Clear Fog Blog

Political musings from Warren E. Peterson

Archive for the ‘State & Local’ Category

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.

Advertisements

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 »

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 »

It’s Back! Public Funding of Political Campaigns

Posted by Warren Peterson on June 12, 2013

Last January, the Seattle City Council asked for a proposal to provide public funds to help candidates pay the cost of mounting a campaign for public office. Next Monday the council will “take its first look” at the proposal. In 2008 then King Council Member Bob Ferguson (newly elected Washington Attorney General) with the support of fellow council member Dow Constantine (now King County Executive) and former council member Lois North, made a similar effort for King County. The added cost and the economy combined to delay consideration indefinitely.

Like a Phoenix of bad ideas, the specter of public financing of candidates refuses to die. With government crying for more and more money for education, roads, transit, healthcare etc., who in their right mind believes voters want to be forced to contribute to political campaigns so more marginal candidates can be encouraged to seek public office.

Instead of tossing taxpayer dollars into candidate welfare, for substantially less cost insure a voter’s pamphlet is mailed to each voting household. Even less expensive, provide a web site where each of the candidates for a particular office can provide answers to the same set of questions. Allow updates so it is current. The Seattle Times could provide a written version. On the web site, require candidates to publish the names and occupation of all contributors over $500. In the case of PACs, require the names and occupations of the top contributors to the PAC. Any or all of these suggestions would do more to inform the voters and address the concerns about money in campaigns than the proposed public campaign funding. Yes, raising property taxes “about $6 for the owner of a $400,000 home” to pay for the proposed program doesn’t seem like much until you add it to all the other “doesn’t seem like much” taxes.

Once we have solved all the other problems and budget shortfalls of the city, the council can look at public funding of political campaigns. But for now, shove this idea in a pigeon hole where it will never see the light of day.

Posted in State & Local | 2 Comments »

Senator Tim Sheldon & the Senate Majority

Posted by Warren Peterson on April 8, 2013

A magnitude off the charts political earthquake shook Olympia before the start of the 2013 session of the state legislature. Two Democrat state senators, Rodney Tom (D-48th District) and Tim Sheldon (D-35th District) announced they were joining the 23 Republican senators to form a “majority coalition caucus” of 25 giving them control of the State Senate with Tom the new Senate Majority Leader. Needless to say, Democrats were not happy.

The Seattle/King County media has covered Senator Tom extensively but less is known about Senator Sheldon. That gap has been considerably closed with Nina Shapiro’s excellent article, “What Kind of Democrat…” in the April 3-9, 2013 Seattle Weekly (cover page “Sleeping with the Elephants”). Shapiro profiles both senators but tells readers a great deal about Senator Sheldon. No country bumpkin, Ivy League educated with a UW MBA, he charts his own course. In many respects, he is the quintessential legislator for those fed up with partisan wrangling. To read the article, click HERE

Related posts:

Rodney Tom – Turncoat or Practical Politician

Senator Tom Switches Back

Posted in State & Local | Leave a Comment »

Do High Taxes and More Rules Hurt Job Growth?

Posted by Warren Peterson on March 25, 2013

According to Danny Westneat in Palm Sunday’s “Seattle Times”, capitalism is thriving in “Seattle with all its taxes and rules and supposedly socialistic groupthink…” He cites as evidence a “new jobs report” that shows “the city’s unemployment rate well below the rest of the state, to one of the lowest for big cities in the U.S.”

Let’s take “rules and socialistic groupthink” first. Two examples, the selected extension of metered on street parking to 8PM plus a sharp increase in rates and the requirement for businesses with a certain number of employees to grant paid sick leave. I seriously doubt companies like Boeing, Nordstrom, Starbucks, or the Port of Seattle or the University of Washington or most high tech or other major entities care about these Seattle Nanny rules. Many stay here and grow here because it is too expensive to move and they are attracted to Seattle by its location, transportation services, educated population and environment. There are some businesses, however, that are seriously affected by rules such as the two mentioned here. Ask the restaurant owner if such rules are taken into account when making decisions to expand, relocate to Seattle or hire more employees, same question for other small businesses.

And the reason for Seattle’s lower than most unemployment is? The answer according to Jon Talton’s column in the “Business” section of Palm Sunday’s “Seattle Times” – Amazon.

Oh, about high Seattle taxes. Yes, the city council is constantly looking for ways to increase revenue by new or higher taxes and fees but so far, at least for the big boys, they have not overcome the advantages of locating at the hub of economic activity in the state. There is also one other major competitive advantage to doing business in Washington State that was touted by Governor Chris Gregoire when she was encouraging companies to move here, no income tax.

Nice try Danny but there is a tipping point and Seattle may be close to it. Mr Talton notes that Amazon, like Boeing, could suffer a reversal of fortune. Should that happen we would wish Seattle had a more friendly business climate. Danny could be the last one to turn out the lights.

Posted in State & Local | Leave a Comment »

Senator Tom Switches Back

Posted by Warren Peterson on January 4, 2013

The 2013-2014 Washington State Legislature convenes Monday, January 14, 2013 in what was to be a typical Blue State climate – Democrat Governor and Democrat control of both houses of the legislature. However, thanks to two Democrat state senators, a touch of Red State rain fell on the D’s parade. Former Republican but now Democrat State Senator Rodney Tom and conservative Democrat Senator Tim Sheldon joined with the Republicans to take effective control of the State Senate by one vote, 25 to 24. Tom becomes Majority Leader and Republicans get majority control of key committees controlling taxes, spending, K-12 education and healthcare. Tom, Sheldon and Democrat Senator Jim Kastama, perhaps in a dry run of today’s coup, sided with Republicans on the budget in the 2012 session. Republicans gained one senate seat in the last election making the new coalition likely despite Democrat concessions to prevent it. If it holds, Washington State may avert its own fiscal cliff by frustrating the tax and spend Democrats who were salivating for billions more spending on K-12 and higher education, transportation, healthcare etc. These may all be good desires but constraint is needed lest we become California. To that end, I say welcome back Senator Tom.

Posted in State & Local | Leave a Comment »

Voting On Same Sex Marriage

Posted by Warren Peterson on October 30, 2012

Three states will vote November 6 on the issue of same sex marriage. In the State of Washington, the legislature passed a bill that would allow same sex couples to marry. The vote was 28 to 21 in the Senate and 55 to 43 in the House. Well more than enough signatures were gathered to place Referendum 74 on the ballot. It asks voters to approve or reject the legislature’s action.

Approve 74, it’s a matter of fairness. Reject 74, the social cost is too high. Commentator Dennis Prager makes some interesting points in his recent article, “Why a good person can vote against same sex marriage.” To read it, click
HERE

Posted in Religion, State & Local | Leave a Comment »

“College Officials Consider Evicting Protesters”

Posted by Warren Peterson on November 20, 2011

Consider. Consider! Give me a break!

“After a health-department inspection of the Occupy Seattle encampment found overcrowded living conditions, unsanitary food preparation and no access to bathrooms during the day, Seattle Central Community College officials are looking at ways to evict the protesters from campus.”

How about the Seattle Police SWAT squad, bring in the horse patrol, unleash the canine unit. Oh I know, shades of Bull Connor, cries of police brutality but coddling of these anarchists has threatened the publics’ right to health and safety. “Students and neighbors have complained of open drug use and harassment.” But the college Chancellor, Jill Wakefield, said, “Nothing has been decided at this point.” Obviously, she is not a rocket scientist.

“In a letter to the college, the health department said it found no hand-washing facility near the food-preparation area, no approved water supply, no mechanical refrigeration for food, no sanitary facilities during the daytime, overcrowded living conditions, dogs defecating and urinating, debris and litter between tents and evidence of rodents.”

How quickly would the Health Department close a restaurant or coffee stand if they found these violations?

“An Occupy Seattle spokesman said many of the college’s allegations were unfounded. He said the Capitol Hill neighborhood where the college is located is known for drug use and transients and that college day-care workers routinely checked the children’s play area for needles and syringes even before the political activists moved in.”

Well isn’t that nice. It’s okay to trash a public college campus if it’s located in a place unsafe for children. The city tossed the “Occupiers” out of Westlake Park but then that’s where the Christmas, sorry, Holiday tree will be located, lots of kids there and we all know Seattle is a place for kids. Mayor Apologize, Mike McGinn, “offered City Hall Plaza” as a new location but the mangy mass chose to encamp at the college.

“The group moved to the college Oct. 29. The group is part of the larger Occupy Wall Street protests organized to send a message that the growing gulf between rich and poor threatens the nation’s democracy.”

The “growing gulf” is really between the law abiding, long-suffering taxpayers of Seattle and the occupy types with their codependent public officials.

I know the Occupy Wall Street crowd would love an incident they could use to further inflame the Left so enforcement of the law needs to be done with care but it needs to be done. After reading the front page article in Saturday’s Seattle Times, tell me you are not incensed. It should make even liberal Seattle long for the Tea Party protests.

Cross posted on Sound Politics

Posted in State & Local | 2 Comments »

Seattle’s Mayor and Council Kill Jobs

Posted by Warren Peterson on September 13, 2011

Mayor McGinn made job growth a key focus of his administration. But the policies of the mayor and the city council may well have the opposite effect.

Keeping the customers away:

Seattle has raised parking rates significantly and extended the time meters are in use. These vary by area of the city but if you go to a downtown restaurant, be prepared to pay $4.00 an hour. And no more free parking after 6 PM, you pay until 8PM.

When a fine is a tax:

The city is looking at increasing the overtime parking fine by $5.00, not to discourage overtime parking but to raise more money.

When a policy is a tax:

It is tough enough to be a small business like a restaurant. Margins are thin and completion is strong. The city council just made it harder by imposing a new cost on small business, a requirement to provide paid sick leave for employees.

When a tax increase is a tax increase:

Add to the county’s $20 increase in car tab fee a Seattle ballot proposal for an additional $60 fee on top of a recent Seattle $20 hit and you are talking real money.

Let’s not forget the Seattle’s Families and Education levy up for renewal this year. Well, not exactly a renewal since it is double the previous levy amount.

There are always green jobs:

Many of the so-called green jobs are actually from deficit-funded stimulus grants such as the famous Seattle weatherization boondoggle. This one was for $20,000,000 but got tangled in poor planning and something called “social equity” but didn’t winterize many homes. Fourteen jobs were created but most to administer the program.

Taken together, all of these items serve to extract money from customers and small businesses, money that may have gone to hiring more workers and/or keeping prices down. They are certainly factors in deciding where to live, go for shopping and entertainment or locate a business. It’s hard to see how they have a positive effect on job creation, at least in the private sector.

Sound Politics

Posted in State & Local | 1 Comment »