July 1, 2012 in City

Spin Control: Political force is strong in this one

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Politicians are always looking to expand their base, even when they divide the electorate into different groups. Business owners. Union members. Blue collar workers. Soccer moms. Seniors. College students.

John Waite is offering some political training next week to a segment he believes is generally uninvolved, and as such, often underrepresented in politics: geeks.

As in techies or Trekkies, guys and girls with a fondness for sci-fi or fantasy or comic books or computer gaming or math bowl or chess club or any of a number of activities that tend to make them deficient in sunshine-giving Vitamin D.

Waite, a sometime candidate and longtime owner of Merlyn’s Science Fiction and Fantasy Store, is holding a forum Tuesday he’s calling “From Star Wars to the State House: Getting geeky with politics.” He’ll be joined by Spokane City Councilman Jon Snyder, who has a dual interest in connecting with whoever shows up. They could be his constituents; they also could live in central Spokane’s 3rd Legislative District, where he’s running for an open state House seat.

Himself a confirmed sci-fi and fantasy fan from way back, Waite likes to look at politics as a way to see different possibilities, which, after all, is what the masters of those fiction genres have done for decades. He worries that his fellow geeks don’t pay much attention to politics and generally don’t participate enough in it. When they do, they’re often out of their element.

They may not be as far out of the mainstream as they think, or as far as the rest of us believe, he adds, when one considers the popularity of HBO’s “Game of Thrones” or the movie “The Hunger Games.”

Like any other interest group, geeks need to understand how things at City Hall, in Olympia or in Washington, D.C., affect their lives, Waite said. They need to understand where jobs come from, and what has to happen to help them if they don’t have one.

“When you want something to happen, you just can’t sit back and watch. You have to be proactive,” he said.

It’s a lesson that many other groups that do influence politics – some might argue too much – learned long ago. The session, which starts at 7 p.m. at Merlyn’s, 19 W. Main Ave., is being held a week before the deadline to register to vote in the Aug. 7 primary.

“I’m interested in bringing politics to regular people. I’m just starting with this group,” he said.

They’ll be welcoming nerds, too, since Waite says the distinction between nerds and geeks is a term of art that changes from time to time. Doofuses and dorks may have to wait for another session.

They were so sure

There was a wide range of reaction among Washington politicians to Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act. Here’s an example of how wide:

Democrat Jay Inslee, who voted for the law as a congressman and now wants to be Washington’s next governor, insisted he wasn’t surprised by the ruling: “I always believed this was constitutional.”

That would seem to make him significantly more confident than the president.

Republican Michael Baumgartner, a state senator who voted against bills to set up and expand a health benefit exchange this year and last – and wants to be Washington’s next U.S. senator – was surprised: “Today, the Supreme Court did something none of us expected – they held that the Affordable Care Act is not in violation of the Constitution.”

Baumgartner apparently never talked with Inslee.

On state salaries

The Spokesman-Review updated its searchable list of annual salaries for state employees last week, and as usual, the top salaries went to coaches for the major sports at the two biggest universities. And as usual, the state’s chief executive is pretty far down the list.

We always include the caveat that salaries for the athletics departments in those schools don’t come from taxpayers, but from other revenue. But the list always reminds us of a quote attributed to George Herman Ruth in 1930, when the Babe was asked to justify his salary being higher than President Herbert Hoover’s: “I had a better year than he did.”

Ruth was hitting homers and the country was in a recession, so there was no arguing there.

It may be possible for Steve Sarkisian, Lorenzo Romar and Ken Bone to make that case in comparison to Gov. Chris Gregoire, who had to deal with a protracted budget fight in a recalcitrant Legislature. But WSU football coach Paul Wulff and UW football defensive coach Nick Holt? Don’t think so.

A link to the searchable list is at spokesman.com/ spincontrol.

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