1. Editor's Note: This item has been updated and corrected.
At last month's meeting of the Puget Sound Regional Council's 32-member executive board, Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn was one of just two votes against adopting the Transportation 2040 plan—the regional vision for transportation over the next 30 years.
The plan adopted by the board includes significantly less investment in mass transit, bike lanes, and pedestrian infrastructure than the alternative supported by bike and transit advocates and environmental groups. In an email, PSRC spokesman Rick Olson points out that the adopted plan actually includes more transit and bike and pedestrian infrastructure than earlier versions; however, it also increases funding for highways substantially, making the total percentage of transit in the plan lower than in previous versions. "It doesn't meet our expectations on transportation, land use, social equity, or greenhouse gas emissions," McGinn said Saturday, during a speech at the Climate Neutral Seattle Unconference. The only other "no" vote? Port Orchard Mayor Lary Coppola, who—coming from the opposite political POV—wanted less tolling in the plan.
King County Executive Dow Constantine is on the board but was on vacation and didn't vote; Seattle City Council Members Tim Burgess, Bruce Harrell, and Tom Rasmussen all voted for the plan.
2. Also at Saturday's Unconference, Seattle City Council member Mike O'Brien suggested a cool (and seemingly doable) idea to subtly promote using transit: Embed ORCA card technology into drivers' licenses instead of requiring transit riders to buy an extra card, effectively turning drivers' licenses (most people's main form of ID, whether they drive or not) into transportation licenses instead.
3. Serial DUI offender Dwight Benson was sentenced to three years in jail last Friday for his 11th DUI conviction (and 19th charge) over the past 25 years. Assistant city attorney Lorna Sylvester said Benson "likely has the most convictions for alcohol-related driving offenses that this court will ever see."
4. Divining local angles on national stories isn't the most inspired journalism, but we're loving the PubliCola plotline on the Sen. Harry Reid story (yesterday's New York Times ran a feature about how the Democratic Senate Majority Leader is the number one target for Tea Party activists).
The Teapublicans better not get too cocky. As we reported last month, the former spokesman for the Washington State Democratic Party, Kelly Steele—a bona fide brawler—was tapped as Reid's campaign spokesman.
Reid's numbers are terrible, so Steele might not pull it out, but the swaggering Tea Party folks are certainly in for a little surprise courtesy of the guy who flattened Mike McGavick and Dino Rossi.
5. Speaking of Teapublicans, they're taking this whole 18th Centruy stuff pretty seriously. Last week, the Lt. Governor of South Carolina sent an email to legislators nationwide—including to legislators in Olympia—asking them to get the ball rolling on holding a new constitutional convention, you know, like the one the states organized in 1787 to overthrow the the Articles of Confederation and form a new government.
Here's the email:
To my esteemed colleagues:
Below is a copy of Virginia Delegate James M. LeMunyon’s op-ed published in The Wall Street Journal earlier this week advocating the importance and feasibility of a limited Constitutional Convention to rein in Congress. [Posted below the fold. —Eds.] I admire Delegate LeMunyon’s work and I appreciate his efforts to bring this issue to the forefront.
A Constitutional Convention is the only choice we have to block Obamacare. I opposed a Constitutional Convention a few years ago, but a lot has changed. Back then, we were worried that a Constitutional Convention might open the floodgates.
Well, Congress has already opened the floodgates and they're taking away our freedoms and liberties every day. Obama is coming after the Second Amendment next, and he will probably be able to bulldoze his way through it like he did with health care.
I urge you to discuss and support the practicality and importance of a Constitutional Convention with your fellow legislators because a Constitutional Convention has the ability to close the floodgates to keep Congress under control.
Please feel free to contact me by phone at 803-734-2080 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org if I can assist you in any way with this most important pursuit. Also, I would appreciate it if you would let me know of any such efforts in your state.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.
State of South Carolina
A Constitutional Convention Can Rein in Washington
By JAMES M. LEMUNYON - (represents portions of Fairfax and Loudoun Counties in the Virginia House of Delegates.)
phone: (703) 264-1432
The U.S. Congress is in a state of serious disrepair and cannot fix itself. It has reached this point over the course of many years—in fact over many decades. Regardless of the party in power, Congress has demonstrated a growing inability to effectively address the major issues of our time, including soaring federal debt and the extension of federal authority to states and localities.
The only effective remedy is constitutional reform to rein in congressional excesses and abuses. But Congress can't be expected to propose amendments to fix itself, as it has an inherent conflict of interest.
The remedy is in Article V of the Constitution, which permits a convention to be called for the purpose of proposing constitutional amendments. Any proposed amendment then would have to be ratified by both houses of 38 state legislatures (three-fourths of the states). This entails 76 separate votes in the affirmative by two houses of the 38 state legislatures. (Nebraska, with its unicameral legislature, would be an exception.)
Interest in calling a first-ever Article V convention is growing at the state level. A petition for such a convention passed the Florida Senate last month, to propose amendments requiring a balanced budget and to restrain the growth of the national government. If approved by the House, Florida would be the 20th state with an active call to do so. In the Virginia House of Delegates, I introduced a resolution (H.J. 183) calling for a constitutional convention to restrain the national government as well. Requests by two-thirds or 34 states are required for a convention to be called.
Yet while there is growing support for a constitutional convention, this support is not universal, even among Americans who advocate limited government and adherence to the original intent of the Constitution. In fact, several states that passed petitions for a convention during the 1980s have rescinded them in recent years.
The principle problem for critics is that it may not be possible to limit the agenda of a constitutional convention. In addition to an amendment relating to a balanced federal budget, for example, a "runaway convention" driven by political fringe groups might propose revising or deleting existing provisions of the Constitution, including the Bill of Rights. This issue was raised when my resolution was considered in committee in the Virginia House of Delegates.
Legal experts differ regarding the extent to which the scope of a convention could be restricted. Nevertheless, no one should fear a runaway convention, since the outcome of such a convention has no standing unless approved by 38 states. Or, to look at it another way, if even one chamber in 13 state legislatures refused to consider an amendment proposed by a convention, the proposed amendment would not take effect. This provides a very high threshold for amending the Constitution.
A runaway convention might be a waste of time, but nothing more. State constitutions have been written and rewritten in convention on hundreds of occasions during our nation's history, with no "runaways" to mention.
Moreover, we should welcome the opportunity to consider multiple amendments. One example: to provide the president with a line item veto authority similar to that already in effect for governors in 43 states. This power can bridle legislative excesses such as earmarks. Another amendment might end unfunded mandates to states by the federal government. Others might include term limits for U.S. congressmen. My own resolution in Virginia calls for a convention to propose the line item veto and unfunded mandates.
Fear of a runaway convention presupposes a profound lack of confidence in state legislatures. It presumes that a majority in 76 legislative houses in 38 states would seriously consider, for example, amending or deleting the Bill of Rights. It presumes that only an elite class of Americans with Washington-based power can get it right when it comes to the Constitution. It presumes that the provisions of the Constitution are something imposed on the people, possibly against their will, rather than a limited grant of authority by the people, supported by the current generation of Americans and amendable to reflect 21st century realities.
As a practical matter, there are a sufficient number of "red" and "blue" states to block any attempt to amend the Constitution in a radical way from the left or right. During the last three presidential elections, 18 states have been blue in all three instances and 22 have been red in all three. Of the blue states, 16 have Democratic majorities in both state houses and two are split between the parties. Of the red states, 15 have Republican majorities in both Houses, plus seven additional states with either split legislatures or legislatures led by conservative Democrats in the South. Any "fringe" amendments could easily be blocked by the inaction of one legislative chamber in 13 states.
It is a mistake to dwell on hypothetical and unfounded concerns about the outcome of a runaway constitutional convention. We instead should focus on the immediate reality of a "runaway Congress" and its accumulation of debt far beyond the ability of Americans to pay.