Washington State Governor Jay Inslee was a featured speaker at the Budget Matters 2014 Conference held Friday December 12, 2014 in Seattle Washington at the Washington State Convention Center. Remy Turpin, the Executive Director of the Washington State Budget and Policy Center asked the Governor questions in a conversation on climate and income inequality.

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Remy Turpin and Governor Jay Inslee

Governor Inslee started out by responding as to why he was concerned about climate change and pointed out a number of reasons. One reason Inslee said was personal – it was about what kind of world we were going to leave our grandchildren and this was at risk in fundamental ways. Another reason is about economic passion – how we grow jobs. But he said it was also about health issues caused by pollutants released from burning fossil fuels. He noted that asthma rates are high along heavily traveled roads and industrial sites. Asthma rates statistically go up closer to freeways. Children are particularly vulnerable and Inslee commented on a 14 year old he recently talked with whose friends all had asthma and thought it was normal until realizing that not all children had asthma.

Inslee also noted the impacts of carbon pollution on  increasing ocean acidification and its impacts on sea life. Warming associated with climate change is also increasing health risks by increased forest fires and the resultant air pollution.

Carbon pollution is particularly hard on low income people who live in lower priced homes next to freeways or in or near industrial areas releasing  pollutants from burning carbon based fuels. The current economy while growing is mostly benefiting those at the top and is not working for many working families leaving them more vulnerable.

Asked about what type of legislation he was going to propose to the Washington State Legislature on dealing with carbon pollution, the Governor said that to reduce carbon pollution it was necessary to internalize the cost.  The costs to the environment, peoples’ health and the economy are not currently borne by those making money off of carbon fuels but is passed back to everyone else.  Governor Inslee said there were two main ways to internalize the cost and they were to pass either a carbon pollution tax or a cap and trade system that puts a fixed cost per ton of CO2 produced.

While Inslee did not say which way he was going to propose, he seemed to talk most about the benefits of a cap and trade system. British Columbia has a carbon pollution tax but Australia’s right leaning government earlier this year repealed it’s carbon tax. California three years ago moved forward on implementing its cap and trade system  signed into law by former Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2006.

Inslee noted that eight New England states participate in a cap and trade system that is legally binding, that is limiting the number of pollution permits and that operate by a market system that auctions the permits. Cap and trade was also successfully used 20 years ago in the east to limit sulfur dioxide from coal burning.

Some 20 European countries also have a cap and trade system. While there has been some controversy over the declining permit costs to emit carbon pollution, the goals that were purposed to be met look like it is working. As noted in a New York Times post by Stig Schjolset:

“…the European Union experience suggests that designed in the right way, in line with the polluter-pays principle and with a strong compliance regime, emissions trading systems will put an effective cap on carbon emissions – a cap that can be gradually tightened as politicians sign up to more ambitious reduction targets.”

Governor Inslee warned that any attempt to put a price tag on carbon pollution would result in a full court press by the carbon extraction industries that are creating the pollution. Inslee said it was time to make ” the polluting industries rather than poor people pay.”  He said the fight would be expensive and like that the tobacco industry launched-  full of nonfactual and untrue statements.  He said the fight has already started  but that this effort will create thousands of jobs and help build infrastructure for repairing highways and education as well as help clean the air we all breathe.

 

Rich Erwin - Chair - King County Democrats

Rich Erwin – Chair – King County Democrats

 

Every two years the King County Democrats in Washington state elect new officers as do other county and legislative districts and the Washington State Democrats. On Saturday December 6th, 2014 some 208 King County precinct committee officers were present and signed in out of the 820 elected in the August Primary. The meeting was in south Seattle at the Machinists Hall.

Three candidates were running to succeed the previous Chair who decided not to re-run.  They were Rich Erwin – a former Chair of the 41st LD Democrats, Omaha Sternberg – Chair of the 33rd LD Democrats, and Betsy Walker – Chair of the King County Young Democrats. The meeting was full of surprises, including the power and lights going out during the election of the Chair and the extreme closeness of several votes. Rich Erwin after 3 votes was elected the new Chair.

In the initial vote for Chair the following results were obtained:

Rich Erwin 68

Omaha Sternberg 67

Betsy Walker 67

spoiled ballot 1

After much discussion of how to proceed a revote was taken with the following tally:

Rich Erwin 69

Omaha Sternberg 70

Betsy Walker 63

A third vote was then taken, dropping the lowest vote. The lights were  still out. The new tally was:

Rich Erwin 105 – elected Chair

Omaha Sternberg 89

Almost immediately after Rich Erwin was declared the new Chair, the  power and lights came back.

1st Vice Chair

Omaha Sternberg was nominated to be 1st Vice Chair and was elected by acclimation.

The 2nd Vice Chair election was as follows:

Joel Ware 108 – elected 2nd Vice-Chair

Roger Crew 54

The 3rd Vice Chair results:

Christina Lewis 116 – elected 3rd Vice-Chair

Julius Caesar Robinson 20

Linda Seltzer 23

The 4th vice-chair position drew 4 nominees.

Roger Crew 20

Sara Franklin 53

Julius Caesar Robinson  64

Linda Seltzer 7

Roger Crew withdrew and the vote was held on the top 2.

Sara Franklin 68

Julius Caesar Robinson 68

one spoiled ballot labeled Sara Robinson

A revote was taken:

Sara Franklin 62

Julius Caesar Robinson 65 – elected 4th Vice Chair

Other officers elected:

Javier Valdez was nominated and elected by acclimation as the male State Committeeman

Ann Martin was nominated and elected by acclimation as the female State Committeewoman

Dave Fish was nominated and elected by acclimation to be the Treasurer

Roger Crew was nominated and elected by acclimation to be the Secretary

news reports on elections:

Bothell Reporter

Mercer Island Reporter

 

On Monday, Dec 1, 2014 Democratic PCO’s in Washington State’s 30th Legislative District meet to nominate 3 candidates to be considered to replace Democratic Representative Roger Freeman.  Roger Freeman died several days before the November 4th, 2014 Election but still received enough votes to win the election. His death then commenced a process to replace him. In rank order the 30th LD Democrats nominated Carol Gregory, Richard Champion and Shari Song to be considered by the King and Pierce County Councils to replace him.

Carol Gregory

Carol Gregory

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Richard Champion

Shari Song

Shari Song

 

The replacement process under Washington State  law calls for candidates whose Legislative District straddles 2 counties to be selected from a list of 3 candidates nominated by Precinct Committee Officers of the same political party as the deceased candidate from the Legislative District. The State Central Committee then approves this list and forwards it to the respective County Councils who have 30 days to select a replacement person. If they do not agree on a candidate, the Governor then makes the appointment.

States vary in how they fill vacant legislative  positions caused by a death or resignation.  The National Conference of States Legislatures has a detailed list of how the various states do it. Twenty five states fill the seat by a special election. In five states the political party of the deceased candidate  makes the appointment. In eleven states the Governor makes the appointment. In one state the political party and the House makes the appointment. Seven states including Washington make the appointment of someone of the same political party as the last person to hold the office and delegate the final appointment to their county commissioners.  Besides Washington, the other states leaving the appointment up to county commissioners are Arizona, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon and Wyoming.

The Democratic Precinct Committee Officers of Washington’s  30th LD commenced the process by narrowing a list of 6 candidates down to a ranked list of 3 candidates as required by state law.  The following candidates in the order nominated as candidates to be considered fby the 30th LD Democrats for filling the vacancy. Richard Champion, Hope Elder, Roger Flygare, Carol Gregory, Shari Song, and Rose Osherin Edwards.

Richard Champion is the current 1st Vice Chair of the 30th LD Democrats and served in the past as a Vice – Chair of the King County Democrats. He was active in the SeaTac campaign for a $15 minimum wage and serves on the Board of PSARA – Puget Sound Advocates for Retirement Action.

Hope Elder is active in her local church and is on the Board of Fusion. She has been a Deputy Mayor of Federal Way and has been involved with the Community Supper effort.

Roger Flygare is a small businessman and has run for both the legislature and for the Federal Way City Council.

Carol Gregory is a former teacher and past President of the Washington Education Association. She has worked in the Governor’s Office, lobbied the legislature and ran for legislature twice before, losing her last attempt by only 301 votes.

Shari Song ran for the State Senate in the 30th LD in the 2014 election.  Previously she ran for a seat on the King County Council.  She has been active in a number of civic organizations and grew up in the district.

Rose Osherin Edwards is a nurse and has 3 kids She is a member of SEIU  and has been active in her kid’s PTA , including chairing the garden committee.

The first vote taken was to select the top ranked candidate:

Richard Champion 9

Hope Elder 1

Roger Flygare 7

Carol Gregory 8

Shari Song 4

Rose Osherin Edwards 0

Since no one received a majority, a second ballot was taken between the top 2 candidates.

Carol Gregory 15

Richard Champion 14

Carol Gregory became the #1 top ranked candidate

A third ballot was taken to select the #2 ranked nomination:

Richard Champion 17

Roger Flygare 6

Shari Song 6

Richard Champion became the #2 ranked candidate

A fourth ballot was taken to select the #3 candidate:

Roger Flygare 10

Shari Song  14

Hope Elder 2

Rose Osherin Edwards 2

Since no one of the candidates received a majority a 5th vote was taken between the top 2 candidates:

Shari Song 18

Roger Flygare 11

Shari Song was selected as the #3 ranked candidate.

The final decision is now up to a joint meeting of the King Country and Pierce County Councils.  No date has been selected yet for that meeting. Usually the top ranked candidate in the voting by the precinct committees officers in selected as the appointee by the Councils voting  but that is not always the case. Mia Gregerson now a Representative in the 33rd LD was not the top choice of the precinct committee officers but was selected in what became a controversial choice last year by the King County Council. The County Councils are not required by law to pick the top choice but must choose amng the three nominated by the precinct committee officers or the decision goes to the Governor.

 

It seems that the GOP – the Grand Old Party has in recent years transformed itself into representing the Grand Old Polluters - the oil, gas and coal industries. It wasn’t always so. As Paul Krugman points out in a column entitled “Pollution and Politics” in the New York Times:

“…the reason pollution has become partisan is that Republicans have moved right. A generation ago, it turns out, environment wasn’t a partisan issue: according to Pew Research, in 1992 an overwhelming majority in both parties favored stricter laws and regulation. Since then, Democratic views haven’t changed, but Republican support for environmental protection has collapsed.”

Krugman says that party ideology, namely that government needs to be limited and not restrict free enterprise is one reason but that the most likely underlying reason is “rising inequality”:

“The basic story of political polarization over the past few decades is that, as a wealthy minority has pulled away economically from the rest of the country, it has pulled one major party along with it. True, Democrats often cater to the interests of the 1 percent, but Republicans always do. Any policy that benefits lower- and middle-income Americans at the expense of the elite — like health reform, which guarantees insurance to all and pays for that guarantee in part with taxes on higher incomes — will face bitter Republican opposition.” 

Krugman’s analysis of the Republican Party’s sleeping with the polluters is pretty much the same as what Naomi Klein is saying in her recent book, “This Changes Everything – Climate Vs. The Climate” The environment and the climate are being ravaged by the polluters who are resisting responding to climate change because it will ultimately repudiate their cash cow – the burning of fossil fuels to generate energy.

The polluter’s cash cow has unfortunately been producing and belching and expelling gases like CO2 and methane that Naomi Klein notes 97% of climatologists say is causing uncontrolled climate change that threatens the future of life on this earth. Climate changing emissions are continuing to rise, with drastic changes occurring, including increasing loss of glaciers, melting of the polar ice cap, rising sea levels and ocean acidification. Klein asserts that:

“…we have not done the things necessary to lower emissions because these things fundamentally conflict with deregulated capitalism, the reigning ideology for the entire period we have been struggling to find a way out of this crisis. We are stuck because the actions that would give us the best chance of averting catastrophe – and would benefit the vast majority – are extremely threatening to an elite minority that has a stranglehold over our economy, our political process, and most of our media outlets.”

Corporate globalism according to Klein has worked to

“…lock in a global policy framework that provided maximum freedom to multinational corporations to produce their goods as cheaply as possible and sell them with as few regulations as possible – while paying as little in taxes as possible …

The three pillars of this new era are familiar to us al: privatization of the public sphere, deregulation of the public sector, and lower corporate taxation paid for with cuts to public spending .. Very little, however, has been written about how market fundamentalism sabotaged our collective response to climate change, a threat that came knocking just as this ideology was reaching its zenith.”

Klein goes on to say much more and I urge you to read “This Changes Everything – Capitalism Vs. The Climate“. She is tackling the same issues that Progressive Democrats have been trying to address and suggests that drastic change is need. Too many Democrats have followed a line of accommodation and centralism and compromise, thinking that this was the way to move forward.  Unfortunately Republicans and the multinational corporations and the wealthy interests and people they represent have been more skilled at conning the American people and others around the world into believing that helping the multinational corporations would be good for them.

The greed mentality and profit triumphed  over the public good and a sharing of wealth  in the free market economic game. The resultant extreme income inequality that has resulted is only one of the major disasters of the unfettered free market free for all.  Worsening climate change and environmental degradation has also happened. The world under the free market system is now conducting a giant experiment on environmental change and degradation and the earth’s ability to adapt and survive. Unfortunately there are no referees to stop the experiment if it starts to spiral out of control. There are no rules it seems save increase profits. It is a rigged game that saner heads need to call an end to now. There are too many injuries to people and to the earth all for the increased profits of a few who have externalized the costs to the many.

King County in Washington State has about one third of Washington State voters, is strongly Democratic and has typically provides the margin of difference in many state wide races for Democrats. Every two years State,  County and Legislative District  Democratic organizations reorganize and elect new officers.  On Saturday Dec. 6th, 2014 some 840 precinct committees officers elected in the August 2014 Primary are eligible to meet and vote to elect a new Chair for the King County Democrats.

This year there are 3 candidates running for Chair of the King County Democrats –  Rich Erwin, Omaha Sternberg and Betsy Walker.

Rich Erwin is a former Chair and Vice-Chair of the 41st LD Democrats, Omaha Sternberg is the current Chair of the 33rd LD Democrats, and Betsy Walker is the current Chair of the King County Young Democrats.

Here is the contact information to learn more about these candidates:

Rich Erwin

website Rich Erwin for KCDCC Chair

facebook Rich Erwin for KCDCC Chair

Omaha Sternberg

website Omaha Sternberg – Chair for King County Democrats

facebook  Omaha for Chair

Betsy Walker

website Betsy Walker for King County Democratic Chair  

facebook Betsy Walker for KCDCC Chair

The 46th LD Democrats on Nov 20th held a forum for the Chair candidates.  You can watch the video here:

The reorganization meeting will be held on Dec 6th, 2014, with sign in starting at 8:30 AM and the meeting starting at 9 AM. The meeting will be held at the Aerospace Machinists Union Hall at 9125 15th Pl S in South Seattle. Also to be elected at this meeting are four Vice Chairs, a Secretary, a Treasurer and a male and female Committee member to represent King County on the Washington State Democratic Central Committee.

The main reason voters gave for their voting as they did in the Nov 2014 election was the economy as it affected them. Despite job growth going up and unemployment going down and the stock market going up and GDP increasing, most Americans were not sharing in the economy doing better.

As Steve Rattner points out in a New York Times article entitled “Inequality Unbelievably, Gets Worse” :

 “Inflation-adjusted earnings of the bottom 90 percent of Americans fell between 2010 and 2013, with those near the bottom dropping the most. Meanwhile, incomes in the top decile rose.”

Democrats got blamed for the impacts of this growing income inequality in the US. Ironically conservative Republican policies rather than progressive Democratic  policies have exacerbated this inequality. Republicans did a better job of blaming people’s economic woes on Obama and deflected their own culpability and contribution in opposing things like repealing tax loopholes on big oil and other profitable corporations  and pushing for lowering taxes on the rich.

In charts presented in Rattner’s piece, he notes that because of the US’s relative low tax rate compared to that of other developed countries, less funds are available to help people in need of government assistance. The result is that the US ranks at the top as having the most inequality. Rattner says:

“That’s because our taxes, while progressive, are low by international standards and our social welfare programs — ranging from unemployment benefits to disability insurance to retirement payments — are consequently less generous.

Conservatives may bemoan the size of our government; in reality, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, total tax revenues in the United States this year will be smaller on a relative basis than those of any other member country.”

Democrats unfortunately did not talk about what they and Obama had been doing to help working families despite Republican opposition.  Again Rattner noted:

To his credit, President Obama has succeeded in keeping income disparities from growing even wider, by such measures as by forcing tax rates on the wealthiest Americans up toward fair levels.

Democrat Jason Ritchie is running in Washington’s 8th Congressional District against incumbent Republican Dave Reichert. Washington state’s 10 congressional districts are currently held by 6 Democrats and 4 Republicans. Picking up an additional Democratic Congressional seat would help in the Democrat’s national effort to take back the US House of Representatives from the Republicans. Considering that President Obama won the 8th Congressional District when he ran for re-election in 2012 makes a Democratic pickup possible. The 8th CD is one of only 17 CD’s nationally where Obama won and a Republican Representative won.

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Democratic Representative Cyrus Habib announced today that he was going to run for the State Senate seat in the 48th LD in east King County. Candidate Joan McBride, former Mayor of Kirkland, announced that she was dropping her bid for Senate and would run for Habib’s House seat.

Joan McBride was the lone Democrat to challenge Senator Rodney Tom in the 48th LD. Rodney Tom, while professing to be a Democrat, bolted the Democratic Party two years ago when he aligned himself with the Republicans in the State Senate. This Legislative session he was the so-called Majority Leader as a result of joining with another Democrat professing to also be a Democrat  – Tim Sheldon of the 35th LD, and aligning themselves with the minority 24  Republicans to be part of a “Majority Coalition”.

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Non-presidential election years like 2014 can be tough for Democrats who have tended to do better in years when more voters turn out.  Will 2014 be better? A lot is at stake for Democrats on the national level with the Republicans pushing to take over the US Senate and keep control of the House. The New York Times published  a 2014 Senate Landscape Analysis on 3/2/2014 breaking down the upcoming Senate races.

Senators serve for six years.  The current makeup of the US Senate is 53 Democrats and 2 Independents who vote with them, and 45 Republicans.  Republicans need 6 more Senators to get the majority and flip the Senate. The New York Times analysis shows 34 continuing Democrats and 30 continuing Republicans.  Of the seats up for election in 2014 they count 6 solid Democratic seats and 5 leaning Democratic. They count 12 solid Republican seats and 1 leaning Republican.  And in the middle there are 12 states that could “flip” and go either way.

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The Tax Exemption Transparency and Accountability Act has been filed as bills in both the House and Senate in the Washington State Legislature. The prime sponsor of the House bill, HB 2721 is Representative Gerry Pollet. A total of 17 Legislators have signed onto the bill when it was dropped.  The prime sponsor of the Senate bill SB 6477 is Senator Maralyn Chase. Eight Senators had signed onto the bill when it was dropped.

The following fact sheet on the bill and why it was filed is from the Tax Sanity website at www.taxsanity.org  

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