Ballot Guide 2016

No time for clever subtitles

Oof! I’ve been busy. Startup life is a lot of work. A toddler is a lot of work (even if my partner does the biggest share). But I also decided to get involved in politics more directly than writing my reps and started going to the 37th legislative district Democrats meeting, started volunteering for the Washington Coordinated Campaign and Hillary for WA, became a precinct committee officer (PCO), and then keep adding stuff to it.

So while I’ve been keeping up with politics, I haven’t really felt like prioritizing blogging. So here’s my ballot guide / endorsements. I don’t see why only newspapers or cheeky alt weeklies should have all the fun. If you’re here, you like reading me or at least hate-reading me, so maybe you want to know why I’m voting how I am. Plus, it forces me to think about each race carefully in order to maybe write something pithy and humorous. Even if you’re not in Washington, you might enjoy hearing about our state-wide initiatives! Those are always just spectacular (not as spectactular as California).

Skip to:

Way, way, way down ballot.

Unless you live fairly close to me, this part of your ballot is going to be fairly different. This is where the city and county stuff goes as well as a bunch of judges. Actually the last thing on my ballot are some regional ballot initiatives, but I’m leaving the juicy stuff to the end. Anyway, here we go!

District Court

West Electoral District Judge Position No. 1

I actually met the only candidate running for this position, Lisa Paglisotti. The judge candidates are very together and most of the good ones seem to go visit the legislative district Democrats meetings, so I saw her at the last 37th meeting. Anyway, she’s unopposed, she’s well rated (“exceptionally well qualified”) by all the bar associations, has endorsements from most of the district democrats, and several other groups as well as a really long list of judges. I’m kind of wondering if there is some back story since she’s running unopposed, but this news article says they were appointed and then have to run for election. So I guess just no one else filed? Anyway, vote for Lisa Paglisotti!

West Electoral District Judge Position No 4

Another unopposed judge. So, to tell the truth, I prefer the system I’ve seen in other states where judges are appointed and we just vote to retain a judge. That seems to me to put the right emphasis on accountability without requiring judges to campaign. But maybe I’ll learn more about why we do it this way in Washington as I get more involved in the 37th. Vote for Gregg Hirakawa (he also was appointed at the same time as Paglisotti).

King County Superior Court

There are a lot of positions open here and these are all contested. Positions No. 14, 26, 31, 44, 52 and 53 are all on my ballot. Of the candidates, I’ve met (at LD meetings) David Keenan (running for 26), Eric Newman (running for 44) and Anthony Gipe (running for 52). My LD endorsed Keenan and Newman and Gipe but also Nicole Gaines Phelps (14), Helen Halpert (31), and Mariane Spearman (53). That covers all these positions. Keenan in particular was a good sport. We had a short conversation about why we have elections of judges at all which given I was really tired at the end of a long day, was waiting for the LD meeting to start and forcing myself to socialize, I no doubt came off a bit rude. He was completely unfazed and had a good short statement about accountability. He of course is endorsed by baically every organization or individual that matters, so definitely vote for David Keenan. I’ve no doubt if I’d had conversations with the other 37th endorsed candidates, I would have good impressions, so I’ll be voting that LD slate. Eric Newman is also a volunteer attorney at El Centro de la Raza which is the organization that runs my daughter’s pre-school, so done and done.

Court of Appeals, Division No 1, District No 1

Michael Trickey is unopposed for this position. He was appointed in 2014 and then elected, so this is a re-election of a judge who seems perfectly reasonable and doesn’t have any controversies, which seems like what you want in a judge.

Middle Ballot

State Supreme Court

The State Supreme is a bit more contentious sometimes, but mostly we’re asked to consider re-electing a standing justice against some challenger. Two of the positions, 1 and 5, have incumbents Mary Yu and Barbera Madsen with challengers I kind of shrug at. Neither of them seem like bad justices, so why would I replace women with some white dudes (and one a prosecutor, yuck)? My LD endorsed Charlie Wiggins for the third seat (6) against Dave Larson. In this case, Wiggins has significant experience in a higher court (court of appeals and superior court), while Larson’s main experience is municipal court. By my experience rules, it’s definitely Wiggins.

Legislative District No 37, Positions 1 and 2

Like the primary, the only options here are Sharon Tomikos Santos and Eric Pettigrew. Their challengers are their usual non-serious candidates. No point in wasting much time here.

Insurance Commissioner

This is the part of the ballot where I mostly start voting straight party ticket because I have no interest in support Republican candidates this year even if they seem reasonable. So vote Mike Kriedler. His challenger is of course someone I decided wasn’t worth voting for in the primary.

Superintendent of Public Instruction

The 37th Democrats endorsed Erin Jones. She was my preferred pick in the primary as well. She came by a meeting and seemed fine. Honestly anyone working in education is kind of hamstrung because of chronic underfunding of public education and the McCleary decision.

Commissioner of Public Lands

Hilary Franz is the Democrat. Done and done. But if that’s not sufficient, she actually has experience in public office (a city council and various regional organizations) while her opponent has never been elected to public office.

Attorney General

The Libertarian candidate (the Libertarian!) advanced to the general to challenge Bob Ferguson, the Democratic party incumbent. I’m obviously not voting for the Libertarian (who writes “absolutely no political experience” in his candidate statement), but good on the Libertarians for running candidates up and down the ballot, unlike some political parties we might name.

State Auditor

Go Pat McCarthy!! It was a kickoff meeting way back in May that got me to start being more involved in local politics. But aside from that, I come back to experience in supporting McCarthy: she has actual experience as an eleted auditor, unlike her opponent who has elected experience, but hasn’t worked as an auditor. His candidate statement also says he’s the only candidate who has “audited, reviewed and improved businesses, hospitals, government agencies, non-profits and collegse”. If this is not an outright lie, it seems intended to mislead since it implies his opponent has never done work as an auditor. Blech. I’m voting for Pat McCarthy who is endorsed by a long list of people and groups politically close to me.

State Treasurer

The top two primary means that the State Treasurer has two Republicans running for it. I think it’s silly this office is partisan but whatever. Both of them actually have relevant experience. I wouldn’t have voted for either in the primary but there’s exactly one distinguishing factor between them that matters. One renounces Trump and the other doesn’t. Their statements to King 5:

Duane Davidson, candidate for Treasurer:
"I was offended by many things Donald Trump has said even before the latest revelation. Obviously, I am now even more disappointed in him as a person and a candidate. I feel more strongly than ever that I need to keep to my promise to not inject politics into the State Treasurer's office. This has been my view from day one of my campaign, and its the core reason of why I am running."
Michael Waite, candidate for Treasurer:
"There is a distinction in the race for Treasurer. I am not voting for Donald Trump. My opponent, Duane Davidson, has said over-and-over in one forum or another that he is going to vote for Trump. "I said a month ago on your show and to other reporters a month before that I will not vote for Donald Trump. I have lost support from Republican organizations because I will not support Trump but that doesn’t matter because this is the right thing to do. I want to be able to look my wife and my daughters in the eye and let them know Trump is just wrong.

Vote for Michael Waite.

Secretary of State

Tina Podlodowski is a former Seattle City councilmember running as the Democratic challenger to Kim Wyman, a Republican. This is another race where normally I would be a little annoyed it’s partisan, but in this case Wyman has lost my trust. She’s refused to reject Trump. There is no place in our elections officials, never mind our top elections official, in supporting bigotry, racism and anti-immigrant positions. It undermines the perception of fairness in our elections. She not only refuses to reject Trump, but her party rejected a state Voting Rights Act intended to increase Latino participation in elections in eastern Washington. Normally I’d be all for someone with more elections experience – Wyman has far more experience in elections than Podlodowski. In any year, just looking at resumes, Wyman would win my vote. But I don’t trust the Republican Party in Washington right now on voting access issues and I don’t trust a Secretary of State that can’t clearly reject the voice of bigotry and voter restrictions coming from her own party.

Lieutenant Governor

Cyrus Habib. Next. Yes, I’m voting straight-ticket. I’m saving time by not spending much time on Lt Gov.

Top of the Ballot

Governor

Jay Inslee! Full disclosure: I’ve given to his campaign and attended events. He has said my daughter is cute and one of his campaign managers tried to track down pictures for us of her dancing on the speakers stage behind him at an event on the last night of the Democratic National Convention. He’s genuinely interested in clean energy and tackling climate change (but see below for exciting initiative action!) He’s kind of geeky-excited when he talks about certain topics. Pretty great.

So to be totally honest, I didn’t know much about his Republican challenger, Bill Bryant, until I watched part of their last debate the other night. Most of it was incredibly staid and adult. But at one point Bill Bryant said he would have zero tolerance for camping on public land while answering a question about homelessness. If you’re not aware, a major issue in Seattle right now is the large numbers of people who do not have regular shelter and have formed various ad-hoc communities in greenspaces, highway underpasses and so on. The police regularly “sweep” them, often destroying or confiscating their belongings. They generally are not “swept” into shelter, but instead have to go find some place else to squat. There is not enough support or shelter for people. Sweeping them does no good and only makes folks living a marginal existence more marginal. Imagine your most important possessions were in a suit case. Think of the things you would need if you wanted to get a job or housing or anything. Now imagine someone just stole your stuff. Yeah.

Bill Bryant’s rhetoric on the topic was gross, dehumanizing and not befitting a person running for public office. Sadly all too many people believe the same way. So I’m voting for Jay Inslee. I was going to anyway most likely, but Bryant was kind of a ‘nothing’ to me in terms of political impact. On paper, when I’d checked his positions previously, he hadn’t seemed too terrible, for a Republican. But nope, nope, NOPE on that dehumanizing homeless people crap. Go Jay. I hope we can keep getting more clean energy and climate mitigation stuff passed if the Democrats retake the State House.

United States Representative, District 9

Re-elect Adam Smith. He’s fine. He does right by his constituents and is a reliably left-center member of the house.

United States Senator

Re-elect Senator Murray! She too is a fine voice and it makes me very happy that Washington has two women senators — as has and will California – what is up with that and how are we so lucky? If every woman running for Senate nationally wins their seat, the Senate will have a record 23 women senators if office at once (and only the third ever woman of color – how sad is that?) Seriously. It’s 2016 and 23 out of 100 would be record breaking?! I swear I will knock some heads if they all do win their seats and some magazine has the gall to publish some “the year of women” cover story.

Yes, yes I did just digress about representation issues rather than talk about Senator Murray’s qualifications. She’s a fine senator. Vote Murray.

Measures, So Many Measures

Okay. To the nitty-gritty! The ballot measures!

Sound Transit Proposition No 1, aka ST3

Sound Transit operates a regional transportation network including heavy rail, numerous inter-city and commute buses and Link light rail. I am a huge fan of public transit. I think we should spend more on it. Sound Transit of course is a big public organization and there’s lots of politics and conflicts between different interests. It’s also, in my opinion, underfunded. It primarily has to rely on sales and use tax levies of incredibly tiny percents over many many years to fund huge capital construction projects (because for some reason transit is really expensive to build here). I imagine most of their staff budget goes to people in accounting and related disciplines just to manage and estimate economic conditions well enough to plan their projects.

Anyway, I support ST3. Read more here. In short it’s a big expansion of the light rail system. I wish it could be better and do more and faster. I don’t at this point believe waiting for something else will actually result in something better. Puget Sound politics don’t work that way.

City of Seattle, Initiative Measure No 124

This measure would obligate that hotels above a certain size to protect hotel workers in various ways including better protections against guests who sexually assault workers, provide better job security in the event of ownership change, improved health care, better working hours and various other things. On the face of it, it’s a really weird little measure. There’s a mandate that hotels keep tracking lists on guests (so that workers who go into rooms can be warned if the guest has had previous complaints against them) which is a bit concerning. The list of areas covered is pretty diverse from work hours and chemical exposure to harassment. It’s hyper local regulation, though Seattle does that a lot. Normally I’d be pretty iffy on this. It’s a long measure which I have not read fully and covers so many areas I’m sure there are places that could be improved a lot. Requiring hotels to keep lists of guests who have complaints against them and actually refuse service (under certain circumstances) seems certain to be challenged successfully in court. It would be funny if it weren’t sad: a hotel would be perfectly within its rights to keep guest blacklists which I’m sure many already do but it seems likely that the city requiring them to do so won’t hold up.

But it’s also supported by most of the democratic party organizations, regional labor organizations, gender justice organizations and several groups representing Latinas and Asian and Pacific Islanders. In Seattle, hotel staff that routinely go into guest rooms — and thus most likely to be subject by abuse by guests — are very often going to be Latina and Asian, often relatively recently immigrated. One part of this measure makes me pause, but the rest of it seems pretty sound. Very few of Seattle’s hotel workers are unionized and have little other way of improving working conditions (have you changed the bedding on 50 beds in a few hours?) So I’ll be voting yes.

King County Charter Amendment No 1, Nonpartisan Prosecuting Attorney

This amendment would convert the office of Prosecuting Attorney to the non-partisan election rules. Candidates don’t declare parties and there are some rules about appointments mid-term. All other King County elected positions are non-partisan. So it’s kind of weird that prosecutor isn’t. Also interestingly, is some Democrats are for this amendment and some are against! The statement in opposition in the ballot is actually co-signed by the chair of the state party! Interesting!

I’m sure there’s some back story. I don’t really care. It’s silly that all the other county offices are non-partisan and this one isn’t. Somehow both the Seattle Times and The Stranger both agree we should vote yes on this one. Good enough for me.

King County Charter Amendment No 2, Gender Neutral Language

This would amend the county charter to use gender neutral language: so “chair” instead of “chairman” or “councilmember” instead of “councilman”. Duh, that sounds like a good idea. Notably no one wrote in oppose it. Really? No one submitted a screed against rampant PC social justice warriors?!

Initiative No 1433: Higher minimum wage, whoop, whoop!!

Seattle is slowing raising the minimum wage. But we can pass it state wide, which would be great. 1433 would eventually raise it to $15/hour (over four years), as well as mandate paid sick leave. Done and done. I do like the initiatives I don’t have to ponder very long.

Initiative No 1464: Campaign Finance Reform

This initiative would allow public finance of candidates’ election campaigns, offering varying amounts of money depending on office and under commitments to limit how much they take privately from single donors. It also creates a system where each registered voter could make three $50 contributions per election to candidates of their choosing. The programs would be managed by the Public Disclosure Commission which already manages financing filings from candidates.

It’s kind of complicated. I’m kind of mixed minds about campaign finance reform in general. I tend towards the belief that the outsized influence of “large donors” in campaigns is a reflection of general inequity in society. I thus tend to support efforts to equalize actors in elections, rather than restrict the behavior of villainized rich people. I am relatively speaking one of those people who can give a lot of money to campaigns, so take that view with a bit of a grain of salt I suppose. Anyway, this measure seems to trend in that direction, giving individual voters “money” to spend on campaigns and providing candidates an alternate revenue source if they limit themselves to lower dollar figure contributions.

The initiative itself is partly similar to a measure that passed locally in Seattle to give similar “vouchers” to give to campaigns. We haven’t started using them so I don’t know how pratical or effective they will be. On paper they seem more interesting than that $3 you can give to the presidential election fund that no presidential candidate has used in like 16 years. But, the League of Women Voters endorses it and that’s a pretty strong recommendation to me. Worth giving this a try.

One interesting side note is this initiative pays for itself by repealing the non-resident sales tax exemption. This is not how I would repeal that tax loophole, but about time. It’s absurd that non-residents from states or provinces (yes Canadians) who happen to not have sales tax can come to Washington and buy a big ticket item and pay no sales tax, even though the sales tax is the primary funding mechanism for the the local government that maintains all the services for the business selling that big ticket item.

Initiative No 1491: Extreme risk protection orders

This initiative seems to create a new kind class of restraining order that restricts someone’s legal access to guns if a court decides they are a significant risk to others. The list of opponents to this measure is very, very short. Some guy, a state senator, a state representative and the NRA. The list of supporters is very, very, very long. The ACLU has taken no position either way but is concerned about due process and privacy issues of those under the order.

This law seems to be attempting to workaround a problem in how restraining orders work. If A gets a restraining order againts B, the court can only take away B’s access to guns if a long list of conditions are met one of which is that B is specifically violently threatening A. That is, there has to be a strong risk that B is going to shoot A. All well and good. What if we have a circumstance where B doesn’t directly threaten A but is threatening, say, A’s extended family? Or is saying they want to go shoot up a public place? Basically we have no way of taking guns away from people who may go on to commit very violent crimes, the kind where after they do, family and friends and acquaintances all talk about the risk signs or how they tried to get attention from the police but there was nothing the police could do because they hadn’t actually done anything yet (just repeatedly threaten it!)

Now you might say, that is as it should be. I’m kind of in the middle here. Pragmatically, it seems like this kind of law could do a lot of good. More abstractly, I worry about taking away someone’s rights without them actually committing a crime. But I’m not sure I want to live in a society where someone can be making repeated threats against themselves or other people but still own or buy guns. It doesn’t really make any sense that we not reduce risk by saying that individual doesn’t need to have a gun for a while (ideally none of us should need guns). Surely it makes more sense to reduce the chance they’ll successfully commit a substantial crime than to let them commit a crime with a gun and then either shoot them on the scene or put them in jail? So I’m going to call this one a yes. It’s not like we’re going to pass much else in the way of gun regulations.

Initiative No 1501: Protecting seniors from fraud and identity theft

So protecting seniors from fraud and identity theft. Sounds great except for the part where it increases the length of prison sentences for some crimes. I’m generally opposed to increasing the number of people we put in jails or lengthening their sentences. But strangely this initiative would also change the Public Records Act to prohibit the release of “sensitive personal information” about in-home caregivers contracted by the state. That kind of gives me pause. What problem is that trying to solve? Is there a criminal conspiracy that makes public records requests to get names, addresses, phone numbers, etc. of state elder care workers? And what do they do with that information? Why is this even in an initiative that increases penalties for various fraud and theft related crimes against elders? Seriously why is this in this initiative at all? The argument against says that this is some kind of ploy by the SEIU to prevent caregivers from learning they don’t have to pay dues. The Stranger says there’s an anti-union group that’s been contacting workers using public records requests to tell them they don’t have to pay dues presumably in order to eventually break the union. So yuck, the union responds by trying to carve out weird special rules for some state funded workers. I am going to have to go with The Stranger and say this initiative doesn’t really make that much sense.

Initiative No 732: Carbon tax

This one is hella complicated. It’s a carbon tax. It’s intended to be a revenue neutral carbon tax by offsetting the projected revenues from the tax by reducing other state taxes — the statewide sales tax by a small amount and the business and occupation tax for manufacturing to almost nothing. It intentionally tries to be revenue neutral to sidestep fights about tax increases so it can focus only on attempting to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The taxes that are reduced are on the one hand regressive and the other somewhat discouraging to manufacturing business. So with that in mind, some useful “background” I’ve read recently:

  • The left vs a carbon tax. How it came to be that many left leaning and environmental groups in Washington oppose this initiative. This may seem like pointless in-fighting, but I think it illustrates a fundamental reality of politics that it’s hard to be right if you can’t form a coalition with the right people to get the job done.
  • A metafilter thread about the above article and the initiative in genera.
  • One big point of contention is whether or not the changes as proposed would actually be revenue neutral or have a large or small budget deficit in a state that isn’t raising enough revenue as it is. An article that gave me a handle on it was one at Sightline.

Interestingly, The Stranger endorsed, but only because the publisher overrode their committee that decides these things. Those against wrote their own piece about why they are against it. It brings up a small bit that really gives me pause. The reduction in the B&O tax for manufacturing means that Boeing would effectively stop paying taxes while not actually paying much in the way of carbon taxes. Oops. Apparently just the decreased taxes on Boeing selling commercial planes would make up the revenue gap.

The Sightline article while clearly intended to convince the reader that the budget gap is no big deal — the state office that does these assessments is argued to have made a bunch of mistakes that reduce the gap to something negligible and within normal variability. But those assessment differences partially come because the authors of the initiative and the state (specifically the Office of Financial Management) disagreed on what parts of the law would mean in practice and thus what gets taxed at what rate. So along with the B&& tax oops, this initiative seems poorly written.

There’s also the fundamental problem that a carbon tax by necessity should encourage reductions in carbon emissions which could mean reductions in revenues (in a state that can ill afford the government losing more revenue). The initiative attempts to workaround this by increasing the carbon tax ($25 per metric ton by 2018) by 3.5 % plus the rate of inflation per year but capped to $100 per metric ton (in 2016 dollars). What happens if the carbon tax no longer brings in equivalent revenue to what the replaced taxes would break in?

But. But. It’s really hard to pass tax measures in Washington. Even though I’m optimistic about the legislature being fully in control of the Democrats next year and thus willing to pass tax increases, I’m not sure they are going to have time to mess with a carbon tax while trying to figure out how to actually fund education and deal with McCleary. Maybe it’s better to hand the state already passed law that does something about carbon emissions and get the Democratic legislature to fix it. Still it would gall to vote yes on something that gives Boeing a massive tax break.

This might be the last one I mark on my ballot before sealing it up.

Initiative No 735: Corporations and Speech

This is … sigh. This is an initiative to “urge” current and future Washington members of Congress to introduce an amendment to the United States Constitution to clarify that free speech rights belong to individual human beings not corporations. If it passes, the Secretary of State would have to send copies of the measure to a bunch of elected officials (as if they don’t already know about it). This is the most pointless of initiatives. The state fiscal impact assessment gamely assesses the financial impact as $335 for the cost of sending a copy of the measure to the folks it has to be sent to. That’s it. No really. Even assuming I agreed with the desired constitutional amendment (I mostly agree with the general idea of corporations not actually being people), this is a giant waste of time and money to get to that amendment. I am voting No in annoyance.

Advisory Vote No 14 House Bill 2768 and Advisory Vote No 15 House Bill 2778

Fuck Tim Eyman. These advisory votes are such a stupid waste of time. Speaking of carbon emissions, how much are caused by these stupid advisory votes?!

Proposed Amendment to State Constitution, State Joint Resolution No 8210: Deadline for redistricting

This makes it so the redistricting proposal be approved 46 days earlier so that it’s out before year end holidays and gets more public feedback. No one seems opposed. Sounds good.

What a snoozer to end the initiatives on. Did you make it? Wake up.

President and Vice President of the United States

I’ve thought about writing piece after piece about what Clinton’s election means to me the last few months. I’ve hit on various framings, maybe triggered by some election news. But I never really had the time or energy (real fact: I just never prioritized it). I’ve been waiting for a woman president since the year Dukakis ran — my dad caucused for him in Iowa — and I was old enough to really understand elections and how the president fits in. I was eight years old.

I’m thirty seven now. I have a fulfilling, stable career. I have a house and cats. A partner who is incredibly supportive and loves me and laughs at my stupid jokes. I have an adorable toddler who figures out things every day and loves me very very much (she said so five times last night). I’ve got a pretty good life. But I’m crying as I type this because a woman is finally going to be president.

A woman is going to be president. A woman I respect and support. She’s worked thru so many challenges and achieved so much. She’s ready to do more.

Anyway, I really am crying while I type this. It means a lot. Here’s a selfie from the morning of June 7, 2016. I was on my way to work, wearing my Women in STEM shirt. The night before the AP had “called” the primary for Clinton, though it had been obvious for at least a month that Clinton would win the primary and thus the first woman ever to have a real chance of winning the presidency. I was feeling triumpant, giddy. Yes, I’m also a little bit goofy.

'Selfie, June 7, 2016'

Yes we can. Go out and vote.