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Spin Control

Archive for September 2011

Condon revises water rate ad

Mayoral candidate David Condon has released a new version of a campaign ad attacking Mayor Mary Verner for water rates.

Condon said in an email that changes were made based on a truth-test article about the ad that ran in Saturday's Spokesman-Review.

A quick review indicates that his changes are probably enough to remove “false” labels that the article placed on some portions on the ad, though some would still would be in the “kinda true” range.

For instance, in attempt to better explain that “Water Departments workers are getting 10 percent pay hikes,” text goes on the screen to explain that “city worker salaries” will increase by 5 percent this year and an additional 5 percent next year. That's a good clarification from the first version, though it could create the impression that all city workers are getting that raise, when really that raise affects members of Local 270 who have at least four years of experience. That's a good portion of the city work force (largely in the street, sewer, water and trash departments), but doesn't affect, firefighters, police officers, administrators, library workers and others.

Verner doesn’t blame Hession

Spokane Mayor Mary Verner said last week that a campaign statement on the Otto Zehm matter wasn't meant to pin blame on others.

Responding to a news release criticizing her response to the Otto Zehm cases from her election opponent, David Condon, Verner released her own statement on Sept. 6. Part of it appeared to assign blame to her predecessor, Dennis Hession: “I believe the voters will see through his (Condon's) attempt to blame me for actions of a former city administration, the county prosecutor, and other attorneys working on this case in Federal Court. As I have said all along, I respect the judicial process and the facts that will come forth,” Verner said in the Sept. 6 news release.

Verner said the statement was rushed and probably was poorly worded in the rush to respond to Condon.
“If you read my statment verbatim, I don't say Dennis Hession should be blamed for anything,” she said. “I don't blame Dennis Hession and I don't believe Dennis Hession blames me.”

Biz groups turn thumbs down on I-1125

OLYMPIA — Washington business groups, including Greater Spokane Inc., are taking turns dissing Initiative 1125, a proposal that would put restrictions on the way state sets and spends tolls on roads and bridges.

The Association of Washington Business recommended a vote against I-1125 last week at its annual “policy summit.”

GSI, the Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce, Greater Seattle Chamber, Renton Chamber, Washington Roundtable and state Realtors Association also urged a “no” vote, using words like irresponsible, dangerous and — horror of horrors! — politicizing.

McKenna stays in health care suit; Dems step up criticism

OLYMPIA – Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna won’t withdraw from a multi-state lawsuit against federal health care reform, even though the other states are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to do something McKenna says he doesn’t want.
Throw out the entire law.
Washington Democrats contend McKenna, the likely GOP nominee for governor next year, should be held responsible if the Supreme Court scraps the law and leaves thousands of state residents without health care…

To read the rest of this item, go inside the blog.

Verner, Condon clash in Rotary debate over style

One of the first mayoral debates between Mayor Mary Verner and her November election opponent David Condon was at its core a focus on style.

Condon promised to take charge of the bureaucracy.

“It’s a question of leadership,” he said. “The mayor has to be in charge and not let the departments have their own way and set their own agenda.”

Verner argued that her inclusive decision-making process has led to better outcomes.

“City government under my leadership is a much more efficient and responsive public service organization, and I want to complete the reforms that I have started,” she said. “I begin by listening – listening to our businesses, listening to our citizens, and then I determine exactly what the problem is. And then I go about fixing it for lasting reforms within the city.” 

Caucuses set on different dates

OLYMPIA — Washington Republicans and Democrats will hold their precinct caucuses on different days — actually they'll hold them in different months — in the first step of the presidential nominating process next year.

Republicans have scheduled their precinct caucuses for Saturday March 3, which should be fairly early in the nominating process. Some people might argue that right now seems late in the nominating process, after all the GOP presidential debates, but in truth the picking doesn't begin in earnest until the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary. Those aren't scheduled yet, but are expected to occur in February, followed quickly by the South Carolina primary and the Nevada caucuses.

Under national GOP rules, only states which award delegates proportionately to the top candidates can hold their primaries or caucuses in March. States that have “winner take all” systems must wait until at least April.

Washington Republicans theoretically will split their delegates among candidates based on caucus support. But it's important to remember that the caucuses are just the beginning of the process. Supporters who become delegates must then fight through a county and state convention where the delegates to the national convention are finally decided. So in theory a candidate who did very well in in the March precinct caucuses might be out of the race by the June state convention, and those delegates might realign with someone else.

On the Democraticside, things are a bit less complicated, because, well, they already know who their nominee is going to be. They scheduled precinct caucuses for April 15, which is a Sunday. County conventions will follow soon after.

By holding the caucuses on different dates, the parties theoretically have allowed for something they always complain about with primaries in a state in which no one registers by party. That is, that Democrats could attend Republican caucuses to cause mischief, and vice versa. It's possible because the only critieria for participating in a party caucus is to say that for this particular day, you consider yourself a member of that party.

That could change tomorrow. After all, tomorrow is another day, as Scarlett O'Hara once observed.

Which is not to say that we believe such chicanery will happen. But for parties that were always extremely suspicious of it happening in primaries — to the point of suing to overturn more the blanket primary system that lasted for more than a half century — they seem unconcerned about that happening in the caucuses.

Bottom line, though, is that for the Republican presidential selection, the Washington precinct caucuses might be early enough to draw some attention from candidates.

Spokane debate season in bloom; Verner, Condon will debate twice on Thursday

Spokane candidates will give their pitch for city office at two debates on Thursday.

The League of Women Voters will hold candidate debates for mayor, City Council president and for each of the three City Council seats on the November ballot. The group also will have a debate for the open Spokane School Board seat and forums focused on the Spokane County animal control proposal, the Community Bill of Rights initiative as well as three state initiatives.

The event starts at 5 p.m. at Spokane City Hall and is open to the public. It will be taped and will air eight times on CityCable 5, starting at 9 p.m. Saturday, according to a city news release.

Mayor candidate Mayor Verner and David Condon also will debate at noon at the weekly downtown Rotary Club meeting at the Spokane Athletic Club.

Read on to find out about two other debates next month that were recently announced.

Council hires second attorney to defend police ombudsman rules

The Spokane City Council isn’t giving up on stronger police oversight, at least not for two more weeks.

The council voted 6-0 this week to delay action on the possible repeal of the city’s 2010 police ombudsman law to give it time to hire an outside attorney to analyze the possible appeal of an arbitrator’s July decision demanding that the city remove the ordinance.

The law, which strengthened the city’s original ombudsman rules from 2008, gave Ombudsman Tim Burns the power to investigate accusations of police misconduct separately from the police department’s own reviews. 

Verner’s choice for planning director disclosed receipt controversy

Spokane Mayor Mary Verner said Monday that the man she picked to be the city's new planning director was candid about problems that contributed to his resignation from a planning position in Arizona.

Spokane officials announced in a news release last week that Verner chose Scott Chesney, the former director of planning and development for El Mirage, Ariz., to be the next planning director. He was the top choice of an advisory committee helping to pick the new planning director, the news release said. He previously served as the planning and community development director in Surprise, Ariz.

While there, Chesney admitted violating city policy by using city credit cards to buy alcohol for himself and staff, and failed to provide itemized receipts for reimbursement, the Arizona Republic reported after Chesney resigned in November 2007. He reimbursed the city for the improper purchases, the newspaper reported.

“He was the first to disclose it,” Verner said when asked if Spokane officials were aware of the controversy.

She said her staff made extra efforts to make sure members of the selection committee and City Council were aware of the issue.

Verner's nomination will be forwarded to the City Council for confirmation. If approved, his starting yearly salary will be $98,554.


Irony alert on postal protest

This just in: Members of the postal unions and community supporters are planning a protest on Sept. 27 in every congressional district, asking the honorable congresspersons to do everything in their power to save the Postal Service.

That includes a demonstration outside Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers' office at 10 N. Post tomorrow from 4 to 5:30 p.m, the Washington Labor Council says.

And how did we find out about this? By e-mail.

So maybe we have a first-hand demonstration of what's at the heart of U.S. Postal Service's problem.

To be fair, the editors in Spokane mentioned that we did get a notice last week about the protest by mail. But we apparently only received one…perhaps postage was too expensive to send more?

WSU in NYT: The Anti-Christ in politics

Not sure how often this happens, but over the weekend, a guest column by a Washington State University professor was featured in the New York Times.

Matthew Sutton, an associate professor of history at WSU, writes about the prospect that the apocalyptic beliefs of some fundamentalist Christians might help knock Barack Obama out of the White House and elect the GOP nominee.

It's called “Why the Anti-Christ Matters in Politics.”

It's an interesting premise, whether you ultimately believe it or not.

Obama in Seattle: The official report

President Obama hit up Seattle Sunday afternoon for some campaign cash. There were no public events, unless you consider the motorcade driving down a closed-off freeway or along a city street.

There also was limited press coverage (so limited that The Spokesman-Review did not send a reporter to Seattle for the day.) But a “pool” of reporters did follow the president for part of his money-making rounds, from Boeing Field to Medina to the Paramount Theater.

That means select reporters went along, and filed what they saw and heard, so the rest of the news media would know what was happening. Some of it winds up in the overall coverage, but most of it just falls by the wayside.

For the blow-by-blow of the pool reports, go inside the blog.

Today’s fun video: SNL does a GOP debate



Those who watch the GOP debates faithfully, and those who think they've seen enough debates already, might especially like the opening sketch from Saturday Night Live.

Sunday spin: How special can a session be?

OLYMPIA – With almost all the news about Washington’s financial state hovering between dismal and abysmal over the last two weeks, it was good to catch one silver lining in the dark black revenue clouds that sit over the Capitol.
Revenue collections were up in fiscal year 2011 compared with fiscal 2010 and 2009. Not that anyone’s breaking out the champagne, or even the Bud Light, since we long ago switched to a beer budget whether our tastes continue to run to the other kind of bubbly.
A report from the state Department of Revenue late last week said Washington collected $16 billion through its various taxes and fees in the year that ended June 30….

To read the rest of this item, click here to go inside the blog.


Baumgartner 2010 words could bite

State Sen. Mike Baumgartner is weighing a run for the other Senate, the one in Washington, D.C.
The Spokane Republican said he’ll make up his mind in the next few weeks about whether he’ll wage a campaign against Democrat Maria Cantwell, who’ll be seeking her third term. The GOP field isn’t exactly teeming with contenders these days, and Baumgartner has a good résumé that includes State Department experience in Iraq and Afghanistan and being named one of Spokane’s sexiest people by the local weekly.
It would be a big jump, a race several orders of magnitude higher on the political Richter scale, from his successful legislative race in 2010. And it’s a tough race for any East Sider, considering someone from this side of the Cascades hasn’t been elected to the U.S. Senate since Babe Ruth was hitting homers for the Yankees.
There’s every likelihood Democrats would try to make him eat his words from the 2010 campaign, when he sharply disputed a suggestion by opponent Chris Marr that he was running for the Legislature as a stepping stone to higher office.
“It’s quite a compliment, but I am afraid Chris is just projecting his own desires, not mine,” he said in a press release that was still available last week on the Spokane County GOP website.

AWB: No on tolling init; yes on liquor init

OLYMPIA — The Association of Washington Business, which is occupies the role of the state's chamber of commerce, likes the ballot measure to turn the state's liquor business over to private business.

It doesn't like the ballot measure to restrict tolling policies on roads and bridges. Nor does it like a measure to require extra training and background checks for long-term care workers.

At its “policy summit” meeting in Suncadia — that's a lodge on the eastern slope of the Cascades near Cle Elum — the AWB decided to come out in favor of I-1183, which would end the state monopoly on wholesale and retail liquor operations. Better than previous attempts, the group says, by keeping sales out of convenience stores in cities and bringing in more revenue for the state.”

It doesn't like I-1163, which applies to health workers. Too expensive at a time when the state's budget is “$2 billion in the hole” and can least afford it.(Technically, the budget isn't $2 billion in the hole. The gap between projected revenue and scheduled expenses is $1.4 billion, or $1.27 billion if the state were to blow through its reserves in an effort to head off red ink. Gov. Chris Gregoire is asking the Legislature to come back starting Nov. 28 to cut $2 billion because by then the revenue projections may be worse and the state really needs to have reserves. But $2 billion probably is easier to remember.)

And it's against I-1125, which would restrict the use of tolls to the roads or bridges where they are levied, ban variable tolls for different times or days, and require tolls be set by the Legislature.  It would jeopardize some big projects and cause “more delays and traffic headaches for Washington drivers,” the group said.

AWB endorses Baxter

OLYMPIA — The Association of Washington Business endorsed Jeff Baxter Friday in the race for the state Senate seat in Spokane Valley's 4th District.

The AWB is meeting this week at Suncadia lodge — a resort near Cle Elum — for its annual “policy summit”. Among the policies are endorsements…mostly for initiatives in this odd-year election.

But with a contest between two Republicans in the 4th, the group went with the incumbent Baxter, who was appointed to the seat this winter after Bob McCaslin retired for health reasons. He faces another Republican, former state Rep. and County District Judge Mike Padden in November because no Democrats got into the race.

The AWB said it was backing Baxter because of his business experience. “The private sector needs to lead our economic recovery efforts,” the group said.

Some (incrementally) good budget news

OLYMPIA — After more than a week of bad budget news for Washington state, the Revenue Department did find a silver lining in at least one dark cloud.

That is, the amount of revenue Washington state collected in fiscal 2011 was up almost 6 percent over fiscal 2010, or $16 billion compared to $15.1 billiion.

It's also higher than the $15.6 billion the state collected in fiscal 2009. But it's less than the $17 billion collected in fiscal 2008, the peak year for state revenue.

Business tax collections, sales tax collections and particularly liquor and cigarette taxes were all up last year. Gasoline taxes were down, and so were real estate excise taxes.

This is unlikely to have any effect on  November economic forecast, which is an attempt to look forward as a way of keeping the state budget under control. But in the two-month leadup to the special session,  it will no doubt play into the political back and forth over what to do about the state's budget through June 2013, through a selective use of statistics

Expect the Democrats to say revenues are down 6 percent from the pre-recession highs, and the state needs to find more revenues to provide needed services.

Expect Republicans to say they are up 6 percent from last year, and the state doesn't need more revenues it needs to live within its means.

It's sort of the 2011 Washington version of the glass half empty or half full argument.

Most of us would skip the argument, drink what's in the glass, and order another round to prepare for the upcoming special session.

Obama in Seattle: Hard to spot without cash

OLYMPIA — If you're coming to Seattle for the weekend and hoping to catch President Obama, who'll be there for just over three hours on Sunday, bring cash. Not much chance of seeing him in the flesh without it.

Obama has two campaign stops on this visit to the Puget Sound environs. He'll attend one fund-raiser at the Paramount Theater in downtown Seattle. Tickets start at $100, they're expecting as many as 400 people. The Robert Cray band is playing, so if Obama's a little late — good bet, considering he's coming from another gig — there will be something to keep the crowd occupied.

First on the agenda is brunch at the Medina home of Jon Shirley, a retired Microsoft board member,  where tickets go for $35,800 per couple. (Not clear if there's a discount if you go solo.) They expect 100 folks at that, so if they're all coupled up, the event would raise just under $2 million. But the campaign has to split the take with the Democratic National Committee, and actually gets the short end of the stick: Campaign rules limit an individual contribution to $5,000 per election, so the Obama campaign gets the first 5 Gs, from each person, and the DNC gets the rest,  up to $30,800, which is the maximum donation allowed to a campaign committee.

So Obama could come away from Seattle with a chunk of change for the campaign. If you go to Seattle for the something other than a campaign event — like, say, the Seahawks game — you could come away with a bit of a headache for the traffic delays. They'll briefly shut down traffic between Boeing Field and Medina, and from Medina to downtown Seattle, and then from downtown to Boeing Field, to get the motorcade through. Throw that into the mix with Seahawks traffic and the fact that some stretches of road are closed or restricted for repairs, and Seattle media are already warning people of long delays and asking anyone who doesn't have to go anywhere to stay home.

It's not quite car-mageddon. Yet.

Truth test: Condon’s new ad on water rates

Fresh off the City Council’s vote to raise water rates for next year, Spokane mayoral candidate David Condon released a new commercial this week attacking that decision.

The ad so far is running only on YouTube, but he said it likely will hit TV airwaves as the election draws closer.

Here, we truth test the ad in what will be an occasional series examining candidate claims headed into the November election.

Condon, who faces incumbent Mayor Mary Verner said water rates are one of the biggest complaints he’s hearing as he knocks on doors.

Claim: “Water rates have gone up and she’s planning to raise them again.”

Truthfulness: Generally true

Analysis: Water rates in Spokane have actually been quite steady in the last decade and continue to be lower than many other cities in the Northwest. Last year, the City Council approved a water rate structure that changed how bills were calculated. Some people’s bills have gone up, but most are expected to go down, at least over the course of the year. Verner signed the ordinance making the change, which was not meant to raise more revenue. Indeed, it appears that that the new rates actually will lower revenue this year. That said, Verner had asked the council to approve a rate change to increase water revenue, but the council rejected it. This month, the council did approve an increased water rate that will raise water consumption fees by 16 percent in 2012, though the average bill for indoor usage will only go up about 4 percent.

Special session on budget starts Nov. 28

OLYMPIA — The Legislature gets to spend the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas playing Scrooge to state agencies.

Gov. Chris Gregoire said she is calling legislators back for a special session starting Nov. 28 to deal with declining revenue projections that are likely to decline even more before they get here.

Nov. 28 is the Monday after Thanksgiving, and by law a special session can last up to 30 days. How long it lasts is up to legislators, who will be wrestling with Gregoire's request to cut $2 billion out of the budget they approved for the 2011-13 fiscal cycle just five months ago…

Gregoire: No special session before November

Gov. Chris Gregoire at the Suncadia Lodge.

CLE ELUM — Washington's economic outlook is so much more likely to get worse in the next two months that Gov. Chris Gregoire said she won't call the Legislature into a special session until November.

“It would be premature for me to call them back before the next forecast. They need to know how large the problem is,” Gregoire said.

Speaking to the annual “policy summit” of the Association of Washington Business, Gregoire said the state's chief economist has told her it's about four times more likely the state's revenue outlook will be worse for his November forecast than it was last week. That's when he said the state can expect a drop of about $1.4 billion from the amount the Legislature expected when it wrote the 2011-13 general fund budget.

Before last week's forecast, Gregoire told state agencies to prepare plans to cut 5 percent and 10 percent from their current appropriations. But Chief Economist Arun Raha's forecast last week essentially blew those apart.

“Neither of those would be enough,” she said.

The asssociation, which represents businesses throughout the state, is holding its annual conference at the Suncadia Lodge, a golf, winery and lodging complex on the eastern slope of the Cascades. Advocates for higher taxes on businesses are massed at the entrance, demanding an end to tax preferences — they use the term loopholes — for businesses rather than another “all cuts” budget.

Gregoire didn't mention a tax preferences of a tax hike in her talk to the business leaders, and none asked her about them in the brief question and answer session after her speech. But she left open the prospect that the state would consider some, urging the crowd “everything is on the table” — presumably taxes as well as cuts.

“I'm asking you… not to draw lines in the sand,” she said.

Tacoma Schools, teachers being called to Principal Gregoire’s office

OLYMPIA — Tacoma School officials and the teachers' union there may be headed for detention.

Gov. Chris Gregoire said that if they haven't settled the strike by 3 p.m. today they “will report to my office and stay untill their differences are reconciled and the school doors reopen.”

“There is no question that the Tacoma teacher strike has continued far too long — disrupting the lives of families and the 28,000 students who need to be in school,” she said. At her direction, the two sides went back to the bargaining table this morning with a 3 p.m. deadline.

Corporal punishment has been banned in public schools for quite some time. Not sure if that applies to teachers and administrators. If not, should it be Gregoire applying the paddle or one of her state patrol security guards?

WA has new salary search engine

OLYMPIA — The folks at the Office of Financial Management and Legislative Evaluation and Accountability Program have developed a new website for looking up who makes what in state government.

The website is a follow-up to the release last month of all the people who got their money from the state in 2010, from University of Washington Head Football Coach Steve Sarkisian, who pulled down just under $2 million*, to several folks who were at $0.

It's an interesting site, but we like ours better. For most searches, it's faster. It may also be easier to use, although that could be a function of being in on the discussions to design it. Try both out and decide for yourself.



* Obligatory disclaimer: Sarkesian's salary, and those of other coaches and athletic department staff connected with UW and Washington State Univeristy,  isn't paid out of state tax dollars, but from revenue generated by ticket sales and other athletic department endeavors. This creates a bit of an apples-to-oranges comparison when lining up his salary with, say, Gov. Chris Gregoire. But it's still a lot of money, regardless of its source.

Today’s fun video: Fighting back on intolerance



Last fall, Spokane and Coeur d'Alene reacted admirably to members of the Westboro Baptist Church, a small Kansas congregation that uses the funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan to spread a view that the United States is being punished for being too accepting of homosexuality.

Recently in Kansas City, Westboro members picketed and another counter-demonstration was mounted. This time with some sound effects from the Foo Fighters. Maybe that will become a standard response to the congregation…don't fight fire with fire, fight hate speech with music.

City hires attorney to fight lawsuit filed by detective

The Spokane City Council on Monday agreed to hire a local attorney to help the city defend itself in a lawsuit filed by a Spokane police detective.

The city will pay Milt Rowland, a former assistant city attorney for Spokane, up to $75,000 to assist the city in the case brought by Detective Jay Mehring. Rowland is part of the firm Foster Pepper.

Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick placed Mehring on unpaid leave after he was charged with felony harassment in March 2007. He was acquitted by a jury and received back pay. His suit alleges that Kirkpatrick continued to make public statements accusing Mehring of threatening his wife even after he was acquitted.

Today’s fun video: How many continents are there?


You may think you know. But the answer may not be as simple as the one you got in 7th Grade Geography.

Yay! It’s Constitution Week

At least, that's what a proclamation signed by President Obama says. From last Saturday to this Friday, it's officially Constitution Week.

This coincides with the 224th anniversary of the signing of the Constitution on Sept. 17. That was Constitution Day, but a single day doesn't really seem to be enough to celebrate something that historic, so the proclamation also has a Constitution Week.

Not to diminish “We the People” but this is also National Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve Week.

And National Historically Black Colleges and Universities Week.

And National Farme Safety and Health Week.

But the Constitution is a noble and strong document, and it probably doesn't mind sharing its week with a few other good causes.

So go dress like your favorite article or celebrate your favorite amendment. If celebrating the 18th Amendment, please drink responsibly…which in that instance would probably  mean Not At All.

Poll: McKenna ahead of Inslee; Obama ahead of Perry, Romney

OLYMPIA — For those who are Jonesing for some campaign-style polling, a Seattle political consulting firm is trying to supply a fix.

It has a new poll of 500 voters that suggest if the election were held today,  Republican Rob McKenna would beat Democrat Jay Inslee for governor. And President Barack Obama would beat either of the two current GOP frontrunners, Rick Perry or Mitt Romney, for president in Washington state.

Two initiatives on this November's ballot would also pass, according to the Strategies 360 poll.

But there are some caveats and some details beneath the surface of the raw numbers, Kevin Ingham, the firm's vice president for polling, explained Monday morning in the big rollout of the numbers.

To read the rest of this item, click here to go inside the blog.

Redistricting: A numbers game?

Former U.S. Sen. Slade Gorton had a logical, sensible suggestion last week when releasing his proposal for Washington’s new congressional districts.
So logical and sensible, in fact, that it has almost no chance of happening….

To read the rest of this item, go inside the blog.

Rush, Stuckart lead race in campaign technology

New technology often surfaces in campaigns — whether it was candidate websites, scientific polling, automated calling, Facebook, Twitter, or plastic yard signs.

City Council President hopeful Ben Stuckart and City Councilman Richard Rush appear to be the first local candidates using the latest technology to get the word out: Quick Response codes — boxes that can be quickly scanned by smartphones to redirect users to websites.

Rush, who faces former City Councilman Mike Allen in his reelection bid, said one of his supporters suggested placing the codes on his campaign yard signs. Rush said that didn't turn out to be practical but that his campaign decided the codes would work better on fliers left on doorsteps “so people could actually hear me speak to them.”

The bar code links to a Rush campaign video.

Stuckart used the code on a flier during his hotly contested primary. He faces former Mayor Dennis Hession in the November election.

With bad revenue forecast, can special session be far behind?

OLYMPIA – With economic recovery described as “a mirage in the desert” and a projected gap between income and spending growing to $1.4 billion, state officials began setting the stage Thursday for a special legislative session that would find ways to cut more from the budget.

“The November forecast may bring more bad news so we can't wait until the start of session in January to take action,” Gov. Chris Gregoire said in a prepared statement released as the Economic Forecasting Council ended its meeting. “Today's forecast demands that we take action.”

Arun Raha, the state’s chief economist, told the forecasting council that tax collections fell below projections this summer, and the Washington economy can expect continued problems over the rest of this two-year budget cycle.

Jobs aren’t coming back at a pace that is lowering the unemployment rate. Foreclosures are likely to go up and home construction is off. State revenues may be about $500 million below previous projections through June 30, 2012, and $900 million lower in the next fiscal year. Normal economic times “seem like a mirage in the desert, the closer we get to it, the further it moves away,” Raha said.

The four legislators on the council all seemed to expect some type of session to be called this fall, although they disagreed on how it might be structured or what it should consider…

To read the rest of this post, go inside the blog.

City budget picture offers good and bad news

The bleak economic picture in the state likely will make the Spokane City Council’s job balancing the 2012 harder by about a $1 million, the city’s budget director told the council on Thursday.

But not all the news at a council budget briefing on was bad. Budget Director Tim Dunivant said better-than-expected sales tax revenues will help carry the city through 2011 without the need for additional cuts. Through August, the city collected $13.6 million in sales taxes, about a $1 million more than expected.

That increase will help offset unexpected declines of more than $100,000 each in water, sewer and telephone utility taxes and gambling taxes as well as $93,000 less than expected in parking tickets. Dunivant said the decline in tickets is related to an opening for a parking enforcement officer that has since been filled. (He said about 400 people applied for the job). The sales tax cushion also should protect the city from an expected decline in liquor sales revenue from the state, he said.

WA economic forecast today

OLYMPIA — The state's economic forecast for the remainder of this two-year budget cycle comes out this morning, and the real question here is not “Will it be bad?” but “How bad will it be?”

In June, the forecast all but wiped out the budgetary cushion, aka the ending fund balance, the Legislature thought it left at the end of its special session. Since that time, most economic news has been worse, not better.

Chief Economic Forecaster Arun Raha is scheduled to begin his presentation at 10 a.m. to the forecasting council. He typically gives a midline forecast, as well as a pessimistic and optimistic estimate.

A major drop in expected revenues early in the biennium — that is, in the next six months — could prompt calls from some legislators for another special session to trim the budget. Gov. Chris Gregoire has already ordered state agency leaders to come up with plans to cut 5 percent and 10 percent from the spending plans they were given by the Legislature in June.

We'll have updates for you later in the morning.

Baumgartner to run for the other Senate?

Sen. Mike Baumgartner at his desk on the Senate floor this spring. File photo.

OLYMPIA — State Sen. Mike Baumgartner of Spokane is being discussed for the political equivalent of an upgrade, as a candidate for U.S. Senate against Democrat Maria Cantwell.

Baumgartner said Wednesday evening he's “taking a strong look at it” after being urged to get into the race by some supporters. He said he and wife Elinore will make a decision “in the next few weeks.”

It would be a big jump for Baumgartner…

To read the rest of this item, click to go inside the blog.

Kucinich to WA: Never mind

Whether you were wishing that U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich would pull up stakes and move to Washington because you really, really like him, or the exact opposite, you're not going to get your wish.

The Associated Press is reporting that Kucinich is likely to stay in Ohio after all, rather than relocating to Washington state to run for Congress here. And the congressman is telling supporters in that state with their help he has a good chance to keep his seat.

Apparently the redistricting in Ohio is going better than he expected, and his district in Cleveland won't be completely wiped out in the latest redrawing of boundaries. But he will have to run against another Democratic incumbent, Marcy Kaptur, who is saying she's not stepping aside.

This may disappoint a few Western Washington progressives, who are strong supporters of Kucinich's brand of liberalism. During a recent appearance at Seattle's Hempfest, he touched all the bases from ending the wars and abolishing nuclear weapons to protecting the environment and legalizing marijuana.

It may disappoint even more Republicans, who seemed extremely anxious to have Kucinich roiling the mix out here. (Update: Go inside the blog to see State GOP Chairman Kirby Wilbur's sorrowful comments regarding the news.)

Washington's redistricting, meanwhile,  may not be providing Kucinich with any good landing spot, even though it will have a new congressional district and at least one open seat. Asked yesterday at the end of the Redistricting Commission meeting which district might be best for a Kucinich run, House Democratic appointee Dean Foster replied: “One in Ohio.”

Today’s fun video: GOP prez debate



BuzzFeed boiled the debate down to 75 seconds, which is pretty good. But the best take off, as usual, came from Jon Stewart. It can be found inside the blog.

Redistricting: Spokane districts could change a little or a lot

Slade Gorton and Commission Chairwoman Lura Powell review a redistricting map.

OLYMPIA — The state Redistricting Commissioner released its first round of maps for congressional and legislative districts, as described in the story here.

Maps are online at the commission's website .

While most of the public testimony revolved around creating a congressional district in which racial and ethnic minorities are more than 50 percent of the population, among the more interesting things is the way the four commissioners treat the legislative districts in and around Spokane County. The Democrats on the commission seem intent on doing away with the current 9th District, forcing all of those GOP legislators into another district where they'd be running against  other Republicans.

Former U.S. Sen. Slade Gorton, the appointee of Senate Minority Leader Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla, makes the most changes to boundaries inside Spokane County, esentially moving the 3rd District, a Democratic stronghold in central Spokane, to west Spokane and the West Plains.

Gorton denied this was an attempt to create GOP districts throughout the county. Instead, he insisted it was a way to make all the Spokane districts “competitive.”

The congressional district lines are all over the map, so to speak, with some very interesting and innovative approaches to adding the new 10th District….

Maps coming today

OLYMPIA — The state Redistricting Commission will release its maps of proposals  to redraw Washington's congressional and legislative boundaries at their meeting today, which starts at 10 a.m.

Could be as many as eight very different maps — one congressional and one legislative — for each of the four voting commissioners.

Up for grabs: Where will the state's new 10th congressional district be drawn. Bet the rent that it's not in Eastern Washington, where the 5th has a few too many folks and the 4th has quite a few too many folks, based on the 2010 Census. The real growth is in Pugetopolis, so the smart money says somewhere in the burbs between Snohomish and Thurston counties.

Spokane's going to want to watch how the 3rd, 4th, 6th, 7th and 9th Legislative Districts are redrawn, because some have too many folks, and others don't have enough. Don't expect a district to up and move completely west, but there could be some significant rejiggering of boundaries.

Stay tuned.

Sonntag not running for re-election

Brian Sonntag. File photo

OLYMPIA – State Auditor Brian Sonntag, the longest serving state executive in office, will retire at the end of next year from a 20-year stint at the head of the office that keeps an eye on the other state offices.

Sonntag, a Democrat, surprised members of both parties Monday in announcing he wouldn’t run for another term in 2012. He was briefly mentioned earlier this year as a candidate for governor, although he declined to get into a primary battle against U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee or a general election race against likely GOP nominee Rob McKenna.

Now he says he's made the difficult decision not to run for auditor, either…

To read the rest of this post, click here to go inside the blog.

Another GOP prez debate tonight at 5

Caller wondered if it was true that there is yet still another GOP presidential debate tonight.


A debate jointly sponsored by CNN and the Tea Party — proving the old “strange bedfellows” adage — will be llive on the cable news channel starting at 5 p.m. Pacific It will have eight debaters : Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, Ron Paul, Jon Huntsman, Newt Gingrich, Herb Cain and Michele Bachmann. (We did that in reverse alphabetical order, just to be different.)

Remains to be seen whether this will be a Perry vs. Romney show with the other candidates as secondary players, like last week's debate on a rival 24-hour news network, or if it will be a more even-handed approach.

For those who can't get enough of the GOP debates, and for those who think there's never anything new in the GOP debates, consider this Huffington Post photo feature in which the candidates get extreme makeovers with each other's hairstyles.

Take a shot at the news quiz

Think you've been paying attention to the news? Here's your chance to find out, and possibly win lunch for two at the Davenport.

Try our That's News to You Quiz online. Top entries qualify for a drawing for the prize.

Sunday spin: Tax the rich? We could do better

The Supercommittee charged cutting the federal deficit got off to a raucous start last week, as protesters cut off one GOP member’s opening remarks with chants that Congress should “tax the rich.”

As enticing as that may sound to those who do not consider themselves rich – that is, practically everyone below Bill Gates and Warren Buffett – Congress might be more amenable, and the nation better off, should protesters take up the chant of “tax the obnoxious.”

Tax policy has long been a way of discouraging bad behavior, like smoking and drinking. Cigarettes and alcohol cost relatively little to make compared to the taxes and fees the various governments impose, trying to save us from ourselves.

Under that precedent, Congress should levy a tax on television newscasters who misuse the word “literally.” The word has become a staple on both national and local news programs, where reporters seem to believe it is interchangeable with really or truly – which it literally is not. For the sake of the children, tax it hard, tax it now.

A source close to the supercommittee said there’s a problem…

Corker endorses Stuckart

While most of the political news is swirling around City Hall this morning with the press conference over the Otto Zehm case (read about that here), there was a development in the Council President race.

Councilman Steve Corker, who finished third in the primary for the job last month, announced he was endorsing former opponent Ben Stuckart for the job: “Ben represents a bright, new voice for Spokane.”

Stuckart thanked Corker for the endorsement and “for his many years of service to the City of Spokane.”

Corker also pointed out the key element of the primary results as the city looks ahead to the Nov. 8 election. Unlike the mayor's race, in which incumbent Mary Verner essentially lapped the field, no one got a majority in the council president's race. Dennis Hession, the former council president and mayor, finished on top, with 37 percent, but Stuckart got 30 percent and Corker 27 percent.

One other interesting stat: 2,175 voters “skipped” that race. That is, they marked their ballots in other contests, but not for council president. Had they voted for Corker, he would've finished second; had they voted for Stuckart, he would've been almost tied with Hession; had they voted for Hession, the race would now be seen as pretty much over.

For maps on how the candidates fared across the city's precincts, click here for Hession. here for Stuckart, and here for Corker. For a look at where the undecideds were, click here.

Today’s fun video: Stewart on the GOP debate


A day late because of taping schedules, Jon Stewart delivers the best look at the GOP presidential debate, and the  news media that covered it.

If you liked the first segment, go inside the blog to see the second…

Wildfire in Goldendale

AP photo

OLYMPIA — Texas Gov. Rick Perry isn't the only governor that has to worry about wildfires. Washington state is battling a fire in the Goldendale area which drew both Gov. Chris Gregoire and Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark for a look-see on Thursday.

The Monastery Complex fire has forced some evacuations, has some 500 firefighters on the ground and as of this morning was not yet contained.

White House nominates Verner for board post

Spokane Mayor Mary Verner will be nominated by President Obama to serve on the board of a Washington-based nonprofit group dedicated to helping make the nation's buildings safer and more efficient.

Verner, who would serve on the National Institute of Building Sciences Board of Directors, was among 27 intended appointments announced Thursday by the White House. The appointment requires confirmation by the U.S. Senate.

The institute seeks to improve building sciences and technologies by bringing together public- and private-sector representatives to discuss problems and advances. Six of the board's 21 members are White House appointees.

State GOP: Yes on I-1125

OLYMPIA — The Washington State Republican Party announced Wednesday it is endorsing Initiative 1125, the proposal to limit the use of money collected for road and bridge tolls.

The proposal is this year's offering by Tim Eyman and allies to rein in some aspect of state spending. The endorsement can't be considered that surprising, because it's hard to think of a time when the state GOP didn't back a measure by Eyman to limit state spending.

In other I-1125 news, the Washington Policy Center, a research group that supports “market solutions”, has issued a long report about the eight different questions the initative raises, and the way supporters and opponents answer them.

If the Constitution was ratified by Facebook…

… We'd all probably be in trouble.

But someone had the bright idea to see which parts of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and all the Amendments are “liked” best — Facebook style.

The First Amendment is currently first in likes. Which is nice, considering when the Founding Fathers wrote the original Bill of Rights, it wasn't.*+

It's way ahead of the 4th Amendment, which is in second.

Big surprise: Nobody likes the 18th Amendment at this point.



*what the heck is he talking about now? Go inside the blog.

GOP candidates debate tonight at 5 p.m.

Someone called to ask what station is carrying the GOP presidential debate, and what time is it on.

The answer: 5 p.m. on MSNBC, wherever that falls on your cable box. The listing was not in the daily TV log in today's paper. Sorry about that, but it was apparently added to the schedule after the listings were compiled, fairly far in advance.

For those wondering, Texas Gov. Rick Perry will be there. He skipped a debate earlier this week because of wildfires in Texas, but did make the trip to the Reagan Library in California for this debate.

Also expected on stage: Michele Bachman, Herb Cain, Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman, Ron Paul, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum.

Sarah Palin isn't attending. But then, she's not a candidate at this point, either.

Moderators are Brian Williams of NBC and John Harris of Politico.

Want to read some early analysis?

Here's something from USA Today. Here's a longer piece from The Washington Post.

More booze outlets, but ‘not the Wild West’

OLYMPIA — Washington would go from having the second fewest liquor stores per capita to the fifth fewest if voters approver a ballot measure this fall, a new study concludes.

Initiative 1183 would likely result in a four-fold increase in the  number of retail liquor stores, the Office of Financial Management has said, and an increase of about 5 percent in total liquor sales. That would mean there'd be about one liquor store for every 4,709 persons, rather than one store for every 20,502 persons as it is now, the Washington Policy Center study concludes. That would be fewer stores per capita than any other western state.

“The bottom line is that the number of retail liquor stores would increase in Washington under I-1183 but this would not result in the state becoming the wild, wild west of liquor retail stores or sales,” the center's Jason Mercier writes.

I-1183 is this year's attempt to end the state's monopoly control of distribution, wholesale and retail liquor operations. It is backed by Costco, Trader Joe's and Safeway, Inc. Unlike I-1100, which voters rejected last year, I-1183 sets minimum size requirements for retail liquor stores that in many communities would confine sales to supermarkets, discount stores and other larger retail outlets and exclude mini-marts.

Washington is currently second only to Utah among 11 western states in terms of liquor stores per capita. Idaho, which also has state controled liquor stores, is fifth. It has 163 stores, but spread over its population that's one store for every 9,600 Idahoans.

OFM estimates the number of liquor stores in Washington would jump from the current level of 328 to 1,428 if I-1183 passes.. Sales would also go up slightly, based on the experience of Alberta, Canada, when that province ended its monopoly.

But Washington would have fewer stores per capita than Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado or Hawaii — other western states that don't have state-run liquor stores, the policy center concludes.

Mayor responds to Condon’s criticism of Verner’s handling of Zehm case


Below is Mayor Mary Verner's full response to the statement released earlier in the day by her opponent in the November election, David Condon, followed by Condon's statement. Condon offered harsh criticism of Verner's handling of the Otto Zehm matter. Verner's response was delivered by her campaign, not by the city.


Mayor Mary Verner says she is deeply disappointed in former Congressional aide Dave Condon’s reckless attempt to use the tragedy of the Otto Zehm death for his personal political ambition.

Condon wrote a campaign news release today, criticizing the mayor, city police, city attorneys, and city staffers.

Today’s fun video: Palin on polls



Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's take on polls…with a slight problem on the spelling.

Sunday spin: Summer lists

OLYMPIA – Summer is a time of lists. Not just the lists for what do we need to take on vacation or what do we need for the picnic, but lists to fill up newspapers on slow newsdays.

Of which there have been many this summer. We rejoice when there is a list that puts Washington or Spokane in contention for some honor, such as last week’s ranking of the top gubernatorial races of 2012.

One could argue that it’s a stretch to be rating gubernatorial races a year away, but because Washington’s race is on the top of a list from Politico, a reputable online political website, one shouldn’t quibble. The expected race between Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna and Democratic Congressman Jay Inslee has topped monthly rankings through the summer.

Their contest – which is to say, our contest – beat governor’s races in Montana, North Carolina, Missouri and West Virginia, which ranked 2 through 5.

In truth, there hasn’t really been that much happening in the Washington race that would interest any but the most rabid political junkie. It would make one wonder how boring the races are in those other state, if it weren’t summer time.

Other lists keep coming as well. . .

The supercommittee roars to life

Those wondering when the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction — a.k.a. the Supercommittee — will get up and running need wonder no more.

A press release from Sen. Patty Murray and her Supercommittee Co-chairman, Rep. Jeb Hensarling announced the panel will have its “organizational meeting” next Thursday, Sept. 8. Members will “make opening statements and consider proposed committee rules.”

Sept. 8. Hmmm. Why does that date seem familiar?

Oh yeah, that's when House Speaker John Boehner invited President Obama over to the Capitol to address a joint session of Congress on jobs. So look out recession. Between the Supercommittee and Obama, all this speechifying is sure to do knock you for a loop.

The committee also has a hearing scheduled for Sept. 13, which will feature the head of the Congressional Budget Office and focus on “The History and Drivers of Our Nation's Debt and Its Threats.” 

Hopefully, this will consist of more than “We've been spending more money than we take in, for a very long time, and it's not a good thing to keep doing.”

When comedians turn to politics

Sometimes it's funny when comedians announce they're running for political office. Sometimes it's not.

Roseanne Barr recently announced she's running for president next year.  Maybe she's tired of life on the farm.

But she joins a long line of comedians who have campaigned for office, either for laughs or for real. Here's a list.

This is not to be confused with real politicians who do or say funny things while running for office. That list would be much longer.

Today’s fun video: A whack at Gov. Perry

An independent conservative group, which apparently prefers Michele Bachman over Rick Perry as the Republican presidential nominee, has released a new video.

Perry, not surprisingly, has denounced it as “blatantly false.”

Most notable thing about this ad: The narrator has a great Texas twang. (So great that it might not be real?)

Split decision on AG power from High Court

OLYMPIA — It's a win some, lose some day for Attorney General Rob McKenna and his authority to join or not join various types of legal actions.

As noted elsewhere on the newspaper's website, the State Supreme Court ruled that it won't order McKenna out of the federal lawsuit over health care reform. But it did order him to take up the appeal of a case that State Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark lost in summary judgment, and McKenna didn't think was worth taking to the next level.

As one might imagine, McKenna was happy about the former: “It’s important that the state’s constitutionally-established, independently-elected Attorney General – whomever it may be — have the authority to protect the legal rights of the state and its people in the years to come,” he said in a press release.

As for the latter, not so much. Narrow ruling on a rare disagreement based on a specific statute, he said. And they're studying the inconsistencies between this and the health care reform case.

Goldmark,  not surprisingly, saw the lands case as a much bigger deal. “Historic” was the word he used to describe it. “I applaud the Supreme Court for striking down what would be a dangerous precedent by the attorney general to dictate policy for another statewide official.”

Fuse, a progressive group that is no fan of McKenna, used even stronger language, suggesting that the court said he “deserted  his duty under the law.” To be clear, the court didn't really use that kind of language, and two dissenting judges said he should have the ability to decide when to stop handling a case.

If you want to read the decisions and decide for yourself, you can find them here.

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About this blog

Jim Camden is a veteran political reporter for The Spokesman-Review.

Jonathan Brunt is an enterprise reporter for The Spokesman-Review.

Kip Hill is a general assignments reporter for The Spokesman-Review.

Nick Deshais covers Spokane City Hall for The Spokesman-Review.

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