Category Archives: KingCounty

A Strategy For GOP Success

It appears as though Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice David Prosser has won reelection to the Wisconsin Supreme Court over challenger and union darling Joanne Kloppenburg after a reporting error was discovered in Waukesha County. The correction represented a net gain of over 7,500 votes for Prosser in a race where only yesterday Kloppenburg was leading by 204 votes. Cross your fingers that the lead is outside the margin of fraud.

Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus said Thursday that she failed to save in her computer and consequently report 14,315 votes cast in the city of Brookfield, omitting them entirely in an unofficial tally released after Tuesday’s election. The new totals give 10,859 more votes to Prosser from Brookfield and 3,456 more to Kloppenburg, she said. Smaller discrepancies turned up in two other communities as well.

If Prosser’s new lead holds, – and there’s more than a good chance it will as a Democrat canvass watcher confirmed that the votes are legitimate (H/T @Jake_W) – it will be cause for hope for Washington State conservatives, whose electoral failures in close contests have occasionally garnered national attention. The “keep ‘em counting” strategy employed during the 2004 gubernatorial race that resulted in Christine Gregoire winning the governor’s mansion over Dino Rossi served as a template for Al Franken’s win in Minnesota in 2008.

Now it appears that Kathy Nickolaus has inadvertently hit on a strategy that can be used as a template in states like mine where one densely-populated and heavily liberal county (do you hear me, King County? I’m talkin’ to you!) wags the political dog. Each of the other counties can simply withhold the vote totals from one (or two!) of it’s most conservative precincts, thus confounding those tasked with “finding” the votes needed to squeak out a win in a close race. Imagine the confusion! How many is enough? How many is too many?

Just kidding, of course. (Or am I?)

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Dear King County

I hear you’re having budget troubles. I know you haven’t asked for my input, but even so, I have a word of advice for you: cut this program and fire whoever is responsible for unleashing this video on an unsuspecting public.

EcoCribz? Really?

The only thing stranger than the name is that someone – anyone! – thought it was a good use of funds to make this inane video. Well, that and finding a family who was willing to participate.

H/T to Dori Monson.

 

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King County Council’s Budget Priorities May Not Be Your Priorities

Unless, of course, you have a natural affinity for gravel pits.

Let me backtrack. King County, facing a $60 million budget shortfall for 2011, announced recently that it would be cutting 300 jobs…including 28 sheriff’s deputies. Even though that’s a small percentage of the jobs to be cut, Budget Chairwoman Julia Patterson says it will have an impact on public safety.

Enter the gravel pit.

King County officials and environmental leaders expressed confidence Wednesday they can raise $19.1 million in private and county dollars over the next seven weeks to turn a Maury Island gravel mine into a milelong shoreline park for kayakers, hikers and wildlife.

The Maury Island project appears to be high on King County Executive Dow Constantine’s list of priorities. This won’t be the first time he’s show a willingness to sacrifice public safety for a pet project.

You’d think the County Council would be at least a little bit embarrassed to announce their boondoggle sand and gravel pit purchase and some of the grimmer details of the budget within days of each other but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Apparently it didn’t occur to anyone on the Council or in the Executive’s office that County residents might be disturbed at the layoff of so many deputies while the $17 million purchase was announced with so much fanfare.

This situation appears to be a perfect illustration of why voters are becoming increasingly hostile to tax increases and wary of what their elected officials are telling them.

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Why Is King County Stiffing The Taxpayers Over The West Seattle Water Taxi?

King County residents may remember that back in the fall of 2007 the  County Council approved a special property tax on all residents to support the creation of a Ferry District to fund the Vashon Island passenger ferry and year-round service for the West Seattle Water Taxi.

The Ferry District was sort of a pet project of King County Executive Dow Constantine when he sat on the Council. Constantine was so desperate to get the Ferry District off the ground that he allegedly pressured fellow Council members to vote for it by threatening to kill a separate tax aimed at funding flood control projects. (Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about killing taxes, but if I have to choose between a tax for foot ferries or a tax for flood control, I’m going with flood control.)

Now we learn from the Washington Policy Center that after having chosen to abandon its contract with Argosy Cruises and operate the West Seattle route directly, King County has managed to drive up costs nearly five times.

2009 (Argosy) op cost April-September: $692,814
2010 (King County) op cost April-September: $2,097,258

2009 (Argosy) ridership April-September: 189,302 trips
2010 (King County) ridership April-September: 138,706 trips

2009 (Argosy) cost per trip April-September: $3.66
2010 (King County) cost per trip April-September: $15.12*

*Note: Even with ridership at 2009 levels, the cost per trip for King County would still be $11.08.

A quick trip to the King County website tells us that the highest fare on the West Seattle route is $3.50, but many riders are likely paying less – sometimes much less.

Adults
$3.00 - ORCA fare
$3.50 – Cash or ticket fare

Seniors (65+) and persons with disabilities
$1.50 with a Regional Reduced Fare Permit. Fare applies to both cash and ORCA payment.

Youth (6-18)
$2.25 - ORCA Youth Card fare
$3.50 – Cash or ticket fare

Children (5 and under)
Free

So for the highest paying riders, residents in places like Enumclaw, Black Diamond, and Skykomish are footing the bill to a tune of $11.62 a pop. As opposed to $.16 if Argosy were still operating the route and charging the same fares.

I bring all this up just in case a run for the Governor’s mansion is in Dow Constantine’s future plans. At a time when our State is facing a budget crisis and with no guarantees that things will be much – if at all – improved by 2012, our Governor and State legislators need to be looking at all possible options to reduce costs. If Constantine pigheadedly insists on operating the Water taxi at a per trip cost to the taxpayers more than 72 times the cost if the route were being operated privately, why would anyone expect him to take a hard look for services that might be privatized at the State level?

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What’s The Matter With Yu?

A 15-year-old and two companions beat and steal the wallet of a beloved local figure who later dies of his injuries. There are witnesses, but no one will cooperate with the authorities. As a result, the 15-year-old is sentenced to 36 weeks of juvenile detention. A few months after his release, the now 16-year-old participates in another robbery plus beating. Thankfully the second victim survived.

Someone who has the sense with which they were born might think that the the teen should receive a longer sentence for his second offense, assuming that the first sentence wasn’t adequately instructional.

King County (Washington) Superior Court judge Mary Yu would beg to differ, feeling that a nearly identical sentence would, inexplicably, return a better result the second time around. This is the same Mary Yu who felt that a 6-month jail sentence, with a work release provision for school attendance, plus two years of her personal supervision were adequate punishment for a man who lured at least four teen girls to his home so his father could rape them.

What’s that definition of insanity again?

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Mere Coincidence Or Divine Retribution?

If you live in King County, Washington, you may have seen that some Metro buses are carrying a very special Christmas message.

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Just as they did last year, with their obnoxious display at the State Capitol, the Freedom From Religion Foundation has chosen a sort of oafish insensitivity over reason as a means to make their statement of faith. Why else would they choose to paraphrase a much-loved defense of the faith and joy of the Christmas season, if not to offend Christians? (I notice that FFRF picks their targets carefully; I didn’t see any similarly offensive ads during Ramadan.)

But just like there’s no guarantee in the U.S. Constitution that life will be free from religion, there’s no guarantee that it will be free from offensive louts who think they’re being clever when really they’re just being boorish.

That’s why I just have to smile when things like this happen:

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Heh. This is the front of one of the buses carrying the FFRF ad. Apparently, it was involved in a little “incident” with another vehicle this weekend. So I ask you, mere coincidence or divine retribution?

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Don’t Underestimate The Generosity Of Your Neighbors

Last Thursday evening, I watched a special meeting of the King County Budget and Fiscal Management Committee. Nothing other than previously undiagnosed masochism could explain this bizarre behavior.

As near as I could tell, the “special meeting” consisted of representatives from program after program appearing before the Committee members to plead that funding for their program be included in the King County budget. Many of these programs are obviously worthwhile but just because a program is worthwhile, it doesn’t necessarily follow that it should be funded by the government.

Frankly I was shocked at the attitude of some of the people who rose to speak for their organizations. One woman chided the Committee members because she didn’t feel they were being attentive enough; another, a program participant, said, “Don’t take my money” (emphasis added). I thought both were startling examples of people who feel entitled to other people’s money. They come with hat in hand and, incredibly, bring an attitude along with them!

Not being entirely familiar with all the organizations that were requesting funds, I can’t say whether or not they engage in fundraising activities. I’m guessing most do but based on the sorry tales from each speaker about how their program just could not function without tax dollars, I’m guessing it’s not a major source of income. Apparently, it’s easier just to request County funding and force your fellow citizens to support your work rather than to make your case with them on a more personal level.

Might it be difficult to raise enough money to fund a program solely through fundraising efforts? Possibly, but difficult doesn’t mean impossible. The people running these programs who feel that public funds are their only option are selling their neighbors short. Americans are generous, even in hard times. Don’t underestimate them.

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No Boundaries

Two troubling stories have surfaced in the last two days with regard to Dow Constantine and the race for King County Executive. On the surface, the stories appear to be unrelated, but there is a common thread.

The first story involves a case of possible inappropriate behavior towards a female employee of King County. Mark Griswold posted an update on this story today at Sound Politics that included an additional excerpt from one of the court documents. While the new information makes it clear that a formal complaint was never filed, the fact remains that someone or something in the work environment of this employee made her uncomfortable enough that she was motivated to discuss it with her supervisor. Since the Times request for records specified documents “alleging inappropriate comments or behavior by County Councilmember Dow Constantine,” we can be certain that “someone” was Dow Constantine.

The second story involves the blatantly  improper use of TVW footage in a Dow Constantine campaign ad. Greg Lane, President and CEO at TVW, released a statement Thursday.

The Dow Constantine campaign is currently broadcasting a political ad that blatantly misuses TVW programming.

snip…

Yesterday, I spoke directly to representatives of the Constantine campaign, requesting that the offending ad be pulled from the air immediately. This morning, the campaign’s lawyers responded that the Constantine campaign is refusing to abide by our request. We are disappointed with their response, which completely ignores the public interest and the tradition of respect maintained for TVW’s unique role.

snip…

By refusing to pull the offending ad, the Dow Constantine campaign is showing complete disregard for the greater public interest role TVW plays in providing citizens unbiased and unedited access to the public policy process.

Why has Constantine’s campaign refused to pull the ads? Because they’ve decided that they probably know better than TVW how the footage should be used.

So what’s the common thread here?

It appears that Dow Constantine doesn’t recognize boundaries or if he does, he doesn’t acknowledge them as applying to him personally. You know people like this; they’re always standing just a little too close or leaving their hand on your shoulder just a little too long. They don’t understand that behavior that might be appropriate in a social setting is not appropriate in the workplace. They’re people who help themselves to things off your desk when you’re not there or ask to borrow things with values out of proportion to your relationship.

You can ask people like this to leave your desk alone when you’re not there and they very well may, but that won’t stop them from helping themselves to one of the sodas you left in the refrigerator. With no internal boundaries, everything is fair game. Is that really who we need heading King County?

Getting back to TVW. It is a non-profit corporation, not operated by the government, with the majority of their operating budget coming from contracts with the State of Washington. I’m not sure what other people might think but in my mind, that makes it close enough to being government funded that using their footage in a political campaign seems off limits.

No boundaries.

Update 1: Here’s some more on Constantine’s unethical use of TVW footage from Bruce Ramsey at the Seattle Times and  P. Scott Cummins. This is a disturbing trend on the part of Washington Democrats who make it increasingly clear that rules should never stand in the way of them getting what they want.

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Seattle Times Files Legal Challenge

Bryan Myrick at Red County just broke this news:

…[T]he Seattle Times has filed a motion with King County Superior Court in challenge to the restraining order placed Wednesday on documents pursuant to a public records request by Keith Ervin of The Seattle Times in mid-October. Ervin’s request was for all documents that contained information about allegations made against current councilman and candidate for King County executive Dow Constantine of inappropriate behavior. Shortly after an undetermined number of documents was handed over by county officials to Ervin, a temporary restraining order was filed on behalf of a “Jane Doe” presumed to be named in certain papers. (Read our previous stories here and here.)

Kudos to the Seattle Times for pursuing this story. Now Mr. Constantine can rest comfortably in the knowledge that there are no obstacles to the facts of the matter being made public. Heh.

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Is Dow Constantine Having a “David Letterman” Moment?

Okay, wow. When I called Dow Constantine a smarmy politician I was just referring to his apparent level of comfort with lying about Council colleague Kathy Lambert. It appears there’s so much more. Allegations have surfaced that Constantine has been accused of sexually harassing a County employee, as Mark Griswold writes about at Sound Politics.

Rumors of Dow Constantine’s inappropriate behavior have been swirling around the political cocktail circuit since his days in Olympia but until now they haven’t gotten much traction. Fair enough. As Baz Lurhmann says, “politicians will always philander.”

But now it seems that Constantine’s work place advances may be catching up with him.

I, along with Keith Ervin of The Seattle Times, was recently tipped off about a story involving a county employee and some of this inappropriate behavior. When Mr. Ervin filed a public records request all he was given was a restraining order between Ms. Jane Doe and King County, mentioning she feared for her job security should the information contained within documents related to the public records request be released.

So Keith Ervin filed a public records request with King County and got a copy of a restraining order for his trouble. That in itself seems like a story to me but not to Ervin, who suffers from what would seem to be a career-killing lack of curiosity for a reporter. Ervin is the same reporter who apparently didn’t find it particularly disturbing that Constantine’s campaign treasurer is also the treasurer for Citizens to Uphold the Constitution, a “non-partisan” group that funded robo-calls against Susan Hutchison.

I wonder how Jane Doe knew about Ervin’s request in time to file this restraining order. Would it be standard practice to notify all interested parties when a records request is received? If not, how did Jane Doe know about the request? Does she really fear the loss of her job if this information is made public? If so, what does that say about the employment environment at King County? Is she cooperating in protecting Constantine? If so, why? Was she pressured into doing so?

So many questions but one thing seems clear: if there were no truth to the allegation about a sexual harassment complaint, Ervin’s request would not have resulted in a restraining order being filed. And how convenient that the order will be in effect until after the ballot deadline.

Update 1: Speaking on the Kirby Wilbur Show, Mark Griswold states that the attorney who filed the restraining order, Tyler Firkins, has a track record of filing restraining orders on “behalf” of plaintiffs without their knowledge. So a new question arises: Who hired Firkins? Was it Jane Doe? A union interested in Constantine becoming King County Executive? Firkins’ old law school chum, Dow Constantine?

Update 2: The Seattle Times felt that the information contained in private documents relating to Susan Hutchison and KIRO TV was so vital, they sued to have them released, but apparently the public information concerning a possible sexual harassment claim against Dow Constantine is, you know, not that big of a deal. Yawn.

Update 3: Rumor has it that the Seattle Times did in fact receive numerous documents in response to Keith Ervin’s request prior to the restraining order being filed, but that Ervin is sitting on the story.

More on this story from Bryan Myrick at Red County.

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