History, politics, people of Oly WA

Month: June 2006 (Page 1 of 3)

Dori Monson on taxes, what an ass

I usually leave the talk radio blather watching to the experts, but I went on a hunch hunting trip this morning and had to share. Yesterday afternoon Dori was railing about how even though he liked Ron Sims’ idea for transportation in King County, he wouldn’t actually vote for a tax increase to support it.

His reasoning was, that according to the Tax Foundation Washington state has the fourth highest tax burden in the country, taking into consideration all sources of taxes, state local federal.

(Fourth highest! FOURTH Highest! He kept repeating, as if every time it became even more true.)

The implication is that while everyone in every state pays an equal share of the federal burden, our state and local burden is so freaking high, that how can we be expected to pay more? Actually, the opposit is true. Our local/state tax burden is lower than our federal burden, way lower.

Our local tax burden is 13th, and 20th in the year the Dori kept on yelling about (2004). Our federal burden is much higher and actually brings out total tax burden way up.

And, when you look at per-capita state and local collections in 2004, we’re even lower at 18th. Not only that, but Washington state government, in terms of per capita spending, puts more money out there than most other states, putting us at 6th in the nation in that category.

On average, Washington citizens put $3,452 into state and local government, and then those governments put over $8,000 of that back as investments in education, roads, etc. I don’t know where they come up with the other $5,000 per head, but it sounds like a pretty good deal to me.

Civic republican platform: participatory budgeting

In a response to Michael Tomasky’s essay on civic republicanism as a voice for Democrats, Brad Carson writes that we need to move beyond just rhetoric:

The “common interest” is fine as a rhetorical ploy. Tomasky’s “common good” won’t be the Democrats’ grand narrative, though. Because, its linguistic utility notwithstanding, the “common good” lacks any real substance and is incapable of doing the important work of prioritizing among (and adjudicating between) competing ideas. In the first 100 days of a new Democratic president, does the “common interest” dictate that we should first do universal health care, welfare reform, or gays in the military? We’ve been down that road before, and we know the baleful destination already.

I’ve been thinking about this, and I agree, that is as much as putting though into action. So, what would be the political policies of a civic republican agenda?

One idea is the concept of participatory budgeting, or as I like to call it, the Tim Eyman anti-body we should give all our cities and counties. One of the reasons that folks tend to vote themselves tax cuts and demand more service is that there isn’t a connection between them and how their local governments spend money.

Which totally makes sense because local government budgets are written over multiple months, and come to a head during the holiday season.

Participatory budgeting is the opposite of the typical way of developing budgets. It brings citizens close to how decision are made. It opens wide the most basic part of government, and the part that people trust the least.

participatory budgeting has its origins in the radical-left politics of South America. It was first proposed by a political party as part of a platform in the late 80s in Brazil, and first practiced in Porto Algre, Brazil in 1989. The purpose there was to break the lock upper and middle class elites had on the budgeting process.

Here it would be to bring people back into a murky process that we have handed over to elected officials and hired professionals. In Washington there are at least two small examples being played out now in Olympia and Tacoma. Both are limited in scope but have expanded the public dialogue and engagement in budgets.

Civic republican platform: participatory budgeting

Cross posted at Better Donkey

In a response to Michael Tomasky’s essay on civic republicanism as a voice for Democrats, Brad Carson writes that we need to move beyond just rhetoric:

The “common interest” is fine as a rhetorical ploy. Tomasky’s “common good” won’t be the Democrats’ grand narrative, though. Because, its linguistic utility notwithstanding, the “common good” lacks any real substance and is incapable of doing the important work of prioritizing among (and adjudicating between) competing ideas. In the first 100 days of a new Democratic president, does the “common interest” dictate that we should first do universal health care, welfare reform, or gays in the military? We’ve been down that road before, and we know the baleful destination already.

I’ve been thinking about this, and I agree, that is as much as putting though into action. So, what would be the political policies of a civic republican agenda?

One idea is the concept of participatory budgeting, or as I like to call it, the Tim Eyman anti-body we should give all our cities and counties. One of the reasons that folks tend to vote themselves tax cuts and demand more service is that there isn’t a connection between them and how their local governments spend money.

Which totally makes sense because local government budgets are written over multiple months, and come to a head during the holiday season.

Participatory budgeting is the opposite of the typical way of developing budgets. It brings citizens close to how decision are made. It opens wide the most basic part of government, and the part that people trust the least.

participatory budgeting has its origins in the radical-left politics of South America. It was first proposed by a political party as part of a platform in the late 80s in Brazil, and first practiced in Porto Algre, Brazil in 1989. The purpose there was to break the lock upper and middle class elites had on the budgeting process.

Here it would be to bring people back into a murky process that we have handed over to elected officials and hired professionals. In Washington there are at least two small examples being played out now in Olympia and Tacoma. Both are limited in scope but have expanded the public dialogue and engagement in budgets.

Another argument for civic republicanism

Washington Post:

A quarter of Americans say they have no one with whom they can discuss personal troubles, more than double the number who were similarly isolated in 1985. Overall, the number of people Americans have in their closest circle of confidants has dropped from around three to about two.

The comprehensive new study paints a sobering picture of an increasingly fragmented America, where intimate social ties — once seen as an integral part of daily life and associated with a host of psychological and civic benefits — are shrinking or nonexistent. In bad times, far more people appear to suffer alone.

I’m not saying that the government should go out and find friends for everybody, but in a country like this, what kind of message is more attractive and hopeful?

“No, seriously, you really are on your own. Screw your neighbor, look out for yourself.”

“Trust. We’re all in this together.”

McGavick, Locke and the golden parachute

David’s question this afternoon about whether Safeco Shareholders are pissed about Mike(!) McGavick’s Golden Parachute reminded me of something that I noticed a couple of weeks ago. Gary Locke, our former Democratic governor… (you remember him, right?) has been on the Safeco board of directors since early 2005:

Safeco’s board of directors has appointed former Washington State Governor Gary Locke as director, effective immediately. Gov. Locke will be included with the class of directors standing for election at the company’s annual shareholders meeting on May 4, 2005.

“We are delighted to welcome Governor Locke to the Safeco board,” said Mike McGavick, Safeco chairman and CEO. “The governor’s long-standing reputation for thoughtfulness and leadership will serve the board and our company well as we work to take Safeco to an even greater level of success.”

“It’s an honor to join the board of one of the nation’s leading property and casualty insurance companies, headquartered in Washington,” said Gov. Locke. “I’m proud to be associated with Safeco’s history of service and community involvement as well as its strong commitment to diversity.”

So, was Locke in on the decision to give McGavick his golden ‘chute? Did he care? What does he think of it?

The initiative process isn’t the problem, Dunmire is the problem

Cross posted at Printer Democracy

That the initiative process has been used in Washington in the past ten years to run rough-shod over state government’s finances isn’t evidence that the initiative system is broken, it is evidence that initiatives are the territory of the rich. Regular people, folks not like Michael Dunmire, don’t get their ideas (or ideas they like) on the ballot.

Since the beginnig of Tim Eyman career, Dunmire has donated $1 million, almost totally to the Eyman initiatives blowing holes in the state’s taxing authority.

David Goldstein:

It should also be noted that Eyman’s scandals have finally caught up with him, at least in terms of his so-called “grass roots” support. Of the $593,000 he raised for Initiative 900, over $514,000 can from a single source: investment banker Michael Dunmire of Woodinville. All it takes to qualify for the ballot is a half million dollars worth of paid signatures, and with a deep pocketed sugar daddy like Dunmire, Eyman is virtually assured ballot access. But that won’t mean his latest $30 car tab initiative has popular support.

That initiatives supported by Dunmire make it on the ballot is not a reflection on the public will.

It is a cynical reflection that if you have enough money, you can get your idea on the ballot and control the debate. While it is impossible, even unconstitutional, to stop guys like Dunmire from supporting ideas with all the money in the world, you can allow the rest of us to shoulder up to him.

By making the bar of participation so high in the initiattive process (for example, large sized initiative petitions) that state is benefiting people who can pay the price over folks who can’t write $25,000 checks.

I’m always going to read Don Brunell’s column at the Vancouver Columbian

Because they allow comments immedialty following opinion pieces. And, not those cheapo haloscan comments either in a pop up window, but real in line comments.

Don recently wrote a lame brain piece on how local communities should stand aside while telecoms lay down tracks. He used the Ashland, OR example to build up his straw man and then knock it right down. None doing though from the mighty comment:

Ask Californians and Portlanders how they feel about the power copmanies. Ask yourself how you feel about your cable company. Now, ask who is in the best position to ensure that high-speed internet? AFN currently offers 3-5 Mbps at $40 per month in Ashland. Next year, that will be 10 Mbps. The losses on the system (now almost 10 years old) have pretty much all stemmed from the cable TV side. Why? Because the city tried to do a good deed by charging a ridiculously low monthly fee ($24) for cable TV. No other market in the country is at that price. Even with the low cost, Charter Cable decided to compete in Ashland for cable customers. They do this by offering Charter cable services below market and below their own cost. (That’s probably illegal, but the FCC has never bothered to investigate it. I wonder why?)

I was going to write a post replacing the words “Ashland” with “Tacoma Power” or “Grays Harbor PUD,” to point out how laughable it is to argue that cities shouldn’t provide telecom while they do provide power, but this is way better.

MySpace as Civics Class

Cross posted at Better Donkey

A while back I had an idea of creating a school based civics/democracy program using a social network like Myspace (withouth the iritating music though). My thought was that while kids aren’t familiar with the how to be a citizen (who among us is?), they do know how to work in an online community.

But, the difference between being a citizen and a member of a good online community isn’t all that different. The skills learned at MySpace, how to make friends, how to communicate and discuss, are all skills needed to be a good citizen. We can teach these skills by holding on to what is working right now.

Anyway, looks like Tom Regan has the same idea:

Twyman says the idea that understanding the rules of association online can help you understand the rules of association in the real world has more potential than reality at the moment. But as 13- and 14-year-old members of social-networking communities and MMORPGs grow up, we could see that start to change. These young people may relate back to what they learned online.

In England, the government has decided that all new citizens must take a course in what it means to be a British citizen. The idea is to fight the alienation that many immigrants feel – young Muslims in particular, but all young immigrants in general.

Lectures, videos, and classes are one thing, but what if an MMORPG or online community could be developed to help young people learn more about British history and their duties as citizens? I’m not talking about some Pollyanna version of history: I mean a real game that young people would not see as a chore to play, a game that would also tell the story about Britain and how it came to be.

Twyman agrees that this could be done – he points to a highly successful game developed by the US Army to show young people what it’s like to be a soldier – but he says the determining factor would be the quality of the game.

“Most people in the industry tell me that motivation is really not relevant to young people,” he says. “What matters is how good the game is. The Army game was successful because it was fun to play. You could create a game to help young people learn to be citizens, but it would have to be a high-quality game.”

Take that Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick.

MySpace as Civics Class

A while back I had an idea of creating a school based civics/democracy program using a social network like Myspace (withouth the iritating music though). My thought was that while kids aren’t familiar with the how to be a citizen (who among us is?), they do know how to work in an online community.

But, the difference between being a citizen and a member of a good online community isn’t all that different. The skills learned at MySpace, how to make friends, how to communicate and discuss, are all skills needed to be a good citizen. We can teach these skills by holding on to what is working right now.

Anyway, looks like Tom Regan has the same idea:

Twyman says the idea that understanding the rules of association online can help you understand the rules of association in the real world has more potential than reality at the moment. But as 13- and 14-year-old members of social-networking communities and MMORPGs grow up, we could see that start to change. These young people may relate back to what they learned online.

In England, the government has decided that all new citizens must take a course in what it means to be a British citizen. The idea is to fight the alienation that many immigrants feel – young Muslims in particular, but all young immigrants in general.

Lectures, videos, and classes are one thing, but what if an MMORPG or online community could be developed to help young people learn more about British history and their duties as citizens? I’m not talking about some Pollyanna version of history: I mean a real game that young people would not see as a chore to play, a game that would also tell the story about Britain and how it came to be.

Twyman agrees that this could be done – he points to a highly successful game developed by the US Army to show young people what it’s like to be a soldier – but he says the determining factor would be the quality of the game. “Most people in the industry tell me that motivation is really not relevant to young people,” he says. “What matters is how good the game is. The Army game was successful because it was fun to play. You could create a game to help young people learn to be citizens, but it would have to be a high-quality game.”

Take that Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick.

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