Hello Loyal Readers,

It’s that time for another batch of Friday Odds and Ends, all the news that’s fit to print, but not a big enough story to justify its own post. Don’t worry, I know you’ve already skipped ahead to the next paragraph where I hide the first story. It’s okay, I understand. For those still reading the intro, happy Ostara to all my fellow pagans out there and happy Spring Equinox to all the rest.

Kathy Kershner

Kathy Kershner

In the wake of not being appointed to the County Council on Tuesday, Kathy Kershner took to facebook, publishing an email from Councilman Ken Mann where Mann said he would be willing to support her if she promised not to run in 2015. She declined and Mann supported the candidate closer to his values, Satpal Sidhu. Good call.

This story was picked up by the Herald and more hilariously, trumpeted by the coal-PAC SAVEWhatcom. The coal-funded writers there blamed their second favorite boogyman*, Tom Steyer, saying that his hand-picked people denied the “Most Qualified and Conservative Candidate”.

I’m going to spell this out nice and simple for the readers over there at SAVEWhatcom in hopes that it sinks in.

You are not guaranteed a seat on the County Council.

No one is guaranteed a seat on the County Council. Complaining that you aren’t represented is not a valid argument. You need to persuade people why electing someone is a good idea.

Here, try this mental experiment. I live in North Bellingham, yet I am not represented in the State Legislature. No one from my district, the 42nd, shares my values. Do I stomp my foot and demand that they create a special seat just for people in North Bellingham? No. I work hard to try and change people’s mind – to show them that they are not served well by Free Lunch Doug.

Either way, I encourage Kathy Kershner to run for County Council this November against Satpal Sidhu. Both are talented candidates who care deeply about this county and while I don’t agree with Kershner very often, I do believe that everyone should have to compete for their seat.

Heffelmire in Action

Heffelmire in Action (on the right)

Switching gears, remember that State Senator who went on a racist rant in a committee meeting? The one who represents a majority Latino district? His comments drew protests from young community organizer Heather Heffelmire who unfurled a banner in the Senate gallery criticizing him (see right).

Heffelmire is a student at WWU and also their Legislative Liaison, the Associated Students representative responsible for lobbying for their legislative priorities.

The Western Front blasted her protest activities with the alarmist headline “Endangering Carver Funding”, making reference to the much-needed repairs to Carver Gym.

I could not disagree more passionately with the Western Front. When a public official starts using racist terms like when Honeygrove referred to “the negro”, it does not matter if they are writing the budget or not, the public must speak out against offensive behavior.

Heffelmire said it quite eloquently in her response to the Western Front,

I especially knew I had to take action because I have the privilege of having access to Senator Honeyford and to our legislature, something too few people in our state have. I think it’s important that those of us with these positions of power, regardless of what our job title specifies, use our privilege to speak out when others can’t.

The Political Junkie stands with Heather Heffelmire.

Finally, the panic over Seattle’s $15 minimum wage has echoed throughout the conservative media with frantic reports that restaurants were closing in droves. As usual, reality stubbornly refused to comply with conservative’s vision as the Seattle Times found when they actually spoke to restaurant owners.

They thoroughly debunked the claim – so go read their article, it is fantastic and shows that the change in wages will not doom those mom and pop stores, in fact, the extra spending money in customer’s pockets may actually increase business.

That’s it for this week. I will be temporarily out of cell range so commenters, please behave and try to avoid calling each other Hitler for a few days until I can get back and moderate comments. I mean it.

*The conservative’s first favorite boogyman? Lisa McShane or Barack Obama. Or maybe both (photographic proof!)

If you haven’t heard, local Republican party officer Larry Helm bested long-time farming advocate Joy Monjure in the race for Whatom Conservation District supervisor. The race was close, with Helm squeaking by with 86 votes more than Monjure, while 265 ballots were ruled invalid.

Councilman Satpal Sidhu

Councilman Satpal Sidhu

Just twenty-four hours later, Monjure’s fellow legislative candidate, Satpal Sidhu was appointed to the County Council to fill out the remainder of Sam Crawford’s term. This appointment is historic as Sidhu will be the first Sikh member of the County Council, where a century ago the Sikh’s were expelled from this County in a vicious racist riot.

This appointment was made possible by the four solid Democratic votes (Weimer, Mann, Buchanan and Browne), who were swept into office by the record turnout in the 2013 elections. Retiring councilman Pete Kremen also voted for Sidhu while Barbara Brenner, continuing her Kiwi-ish trends, voted for Jim Cozad.

So what does this all mean? How are these two connected? Consider this:

The total number of people voting is rapidly becoming the number one indicator over whether an election goes liberal or conservative.

When more people vote, the vote usually swings towards team Blue. When there are factors that limit participation, the vote goes to team Red.

Returning to the Whatcom Conservation District election. Ballots were not mailed to every possible voter in late October, ballots had to be requested or you had to vote in person in a strange little office in the middle of March. With so many limiting factors, only around 4,000 people voted and the vote went conservative.

You can see this in national trends. Presidential election years bring waves of Democratic legislators while off-years bring conservatives. With the current demographic trends, it is difficult to imagine a Republican taking back the White House in 2016 (although Democrats can always be relied upon to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory . . . see Hillary Clinton circa 2008). However, they will contend with an ever-more conservative Congress.

The national Republican party has tried to exaggerate this effect by implementing draconian “Voter ID” laws to make it more difficult for registered voters to cast a ballot. They close down polling places in poor neighborhoods, limit early voting opportunities and fight tooth and nail against mail-in balloting. In short, they use their positions of power to block people from voting.

You mentioned District Only voting at the beginning of this, Riley, and that was really the reason I clicked on the link. Hold on, imaginary reader, I’m getting there.

Since 2013, Whatcom County conservatives realized they cannot win county-wide when turnout is high. I don’t believe this is actually true, but that is the message they took away from the thumping they received. As a result, they worked hard to elect a Tea Party flavored County Charter Review commission so they could institute district only voting.

As I illustrated in my early post about their efforts, District Only voting will not have a big impact on the ideological make-up of the council. Ken Mann will have a very competitive race in 2017, but again, it depends on turnout. The conservatives have already started thumping the drum, saying they aren’t represented, but if you can only persuade a narrow wedge of the population that your candidate is the best, perhaps you need to examine what your party is doing and saying that is driving away voters.

SAVEWhatcom

SAVEWhatcom

Already, the conservatives have begun to thump the drum, fearing a political future decided by scary things like . . .  gasp . . . students! SAVEWhatcom, the coal-funded political action committee in town, posted this in the wake of Sidhu’s appointment, “No votes went to former County Councilperson Kathy Kershner even though Diatrict 2 (sic) is well known as the most conservative district in the county, and Ms. Kershner was the only conservative who applied to fulfill Coucilperson Crawfords term.”

Judy Kyllingmark commented on that same SAVEWhatcom post, “I hope the charter review members can change the charter so we in Whatcom Co can be represented by people from our own district NOT those voted in by Bellingham (WWU).” Because clearly, it wouldn’t be fair if those living in Bellingham who pay County taxes and were allowed to vote for the people who spend their tax dollars.

The irony here is that District 2 is pretty liberal when it turns out to vote. It elected Barack Obama over Mitt Romney in 2012. With the growing Latino population in Lynden and the growing trend for young families to move to the county, District 2 will continue to become more liberal.

While Conservatives can try to limit the number of people who vote, they will continue to miss out on the big picture: they are losing touch with the general populace. Already polls conducted by national Republicans show that young voters find conservative ideas in general and the Republican brand specifically to be toxic.

SAVEWhatcom and the local conservatives can whine and complain that they aren’t being represented, but to be represented, you have to convince a majority of people that your ideas are worth their vote. Trying to keep people from voting may work in the short term, but it is only delaying the inevitable. Please, consider trying to compete for people’s votes rather than deny them the right to vote.

Hello Loyal Readers,

Back for another sumptuous dose of political news! As always, you can support our efforts by clicking the big ol’ donate button here.

Sen. Andy Hill

Sen. Andy Hill

The Stranger has unearthed emails showing that State Senator Andy Hill (R-Kirkland) is preparing to run for Governor next year against Gov. Jay Inslee. You may remember Sen. Hill as the senator who referred to Democratic volunteers “thugs”, or maybe you remember him as the senator who says he “supports abortion rights” and then votes repeatedly to block the Reproductive Parity Act, or you may just remember him as the guy who wrote our state budget that continues to gut education while giving big giveaways to Oil companies.

The emails, from none other than former Secretary of State Sam Reed (R), were directed to a group of Republican donors and supporters to generate some support for Hill’s run. “I had breakfast this morning with State Senator Andy Hill. I wanted to find out if there is a real possibility of him running for governor. I came away from our breakfast believing that there is a real possibility.”

Closer to home, the Charter Review managed NOT to move forward on the amendment that would cut off funding to the Bellingham Food Bank. Bravo for not screwing over 140,000 residents of Whatcom County that use the Food Bank. James Gibson has done a GREAT job of documenting the activity with the Charter Review Commission in his blog Politics Whatcom.

Long-time City Councilman Terry Bornemann announced that he is running for re-election. From his press release, “he is running for re-election to provide stability, leadership, and historical knowledge of city government to the Council as the city continues to navigate its way into better economic times. He also said he will continue to be a voice for underserved communities.” He already has some competition, libertarian candidate Nicholas Kunkel has announced he is running against Bornemann for the Ward 5th seat.

Rep. Rick Larsen

Rep. Rick Larsen

Finally, Congressman Rick Larsen was in town yesterday. Speaking to the Democratic Women’s Club, he fielded questions about TPP, Job training investments and who would be his pick for President. The most interesting question and response came from Zetta Brecher who asked Rep. Larsen who were the “up-and-comers” in the House.

Larsen cracked a big smile, “Well, Rick Larsen, of course.” He name-checked Rep. Xavier Becarra from California as one of the brightest young minds in the House.

Finally, Sen. Ericksen and Reps. Buys and Van Werven will be at Whatcom Community College at 1pm this Saturday to hold a town hall meeting. If you are feeling feisty, please show up and ask Rep. Van Werven why she voted against testing rape kits (HB1068).

Posted by: sweeneyblog | March 13, 2015

Local Wiccan Church Weighs in on Georgia Religious Bill

When Joshua McKoon, a Republican Senator in the Georgia Legislature, proposed the “Georgia Religious Freedom Restoration Act”, he probably wasn’t expecting comment from the Pagan community.

Sen. Josh McKoon

Sen. Josh McKoon

His bill (SB129), which just passed their Senate and now heads to the House, would direct the government to allow the free exercise of Religion unless there was a “compelling governmental interest” not to. This includes, ” the right to act or refuse to act in a manner that is substantially motivated by a sincerely held religious belief.”

This bill, like many copycat versions around the nation, is aimed at allowing government officials to discriminate against LGBT members. McKoon attempted to pass a similar version last year, along with a measure that would strip drivers licenses from from immigrant women fleeing abusive spouses, earning him national recognition as the “cruelest Republican in Georgia.”

In an attempt to highlight how this religious freedom bill applies to all faiths, not just McKoon’s, the Aquarian Tabernacle Church (ATC) weighed in on the bill, offering their thoughts the measure.  The ATC is the largest Wiccan church (Wicca is a branch of modern Paganism) in North America. They are based out of Index, WA and my wife and I are part of their congregation.

In a letter to the Georgia State Legislature, the ATC outlined some possible impacts,

This new bill will create sweeping changes that will open the doors for the Wiccans within Georgian communities to worship, work, and LIVE their religion to its fullest. The first course of action will be to itemize line by line, with bill precedents, the new rights of the Wiccans in state.[15-23]

The Stone Circle at the ATC

The Stone Circle at the ATC

1: Multi-Partner Wiccan relationships in Georgia (known communally as Polyamorous relationships) will now have legal right to marry. [43-49] Marriage is a religious institution. A uniting of souls before the almighty. It is also a way to legitimize heirs. Many Wiccans live in multi-partner households, and until now have been unable to realize their religious right to marry the partners they are in love with.

Many of these partnerships have children from multiple partners all living under the same roof. SB 129 has now opened the way for those children to all be under family insurance/health plans, as outlined in lines [22-23]. And if lines [34-35] hold true to their intent, then the least restrictive means of enforcing this change, is a simple revision to existing policy.

They go on to outline three other key areas where Wiccans can assert their religious rights, including the growing of herbs and the rights not to submit parts of their bodies to the government, exempting them from breathalyzers, blood tests, urine tests, etc.

This is sweeping news that opens many doors for our brothers and sisters of the Craft. It will be the burden of the government to institute the appropriate policy changes to infrastructure, and the training needed to properly uphold the new rights that Wiccans hold within the new truly religiously free state of Georgia.

The story has been circulated a bit in the pagan community (see here) and a Georgian columnist picked it up (here). I called Sen. McKoon but have not gotten any response yet.

This just goes to show that bills proposed to protect those “asserting religious freedom” often forget that there are hundreds of faiths in the United States, and just as many interpretations of religious freedom.

Tim Sweeney is The Policy Junkie

Tim Sweeney is The Policy Junkie

Another great guest post from The Policy Junkie. If you want to read more by Tim, check out his blog on New Orleans music and culture here

Senator Doug Ericksen’s bill weakening the Washington law, approved by initiative, that mandates alternative energy development passed the State Senate on Monday. But not without a debate on whether the legislature believes human activities contribute to global climate change.

SB 5735 would allow power utilities to meet the alternative energy mandate under Initiative 973, by investing in carbon reduction activities. But most of the Senators who voted for the bill, didn’t agree with the notion that human activities in producing carbon gases are contributing to climate change.

Sen. Ericksen’s bill amends the Energy Independence Act so that electric utilities can earn credit towards the Act’s renewable energy mandate by underwriting other carbon reduction activities, even those unrelated to power generation. The bill also allows the utility to escape the mandate if it spends up to 1 percent of its revenues on carbon reduction activities.

See previous post for more details on the Energy Independence Act and SB 5735.

The bill passed 26 to 23 with Democratic Senators Maralyn Chase (Shoreline), Jim Hargrove (Hoquiam), and Brian Hatfield (Raymond) joining all the Republican Senators except for King County Senators Andy Hill (Redmond), Steve Litzow (Mercer Island), and Mark Miloscia (Federal Way). Self-declared Democrat Senator Tim Sheldon voted for the bill.

Ericksen and Ranker, clashing over Climate Change

Ericksen and Ranker, clashing over Climate Change

But before the final vote, Sen. Ericksen thwarted a Democrat attempt to create an intent section that said “human activity significantly contributes to climate change.”  He successfully offered an alternative intent section that said “human activity may contribute to climate change.”

Despite using “may” instead of “might,” the ensuing debate over the competing intent sections once again highlighted the inability for the State Senate to reach a consensus on the causes of climate change.

Sen. Ranker, who sat on a Governor-Legislative climate workgroup with Ericksen in 2013, seemed noticeably impatient with the Senate’s failure to recognize the role of humans in climate change. “Stop waffling!”

But Ranker wasn’t as impatient as Ericksen who seemed anxious to get past this awkward issue for his caucus and get to the substance of the bill.

On final passage, Senator Cyrus Habib, who proposed the amendment, noted that the title of the bill was to “provide incentives for carbon reduction investments.”  What is the point of investing in carbon reduction activities if humans are not the problem, he asked.

“If it’s not human activity, why have a bill that attempts to reduce carbon?” noted Habib.

Perhaps to undercut a renewable energy mandate that has never been liked by Senator Ericksen and many of his colleagues. Sen. Michael Baumgartner (R-Spokane) made it clear when, speaking for the bill, he said he would rather “gut” the Energy Independence Act.

The Governor’s proposal to install a greenhouse gas cap on major emitters (HB 1314) receives a hearing in the House Appropriations Committee, Thursday at 3:30 p.m. This will be the second House committee to review the bill. The Senate has yet to consider the Governor’s proposal.

Hello Loyal Readers,

Yes, as the title says, the unintentional theme of this Odds and Ends is local Republicans saying terrible things. So let’s dive right in.

State Senator Jim Honeyford (R-Yakima) was speaking in opposition to a SB5752, a bill that would include a racial impact statement with certain bills, in an attempt to address issues where white and minority citizens are facing drastically different enforcement from the same legislation. What did Honeyford say that earned a spot in this list? “I said the poor are more likely to commit crimes, and, uh, colored most likely to be poor.” You can find it at the 50 minute mark here. The wince factor in the room is palpable. Interesting note, Honeyford’s district has one of the highest concentration of Latino voters in Washington.

Locally, the Whatcom County Charter Review Commission pushes for prayer. After Tea Party activists swept the charter review, it has been churning out a slew of bad ideas from the mildly obnoxious (district only voting) to the truly horrifying (cutting off funding the Whatcom Food Bank). Now, they want to open their meetings with an explicitly Christian prayer. Cliff Langley made the request in which he said,

Cliff Langley

Cliff Langley

In this situation of this assembly, groping as it were in the dark to find political truth, and scarce able to distinguish it when presented to us, how has it happened, sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of lights to illuminate our understanding?

In the beginning of the contest with Great Britain, when we were sensible of danger, we had daily prayers in this room for the Divine protection……. Our prayers sir were heard…..To that Providence we owe this happy opportunity. Of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity. And have we now forgotten that powerful Friend ? Or do we imagine that we no longer need His assistance?

I therefore beg leave to move that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this assembly every morning……

Richard May

Richard May

Obviously, Langley is not a big fan of separation of Church and State. Richard May, who leans more Democratic but managed to win a seat even in the conservative wave, had this response,

If a majority of the commission rule that prayer is permissible as part of the official proceeding, then i will ensure that the invitation is open for “other faith’s” prayers to be included… unless the commission wants to go on record that Christianity is the official state religion of Whatcom County. But only Sharia states have an official government religion, right?
I would 100% support a minute of silence during which each commissioner could reconcile whatever they wish.

Finally, the Gateway Pacific Terminal advocates have decided to weigh in on the Conservation District election, where long-time farming advocate Joy Monjure is facing off against Whatcom Republican party officer Larry Helm. The Conservation District helps farmers manage their resources and in the coming struggle over water rights in this community, it could be a key position. Full disclosure, I worked on Monjure’s campaign for State Legislature last year.

The Coal Port advocates sent out a reminder about the race, since their proposal would consume hundreds of thousands of gallons of water, they have a vested interest in the outcome.

Posted by: sweeneyblog | March 2, 2015

BREAKING: Pete Kremen NOT Seeking Reelection

Full Disclosure: I worked for Pete Kremen during his 2011 campaign for County Council against Tony Larson.

After 31 years in public service, County Councilman Pete Kremen is hanging up his golden microphones and not running for reelection this year. Yes, I know, we’ve heard this before when Kremen retired from the state legislature and then again, when he retired as County Executive, but this time it is for good.

Pete Kremen

Councilman Pete Kremen

“My wife has put up with it for many years but since she retired from St. Joes in December, and we want to go traveling. I promised my wife I would retire three elections ago. It’s time I did it.”

Kremen has a long legacy behind him, having shepherded through the Lake Whatcom Reconveyance which converted a third of the land around Lake Whatcom into a County Park. His tenure as County Executive (sixteen years) is the longest in state history.

Kremen spoke fondly of his time on the county council. “I’m loving it. You know, I’m even getting along with Barbara Brenner, who would have thought that would have happened?” Kremen was elected to the 1st District on the County Council in 2011, unseating Tea Party darling Tony Larson.

In honor of his years of service, the Mustache Jokes will take a day off. 

The Policy Junkie takes a closer look at Ericksen’s climate change legislation. You can read his previous articles here.

Tim Sweeney is The Policy Junkie

Tim Sweeney is The Policy Junkie

Senate Republicans have been adept at attacking Governor Jay Inslee’s climate proposal in ways that put them in a good light.

In February, the Senate Republicans proposed a gas tax and transportation budget that generated some positive vibes from all over the state, given their general reluctance for tax increases. But as usual, the devil is in the details. The transportation proposal would take away funding for transit and pedestrian and bike paths if the Governor proceeded with state rules on low-carbon fuel standards.

Not one to be outdone, Sen. Doug Ericksen has used the “cap and trade” concept in the Governor’s climate proposal as window dressing in his effort to subvert the state’s alternative energy mandate.

“Cap and trade” is where a limit (or cap) is set on a form of pollution and the regulated polluting entities are allowed to sell (trade) the unused portion of their limits to others who have not yet complied. By inserting a market element into a regulatory scheme, the idea is to unleash creativity and innovation. This concept was successfully applied in the 1990 Clean Air act to reduce sulfur dioxide (acid rain) emissions.

The Governor’s climate proposal included a “cap and trade” program (SB 5283 / HB 1314) that would install a carbon emission cap, decreasing over time. The state’s largest polluters would be required  to buy or trade for emission allowances and carbon offset credits based on the metric tons of carbon they emit over that cap. The House version is now in the House Appropriations Committee awaiting a decision on how the $1 billion in annual revenue it would raise would fit into the next state budget. The Senate version of the bill, introduced by Senator Kevin Ranker, never received a hearing.

Ericksen and Ranker

Sens. Ericksen and Ranker

Instead, the Senate Energy, Environment and Telecommunications Committee, chaired by Senator Ericksen, took up SB 5735 which amends the state’s Energy Independence Act — a law that has been in Sen. Ericksen sights ever since it was approved by 52 percent of the electorate in 2006.  I-937, as it is most commonly called, requires that energy utilities ramp up their participation in conservation and alternative energy by setting specific targets. Though these targets are not “caps” in the sense of a pollution limit, they do provide a mandate for environmentally friendly investment.

I-937’s alternative energy mandate requires that power utilities serving more than 25,000 customers must obtain at least 15 percent of their electrical power from renewable sources such as wind and solar by 2020. Hydropower, with some exception, does not count toward the goal. Utilities, such as Puget Sound Energy, have had to meet a 3 percent target by 2012 and will need to hit a 9 percent target by 2016.

There is an escape valve. Utilities do not need to spend more than 4 percent of their annual retail sales per year in meeting this goal. If the utility is in a no-growth situation with no need to acquire power, a 1 percent spending limit is set. This proviso ensures that rates don’t increase significantly as a result of the requirement.

Sen. Doug Ericksen

Sen. Doug Ericksen

Sen. Ericksen’s proposal would give credit toward the alternative energy mandate if utilities invest in other, non-power generating carbon reduction activities, such as electric vehicle charging stations and converting fleets to alternative fuels. If these investments can be verified by a third-party to reduce carbon emissions, then that reduction would be converted into a credit towards meeting the 15 percent alternative energy mandate. This is the “sizzle” part of the bill that captures the idea of the carbon trading concept, without really using a cap.

I-937 advocates argue that the Senator is mixing apples and oranges by pirating a program that was intended to diversify the state’s energy portfolio and using it as cynical response to the Governor’s more genuine cap and trade proposal.

Sen. Ericksen argues that Energy Independence Act drives up rates, hasn’t produced enough jobs in Washington and still requires that fossil-fuel generation be created to firm up the variability of alternative energy sources.

Still, Puget Sound Energy, which delivers electricity to Skagit and Whatcom Counties, has easily met the mandate and did not participate in the hearing on SB 5735. One of the loudest whiners on I-937 (and loudest supporters of the Senator’s bill) is Benton PUD, which gets most of its power from hydro and nuclear and will likely spend close to the 4 percent retail sales cap to meet the 2020 goal.

What undercuts Sen. Ericksen’s grandstanding on being cap-and-trade friendly is the escape valve mentioned earlier. His bill would extend the 1 percent of retail sales spending limit to all utilities, not just those who are in a no-growth position. The lower spending threshold negates the “sizzle” part of the bill since it’s a relatively easy threshold to meet compared to the more difficult task of proving carbon reduction.

At its best, SB 5735 will not reduce carbon emissions any more than the current Energy Independence Act. More likely, it will be a step backwards.

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