Heroes and Questions
1. King County Council Members (and rivals for the open King County Executive job) Dow Constantine and Larry Phillips are both obsessed with a bill that's in play in the state legislature that could provide funding for Metro buses. The bill, which is actually only tangentially about transit funding, was amended in the House on Friday, upping the pot of transit money by nearly 60 percent, to $55 million.
Hurrah, say Constantine and Phillips who, unbeknownst to each other, call me every other day about this bill. Both of them, in campaign mode I believe, are trying to show how invested they are in supporting transit for King County.
Yesterday, the Senate refused to concur with the House version, though, and now the bill has been thrown into conference, where both houses will send a couple of members to hash out the differences—including, finally deciding if the Metro funding will or will not be part of the legislation.
Here's where this boring story about Metro funding and legislative procedure becomes hilarious. One of the negotiators (and likely one of the main advocates for the transit money) is Sen. Fred Jarrett (D-41, Mercer Island).
Dow and Larry's hero. Fred Jarrett?
Why is that so damn funny? Because Jarrett is running for King County Executive too. Against Constantine and Phillips.
For Constantine and Phillips, their rival Jarrett is now in the position of becoming the hero on something they've spun as one of the most important issues facing the County.
UPDATE/FOOTNOTE: It's worth pointing out that Rep. Ross Hunter (D-48, Eastside Seattle Suburbs)—who may jump into the King County Executive's race himself (and also may be on the conference committee) is a bit of a loser on this bill. As we reported yesterday, a utility tax to fund human services, something Rep. Hunter was trying to put in the bill, got iced.
2. By a vote of 67-31, the state House signed off on the Senate version of the education reform bill last night (upgrading graduation requirements, strengthening accountability standards, and making early learning part of basic education). Finally, some of the education task force recommendations are headed to the Governor's desk, waiting to be signed into law.
The vote followed a parade of speeches where detractors of the bill said the bill was a sham because it didn't provide funding—"intentions do not bring funding," Democratic Rep. Mike Sells (D-38, Everett) argued; and supporters of the bill said the bill provided a necessary blueprint for accountability—"we're now accountable—the money we spend will be spent in a wise way," Republican Rep. Skip Priest (R-30, Federal Way) countered. (P.S. Dumbest speech: Rep. Bob Hasegawa—D-11, S. Seattle—said he couldn't support the bill because the opposing camps disagreed on it.)
My Hero. GOP Rep. Skip Priest.
I was persuaded by the proponents like Rep. Priest. Mandating serious education guidelines now—making public schools an accountable investment—means that when the there's actually money in the budget to fight over, the case for increasing education dollars will be more compelling. The opponents' argument that there's no money for the upgraded system is a red herring—there's no money for the failing system either. They might as well have been arguing that the state repeal existing education standards because the state can't fund those.
3. However, I also thought one of the opponents of the bill, Rep. Gary Alexander (R-20, Olympia), raised the political question of the hour. He reminded everyone that Gov. Gregoire—who now says she supports the bill—recently came out firmly against the bill because there was no funding. "We're in the same situation today," Rep. Alexander complained.
He's right. What changed for the Governor?