The Spokesman-Review


Smart Bombs: Spokane’s Mike Fagan wrestles with alter ego

Spokane City Councilman Mike Fagan was sporting a “Let Voters Decide” T-shirt in a photo that ran in Thursday’s edition of this newspaper. Did he decide to be consistent and allow two proposed initiatives to be placed on the ballot? Did his citizen activist colleague, Tim Eyman, persuade him to drop his “father knows best” attitude?

Because Fagan is part of an outfit called Voters Want More Choices, what choice does he have? Well, there’s always the political two-step, and it looks like he’ll go with that.

Citizen Fagan is pushing a statewide voter initiative while Councilman Fagan may block two local ones from getting on the city ballot. It’s similar to the dance he performed in calling Gov. Jay Inslee a naughty name. That was Citizen Fagan, not Councilman Fagan.

Maybe he should get another T-shirt to go along with the two hats he wears. How about one with this slogan: “Voters Want My Choices.”

Fagan explains this contradiction by saying that in his City Council role he has a duty to be a careful manager of public money. Meanwhile, as a citizen activist, his role is to block the arrival of those funds. Apparently in this bizarro world, victory is declared when there is no public money to manage.

Councilman Fagan believes that the two city initiatives – which he just happens to oppose – are unconstitutional, and so the city could be dragged into costly legal challenges. He may well be right. But Citizen Fagan has pushed a half-dozen or so initiatives that were inevitably ruled unconstitutional. Each challenge cost the state considerable cash.

One of the drawbacks of single-issue activists is that they can mess with government without having to clean up. So it’s karmic to watch a citizen activist/councilman with a mop and a pail.

Follow the science. A federal judge recently throttled the Obama administration for playing politics with emergency contraceptives. Progressive politicians are supposed to follow the science in such matters, but here was Obama making a political choice to avoid getting sideways with Americans who have a moral objection to preventing pregnancy after sex.

It gets even stranger, because U.S. District Judge Edward Korman was appointed by President Ronald Reagan. Nonetheless, he castigated the Obama administration for forcing girls under 17 years old to have a prescription. Women older than that can buy the drug, commonly known as Plan B, without consulting a doctor. The drug is most effective if taken within the first 24 hours after intercourse. The age limit was adopted to appease social conservatives, but there is no medical basis for it.

This issue has been a political hot potato at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration ever since the manufacturer asked whether the drug could be sold over the counter. The scientists at the FDA backed the request, but political appointees have always stood in the way. I wrote an editorial about this seven years ago, noting that the FDA had approved 67 of 68 applications for the over-the-counter sales of drugs from 1994 to 2004. The only one it denied was Plan B.

Some people believe emergency contraception is a form of abortion, but this is not an established scientific fact. What the drug does do, if taken shortly after intercourse, is prevent pregnancy, which limits the number of abortions and heads off all of the negative consequences of teen motherhood. About 80 percent of teen pregnancies are unwanted. The number of teen pregnancies has declined over the years, but the U.S. rate is still higher than in most developed countries. One reason is that our leaders are willing to kowtow to those with a political view of the vital role of contraception.

Obama once noted that it was “common sense” to prevent the sale of Plan B “alongside bubble gum or batteries.” But Korman overturned the 2011 ruling of U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to bar over-the-counter sales to girls under 17, saying her arguments made no sense because the FDA had recommended wider use.

So will the president fight this ruling or evolve? Stay tuned.

Associate Editor Gary Crooks can be reached at or (509) 459-5026. Follow him on Twitter @GaryCrooks.

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