ADVERTISEMENT
Advertise Here

Spin Control

Archive for September 2013

Pelz stepping down as state Dem leader

Dwight Pelz, a former state senator and King County councilman, will step down as chairman of the state Democratic Party in February.

Pelz notified party officials Monday that he plans to resign after eight years as chairman, allowing the central committee to pick a new chairman at their February 1 meeting in Vancouver.

Pelz got his start in Washington politics with an initiative campaign to repeal the sales tax on food, and later trained as a community organizer. He was elected to the state Senate in 1990, and resigned in 1997 to take an appointment to the King County Council. Elected state chairman in 2006 to replace Paul Berendt, he was re-elected in 2009, 2011 and 2013.

During that time, Democrats won the major statewide races for governor and U.S. Senate. But last year they did lose control of the state Senate after a Democratic challenger failed to knock off incumbent GOP Sen. Don Benton in a Vancouver district, and two disaffected Democratos joined with the chamber's 23 Republicans to form the Majority Coalition Caucus.

In a press release, Pelz said he will be “taking some time off but not necessarily retiring.”

Inslee: Healthcare page to open despite shutdown

OLYMPIA — Washington state will debut its web site to help people find medical insurance under Obamacare on Tuesday even if the federal government is forced into a shutdown over health care reform, Gov. Jay Inslee said.

Some state workers might be furloughed, some job training programs could be cancelled and some road projects might eventually put on hold if the shutdown continues, Inslee said. But the new health care exchange, a way for uninsured people to shop for the best deal on medical insurance, will be up and running sometime in the morning even if Congress deadlocks and doesn't pass legislation to continue paying for some parts of the government.

 “We will be open for business,” Inslee said of the Washington Health Plan Finder, which had its web address and toll-free number on the podium beneath his microphone. 

 As many as 1 million Washington residents are expected to get health care in the coming years through the exchange and the expansion of Medicaid. Increased federal money for the Medicaid expansion is also expected to help the state balance its budget.

State agencies are still trying to determine how programs that get some or all of their money from the federal government will be affected by a shutdown. Training programs to help returning military veterans would be put on hold, Inslee said. Extended unemployment insurance benefits come from the federal government, and could be delayed. The state Department of Transportation might delay some projects that  rely on federal transportation money.

Some 1,000 civilian employees of the Washington National Guard could be sent home a few hours after they arrive at work Tuesday. Karina Shagren, a spokeswoman for the Guard, said they could come to work Tuesday morning and be told they have four hours to wrap up and go home until further notice. About 120 workers got notices last week that they could be furloughed, but their labor contract requires a seven-day notice, so they may be working through this week but it's not clear if the state would be reimbursed for their pay.

Today’s fun video: SNL ‘explains’ the need for Obamacare

 

Signup for the Affordable Care Act begins tomorrow, but Saturday Night Live offered its take over the weekend on why health care reform is so necessary.

Included is a cameo shout out to the final episode of “Breaking Bad”, which in a sense was the ultimate story of how things go wrong when you don't have health insurance. The clip is from the NBC files, so you do have to sit through a commercial before it comes on, but it is worth it.

Sunday spin: A problem with caucus PACs

OLYMPIA – The political tempest blowing through the Puget Sound last week is the cautionary tale of Michael King and his apparent raids on the treasuries of political action committees set up to elect Democrats to the state Senate.

King was charged last week with embezzling up to $300,000 from the Senate Democratic Campaign Commitee. He was their executive director last year, so the fact that there are fewer Democrats in the Senate than in 2012 is a clue he wasn’t very good at his job. Some Democrats suggested last week that because he was siphoning off funds, the Ds find themselves on the Senate’s minority.

More likely, it highlights a major problem in Washington’s extensive but imperfect campaign finance system.. .

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

Fast Food Bandit loses appeal

Spokane’s alleged Fast Food Bandit won’t get a new trial because of a problem with the instructions the jury received before it convicted him of robbery and kidnapping in 2003.

Benjamin B. Brockie was accused by police of being responsible for a string of fast-food restaurant robberies in 2001 and 2002 before he switched to robbing banks. He was convicted of two robberies and 15 kidnapping charges for forcing employees of the Inland Northwest Bank to crawl into a vault during the robbery, and sentenced to 67 years in prison.

He challenged a judge’s instruction that said he could be convicted of robbery if he was armed with a deadly weapon or displayed what appears to be a firearm. The formal documents charging him with the robbery said only that he was displaying what appeared to be a firearm.

That difference could be important in some cases, Justice Susan Owens wrote for the unanimous court, because there is a distinction in the law between the two descriptions. But in Brockie’s case it didn’t matter, because he denied he committed the robberies and never argued he wasn’t armed with a deadly weapon. He didn’t prove the jury was prejudiced by the instruction, Owens said.

I-522 fight over pet food

The opening salvo in the battle over the proposal to label genetically modified foods includes ammunition that hit the mark last year in California: Food you buy for Rover would have to be labeled if it contains those products, recent commercials for opponents say, but steaks you throw on the grill would not.

Wrong on both counts, say supporters of Initiative 522. Pet food isn't covered by the initiative, but genetically modified meats, would have to be labeled – if they ever reach the local supermarket.

Each campaign can produce legal theories of the state’s complicated initiative case law to support their claims. The Yes campaign has mounted a response ad which the No campaign is actively rebutting.

The average voter might wonder whether it’s worth fighting about…

 

To continue reading this post, see a version of an ad, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

 

Today’s fun video: Cruz does Seuss to block Obamacare

Sen. Ted Cruz resorted to “Green Eggs and Ham” to argue against the vote on adding money for Obamacare back into the resolution to keep the government going.

It may be one of the most dramatic readings of Sam I Am's denials ever witnessed. He contends it was+ on point to the debate at hand. But one can argue whether this is the best children's book to read in the fight against health care reform, considering it's not yet fully in place, so no one has tried green eggs and Obamacare.

Editor's note: The initial version of this story referred to Cruz's tactic as a filibuster. Technically, it wasn't a filibuster because the Senate wasn't scheduled to vote on the resolution yesterday, so his long-play speech wasn't blocking a vote.

Chances to interact with your elected officials

People interested in talking to their elected officials, asking them what they are thinking — or “What were you THINKING? — will have several chances in the coming weeks.

On the schedule so far: 

Today: 3rd Legislative District delegation holds “mobile office” meeting for the North Central neighborhood at Chairs Coffee, 113 W. Indiana, 4 - 5:30 p.m.

Tonight: State Sen. Mike Baumgartner, R-Spokane, holds a community discussion on the geopolitics of the Syrian Civil War and its impacts on the state. Museum of Arts and Culture, 2136 W. First Ave. 7 p.m.

Friday: Spokane City Councilman Jon Snyder will hold a “mobile office” at EJ's Garden Bistro, 1928 W. Pacific. 1:30-2:30 p.m.

Oct. 2: Senate Transportation Committee will hold a feedback forum on the state's transportation issues at the Central Valley High School theater, 821 S. Sullivan, 6 - 9 p.m.

Saturday a free day at state parks

Visitors to state parks won't need a Discover Pass on Saturday as the system holds one of its free days in honor of National Public Lands Day.

That means you won't need a $10 day pass or the $30 seasonal pass to go to one of the state's 142 parks. The department gets to declare up to 12 free days a year, and this is one of them.

Transportation hearing moves to CV High

A Senate committee's hearings to let the public suggest what to do about the state's transportation problems are proving so popular that the Spokane session is being moved to a bigger venue.

The Transportation Committee's “feedback forum” will be at the Central Valley High School theater, 6 p.m. on Oct. 2. Originally it was planned for the Greater Spokane Inc., headquarters in downtown.

Committee Co-chairman Curtis King said previous hearings have drawn big crowds. In Bellevue, they had nearly 400 people , and the Everett hearing was also standing-room. “Hundreds of people turned out, which made us realize that some of the other facilities may not be large enough to handle the crowd,” King said in a press release announcing the change.

The CV theater, at 821 Sullivan Road, holds 500 and can accommodate people with disabilities.

Encroachment as a political pawn?

Alarm over potential Fairchild encroachment is being sounded so often and by so many and over so much these days that it's at risk of becoming a bad Spokane punch line.

Don't like the new paint job on your neighbor's house? Argue that it creates too much of a distraction for Air Force pilots trying to find the Fairchild runway.

Looking for a sure-fire way to either stop or support Spokane's efforts to crack down on all those R-rated bikini barista stands? Suggest that the position opposite of yours puts the future of Fairchild in peril but that base officials have been instructed by the Pentagon to keep mum and stay out of local politics.

The real reason it's taking so long to get the North Spokane Freeway built? No one has figured out yet how to link its rapid completion to possibly helping keep Fairchild off the BRAC closure list.

To be sure, Fairchild is a critical piece of Spokane's economy and no one questions taking all reasonable steps to keep the base viable.

But with the dizzying number of times the encroachment issue is getting raised these days by groups at odds with each other over one project or another, it's getting tougher to discern reasonable from opportunistic. Casinos. Municipal zoning. Trailer parks. Industrial expansion. Gravel pits.

The latest salvo came yesterday, when Gov. Jay Inslee openly questioned why Spokane County commissioners are creating new encroachment risks with a controversial industrial expansion while at the same time trying to persuade voters to increase taxes to pay for alleviating a separate risk. Inslee has joined others in trying to get the expansion overturned.

Commissioners suggest Inslee's concern is misguided and are hoping to meet with him to iron things out. But that sounds a lot like the kind of response commissioners tend to get from backers of proposals that they're trying to block by raising the specter of encroachment.

Regardless of where anyone might stand on any of the various proposals, the real risk right now seems to be political fatigue.

Pickets come down at tunnel dig

Inslee says digging to resume soon.

OLYMPIA — The longshoremen's union removed pickets from the site of Seattle's tunnel dig this morning at the request of Gov. Jay Inslee, which could allow the digging to resume in a few days.

The work stoppage on one of the state's major transportation projects was threatening to undermine any public support for a possible package of tax increases for road maintenance and new projects being discussed at hearings around the state by the Senate Transportation Committee, Inlee said. 

The governor announced this morning at a press conference that the International Longshore and Warehouse Union agreed to remove its pickets for an undetermined amount of time while negotiations continue on a labor dispute. The ILWU contends that some jobs loading dirt being removed from the tunnel and loaded onto barges for transport should be performed by its members.

 The pickets had stopped work on the tunnel being dug by “Bertha”, a drill boring a 57.5-foot hole under the Seattle waterfront, to replace the Alaska Way Viaduct.

“Bertha will soon be back in business,” Inslee said. “This had gone on long enough.”

The pickets came down as “a sign of good faith” after Inslee met with union officials and contractors. A solution to the dispute has not yet been found.

Inslee's spokesman David Postman said the governor suggested removing the pickets and union officials agreed. The union set no deadline for an agreement before resuming the pickets, and is expected to call Inslee before resuming the action.

 

(Editor's Note: Because of incorrect information supplied, an earlier version of this post contained an incorrect diameter measurement of the hole being bored under the Seattle waterfront.)

Sunday Spin 2: Which crows are those?

Fearing the long arm of the federal government, the Washington State Liquor Control Board said Friday it was changing the way it would measure the distance between schools and legal pot stores. Instead of 1,000 feet on the most common route of travel, it will be a straight line from the nearest points of the two properties. Or “as the crow flies” …

 

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

 

Sunday spin: Inslee enters Twitter universe

OLYMPIA – It is impossible these days to criticize any experiment to merge politics with social media without sounding like a 21st Century Luddite, or at least some cranky octogenarian telling teenagers to turn down their music and get off the lawn.

Social media, after all, fueled the fire of the Arab spring and Tahrir Square. It eats dead-tree journalism for breakfast then orders a pumpkin spice latte to clear that “past its expiration date” taste out of the mouth.

So it is with some trepidation that I say the governor’s recent Twitter Town Hall was a bit underwhelming, at least from the standpoint of connecting state government and large segments of the population that don’t have regular access to the machinery of governing. . .

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

Today’s fun video: Colbert finds something fishy with Rep. McDermott

 

The Colbert Report
Get More: Colbert Report Full Episodes,Video Archive

Rep. Jim McDermott sits down with Steven Colbert to talk about psychiatry and same-sex marriage, then stands up with him in the hallway to toss some salmon.

Proposed pot store rules change again

OLYMPIA — Under pressure from the federal government, the state agency trying to develop regulations for legal marijuana stores is again changing a rule regarding how far they must be from schools and playgrounds.

Stores selling recreational marijuana to adults must be at least 1,000 feet away from those and some other facilities, as measured in a straight line between the boundaries of the two properties,

Last week, in announcing the latest round of rule changes that put limitations on businesses that would grow, process or sell marijuana,  the Washington State Liquor Control Board tentatively approved a rule that would measure that 1,000 feet along “the most common path of travel”. It was the system the board used for liquor store licenses, and could have resulted in stores being closer to schools.

U.S. attorneys for Eastern and Western Washington earlier this week warned Gov. Jay Inslee that they would enforce the straight-line standard, sometimes called “as the crow flies.” A recent memo from the U.S. Justice Department that is seen as allowing Washington to try developing a legal marijuana system as approved by state voters listed failing to keep the drug away from minors as one of the things that could cause its agents to enforce federal laws, which still list it as an illegal drug for all uses. 

Rick Garza, agency executive director, said the board used the emergency rule process for the change so potential applicants would know about it as they look for locations and prepare to seek licenses, which might be available in mid-November.

In adopting the previous change to the “common path” method of measuring distance last week, board members said they were opening up more potential areas for stores in some cities. Garza said Friday he didn't know how the latest change would effect the number of potential locations, but said cities shouldn't be worried because the number of stores will be strictly limited. The straight line method will be easier to measure and verify, he added.

The board will hold two hearings on the changes it tentatively adopted last week, including one at 6 p.m. Oct. 9 at the Spokane Convention Center.

Today’s fun video: Taking on Monsanto

 

Daily Show takes on Monsanto in its fight with farmers over seeds.

Which makes it kind of interesting that many farmers are siding with Monsanto in the current campaign over genetically engineered foods and Initiative 522.

ResultsWA Town Hall: How tweet was it?

OLYMPIA — Gov Jay Inslee and about a dozen state officials tried to answer questions and get suggestions about improved state government over Twitter this morning.

At one point during the one-hour Twitter Town Hall, the topic, #ResultsWA was “trending” in Seattle, which for those not well versed in twitter-lingo means it was among the more popular topics in the city. And that, spokeswoman Jaime Smith said, was “pretty damn cool”.

Just how cool, or how effective, might be hard to quantify.

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, CLICK HERE continue inside the blog.

Risch: Stop the rhetoric, get the chem weapons

 

Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, is becoming a “go-to” guy for cable news on Syria. Here he is on MSNBC, saying, among other things, that Russian President Vladimir Putin's claims are laughable and that it's time to stop the rhetoric and concentrate on getting Syria's chemical weapons.

Why Risch? Partly because he's on the Senate Foreign Relations and Intelligence committees, and partly because he's pretty quotable.

Inslee tweeting Town Hall on improving government

OLYMPIA — If you have an idea to improve state government that you're just dying to tell Gov. Jay Inslee about, you might get your chance this morning.

If you have a Twitter account, and can keep it to 140 characters.

Fresh of his more conventional press conference Tuesday for Results Washington, his plan to make state government more efficient, Inslee is hosting aone-hour Twitter Town Hall on improving government starting at 10 a.m.

People can tweet their questions to Inslee and his management team, who will try to answer them. But wait, you might be saying, what about answers to those questions that require more than the 140 character limit on Twitter? (Which is to say, almost anything of substance.)

They'll be answered more fully on the results.wa.gov website next week.

To participate, or even just to watch, follow @GovInslee. Questions should have a #ResultsWA .

More congressional reax on Syria speech

After President Obama gave his speech on Syria last night, there was a scramble to get reaction from the region's congressional delegation, and fit  it into the tight space in this morning's Spokesman-Review. We wound up with a shortened version of the reaction. For a fuller version of their comments, go inside the blog. 

 

State could try to close pot dispensaries

OLYMPIA — State officials may crack down on medical marijuana dispensaries next year, even as it licenses other businesses to grow, process and sell the drug for recreational uses.

The state’s 15-year-old medical marijuana law was never intended to allow people to make a profit by selling the drug to patients, a task force of officials from several agencies told a legislative committee. Dispensaries aren’t even mentioned in the law.

“These dispensaries are absolutely illegal, criminal operations,” said Rep. Chris Hurst, D-Enumclaw, chairman of the House Government Oversight and Accountability Committee. “What's it going to take to shut all these down?”

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.
  

Today’s fun video: About going to war in Syria

 

Jon Stewart skewers Fox News and Nancy Pelosi over comments on Syria.

Inslee, U.S. attorneys meet on pot

OLYMPIA — Washington and federal officials had what's being called a “standard followup” meeting this morning about the new policy on state-legal marijuana. Nothing earth-shattering to report, apparently.

Gov. Jay Inslee, state Attorney General Bob Ferguson and U.S. Attorneys Mike Ormsby and Jenny Durkan has a morning meeting in Inslee's office. No big policy changes, say those familiar with the meeting.

Ormsby after the meeting described it as just an opportunity to underscore last week's memo out of Washington, D.C., on federal policy regarding states that have legalized marijuana in some form. The Justice Department said it would not be trying to stop Washington and Colorado from proceeding witlh rules to allow the growing, sale and use of recreational marijuana to adults, but it would step in to stop sales to minors, laundering of money from criminal enterprises and some other activities.

Inslee's office, too, said nothing new came out of the meeting. “It was just standard followup,” spokeswoman Jaime Smith said. “It's all an ongoing conversation.” 

Sunday spin: A special session on transpo if. . .

OLYMPIA – With enough time, things that were once unthinkable can become conceivable options.

I’m not talking about anything as outrageous as using sarin gas or electing a Democrat in the 4th Legislative District. But a few months ago, it would have been incomprehensible to talk seriously about calling yet still another special session of the Legislature this year.

When legislators limped wearily out of Olympia in late June after two overtime sessions, it seemed like returning in January would be more than soon enough.

Now, however, a special session to address some of the state’s major transportation woes is being floated by Gov. Jay Inslee, who said last week he’d consider calling one in November if legislators could agree on a package of projects and revenue. . .

Army to issue separate coal port reports

Any marriage of convenience between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the state of Washington for environmental statements on new coal ports was dissolved last week for what appear to be irreconcilable differences.

They will issue separate statements, possibly with very different conclusions, about new ports near Longview and Bellingham. Until Friday, the state plan was to issue a single report, although it might have had two parts with different conclusions.

Signs of trouble were clear last Tuesday…

 

 

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

Legal pot hearing in Spokane Oct. 9

The state agency developing rules for legal recreational marijuana in Washington will hold a hearing in Spokane on Oct. 9. Another hearing will be in Seattle Oct. 8.

The Washington State Liquor Control Board said Friday the hearing will start at 6 p.m. at the Convention Center, and go for up to three hours.

Earlier this week the board set limits on the number of retail stores that would be allowed in each of the state’s 39 counties, the number of licenses any person could hold and the area that a licensed grower could use. It expects to begin accepting license applications in November and licenses awarded in early 2014. Stores might be open by June 1.

Details of the board's latest changes in rules can be found here.

Lege ethics rules on football tickets

OLYMPIA– A legislator who accepts an invitation to a Husky or Cougar football game to sit in the university president's box with all the complimentary food and drinks isn’t breaking any ethics rules.

A legislator who takes a couple of free tickets to take a friend or family member to a game and sit in the stands with the rest of the fans is breaking those rules, even if buying his or her own hot dogs, soda and kettle corn.

With college football season just starting up, the attorney for the Legislative Ethics Committee reiterated these long-standing rules Thursday at the panel’s monthly meeting after staff received several inquiries from new legislators about what's OK and not OK. . .

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

 

Today’s fun video: Stewart take on Syria

Jon Stewart returned to the Daily Show this week, and it didn't take long before he was smacking the Obama Administration over Syria.

“Big Brother” arrives downtown, wants your quarters

Over the last month or so, high tech “smart” parking meters have appeared in downtown Spokane, equipped with coin slots and credit card readers.

But yesterday, workers began installing sensors that will detect when a car comes and goes, zeroing out the meter when it leaves and beginning a countdown when it parks. Though the technology will also allow people to add a few extra minutes from afar via a smartphone app, the sensors have caused a stir among parkers.

In an earlier story, two members of the City Council referred to the sensor technology as “Big Brother,” but both said they supported the new meters.

The sensors don't look like much. They're just simple grey boxes strapped to the meter's post. But parkers beware: They're watching you. 

WA pot rules, by the numbers

Rules for legal recreational marijuana in Washington

3 Number of licenses to grow, process or sell marijuana allowed for any person or company

8.25 The average amount of marijuana, in grams, per adult that would come from the allowable crop of 40 metric tons.

50 The percentage of licensees the board estimates will go out of business in their first year

334 Stores that could be licensed to sell marijuana in the state; 18 could be in Spokane County

1,000 The distance, in feet, a marijuana story must be from a school, park or day care center, by the “common path of travel”

2 million Total area, in square feet, allowed for growing marijuana in state. No licensee could plant more than 30,000 sq. ft., or about two-thirds of an acre

 

For the story on today's Washington State Liquor Control Board's tentative approval of new rules, scroll down to next item.

Legal marijuana likely available next June

OLYMPIA — Anyone waiting to legally buy recreational marijuana in Washington will have to wait about nine months longer.

Revised regulations given tentative approval Wednesday for a system to license, inspect and track the drug would probably get the first lawfully grown and processed marijuana into state-licensed stores by June 1, some 20 months after voters legalized it with Initiative 502.

For those a bit bummed about the wait, this may be a bit of consolation: There could be 334 stores operating by then, as many as 18 in Spokane County.

But only if cities and counties that have adopted moratoria on marijuana businesses within their boundaries drop their objections.

The Washington State Liquor Control Board approved another round of changes to regulations it has been crafting since last December to grow, process and sell marijuana. It will hold hearings in early October in Spokane and Seattle, and if nothing else comes up, give the 43 pages of rules a final OK on Oct. 16.

 The proposed rules limit the overall size of the state’s marijuana crop, the number of licenses anyone can hold and amount of the drug the licensees can have on hand. . .

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, click here to continue inside the blog.

Cowan to challenge Baumgartner in 6th

The head of a local movie production company said he will challenge an incumbent senator in Spokane’s 6th Legislative District next year.

Democrat Rich Cowan, chief executive officer of North by Northwest, said Tuesday he will run against Republican Sen. Mike Baumgartner, contending the incumbent’s views on some issues are too extreme for the district.

One of his main goals if elected, Cowan said, would be to find a way to complete the North Spokane Corridor, a roadway that has been discussed for more than a half century and under construction for more than a decade. . .

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

Feds may be struggling on coal port study

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is trying to figure out a way to make its narrow environmental study for a proposed coal port in Washington fit together with the state's study of the global effects of mining and burning that coal.

The Corps had scheduled a press conference this morning to explain its plans for the Environmental Impact Statement on a proposed coal port at Cherry Point, near Bellingham. At the last minute, however, Muffy Walker, chief of the Corps' regional branch in Seattle, said they weren't quite ready to say anything because of need for “some coordination above the regional level.”

The higher-ups hadn't quite decided whatever it is they want to say.

Earlier this summer, the Corps announced it would conduct its EIS process under the narrow structure of the National Environmental Policy Act, focusing on Cherry Point and the surrounding land and water. The state said, however, it would conduct its State EIS with a much broader scope. Washington wants to look at the effects of mining the coal in Wyoming, transporting it by train through many of the state's cities and towns, hauling it out of the Puget Sound and across the Pacific to China, where it will be burned and possibly contribute to global warming. 

Spokane is among the cities facing increased traffic from more coal trains.

Business and labor groups that support building of the ports say the Corps is taking the right approach and the state is setting a dangerous precedent by ordering such a far-reaching study. Environmental groups opposed to the project support the state's approach. 

Get blog updates by email

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.

Latest comments »

Read all the posts from recent conversations on Spin Control.

Search this blog
Subscribe to this blog
ADVERTISEMENT
Advertise Here