Clear Fog Blog

Political musings from Warren E. Peterson

Let Someone Else Pay

Posted by Warren Peterson on January 28, 2014

In the Sunday, January 26, 2014 edition of the Seattle Times, we are treated to Pro and Con opinion pieces on a $15 minimum wage for Seattle. The Pro side saw the higher minimum as a means of closing the gap between low and high income earners; not an unexpected argument. (For one of the most cogent articles on income inequality see: David Brooks Column in the NY Times) It was on the Con side where a surprise occurred. The writer has a small business and makes the case that jumping Seattle’s minimum wage by over $5 an hour would add significantly to existing stresses on small business. One more increase on top of rising rents, utilities, employee benefits and completion from online merchants not to mention regulations (remember the City of Seattle imposed parking changes and mandated sick leave). The Con article noted that small businesses with less than 50 employees would be exempted, “But, if Fred Meyer, Home Depot and Starbucks are all paying $15 an hour, other businesses would be forced to follow suit if they want to compete for competent, capable employees.” Additionally, raising the minimum to $15 would force up wages for other workers. If all these costs cannot be offset by reducing labor or moving to a cheaper location, they would have to be passed on to customers. It would not be too long before these increased costs would flow into the general economy ($5 lattes anyone?) and the $15 minimum would be called too low. Off we’d go chasing our socialist tails once again.

Unfortunately, the Con plea veered hard left by proposing alternate ways of improving the lives of minimum wage earners by shifting taxes on small business to big corporations and wealthy people and implementing rent control. Every day there is another call for taxing the rich. As Margaret Thatcher said, “The problem with Socialism is eventually you run out of other people’s money.” As for rent control, do not some landlords qualify as owners of a small business? Also rent control has unintended consequences such as deferred maintenance, damping of new construction and landlords being forced to subsidize long time renters through below market rates.

Before we tinker with our economic system by mandating wage and rent levels not supported by the market, we should concentrate on policies that encourage investment, job creation and education that produces graduates with skills commensurate with higher pay. These are harder to do than voting for a $15 minimum wage and limiting rent but they do offer a greater possibility of a permanent solution.

Posted in State & Local | Leave a Comment »

A Proposal for Councilmember Sawant

Posted by Warren Peterson on January 24, 2014

Socialist Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant is the new chair of the council’s Energy Committee. In a Seattle Times article on a proposed rate increase for Seattle City Light, Sawant outlined her agenda for the committee saying, “The committee in the coming months would examine issues including the situation of workers at City Light, executive salaries, and the relation between global financial markets and the rates people in Seattle pay.” While she’s at it, I’d like to propose another idea for consideration.It was offered to the council members in 2008 but none ever replied; all afraid to touch a Seattle sacred cow. However with socialist Sawant overseeing City Light maybe they should reconsider. In summary, I proposed selling Seattle City Light to a private company and using the proceeds to endow the Seattle Parks and Recreation Department. A privately owned utility would still be regulated and rate controlled but not by Sawant and the rest of the council subject to reelection grandstanding. Regulation and rates would be set by the Washington State Utilities Commission staffed by energy professionals. Endowing the Parks Department would remove a large part of the taxpayer funded city budget freeing up funds for other uses; maybe even a tax cut.

In today’s fragile economy, there should be no sacred cows. Every idea deserves consideration.

Posted in State & Local | Leave a Comment »

2013 in review

Posted by Warren Peterson on December 31, 2013

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,900 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 32 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Posted in Other | Leave a Comment »

Lobbyists, Legislators, Ethics and Free Meals

Posted by Warren Peterson on October 28, 2013

A few months ago an Associated Press article on legislators accepting free meals from lobbyists appeared in various Washington State media. Soon after another article was released covering a concerned citizen’s complaint filed with the Legislative Ethics Board against five Republican State Senators. They were the top five Senate recipients of the meals. No surprise since Republicans, thanks to two renegade Democrats, hold the majority in the Senate and therefore hold the most power over lobbyist interests. Also no surprise when a quick Google of the concerned citizen’s name revealed he is a liberal Democrat activist. Neither surprise was mentioned in the article.

I waited for a more balanced follow-up but when none was forthcoming, I filed a similar complaint against all Democrat Legislators from King County. The Legislative Ethics Board sent me a letter acknowledging my complaint and noting its similarity to the concerned citizen complaint. They are working on the complaints but no date was given for a ruling on the matter.

Personally, I hope the Board rejects both complaints. I do not believe the legislators violated the law or legislative ethics. I filed the complaint for three reasons: 1) to counter the biased reporting on the issue 2) to highlight the need for reform of disclosure requirements and 3) protest the selective misuse of disclosure reports for blatantly political purposes.

Most of the reform discussion centers on state law that attempts to define what value of meals or gifts a “state officer or state employee” may accept. Lobbyists are required to report meal costs for each legislator but how does a lobbyist report such expenditures on meals when several legislators are in attendance?

There are lobbyists for virtually every interest in the state and they perform a vital role in the legislative process. No legislator is well versed on every issue. Fellow legislators, constituents, personal research and, yes, lobbyists all are sources of information needed to make informed votes. Sometimes this information is given over a meal. Sometimes lobbyists use social events as an opportunity for legislators and lobbyists to get to know one another. Such activities need to be done in the light of public disclosure but the disclosure should be factual, clear and significant. The current system fails on all counts.
It needs reform. Design unambiguous reporting requirements; call out the partisan hit jobs for what they are, inject some common sense.

Warren Peterson
Former State Representative

Posted in State & Local | Leave a Comment »

Solving the ObamaCare Fiasco

Posted by Warren Peterson on October 23, 2013

Short of those living in a survivalist cave in Idaho, everyone is aware that the launch of ObamaCare has been less than sterling. The question is what to do about it?

Set the scene, a nationally televised Obama news conference to announce the President’s solution. The TV broadcast opens with the cameras peering down a long red-carpeted hallway in the White House. After a pause of anticipation, the far doors open and President Obama strides confidently toward the golden dais. After surveying the assembled press corps and checking the teleprompter, he starts his comments.

“Thank you. As you know the implementation of the Affordable Care Act has not gone as smoothly as I expected. No one is madder than me that a Canadian contractor with a record of failures screwed up my website. This combined with the 16 day Republican shutdown of the government negated the four years we had to develop a workable system.

In search of a solution to this crisis before next year’s election, I believe a bipartisan plan is needed so I have decided to go with a suggestion from a Republican blogger in Seattle. I am today appointing a person with a reputation as a problem solver, knowledgeable about providing health care and honest to a fault to head a Save My Health Care Commission. A man who needs no introduction, the savior of the Salt Lake Winter Olympics, the grandfather of ObamaCare, former Massachusetts’s governor, Mitt Romney.

Mitt’s task will be to conduct a performance audit and draft legislation to fix my health care plan. Congress will have to make a no amendments, up or down vote on the legislation. I want it on my desk by December 25, 2013 and I will sign it.

The beauty of this plan is if the Romney reforms work, I can take the credit. If they fail, I’ll blame the Republicans.

I’ll refer any questions to Governor Romney. Meanwhile, I have to go. Joe Biden and I have a tee time.”

President Obama turns off the teleprompter, steps off the golden dais and walks back down the red-carpeted hallway once again above the fray, leading from behind.

Posted in National Politics | 1 Comment »

2013 General Election Recomendations

Posted by Warren Peterson on October 20, 2013

What factors are considered in making a recommendation?

1. I know the candidate or have heard him or her speak in public
2. Opinion of knowledgeable friends
3. Endorsed by law enforcement
4. Endorsed by Republican groups or and/or individuals
5. Left wing endorsements
6. Record
7. Business or other non political or non judicial experience
8. Statement in Voter’s Pamphlet
8. A coin

Only contested races are listed. Under our “Top Two” primary, only two candidates advance to the General Election. Judges, however, who get over 50% of the primary vote are considered elected with no general election.

I took some flak from my conservative friends for my primary election recommendations of some Democrats. I only did this in races where election of a Democrat was a near certainty. If we have to have a D in office, at least they should be qualified.

For this November’s election, I plan to follow the same methodology but add a suggested “No Vote” (NV) as a form of protest. In any race where the total vote is significantly less (more than the normal drop off of voters from the top of the ballot to lesser contests) than the total number of voters (turnout), it indicates dissatisfaction with the choices

Seattle Mayor

Bicycle Mike McGinn vs State Senator Ed Murray – Murray would probably be an improvement but flip a coin or NV on this race.

Seattle City Council

Position #2 pits incumbent Richard Conlin against a wacko Socialist. Vote for Conlin

Previous Recommendation:

Position #4 – Incumbent Sally Bagshaw vs Sam Bellomio who says his occupation is Vice-President of StandUP America, known for holding “Burn the Koran” events. I’m no fan of radical Islam but I also don’t think it’s smart to poke a wasp nest. Vote for Bagshaw.

Revised Recommendation:

Position # 4 – Incumbent Sally Bagshaw vs SAM BELLOMIO.

There appears to be several organizations calling themselves some version of Stand Up America. Terry Jones, famous for public burning of the Quran, founded one of them. Sam Bellomio, running for City Council against Sally Bagshaw is active in StandUp-America, which calls for protests at public meetings like the city council against what they see as corruption, but they do not burn anything. I apologize for the error. While I can agree with much of their concerns, I’m not sure Sam could make the transition from protester to responsible public official. Nevertheless, maybe the solid left nine-member council could use an alternate voice. It is that bad in Seattle.

Change from Vote Bagshaw to Vote for Bellomio.

Position #6 – Incumbent Nick Licata vs another wacko Socialist. Nick is on the left as is the rest of the Council but please draw the line at putting a Socialist on the Council. Vote for Nicata.

Position #8 – Incumbent Mike O’Brien vs Albert Shen. If you like Mayor McGinn, O’Brien is your man. Don’t like McGinn, then Shen is the choice. NV is also appropriate.

Seattle School Board

Director District #4 – Suzanne Dale Estey vs. Sue Peters. No incumbents in this race. Estey is a Democrat but Peters has ties to Green Party activists such as Sally Soriano who voters booted off the Board in 2007. Peters also opposes charter schools. Vote for Suzanne Estey

Director District #5 – Vote for Stephan Blanford

King County Executive

Dow Constantine vs Alan E. Lobdell. Dow is the better qualified but a NV would also be appropriate.

King County Council

District #1 – Either NV or Dembowski

District #5 – Andy Massagli vs Dave Upthegrove. Sorry Seattle Times, got to go with Massagli on this one.

District #9 – Vote for Reagan Dunn

Seattle Port Commissioner

Position #1 – Incumbent John Creighton vs Pete Lewis. Endorsed by “Wish he was Governor” Rob McKenna and former Mayor Greg Nickels and the Seattle Times, Vote for Pete Lewis.

Position #2 – Appointed to the Commission and now running for a full term, Courtney Gregoire (daughter of the former governor) is opposed by Socialist John Naubert. Vote for Gregoire

Position #3 – No incumbent. Stephanie Bowman vs. Michael Wolfe. Give the edge to Bowman. Vote for Stephanie Bowman.

Position #4 – Incumbent Tom Albro is opposed by perennial candidate Richard Pope. Vote for Tom Albro.

State Issues

Initiative Measure No. 517 on changes to law regarding initiatives and referendum may be trying to do too much in one initiative. Some good points like increased time to get signatures but concerns about where signatures gatherers may solicit and do we really need to make harassment of a signature gatherer a specific crime? Vote No.

Initiative Measure No. 522 concerning labeling of genetically engineered food. Overreaching, a get rich opportunity for trial lawyers, Vote No.

Advisory Votes

Per a Tim Eyman initiative that requires a non-binding vote on any state legislative act that raises taxes and a report listing how each legislator voted on the act.

There are five items, numbers 3,4,5,6 and 7 all of which passed the legislature by large majorities. Essentially meaningless other than potential issues in races for the House and Senate. Vote “Maintained” on numbers 3,4,5 and 6 but “Repealed” on number 7 concerning increased death taxes.

King County Charter Amendment No. 1 regarding public defenders. This amendment is required as a result of a court case that made public defenders King County employees. Vote Yes.

King County Proposition No. 1 – Continues property tax funded Emergency Medical Services (911) system. Vote approved.

Proposed Seattle Charter amendment No. 19 would create seven council districts and two at large districts. Spread council representation throughout the city. Vote Yes

Seattle Proposition No. 1 – Public financing of campaigns for city offices. This politician’s dip into the public treasury to pay part of candidates’ campaign expenses is funded by increasing property taxes. It has been tried before with little if any benefit or improvement to the election process. It certainly is far down if not off the priority list for expenditure of tax dollars. Vote No.

Posted in State & Local | 2 Comments »

The Obama Doctrine

Posted by Warren Peterson on September 15, 2013

Many thanks to Bob Bodensteiner who coined the following:

The Obama Doctrine

Peace through Platitudes

(May it go viral.)

Posted in Presidential Politics | 1 Comment »

Syria Mess, Bush’s Fault?

Posted by Warren Peterson on September 13, 2013

The chief flack for the Left, James Carville, set the table and President Obama served the meal. Yes folks, the Syria mess is Bush’s fault. Nothing is ever Obama’s fault. It’s enough to make one wish George W. Bush was still Commander and Chief. Just think.

If W drew a red line on Syrian use of weapons of mass destruction (poison gas counts) and threatened swift and massive retaliation if they crossed it, Assad’s regime would think more than twice before using them.

Would you rather have French-speaking John F. Kerry negotiating with the Russians from a position of weakness or Bush’s Russian speaking Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice going one on one with Putin? She would not have to worry about President Bush pulling the rug out from under her. They would be on the same policy page. One almost feels sorry for Kerry when his strong call for action is immediately contradicted by a faint of heart President Obama.

A popular bumper sticker shows a picture of G. W. Bush with the words, “Miss me yet?” Yes!

Posted in National Politics | Leave a Comment »

Syria and Changing One’s Opinion

Posted by Warren Peterson on September 6, 2013

A former co-worker sent the below e-mail. Rather than comment on it or the articles he recommended, I decided to just pass it on verbatim. I read both the article from the “Atlantic” magazine and the one titled, “The Backfire Effect.” They are both interesting, thought provoking and in this age of Internet information overload, just a little bit scary. Take the time to read them, “you will not regret it.”

Friends and Family,

This article seems straightforward, thorough, and objective. It was written by William R. Polk, introduced and annotated by James Fallows. Both these gentlemen are Democrats, both fairly liberal, HOWEVER (before my conservative friends automatically hit the [reject] button), both men have a long history of reasonable discourse, both have impeccable credentials (knowledge and experience) concerning the middle east, and both are opposed to Obama’s stated objective of attacking Syrian government facilities.

The article provides an array of background to the current situation — historical, religious, geopolitical, even climactic. The questions asked are the right ones, and the answers display a clarity and logic that I find unassailable. I sincerely wish all our US Congressmen and Senators would read this, especially the knee-jerk war-hawks. That’s unlikely, I know…and even if they did read it, their preconceptions and convictions would likely only grow stronger and more ingrained (read about the Backfire Effect, as described by David McRaney, http://youarenotsosmart.com/2011/06/10/the-backfire-effect// ).

But you, gentle readers, if you currently support Obama’s adventuristic aims on Syria, perhaps, with sufficient logical argument, you could be persuaded to change an opinion…right? Or maybe you are already convinced that any attack on Syria at this point would be an excursion into Hell, but would like some supporting data/info. Either way, please find the time to read this article. I promise, you will not regret it.

http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2013/09/your-labor-day-syria-reader-part-2-william-polk/279255/

Jim

Posted in National Politics | 1 Comment »

Killing ObamaCare

Posted by Warren Peterson on July 30, 2013

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, better known as ObamaCare, does not cover 100% of citizens, is too expensive and too bureaucratic. It passed without a single Republican vote and remains unpopular in the polls. Nancy Pelosi famously said, “We have to pass the bill so you can find out what’s in it.” Each passing day, more and more people are learning what’s in it and they don’t like it.

Republicans in Congress have a golden opportunity to kill ObamaCare or at least slow its implementation. A group of GOP senators plan to do just that by using the coming debt limit and budget battles to de-fund the law. They are willing to shut down the government if necessary to do it. There are at least two concerns with their effort.

First, Republican experience with the last government shut down during the Clinton administration was less than positive. Second, even if they could get a de-fund bill through Congress, Obama would veto it and Democrats would launch a hate campaign like no other: Republicans want to take affordable health care away from children, seniors and the poor. They only want to protect the high salaries of insurance company CEOs. We’ve seen it before along with weak responses from GOP leadership.

This does not mean Republicans should shy away from hardball but they do need to be smart about it. When ObamaCare first became law, Republicans cried “Repeal and replace.” We’ve heard a great deal about repeal, it was a major theme of the Romney campaign. The replace part never made the spot light. This time it should.

Instead of directly using the debt ceiling/budget legislation as the horse to ride, propose a sense of congress resolution that sets forth a contract with America on health care. It should call for a two-year suspension of implementation of ObamaCare to provide time to develop truly bi-partisan, transparent health care legislation. During the two-year hiatus, keep in place the popular extension of children on parent’s health policies and preexisting condition provisions. The contract should contain specific principles, set goals and recognize the need for reform. An example of the need for reform, we have the world’s finest medical services but they are delivered unevenly and at high cost. Another is our legal system that drives costs up. Republicans need to champion reform.

Properly promoted, a health care sense of Congress resolution could be attractive to Democrats who could see it as a way to take credit for forcing the subject into the national debate but accepting the fact that ObamaCare is a “train wreck” and needs serious change, a start over. For Republicans, it would provide an opportunity to unify a divided caucus. If a contract with America on health care passed with a large bipartisan vote, implementing it would lessen a veto threat, show the public that Congress can accomplish something worthwhile and give Republicans a positive issue to run on in the 2014 mid-term elections. If Republicans stick solely with repeal, they run a high risk of losing. A loss of the House in 2014 would open the door to a Canadian style single payer system, the Democrat’s answer to the “train wreck.”

Posted in National Politics | 2 Comments »

 
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