PubliCola Picks

PubliCola Picks Noel Frame and Sylvester Cann. And Jay Inslee.

By PubliCola Picks October 19, 2012


You certainly don't need our help marking your ballot in some of this year's high-profile contests. We imagine you've already made up your mind on big-ticket items, such as the governor's race.

(If not, PubliCola urges you to vote for Jay Inslee. Environmentalism has been mistakenly tagged as a frou-frou issue in Olympia during the recession. As a result, attacks on growth management and cuts to important environmental programs have been pushed through in name of prioritizing "kitchen-table" issues while green bills—a stormwater cleanup bill and a bond to create jobs doing green retrofits—were thoughtlessly rejected.

Inslee, a blue-green Democrat, understands that environmentalism is the kitchen-table issue of the 21st century. A staunch environmentalist since long before you started bringing your own bag to Trader Joe's, Inslee sees green policy as jobs policy. He also sees a generation defining entrepreneurial opportunity in the current economic crisis, and he's poised to lead the charge. His Republican opponent, Rob McKenna, initially showed promise as an independent-minded leader, but he disappointingly reverted to a pour-and-stir Republican during this year's campaign—sticking to party sound bites about privatizing health care, making cuts to unemployment insurance, and scoffing at critical women's health legislation. As for the environment, you can expect the standard GOP line there too; he's taken $95,000 from oil, timber, and coal interests.)

But you knew all that. (Yesterday, we also told you something you already knew: Reject I-1185, Tim Eyman's attempt to micro-manage the legislature with his latest two-thirds requirement to raise taxes. On Wednesday, we urged you to pass I-502, marijuana legalization. On Tuesday, in another obvious pick, we told you should vote for Democrat Bob Ferguson in the AG's race. And on Monday, we tipped you off on this big secret—approve R-74, the gay marriage measure. More top-of-the-ticket no-brainers to come.) 

Inslee, a blue-green Democrat, understands that environmentalism is the kitchen-table issue of the 21st century.

However, there are a number of down-ballot races where it's not exactly clear how to vote: Should you vote for the lefty Democrat or the lefty Democrat in the race for the open state house seat in North Seattle's 46th Legislative District? Should you approve Senate Joint Resolution 8221 to lower the state's debt limit from nine percent to eight percent? Who should our next state auditor be? And, huh?We elect Supreme Court justices?

And there is, in fact, one high-profile ballot measure—I-1240, the charter schools measure—that isn't an approve-or-reject no-brainer. 

PubliCola has been rolling out endorsements on a select batch of races and measures all week, and will hit a couple more early next week where the choices aren't already 100 percent clear.

Today, we're endorsing in two Seattle state house races.—Eds.

PubliCola Picks Noel Frame for 36th District State Rep. Position 2

We're not gung-ho about either candidate in this race. Seattle Port Commissioner Gael Tarleton is much too cautious for a district that wants Occupy agitatin' on behalf of everything from an income tax to closing corporate loopholes to demanding that gas taxes be spent on transit to freeing Pussy Riot.

In addition to Tarleton's moderate sensibility, we're not sure many of her corporate donors, such as Ballard Oil and International Paper PAC, want to see that kind of advocacy anyway. (We bring up Ballard Oil because Tarleton told us she supported the Ballard Industrial Council's monkey-wrenching lawsuit against the Burke-Gilman Trail fix.) 

Meanwhile, Progressive Majority leader Noel Frame is much too super-glued to the lefty establishment that brung her (a crew of labor groups has cued up a $90,000 independent expenditure against Tarleton). Indeed, Frame doesn't seem to speak until the correct lefty talking points have been calibrated and agreed upon by her Democratic interest group donors. (Man, did we have a tortured interview with her about teacher accountability. But then, a few months later—after the left etched its position—she was ready to say teacher evaluations should be a part of management decisions.)

It's ironic that we're feeling underwhelmed in this race. After the 36th District debate that we moderated during the primary at the Phinney Ridge Neighborhood Association in May, we concluded that it was a dynamite field. In retrospect, we may have just been wowed by two other candidates, green Democrat Brett Phillips and lawyerly-lefty Sahar Fathi (indeed, she is an attorney), who were ultimately ousted by the better-funded Tarleton (business) and Frame (labor). (We hope both Fathi and Phillips run in the future.)

When Frame—confronted with the GOP mantra of cutting benefits for state employees—says state workers' benefits shouldn't be cut to the level of private sector workers, but rather, "private companies shouldn't be squeezing middle class workers dry," it's totally disarming.

At that time, by the way, we also liked Tarleton's encyclopedic command of policy details. But unfortunately, it turns out, that's where Tarleton is most comfortable. She's a systems wonk who isn't into fighting for an income tax (Frame's answer for everything) until the legislature first comes up with a plan for how to spend its money.

We're not starry-eyed about an income tax, but here's the thing about Frame: Unlike Tarleton, she has a real sense of urgency. And it's infectious. She wants to do something about education funding and she wants to do it now (a must as the legislature grapples with the state supreme court's McCleary decision this session).

And one other—very important—thing about Frame: She has more of a Clark County vibe than a King County vibe. That's where Frame is from, and whatever she lacks in details and policy chops, she makes up for in street smart charm. Frame, who has been endorsed by Fuse, the Washington State Labor Council, the Sierra Club, One America, UFCW, and Equal Rights Washington, is a Seattle progressive who will be able to bond with people from around the state on core issues, including her top issue—funding education now. 

When Frame—confronted with the GOP mantra of cutting benefits for state employees—says state workers' benefits shouldn't be cut to the level of private sector workers, but rather, "private companies shouldn't be squeezing middle class workers dry," it's totally disarming.

This from the same candidate who, incidentally, also had a good moment or two back at the Phinney Ridge Community Center, when she defied the knee-jerk liberal audience's easy animosity toward the expanded big-box Fred Meyer by saying plainly that it gave her cousin a union job.

Vote Frame and watch stuff happen in Olympia.

PubliCola Picks Sylvester Cann for 46th District State Rep. Position 1

We’ve been impressed with Sylvester Cann ever since he first dipped his toe into local politics during the fight for the state house seat vacated last year by David Frockt, who won an appointment to the late state Sen. Scott White’s senate seat. Anti-nuclear activist Gerry Pollet, a fairly standard-issue Seattle lefty (yes income tax, no charter schools, boo Tim Eyman), won that seat after an ugly race that culminated in Cann’s classy decision to speak in favor of Pollet’s appointment in front of the King County Council.

Cann, who works for the South Seattle nonprofit Community Center for Education Results, which works with at-risk youth in South King County, is a smart, ambitious up-and-comer with legislative experience (he served as a legislative aide for White) and a moderate political profile. He supports some aspects of education reform (though he says he doesn't support charters or I-1240), wants to close state tax loopholes, and he wants to give local jurisdictions (cities, counties, and transit authorities) the ability to pass their own taxes to pay for transit.

Footnote: If charter schools are your litmus-test issue, it’s worth noting that Cann has received more than $40,000 in independent expenditures from education-reform groups that support charter schools, including Stand for Children, the League of Education Voters’ PAC, and Democrats for Education Reform.

Essentially, Pollet went down to Olympia and got into a fight with Seattle. Seattle has enough troubles down there as it is.

We think he’ll work well with colleagues from both parties in Olympia, without the kind of partisan divisiveness that has challenged Pollet’s ability to get things done during his short time in the house.

For example, Cann seems more realistic than Pollet about the political realities of trying to pass an income tax—one of Pollet’s top priorities (along with a corporate income tax), but a political nonstarter in Olympia. Although he supports the idea of an income tax, Cann would prioritize closing 33 specific tax loopholes identified by the state’s Joint Legislative Audit & Review Committee, taxing capital gains, and providing a tax rebate for low-income state residents along the lines of the federal Earned Income Tax Credit.  

And he supports public-private partnerships to increase affordable housing access, which PubliCola believes must be a key component of Seattle’s affordable housing system.

Back in 2008, Pollet ran a surprisingly ugly race against White, whom he accused of  “morally wrong and illegal” campaign work on the clock at his King County job, and impugned for his decision to drop out of the race during a period of pneumonia and depression, a decision White immediately retracted. In his single session in Olympia, Pollet has earned a reputation for being difficult to work with, particularly across the aisle.

But it isn’t just Pollet’s history of ugly politics that has us worried. Last year—a year when he sponsored just five bills, an unusually low number even for a freshman—Pollet shot Seattle in the foot with legislation that would limit the city’s ability to set its own caps on the rates charged by private towing companies, preempting city governments by setting a statewide maximum rate at 135 percent of the state patrol’s average cost to tow a car, or about $270 an hour. Seattle officials deemed Pollet’s proposed maximum as “arbitrary” and artificially high. Essentially, Pollet went down to Olympia and got into a fight with Seattle. Seattle has enough troubles down there as it is.

Cann has endorsements from across the Democratic spectrum, including state Reps. Reuven Carlyle (D-36) and state Sen. Ed Murray (D-43) as well as city council members Tim Burgess, Bruce Harrell, and Mike O’Brien, as well as Washington Conservation Voters, the Young Democrats of Washington and King County, and the American Federation of Teachers.

PubliCola picks Sylvester Cann.  


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