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There's a victory party in the works for Tuesday night, November 7. And we're throwing it. Location TBA. Polling shows that the Democrats are going to give the Republicans their comeuppance and win in a landslide.
Don't mess this celebration up. The first thing you have to do is easy. You have to help bury the disgraced GOP (Iraq, Katrina, DeLay, Foley... the Constitution) by electing Eastside Democrat Darcy Burner to Congress—and by reelecting Democratic Representatives Jay Inslee and Jim McDermott and Democratic Senator Maria Cantwell. Subpoenas, Inslee told the Stranger Election Control Board, are likely.
Don't put on your party hats yet, though. Even if you bury the GOP at the national level, there's a load of state, county, and municipal stuff on this year's ballot that—if you vote the wrong way—could put a damper on things. Indeed, if you want to toast the GOP's demise on November 7 without the nagging feeling that the state's education fund is $100 million short, that there's another right-winger on the state supreme court, that McMansions are sprawling into formerly protected lands, and that Mayor Greg Nickels is peering over your shoulder—you can't just stop after you check the box for Cantwell, et al.
To ensure you don't blow it, and that you get to party unconditionally on November 7, the Stranger Election Control Board (SECB) has interviewed candidates, pored over voting records, and taken a close look at this year's ballot measures in order to prepare a handy Election 2006 cheat sheet. Now, all you have to do is read it and vote.
The SECB doesn't make endorsements in uncontested races (like the five King County District Court Judge seats and the ten Seattle Municipal Court Judge spots that are on this year's ballot).
The SECB is: Erica C. Barnett, Josh Feit, Tim Keck, Sarah Mirk, Eli Sanders, Dan Savage, David Schmader, and Annie Wagner.
Vote for Maria Cantwell
Senator Maria Cantwell's GOP opponent, Mike McGavick, argues that we need new leadership back in D.C. The SECB couldn't agree more. That's why you should vote for Cantwell, who's been waging a heroic battle against the GOP's corrupt leadership in D.C. for nearly all six years of her freshman stint. (The Democrats briefly had a 50-49-1 advantage four years ago.)
For a freshman in the minority party, Cantwell's record of achievement is jaw dropping: the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge filibuster; extending the federal tax deduction for Washington's regressive sales tax; protecting Snohomish ratepayers from Enron; keeping oil-tanker traffic out of the Puget Sound; extending low-income health-care coverage; passing identify-theft protection; and helping pass campaign-finance reform.
Former Safeco CEO McGavick calls Cantwell's successes "peripheral," but Cantwell, at heart a working-class Irish Catholic, sees them as populist.
Seattle prepster McGavick is a conservative hack—he came up through Slade Gorton's political machine, worked as an insurance-industry lobbyist, and at Safeco he used controversial tactics to bully minorities and low-income customers out of coverage.
Cantwell's vote for the war in Iraq (and her reluctance to condemn it three years on) is certainly troubling to the SECB—and it has saddled her with a protest candidate or two (like former Black Panther and Green Party candidate Aaron Dixon). But on every other front Cantwell is a wicked smart, consistent Bush antagonist. The pending Democratic majority needs a populist brainiac like Cantwell in its corner. Vote Cantwell.
Vote for Jay Inslee
Jay Inslee is just as liberal as Seattle's Jim McDermott, but with more credibility, more shoulders, and with piercing, heartthrob blue eyes.
Even better, Inslee's a serious environmentalist who's been pushing to enact his Apollo Bill, which lays out a specific government plan—including a de facto carbon tax—to drastically reduce CO2 emissions. If the Democrats win, it's likely he'll finally pass the bill.
Inslee represents a politically divided district (North King and South Snohomish counties) but he's one of the few Democrats who's bold enough to call out Republican bullshit. During the SECB's endorsement interview, he reminded us that he sits on the Energy Oversight and Investigation subcommittee. "There are going to be subpoenas," he promises if Democrats take control of the House. "We should be aggressive, but honest. We're going to uncover some truth that America needs to know about."
Inslee's also good at telling the truth about Bush's war on terror: "George Bush said, 'What do they hate about us? They hate our freedoms.' So what do Republicans want to do? Give away our freedoms!" Vote Inslee.
Vote for Jim McDermott
In the September primary, the long-serving Democratic congressman received almost four times as many votes as all of the other candidates in his race—Republican or Democrat—combined. Now, in the general, he faces Republican Steve Beren, a former Vietnam antiwar activist who brags of having evolved from a protester into "a patriot, and a Republican." In other words, Beren has no chance in the 7th Congressional District, which covers the lefty enclave of Seattle and its immediate surroundings, including the hippie commune of Vashon Island.
Young Independent Linnea Noreen, who has no practical political experience, is also running. This is no time to mess with the chances for a thorough Democratic victory in the House of Representatives by throwing away your vote on a quixotic candidate like Noreen.
And if the Democrats do take control of the House this November, as seems increasingly likely, the pro-choice, pro-civil liberties, anti-Iraq-war McDermott will be in the majority for the first time in 12 years. He'll likely move into a prominent spot on the powerful Ways and Means Committee. And perhaps most importantly, he'll have a viable platform for turning his progressive views—which are right in line with his district—into progressive legislation. Vote McDermott.
Vote for Darcy Burner
Democrats need only 15 seats to take the majority in the House, and current polls are showing that Democrats may pick up more than that. If they do, the President's agenda will grind to a halt—no more right-wing wacko appointees to the Supreme Court, no more cake-walk declarations of preemptive war, no more failing to heed the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission.
Enter Darcy Burner, the former Microsoft manager who is running for the House seat in Washington's 8th District (which covers the Eastside from Duvall to Mount Rainier). Burner is running neck-and-neck with freshman Republican Congressman Dave Reichert and this race is attracting tons of national attention (and money) as one of the key contests in the wider fight for control of Congress. Burner's success so far is a clear sign of Reichert's vulnerability and the public's dissatisfaction with the direction of the country, but it's also a sign of Burner's own smarts. She's introduced herself with a compelling story that plays well in the suburbs (military family, Harvard grad, Microsoft mom) and has relentlessly linked "independent" Reichert to Bush and his congressional apparatchiks—not hard to do, given Reichert's "whatever-the-president-says" position on the Iraq war, his opposition to abortion, his late-blooming acceptance (like, two weeks ago) of the reality of global warming, and his support of the Bush tax cuts.
Burner is backed by major pro-choice, environmental, and women's groups, but she'll need all the help she can get in this tight race against a well-known incumbent. If you live in the 8th District, vote for her (duh), and if you live outside the 8th cut her a check or volunteer your time. It's well worth it because—no joke—the direction of the country could hinge on the outcome of this race. Vote Burner.
Initiative No. 920
Conservatives have been bitching about the estate tax (or Republican-christened "death tax") on a national level at a relatively constant rate for the last dozen years. Now it's Washington's turn. The Washington estate tax is the levy that falls on the crustiest of the upper crust's estates—those valued at over $2 million, or $4 million if you're married—when they're inherited by someone else, such as those cherubic, Chanel-clad children. To protect small farmers from getting hit by the tax, the law exempts farm and timberland that takes up at least 50 percent of someone's property from counting toward the value of their estate.
Many wealthy families duck the tax altogether by putting the majority of their money into charities and nonprofit foundations. Because of these sorts of loopholes, large enough for Seattle Times publisher Frank Blethen to jump through (his paper donated money to the campaign), only 250 Washington families are burdened by the tax annually. The initiative only got on the ballot thanks to the tireless efforts of skeezy paid petition gatherers, whom The Stranger caught lying to voters about the estate tax in order to snag the required number of signatures back in June.
Those 250 families, though, have a lot of power: Rapacious megadeveloper Martin Selig and John Nordstrom bankrolled I-920 to the tune of a combined $875,000. If you're against the estate tax because you don't exact an ounce or two of spiteful glee from taxing the richy rich, you should think of the children. The $100 million raised annually through the estate tax goes into the cute little coffers of the Washington Education Legacy Trust. The reluctant sacrifice of those 250 families provides Washington colleges with funds to enroll 7,900 more students and decreases class sizes in K–12 schools statewide. Vote no.
Initiative No. 933
Gravel mine in your backyard, anyone?
Billed as a "property-rights" initiative, I-933 goes further than any similar law nationwide to strip away land-use laws, zoning, and environmental protections. It will have disastrous impacts for the economy, the environment, and rural farmland.
I-933 uses a so-called "pay-or-waive" system: Any time a government regulation reduces a property owner's potential profits, taxpayers must pay for the property owner's "lost" property. If taxpayers can't afford to pay, the government must waive the law. Zoning, for all intents and purposes, will go away. If I-933 passes, you can build a gravel mine in your neighbors' backyard, subdivide your rural farmland for exurban McMansions, pollute a salmon-bearing stream, violate any number of environmental laws, and so on. There are no exceptions for nuisances (like sex-offender housing) or developments that endanger public health or safety (like a suburban development over a protected source of groundwater), unless the threat is "immediate."
Land-use laws are not arbitrary. In many cases, they protect residents and businesses from environmental hazards, unwanted uses (that gravel mine), overdevelopment (subdivisions in rural farmland), and public nuisances. Rural farm owners, the very group I-933 supporters claim to want to protect, would actually be one of the groups most impacted by I-933, which would effectively do away with growth-management boundaries that currently keep rural farmland rural. That's one reason they've lined up to support the opposition campaign—and why the only "farm" group supporting I-933 is the Farm Bureau, an insurance company.
I-933 could invalidate scores of existing and future laws, among them the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Growth Management Act. And because its effects are retroactive to 1996, it's possible under I-933 to move onto a piece of land that has been regulated for 10 years and demand compensation for following the law. And it affects personal as well as real property—everything from cars to water rights to kitchen appliances. That means that if the city placed limits on muffler noise, to use one oft-cited example, they might have to compensate you if the requirements diminished the value of your Harley.
The cost of all this new government bureaucracy and compensation is staggering: $7.5 billion to $8.5 billion. This initiative goes too far and costs too much. Vote no.
Iniative No. 937
Yes it's about green energy, but, no, I-937 is not some hippie-dippie, brainless lefty initiative. It's a smart idea based on basic facts: Washington is using more energy every year, so over the next decade, we're going to either have to build more dams, guzzle more fossil fuel, or utilize more renewable energy. Do you want our fair state to have more dammed rivers and more polluted skies? I-937 steers the state toward relying on clean renewable energy (wind, solar, wave, and biomass power). If the initiative passes, the state's major utility companies will have to get 15 percent of their power from renewables by 2020—a target that can be easily hit. In their anti-937 endorsement, the Seattle Times scoffed (at length) that I-937 is an idiot failure of policy because it doesn't count most hydroelectric projects as "renewable." But that exclusion actually makes sense because Washington's dams are maxed out and building new ones does serious environmental damage. The initiative also requires utilities to invest in energy conservation, which will cut all customers' costs as they use less energy. Vote for renewable energy now or regret it later. Vote yes.
There is one more, minor statewide measure, House Joint Resolution 4223. It would raise the property tax exemption on assets for small businesses from $3,000 to $15,000. Vote yes.
State Supreme Court
Vote fo Susan Owens
Susan Owens may not be the nation's fanciest jurist, but she's a conscientious, nonpartisan vote on a court that is starting to look anything but. When the court refused to strike down the gay-marriage ban this summer, she took a principled stand in the dissenting minority. She wasn't shy about telling the SECB that she felt the plurality opinion represented "blatant discrimination against Washington's gay and lesbian citizens."
And if you thought the plurality was obnoxious, consider the guys who put discriminatory legislation on the books in the first place—like Owens's opponent—staunchly Republican state Senator Stephen Johnson. Johnson, whose $451,000 (a big chunk from realtors and homebuilders) dwarfs Owens's $248,000 , voted twice in favor of DOMA, and had the audacity to claim, when faced with our endorsement board, that he couldn't remember why he voted that way. Thanks to that vote and others against stem-cell research and sex education, the Christian Coalition honored Johnson with a 100 percent rating in 2005, echoing identical scores in 2004 and 2003. Unless you want the court to be a wholly owned subsidiary of the Republican Party, vote Owens.
While Democrats are poised to take control of congress at the federal level this year—with the Puget Sound hopefully playing a role by finally tapping the Eastside's latent liberal leanings and displacing Republican Congressman Dave Reichert with Democratic challenger Darcy Burner—Democrats are also counting on the Eastside for a revolution at the state level. Washington State Democrats are hoping that a couple of zeitgeist wins in the suburbs will solidify their state house advantage (currently 26–23 in the state senate and 56–42 in the state house).
And so, for you Eastsiders who are reading this (you closet cases!), the Stranger Election Control Board urges you to vote for this year's batch of high-quality Democrats who are either challenging incumbent Republicans or going after open seats in hotly contested races on the Eastside. If you live in the 48th District (that's Bellevue, Kirkland, and Redmond) vote for Rodney Tom. Tom is a former Republican representative who got fed up with the fact that his party is shacked up with the Christian right. As a born-again Democrat, Tom is challenging the district's super-conservative senator, Luke Esser. Complete the housecleaning by voting for Democrat Deb Eddy, the former Kirkland City Council member who's running to fill Tom's open seat. If you live in the 45th District (Woodinville, Duvall, Kirkland, and Redmond) vote for former Microsoft guy Eric Oemig in the senate race. And in the house contest, vote for one of the SECB's favorite candidates ever—drug-reform advocate and smart attorney Roger Goodman.
Of the 18 state legislature seats that represent Seattle—all are held by Democrats. In some of those instances the SECB kinda wishes there was a challenge coming from somewhere other than the retarded Republican Party. We can't bring ourselves to endorse Republicans, but honestly, we're fed up with a couple of Seattle's Democrats in Olympia.
For example, we're still pissed off at House Speaker Frank Chopp from Seattle's 43rd District for caving to the state business lobby and tabling the Wal-Mart bill. (Striking back at Wal-Mart, which had about 3,500 employees on government-subsidized health care, the bill would have forced large employers to pay into a health-care fund.) We also think Chopp's position on the viaduct (rebuild) is horrific. Sadly, a few other Seattle Democrats, such as 36th District Representative Helen Sommers (the budget badass that we otherwise worship), 36th District Representative Mary Lou Dickerson, and 34th District Representative Eileen Cody also support the pseudo-populist rebuild.
Unfortunately, only Republicans, like Brian Travis—whose priorities are mandatory sentencing, death sentences for child rapists, making English the official language, and obeying God's will—have shown up.
Thankfully, there are a couple of stars in Seattle's Democratic delegation: Ed Murray, the 43rd District's transportation, gay rights, deal-making pragmatist—as he jumps to the state senate; stalwart left-wingers from South Seattle's 37th District, Senator Adam Kline (a civil-liberties watchdog) and Representative Sharon Tomiko Santos (a champion of health-care services); and we also remain impressed with the rookie, third member of the 37th crew, moderate Democrat Representative Eric Pettigrew. Pettigrew has emerged as key component of the Democratic caucus, thanks to his ability to work with Eastern Washington Republicans, and thus build bipartisan support for his important work, consistently scoring dollars, jobs programs, and social programs for South Seattle.
Admittedly, there is one Republican we just can't resist endorsing. In the 43rd District race our Democratic candidate of choice, Stephanie Pure, was eliminated in the primary. As a consequence, the state legislature will once again lack a voice for today's youth. Which is why we're issuing a rare Republican endorsement: vote for Hugh Foskett, the Republican running against Jamie Pedersen for this open seat in the Washington State House of Representatives. Foskett is a sophomore at the University of Washington and, as we've seen over the last few weeks, Foskett is quite literally in touch with today's young people.
Proposition No. 2
It's hard to get excited about more buses, particularly a modest plan like Transit Now, which will expand Metro service by 15–20 percent over the next 10 years—barely enough to keep up with the region's population-growth increase. The increase will be funded by a one-tenth of 1 percent sales-tax increase—an estimated $25 per household per year.
As always, eight-tenths of those new routes would be outside Seattle, thanks to the wretched and unfair county-mandated "20-40-40 split," which gives Seattle just 20 percent of all new bus hours. It targets the 40 most congested routes, so many routes would see no improvement. Five of the routes would be so-called "bus rapid transit"—but not with dedicated lanes, the only BRT that's truly rapid. And only one of those, thanks to 20-40-40, will be in Seattle. Sigh.
Still, the SECB recommends you vote for Transit Now. Though modest, it will keep up with population growth, which will help keep congestion (both in the buses and on the roads) from getting worse. We'd like to see a more-ambitious package of Metro improvements; for now, however, we're voting Yes.
There's another county proposition on the ballot: Proposition No. 1. This allows the county to sell some parcels of harbor land that it acquired, paid off early in the last century, and currently has no use for. Vote Yes.
Vote for Sally Clark
Impressive council rookie Sally Clark, appointed to fill Jim Compton's seat when he retired in 2005, has one opponent: perennial candidate Stan Lippmann, who wants to fund nuclear-fusion research and ban vaccines. Vote for the thoughtful and well-respected Clark.
Admittedly, this is a bit of mob-rule politics, which isn't generally the best way to make public policy. But the SECB sides with the rabble on this one. How else can we get the politicians to listen when it comes to putting the kibosh on our politicians' penchant for subsidizing professional sports teams?
This initiative mandates that any public financing for professional sports be repaid at "fair value"—defined as the rate of a 30-year treasury bond, now about 5%. The reasonable proposal netted 24,000 signatures this spring in response to the Sonics incorrigible gambit to get $200 million in public subsidies for souping up KeyArena. (The public was still eating its original KeyArena loan to the tune of nearly $2.5 million a year).
Give fans reasonable ticket prices and stop jonesing for a yuppie entertainment plaza, and the SECB would be happy to support the Sonics and Storm. But we're not interested in catering to the NBA's bloated, unsustainable business model.
Opponents of the initiative claim that its requirements "handcuff" the city when it comes to working out the details of any deal to keep Seattle in the big-league professional-sports circuit. "You're asking too much!" the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce admonished I-91 advocate Chris Van Dyk in front of the SECB. To which Van Dyk responded: "All I'm asking is that they make rent." Vote Yes.
Referendum No. 1
Seattle has four strip clubs. None of them serve alcohol. None of them have had any convictions for prostitution or drug use on club premises in the last five years. This means the reason the mayor and five members of the city council voted last July to regulate adult-entertainment clubs to the nth degree is because (a) they don't want any citizen having a sexier time than they do in, say, a public hearing about transit, or (b) they want to drive strip clubs out of Seattle altogether. Coming after the reluctant repeal of a 15-year "temporary" ban on opening new strip clubs in Seattle, the council's ordinance is the latest bullshit rule aimed at eradicating the city's strip clubs. The new ordinance would mandate cafeteria-level lighting in all strip clubs, force dancers to be at least four feet from patrons at all times, and ban private rooms and explicit dancing ("no entertainer shall simulate touching of the breasts, masturbation, [or] sexual intercourse"). Clubs in violation can be shut down, so the city will have free rein to close clubs it's got grudges against.
Also, the city's argument for the ordinance is just plain wrong. The council passed the ordinance last July on the high and noble premise that strip clubs have "historically and regularly been accompanied by... criminal behavior that is detrimental to the public health, safety, and general welfare of the citizens of Seattle." This sweeping damnation of adult entertainment is proven incorrect by the few facts the city has taken the time to collect. The one study they did (back in 1989!) found no correlation in Seattle between strip clubs and crime rates. More-recent inquiries by local government-oversight committees—i.e., strip-club owners and The Stranger—found Seattle strip clubs have no impact on surrounding property values and their crime rate is comparable to neighboring businesses. In fact, a Fred Meyer in Lake City had more 911 calls than the nearby Rick's fine skin establishment. Is Seattle such a condescending nanny state that adult citizens are no longer considered responsible enough to decide whether they will pay to see a naked woman or, if you happen to be a naked woman, use booty shaking to pay the bills? The council members may be prudes with hearts of gold, but their facts are wrong and those bright lights and dollarless G-strings won't be helping anyone. Vote No on Referendum No. 1.
Vote YES on All of Them
What the fuck are all these Seattle charter amendments? Eleven of them to be exact. And all with unhelpful names like "council quorum," "delete obsolete references," and "effective date for successful ballot measures is five days after election results are certified." Don't sweat it. Most are unobjectionable technical fixes and minor changes in appointment authority that the city council is required to send to the voters for approval.
The only one of any real note is an amendment that would give the council confirmation authority over the heads of several city departments including finance, fire, parks, personnel, and police. (Five city-department heads already undergo council confirmation.) The change is a reasonable check on mayoral power that will prevent inept department heads (like ousted Seattle City Light Director Gary Zarker, whose position was subject to council confirmation) from staying in office indefinitely. Vote Yes on Charter Amendment No. 8 and the other ones too.
Proposition No. 1
Seattle has a major road-maintenance backlog; in 2004, for example, an advisory committee found that 16 percent of Seattle's arterial streets were in "poor condition or worse," with the cost of doing all our "deferred maintenance"—the backlog—estimated at $500 million. Current maintenance needs would cost millions more.
"Bridging the Gap," the mayor's roads and bridges maintenance package, will contribute $365 million over the next nine years to taking care of those needs. In its original incarnation it was a $1.6 billion levy with no official end date—it went too far and cost too much. But the city council scaled back the mayor's plan to a reasonable length and level, and added badly needed improvements to the city's fractured network of sidewalks and bike lanes. Maintaining roads and bridges isn't sexy, but it is vitally important for the safety of everyone—bikers, drivers, and buses—who uses them. Vote Yes.