Given that the percentage of hapless, lackadaisical, and no doubt impotent dope fiends on The Stranger's staff--many, we'll have you know, in senior positions--mirrors that of the city at large (we'd guesstimate it at around 40 percent), we feel it's high time that Seattle takes a stand, however symbolic, against the patent idiocies of the drug war. That's why we strongly endorse I-75, the Seattle initiative that would order Seattle police to make enforcement of marijuana laws their lowest priority.
Stranger readers don't need to hear another rant on the evils of the drug war, but we like to rant, so here goes: The Bush administration's retrograde joy-killers have spent the last couple of years shifting the focus of their "compassionate conservative" ire from hard drug addicts to heads. They've been raiding medical-marijuana clubs on the West Coast--even though such dispensaries are legal, according to state law--and have launched a heavy-handed campaign to pressure the Canadians away from legalizing pot (a plan that, thankfully, has apparently backfired). The weed-haters arrest more than 700,000 Americans every year for marijuana offenses. Why are they so active? Because they know that public attitudes about pot use are changing, and not in their favor.
So the time is ripe for Seattle to show publicly that this liberal, tolerant burg isn't down with the feds' divisive culture-war agenda. Passing I-75 will do just that.
We freely admit that the initiative is mostly symbolic. Seattle arrests only about 160 people a year for pot offenses, according to City Attorney Tom Carr, who is leading the fight against the initiative--but now is the time for us to draw a symbolic line in the sand. We think Carr is a pretty groovy guy overall, but he's off the VW bus on this one. Besides, 160 pot busts in Seattle are 160 pot busts too many. And while Carr complains that the passage of I-75 will put his office in a "difficult position with the federal government," that's no reason to vote against this initiative. Pot smokers are in a difficult position with the feds too, Tom.
The City of Seattle Initiative 77 (latte tax for early-childhood care)
Those well-meaning and muddle-headed and intensely annoying Seattle do-gooders are at it again. This time they expect the city's cringing bleeding-heart voters to SAVE THE CHILDREN! by imposing a 10-cents-a-cup tax on espresso drinks sold in the city. Well, the Stranger Election Bowling League wants to SAVE THE CHILDREN! too. We want to save the little shits from having to a pay an extra dime when they start ponying up for their first already-overpriced latte at the local java joint.
It's mystifying to us why espresso drinkers--and espresso drinkers alone--should raise an estimated seven to 10 million dollars to fund a gamut of early-learning and childcare programs. (Though that estimate, made by I-77 proponents, is in serious dispute: The Washington Research Council claims that the tax would only generate about 1.5 million dollars a year, while the city estimates it would bring in 1.8 to 3.5 million dollars. Maybe the do-gooders got their figures from the same geniuses who worked out those monorail tax revenues.) And if this initiative passes, where will this sort of non sequitur taxation end? If we're going to impose a latte tax to fund children's programs, why not slap a quarter tax on each roll of Scotch tape sold in Seattle to fund state-of-the-art hutches for cute little bunnies, say, or perhaps a buck on each trout sold in the city's markets to keep the Seattle Weekly afloat for another year? We'll tell you why--because like the latte tax, these ideas are self-evidently stupid, unfair, and nonsensical (and it's going to take more than a buck a trout to save the Seattle Weekly).
And there's another issue here. Sure, the big boys like Starbucks could afford to impose, collect, and track a dime-a-cup surcharge on the drinks they sell without undue hardship. But for the small players, the mom-and-pop independent coffeehouses that dot the city, the imposition of this tax would in our opinion impose an enormous administrative burden. Frankly, it's goofy ideas like this that give liberalism a bad name. If the proponents of more funding for early-childhood programs want to enact their agenda, they should lobby the legislature for greater funding, rather than busting the chops of our city's coffee purveyors. So vote NO on I-77.
Metropolitan King County Council District 2
:Vote for Bob Ferguson
Bob Ferguson's opponent, North Seattle King County Council incumbent Cynthia Sullivan, would have you believe this first-time Democratic Party challenger is a Trojan horse Republican, a Tim Eyman acolyte who wants to shrink government and transfer the county's transportation funding from transit to roads. Don't buy it--Ferguson's a lifelong Democrat who got his start working on U.S. Representative Adam Smith's first congressional campaign. He even headed up the King County Dems. The Stranger Election Bowling League believes this smart young challenger will bring fresh ideas to the county council.
True, Ferguson agrees with Republicans that the county council should be shrunk from 13 members to nine, a campaign Sullivan and others have characterized as a Republican plot, à la the Clinton impeachment and the recall in California. But, as Ferguson points out, shrinking the council just makes good economic sense: A smaller council would save the cash-strapped county anywhere from one to four million dollars, and bring the size of the council in line with other big urban counties. Ferguson's also pissed about the council's decision to put parks funding on a countywide ballot, forcing voters to make a tough call--to fund parks or let them fall into disrepair--that council members should have had the courage to make themselves. And he wants to slam the brakes on Sound Transit's over-budget light rail plan, which Sullivan--as council chair and a member of Sound Transit's governing board--has staunchly supported.
Sullivan's tenure on the council hasn't been time wasted: She's done good work for the environment, pushing to preserve rural farmland while promoting density in urban areas. And she lobbied successfully for council oversight of the county's scandal-ridden elections division, whose top two officials resigned after thousands of absentee ballots were mailed out late during last year's general election. Nonetheless, being a King County Council member shouldn't be a lifetime appointment. After 20 years of Sullivan, it's time to hear some new voices.
Seattle School Districts 1, 2, 3, and 6
:Vote for Theresa Cardamone, Darlene Flynn, Brita Butler-Wall, and Irene Stewart.
In the primary, school board elections are done right--by districts. This gives genuine community folks, who are passionately dialed into the issues, an actual shot at taking the next step, getting their share of civic power, and making a difference. This year's crop of challengers, fed up en masse with Seattle Public Schools' embarrassing $35 million budget fiasco and its continually embarrassing gap in student achievement, lives up to the Election Bowling League's high expectations for neighborhood-generated candidates.
The Election Bowling League enthusiastically gives its endorsement to this year's entire "throw the bums out" ticket. If you live in District 1 (Lake City, Northgate, and Blue Ridge), vote for challenger Theresa Cardamone, a she-means-business four-term site council chair who's mad as hell and smart as hell--and who has been a hilarious thorn in the side at school board meetings. If you live in District 2 (Green Lake, Wallingford, and Fremont), vote for Darlene Flynn, the most passionate candidate we've met this year, who has a laser-beam focus on racial disparity in the schools. If you live in District 3 (University District, Laurelhurst, Ravenna), vote for Brita Butler-Wall. She's known for her activism on the Coke contract, but more relevantly, Butler-Wall is a mature realist, a brainiac, and a stickler for details and accountability who, quite frankly, ran circles around incumbent Nancy Waldman at the Election Bowling League endorsement interview. Finally, if you live in District 6 (West Seattle), vote for Irene Stewart, a stern reformer--and director of Seattle's Office for Education--who emphasizes more creative and personalized education in the classroom.
Port of Seattle Commissioner Positions 2 and 5
:Vote for Bob Edwards and Alec Fisken
A word about the port--like, why should you give a shit? It has taxing authority, it controls our waterfront, and if terrorists ever attack Seattle, it will be through the Port of Seattle.
Anyway, all the folks challenging port commissioners this year cite boring ol' accountability as their number one reason for trying to unseat the incumbents, Clare Nordquist and Bob Edwards. A list of problems--a nearly $2 billion debt, a 37 percent property tax increase last year, the controversial plans for a third airport runway, lagging port security, and the privatization of cargo container cranes (losing cargo container business to Portland and Vancouver, BC)--gives the challengers plenty of ammunition. City of Seattle financial planner Alec Fisken, who's going up against Nordquist, makes the best use of that ammo, sounding off against the port's finances (Fisken points to other national ports that generate income for their cities, and wants to cut the Seattle port expenses to dig it out of debt and ease the tax burden on residents), lambasting plans to redevelop land near Terminals 90 and 91 (Fisken says they're too risky), and criticizing the port's unused dock space. The Election Bowling League thinks Fisken's years of financial expertise, coupled with his sharp eye for port business--during stints as an investment banker, Fisken has focused on port financing--make him a great addition to the commission.
In the other race, the Election Bowling League picks Bob Edwards to return to the commission. As the lone dissenter on last year's tax increase, Edwards is a check on his colleagues--he has a background in bond trading, and brings financial expertise to the commission. Edwards is also a decent commissioner when it comes to labor and environmental issues.