May 21, 2009 in Washington Voices

Eye on Olympia: Farms win ‘buy local’ backing

By The Spokesman-Review
 

OLYMPIA – The next time you’re buying apples, potatoes or cherries, the state wants you to buy locally.

“Next time you shop, look for Washington products or ask your grocer for them,” Gov. Chris Gregoire says in a commercial on the state-backed Heart of Washington Web site. “It’s a delicious way to help support our local farmers.”

What’s good for the farmer is also good for the artist, argues Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens. So he tacked an amendment onto the state’s $3.3 billion construction budget. Any public art purchased as part of those projects, it said, must be made by Washington artists.

Some lawmakers wanted to temporarily do away with the requirement that half of 1 percent of the cost of public buildings go to art. The state has paid for more than 4,600 works of art, worth more than $17 million, at schools, colleges, prisons and office buildings across the state.

Hobbs argued that the money should at least stay in Washington, helping local artists. In addition to 73 people in Seattle and seven in Spokane, the state’s list of 235 artists eligible for public projects includes people in Canada, California, New York City and Chicago. (Interestingly, the list includes five artists from Montana and none from Idaho.)

“This amendment would have shown a skeptical public that we do manage their tax dollars wisely,” Hobbs said.

The reason he says “would” is because Gov. Gregoire vetoed that section of the budget. She said she didn’t want to start a protectionist fight in the art world, particularly if it meant that Washington artists would be discriminated against by other states.

Hobbs argues that it was the wrong decision.

“This veto establishes the public arts program as a sacred cow at a time when vital state services are being slashed and people are losing their jobs,” he said.

Both sides say it really is for the kids

Earlier this week, hundreds of people crammed into Seattle Montlake Community Center to watch the governor sign legislation granting same-sex domestic partners many of the rights of spouses.

The place was crammed with kids. There were strollers, scampering toddlers and a class of fidgeting preschoolers in matching red shirts. Their parents, by and large, were gay and lesbian couples.

Now, the surest way to make a political reporter’s eyes roll is to say that you’re doing something “for the kids.” But in the case of Referendum 71, both sides clearly feel that’s the case.

Same-sex couples want spouse-style legal protections for their partners and children. With equal passion, foes of the changes say that children do best when raised by a mother and father. Citing religious beliefs, they say they don’t want their children to grow up thinking being gay or lesbian is acceptable.

Same-sex couples argue that time is their ally, and the arc of history is bending toward gay and lesbian marriage. Standing in front of a friendly crowd Monday, state Sen. Ed Murray looked into the news cameras and addressed a different audience.

“For those opposed, come meet us and our families,” he said. “We share with you a common love for this state, for this nation, and for their future. … Let’s meet, let’s talk. No conditions.”

Some proponents of same-sex marriage argue, in fact, that the public dialogue spawned by the referendum attempt may help their cause. It gives them a chance, they say, to show themselves as loving, committed couples who want the legal protections of marriage for their children and each other.

“This is a unique opportunity to educate the public,” said Josh Friedes, spokesman for Equal Rights Washington. “I think the opponents of gay civil rights may be making a significant error.”

Picking the right Pepple

State Attorney General Rob McKenna, who’s Dino Rossi’s heir-apparent to run for governor in 2012, only added to the speculation this week when he named longtime political consultant Randy Pepple as his new chief of staff.

Pepple is a former congressional chief of staff and political and PR consultant.

State Democratic Party chairman Dwight Pelz called it a scandal, telling the Seattle Times that hiring a “political operative” with state tax dollars is akin to hiring a campaign manager.

McKenna has not yet said whether he’ll run in 2012.

Millions on the way for construction projects

With little fanfare, Gov. Gregoire recently signed into law the $3.3 billion, two-year state construction budget. It’s 30 percent smaller than the last one, but includes tens of millions of dollars for projects in and around Spokane.

Among the local projects: $27 million to remodel Eastern Washington University’s Patterson Hall, $4.3 million for local YMCA/YWCA construction, $500,000 for work on the county courthouse, $28 million for a chemistry and life science building at Spokane Falls Community College, and much more.

It includes more than $4 million to start work on a new biomedical and health sciences building at Washington State University’s Riverpoint campus in Spokane, as well as a new building at WSU’s Vancouver campus.

Notes from the floor

Lawmakers, who endure long hours of debate over often-dull bills, have made a sport of chronicling the misspeaking of their colleagues. Here are a few examples, compiled by state Rep. Jeannie Darneille, D-Tacoma.

“Mr. Speaker, I’m from Okanogan County and I don’t even know what a bicycle lane is” (Rep. Joel Kretz, R-Wauconda).

“We’re just clipping the hair off the fur ball of government, cutting something that doesn’t work anyway” (Rep. Hans Dunshee, D-Snohomish).

“If I never see another water attorney, it will be too soon” (Rep. Brian Blake, D-Aberdeen).

“The world won’t come to an end this Good Friday afternoon, but we may have some ripping of curtains” (Rep. Judy Warnick, R-Moses Lake).

And, speaking about a “belt-tightening” budget bill, here’s Rep. Gary Alexander, R-Olympia:

“Mr. Speaker, I suggest that we will need to take our pants off. We’ll need to take our pants off and buy a pair that is about three sizes smaller.”

Richard Roesler can be reached at (360) 664-2598 or at richr@spokesman.com. For more news from Olympia, please see www.eyeonolympia.com.

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