re clear.

While this is just one person writing to the commissioner, based on the comments following the story and in the private conversations I have had, this is not an isolated opinion. Many Democrats were madder than commuters lining up to get on the George Washington Bridge.

The way the state constitution is written the commissioners’ only obligation to the party is to pick among the three candidates the party sent. So commissioners have every right to choose the person they feel will best do the job.

On the other hand, when they don’t pick the party’s first choice, the precinct committee officers have every constitutional right to complain like cable customers looking at an electric blizzard that should be the Super Bowl. It might even be a healthy thing when they complain. It sends a message for next time around.

That’s actually on Friday, although Democratic complaining could be seen as a trick. This time it’s three Republicans vying for a job. Charlotte Garrido, Gelder and now Linda Streissguth, will be on the dais when leaders from Kitsap and Pierce Counties pick a successor for Jan Angel’s former House seat.

I tried to get some background on why the selection process works like this, but it’s something that goes back to the 1800s. That’s when the state constititution was crafted and I didn’t find the rationale in an afternoon.

As a casual history student, though, I can state with great authority that there is a reason the process is set up this way. As a political philosopher I can think of a few reasons why.

One process is, on its face, a political exercise. PCOs have every reason to not just consider who will best do the job, but who is the most electable the next time around, who has been the most loyal party soldier and whose agenda most matches theirs. County commissioners can consider all those factors, too, but it makes sense that they might put their own list of priorities in a different order. In this case the two commissioners both belonged to the same party, but it wasn’t that way when the PCOs and the commissioners picked Steve Bauer in 2007.

Too much is made of the fact that Streissguth didn’t have a majority on the first two ballots. She had the lead. Unlike past PCO processes where a third name, or even a second one, is a fair distance behind the first choice, Streissguth got enough votes to be considered a strong contender.

And while we all had to scratch our heads and find another instance where commissioners bucked the party in Kitsap County, the Chris Endresen-Mary McClure switcheroo, it was just last year that it happened in Pierce County. The County Council, made up of five Republicans and two Democrats, named the county Republican Party’s second choice, Steve O’Ban, to a Senate seat to replace Mike Carrell after he died. The party had picked Dick Muri by a 20-16 vote among PCOs.

Having watched the Pierce Council when they worked with Kitsap commissioners to pick a replacement for Derek Kilmer in the 26th LD Senate seat, I’m not at all surprised. Those council members take their role seriously and are willing to execute their own discretion in making a final pick.

In fact, even political factors are openly discussed. Nathan Schlicher, who won a 12-11 vote among 26th Legislative District PCOs, got the 7-1 nod from the county leaders in large part because he said he was going to run later that year, while the other candidate, Todd Iverson, said he wasn’t sure.

Dan Roach, a Republican Pierce County Council member who served 10 years in the state Legislature, said that was a deciding factor for him.

Politics was an even more open factor a few months later. When O’Ban, who had been serving in the House, was picked, one of the reasons was that he would be a stronger candidate in 2014. If PCOs raised a fuss there, I haven’t seen evidence. Instead, they picked Dick Muri to replace O’Ban in the House. The council complied.

The Pierce County Council members didn’t just look at the PCO results and put a stamp on it. They asked questions. They did their own research. What’s the point of that if you’re not open to making up your own mind?

If Democrats locally maintain their displeasure, this obviously has the potential to be a factor against them in November. Disgruntled Democrats won’t necessarily vote for a Republican, but they are more likely to sit out the question, to leave their ballots blank. Republicans have put up a candidate, Ed Wolfe, who is well liked and well backed. And after this week’s event he is probably well funded. Streissguth not only has to overcome Wolfe, but might also have to beat back a challenge from within the party from former Bremerton Mayor Cary Bozeman. He came in fourth on PCO night, by the way. He said he is talking to friends he counts as advisors to help him decide whether he will run.


Tweet the state House Republicans

January 3rd, 2014 by Steven Gardner

Washington State House Republicans will hold a Twitter town hall forum from 12:30 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. Monday. State Rep. Dan Kristiansen and J.T. Wilcox will answer Tweeted questions.

Use the hashtag #solutionsWA.

The party’s press release is below.

No word on when the counties will meet to replace Jan Angel in the House. Josh Brown’s replacement on the commission might happen Monday afternoon.

Washington House Republicans to host Twitter town hall January 9

Washington House Republicans will host the Legislature’s first-ever Twitter town hall, January 9, from 12:30 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. Participants can ask House Republican leadership members Rep. Dan Kristiansen and Rep. J.T. Wilcox a 140-character question using the hashtag #solutionsWA.

House Republicans are not the only government entity to make use of this communications trend nationwide. President Obama held a Twitter town hall last July.

“This event will enable people to ask questions and provide their ideas in the days leading up to the 2014 legislative session,” said House Republican Leader Dan Kristiansen, R-Snohomish. “This is a new platform for us. We look forward to hearing from Washingtonians on the issues that are important to them.”

According to Pew Research, nearly one in 10 U.S. adults uses Twitter to share information. And, more than 50 million people in the U.S. use Twitter to get news. However, just like all social media, Twitter has its limitations. Participants and the responding representatives will only have 140 characters to relay their questions, answers and ideas.

“It’s our job as elected officials to involve the public at every opportunity. This is why we use a variety of forums like Twitter, which has a lot of active followers that we may not otherwise hear from on statewide legislative issues,” said House Republican Floor Leader J.T. Wilcox, R-Yelm.

The public is encouraged to participate in the January 9 Twitter town hall using #solutionsWA. Those unable to participate or have trouble with #solutionsWA can visit the House Republicans’ Twitter page @WaHouseGOP.

Visit www.houserepublicans.wa.gov for more information about House Republican members, solutions and results.


Kilmer on 2013, and your opportunity to ask a question

January 1st, 2014 by Steven Gardner

Derek Kilmer, Kitsap’s congressman, sent newsletter subscribers an end-of-year recap of the top 10 questions he has heard this year. Read this, but also take the time if you like to ask a question you’d like to see the congressman answer. If you’ve gone to any of the Gig Harbor Democrat’s public events you’ve heard some of the following comments, especially the one about head lice.

Since most people don’t make it out to the events, feel free to leave a question here. I’ll forward them to Kilmer in a couple weeks. I have a hunch I know one of the questions you might ask.

Here’s the Kilmer newsletter.

Over the past year I’ve sent you 23 updates about what I’ve been up to as your Representative. Since this e-newsletter will be the last of 2013, it’s going to be a little different.

I think one of the biggest problems in Washington, DC today is that some legislators aren’t listening enough to their constituents, so I’ve held 10 public town halls, four telephone town halls, and I’ve met folks from our neck of the woods at over 60 festivals, county fairs, and annual community events.

For those who haven’t had a chance to be a part of that give-and-take, let me do a rundown of the answers to some of the most common questions I received during this first year in Congress. So, with apologies to David Letterman, I give you…

THE TOP TEN ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS I GOT THIS YEAR

10.) “Is it as bad as it looks?”

This is the question I get asked more than any other. I will tell you that it’s strange to join an organization that – according to recent polls – is held in lower regard than head lice and colonoscopies.

After nearly a year on the job, I can affirm that Congress continues to be a “fixer-upper.” But I’m here because I hope to make it better.

While much of the past year has been focused on partisan games, I’m hopeful that the recent budget deal is a sign that 2014 may bring more folks from both sides of the aisle together to find solutions to our nation’s problems. If we’re going to get our economy – and this Congress – back on track, we’ve got to stop seeing folks define success as making the other political party look stupid.

9) “Yikes! That sounds frustrating. Is there any hope?”

Despite the dysfunction, there’s cause for hope.

Here’s why: there’s a growing group of folks from both parties that are committed to righting the ship.

Twice a month I participate in a meeting of the Bipartisan Working Group. It’s a group of Democrats and Republicans who are committed to working to get past the toxicity in our dialogue and find ways to work together. While the challenges facing our nation are too big to be fixed overnight, every time I walk out of those Wednesday morning meetings (and the meetings of the Problem Solvers Caucus that I’ve also become a part of), I feel confident and hopeful that we can get things back on track.

8) Speaking of working together. Does the Washington delegation work together much?

I’ve learned to watch my step around some members of the Washington delegation. Literally. Early on here, I accidently stepped on Representative Rick Larsen’s shoe and I broke it. As he hobbled around on a broken shoe for the rest of the day, I lived with the shame of having “flat-tired” one of my colleagues.

Seriously, though, we actually do interact quite frequently and quite positively. For example, Rep. Larsen and Rep. Adam Smith and I are all on the House Armed Services Committee together. Having three representatives from Washington on the committee is helpful as we work together to support our service members and ensure Washington State’s interests are protected.

What’s more, the House members from our state – Democrats and Republicans – get together for a periodic breakfast to catch up, to discuss issues facing our state, and to figure out how we can work together on some shared priorities. For instance, we’ve now had a majority of the state’s representatives become a part of the new Puget Sound Recovery Caucus I am co-chairing. We’re working together to ensure that the sales tax deduction that benefits Washington State citizens becomes a part of any tax reform proposal.

And if that’s not enough, for the nights when I’m in D.C., I actually share an apartment with our neighboring congressman (and my co-chair of the Puget Sound Recovery Caucus), Rep. Denny Heck. People are convinced that we should write a sitcom. For the record, I’m the “neat one.”

7) How’s the travel?

Not bad. Having met my wife Jennifer on an airplane back in 1996, I built up more positive airline karma than I ever deserved.

Listen, I knew when I signed up for this job that I was also signing up for a 3,000 mile commute to work. And, admittedly, I’ve learned the exact number of pretzels to expect in an Alaska Airlines pretzel package.

That said, I’m psyched to make it home nearly every weekend because it’s important I see and interact with my constituents as much as possible (not to mention my own family). Sure, that means a lot of time on a plane. But, on the bright side, I get 11 hours a week of mostly-uninterrupted work time. I get a lot of time to read policy briefings and to respond to letters from constituents. So if there’s something you think I should take a look at, email me!

6) So, did you get Norm Dicks’ office and committee assignments?

In short, no.

As you can imagine, I was somewhat bummed to find out that I wasn’t going to be the Ranking Member on the Appropriations Committee like my predecessor. (I did, however, get two great committees: Armed Services and Science, Space, and Technology).

Office designations, too, are based on seniority and then on a random drawing. Let’s just say that I had about as much success in the office lottery as I had in the recent Mega Millions drawing. Of the 435 members of Congress, I drew the 429thoffice choice.

That said, I have no complaints about my office. Not only did it come with a few tiny, furry “friends” (which has made the book House Mouse, Senate Mouse even more entertaining for my kids), we found out from the Library of Congress that it was the freshman office of Washington State legend Henry M. Jackson when he served in the House. Come visit us!

5) Any big surprises?

A few.

Prior to my tenure, Congress passed the Budget Control Act which included sequestration as a poison pill. It was meant to be so stupid that it would force Democrats and Republicans in the House and the Senate to work together to deal with our nation’s long-term fiscal health. Unfortunately, to my surprise, for most of the last year, Congress chose to swallow the poison pill.

Thankfully, the end of 2013 saw the passage of a budget that, while not perfect, will set aside the bulk of sequestration for the next two years and ensure we won’t have another devastating shutdown. Not only is that good news, it was a welcome surprise after a year of partisanship to see our parties work together to make some progress on the budget.

I was also surprised by the scrum for seats at the State of the Union. Some of my colleagues REALLY wanted to have a seat on the aisle so they could be on TV shaking the president’s hand. I haven’t seen that much demand for seats since the last time Taylor Swift visited the Tacoma Dome. I had a feeling it was trouble when I walked in.

4) So, what’s on Congress’s list of New Year’s Resolutions?

For me, that’s simple: I need to eat healthier, exercise more, and teach my dog Truman not to eat the furniture.

For Congress, the top of the list is fighting to extend unemployment benefits early in the New Year. A recent report by Washington State’s Employment Security Department found that 24,400 residents of our state lost their benefits on December 28 due to the failure of Congress to act. Another 37,600 Washingtonians stand to lose coverage over the course of the next six months. The impact of letting unemployment insurance benefits lapse will also prove to be yet another headwind to our economic recovery. In fact, the White House Council on Economic Advisers estimates that the failure to extend unemployment insurance benefits will cost the state of Washington 6,183 jobs.

In addition, there are some big challenges that deserve attention: a comprehensive immigration reform bill, improvements to the Affordable Care Act, comprehensive tax reform to help Main Street businesses and middle class families, actions to address climate change, and campaign finance reform.

And most importantly, Congress should resolve in 2014 to get focused on the economy. Not a single JOBS bill passed this year. I hope that changes in 2014. In fact, I’m working with a group of colleagues on the reauthorization of the America COMPETES Act. Stay tuned for details as we work to get it passed.

3) What do I do if I’m not getting the help I need from a federal agency?

On my district team, we’ve got some wonderfully talented caseworkers who work every day to solve problems for the people we represent and make sure government works for you. This year alone, we’ve helped over 500 people resolve issues with government agencies and we’ve helped return over $600,000 in savings for constituents from agencies like Medicare, the VA, or the IRS. If you have an issue or know someone who does, don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

2) So, are we making progress?

Despite the dysfunction in our nation’s capital, there were some policy successes. We saw the bipartisan passage of the Violence Against Women Act. Just prior to the holidays, we saw Congress pass a budget for the first time since 2009.

My focus – on the policy front and in the district – is on economic development. I spent the past decade working in economic development, and I feel strongly that a lot of the challenges facing our nation will get a lot better when people get back to work. That’s why I’ve proposed or cosponsored bills to help small businesses, to improve workforce development, and to improve our business climate. It’s why we fought (successfully!) to protect the Small Business Development Centers in our region and are actively working to responsibly increase harvest levels in the federal forests, to protect jobs at our military installations, and to give downtown revitalization a shot in the arm. I’m very hopeful that 2014 will see a greater focus by the Congress on helping our small businesses.

That’s also why I do “Kilmer at Your Company” events. As we end the year, I’ve visited with nearly five dozen companies in our district. I’ve had the opportunity to help construct a door at the Simpson facility in McCleary. I’ve visited hospitals, toured emergency rooms, or stopped by dialysis centers in every county in the district (and used a lot of hand sanitizer). I’ve slipped on some hip-waders and gotten into a cranberry bog. I’ve visited IT companies, manufacturers, and local small businesses. In each meeting, I try to get a sense of the good, the bad, and the ugly of how our employers are interacting with the federal government. I want to make sure that we’re doing all we can to see employers grow, succeed, and stay here in our region.

While there’s obviously much more to do, I’m proud that my team has accomplished a lot for folks in our region for the past year. Take a look at this “Year End Report” we put out that shows some of our efforts and accomplishments.

1.) So, overall, how’s it been?

When I first decided to run for federal office, the most common question I received was: “Why on earth would you want to serve in Congress when it’s such a mess and you have two little kids?” My answer remains the same now as it was then. “It’s because it’s a mess and I have two little kids.” Their ability to grow up in an America where there is growing educational and economic opportunity, where our nation is secure, and where there is clean air and water is important to me. But getting there requires Congress to get to work.

Being your Representative is an honor and a privilege and not a day goes by that I’m not grateful for the opportunity. I’m heading into 2014 highly motivated to get things back on track.

Let me just end by saying I’m grateful to each of you for continuing to read these updates, and for continuing to provide me with your thoughts and advice. I wish you a happy new year, and I look forward to hearing from you in the coming year.

Sincerely,

Derek


That’s Senator Angel now

December 17th, 2013 by Steven Gardner
Jan Angel (center) with daughters Erin Brinkerhoff (left) and Kara Morkert (right).

Jan Angel (center) with daughters Erin Brinkerhoff (left) and Kara Morkert (right).

Jan Angel, former county commissioner and Republican state representative in the 26th Legislative District since 2009, took the oath of office to be the district’s state Senator on Tuesday.

Angel defeated Nathan Schlicher, who in January was appointed by Pierce and Kitsap county officials, in November to hold the Senate seat for one year. Angel will hold the seat the final year of the term Derek Kilmer was elected to in 2010. Kilmer, a Democrat, is now in Congress. Angel has already begun fundraising for the 2014 campaign when she plans to seek a full four-year term.

Republicans might not get a replacement for Angel before the Legislative session begins on Jan. 13, but that could depend on how quickly Kitsap County commissioners are willing to move. The GOP’s 26th Legislative District precinct committee officers chose Jesse Young as its top choice to replace Angel, followed by Adam Berman and Doug Cloud. All are from Gig Harbor.

The ultimate decision rests with commissioners from Kitsap County and Pierce County council members. As it stands now, it seems unlikely they would meet before Jan. 6. That’s the first date for a meeting of just Kitsap County commissioners and one of the first items of business for them will be selecting a replacement for Josh Brown, who is leaving the board for a position with the Puget Sound Regional Council. Assuming the commissioners would want a full board in making the 26th Legislative District selection, it seems unlikely they would schedule a meeting before Jan. 7.

A Jan. 7 selection meeting would be on time for the Legislature, but it would not give the new state representative any ability to officially craft legislation, choose staff and move into office space well before the session begins.


Spotlight on Patty Murray, y’all

December 17th, 2013 by Steven Gardner

ED NOTE: There is at least one element of the budget Congress is about to pass that is causing significant heartburn locally. Inflation guarantees for military retirees younger than 62 were reduced. Tom Philpott, whose column appears in the Kitsap Sun, addressed the issue this week.

Spotlight on Patty Murray, y’all
(Yeah, Yeah)
The press is all aghast
(Yeah, yeah)
She got a budget passed
(Yeah, yeah)
Oh yeah! Oh oh yeah.

— Arthur Conley’s “Sweet Soul Music”, as written by a reporter who happens to be wearing tennis shoes at the moment.

There would probably be no better time for U.S. Sen. Patty Murray to run for another term in the Senate. Washington’s Democratic “Mom in Tennis Shoes” is being heralded at Christmastime as the Senator who saved the holiday for many. To do it she worked with the House Republican who would have preferred to be Vice President about now. Together they crafted a budget deal, something we’ve seen scant few of in recent years.

That deal has something for everyone to dislike, for sure, but the bar is really low right now for the things we celebrate out of Congress. Murray worked as the Senate rep with House Republican Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. The deal was timed so well politically Speaker of the House John Boehner felt the moxie to knock the heads of a subgroup of Tea Party conservatives within in his own party, something lots of folks noticed.

Murray and Ryan got to a deal by working their own rooms, by keeping their negotiations out of the press spotlight, and by keeping the White House more or less out of the process. Murray had to get support from House Democrats, which was not easy particularly because of the cuts to federal retirement benefits, including for military retirees. She told them that Ryan wanted much bigger cuts, and for many of them that was at least enough to get support.

Kitsap’s congressman, Democrat Derek Kilmer, had long said Congress needed to at least get a budget done, and that was the tone he took in his comment following his vote.

“While there are parts of this budget I don’t like, I have spent the last year calling on my colleagues to set aside their partisan differences and pass a budget. I’m encouraged that Democrats and Republicans have found a way to work together, help avert a government shutdown, and halt most of the damaging across-the-board cuts that have hurt our region. Congress must now continue to work together on a plan that deals with our long-term fiscal health and grows our economy so we can get folks back to work.”

Murray’s effort has generated tons of media attention.

From CNN: Patty Murray emerges as bipartisan figure after budget deal

“Murray, a Democrat from Washington state serving her fourth term, is considered a steady hand in the Senate who shuns grandstanding and garners respect from both sides of the aisle.
“She is a liberal, but can be pragmatic and has some conservative thoughts on budget issues.”

From Politico: How Patty Murray won over Dems on budget fight

“President Barack Obama was on the phone repeatedly with Sen. Patty Murray during the high-stakes budget talks and asked how he could help.
“Murray’s response: I got this.”

From U.S. News & World Report:The Real Value of the Budget Deal

“House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, a conservative Republican and his Senate counterpart, Patty Murray of Washington, a liberal Democrat, should be praised for breaking an impasse that has stymied the most basic function of a government over the last many years – adopting a budget. Even if the agreement falls short of addressing the fundamental federal budgetary challenges that confront the country’s future, and it does, it nonetheless demonstrates that two very different political philosophies can still find common cause in a polarized country and a divided Congress.”

There are naysayers about the budget bill.

From Katrina vanden Heuvel in the Washington Post: Undeserved applause for Ryan-Murray budget deal

“There’s something troubling, even farcical, about lawmakers applauding their own mediocrity, handing themselves medals of participation for showing up to work on time.”

Murray herself acknowledges the deal isn’t perfect in a column on Huffington Post, but urges the Senate to pass it so government stops “lurching from crisis to crisis,” such as another potential government shutdown. The Senate voted to end debate on Tuesday, meaning the budget bill is ready for a vote in the chamber. It only needs to a one-vote margin for approval. With 67 senators voting to end debate, bill passage seems likely.

It’s enough to make people watching politics to shine a spotlight, and to sing. I’ll spare you that and leave the singing to the experts.


We just might get a budget, ending sequestration

December 3rd, 2013 by Steven Gardner

Derek Kilmer, Democratic congressman from these parts, was in the office last week talking about a lot of issues. Of particular import was his estimation that the House and Senate in Washington, DC will work out a budget that ends sequestration. It won’t be an overly ambitious one that settles things for years, but it would avoid another government shutdown and perhaps would not in and of itself become a campaign issue in 2014.

According to this Politico story, Patty Murray, Democratic senator from this state, has been negotiating with Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin to get a deal Republicans and Democrats can live with, even if there are parts both sides will hate.


Grateful to be privileged

November 24th, 2013 by Steven Gardner

We all have a lot to be grateful for here. By “here” I mean whatever you want it to mean.

On Sunday I got to do something that comes as a benefit of doing this job. There was no particular news value to going to watch Air Force One land in Seattle and to see the President Barack Obama come off the plane. My attendance at the event probably didn’t add anything special for the people of Kitsap County who I write for. Joel Connelly of the Seattle P-I and Jim Brunner of the Seattle Times will be writing the local stuff for the Seattle market, telling what they can about President Obama’s visit. All I got to do was go out and film his arrival. In fact, by the time you read this he will probably have already left.

So why did I go?

Because I can.

I’m a sort of political geek. I’m not the best at poly sci trivia or guessing from one strategy to the next, but there’s something about governance and the quest for it that intrigues me. And when you’re the kind of political nerd I am, being able to see a president is akin to owning a Ken Griffey rookie card.

On Friday I got an email inviting me to go attend the president’s arrival. I usually ignore those things, for the reasons above. There is nothing for Kitsap County residents that I can necessarily get at one of those events. That was especially true today, because he wasn’t even greeted by anyone local, not even Gov. Jay Inslee, whose permanent home is on Bainbridge Island. U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, our congressman, wasn’t there either. For $16,000 you might have been able to go see him speak at a couple of wealthy Democrats’ homes over on the other side of the water.

For reasons I still haven’t processed when I got this email I decided to ask my bosses if I could go. I got the OK and sent my RSVP.

There is some rationale for making the trek that does have some bearing on residents of Kitsap County. I make the case that most residents of Washington don’t have any less access to the information they want and need than I do. We reporters learn how to get at information quicker, but generally you have just as much right to see it as we do.

This, however, was not a public event. They invited media. And I have a hunch that there are a few hundred people in Kitsap County who if given the opportunity to go do something as simple as I did, filming the arrival of the president, would jump at it. Furthermore, they might even be upset at the likes of me for continually ignoring those invites. So to some degree, some of what I did today was for them.

Don’t accuse me of overstating that. I went for my own benefit. Before Sunday I had seen three candidates who would become president, but never an actual president (Unless you count kind of seeing Ronald Reagan through the windows of his limousine on a dark night). Well, now that I went on Sunday, I can no longer say that. It was kind of important to me. I’m nerdy that way. As we approach Thanksgiving on Thursday, I’m thankful that I now have had the opportunity I had today, that we live in a place where this privilege exists and that I have the job that I do.


A local exception to the ongoing Obamacare narrative

November 20th, 2013 by Steven Gardner

Amid the persistent drumbeat of stumbles and fumbles with the roll-out of a new healthcare system, there is one local example being held up as how the new program can work well.

Brad Camp of Kingston has seen his name in an editorial penned by three governors and distributed across the country starting with The Washington Post.

Camp, who co-owns the Olympic Photography Group business and does freelance assignments for the Kitsap Sun, received notice that the private plan he had enrolled in for this year would be canceled at the end of the year. He had that coverage for himself and his children. His wife has insurance through her work, he said, but covering the entire family through her work policy would have been “prohibitively expensive.”

So Camp went through Washington’s Health Insurance Exchange and (eventually) found a plan to cover himself and his children for about $550 a month. That’s about $70 more than he was paying this year, but he is getting far more coverage. And he is getting no subsidy, so there is little (I say “little” because I hesitate to be absolute about anything.) chance that the state could come back to him and say there was a miscalculation.

For another $45 a month Camp added dental coverage.

Subsidy miscalculation is justifiably all the rage among Obamacare opponents. On Tuesday they trumpeted the story from Washington State Wire about the Federal Way woman who was held up by Obama as a success story, but thanks to the news she’s not getting the subsidy she originally thought she decided she won’t get health insurance. The story is quite comprehensive and highlights the problems here in Washington, even though Washington’s online program has been held up as an example of health care enrollment going well.

Camp, who is a success story now, had big problems with the site initially. “If I judged it by the website I would have given it an ‘F,’” Camp said. “The first three weeks it was tough to even get the website to acknowledge I was there.”

Once he got insurance though, Camp revealed his good fortune via Facebook.

So, just got a monthly raise starting in January–FINALLY, got thru on the WAHeath site and was able to sign up for insurance.
*As a small business owner that had no corporate plan available, benefits for me and the kids was VERY expensive.
For $600 LESS a month (no subsidy) , we have for the first time in 5 years:
-full office visit coverage (before is was max 4x a year)
-Prescription coverage (had to pay full freight before)
-Vision AND dental. (had NO benefit before)
-we get to KEEP our current provider and all doctors.
—-Politics and other BS aside, Our coverage is deeper, more comprehensive and much, much less costly.–
Brad Camp and Family. Now fully insured.

The post had more than 60 “likes,” and found its way to Gov. Jay Inslee’s office. Inslee included Camp’s story in an editorial he co wrote with the governors of Kentucky and Connecticut. Camp was also interviewed for a Seattle Times story.

The governor’s office asked Camp if he would be available to go the other Washington, in case someone there wanted to highlight his health care exchange success. Camp is willing to tell his story in Washington, but has no interest in entering the political debate, he said. He just knows that the coverage he has now is superior to what he had this last year and it is far superior. “I’m not taking a political side on this issue,” he said. “There is so much passion on the health care act. All I can talk about is my situation. This health care plan for my family worked out pretty well.”


One more TV spot on the 26th

November 4th, 2013 by Steven Gardner

In case you needed just one more television look at the candidates for the 26th Legislative District, here is KBTC’s Northwest Now take. If you’re tired of all this television, you can probably rest assured that none of our districts will get this much attention next year.


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