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Spin Control

Sunday Spin: Be prepared as a voter

As candidates wander around their respective district, county or state looking for support, it’s up to us the voters to have an idea what to expect from them.
They’re trying to cajole your vote with cheesy pictures in brochures or fancy camera work in commercial. It’s our job to make them work for that vote with something more than a nice smile or a catchy slogan on a billboard.
The assignment for Voter 101 is to figure out what’s important to you, and ask the candidate standing at your door or behind the podium “What’s the plan, Stan?”
The Washington Roundtable figured one out recently . . .

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. . . and released what it calls the “Benchmarks for a Better Washington,” a dozen items it is watching and will ask candidates to address. Considering that the Roundtable is an organization made up of 40 of the state’s top business executives, it is not surprising that the benchmarks have something to do with business.
They rounded up a wide array of statistics about everything from the condition of roads to the science test scores of 8th graders and figured out where Washington ranks among the 50 states. For areas where the Evergreen State is more in the red, like low high school graduation rates and bad bridges, they’ll be asking candidates “what will you do to fix it?”
“We want to be at least a part of the discussion,” Steve Mullin, the Roundtable president, said recently. They have thoughts on how to address some things like bad roads and dropout rates, but they’re interested in the candidates’ ideas.
One can quibble with the 12 items the Roundtable chose, or how well some relate to others. For example, several factors seem to be good for biz, with the state in the top 10 for private sector job growth and patents granted, and Number One for electricity rates. (Thank the feds, their dams and all those decimated salmon runs for that last one.) But it’s in the bottom third for average commute time, business tax burden, and bachelor’s degrees awarded, and dead last on workers comp benefits paid. (Maybe a good thing if you are an injured worker in need of comp; maybe a bad thing if you’re paying the taxes to support that.)
It would be difficult to come up with an equation that properly weighs each benchmark, then calculates whether the state is, in the Roundtable’s phrase “a top 10 state for quality of life and innovation.”
But politics isn’t about math. It’s about ideas. And the Roundtable has ideas about what it expects from candidates. If you agree with them, fine, you can read more about them at the group’s website.
If you think there are more important things, that’s fine, too. But figure out your benchmarks, do your homework, and hold candidates accountable for your issues.

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Jim Camden
Jim Camden joined The Spokesman-Review in 1981. He is currently the political reporter and state government reporter in the newspaper's Olympia bureau office.

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