Eymans’ I-976, “Permanent Offense”

I-976 is Tim Eyman’s latest destructive Initiative.

If you want to maintain and improve our transportation system in Washington State vote NO on Tim Eyman’s Initiative Measure No. 976. It’s the second item on November General Election ballot mailed out this week.

As always with an Eyman initiative, the framing is clever: “Rebel against registration fees imposed by that nasty, grasping government! They have no right!” This is the Republican anti-tax, anti-government orthodoxy best expressed by Grover Norquist, Republican/Libertarian lobbyist, founder and president of Americans for Tax Reform: “I’m not in favor of abolishing the government. I just want to shrink it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.” The Republican Party has promoted this line for decades: Taxes are bad. Taxes need “reform.” Let’s reduce taxes [especially on the wealthy, but don’t pay attention to that!]. Government is inefficient and corrupt and deserves to be defunded! (Psst! the wonderful private sector will do it better [and magically make a profit, too]!)

Auto registration fees are an integral part of how we currently fund a wide range of infrastructure and transportation in the State of Washington (See Voters’ Pamphlet). Eyman wants to take a wrecking ball to our complex but workable system solely for the purpose of messing with it–and using a visible fee as the excuse. He does so with no care for the cost of readjustment. Washington State has the most regressive tax system in the U.S. (see P.S. below). I could side with Mr. Eyman’s initiative if it were part of a comprehensive reform leading to a less regressive tax system, but Eyman is not a big picture, let’s-all-pull-together-and-make-government-work kind of guy. He is the initiative version of a soundbite, a quick poke at government for the purpose of inflicting damage. The state, counties, and cities need funds to build and maintain the roads we all drive on–and all the rest of the infrastructure of civilization upon which we depend. All I-976 would do is make the funding more problematic.

I-976 is one of twenty nasty but often deviously clever initiatives and one referendum sponsored over the last 20 years by Mr. Eyman. He is a conservative political bomb thrower from Yakima who now lives in Mukilteo, WA. I encourage my readers to review the history of this man’s efforts and legal problems assembled in Wikipedia. His bent and general demeanor is on display in the name of the Political Action Committee he founded: “Permanent Offense,” (Even more to Eyman’s real intent, the full name is PERMANENT OFFENSE — $30 TABS INITIATIVE — TERM LIMITS — GIVE THEM NOTHING, 2019.) Eyman’s first incarnation of I-976 (I-695, on the ballot in 1999) was later declared unconstitutional on multiple technical grounds by the WA State Supreme Court, but not before Eyman was recognized by the Conservative Political Action Committee in 2000 with the “Ronald Reagan Award” (Seattle Times), a sure sign of his destructive intent.

Eyman’s I-976 is purely meant to throw a monkey wrench into the way we struggle to fund transportation. Over six years it will rob the state and local governments of an estimated 4.2 billion dollars and over the 2019-21 biennium cost nearly 3 billion dollars to implement (Voters’ Pamphlet), never mind all the time and taxpayers’ money that was wasted on dealing with his 1999 initiative. Tell Tim Eyman we’re wise to him. Vote NO on I-976. Then let’s roll up our sleeves and deal with the broader tax structure issues of our state.

Keep to the high ground,

P.S. The non-partisan Institute of Taxation and Economic Policy rates Washington State as having the most regressive tax system in the country: Their data show the lowest 20 percent of income earners in Washington State, families making less than $24,000, contribute almost 18 percent of their annual earnings to state and local tax coffers, while the top 1 percent (those making over $545,900) pay just 3 percent of their income. Explore that here.

Ballots! Homework!

Do your homework and then talk it up. That’s what democracy is all about!

Ballots go into the mail today in Spokane County (and Washington State) for the 2019 General Election for municipal and school board candidates–and a confusing bunch of advisory votes and initiatives. The deadline to turn in your ballot is Tuesday, November 5 at 8PM. Don’t leave your homework until the last minute.

You can maximize your effect on this election by understanding what’s being voted on–and the best way to do that is to look at it ahead of time and informing yourself. For all Washington residents who are registered to vote, now is great time to visit MyVote.wa.gov and enter your name and birth date to see your voting particulars. On the first page that appears check to see if your Registration is “Active” and contact them if it is not. (This page should also show the address to which your ballot is/was mailed, an address that could be different from your address of Registration. When I checked this time the mailing address did not show. I have contacted Secretary of State’s office.)

To preview the ballot you should receive in the mail, click “Online Ballot.” Then you can either print a copy of your ballot to look at (click “Print and Mark”) or you can save as a pdf on your computer. (How you do that depends on your particular computer/printer setup.)

Inspect your ballot. Thanks to that pox on our governance, Mr. Tim Eyman, there are a dozen “Advisory Votes” that take up most of the first page and part of the second page. They are a waste of ink and everyone’s time. One must suspect that Eyman’s purpose was to discourage people from voting: homework overload. You can safely check all these “Advisory Votes” as “Maintained”–or you can just ignore them. They have no effect. Here’s what the Progressive Voters Guide has to say:

Because of a Tim Eyman initiative, the Legislature is required to submit any bill it passes that closes tax loopholes or raises revenue to a non-binding advisory vote. The Legislature had a historically productive 2019 session, resulting in a record number of advisory votes on the ballot. We hope the Legislature will change the law to remove these meaningless measures in the future. 

One useful thing you can do for your friends, neighbors, and acquaintances is to mention these advisory votes and the fact that they can be safely ignored. The votes made on a ballot are counted even if you only vote on one candidate or one measure. Don’t put off your homework because it looks daunting thanks to Mr. Eyman. That’s what some would like you to do. It’s a strategy…

In Washington the first two issues on the ballot statewide are Referendum Measure No. 88 (concerning discrimination and affirmative action) and Initiative Measure No. 976, an attack on infrastructure funding penned by Tim Eyman. I recommend YES on 88 and NO on 976. More on both of these in a later post.

The only other issue on the ballot statewide is Senate Joint Resolution No. 8200 (second page of the ballot after all the Eyman “Advisory Votes”). It asks us whether we support a Washington State Constitutional amendment that would make provisions for government continuity in the case of natural disasters. I recommend a YES vote. This is simple foresight in governance. For more detail click here.

Voters may be dismayed by this ballot’s daunting presentation–and put it off to another day. Do your homework early. Talk up your findings with your fellow citizens. This is your power as a citizen of this state.

Keep to the high ground,

Here’s the link:  https://www.facebook.com/events/910350509334324

Who is “Spokane”?

The headline of an online article by Adam Shanks (from the Thursday, October 3, Spokesman) reads: “Spokane backs Boise’s appeal of homeless camping ruling to Supreme Court.” I’ve pasted the article at the end of this post. It is worth reading. As you do, ask yourself exactly who, what actual human beings, caused “Spokane” to “join” this brief?

“Spokane” did what? “Spokane” is spending our money, my money, to challenge a U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling [the “Martin Decision”] that said a city cannot criminalize people sleeping out of doors on public property unless there are other places for them to sleep?  This doesn’t sound like the sort of thing on which my City Council member or my City Council President would want to waste money, time, and energy. In contrast, this legal challenge does sound like something Republican Mayor Condon and candidate Nadine Woodward would spend the City’s money to pursue. If your attitude toward the homeless in Spokane is to run them off or jail them, the Martin Decision is a roadblock. For Condon and Woodward, it follows that spending the city’s time and energy challenging the Martin Decision is superior to working on a plan to keep people from freezing to death on the streets of Spokane this winter.

Our City of Spokane government functions in these fractious times a lot like the federal government, “The Spokane City Council was not informed the city was participating in the brief.” This is executive overreach in a microcosm.

“Spokane” in a news article like this one fails to capture reality: “Spokane” is shorthand for a government made up of elected individuals whom we have entrusted to do the right thing. It behooves us to pay attention not just to what “Spokane” does, but to which of our elected officials is actually responsible. If the executive branch, under the direction of the “strong” mayor, is acting unilaterally it is unfair to assume the City Council agrees–or that it has even been consulted.

It is time to quit accepting that a city, state, or country “did” something. The “doing” happens within a municipal, state, or federal government that is composed of individuals with mindsets and agendas, individuals we have put in office with our votes. It is time to pay attention to what they do and vote accordingly.

I don’t want my tax dollars spent on a legal challenge while the need to keep people from freezing is ineptly addressed by a mayor and a wannabe mayor. When the ballots come out later this week vote for Ben Stuckart for mayor of Spokane. Let’s get the executive and legislative branches of government working together rather than at cross-purposes.

Keep to the high ground,

Spokane backs Boise’s appeal of homeless camping ruling to Supreme Court
by Adam Shanks
Thu., Oct. 3, 2019, 5 a.m.

Spokane’s struggle with homelessness has, indirectly, reached the Supreme Court.

As the city of Boise waits to hear if the U.S. Supreme Court will weigh in on limits imposed on the enforcement of homeless camping laws, Spokane and Spokane Valley have entered the debate.

Spokane and Spokane Valley’s own efforts to enforce laws against public camping are chronicled in a brief, filed last week on behalf of a number of organizations and in support of Boise’s quest to overturn a federal appeals court ruling issued in 2018.

“Our goal was to have a greater impact by working together on this,” said Marlene Feist, a city spokesperson.

Boise has appealed a U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling issued in the case of Martin v. Boise, which found the city’s enforcement of laws against camping on public property amounted to cruel and unusual punishment and violated the constitution.

The 2018 ruling set a standard that cities cannot enforce rules against camping or lying on sidewalks if they do not first provide adequate shelter for those who can’t afford or provide their own.

“As long as there is no option of sleeping indoors, the government cannot criminalize indigent, homeless people for sleeping outdoors, on public property, on the false premise they had a choice in the matter,” the decision authored by Circuit Judge Marsha Berzon stated.

Boise appealed the decision in August to the U.S. Supreme Court, which has yet to decide whether to take up the case. The decision’s effects have been felt by cities throughout the West that are grappling with homelessness.

Spokane is one of dozens of individuals, cities and organizations to voice its opinion to the Supreme Court through an “amicus curiae,” or “friend of the court,” brief.

Spokane is the first of four cities cited in a brief filed by the National League of Cities, Washington State Association of Municipal Attorneys, Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs and several other organizations.

The groups argue that the decision takes away a tool in cities’ multifaceted approach to mitigate the effects of homelessness. The Martin decision fails to define what it means by “adequate” or “sufficient” shelter, the brief states, nor does it make clear how cities can practically keep a daily count of their homeless populations.

“Providing sufficient beds to comply with Martin could hijack municipal budgets well beyond what is appropriate in light of other municipal responsibilities,” the brief states. “But if local governments do not comply, they may be left with encampments that are beyond their reach.”

In Spokane, the brief contends that the Martin decision has inhibited the city’s ability to use Community Court to connect homeless people with social services by limiting the city’s ability to issue criminal citations.

It also argues the decision has hampered Spokane’s ability to enforce its laws against camping on public property. The city spent about $100,000 to clean up homeless camps, of which about 500 were reported last year.

“At one encampment along the Spokane River, city staff recently found a garbage pit fifteen feet across and four feet deep, containing multiple five-gallon buckets filled with human feces,” the brief notes.

Feist said the city reviewed and provided comment on the brief, including “information on how we use enforcement of sit-and-lie to direct people to services, particularly through community court.”

The Spokane City Council was not informed the city was participating in the brief, according to Council President Ben Stuckart.

Councilman Breean Beggs noted that the city’s laws against camping on public land and sitting or lying on downtown sidewalks during the daytime predate the Martin v. Boise decision and adhere to its standards.

“Even if Martin goes away, our camping code says you can’t arrest people for camping if there’s no shelter. That preexists Martin,” Beggs said.

City officials have repeatedly said the laws comply with the Martin decision as written, because they make exceptions when the city does not have adequate shelter capacity.

“However, the decision injects a number of uncertainties into the interpretation of enforcement. We want clearer direction from the courts,” Feist said.

Beggs also said that many of the people who attend Spokane Community Court to access social services – including mental health and substance abuse treatment – do so voluntarily, not because they were criminally cited.

About half of the people who present at community court – held at the Spokane Public Library’s downtown location every Monday – are there voluntarily, Therapeutic Courts Coordinator Seth Hackenberg estimated.

“It’s frustrating that we weren’t consulted, because the report that they put together, we could’ve made it a complete and accurate report,” Beggs said of the brief.

Stuckart lamented the use of the criminal justice system to connect people experiencing homelessness with social services.

“The best way to get people services is inside a shelter once they have their basic needs met,” Stuckart said.

But neither council member has called for a repeal of sit-and-lie or camping laws. Stuckart said camps were a sign of a “public health crisis.”

“The way to get rid of them is to have housing available and shelter available, not to go with cops and give them (citations),” Stuckart said.

Spokane Valley, meanwhile, funds shelters and services that are available outside its borders.

“As a result, Martin’s requirement that a jurisdiction have shelter space available in order to enforce its laws has effectively frozen Spokane Valley’s efforts to enforce the ‘no camping’ regulations in its parks,” the brief states.

Spokane Valley Mayor Rod Higgins said the city contributes more than $1 million in federal and state grant funds to services for homelessness and housing, which it funnels through the county to the city of Spokane. He said Spokane Valley should be able to send its homeless population to beds in Spokane it helps pay for and that the court’s decision has created an “untenable” situation in Spokane Valley.

He said Spokane Valley parks aren’t meant for camping or as a place for people to live full time. The large number of people living in parks, some of whom have weapons, has made many residents feel unsafe and avoid visiting them.

“It opens the door for unreasonable use of our public facilities,” Higgins said. “It’s called camping, but I call it squatting.”

Reporter Rebecca White contributed to this story.

A City to Live in, Not Drive Through

“We’re a growing city, we have to keep up with our roads. Who wants our 20 minute commute to now become a 45 minute commute? I do not support traffic calming projects & road diets.” Nadine Woodward, LWV forum, Tuesday June 25. (Watch on youtube at 14:30. At 14:08 in the same video listen to her misuse statistics to foster fear.)

Dear Group,

Spokane as a city is blessed with a great park system, thanks to the foresight of city government in the early 20th century. The city funded a parks department and hired the Olmsted Brothers firm to produce a  landscaping plan for the city. One result was Manito Park, the crown jewel of our park system. Keep that history in mind.

Spokane Valley parks? Not so much. If your vision of Spokane Valley is the east Sprague strip mall corridor with five lanes of high speed traffic, then your vision may be closer to the truth than you knew.

The numbers: 82% of City of Spokane residents live within a 10 minute walk of park. Only 22% of the residents of the City of Spokane Valley live within a 10 minute walk of a park. Those are numbers worth committing to memory. (They come from extensive research done by the Trust For Public Land that you can explore in detail by clicking that link.)

Those numbers quantify what I already felt: Spokane is a great city, a city to which I am always glad to return when I’ve been away, a great city where I can still walk, bike, or run without fearing for my life, a great city where I can walk to park.

The difference between Spokane and Spokane Valley is a difference in planning and vision–and following through on the plan.

What is Ms. Woodward’s vision? “Who wants our 20 minute commute to now become a 45 minute commute?” Don’t stick to the plan that has made East Sprague and North Monroe feel like a place you want to go, a place you might walk without fear of being run over. Don’t interfere with my speed! For Nadine, the city is something to drive through from your home in ‘burbs, not live and walk in.

Contrast that to Ben Stuckart’s detailed vision for livable neighborhoods:

In my time on Spokane City Council, a resident has never asked for a mini-freeway to be put through their neighborhood. Not one. Yet some Mayoral candidates believe they can yell “road diet” and convince you that a driver’s ability to speed through a neighborhood to get to a destination 15 seconds quicker should trump your comprehensive plan, your neighborhood plan and the viability of our small businesses. But, the days of suburbanist planning policies that decimate our neighborhoods are over.

This vision is engrained in Ben Stuckart. Unlike Nadine, Ben was born and grew up in Spokane. He graduated from Gonzaga University. Ben’s father Larry (1949-2014) had a lifelong commitment to the livability of Spokane’s neighborhoods. Larry Stuckart served in many roles at SNAP (then the Spokane Neighborhood Action Program) for decades and served as Executive Director for 18 years. Public service and a deep love of Spokane run in Ben’s family.

The November 5 election (ballots drop next week) is about what Spokane wants to be. Vote for Ben Stuckart for mayor if you want a mayor with heart, vision, and know-how. Vote for Woodward if you want sprawl, fast driving cars on neighborhood streets, and no leadership experience.

Impeachment Points and CMR

Dear Group,

Every day I hear arguments for why Donald Trump ought not be impeached, or, if impeached, not convicted. The only way to prevail against those arguments is if we citizens engage each other and pressure those who claim to represent us to understand Mr. Trump’s behavior is a threat to our democracy.

We in Spokane are represented nationally by two U.S. Senators, Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, both of whom will undoubtedly vote to convict Donald Trump if the Senate tries him. Encourage them.

In contrast, our Representative McMorris Rodgers’ stance on impeachment is expressed in one of her increasingly partisan form letters:

Instead of waiting for all the facts and for the call transcript to be released, House Democrats jumped to unfounded conclusions when they launched this inquiry. This is yet another example of the hyper-partisan political climate today. When people we represent are searching for hope and expecting results, both Republicans and Democrats need to dig a little deeper and be more focused on solving problems that make a difference, not just a point. Solving problems and delivering results for Eastern Washington—like growing the economy, addressing homelessness, and caring for our veterans—will continue to be my focus.

I’m pleased the President is being transparent by releasing the transcript of the July 25th conversation with President Zelenskyy of Ukraine. I’m also encouraged that the whistleblower report is available. With the information we have today, I do not find the July 25th call to be an impeachable offense.

If wielding the full extortive power of the Presidency in the manner of a mob boss for personal political gain isn’t impeachable one might ask where McMorris Rodgers will draw the line. She is blinded by her Fundamentalist devotion to Party, to her tribe. I don’t expect she can be convinced to vote for impeachment, but she needs to hear from us. It need not be long or eloquent. The sheer volume of outcry is essential to her understanding that her support for this president is untenable. Here are her contact numbers:

Spokane Office       (509) 353-2374
Colville Office         (509) 684-3481
Walla Walla Office  (509) 529-9358
D.C. Office              (202) 225-2006

Here is her contact page: https://mcmorris.house.gov/contact/

Once again, Doug Muder, writer of The Weekly Sift, disarms all the arguments against impeachment in his Monday, October 7th post, More Answers to Impeachment Questions. I have pasted it below. It is worth review and discussion with anyone you talk with, especially folks in states with Republican Senators who retain a shred of devotion to democratic values. (Once again, I strongly urge you to visit The Weekly Sift and subscribe to his weekly email in the left hand column of the opening page.)

More Answers to Impeachment Objections

by weeklysift

This post is a follow-up to a similar one last week. As the available information has changed, Trump’s defenses have shifted, and some of the points I made last week have more support now.

But before we get into the excuses and responses, I think it’s important never to lose sight of the heart of the case against Trump. It’s a simple case, which is why his supporters work so hard to obscure it: He’s cheating again.

One thing the Mueller Report made absolutely clear was that Russia cheated for Trump in 2016. Mueller couldn’t prove that the Trump campaign itself was part of the Russians’ criminal conspiracy, but what Russia did is pretty well established at this point. Tucker Carlson and Jared Kushner may try to minimize it as “a few Russian Facebook ads”, but serious crimes were committed: In addition to the illegal social-media campaign help, Russian operatives broke into the DNC’s computers and conspired with WikiLeaks to distribute what they found. That drip-drip-drip of email revelations consistently disrupted the news cycle for the Clinton campaign, and (in such a close election) was almost certainly decisive.

It’s a very real possibility that Trump owes his presidency to Vladimir Putin’s criminal conspiracy.

The essence of the Ukraine and China stories is that Trump is looking for a country to cheat for him in 2020, the way Russia did in 2016. And this time he has more to work with than just a wink-and-nod about sanctions. As president, he can distort all of US foreign policy to bribe or threaten foreign leaders into doing him “favors”.

So the question to be answered in this impeachment is: Are we going to let presidents cheat their way to re-election? And there are only three possible answers.

  • Yes. We’re going to become the kind of banana republic where the full power of the government is devoted to making elections come out the right way.
  • No. We’re going to take the power of the presidency away from Trump so that he can’t use it to cheat his way to a second term.
  • No. We’re not going to remove Trump from office, but we have some other way to stop his cheating and to make sure future presidents don’t follow his example.

I included that third bullet for logical completeness, but I’m still waiting to hear what such an “other way” might be. If someone makes the case that what Trump is doing is wrong but not impeachable, I think the burden is on them to explain how exactly the US is going to avoid the banana-republic scenario.

Anyway, let’s get to what Trump supporters are saying.

Trump is just being Trump. The point of standing on the White House grounds and publicly asking China to investigate the Bidens — coincidentally at a time when Chinese negotiators are about to arrive for trade talks and might be looking for a cheap way to curry favor with him — was to normalize the situation: This isn’t a crime committed in secret (although it was; that’s why Trump’s staff inappropriately locked the transcript down in a computer system meant for secrets about covert operations), it’s just how I roll.

During the 2016 campaign, Trump claimed that he could shoot somebody on 5th Avenueand not only get away with it, but “not lose any voters”. Now we know how he would accomplish that feat: The day after he shot the first guy, he’d shoot somebody else. The day after that he’d shoot two people. And by the end of the week Fox News and Lindsey Graham would be saying: “That’s who Trump is. He shoots people. The country knew that when it elected him.”

But crimes are crimes and abuses of power are abuses of power, no matter where or how often they happen. If “being Trump” means abusing the power of the presidency, then he shouldn’t have that power. Let him go be Trump in private life, or in prison.

Trump just said a bad thing. This related defense is one that Trump’s supporters use a lot: His heart is in the right place, but because he’s not a career politician, he occasionally says things that break protocol. It’s no big deal.

We’ve heard this defense many times. For example, after the Access Hollywood tapecame out: You may think you heard Trump confessing to a pattern of sexual assaults, but no; it was just “locker room talk“. And he shouldn’t have used the word pussy. So he said a bad thing, but that’s all there was to the scandal. (And when dozens of women accused him of the same kinds of sexual assaults he had bragged about, they were all lying. Most of them were too ugly to assault anyway.)

Tucker Carlson adapts the he-said-a-bad-thing argument to Ukraine:

Donald Trump should not have been on the phone with a foreign head of state encouraging another country to investigate his political opponent, Joe Biden. Some Republicans are trying, but there’s no way to spin this as a good idea. Like a lot of things Trump does, it was pretty over-the-top. … The key question with Trump’s Ukraine call, though, is whether the president’s actions, advisable or not, rise to the level of an impeachable offense. It’s hard to argue they do.

But as I pointed out above, Carlson does not offer any way out of the banana-republic scenario. He doesn’t propose any consequence that would discourage Trump from doing this again, or doing worse things. Maybe a president shouldn’t abuse his power this way, but … let him.

It was a joke. Remember when the writers of Dallas painted themselves into a corner, and then got out by claiming that the whole previous season was a dream? That’s what “It’s a joke” is for Trump. It’s how he calls backsies. We’d all love to have the power to do that: Imagine if anytime somebody brought up something you shouldn’t have said, you could respond with, “Oh, that was a joke. Where’s your sense of humor?” I’m sure Henry II would have loved to claim that “Will no one rid me of this troublesome priest?” was a joke. But Pope Alexander wasn’t buying it.

Getting back to Trump, he claimed it was a joke in 2016 when he said:

Russia, if you are listening, I hope that you are able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing. I think that you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press. Let’s see if that happens.

And here’s the real punch line: It did happen, or at least Russia tried to make it happen.

Russian spies began trying to hack Hillary Clinton’s personal email server on the very day Donald Trump urged the Russian government to find emails Clinton had erased, prosecutors said on Friday.

Putin’s people didn’t get the joke, so they went out and tried to do more illegal hacking. Those effing ex-KGB guys! No sense of humor, any of them.

Even better than being able to claim backsies yourself is having other people do it for you, so your position can remain ambiguous. Whatever you said is either a joke or not a joke, depending on what’s convenient. Right now, Republicans in Congress know they can’t defend what Trump says, so it’s-a-joke has become convenient for them. Marco Rubio started it, saying that Trump’s suggestion that China investigate Biden wasn’t real.

I don’t know if that’s a real request or him just needling the press knowing that you guys are going to get outraged by it. He’s pretty good at getting everybody fired up and he’s been doing that for a while and the media responded right on task.

On yesterday’s talk shows, Senator Roy Blount and Rep. Jim Jordan repeated that excuse. Blount said:

Well I doubt if the China comment was serious to tell you the truth

The important question this time is whether China got the joke. China’s foreign minister did not appear to be laughing when he said:

China will not interfere in the internal affairs of the US, and we trust that the American people will be able to sort out their own problems.

I think Congress should react like the TSA does when you “joke” about having a bomb in your luggage. Unless he’s in an obviously comic setting, like the White House Correspondents Dinner, when the President of the United States says something, the world should take it seriously. If Trump can’t adjust to that situation, he shouldn’t be president.

And BTW: Is there any evidence that Trump even has a real sense of humor? Has anyone ever seen him laugh — except possibly at someone else’s pain or disability?

No quid pro quo. Last week, I answered this by saying that the quid pro quo in Trump’s conversation with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky was implicit:

It’s impossible to read the transcript of the Ukraine call without immediately recognizing the quid (money for Ukraine’s defense against Russian invaders) and the quo (manufacturing dirt on Joe Biden).

The case for that interpretation got much stronger Thursday when former Special Envoy for Ukraine Kurt Volker testified to Congress, and provided text messages related to the case. For example, Bill Taylor, the acting US ambassador to Ukraine, asked U.S. Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland about what he perceived as a quid pro quo:

Taylor asks for further direction: “Are we now saying that security assistance and WH meeting are conditioned on investigations?” Sondland replies: “Call me.”

A few days later Taylor texts:

As I said on the phone, I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.

And Sondland replies with the White House spin that will turn into its cover story, while again trying to stop Taylor from leaving an evidence trail:

The President has been crystal clear no quid pro quo’s of any kind. The President is trying to evaluate whether Ukraine is truly going to adopt the transparency and reforms that President Zelensky promised during his campaign[.] I suggest we stop the back and forth by text[]

However, in conversation with Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI), Sondland also expressed his belief that there was a quid pro quo. So Johnson talked to Trump:

Johnson claims he heard from Sondland that this was in fact the policy. However, Johnson adds that he became disturbed by this, and followed up with President Trump himself — who denied any such linkage. “He said—expletive deleted—‘No way. I would never do that. Who told you that?” Johnson told Journal reporters Siobhan Hughes and Rebecca Ballhaus.

But the story doesn’t end there. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Molly Beck, Patrick Marley, and Eric Litke, Johnson said in a separate interview that Trump did say he was considering withholding the aid because he wanted to find out “what happened in 2016.”

Johnson said he asked Trump whether he could tell Ukraine’s president the aid was on the way anyway, to dispel the government’s fears, but “I didn’t succeed.”

Chris Hayes sums up:

The thing that is so damning about these texts is the consciousness of guilt that hangs over them. … They knew what they were doing was wrong, and they were trying to keep it secret. … Not only did they know it was wrong, but they worked on their cover story.

BTW, the format Hayes is experimenting with, of doing his show before a live audience, works really well here. The real editorializing comes from the audience, which laughs at Trump supporters’ ridiculous excuses.

Trump is draining the swamp. His push to investigate Biden is part of his anti-corruption mandate. The Trump campaign makes this point in a TV ad you may have seen.

But Mitt Romney nails him on this:

When the only American citizen President Trump singles out for China’s investigation is his political opponent in the midst of the Democratic nomination process, it strains credulity to suggest that it is anything other than politically motivated.

Other observers have noted that there is at least one other example of Trump caring about corruption: He wanted Hillary Clinton investigated also. CNBC’s Eamon Javersasked the obvious question:

Have you asked foreign leaders for any corruption investigations that don’t involve your political opponents?

Trump bloviated for a while, but could not name any other instances. Trump has picked this trick up from the autocrats he most admires: Putin and Mohammad bin Salman. They both like to manufacture “corruption” cases to take down their rivals.

In general, the drain-the-swamp argument is a joke at this point. Trump’s cabinet is full of lobbyists. He has stood behind obviously corrupt officials like EPA Director Scott Pruittand Wilbur Ross. He channels public dollars into his private businesses. And in spite of Trump’s claim that his tax plan would “cost me a fortune”, Trump himself is one of the law’s prime beneficiaries. That’s one reason why his tax returns are such tightly held secrets.

To conclude: Washington has gotten much, much swampier since Trump came to town. If you want to drain the swamp, support impeachment.

Democrats are pushing impeachment because they know they can’t defeat Trump in 2020. That’s the case made in that Trump ad. However, all the current polling indicates that the major Democratic candidates — especially Biden — are ahead of Trump by wide margins.

This point makes more sense if you turn it around: Trump is trying to cheat because he knows he can’t win a fair election.

But if Trump is allowed to use the full power of his office to cheat — then yes, Democrats are worried that he’ll win in 2020.

weeklysift | October 7, 2019 at 11:13 am | Tags: impeachment | Categories: Articles | URL: https://wp.me/p1F9Ho-643

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Keep to the high ground,

Blame and Spokane Homelessness

Dear Group,

We have several political newcomers trying to ride into Spokane municipal offices on the issue of homelessness this November: Woodward, Wendell, and Rathbun. Nadine Woodward’s opening salvo in the campaign was to post “Seattle is Dying,” a blatantly political polemic, to her Facebook page. Nationwide, Republican operatives have decided fear of the homeless is the issue to push this year: Not only is Nadine on board with the message, but McMorris Rodgers in faraway D.C. dutifully cites “homelessness” as an issue on which she is “working” (how, exactly?). Not to be outdone, the current occupant of the White House recently blasted California on the same issue. The Republican political hierarchy believes this to be the issue on which to focus in advance of nationwide municipal elections. (Never mind that the obviously Republican local Spokane candidates declare, “We’re ‘non-partisan!'” at every opportunity.)

Ms. Woodward has recently been citing Spokane Mayor David Condon’s leadership as exemplary, something she would continue were she to be elected to his seat. So how effective has Mayor Condon been in combatting homelessness? Homelessness became a much more visible problem under Condon’s watch after his executive branch of city government pulled the plug on the funding for Catholic Charities’ effort to provide 24/7 winter homeless sheltering. 

In the Friday, September 27, Spokesman Shawn Vestal reminded us of this history. I have copied his column below [the bold in the article is mine]. Two days later on Sunday, September 29, a Spokesman Editorial: “City Hall infighting will leave people sleeping in the cold” (presumably written by Stacey Cowles himself) lends weight to Vestal’s column by writing, “Spokesman-Review columnist Shawn Vestal documented the dysfunction in tremendous detail.” Mr. Cowles writes of “infighting” and “dysfunction” as if city officials shared equally in the blame. Mr. Cowles seems unable to call a spade a spade. Mr. Vestal is much clearer, placing the blame squarely on the Condon administration, man whose work Ms Woodward so admires. I urge you to read, absorb, and share Vestal’s words.

Shawn Vestal: Another winter without a plan, as mayor’s commitment to shelter system appears to wane

A year ago, Councilwoman Kate Burke was angry and upset that the administration of Mayor David Condon had pulled the plug on 150 shelter beds without any plan to replace them.

At a council meeting, as well as in emails, she sharply questioned the administration official who oversees the city’s homeless programs, Kelly Keenan, and criticized the administration’s lack of an immediate plan to fill the gap. The plan that administration was trying to sell back then was really a plan to come up with a plan – temporary shelters with plans to buy a to-be-determined permanent shelter within the year.

It was more wish than plan.

As Burke put it, “The interim plan is there is no plan.”

Stung, the administration leapt into action – not on homelessness, but on the supposed “bullying” of its officials.

Burke’s interactions with city staff on homelessness became one part of a wider investigation into the causes for hurt feelings among administrative staffers at their treatment by City Council, which cost the city $25,000 and which concluded there was no bullying.

Meanwhile, a year after the no-plan interim plan, the Condon shelter plan remains the same: no real plan.

A plan to develop a plan. A half-hearted, half-assed plan.

This week’s announcement that the city would again pursue temporary solutions, almost all of which still have yet to be identified, for sheltering the homeless during winter put an exclamation point on a year of fecklessness and fumbling from the Condon administration.

The mayor’s efforts to divert attention from that fact this week – by criticizing the City Council’s temerity in noticing his lackluster performance – should not leave you confused: This breakdown is his administration’s responsibility.

That’s not to say it’s easy to find a place for a permanent shelter, or that some within the administration haven’t worked hard or made progress. In fact, Keenan and his staffers have helped initiate a lot of good, concrete steps forward in several areas of this large and difficult problem – arranging to buy a new shelter for Family Promise with grant funding, moving toward a more stable funding model and opening a new Spokane center to help homeless and at-risk people connect with services.

“The commitment has not waned at all,” Keenan said Thursday. “I can assure you the staff is trying to advance this issue every day.”

Keenan has taken a lot of heat on this, and deserves credit just for that – for standing there and taking the heat, and answering questions, when people complain. Even administration critics on the council give Keenan and his staff credit.

Yet it’s hard to ignore the sense that at the very top, the Condon administration has simply cooled off on its promise from just two years ago to create a 24/7 shelter system and on its promise from last year to add another shelter.

The mayor and City Council members traded criticisms this week, but this is not a both-sides problem. It is a simple, uncomplicated question of where responsibility lies and how powers are separated under the city charter, which makes it the administration’s job to direct staffers to do the sorts of things that are needed here – find sites, develop plans for services, forge partnerships and present a proposal to the council to be funded.

Almost all of that involves directing the city staff to act, something the City Council is expressly forbidden from doing. It’s the mayor’s job. Setting priorities, assigning resources, deciding what’s urgent, making proposals to address those priorities – the mayor’s job.

Two winters ago, Condon stood at a podium with Council President Ben Stuckart and Catholic Charities CEO Rob McCann and announced the city would offer 24/7 shelter services for homeless people during the winter. The goal, he said, was to end homelessness.

That goal – which McCann and others also vowed to pursue – always seemed like a naive overreach, primed to allow people to give up quickly if homelessness wasn’t immediately ended.

Catholic Charities took on a near-heroic task of addressing the hardest parts of the problem – accepting all comers at the House of Charity. It didn’t work at all. The shelter often doubled its capacity, and the surrounding streets became a center for crime and safety problems. The problem was bigger than the resources, and the city pulled the plug a year later.

A large part of what we’ve seen since – and especially the panic over the increased visibility of the homeless and downtown crime – stems directly from the closure of those beds and the resulting dispersion of the homeless population into the rest of downtown.

Since then, it has almost seemed the administration has given up.

Condon wasn’t available to talk on Thursday, and Keenan insisted that isn’t the case. It’s been very difficult – given funding challenges, neighborhood concerns and many other factors – to find a location for a shelter, and efforts to find a permanent shelter to replace the lost House of Charity capacity continue, he said.

“That process hasn’t stopped, and it has never stopped,” he said.

Last fall, the city defaulted to a series of warming centers set up hastily at local churches and nonprofits, pledging to open and have a new shelter by summer 2019.

That didn’t happen, of course. One location for a permanent shelter was put forth in August – the Grocery Outlet building on East Sprague – but the administration left too many partners with unanswered questions, and neighbors of the building opposed it.

The city quickly punted.

Earlier this week, racing the clock and trying to slap together a winter plan, the administration sent a proposal to the council to approve one contract with the Salvation Army to manage one of many pieces of a short-term approach. (Which is, to reiterate, the way it works: The executive branch proposes, the legislative branch disposes.)

This proposal was for a contract so unfinished that it came with a price tag of between $240,000 and more than $3 million. The frustration on the part of council members boiled over – on the dais that night and at a press conference Wednesday. The mayor leapfrogged in with his own press conference, where he blamed the council for “political theater.”

It is all, he said, “very embarrassing for this community.”

He’s right, but not in the way he means.

Condon’s ineffectiveness is clear…and Ms. Woodward and her ilk (Wendell and Rathbun) hold up Condon as an example they’d like to follow. What’s wrong with this picture?

A vote for Nadine is a vote for continued dysfunction. Let’s install a city government that actually knows how to work together toward realistic ends: Vote for Ben Stuckart for Mayor, Breean Beggs for City Council President, and return Karen Stratton and Lori Kinnear to City Council.

Keep to the high ground,


P.S. So is the very Republican Condon administration just feckless and inept on this issue? Is it coincidence that their administrative ineptitude has swelled the number of visible homeless citizens, a problem on which the national and local Republican parties and the Realtor and developer PAC’s now wish to capitalize by propagandizing the issue? Probably, but why should anyone expect Woodward, Wendell, Rathbun, and Cathcart to offer better function?

Ozzie, the SpokaneGOP, and the Militant Right

Dear Group,

On Tuesday, September 24, I with a politically mixed crowd of about 400, attended the Republicans of Spokane County presentation of “The Threats We Face” at the Center Place Regional Event Center in Spokane Valley. Presenters were former state Senator John Smith (who recently and briefly represented NE WA, LD7); Jay Pounder, former bodyguard of current state representative Matt Shea (LD4, Spokane Valley and north); and Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich.

The Republicans of Spokane County (RSC), the sponsoring entity for this “town hall,” is the smaller and, I strongly suspect, the more moderate of the two Spokane County Republican organizations. The other, bigger group is the SpokaneGOP (aka the Spokane County Republican Party). 

The meeting opened with an announcement something close to “Law enforcement is present. If you exit through the side doors you will need to re-enter through the main door.” There were a number of openly armed civilians in the room. 

The opening prayers were refreshingly ecumenical. They were offered by several women representing different faiths (and different political leanings). Afterward I understand there were a number of complaints to the chairwoman that the opening prayers were insufficiently Christian. During the Pledge of Allegiance a woman I believe to be the wife of the Spokane Prosecutor, Larry Haskel, screamed the words UNDER GOD when those words came up in the recitation. (Lesley Haskel is known for such commentary.) She or another woman in the audience shouted “You lie!” in response to some of the allegations of violent intent that Sheriff Knezovich presented.

The tension and fear in the room were palpable, a remarkable contrast to the openness of, for example, a FUSE or Lisa Brown event. The three speakers made the following points: the groups linked with Rep Shea are armed and threatening, they are extensively linked with other local and national Christian Identity groups, and they are actively engaging in planning and training sessions that lay the ideological and practical groundwork for armed revolution and a separate theocratic state. All three speakers corroborated the material presented by Leah Sottlle in Bundyville and Bundyville, The Remnant This information is difficult for mainstream Republicans to acknowledge and this is the same information the right most wing of the local GOP wants kept quiet and wish to deny.

I left the event more than ever convinced that Sheriff Knezovich was right all along about the threat of domestic terrorism coming from groups festering in northeastern Washington and north Idaho. But there was a subtext: At the opening of the meeting, Beva Miles, the chairwoman of the Republicans of Spokane County, made a show of solidarity with The SpokaneGOP, the larger Republican group. Despite that show, there was an elephant in the room: Two, maybe three times, Ozzie mentioned Cecily Wright. (Ms. Wright is the former chairwoman of the SpokaneGOP and, with her husband, the hostess of Northwest Grassroots in Greenbluff, the group that welcomed the white supremacist James Allsup). Each time Ozzie suggested life would have been easier if he had “just listened to Cecily Wright in 2010.” 

So, what to make of the sense of fear and heightened security at this gathering and of Ozzie’s oblique comments about Cecily Wright, Christian Identity, and white supremacy? Ozzie cannot possibly be deluded into fearing an attack from armed leftists. There is absolutely zero evidence for such fear in Spokane, regardless of Ozzie’s mention of ISIS training camps and the “threat” of Antifa. I have to conclude he is legitimately fearful of the right wing extremists who make up part of his own Republican Party, hateful, in-your-face extremists who were on display at this meeting itself and extremists, like Cecily Wright, Rod Higgins (mayor of Spokane Valley and darling of NW Grassroots), and Matt Shea (above all) who have infiltrated the SpokaneGOP’s hierarchy and, through the SpokaneGOP, local and state government. Sheriff Knezovich, I have to conclude, is legitimately fearful of the rot in his own local Party apparatus. 

James Wavada, a friend and frequent reader of this column, also attended. He offered the following assessment follows: 

I attended Ozzie Knezovich’s “Threat We Face” presentation at the Discovery Park Event Center in Spokane Valley earlier this week. The setup was interesting as they repeatedly stressed security measures in place at the event. The first two speakers were “deserters” from the white power cause, a former state legislator and a former Matt Shea aide.

Then came Ozzie’s review of the link between the Christian Identity Movement and Matt Shea and his friends in the Marble Community in northern Stevens County.  I’ve heard this presentation before.  Lots of slides with a lot of news clips with lots of text nobody has time to read before he changes slides.

But Ozzie did the same thing I chastised him for doing when he gave this presentation to the Retired Public Employees Council (RPEC) group that I belong to almost a year ago. False equivalence. He always prefaces and repeats throughout his presentation that “both sides” are culpable for the increasing violence we are seeing. He runs on about Antifa and the New Black Panthers and the Black Lives Matter movements.

I’m sure this is something he does to hold his Republican audiences while he tries to persuade them about the real threats from right wing extremists.

At the RPEC meeting, I had the opportunity to challenge him on this absurd equivalence assertion.  I asked him if in all his deep research on this issue, he had bothered to compile the relative body counts between Antifa and the White Power movements. That would be ZERO for Antifa, and well into the HUNDREDS for the White Power champions like Timothy McVeigh.

I noted that Antifa has not to anyone’s knowledge developed a plan to blow up federal buildings or execute public servants after the pending apocalypse. They seem to only surface at white power rallies to physically, and I conceded, sometimes violently, refute the right wing extremists’ messages.

My point was not to excuse Antifa’s methods, but to point out that there is no equivalence in their purpose, tactics or consequences.

Of course, Ozzie’s response was to deflect and dissemble and repeat the “pox on all their houses,” mantra, and shift to blaming the mainstream media for fomenting violence against police through their inaccurate reporting of public confrontations.

What was missing in both presentations was any outline or suggestion about what he and his department are doing to protect us from white power violence. It’s all on us to reject their bigotry as if that would prevent violence from a future Timothy McVeigh, Denver Parmenter, Bruce Pierce or Bob Matthews, all with links to North Idaho’s Aryan Nations.

Maybe it’s a good thing that he’s not running again.  It would be great to hear from a candidate who might actually have a plan to prevent the next Murrah Building [Oklahoma City] style attack.

We, and the good people of the local Republican Party(s) can start by rejecting the rot that is eating at our local politics by voting knowledgeably in this November’s general election and the elections upcoming in 2020. This is like modern treatment of many cancers: the rot represented by Matt Shea and his fellow travelers can never be totally cured, but, with diligence, it can be contained and extirpated from our governance.

Keep to the high ground,