POST-COLUMBINE STRESS SYNDROME
Remember the kid in first grade who repeatedly pooped his pants and made a habit of pointing at the teacher while screaming unintelligibly? Well, thanks to House Bill 2085, passed by a landslide vote four days after the April 20 Columbine shooting and signed into law by the governor on May 5, that kid--among other hell-bent poopypants--has the potential to be booted from class and placed in an alternative learning program. This isn't the only newly signed bill that hints at post-Columbine trauma. House Bill 5671, passed unanimously on April 22 and signed on May 5, goes after two standby classics: anarchy and sabotage.
Here's a quick run-down of the anti-massacre bills:
The aforementioned House Bill 2085, coddled by Representative and former teacher Dave Quall (D-Arlington), does a couple things for Washington schools. First, the bill provides $2 million for new programs and classes, custom-made for disruptive K-8 troublemakers. Second, the bill includes training sessions to help teachers and school employees deal with the mini fire-starters and masturbators.
Senate Substitute Bill 5671, "an act relating to anarchy and sabotage," was sponsored by Senator Adam Kline (D-Seattle), and updates Washington's 1909 anarchy and sabotage statutes. Kline feels the original law "might not pass constitutional muster if challenged." The early- 1900s anarchy and sabotage laws interfered with freedom of speech by prohibiting two or more people from assembling and discussing, advocating, and teaching ideas about overthrowing organized government. The new and improved bill says it's no longer against the law to talk it up, but lawmakers evidently feel it's still necessary to send a candid message to juvenile saboteurs. The new law makes it plain that you better not incorporate any anarchist thinking by actually acting on any vengeance felt for The Man. --Jill Wasberg
SPEECHLESS IN SEATTLE
Free Speech Seattle, the volunteer group pushing an initiative that would force a city council vote to amend the city's much-despised poster ban, needs to collect 25,000 signatures by August 24. The group may be in trouble. Since February, when they got the city's okay to start collecting signatures for Initiative 46--which aims to allow bills to go up on utility poles and lamp posts--Free Speech Seattle has only rounded up 5,100 signatures. With 20,000 signatures and three months to go... well, you do the math. "We're kind of under the gun," says Tim Crowley, campaign manager. Crowley says although supporters "seem fired up," they're not walking their talk. "You know how people are. I mean, we're asking them to do something for free."
It's no surprise the campaign has run into political lethargy. Headquartered at Hi Score Arcade on Capitol Hill, Free Speech Seattle hasn't done much petitioning outside the crowd that frequents indie-rock CD shops, independent bookstores, and hipster coffee hangouts. It's a group that has a lot at stake in the poster ban, but unfortunately doesn't seem motivated to change it.
The campaign only had five volunteers out last weekend at a two-day street fair in the University District, picking up about 1,100 signatures. "It wasn't as many people as we needed," Crowley says. "Volunteers equal signatures. If I had a dozen volunteers this week...." The campaign also needs money. The latest media buy for Free Speech Seattle was a $200 insert in Eat the State, a lefty rag with a 1,500-copy press run.
Reaching out for more mainstream support would be a good idea. Amending the poster ban is a straightforward free speech issue that mainstream folks are likely to get behind. "They're not committed enough if they don't get people out at Mariners' games, out at lunchtime downtown, out at Larry's Market," says David Groves, spokesman for the Washington State Labor Council. The Labor Council ran Washington's most successful volunteer-based signature gathering campaign of the past 10 years, collecting 288,000 names last year to raise the minimum wage.
Crowley thinks branching out is a great idea, but says he just doesn't have the people--at least not right now. He believes the summer season will hot-wire the campaign. Free Speech Seattle's next event is a rock concert on May 22, featuring underground bands like Kultur Shock and m(yoo)-zik, at Victor Steinbrueck Park next to Pike Place Market.--Josh Feit