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Opinion >  Column

Spin Control: Some mentions – honorable and dishonorable – for 2019

2019 might go down in history as the year that a Washington governor ran for president for a while before giving up, the year the Legislature finished its budget on time or the year a political novice beat a City Council veteran for the job of Spokane mayor.

Then again, it might be completely forgotten as soon as 2020 starts, thanks to the presidential race. So before that happens, Spin Control wants to mark the highlights and low lifes of 2019, with mentions both honorable and dishonorable.

The Don Quixote Award to Jay Inslee, who tried to run for president by tying everything to climate change. He jumped into the race in March and got good reviews in the national political press but barely registered on the public opinion polls and was out in August. He got a few zingers in against Trump in the Democratic debates before the third Democratic debate. Award comes with a windmill to tilt at while he runs for his second choice: a third term as Washington governor.

The Bernie Madoff Medal for bad investment strategy is hard to assign to any single entity. Business groups made many mistakes in local races, but one of the worst returns on investment in a political campaign was by the Washington Realtors Association PAC with its independent spending of $252,638 in the Cindy Wendle council president race, or $7.73 per vote. Yes, it was close, but close counts in H bombs and hand grenades, not elections. And yes the Realtors did back a winner in the Spokane mayor’s race, but when all the votes were counted, the makeup of the new elected city government is pretty much the same as the old. Comes with a deed to on ocean front property in Nebraska.

A Gold Star for the best decision of 2019 goes to the Washington Supreme Court justices who gave the public an early Christmas present with their Dec. 20 ruling that legislators are subject to the state’s Public Records Act, just like other elected officials in cities and counties across Washington. Legislators are early favorites for a Madoff Medal in 2020 if the trial court levies high costs and fees for not following the law. Those would go on top of the $350,000 of taxpayers’ money they spent for private lawyers in their attempt to play defense.

The Galloping Unicorn Statuette, for most steadfast pursuit of a mythical situation, to Smart Reforms for a Better Spokane and its campaign to prevent the city of Spokane from enacting an income tax. Considering Spokane doesn’t levy a tax state law says it can – namely, a local business and occupation tax – it seems pretty far-fetched to think it would impose an income tax, which is at best legally questionable and at worst unconstitutional. But given its success at the polls, the group might consider a charter amendment to prevent the City Council from placing a tax on Sasquatch.

The Mr. Yuck Award, for the legislative action most likely to make you queasy, to the new law against eyeball tattoos, which the Legislature banned this year. The practice is unhealthy and dangerous as well as just plain icky, but even supporters couldn’t produce an instance of it ever happening anywhere in the state. Comes with a coupon for a free lunch, in case thinking about poking and dyeing your eye makes you lose the lunch you just had.

A Red Badge of Courage to legislators who agreed to end the personal exemption parents could claim to keep their children from being vaccinated for measles, mumps and rubella. Yes it is a half measure, because personal exemptions still exist for some other vaccinations. But lawmakers who voted “yes” still had to buck pressure from vocal constituents, including one person who drove around the Capitol Campus for hours at a time, blaring loud music through speakers to attract attention to anti-vax signs and other screeds that popped up through the sunroof.

The Super Chicken Citation, named for the person who most personifies the “He’s everywhere! He’s everywhere!”, tagline from the kids cartoon character, to initiative hawker turned gubernatorial candidate Tim Eyman. In the closing weeks of the year, hje seemed to have a made-for-media event about every other day about legally embattled Initiative 976, which allowed him to mention his 2020 campaign. Because Eyman shows a fondness for tee shirts with slogans, the back of this citation will feature a warning to pin on his shirts that says “Danger: Don’t get between me and a television camera.”

The Jubilation T Cornpone Award, named for the character in Li’l Abner cartoons famous for bad strategies that snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, to the supporters of Affirmative Action, as represented in Initiative 1000. They managed to push it through the Legislature in the 11th Hour. But opponents quickly gathered enough signatures to put it before voters with Referendum 88, and seemed to steal the political momentum as I-1000 supporters split over who should represent the cause and were caught in questions of who should pay for the signatures gathered on I-1000. In the end, Affirmative Action was rejected by a margin of 21,557 votes out of more than 1.9 million cast.

Cornpone Award Honorable Mention goes to the Keep Washington Rolling campaign, which spent $5 million and had endorsements from business, labor, local government officials, state leaders – and still managed to fail in their effort to beat Initiative 976.

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