Thursday, October 27, 2016

US Decision 2016


I admittedly feel a little cheated - a choice between a rich lawyer career politician that is the very definition of "business as usual", or a bumbling psychopath, or a bunch of throwaway candidates. Seriously, I get to spectate on Obama vs McCain, then my first election is on this bunch of jokers?

Still, just in case it's not obvious, vote Clinton. For the love of all that is good in this country, vote Clinton. She may not be perfect, but she's got a proven track record in both the legislature and executive, and is most importantly NOT A PSYCHOPATH!

Moving on. The interesting votes here were the initiatives, and there's a lot to cover.

To clear up one misconception I've heard repeated lately, you DON'T have to vote on every issue. I've used that right, for minor races that I'm neither qualified nor interested in participating in. There's a lot of them.

Will my ballot count if I choose not to vote on certain issues or candidates?Yes, it will. You can choose to skip any measures or offices you don't wish to vote in. All the votes you cast will be counted.
From <>

Initiatives and Propositions

I-1433 - Minimum Wage
Increment the minimum wage from $9.47/hr incrementally to $13.50 by 2020, then return to our inflation-indexed system after that. Requires paid sick leave at 1hr/week worked.

Largely inspired by the success of a similar initiative in Seattle. However, Seattle is not particularly representative of the cost of living east of the Cascades. CNN's Cost of Living Calculator suggests housing prices in Spokane are 50% lower than Seattle, and other costs are lower across the board.

But on the other hand, can an individual really live on less than $20k a year, even in Spokane? According to the MIT living wage calculator... well maybe if you're single, but no, not even close for a family (even with two working parents). Vague threats of the doom of small businesses have very little evidence that stands up to scrutiny. On the other hand, more income in people's pockets translate directly to more sales tax for government, and more spending for all businesses. Sounds like a win.

I-1464 - Voter-financing of Elections
Offers 3 x $50 credits per voter to finance state legislative races, financed by eliminating the out-of-state sales tax exemption. Places further limits on lobbyists.

A short KING5 debate for those who want the TL;DR of both sides.

In an executive summary, it sound great! Cut back corporate money in elections, and instead fund campaigns based on the will of the people. It's what we've all wanted since Citizens United. Sure, that tax exemption might impact some of the border towns with Oregon, but meh, let them pay their share for my Puget Sound sensibilities. ;)

But there was one huge flaw that I just could not get over. This puts significant limits on lobbyists, and increases transparency on "gray money" from nested PACs. However, it explicitly excluded anything to do with "dark money" - contributions from non-profits. This notably includes unions, which are a huge force in Washington. The theory is that specific dark money contributors threatened to use said money to torpedo the initiative.

I sympathize with the problematic position the bill's sponsors are in, but creating a further imbalance in campaign finance is going to make things worse.

I-1491 - Extreme Risk Firearm Ban
Allow household members to petition court to issue 1 year firearm purchase ban against someone at risk to commit violence.

Will it be effective? Probably not, unless the many other loopholes allowing easy acquisition of guns are closed. But that could well happen (Clinton is big proponent). Anyways, the fact that it goes through the judicial system means the system is about as fair as it could hope to be, and if it prevents even a few gun crimes, it's a win.

I-1501 - Identity Theft for Seniors
It's a scam! It's been widely reported that this has nothing to do with identity theft, and everything to do with a powerful union trying to hide it's list of government employee records from its political opponents.

Whether you support the Service Employees International Union or not, the level of deception in play in this initiative is horrifying and should not be rewarded.

I-732 Carbon Taxes
Implement a carbon tax system on polluters. Offset predicted price increases for consumers with a 1% reduction in sales tax plus an additional credit for low income families.

Carbon taxes are one of the popular ways at the moment to try and artificially increase the cost of fossil fuels in comparison to clean energy. If it works, we reduce our impact on the environment! Hey, I like the environment! But it comes with a price: predicted 5-15% increases in utility bills, and $0.25/gal for gas. That's where the sales tax reduction comes in to try and offset that cost. In theory they should exactly offset. Some opponents suggest that, even with the additional credits, it won't entirely offset for low-income families.

The other key opposition is that the money could be better spent supporting clean energy, rather than making it revenue neutral for Washingtonians, and that the impact for environmental protection may be limited.

But really - lower sales tax AND a potential environmental benefit? Sounds like a win-win to me!

I-735 - Overturn Citizens United
Citizens United is the well-known Supreme Court decision that essentially says that corporations spending to independently influence elections is "free speech". Since that's protected by the Bill of Rights, it's impossible to pass laws interfering with it. This then opened the floodgates for the "super PACs" to influence elections through rich donors.

Fixing this requires a constitutional amendment. That requires the states to be on board.

Voting for this just requests that the State back an amendment. So it doesn't really do anything, but on the other hand it's almost free (just a couple hundred dollars in mailing letters). Anything that can make it more likely, no matter how unlikely, to overturn Citizens United, is worth the effort.

Sound Transit Proposition 1 - "ST3" Light Rail
Sound Transit asks for $54B to build a crapton of light rail, and add more express bus routes.

Transit is good. Our highways, as great as they are, are full during rush hour. All the tolling in the world won't change that - there's only so much space for car lanes, and it simply doesn't scale with our population. Transit of some sort is the only way to scale.

It doesn't hurt that the routes they're proposing basically go from my front doorstep to anywhere I would conceivably want to go in Puget Sound.

On the other hand, it's a lot of money for a long-term payout. Proponents predict $169/pp*yr, which is a lot of money. For a family like mine (long in real property and harboring an problematic Amazon addiction), that's on the low end of the price tag. And it's not planned to be done until 2040 - I'll be old and gray before I get to use the full system.

This was a hard one for me. But in the end, I have to look at the fact that I see a lot of recent progress both moving the light rail North, and the initial forays into the Eastside line. This is the right direction for our region, so I have to suck it up and pay my share.

Senate Resolution 8210 - Redistricting Schedule
Move the redistricting deadline to November 15th.

Requires a State Constitutional amendment, but it's pretty simple. Computers make redistricting easier, so they'd prefer to do it a bit earlier, before the Spring election season. Nobody opposed this.

Significant Candidates

United States Senator
Patty Murray (D) the incumbent vs Chris Vance (R).

Patty Murray's been there forever (four terms so far), and has had a great deal of success in politics. Points to her for ending No Child Left Behind. Negative points for supporting TPP fasttrack.

What surprised me was Chris Vance. His website emphasizes his positions that are distinct from what we generally consider Republican values these days. He has a concrete plan to repair Obamacare with a public payer option! Agrees not to contradict the will of Washingtonians on our liberal social issues. Acknowledges climate change (though not a fan of carbon taxes). A solid and positive immigration reform plan.

.. and he immediately denounced Trump.

Realistically, Democrats need the Senate and there's really nothing wrong with Murray, so she has to get the vote. But I felt a bad that there wasn't some way to reward Vance for acting like a Republican that I could have (in another time) supported. Maybe if I get "democracy credits" from I-1464, I'll send one his way. ;)
Patty Murray

United States Representative - District 2
Rick Larsen (D) the incumbant vs Marc Hennemann (R).

I've been a fan of Rick Larsen since I've been able to vote. He's a key player in campaign finance reform, and overall supports a lot of the social issues that are important to me (eg. Planned Parenthood). Also incumbent since forever (eight terms so far), so he must be doing something right.

Hennemann has no notable qualifications, experience, or positions.
Rick Larsen

State Governor
Jay Inslee (D) incumbent vs Bill Bryant (R).

This is where I started to get a bit bored, which is not a good thing when considering a State Governor. Pretty much partisan positions and attack ads from both sides make me uninterested in this race. Bill Bryant hasn't done much to impress, but has avoided some key pitfalls, like finally rejecting Trump.He opposes minimum the minimum wage increase, but only to do a regional system. Still, Inslee did manage a historic college tuition drop, handled the Skagit Bridge collapse well.
Jay Inslee

Lieutenant Governor
Cyrus Habib (D) vs Marty McClendon (R)

A blind laywer, I'm mostly certain Habib is actually Daredevil. He was sharply criticized by the outgoing Lieutenant Governor for several statements made during the primaries, including the assertion that he'd use the position in far more of a partisan activist manner than it is intended.

On the other hand, McClendon is boring and follows the traditional fiscal conservative lines - no new regulation, cut government costs, etc, and his platform talks more about his personal values than his qualifications.
Cyrus Habib

Secretary of State
Kim Wyman (R) incumbent vs Tina Podlodowski (D)

I can't complain about Washington's elections, nor business registration. Vote by mail continues to be epic. It's easy to set up a small business - the websites aren't pretty, but they get the job done.

On the other hand, there are accusations that Wyman is standing in the way of voter registration for minorities, whereas Podlodowski is running on a platform of making voting easier for everyone, including free postage.
Tina Podlodowski

The boring stuff

Advisory votes are dumb. 

Snohomish County had several charter propositions, but they were mostly boring, along the lines of "lets take this already working system, and codify it directly in the charter so it can never evolve". I think they are mistaking rewriting fundamental governmental documents with just everyday county management.
From 1 to 7: R, R, A, A, R, A, R. If anyone ACTUALLY cares, I can explain why.

State Reps are seriously boring for my district. Even in the primaries, it was pretty clear that incumbents already had the 21st district locked up and there weren't really credible contenders. I voted, but it's clear the decision was made years ago.

Voting on secondary executive and judicial positions is ridiculous. I mostly skipped these.