This coming Monday, March 2, the City of Spokane City Council is set to vote on ORD C35894, HEALTH CARE FACILITY NOISE ORDINANCE, described on the agenda as “An ordinance harmonizing the noise disturbance prohibitions in the context of health care providers and facilities with the noise disturbance provisions applicable generally throughout the city.” (Council Sponsor: CM Kinnear/CM Wilkerson).
This should happen during the Legislative Session of the City of Spokane City Council in the City Council Chambers (808 W Spokane Falls Blvd) some time after 6PM.
All citizens want to speak privately with their health care provider without being disturbed by intrusive and threatening protest. Most citizens agree on a general right of health care privacy. ORD C35894 aims to clarify and strengthen the legal protections for this privacy, in part because current ordinances and state law (Revised Code of Washington 9.02.100) are not fully enforced. ORD C35894 was written in response to current events , but it is directed at strengthening the legal tools needed to safeguard healthcare privacy.
In this country we pass laws (at the municipal level they’re called ordinances) to deal with such frictions and to avoid people resorting to violence. We endeavor to abide by those laws and we hope law officers will enforce these laws when people break them. When someone who breaks the law is “brought to justice,” we try to respect the results of what we hope will be the unbiased deliberations of our courts and judges. (I’ve often thought that part of the function of the legal system is stretch out these deliberations long enough so the passions of the aggrieved parties cool down enough that violent confrontation is off the table.)
The HEALTH CARE FACILITY NOISE ORDINANCE does two things: 1) It clarifies existing ordinances on noise interference with health care facilities, ordinances that depend on enforcement by local law enforcement officers and prosecution by the City. 2) It establishes a new private legal “right of action” under which an aggrieved citizen may bring a civil suit against a violator. The concept of a civil right of action is important because it requires neither an arrest nor a sympathetic city prosecutor in order to pursue justice under the ordinance.
What can we do as concerned citizens? First, recognize that the self-righteous folk shouting through megaphones are already accosting members of the City Council with their views. With that in mind, it behooves us to let our City Council members know how we feel about the importance of this new ordinance, its enforcement, and the new “right of action” that does not require police intervention to serve as a deterrent.
Do you know who your council members are and how to contact them? Visit: https://my.spokanecity.org/citycouncil/members/ The boundaries of the districts, the council members, and their emails are right there to be seen and clicked on. Email a note of your support for this ordinance to your council members. This is local government. Our council members (or at least their legislative assistant) actually look at these emails.
Attend the March 2 City Council Meeting Legislative Session (details on time and place in the first paragraph above). It’s your local government in action. See how it works. You won’t be alone. Here’s a link to a Facebook event page that further describes the meeting.
Access more information on the March 2 City Council Session at: https://static.spokanecity.org/documents/citycouncil/advance-agendas/2020/03/city-council-advance-agenda-2020-03-02.pdf Don’t be daunted by the lengthy pdf. ORD C35894 appears on page 7. If you click on “ORD C35894” it will take you to the text of the proposed Ordinance way down the pdf in the supplementary materials. This is how actual meetings and government happen. Let’s pay attention.
Participate in your democracy–or plan to lose it.
Keep to the high ground,
 The current provocation: Pastor Ken Peters of Covenant Church and his followers pose as “The Church at Planned Parenthood” outside of the Planned Parenthood Spokane Health Center on Indiana east of Ruby. Thinly cloaked as a “Christian” Church, this group has deep ties with local far right politicians (Matt Shea, Mike Fagan, and Caleb Collier) and draws occasional speakers from afar. They claim these raucous protests (to which Pastor Peters reassures us that his followers often come armed–Did Jesus wear a sword?) are protected religious services, NOT protests. Visit that denial at the American Redoubt article on the topic.
Ordinarily in these emails I try to avoid paying much attention to national politics. It is covered exhaustively in the national news media. We we really need to pay attention to is what’s going on in local government–because that affects us most directly AND it filters upward in coming years, something Republicans know and the rest of us need to re-learn. However, on this day before Super Tuesday, with our Washington State Presidential Primary ballots in hand I need to make an exception.
I recommend three articles:
Adam Jentleson, “Why Don’t We Know Which Democratic Candidate Can Beat Trump?”
Leonard Pitts, “Vote blue, no matter who?” that appeared in the Spokesman at https://www.spokesman.com/stories/2020/feb/17/leonard-pitts-jr-vote-blue-no-matter-who/ but can be found in multiple publications, I think, by googling the title.
David Freedlander, “An Unsettling New Theory: There Is No Swing Voter”
I believe Donald Trump and his Republican Party are a threat to democracy, a step toward autocratic governance with many of the earmarks of the rise of the Nazis in 1930s Germany. Among the many who share my fear I find two camps: one camp that fervently believes a candidate that can beat Trump in November has to play to the middle (e.g. Biden or Bloomberg or Klobuchar) and another camp that is sure that only someone from further left, (e.g. Sanders or Warren) can inspire voters to the polls who otherwise will sit out.
My conclusion: No one knows–and anyone who says they do know is blowing smoke. Even after the election we won’t know, even though a lot of ink and hot air will be spent trying to analyze the meaning of what happened and claim how things would have been different if only we had nominated ____.
For me the three articles I cite above hammer home some of this unsettling uncertainty. Each is worth reading, but even if you do not chose to click and read I want to leave you today with Jentleson’s conclusion (from the first article cited above), with which I agree:
No one can tell us who can beat Mr. Trump, because no one knows.
All we really know is that the last two Democratic presidents to win were dynamic performers on the stump who inspired people with optimism and were able to assemble a broad coalition.
As a potential member of that coalition, the single smartest act of political analysis one can perform may be to step back from the data, and ask yourself a simple question: How do the candidates make me feel?
Keep to the high ground,
The due date for the Washington State Presidential Primary ballot return is March 10 at 8PM. However, ballots “drop,” that is, they’re mailed out, by County Auditors in Washington State yesterday, today, and tomorrow, February 19-21. It is a simple ballot except for one thing: because in Washington State we have great paper ballots, ballots that literally are a paper trail, the ballots were printed weeks ago to be ready to mail now. Click here to see the ballot. Many of the Democratic Presidential Candidates listed on the ballot have already dropped out. (Here‘s a current listing.) After next Tuesday, March 3, aka Super Tuesday, a week and a half from now, when fifteen states vote in the Presidential Primary, even more might drop out. (Like the ballot, the WA State Voters pamphlet is out of date. For example, the first bio is for Michael Bennett. He dropped out February 11th.)
Be sure to vote, and be sure to vote for a candidate who is still in the race after Super Tuesday. Hold your ballot that week and a half and do a little homework before you fill it in and mail it or drop it off.
This is an important vote for people in non-swing states, states that are highly likely to vote majority Democratic (or Republican). Thanks to the archaic Electoral College system voters in non-swing states are likely to have more say about who becomes President by voting in this Primary than you will have a say (at least concerning the U.S. Presidency) in the General Election in November. Delegates determined in these Primary Elections (caucuses, still, in some states) are sent to the Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in July.
This year for the first time in Washington State Democratic delegates are sent to the Democratic National Convention mostly based on the results of the voting in this March 10th Primary. The complex details of delegate selection can be accessed here.
Make sure your VOTE counts for WA State delegate allocation by holding your ballot until AFTER Super Tuesday, March 3, 2020. Make your choice, then mail or drop your ballot at a dropbox soon after March 4th. The final day to vote is March 10th.
Keep to the high ground,
P.S. For Idaho Voters: The Idaho Presidential Primary is also held on March 10. In 2018 the Idaho Democratic Party switched to a state run Primary from party caucus system. I believe Idaho will also have candidates on the ballot who have already dropped out (for the same reason Washington does–paper). Idaho still has polls, so most of the voting (unless you’ve applied for an absentee ballot) requires appearing at your polling place. More detail: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2020_Idaho_Democratic_primary
Every initiative, referendum, and “advisory vote” on last fall’s November 5 General Election ballot win the City of Spokane was traceable to Republican operatives. On a state level Tim Eyman put forward I-976 (his latest car tab, anti-tax effort), while City of Spokane Props 1 & 2 originated with the few uber-wealthy conservatives who formed “Better Spokane” to provide cover and a tax write-off for their efforts. As a reminder Prop 2 read, “Shall the Spokane City Charter be amended to prohibit the City of Spokane from imposing an income tax on wages, salaries, investments, the sale of goods or services, or any other income source?” (It passed with 72% of the vote.)
That is a startling realization. Weren’t initiatives and referenda enshrined in our Washington State Constitution and the Spokane City Charter as a check “By the People” on the actions (or inactions) of our elected representatives? Is Tim Eyman, with his clever anti-tax, anti-government framing and his PAC name and motto, “Permanent Offense,” representing “the People” or is he subverting the will of a distracted populace for the benefit of a few? Whose money are Fritz and Alvin Wolff, Michael Cathcart, and company, the basis of “Better Spokane” protecting with their Charter Amendment to preemptively block any form of City income tax?
It takes money and effort to launch an initiative, referendum, or proposition. There are signature gathering requirements, rules and regulations about wording, and, at least at the state level, seemingly inevitable court challenges from those opposed. It is a daunting task most of us never consider, a task in which a team player with monetary backing has a substantial advantage. Eyman (statewide) and Cathcart (City of Spokane) are great examples.
What did it take to get Proposition 2 on the City of Spokane ballot? First, an idea, of course. What better use of the distaste for taxes and government the Republican Party and its think tanks have been nurturing for decades, than to put forward a measure to insure that the wealthiest among us would never face a city income tax, even on their highest marginal incomes? Perfect. Never mind that no current politician would propose such a tax. If nothing else, putting a “no income tax” measure on the ballot might encourage certain folks to vote who might not otherwise and, if passed (as it did), it sends a nice message: the wealthy in Spokane have the electorate so well deceived you can come here and join us with no worries. Prop 2 was pre-emptive taxation protection for the wealthiest among us. Even better to make the prohibition a “charter amendment,” the city equivalent to amending the Constitution (but much easier). It is actually the same process as any initiative, but a “charter amendment” sounds more impressive.
Second, it takes signature gathering, a significant hurdle. How many? The Smart Reforms for a Better Spokane website tells us. (As does the City Charter.) For last fall’s municipal election the number was only 2226, 5% of all votes cast in the most recent Spokane General Municipal election (2017). That is a remarkably small number, especially compared to the task of qualifying a statewide initiative. For last fall’s election a statewide initiative needed 259,622 signatures to get on the ballot, 8% of the votes cast in the last election for Washington governor. [You can read about all the twists and turns of Washington statewide initiatives here.]
Third, it takes considerable effort and knowhow to get the initiative properly written and advertised. Note, however, that with a Spokane City initiative no Pro and Con needs to appear in the voters’ pamphlet like it does for a statewide initiative. Better Spokane, a non-profit run by a few wealthy locals consists of a website (where Prop 2 is posed as “Taxpayer Protection”) and a Facebook page, a Board consisting of the contributors, and one employee, Michael Cathcart. Most of the magic to get a citywide initiative passed is in the framing of the question–and not proposing anything that provokes well-funded opposition. [The most recent example of a citywide ballot measure that provoked a desperate and well-funded corporate blowback was the oil stabilization initiative, Prop 2 of the 2017 municipal elections. Burlington Northern, seeing a threat to their bottom line with towns all across the country passing such ordinances, pulled out all the stops in opposition advertising.]
We should watch for more Michael Cathcart initiatives with similar political purpose, perhaps even this year, 2020. A BETTER SPOKANE (Sponsored by: The Standard Trust), 2020 registered as a “Continuing Political Action Committee” with the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission last May. As of this week it reported no contributions or expenditures, but the groundwork is laid for more cleverly framed initiatives backed not “By the People” in the broad sense, but by the money of the wealthy Republican business operatives on the Better Spokane Board. [One might laugh at their claim of bi-partisanship.] For orientation, City of Spokane Props 1 and 2 in 2019 were pushed by Better Spokane under an “Initiative Committee (Local)” called SMART REFORMS FOR A BETTER SPOKANE, 2019. That Committee had just fifteen contributors, with Fritz Wolff of The Wolff Co. contributing more than a third (25K) of the total (69K). Another 35K of that 69 came, obscurely, from “The Standard Trust” and “Better Spokane PAC,” the better to muddle the origins of the money.
Bottom lines: 1) Keep Michael Cathcart (recently elected to the City of Spokane City Council) and his network of wealthy Republican backers at Better Spokane on your radar. 2) Never assume a political process like an Initiative can’t be hijacked by people with self interest and gobs of money.
Tim Eyman is the Washington Statewide version of the same process, but, as a recently declared candidate for WA State governor, he deserves a separate post.
Keep to the high ground,
The history of the United States (and the world) would be very different if the Electoral College hadn’t elected a minority President twice in the last 20 years. (GW Bush in 2000 and DJ Trump in 2016).
It wasn’t like the Founders said, ‘Hey, what a great idea! This is the preferred way to select the chief executive, period,’” says [George C.] Edwards. [Professor of Political Science at Texas A&M] “They were tired, impatient, frustrated. They cobbled together this plan because they couldn’t agree on anything else.”
The article goes on:
One group of delegates felt strongly that Congress shouldn’t have anything to do with picking the president. Too much opportunity for chummy corruption between the executive and legislative branches.
Another camp was dead set against letting the people elect the president by a straight popular vote. First, they thought 18th-century voters lacked the resources to be fully informed about the candidates, especially in rural outposts. Second, they feared a headstrong “democratic mob” steering the country astray. And third, a populist president appealing directly to the people could command dangerous amounts of power.
Out of those drawn-out debates came a compromise based on the idea of electoral intermediaries. These intermediaries wouldn’t be picked by Congress or elected by the people. Instead, the states would each appoint independent “electors” who would cast the actual ballots for the presidency.
The Electoral College was a flawed compromise from the beginning. The Constitution was ratified in 1790. Fourteen years later, by 1804, three-quarters of the states had hurriedly ratified the 12th Amendment to the Constitution, a fix meant to prevent the election of a President and a Vice-President from two competing political camps. The Framers did not anticipate the rise of political parties based on competing ideologies, nor did they foresee the complications of two people with antagonistic views holding these two offices.
The Electoral system described in the Constitution, even as modified by the 12th Amendment, leaves it up the individual State legislatures to decide how to select their Electors. The 12th Amendment says the selected Electors of each State shall meet in their State and they shall vote, but neither the Constitution nor the 12th Amendment says anything about the State specifying for whom each Elector shall vote. That too is apparently left for each State to decide.
Article II, Section. 1. reads: Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.
Make note. Each State decides. That constitutional clause is important to freeing ourselves from this well-intentioned but greatly flawed compromise that is the Electoral College.
The number of Electors from each state was also a compromise. The number was set as the sum of the number of Representatives from each State plus two for the number of Senators from each State. Thus, in 1790 Rhode Island selected three electors (1+2) or roughly one Elector per 28,000 inhabitants while Virginia selected twelve (10+2) or roughly one Elector per 52,500 inhabitants, (The numbers for these calculations come from here and the U.S. Constitution. The number for the population of Virginia is adjusted to reflect the infamous 3/5 Compromise that counted enslaved people as 3/5 of a person.) Current Elector/population numbers are even more skewed: Wyoming gets three Electors, one per 193,000 inhabitants, while California, with fifty-five Electors, has one per 693,000 inhabitants. Therefore, Wyoming, thanks to a small state getting a minimum of three Electors regardless of population, gets 3.6 times the Presidential electoral power of California on a per inhabitant basis. The Framers’ constructed a hybrid system that has become more skewed as the population has grown from around 4 million to 330 million. (The Senate itself is even more skewed. The 52 Senators that voted to acquit in the impeachment trial collectively represent 18 million fewer people than the 48 Senators who voted to convict.)
The buffering (of the rabble), the balance and deliberation hoped for by the Framers melted away almost immediately. Starting in 1789 with Pennsylvania and Maryland, state after state adopted an at-large, winner-of-the-popular-vote-takes-all (of the Electors) selection process. Political parties, unanticipated by the Framers, took over the system. (See “Evolution of Selection Plans” in the wikipedia article on the College.)
We are left with an archaic system, a system most of us barely understand, and a system that discourages many from even voting in the Presidential elections, since the winner-takes-all-system in many partisan dominated states effectively pre-ordains for whom the Electors of the State are assigned to vote.
(Some political thought leaders of local Christian Fundamentalists, understanding the complex advantage the Electoral College system can sometimes confer on them, want their followers to consider the Electoral College to be divinely inspired –a convenient mis-reading of history.)
So how do we get out of this flawed mess the Framers wrote and political parties have commandeered?
How about a Constitutional amendment? We’ve come close. With enthusiastic bi-partisan support and the promise of a signature from Richard Nixon, the Bayh–Celler amendment passed the House in 1970, with a vote of 339-70, only to fall victim to the anti-democratic Senate, where it was killed by filibuster. (Click that link to read the sad story.)
The Electoral College is so entrenched in our political rivalries, and the process of Constitutional amendment is such a hurdle, depending, as it does, on the anti-democratic U.S. Senate, that there has to be another way. The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact is that way. Remember: the States “shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct” the Electors. What if enough states to collectively vote an Electoral College majority (270 votes) all agreed that they would direct their Electors to vote for the winner of the national popular vote?
Never heard of the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact? Neither had I, but it’s already well on the way. As of February 2020, enough state legislatures have passed this law to control 196 electoral votes. The law in each state works like a sleeper cell: it is only activated when the threshold 270 electoral votes are achieved. If that’s confusing (it was to me at first) I urge you to watch this entertaining youtube video on the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact by RGP Grey.
In Washington? Oh, yeah. the Interstate Compact become law in 2010.
In Idaho? Nope. So far, it is not even on the radar.
You can see a state-by-state accounting of the process here by scrolling down to the table near the bottom.
Nothing worthwhile, especially nothing actually in the interest of democracy, happens in our country without careful thought and sustained effort. Think of voting rights for former slaves, voting rights for women, civil rights. Each took decades. Scrapping the archaic Electoral College is another such issue.
Keep to the high ground,
 I can thank We Believe We Vote (WBWV), the Eastern Washington political action committee (PAC) that weds Fundamentalist Christianity to right wing political orthodoxy, for this concept of the Electoral College as divinely inspired. (read WeBelieveWeVote.com, What is it?) Before the 2019 election cycle one of the published criteria for candidate evaluation by these self-described “Christians” was devotion to the Electoral College system for electing the President. These folks were so blatant about their minority political interests that, apparently, the hard fought compromise that resulted in the inclusion of the Electoral College concept in the Constitution was considered by them to have been guided by Jesus. I don’t remember that as part of my United Methodist upbringing…
An “Exposing leftism… push-back night!” was held on a Friday evening in January at Covenant Church (3506 W Princeton Ave, on the near north side). The video of the event posted on Facebook (see link below) is a chilling example of a malignant form of Christian Fundamentalist, Old Testament Evangelicalism wedded to regional politics. I’ve watched it twice. I’ve written about it, and I cannot get it out of my head.
[Click here to watch the video: https://www.facebook.com/ccspokane/videos/558229091429169/ or here https://jxindivisible.org/2020/02/covenant-church/ for my commentary.]
Evangelicalism is not a monolith. The Covenant Church lies to the far right end of the Evangelical spectrum, but a far right which, cloaked as general “Christianity”, has outsize regional political influence. The lecture I recommend below is focused on the history of the broader movement of which Covenant is a particularly glaring part.
The “Exposing leftism… push-back night!” night at Covenant Church was a program dedicated to defending Matt Shea. Two of the folks who took the stage at this church event were Gabe Blomgren (who says on stage that he works for the John Birch Society) and former Spokane Valley Councilman Caleb Collier. These two are the hosts of “Church and State,” available on Facebook and also on “ACN,” the American Christian Network of radio stations based in Spokane. On KSPO, 106.5FM, an ACN affiliate, you’ll find Matt Shea listed as an “outstanding…regional Bible teacher.” It should be no surprise that Shea, a Representative who refuses to speak with most local media that serves the constituents he is supposed to represent, spent nearly $20,000 of his 2018 campaign contributions (about a sixth of all the campaign money spent that year) on “Broadcasting” with ACN.
With that as a teaser I urge you to join me in attending “The History of Evangelicals in American Politics,” a lecture by Matthew Sutton next Tuesday, February 18. I heard Prof. Sutton speak once before on another aspect of Evangelicalism and found it very informative. He is the author of several books on the subject. Here are the details for Tuesday’s presentation:
What follows is copied from the website linked below:
Explore the history and meaning behind a uniquely American movement: Evangelical Christianity. Evangelicals are the strongest religious voting block in America, despite being a relatively new coalition. How did they come to hold such power?
In this balanced and respectful talk, WSU professor Matthew Sutton traces the history of the religious right in America, from its early roots to its rise to power under Ronald Reagan and into the current era. Feeling concerned about the rise in secularism, evangelicals have taken to the pulpit and the airwaves to explain how Biblical end-times prophecies make sense of a troubled modern world. How does this history help us understand our current political system?
Matthew Sutton is the Edward R. Meyer Distinguished Professor of History at Washington State University. He received his PhD from the University of California at Santa Barbara. His most recent book is American Apocalypse: A History of Modern Evangelicalism. Sutton has been featured on National Public Radio’s Morning Edition and MSNBC’s The Last Word, among many other news shows.
Sutton lives in Pullman.
Keep to the high ground,
https://www.facebook.com/churchandstate1776/photos/a.2012598342316636/2322837377959396/?type=1&theater to see the lead photo for the Facebook page of Church and State. It shows three men, one with a copy of the Constitution, one with a Bible, and one with an assault rifle. I ask you, “Would Jesus prefer an AR-15 or an AK-47? Left to right, these men are: Caleb Collier (John Birch Society Coordinator), Asst Dir. Of Covenant Church, Shea Protege and co-host of Church and State; Ken Peters, the Pastor of Covenant Church in Spokane and Moses Lake, Pastor of The Church at Planned Parenthood, and Shea Lieutenant; and, finally, Gabe Blomgren, Asst Pastor at Covenant Church and TCAPP, co-host of Church and State, and Shea Lieutenant. These are not representatives of any Christianity I can identify.