Did you know Washington state has really over-crowded schools compared to the rest of the country? We rank 47 out of 50 in classroom size (suck it California, Oregon and Utah). While this initiative doesn't actually pay to hire more teachers and build more classrooms, it does tell the state legislature, "Hey, find some money to hire more teachers and build more classrooms!" It's a message from the voters that the current situation ain't good enough.

As a side note, while researching this initiative and browsing the National Education Association's website, I discovered that public school teachers in Washington state aren't paid all that well. The average public school teacher in Washington now makes almost 9% less (in "constant dollars") than they did 10 years ago. That ranks 45th in the nation...tied with Georgia.

So after we send a message to Olympia that we'd like our state's class sizes reduced, maybe we can ask our legislature to throw the teachers a couple of bucks.


As you might imagine, Washington state does not have the loosest gun laws in the nation. We're not exactly New York City, but we're not good ol' Mississippi either. We're somewhere in between, and that's probably a good reflection of Washington residents' views about gun regulations.

This initiative would essentially repeal our state's background check laws, and replace them with the national standard. It seems counterintuitive that the pro-gun lobby, which leans heavily to the Right, would eschew state standards for Federal ones (especially while a Muslim Socialist from Kenya is President). But the national standard for gun background checks is looser than that in Washington state, so apparently when it suits your agenda, "states rights" can go to hell.

The fact is we need tighter gun laws and stronger background checks (see below), not looser ones as imagined by Initiative 591.


Why does every right wing website look like the cyber equivalent of a ransom note? I visited a bunch while researching this Initiative. Ever heard of Second Amendment Sisters? Their website is an abomination. They oppose I-594, as does just about every other gun-totin' organization in the country.

Initiative 594 would close what's called the "gun show loophole", which currently allows gun sales at gun shows to be executed without criminal background checks. Furthermore, this loophole extends to the Internet. Apparently any ol' crazy-ass criminal in Washington state can buy a gun online! Say what?

There are a ton of exceptions to the background check (maybe too many), like transferring a gun between family members and loaning a gun for self-defense, so this seems like the bare minimum standard our state should have to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous criminals and the mentally ill.


First, this is an advisory vote, which means it's non-binding and the results of which will not change any law. We do this because our village idiot, Tim Eyman, sponsored an initiative back in 2007 that required advisory votes on tax increases that were not subject to citizen referendum. Or something like that.

So the state Senate and House have already voted on this bill. It passed the Senate unanimously and the House by a fairly wide margin.

The bill is 72 pages long, so forgive me for not reading the whole thing, but it basically changes the classification of marijuana from an agricultural commodity, subject to tax breaks, to one that is non-agriculture and can be taxed. Basically the state government wants to sell you weed, mark up the price and buy stuff with your money, which is basically what all drug dealers do. Sounds good to me.

Side note: One of the House members voting Nay on this bill (apparently not wanting her weed taxed) was Representative Stonier, which seemed appropriate.


Hey, another advisory vote! This one involves Native American tribes and property taxes. Apparently some tribes in Washington state own property off their reservations. Currently they pay property taxes on these holdings, but this bill allows them to be exempt from property taxes, putting them on par with state and local governments.

I read some stuff about people bitching that the Muckleshoots own the Four Season's Hotel in Seattle, so therefore won't pay property taxes on it and the rich are getting richer and the white man is getting screwed and Obama, Obama, Obama. But it turns out that the Muckelshoots are minority owners of the Four Seasons and the bill explicitly states that exempted properties must be "owned exclusively by the tribe," so I'm calling BS on these Teabaggers.

Anyhow, it's an advisory vote, so no one cares. And it has a 2020 sunset clause, so even if someone does care, the law can be repealed in a few years.


Okay, let's be honest, Frank Chopp is going to win this race. In a head-to-head primary in August with the same two candidates, Chopp beat Jess Spear by almost 60%. That's a butt-kicking (see Jim McDermott, below). That we're re-doing this election in the General is sort of bizarre, but I figure if the state can rerun an election from August, I can rerun the Doug's Voter's Guide statement from the same election...

"Chopp has represented the 43rd in the House since 1995, but I'm not sure he knows that. Since 2002, Chopp has been Speaker of the House, and that's where his power and passion have seemed to reside for the past several years. Chopp needs to remember that he doesn't represent Olympia, he represents the most liberal legislative district in the state.

Chopp likes to blame obstructionist Republicans for not passing more progressive legislation in recent years (things like a high-earner income tax and long-term funding for public transit) and indeed the Republicans do currently have a tenuous majority in the State Senate and are obstructing some more progressive legislation from passing. But Democrats controlled the House, Senate and Governor's mansion from 2005 until 2012, during which time our tax structure got more regressive, hitting the middle class hard.

Is Jess Spear a better choice? At this point I have no idea. She represents the same Socialist Alternative Party (ohhhh, scary!) that new Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant does, and I think Sawant is doing a fine job of rattling cages at City Hall. Perhaps Spear can do the same in Olympia.

At the very least, a good showing by Spear in the primary will get Chopp's attention and maybe spark a good debate running up to the November general election*. Chopp needs to remember that he works for us, the residents of the 43rd District, not the Democratic Party in Olympia."

*Uh, that didn't really happen...



Jim McDermott's vote tallies in his last five elections look like the results of my 9th Grade Spanish exams: 80%, 82%, 84% 79% and 81%. In high school, that's scraping by with a B-minus. In politics, that's an ass-whooping!

So who is McDermott's fodder this time around? A guy named Craig Keller, who in the voters' pamphlet lists "even picked apples one fall" as part of the professional experience qualifying him to be your US Representative. This seems like a weird thing to list, until you read his website and realize Keller really, really doesn't like immigrants. And who picks most of our apples in Washington state? Immigrants! Apparently Craig's all like, "We don't need immigrants, I can pick all the apples!"

Jim McDermott is our Congressman For Life. I know that annoys some people, but the fact is when it comes to policies dealing with health care, the environment, clean energy, foreign wars, civil liberties and labor, he well-reflects the values of his constituents.

Keep McDermott in Congress, and Keller in the apple orchard.



Eddie Yoon sounds rad. He's argued two cases before the US Supreme Court, he was the first Korean-American attorney in the Pacific Northwest, he played football for Jack Elway at PLU, and if he wins this election he will donate nearly half his salary to charity. Alas, he will not win this election. He's not rated by any major judicial committees and he is listed as "Refused to Cooperate" in his rating for the King County Bar Association. Also, he lives in Seoul, South Korea, so would have a super long commute.

Charles Johnson has sat on the State Supreme Court since 1991. He's endorsed by a wide-array of organizations: including Democrats, non-crazy Republicans, cops and Labor, and is listed as "Exceptionally Well Qualified" by most major judicial organizations. And he climbed Mt Townsend, elevation 6280', this past January, which is also rad.


John "Zamboni" Scannell has an amazing beard. Unfortunately an amazing beard does not qualify a person to sit on our State Supreme Court. The King County Bar Association and Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys list him as "Unqualified" for this position.

Debra Stephens does not have a beard, but is listed as "Exceptionally Well Qualified" by the above (and other) judicial organizations, and is endorsed by Democrats, Labor, women's organizations, cops, teachers, judges...and probably your barber


Ugh, I'm not excited about either of these candidates. Philip Tavel's strongest point is his campaign slogan, "Give the Gavel to Tavel" (clever!). Mark Chow's strongest point is that his parents owned Ruby Chow's, the first Chinese restaurant in Seattle outside of Chinatown (history!).

Chow is the incumbent and has had a couple of minor ethics violations while sitting on the bench. This isn't too big of a deal, but pair that with the less-than-exemplary company he keeps (Bobbe "0.227" Bridge, Anne "You Can't Arrest Me" Bremner, and Ed "Moron" Murray) and he's not the kind of judge I want on the bench.

Unfortunately Tavel isn't any better. He's listed as "Not Qualified" by the King County Bar, so despite the clever slogan, I can't back him either.


C. Kimi Kondo is the Presiding Judge of the Seattle Municipal Court. On her campaign website she has a Message to Seattle Residents, the very first paragraph of which boasts, "As the SMC presiding judge, I provided oversight for the SMC budget of $27.8 million in 2013. The court collected $44.5 million in criminal and traffic penalties for the city treasury, which is a direct outcome of court operations."

I know that courts need a budget to operate, but bragging about how much cash you raked in should not be the first message you give to Seattle voters. For-profit "justice" leads to things like clueless police officers citing bicyclists for not giving hand signals, even though the Seattle Municipal Code states explicitly that cyclists don't have to signal when changing lanes unless it's safe to do so, and didn't you know, Officer David M. Ogard, that a cyclist was killed here just last week, and, really don't you have better things to do, like maybe write a ticket to one of the dozens of cars I see driving through Seattle every single day without signaling, or...

Oops, I digress. Anyhow, Kondo's message to the voters left a bad taste in my mouth.

Kondo's opponent, Jon Zimmerman, certainly doesn't have the experience or endorsements that she has, but he's served as a Pro Tem Judge for three years, and has provided representation to under-served communities like immigrants, the poor and the elderly. He also has focused on the "zealous representation of people who have been cited for traffic offenses." I hope this includes bicyclists.


Fred Bonner (not to be confused with WKRP actor Frank Bonner) has sat on the Seattle Municipal Court for 25 years. During that time he seems to have accomplished some good stuff, like setting up a community court that allowed some offenders to work on community projects while also giving them access to social services. But as of late, he's been a bit of a slacker, missing a lot of meetings and not working full-time. He, too, "Refused to Cooperate" with the King County Bar Association's candidate ratings.

Damon Shadid is rated as "Exceptionally Well Qualified" or "Qualified" by just about everyone. He's been a criminal defense attorney, immigration lawyer and judge pro tem in district and municipal courts. He's also the brother of the late Anthony Shadid, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who was both shot and kidnapped while reporting for the New York Times in the Middle East over the past decade, so Damon's got some ballsy bloodlines



Holy crap, could local politics get any more confusing? Not only are we voting on competing measures that basically fulfill the same goal, we're also voting on whether or not we should even be voting on these competing measures. And even if you say, "No, we should not be voting on these competing measures," you can still vote on which competing measure you'd rather enact. What?

To make it worse, both measures concern little kids and their education, and who wants to vote against that? Nobody. But you have to. So which one?

As far as I can tell, Prop 1A is a bottom-up, grassroots approach to funding early education. Parents and teachers set the agenda. Prop 1B is top-down, the Seattle City Council and Mayor set the agenda. Count me in for Prop 1A on this count. But...

Prop 1A is filled with unfunded mandates, basically saying, "Hey, the money's already there, we just need to find it."
Prop 1B is fully-funded via a property tax levy of about $45 a year for the average Seattle home. That's not much to pay and I don't like unfunded mandates, so count me in for Prop 1B on this count.

With no clear winner, I'm going with my gut. 1A pays teachers a reasonable wage and helps more poor families get their kids into early education programs. 1B is endorsed by our idiot mayor and the conservative flank of the city council.

VOTE 2, 1A

The '90s in Seattle were awesome: grunge shows at the RKCNDY, Sonics games at the Coliseum, stiff drinks at the Frontier Room and biennial votes on the monorail. Well, the RKCNDY is now a SpringHill Suites, the Sonics are in Oklahoma City and the Frontier Room is a yuppie wasteland serving watery cocktails.

The '90s are gone, and even though I supported the monorail every time we voted on it way back then, let's have some respect and let the dream of it finally die.


Transit funding in this region is a mess. It is way too reliant on volatile revenue sources like the sales tax, and as a result, when economic times are tough, bus routes get cut. And so with sales tax revenues down during the recession, 45 bus routes in Seattle were scheduled to be reduced or eliminated in 2015. But then the economy rebounded, revenues increased and the county realized that they could indeed fund these previously doomed routes. For now.

In the meantime Proposition 1 was unveiled. It is a Seattle-only funding source for bus routes that serve Seattle. It does not do much to improve revenue volatility. It still ties some of the funding to the sales tax (a 0.1% increase), while throwing in a less volatile (yet somewhat regressive) vehicle license fee of $60 (with a $20 rebate for low-income individuals), but most importantly it is Seattle residents funding Seattle transit.

Prop 1 is not perfect, and its funding's volatile and regressive nature give me pause. But with the city growing as quickly as it is, and with more people and businesses moving here each day, we need reliable bus service now more than ever.