|November 5, 2012||
Several weeks ago, I took the completely unsurprising step of endorsing Jay Inslee for governor.
I’m a Democrat; he’s a Democrat; no surprise. But I've worked well with Rob McKenna over the years, like him personally… and he’s the smartest guy in most (political) rooms. So a few folks were surprised (and/or annoyed) that I didn’t break from my party affiliation.
On Saturday, though, faced with another dirty, smoggy day in Jakarta, I was reminded why I'd endorsed Jay, who I don’t know very well except as a champion of the environment. I had given Jay my endorsement after comparing the position papers on energy and the environment prepared for – and approved by -- both candidates.
The policy papers are superficial, to be sure, but it's what we have to represent the candidate's perspectives.
In truth, I get irritated with the environmental groups for being too granular and for being insufferably condescending to anyone who questions their strategies (which are sometimes completely lacking in any ROI). And their tendency to condescension does not endear them to people trying to eke a living from the land or to comply with multiple opaque DOE regulations. So I found myself gritting my teeth a little while reading Jay's position paper.
But at least the environmentalists' policy vision has a long term goal that benefits our grandchildren and great-grandchildren, not just today’s capital markets. The strategies may not yet quite clear, but the goals are undeniably good.
The position paper prepared for Rob’s campaign reflected the business-side argument that we don't really need renewable energy and that it just burdens the state's utilities and businesses. But then, ironically, the paper goes on to boast of the cheap, clean power created by the ever-loathed I-937 as a new business magnet! I agree that jobs are important, but I didn’t see any acknowledgement in this position paper of the sacrifice necessary to ensure a sustainable environment for future generations. The focus is entirely on the near term.
On Saturday morning, as I faced the smutty haze covering this otherwise wonderful city, I thought about the genesis of environmental responsibility and stewardship in the US, why our air is clear, our water clean. It was President Richard Nixon who established the EPA; Bill Ruckelshaus, another Republican, was its first administrator. Why, I thought, can’t today’s Republicans build on that legacy?
In the end, I can argue the Governor’s race for or against either candidate. And it doesn’t give me any pleasure to challenge my friend, Rob, on this issue during a campaign. But my heart and brain tells me that ignoring environmental issues, ducking the hard choices that will transform energy for future generations in favor of short-term gain, is not an option. Capital markets and economic interests in general are driven by profit and deny externalities in principle. It's our social and moral obligation, I believe, to constrain and regulate capital markets for the greater good, and that includes our grandchildren’s air and water quality.
If we can’t get business and utility interests to see the importance of moving forward on GHG reduction, on maintaining clean air and water, on actually getting “beyond petroleum”, then we’ll just have to continue to support the environmental community’s work in dragging them into that clean, renewable-energy future. Kicking and screaming, if necessary. And if that’s picking winners and losers, a sound bite for Republicans that belies the complicated analysis behind it, then I’m all for it.
And that’s why I endorsed Jay Inslee.
Blame it on the Jakarta smog … and Richard Nixon.
|September 24, 2012||
Tonight, I will part of a panel at the MIT Enterprise Forum, talking about social media and democracy. There are more prolific users of the web in the legislature, particularly in the blogs written by my friends, Rep. Ross Hunter and Rep. Reuven Carlyle.
For the last couple of years, however, I've been convinced that our use of the web and social media, its effectiveness as a tool in improving government, is still in its infancy. Today, social media are largely used to broadcast or crowd-source communication to elected officials, to allow us to drive our positions out to ever larger audiences. It is not yet used in solving the real problems that face this state and nation.
My Facebook page and Twitter account @debeddy (feed is on this page to the right) have given me a way to communicate with constituents and friends, but it hasn't helped me bridge the divide between the stakeholder groups that control which problems get addressed in Olympia and which do not. Our attempts at creating a moderate caucus to provide that bridge crumbled under the collected weight of our party's campaign funders. (Cf., workmen's compensation, 2011.)
For those of you who need a primer in social media, what in the world all these new things do ... I found this poster to be pretty darned funny:
Ha! There's a little zinger in that last one; insiders only.
|March 6, 2012||
I must be the worst blogger ever.
Timely information about what I think, what's going on in my legislative life, is found on my Facebook page and on the Twitter feed that lives on the right hand side of this page. But occasionally, I do regret that I've not been a better blogger.
Recent events here at the legislature included a procedural action in the Senate that put forward a Republican budget. While the media buzzed with the drama, TVW covered the entire event, gavel to gavel, impassioned speeches galore ... and left many citizens scratching their heads. I put together a little slideshow to explain what happened. You can access it at: http://t.co/2nvvHmqv.
Today, we are moving through some concurrences, doing other mundane tasks, waiting for some resolution of the impasse in budget negotiations. Officially, even after Friday night's action adopting a Senate Republican budget, we on the Democratic side of the aisle are not speaking to the Republican Senate leadership, apparently. I think that has to change, but I understand that leadership is still trying to buy-back Sen. Tom or Sen. Kastama (or a renegade Republican) to vote for the Senate Democratic budget.
Okay, maybe it will work. And maybe it won't. Then Rep. Jeff Morris, D-Anacortes, mentioned the 5 stages of grief, and that sent me off onto this train of thought:
Here are the Five Stages of Special Session, from the POV of Democratic Leadership
|Jan 1, 2012||
And so 2012 begins: Faced with a huge task in the next few months, I might prefer to skip updating this website at all, just suggest you go over and read Ross' blog or contact Rodney. However, we're going to have a 48th District town hall on this coming Wednesday night, January 4, at Bellevue City Hall, 6 pm, so I should just touch on a couple of items that may come up:
State Route 520 tolling has begun (12/29/2011). WSDOT has a website that answers all of your questions, but it requires some patience. I know, it's not the greatest design, but legislators don't actually run things in Olympia. If you get thoroughly confused ... call the customer service number. The staff are actually quite knowledgeable and, perhaps more surprisingly, helpful. Don't bother yelling at them about tolling, generally, or how furious you are at the idea that that we taxpayers and users have to pay for public infrastructure. The decision to toll SR520 was made years ago and will not be revisited, no matter how some may huff and puff. The bridge badly needs replaced, including added capacity for usable transit. We need tolling money to finish financing it. Fourteen years after replacement planning began -- time to build.
The budget is 'way out of whack. This is old news to a lot of folks, but the state's method of presenting and balancing its budgets is different than the approach used by local governments. Even if we were to take the Governor's suggestion of sending a half-penny sales tax increase for approval by the public, well, that doesn't solve the problem. Revenue has to match expenses, at least six years out. Consistent with the blog post below on reform, I'm going to be working overtime not only to promote sensible reforms in service delivery and revenue ... but also to get the question of sustainability in front of the public. If we want high-quality education for our kids, reliable public support services for the disabled and elderlyand adequate infrastructure to support a thriving economy ... well, we'd better come to terms with what that looks like and what it will cost.
Other than that, things are going pretty well. (Insert wry grin.) We continue to enjoy a high quality of life in the Pacific Northwest; our enormous export market, in aerospace, agriculture and technology, prevented the local economy from tanking as badly as some other parts of the US. I worry that the absence of in-your-face crisis, together with generally gorgeous natural setting, might woo us into complacency. We have serious social, educational and economic issues in front of us, little hope of any serious policy leadership from the US Congress ... and a tendency toward sclerotic and cautious decision-making regionally. Let's hope we find some courage and nimbleness in the year ahead ...
Happy New Year to you all ... and I fully expect to see many of you at the town hall next week.
|Dec 7, 2011||
Special session and reform: We are at a mid-point in the special session called by the Governor to deal with the $1.6 - $2.2 billion budget shortfall, and the press is registering the annoyance of the Governor and others that we've not passed an all-cuts budget and then a revenue package that would buy back some services that we've just cut. The proposal sent to us by the Governor appears here.
It's not hard to understand why the progress is slow. The Legislature has procedures set out in the Constitution and statute; the place has run the same for 100+ years. Even if you take every short cut in the book, you still need consultation among the 98 representatives and 49 senators in order to get the majority votes needed to take action. For the past many years (I don't know how long.really), there has been no real contingency planning at the state level, and that increases the pressure for quick action because we already used all the neat tricks, like sweeping accounts. And of course, this recession hasn't followed the profile laid out by optimists in 2009. Although, truth be told, I've been part of a noisy and annoying minority, trying to get some attention on this point.
So, now, to re-balance the budget with about $2 billion less in revenue, we're on the verge of really ripping education budgets and pulling the rug out from under some of our most fragile citizens. We are also taking revenue from cities and counties, by the way, who are going to face some real impacts from our failure to plan for this rather chillingly bad 'rainy day.' The need for services will not go away when we quit funding them; the impacts will be felt in every city and county of this state.
The Governor's revenue proposal, which blunts some of the worst cuts by providing buy-back revenue, is based on a temporary 3-year increase in the sales tax and some other revenue actions. The sales tax measure is framed as a referendum to the people. The Secretary of State's office blogs about some polling that indicates Washington state voters would approve the sales tax measure. (Side note: I will blog about revenue choices later; it has its own set of complications.)
So what's the problem? Why do people keep talking about reform, when this situation appears to be so dire and so immediate? There are really three different kinds of reforms under discussion.
There are the regulatory reforms being touted by businesses, cities, counties and other agencies, asking that we take some actions that will make their lives easier for awhile. Delaying implementation of new rules and regulations, giving cities and counties flexibility in the use of their existing funds fit into this category. When society is stressed out, for instance, with DV and aid calls on the increase, local governments need to funnel money where it will do the most good. Having severe limitations on what they can use certain funds for is not helpful.
There are educational reforms for both K-12 and higher education that are needed to improve our kid's future. Why do we have to do these now? Because the big employers in this region are not going to open their checkbooks to fund the revenue referendum if we don't have the courage to take the policy actions necessary to improve our public schools.
And, finally, there are the sustainability reforms that we need to implement, taking a page out of the practicesof cities and counties. We have to get back to the practice of considering the six-year revenue and expense projections for the state before adding programs or making promises. Check out Sen. Jim Kastama's video, illustrating this concept. You may not agree with some of his ideas for closing that gap, but it's hard to argue that we shouldn't address it.
I understand that there is now a list of reforms presented today by Sen. Zarelli on behalf of the Republicans. I don't know how these fit into my three reform categories, but to the degree that they do ... well, everything should be on the table. And, honestly, I am an optimist: I believe that we can and should foster an environment in which it may just be possible to get to a 2/3 vote on some revenue actions. For sure, we won't ... if we don't try.
When we can identify a set of best reform ideas from each of these categories, along with what services we need to protect, then I think it will be easier to attract votes not just to the newly-balanced budget but also to the revenue actions we need to keep critical state services afloat and to keep the "public" in education.
Till next time ...