Every year, we see our local, state, and federal governments trying to tackle a whole host of issues. Sometimes they are successful, sometimes they aren’t, but if they do not know what you want them to work on, how will they get it right? So, since President Obama, Frank Chopp, and Sam Crawford are such fans of NWCitizen, here is my wish list for 2011.
Marriage Equality: There is no bigger civil rights fight of our generation than the struggle for marriage equality. We have 4-5% of our taxpaying citizens who do not enjoy the same rights as the rest of us. There have been some steps forward, allowing them to serve openly in the military and offering full civil unions in some states, but there have also been some serious steps backward. The arguments for continuing this unjust, unnecessary, and frankly bigoted policy to continue have become thin and tiresome.
Senate Filibuster Reform: In the last four years, the parliamentary rules in the Senate have been horribly abused by the minority party. They would signal their intent to filibuster, then force a cloture vote. If the Democrats in the Senate could not muster 60 votes to end the debate, the bill would die without anyone having to vote against popular legislation. We need to reform filibuster rules so that if you are filibustering you have to stand up and talk your way through it, as well as have 40 votes to keep them from ending debate. In short, we need to retain the tradition of the filibuster, as well as stop this tyranny of the minority. Read more about filibuster reform here
Raise Taxes: I know. You just got all these Tea Party folks knocking you guys off because you added five cents to their candy bar, but really, what are your other options? The last two budget cycles have gutted just about everything. Education funding going down the drain? Check. Basic Health slashed? Check. You are running out of orphans to shakedown for their lunch money. Do the right thing. Raise revenue to preserve essential services. Put a sunshine provision in there so they expire in two years when things are better, just don’t continue to slash. It will leave our state a bloody mess.
Legalize It: You know a great source of revenue? Marijuana. Come on, you are tip-toeing toward it with medicinal marijuana; why not remove the last step? Legalize it, tax it more than cigarettes, and sell it in our state-run liquor stores. Our state-run stores have done a phenomenal job keeping hard liquor out of children’s hands; they would apply that same stringent policy to marijuana. It’s not any more harmful then a pack of Camels, it would clear our jails of all these small time offenders, it would open up the hemp industry to begin production of clothes, paper, etc. It has bipartisan support. Go for it!
Stop Breaking the Law: This is for the County Government. It is time and past time to comply with the Growth Management Act. This state law is a straightforward way to plan for growth in our county, and our continued defiance is foolish. I know why the County Council is doing it. Their developer buddies funded their campaigns and do not want to any sort of restrictions on mowing down farmland, threatening our drinking water, or destroying our quality of life. Quality planning makes sure we grow in safe and responsible ways that tends to interfere a bit with their profit margin. David Stalheim (former county planner) and the 2009 County Council did a great deal of work toward moving us toward compliance. But as soon as Crawford became Council president, he and Pete Kremen worked to undo all that hard work, bit by bit, giving their developer buddies a chance to re-write the plan as they see fit. Being out of compliance is costing us thousands of dollars in legal fights and lost grant money. It’s time to bite the bullet, say no to unregulated development, and stop breaking the law.
Stop the Cameras: Okay, the budget item has already been passed, but this is such a phenomenally bad idea it deserves a mention. Yes, there has been some good writing about this already on this site, so read that, but this is truly a non-partisan issue. Red light cameras are the privatization of a law and justice issue. We wouldn’t hire Halliburton to police our streets, yet here we are handing over control of our traffic enforcement to some Arizona-based company. Furthermore, to do this without holding a public hearing is bad form on the part of the City Council. I won’t beat a dead horse, because I’ve made my feelings known, but please stop the cameras.
An Engaged Bellingham Electorate: This is really what I want most. You know what the turnout percentage was in Lynden for local races this year? Average of 80%. For the local races. By comparison, most of Bellingham hovered about 65%, if that. That’s pitiful. Bellingham had huge numbers of people vote for Patty Murray and Rick Larsen, then send in their ballot. Local elections matter, more than you can imagine. The most frustrating moments from the campaign in 2010 were knocking on doors in Fairhaven and having people tell me, “Why are you talking to me? I live in Bellingham, not the county.” ARRRRGGHHH! You live in the county as well. You pay county taxes. If you don’t vote in county elections, you cede control to the people who do vote. Lynden did an incredible job turning out the vote and kudos to them. Bellingham? It’s time to step up your game.