On Other Blogs

On Other Blogs Today: Racing, Caucusing, and Voting

Our daily roundup.

By Erica C. Barnett December 12, 2012

 1. If state Sen. Rodney Tom (D-48, Bellevue) actually does become nominal senate majority leader, who will he lead? The Seattle Times' Andrew Garber says that while Tom plans to take over the senate majority leader's office currently occupied by retiring Sen. Lisa Brown (D-3, Spokane) and caucus with the minority Republicans, the Republicans themselves will actually be headed up by their caucus leader, Sen. Mark Schoesler (R-9, Ritzville) and the Democrats will be headed up by their caucus leader Sen. Ed Murray (D-43, Capitol Hill).

So far, Tom's so-called "bipartisan" caucus includes just two Democrats—Tom (who was a Republican until 2006) and ultra conservative Demcorat Tim Sheldon (D-35, Potlatch).

Meanwhile, Sen. Ed Murray (D-43) told the Times editorial board he would rather be a leader of the minority than agree to a "power sharing" deal that was actually run by Republicans, according to the Times. Murray's reasoning: He'd rather lead an honest oppostion party. 

2. Also in the Times: A group of South Seattle and South King County school districts have won a $40 million Race to the Top grant from the federal government.

On Other Blogs would like to point out that the grants, promoted by the Obama administration, are contingent on ed-reform measures like tying teacher evaluations to student test scores—a dicey measure of actual student achievement, given that basing evaluations on test scores ignores factors like poverty, high numbers of students who are learning English, and the percentage of students with disabilities.

What's more, they encourage schools to get rid of those students, demote them to low-level "special-ed" programs where they won't count against the school's score, or keep them home on test days. And Obama-style high-stakes testing encourages school districts to dilute the quality of tests and inflate test scores, which doesn't improve education for anyone.

The editor of On Other Blogs thinks the author of On Other Blogs sounds a little paranoid.

3. The Tacoma News Tribune argues that Washington state should move to an Oregon-style vote-by-mail system, in which ballots have to be received by election day; in Washington, they only have to be postmarked by the election deadline.

Their argument—assuming voters in Washington aren't "smart" enough to mail their ballots early—sounds compelling, but they don't offer any evidence that reducing the number of days for people to vote wouldn't disenfranchise voters. In contrast, evidence from Florida sugegsts strongly that shortening the window for early voting dampened voter turnout—Democratic voter turnout in particular.

"If we fail to ensure that Urban Centers  accommodate this growth, other neighborhoods will have to absorb greater numbers of residents than are currently planned."—Richard Conlin4. The conservative Washington Policy Center—infuriating though their pejorative reference to the Democratic Party as the "Democrat Party" may be—has a clever post today listing the Democratic state legislators whose constituents voted for I-1185, Tim Eyman's initiative requiring a two-thirds legislative majority to raise taxes.

Their point: Those Democrats should listen to their constituents and vote against higher taxes. 

5. Finally, city council member Richard Conlin issues a blog manifestodefending the city's efforts to allow taller buildings in exchange for new neighborhood amenities (including affordable housing) in South Lake Union. Opponents have argued that the new buildings would be a blight on the neighborhood and that the incentives (affordable housing, childcare, rural land preservation, and more) developers would have to provide won't be enough to make up for the change in neighborhood character.

Conlin's response, in brief: "As Seattle continues to grow, if we fail to ensure that South Lake Union and other Urban Centers can accommodate this growth, other neighborhoods will have to absorb greater numbers of residents than are currently planned."

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