My 2020 General Election Ballot and Why


Referendum Measure 90

Kids need comprehensive sex education in schools. This makes it part of the curriculum. The main things are that the new law mandates teaching consent, teaching about abuse, teaching about healthy relationships, and include sexuality beyond Christian hetero only-in-marriage sex.

When I was in school, I got none of that. Not from school, not from my parents. Sex and relationships were taboo subjects.

In the mid-00s, I was a mentor for a program at Chief Sealth High School. One of the weeks the program had us separate into sex-segregated groups to talk frankly with the teens about sex. Those of us who were mentors could talk about our experience. The students could talk about theirs, and ask any question they wanted.

One example (details are generic to protect the kids): a young man asked about anal sex and immediately another young man exclaimed “that’s gross!” Almost all sex is kinda gross. That started a conversation about being gay, how not all gay men engage in it, anal sex in hetero relationships, basic facts about anal sex doing it safely. And even we didn’t didn’t get into consent and social pressure.

Another example (also details generic): another young man expressed that he was waiting until marriage and that he wanted a wife who was “pure”. Then we got to get into how it’s just fine to wait until marriage, but also how to respect other people (particularly women) and not slut-shame those who aren’t waiting.

Just a couple of examples. The young men at least had a giant hole of knowledge that comprehensive sex education could have filled. Just starting education on affirmative consent alone could begin a culture change where men don’t learn it’s okay to ply women with alcohol until their guard is down, or think the way to go is to keep pressuring until there’s a grudging acquiescence.

Is this going to solve all our misogyny around sex? Not hardly. But it’s a start.

Even the kids who do what conservative parents tell them and wait until marriage are gonna learn a lot and end up with much more amazing sex lives in their marriages because of this.

Vote Approve. Referendums are a bit weird. Remember that Approve means you want the law to stay on the books. Reject means you don’t want kids to get comprehensive sex education in school.

A buncha advisory votes

I always vote to maintain these. Fuck Tim Eyman.

Engrossed Senate Join Resolution No. 8212

A state constitutional amendment to allow money for long-term care services to be invested more broadly. I’ve voted for similar measures in the past, but this one isn’t a big deal either way.


King County

Charter for Justice Amendment 1

Charter Amendment #1 would:

  • Require an inquest when a death occurs in a King County detention facility.
  • Require an inquest when an action, decision, or possible failure to offer appropriate care by a member of a law enforcement agency might have contributed to a person’s death.
  • Require King County to assign an attorney to represent the victim’s family in the inquest proceeding.

One of the things we learned from previous killings by police is that our inquest process is too limited. Specifically, it’s limited to the killing itself, not to the actions that police take leading up to the killing. An officer, through intentional action or negligence, can create the situation that leads to the death. Our inquest procedure didn’t consider those actions, decisions, or failures to provide appropriate care.

King County Executive Dow Constantine instituted some inquest reforms so they could. Seattle police promptly sued, saying that the wording of the charter allows only considering the circumstances of the death itself. That’s debatable, but rather than leave that up to the courts we can just make the charter clear that an inquest covers everything around a law enforcement involved death.


Charter for Justice Amendment 2

Removes restrictions on the county’s authority to transfer, lease, or sell property if used for affordable housing.

Back in the 1990s, King County merged with Metro, assuming Metro’s transit and wastewater treatment functions. The county also assumed the restrictions on Metro that kept it from doing other non-transit non-treatment government work. It made sense for Metro property to not be used to set up housing because Metro didn’t know how to run housing. As part of a larger entity, that restriction hobbles King County from creating more affordable housing using its property.


Charter for Justice Amendment 3

Replaces the word “citizen” with “public,” “member of the public” or “resident” within the county charter.

The only place where “citizen” should be used is for voting. For everything else, everyone should have the same rights as far as King County is concerned. For instance, charter section 260 establishes an Office of Citizen Complaints. It would become the Office of Public Complaints in the Charter.


Charter for Justice Amendment 4

In 2015, King County voters established the civilian Office of Law Enforcement Oversight (OLEO) to investigate, review, and analyze conduct of county law enforcement. However, at the moment they don’t have access to much of the information they need to conduct investigations. This amendment would give OLEO the power to subpoena witnesses, documents, and other evidence relating to its review and investigations. Any subpoenaed witnesses would have the right to be represented by an attorney.

If you want to know why this is needed, read the article published this morning by the South Seattle Emerald. King County OLEO commissioned an investigation into the Sheriff’s Office investigation of Tommy Le’s killing. For reference, Tommy Le was shot in the back by KCSO deputies who claimed Tommy Le had a knife. Then later they quietly admitted there was no knife. Still they got to investigate themselves, using lots of bad investigation practices. OLEO looked into that.

Sheriff Johanknecht did not allow some of her deputies to be interviewed.

OLEO needs subpoena power.


Charter for Justice Amendment 5

Returns the office of sheriff to an appointed position, to be appointed by the King County Executive and confirmed by the King County Council. Requires community and stakeholder engagement throughout the appointment process.

In the 90s, King County made the Sheriff an elected position. There are a number of good arguments that an appointed position is better. If we have a Sheriff who isn’t doing a good job, they can be replaced more than once every 4 years (recall requires malfeasance). It means that the Sheriff position will be filled through a competitive process, rather than hoping we get a good candidate. It means we can hire an outsider to clean up. It means that deputy union money can’t be used to elect themselves their preferred boss.

It means that the negotiation of the contract with the deputies union will be conducted by the King County Executive rather than the Sheriff, who has in every case but one since the position became elected, previously been a member of the deputies union. That’s a pretty big conflict.

It doesn’t remove all influence of the deputy union, but it does limit it and redirect it so it has to go through the King County Executive.


Charter for Justice Amendment 6

Removes language from the 1996 Republican amendment that prevents alteration of sheriff’s office duties. Gives King County Council the authority to establish the duties and purpose of the Department of Public Safety. Enables King County to explore more effective public safety, rooted in community-based alternatives rather than the traditional criminal legal system.

Right now, if we wanted to take traffic enforcement and move it to another department, we could not do that. If we want to have a mental health response unit, it has to be under the control of the Sheriff currently.

Our King County Council is way more responsive than any of our sheriffs have been in a while. The council holds regular public meetings, for instance, where the public has the right to participate. The Sheriff does not have to hold any public meetings, nor consider any input from the public, when setting policies.


Charter for Justice Amendment 7

Adds the following to the county charter anti-discrimination clause, which applies to county hiring and county contracts:

  • status as a family caregiver. (won’t be able to discriminate against people caring for kids or parents)
  • military status (won’t be able to deny a contract to someone because they need to be deployed)
  • veterans who have been discharged for being gay or trans. (the Trump regime has been discharging trans people again, sometimes dishonorably)


King County Proposition 1

Harborview is great. More of it please



President and Vice President

Get the wanna be dictator out of here.

Joseph Biden and Kamala Harris

US Representative District 7

Pramila Jayapal is a progressive rock star. Craig Keller is a dickweasel who sues to fuck over immigrants. In the 7th, he doesn’t stand a chance.

Be a winner vote Jayapal.



In one corner, we have Jay Inslee, who has done a pretty good job even though he isn’t so great on climate or progressive taxation.

In the other corner, we have a racist, science denying, sex abuse forgiving, law-breaking, neo-fascist Trumpist who wants to kill 2.4 percent of Washington state.

This one is an easy one. Jay Inslee

Lieutenant Governor

Officially there are two contenders, Marko Liias and Denny Heck.

There is also an effort by Joshua Freed to get people to write his name in for Lt. Governor after he got trounced by Republicans for being insufficiently racist or anti-science. Mind you, he’s still an absolute dickbag who promoted unsafe health practices in the face of Covid-19. But let’s talk about Joshua Freed’s corruption. One campaign finance rule is that a candidate can’t give a campaign loan to themselves and repay more than $6,000. Freed loaned his campaign $500,000 in September 2019 (with a loan agreement even). Then he paid himself back $450,000 in January. When that was flagged as against the law, the campaign reclassified the transaction as a $500K donation and a $450K return of a donation. He eventually agreed with the PDC that he’d violated campaign finance law and agreed to pay a $25K penalty, with another $25K to be paid if he violates the law again.

Voting for Joshua Freed is voting for fraud.

Marko Liias is a state senator for the 21st LD, which covers suburban areas from Edmonds to south Everett. Denny Heck is a Congressman from the 10th Congressional district, which covers Tacoma. If you read their web sites, they support a lot of the same things.

The first thing to note is that while Marko Liias has generally supported Sound Transit, he tried to absolutely fuck over the agency this session. There were a lot of complaints last year that the valuation schedule for taxing cars used to pay for Sound Transit was “unfair” to owners of older cars. As the owner of an older car at the time, I didn’t think much of that complaint, but ultimately i didn’t care much if the legislature changed it and funded Sound Transit some other way. Marko Liias was the sponsor of the bill that would have changed the valuation schedule. His bill did not replace the funding that was lost. Luckily, it did not pass.

However, Liias has also been very upfront about how George Floyd’s murder and recent protests have changed his mind about policing. Neither he nor Heck are really supporters of “defund the police”, but Liias does want to redirect funds from overpolicing to community based alternatives. Both support minor police reforms like prohibiting choke holds or purchasing surplus military equipment. Liias says he supports oversight on police union contracts, but his web site does not say to what extent.

Both have been supporters of marijuana legalization. Denny Heck has sponsored bills in Congress to end the prohibition on banking by marijuana businesses.

Marko Liias is gay. Too my knowledge we haven’t yet had a statewide executive officeholder who is gay. One of the bills he sponsored that passed was a ban on conversion therapy.
Marko Liias is 28 years younger than Denny Heck. We do need to start getting the next generation of politicians in office. We need a deep bench of experienced left-ish politicians. Particularly since there is a better than zero chance that Jay Inslee will take a position in the Biden administration, and the Lieutenant Governor will serve a couple of years as acting governor.

At this point, I’m leaning toward Marko Liias. But it’s not a deep commitment.

Secretary of State

Kim Wyman isn’t one of the more horrible Republicans, but she’s still a Republican in the time of Trump. She opposed the Washington Voting Rights Act and she opposed same day voter registration. She opposed King County moving to prepaid ballot envelopes because it wouldn’t be fair to other counties. Wyman opposed HR 1, a bill in Congress that would establish federal standards for elections and ban voter suppression and gerrymandering. She wanted more ID requirements to vote.

Kim Wyman will probably count ballots fairly, She’s been an effective administrator. But she won’t use her position to see that more people can vote and have that vote counted.

Gael Tarleton was elected twice to be Port of Seattle Commissioner, and 4 times to be 36th LD Representative. She has business and electoral experience. She supports improving campaign finance, and importantly, she supports increasing access to voting.

Voting Tarleton.


Duane Davidson is the incumbent. He got the job because in the open primary in 2016 there were 2 Republicans and 3 Democrats split the vote. The 2 Republicans split 48.5% and the 3 Democrats split 51.5%. But because the two GOP candidates only had to split their party’s vote 2 ways, they went through to the general. Where the Trump supporter won.

Mike Pelliciotti’s main issues as a state legislator have been accountability and transparency, and those are what we need in a state treasurer.

Has Duane Davidson done a poor job? Not really. But he has been raking in banking PAC donations, probably in the hopes of the banks that the Treasurer will use their investment services. All Republicans need to be voted out. The party needs to be burned to the ground and the earth salted. Moderate conservatives can start themselves a new party and build it up free from the taint of Donald Trump. All the good Republicans (like Chris Vance) left the party. What’s left are Trump’s bootlickers like Davidson.

Voting Mike Pelliciotti.


This is also an easy one. Pat McCarthy has been a mostly good auditor, and previously was Pierce County Executive. A good auditor is one who is quietly going about their business and preventing problems before they happen.

Chris Leyba has been a police auditor at Seattle Police and King County Sheriff’s Office (though he doesn’t live in either place), positions that don’t require supervision of other people. And if you read his campaign Facebook, it’s typical GOP grievance politics (government waste! masks! liberals!) that don’t inspire any more confidence in his skills. He longs for a state electoral college!

Screencap of Facebook comment reading: I won 32 of 39 counties in the primary. can you imagine if we had an electoral college voting system for statewide offices?

And Pat McCarthy is a Democrat. I’d need a compelling reason to vote for anyone who stayed in the party of Donald Trump. By compelling I mean something like McCarthy butchers teens in a shed at the back of her property.

Voting McCarthy.

Attorney General

Incumbent Bob Ferguson has sued the Trump regime 80 times. In the cases that have been decided, he has 35 victories and 1 loss. 44 cases are still being decided. These cases range from overturning the ban on Muslims to an injunction preventing the Post Office from delaying election mail. He doesn’t argue these cases personally. He hires really good lawyers who know what the hell they are doing. If we want to keep fascist Republican fuckery at bay, Bob Ferguson is our man.

He’s also made sure to go to court on other issues like consumer protection. He’s sued and won against landlords who violated the Covid-19 eviction ban, and ticketing companies that kept money after events were canceled because of Covid-19.

He’s defended a number of initiatives successfully. I’m happy he got I-1639 upheld. Not so happy he was able to defend I-976 in superior court. Luckily he lost at the Supreme COurt. But if you think he’ll shirk his duties because he disagrees with a law, think again.

Matt Larkin has so far lied about his job experience (said he was Spokane prosecutor when he was not), fluffed his experience working as a Pierce County prosecutor, and now thinks that being the in-house lawyer for his own family’s business is enough to qualify him to be Attorney General. The fartnozzle also would fight the governor’s common sense orders to keep Covid-19 from killing even more people than it has.

Voting Ferguson.

Commissioner of Public Lands

In this case (unlike a lot of other statewide races), the GOP candidate Sue Kuehl Pederson actually has the qualifications to be Lands Commissioner. She has an undergrad in biology and a masters of public administration, and worked for Seattle City Light, Grays Harbor PUD, and the Army Corp of Engineers in environmental and resource management roles.

However, she’s a climate science denier and thinks that returning to clear-cutting practices of the 1960s will reduce wildfires. She accuses Hilary Franz of not letting logging companies log. Which is sort of true, but it’s not new with Franz. We log somewhere between 50 and 66 percent of the board-feet that we did in the 1960s and early 1970s, and require things like buffer strips between logging and rivers. Franz was Commissioner only for the last point on the graph below.

Line graph of board feet harvested every year from state lands from 1965 to 2017

Hilary Franz’s position is that climate change is what’s driving the devastating forest fires. Drier lands means harder to control fires. Her department created a Forest Health Strategic Plan with stakeholders to plan for reverse unhealthy forest states and plan for climate change. There’s a lot of other good stuff Franz has done, but Pederson wants to make it about “rebuilding our logging industry” (aka clear-cutting) and I can’t get on board with that. Thing is, I think we’re going to need to rely a lot on mass timber construction in order to fight climate change, but the timber has to be harvested responsibly, not with frenzied abandon.

Hilary Franz:

  • not a climate change denier
  • not a clearcutter
  • not a Republican

Voting Franz

Superintendent of Public Instruction

To be honest, I don’t know a whole hell of a lot about what Chris Reykdal has done as SPI, but I know he’s been catching a lot of flak as a proponent of the recent law (which is also on the ballot as Referendum 90) which mandates comprehensive sex education in schools. I’m a proponent of that law, so more power to him.

Maia Espinoza is a lying liar. One of the first things I did when I looked at her campaign web site was check her executive experience. She’s the Executive Director of the Center for Latino Leadership, which she’s been claiming is a federal 501(c)3 non-profit. But when I looked it up, it turned out it isn’t. Apparently even the state registration was “inactive” until a reporter called her about it. She also claims she has a masters degree, but she hasn’t graduated yet. She’s the second Republican in these races to have lied about their qualifications. And if you need a policy reason to dislike her, she wants to take money way from public schools and give it to charter schools.

Anyway, vote Reykdal and vote approve on referendum 90.

Insurance Commissioner

Mike Kreidler has served 5 terms as insurance commissioner, 1 term as a US Representative, 16 years in the state legislature, is a doctor of optometry, and served in the Army as an optometrist as well as having experience in a number of things not related to health care.

On experience alone, vote for Mike Kreidler. But Mike Kreidler has also been an excellent regulator of insurance in Washington State. He made sure that coronavirus testing is covered by insurance. When the Trump regime remove insurance protections for transgender people from Obamacare, Kreidler sent letter to all health care insurance in Washington reminding them that those protections are part of Washington state law and must be continued. He added a special enrollment period for the pandemic so people without health insurance had another opportunity to sign up. That’s all this year, and I’m not even covering everything.

The following two paragraphs are from Spokesman-Review coverage of the race.

[Chirayu] Patel, who describes himself as an “autistic savant” in campaign literature and interviews, also has some unusual ideas he hopes will win over voters. If elected he’d share the duties of the office with Kreidler and Anthony Welti, the Libertarian candidate eliminated in the primary. He’d apply the principles of organic chemistry, which he studied at the University of Washington, to the insurance industry.

He’d rely on his connections to the minds of Ronald Reagan and Thomas Jefferson – with whom he says he shares a common ancestor in Genghis Khan – to help guide him in office. He said in a recent interview he’d set a new requirement for insurance policies that cover expensive items like rare paintings, upping the premium and requiring that policy holders have a military tank to help protect them.

I honestly don’t know how this dude beat out a reasonably intelligent Libertarian with money in the primary, even as bad as Libertarians are.

Vote Kreidler.

LD 43 Representative Position 1

Leslie Klein is a frequent GOP sacrificial lamb, mostly in the 36th LD. Nicole Macri has been another progressive rock star in the state legislature. She almost got us county-wide funding for low-income housing. She had a remarkable 8 bills pass this biennium and get signed by the governor where she was the primary sponsor. She had a bunch of other bills that didn’t make it like the housing bill, one to loosen zoning restrictions statewide, secure scheduling, and a ton more. Klein isn’t even raising money and won’t be elected. Be a winner and vote Nicole Macri.

LD 43 Representative Position 2

I am pretty fed up with Frank Chopp. His positions are fine, but he spent many years as Speaker of the State House. That job is to make sure the legislation that comes up doesn’t hurt the overall Democratic majority. In other words, if a bill to raise taxes that would fund housing in the 43rd comes up, but it’s tough for a Democrat in Whatcom County to vote for it because the electorate there is more conservative, it’s the Speaker’s job to quash it or water it down or something so that the WC Rep doesn’t have to take a position that gets them voted out.

Chopp stepped down as Speaker a year ago, and I hoped that would unleash him to be a fierce advocate for the 43rd. That didn’t happen. For instance, while he nominally supported Nicole Macri’s bill that would allow King County (and only King County) to raise taxes to fund housing for people experiencing homelessness, he was never quoted in one article about it that I could find. If he was arm-twisting behind the scenes in support, it remained behind the scenes.

Or take funding for public transportation. Ideally, we’d have a graduated income tax and a graduated wealth tax to fund stuff. But we don’t, and when Seattle needed revenue to fund bus service (our Transportation Benefit District, which funds Metro service in Seattle), the legislature only allowed us to use a sales tax and/or a vehicle registration fee. I-976, may it forever burn in hell, fucked that royally. In January, when we didn’t know what would happen with I-976, the legislature did *nothing* to allow us to replace the revenue with another source. Folks like state senator Joe Nguyen worked their butts off to get a capital gains tax (and failed), but Chopp was nowhere to be seen. And the thing is, Chopp stood in front of the 43rd Democrats in January and told us the legislature would not roll over to I-976.

So now if you follow Chopp’s twitter, he’s got a new progressive revenue proposal, he’s all about putting limits on police unions, etc. etc. Where the fuck were you for so damn long?

This isn’t to say Frank Chopp hasn’t done anything ever. He touts getting earmarks for low-income housing, getting Sound Transit to sell off properties to housing orgs, and getting Apple Health funded. And that’s something. He’s done a lot, over the years.

A person who introduced Jessi Murray at a campaign event this spring said: we really need a representative who is going to bring enthusiasm and row like hell. That’s not been Frank Chopp. I’d hoped it would be Jessi Murray, but it was not to be. She came in third in the primary. Loved her platform.

As it is, I also love Sherae Lascelles platform. They’re the person who beat out Murray. Lascelles is a founder of POC Sex Worker Outreach Project and the Green Light Project, both of which do harm reduction efforts in Seattle’s sex worker community. And unlike Frank Chopp’s non-profit work (which is great!), Lascelles work is not what you’d think of as high level executive director stuff. They’re out on the streets in the evening delivering supplies to sex workers and asking them what they need to survive, then trying to help them do just that.

One of the things sex workers needed was hand sanitizer. And when the pandemic hit and supplies of that dried up, Lascelles started Hygiene Hustle, a company that manufactured sanitizer. They both sell it and give it away to people on the street, including both sex workers and rough sleepers. Lascelles comes from a background of mutual aid.
As a Black, queer, non-binary, poor person who works delivering mutual aid to sex workers, Lascelles has a pretty good view to how policing has not helped many people. They’re an advocate for decriminalizing sex work, for instance. Lascelle’s organizations have been part of the Decriminalize Now coalition that, along with King County Equity Now, were the prime drivers of the 3 demands from protests against policing in Seattle this summer: defund the police by 50%, invest the money in community responses, and don’t prosecute protesters. Lascelles wasn’t the only person behind that, but they were a key person.

As a candidate for State Representative, Lascelles supports things like progressive wealth taxation, comprehensive bias training for police, zoning reform, funding public transportation, and more. Importantly, Sherae promises that their platform will be a living document, always being worked on in consultation with the people who are most in need.
Lascelle’s “theory of change” is to use pressure from constituents to drive change in the legislature. By that, they want to leverage on the ground groups to rally support from legislators for bills. Chopp’s methodology is to lean on legislators he helped elect. (That’s from a candidate forum both attended.) I’m less opposed to leveraging relationships in that manner than Lascelles is, but the drawback to backroom deals is there isn’t a lot of accountability involved.

So, despite the fact that I do not match any of the identities that describe Lascelles, nor do I share a socialist ideology, I will be enthusiastically voting for them. They have the experience and a mindset that is sorely needed in the Washington State Legislature.

Voting Sherae Lascelles.

State Supreme Court

Governor Inslee appointed both Raquel Montoya-Lewis and G. Helen Whitener to replace retiring judges within the last couple of years. Montoya-Lewis is Native American, and Whitener is a Black lesbian. And of course, it’s the justices from marginalized backgrounds that drew opponents, both of them conservative white men. The two white justices up for election are unopposed.

David Larson uses the dog whistle “the constitution as written” in his candidate statement. All justices look at the constitution as written. It’s the conservatives ones who use that phrase to signal that they’ll interpret it as enshrining how we looked at people years ago forever, “if the people who wrote it thought we could discriminate, then that’s the interpretation we have to go with!” Screw that.

Richard Serns, as best as I can tell, hasn’t even worked as a lawyer despite graduating law school years ago. Instead, he used his legal training as a school administrator for decades. Which is great! We need people who understand the law working in those positions. But he did that work as an administrator, not as a lawyer. He doesn’t have the experience.

Both G. Helen Whitener and Raquel Montoya-Lewis have oodles of experience as judges at the superior court level and in Montoya-Lewis’ case as chief judge for several tribes. I’m voting for them.

King County Superior Court

Judge Position 13

Andrea Robertson has more experience as a trial lawyer and she has experience as a public defender. Two of the attorneys she worked under are now judges, giving her a leg up in legal mentorship.

Hilary Madsen isn’t a slouch, but she did a stint as a King County Prosecuting Attorney Trial Fellow. She did represent defendants in immigration court, and it’s not like she is a candidate espousing a crack down hard mentality.

However, we need way more judges who came up through the ranks as a public defender than we need those who did time as prosecutors, so I’m voting for Andrea Robertson. But this may be a bad decision.

Judge Position 30

Doug North has been a judge for years and years. But about 5 years ago he said a pretty racist thing from the bench. He got sanctioned and had to go through sensitivity training. He seems like he’s truly sorry for it and has learned something. But… where there’s one bias there’s likely to be others. And there’s no way a week or two of sensitivity training has helped him clear those biases.

Carolyn Ladd is a corporate attorney for Boeing. But she’s a really good attorney and she does a lot of work to advance women in the field. And some less visible things. Former City Council candidate Melissa Hall does clinics for transgender Seattleites to get their documents changed with new names and correct gender descriptors and anything related. Hall relates that Carolyn Ladd came to those clinics time after time to serve as a notary. She saw a co-worker at Boeing have a tough time getting their paperwork fixed and decided she wanted to help make that easier.

Voting Carolyn Ladd.


Proposition 1

In 2015, Seattle voted to create a transportation benefit district funded by a 0.1% sales tax and $60 vehicle license fee. The money has been used to “buy” bus service from Metro for Seattle routes. That expires at the end of the year.

Proposition #1 is the replacement. Just a 0.15% sales tax and no vehicle license fee (due to I-976, even though it’s overturned). The money will fund every 10 minute bus service on core routes like the 70, 49, 7, 3 etc. It may not be quite as frequent as before because there’s less money in this proposition than the previous one. If we want to do something about climate change besides reshare quotes from Greta Thunberg, we need to move to public transportation and fast.

Voting yes for public transportation.

My 2019 General Election Ballot and Why

Here’s how I filled out my ballot and why:

Referendum 88

Back in 1998, Tim Eyman and Ward Connerly ran an initiative, I-200, that banned affirmative action programs. It passed at the ballot box. You may know Tim Eyman’s name as a purveyor of populist but awful initiatives. Ward Connerly did the same in California. So what happens when we ban affirmative action? We get a lot of white guys. The thing is, even when we think we’re judging people on their merits, we have so many conscious and unconscious biases that we still pick white guys. That will change eventually when we have a better cultural base, but it hasn’t happened yet. So we get higher percentages of white guys in whatever we do.

So last year, a group of citizens put together an initiative to the legislature, I-1000. It essentially would overturn I-200. The legislature, seeing the effects of I-200, chose to enact it into law rather than put it on the ballot. And then a bunch of people collected enough signatures to force it to the ballot anyway. Thus we have referendum 88.

An “Approved” vote means you want Washington to allow affirmative action to counter conscious and unconscious bias. That’s what I voted.

Initiative 976

This is another Tim Eyman measure that would cut car tabs. Car tabs are a relatively regressive way to tax. We really need an income tax. However, car tabs are what we got until we are wise enough to have an income tax. And it’s how we fund a lot of road maintenance and improvements in a lot of the state, and transit improvements in our bigger cities. Without car tab fees, that goes away. We’ll have more bridges collapsing because of deferred maintenance. We’ll pull Metro buses off the busiest routes and put those riders back in cars, making traffic worse. And frankly, we need to get the fuck out of our cars soon anyway. This climate change that we all think Trump is a fuckface for ignoring? That’s caused primarily by two things: coal fired power plants and petroleum powered transportation. Seattle has very little of the former. We need to be out of cars by 2050 at the very latest. Car tab fees work as a good disincentive to using cars on one end of the problem, and fund public transportation on the other.

So fuck chair-stealing, money-thieving Tim Eyman. Fuck him right in the ear.

I voted Hell No.

Advisory Votes

As these are all advisory, they don’t really matter. I voted Maintained on every damn one of them.

Senate Joint Resolution 8200

The state government has plans for “continuity of government” in the case of a foreign attack that happens within the state of Washington. If the Russians attack Olympia, it wouldn’t be very practical to pass a law that moves the state capitol to Spokane temporarily. So we have a law that allows the governor to move the capitol in that case. The list of things that the state constitution allows for suspending normal rules in the case of foreign attack are: the seat of government; membership and quorum of the Legislature, and passage of bills; vacancies in state and county offices; and state records.

SJR 8200 adds “catastrophic incident” to “foreign attack” as an additional situation where continuity of government can happen under emergency powers. Major tsunami. Airliner crashing into the capitol building. 7.4 earthquake and no Dwayne Johnson.

I voted Approved.

King County Proposition 1

I like Medic 1 ambulances.

I voted yes.

King County Director of Elections

Julie Wise is the current director of what should be a technical, appointed office rather than elected. We were dumb enough to make this elected a few years ago. Mark Greene is a perennial candidate and is a joke. He’s illustrated his campaign web site with anime-style drawings of young women.

I voted Julie Wise.

King County Countil District 2

Both Larry Gossett and Girmay Zahilay are great people. Larry Gossett was a founder of Seattle’ Black Panther Party in the 60s, but has been on the King County Council since being elected in 1993. He’s smart, pro-social justice, pro-green new deal, and a whole lot more. However, in the few appearances I’ve seen him at tis year, he has been rambly and unfocused. Girmay Zahilay is youngish, a son of Ethopian immigrants, and grew up in South Seattle public housing. He and Larry Gossett agree on a lot. However, Zahilay will probably prioritize income inequality and young people more than Larry Gossett will. He has the fire.

I voted Girmay Zahilay. But I really like Larry Gossett too.

Port of Seattle Commissioner No. 2

I don’t have strong feelings about either candidate, Sam Cho and Grant Degginger. Cho speaks about increasing minority opportunities and has an export business. Degginger is the former mayor of Bellevue and is backed by airlines and the Seattle Times. Most Port Commissioner races are dominated by bland statements about economic growth, improving the environment, and improving the traveling experience at Seatac Airport. However, Sam Cho says the Port of Seattle needs to be active in reducing homelessness because it is a huge landowner and controls the working conditions for a large number of people. That’s a bit different. Degginger may be fine, but having the backing of airlines, an industry that tries to find 100 little ways to extract profit from its customers, is not a huge plus in my view.

I voted Sam Cho.

Port of Seattle Commissioner No. 5

Fred Felleman is a former marine biologist. Since being elected, he’s pushed environmental changes at the Port, and is a supporter of workers. He sat next to me at a couple of meetings and we’ve briefly chatted. My impression from that is he is also a hell of a nice guy and thoughtful to boot. I haven’t even bothered to look of Garth Jacobson, his general election opponent.

I voted Fred Felleman.

Seattle City Council District 4

Shaun Scott is not the person who I voted for in the primary, but he is far and away better than Alex Pedersen, and he’s grown on me since the primary. Pedersen is a real estate banker and former legislative aide to a few politicians, most recently CM and temporary mayor Tim Burgess. Pedersen is running essentially because he hated Rob Johnson, the former District 4 CM. Pedersen had a “neighborhood blog” where he railed against Johnson on both his personal style and his political positions. I like Rob Johnson. So that’s strike 1 against Pedersen.

Pedersen opposes transit projects (both ST3 and Move Seattle). He opposes bike lanes. As noted above, we have to get out of our cars by 2050 at the latest. And lots of cities are showing that pedestrian, transit and bike infrastructure makes for vibrant cities. Have you been to Copenhagen or Amsterdam? Or Stockholm? Bikes and buses and trains everywhere. It’s safe to walk. Seattle is currently reversing a downward trend in serious pedestrian involved crashes, with more people seriously injured in the first half of 2019 than in all of 2018. And if I thought, well, it can’t work in the US, New York just turned 14th Street into a busway a month ago and the results have been amazing. Remaining streets aren’t more congested, and the buses that run along 14th actually move now. Scott supports this sort of thing. Pedersen opposes it. Instead Pedersen thinks we just need to slowly start using more electric cars. I’m not opposed to electric cars, but we’re going to need a whole lot more than that. Strike 2 against Pedersen.

The biggest issue in most of the council races in terms of vitriol and media coverage is housing and homelessness. The simple calculation is that we have more people who want to live and work in Seattle than we have homes. This demand drives up housing prices and causes people to look to the burbs. We don’t have a lot of undeveloped land where we can put detached homes. We need to put more homes on the same amount of land. That means more multi-family housing. It means infill housing, which is things like small apartments, duplexes, triplexes, rowhouses and townhouses. We currently ban that sort of housing from 66% of Seattle land. We’ve blocked housing so much that a lot of census tracts in Seattle have actually seen a decrease in population since the 70s. Aging parents, smaller families, and prices high enough that only the very rich can afford detached family homes have mean that we are losing people in a lot of Seattle. Our population is growing, but it’s being crammed into our urban villages. It makes the urban villages great places to live, but it’s not enough. Paris, a city not known for skyscrapers, fits several million people in a space the size of north Seattle. Infill development means we can become like Paris. Scott supports scrapping the infill development ban. Pedersen supports preserving aging detached single family homes for rich people. Scott also wants to see the city invest in a lot more public housing. Politically, I don’t think we’re at a place where that can be the primary housing policy solution, but I think we need to be pushing that a lot more than we have been. Strike 3 for Pedersen and a huge plus for Scott.

And the last policy consideration is revenue. If you remember, last year the city passed and then quickly repealed a head/payroll tax that would have pulled money from some of our largest businesses. Kshama Sawant characterized it as “Tax Amazon” which I think was a mistake since the people who want to punish Amazon are a distinct (though vocal) minority in Seattle. We need more revenue to pay for transit and housing. We need to make it as progressive as we can within the limitations the state puts on us. It’s going to mean something that impacts business and/or rich people. Amazon, Tim Burgess, and the Seattle Chamber of Commerce are investing heavily in Pedersen to keep that from happening. Hundreds of thousands of dollars in “independent expenditures”. It’s a smart move on their part but I want to see us expand helping the poor and not rich. Scott will take from the rich and give to the poor. Pedersen will take from the poor and give to the rich. Strike 4 against Pedersen.

And in terms of their personal ethics, I have to side strongly in favor of Shaun Scott. Exhibit 1 is that at a candidate forum last month he made a flippant comment about bus routes changing in 1998 because someone drove a bus off the Aurora Bridge. In reality, someone boarded the bus, shot the driver, and it went off the side of the bridge killing several people and injuring a lot of others. I’d just moved back to Seattle at the time and remember this incident as a sad and scary time for bus riders. So I wrote that on Twitter and tagged Shaun Scott. No outrage. Just a reminder that this was a murder. I saw someone else write similar without tagging him but with a lot of personal venom, and I wanted to give Scott an opening that wasn’t coming from a place of personal venom. Here’s how Scott responded: He apologized. In a heartfelt way. I wrote my tweet in the late evening. Scott didn’t just give a small apology and move on. He waited until the next day when more eyes were looking at it and posted then. He’s a decent person who listens to others. Additionally, as I’ve attended and given public comment at city council over the last year, Shaun Scott has been in the audience listening. He’s showed up to Fridays for Future events just to support the students demonstrating. He’s been tirelessly appearing at candidate events, even ones that don’t have many people (I chatted with him at a Welcoming Wallingford picnic where there might have been 25-30 attendees total) or where people are actively hostile to him (e.g., he appeared at a SPOG/Safe Seattle candidate event to say he thinks the current SPOG contract sucks on accountability, which it does). Alex Pederson doesn’t show up if the forum doesn’t seem conducive. He’s skipped transit oriented candidate events. He’s skipped housing related events. Hasn’t even had someone go in his place. When he canvasses a house, if the person says they are pro-transit, then he walks away telling them that he’s not the candidate for them. Pedersen isn’t an asshole, nor is he a Safe Seattle ship the homeless to an island where they can’t get off type, but he is relying on playing to his homeowner base and Chamber of Commerce funded mailers. Scott is doing this with much more grassroots interaction.

I voted Scott.

Seattle School District Position No. 1

I didn’t know enough to feel comfortable voting for either.

Seattle School District Position No. 3

My knowledge of the two candidates is primarily limited to seeing them at the 43rd Democrats endorsement meeting in June. The candidates only had a couple of minutes to pitch, but Muñiz had a focus on racial equity that impressed me.

I voted Muñiz.

Seattle School District Position No. 6

I didn’t know enough to feel comfortable voting for either.

Initiative 1433 – Washington State Minimum Wage

Washington state already has one of the higher minimum wages in the Unites States, and our minimum wage is already adjusted for inflation every year. However, that does not mean we have a living wage. Initiative 1433, on the ballot in November, aims to increase wages for the working poor by increasing our minimum wage and instituting a few other worker-friendly protections.

I am sure there are some marginal businesses that this will hurt. If you are making a crappy product that is barely selling, having to pay people better wages may make your business not feasible.

I’d rather protect people who are marginally making it than businesses that are marginally making it. So, unsurprisingly, I am in favor of Initiative 1433.

The things it would do are:

  • Raise the minimum wage:
    Year Projected w/ Current Law New Minimum Wage
    2017 $9.55/hr $11.00/hr
    2018 $9.77/hr $11.50/hr
    2019 $10.02/hr $12.00/hr
    2020 $10.28/hr $13.50/hr
    2021 $10.56/hr $13.86/hr (projected)
  • Require businesses to provide paid sick leave at the rate of 1 hour for every 40 worked.
  • Require 40 hours of accrued sick leave to be rolled over every year.
  • Prohibit employers from requiring employees to find their replacements for sick time taken.
  • Prohibit discrimination against workers who use sick leave.
  • Expand minimum wage law coverage to include some additional caregivers who provide DSHS services.

The proponents of I-1433 claim that the new minimums will increase wages for 730,000 workers, citing the Budget and Policy Center (BPC). I can’t find with a cursory search how they obtained their numbers. In one place, the BPC says that 500,000 workers make less than $12/hour. The financial impact statement prepared for the voters pamphlet makes clear that a fair number of people will be raised out of poverty with I-1433, as it predicts a reduction in caseloads for a number of state programs that benefit the poor. the I-1433 opposition says that 1.13 million people make less than $13.50/hour in the state. That’s a lot of people who will be helped.

One of the big arguments against I-1433, as noted by the Defeat 1433 folks is that the initiative would cost the state $363 million through 2022. What they don’t note in that argument is that those costs are primarily due to a 4 year lag in collecting unemployment insurance premiums. In other words, rates for 2020 are based on what employers pay from 2015-2019. So we’d be paying out unemployment compensation based on the new minimum wage but collecting based on the old minimum wage. As unemployment insurance rate calculation is not affected by this initiative, the legislature could easily remedy that through a simple majority vote. If the legislature doesn’t want to, any shortfall is on them, in my view, not I-1433.

I-1433 also mandates sick leave. Workers at the low end of the wage scale don’t have much of a safety net if they can’t work. This gives them a safety net. The principle reason opposing this, according to the organization advocating defeat, is that it is unclear how much sick leave can be taken in a single year. That argument is based on rolling over 40 hours into a new year plus an additional accrual of 52 hours that year. How is a business to survive if they can’t tell if an employee might take between 0 and 92 hours of sick leave in a one single year??! You might think I’m being facetious with that claim, and you’d be right. A business allocates a certain percentage of money into a reserve account to account for that. That is approximately 5% of full time hours. It’s a fairly narrow range of unpredictability. I think they can adjust to the uncertainty a lot easier than low wage workers can adjust to the lack of income when they are sick.

It’s important to note that opponents of higher wages predicted gloom and doom when Seattle and Seatac raised their minimum wages. Nothing of the sort happened. Maybe the opponents will be correct this time, but it would be a first. And if they are correct, then the legislature can halt or roll back the increases.

A quick look at who is funding the campaigns, because I think that says a lot about who benefits. The Defeat 1433 campaign’s contributions come from the Washington Restaurant Association, the Washington Food Industry Association, and the Washington Retail Association. Their workers would benefit from higher wages. The other campaign is being funded by Nick Hanauer (a local businessman), unions (who might see higher dues from higher minimum wages), and a group called The Fairness Project. I should note that as of the information in the PDC’s database today, the proponents have raised over $3.8 million to the opponents $54,000.

Featured image for this post taken by Elvert Barnes and used under a Creative Common Attribution license.

Initiative 1464 – Washington government accountability act

It looks like there’s going to be a lot on the ballot for the 2016 Washington general election, so I’m going to get started early on reading up on measures and candidates. These posts are not endorsements exactly, though some will end up being just that. Keep in mind that I am a liberal and I am not going into these posts unbiased looking for the ultimate correct answer.

First up, is Initiative 1464 which bills itself as the Washington government accountability act. It’s not really a general government accountability act. It’s a campaign donation accountability act at best.

The headline feature of the initiative is a form of public finance for state legislative and executive campaigns. I don’t hate the program, but I suspect it’s not going to have a transformative effect in Washington politics. The Democracy Credit Program lets each voter in the state make $50 donations to three candidates where the money comes from the program rather than the person’s own pocket. To be eligible to receive these funds, a candidate has to collect 75 small donations from voters within their district.

Reading a summary of Initiative 1464 for the state legislature, it appears that candidates have to forego all contributions besides the 75 qualifying ones. It’s for this reason why I don’t think this will have a transformative effect. Candidates who can collect enough contributions through the current system are going avoid the new program. The Democracy Credit Program is a lot more work, because it requires that candidates spend a lot of time cajoling people to give them one of their three $50 contributions. I think a lot of candidates would rather spend their time convincing people to vote for them. Smaller candidates may well jump on the bandwagon. But from the elections I’ve seen, they have less well thought out and comprehensive platforms, so we’ll be giving money to fringe candidates and not affecting how mainstream candidates fund raise.

The Democracy Credit Program would be funded by revoking the sales tax exemption we give to out of state residents. The appeal is that we publicly fund candidates with other people’s money.

The initiative also has limits on contributions, $100 per candidate for lobbyists and contractors who have business before the agency that the candidate would run. Note that this appears to be $100 total for such donors to these candidates, rather than the current limits which allow donors to start over at $0 after the primary.

What candidates can do with unused campaign funds would be more limited under the initiative. They would no longer be able to pay themselves a salary in excess of the state median income.

It would makes so-called independent expenditures count as candidate donations under a whole host of circumstances. For example, I campaign official could not leave the campaign to run an independent expenditure campaign and have the independent campaign continue to count as independent. So lots more could count against campaign limits.

The initiative would require political committees that advertise to list the top 5 donors while disallowing the committees to hide the ultimate donors’ names behind additional anonymous committees.

A new proscription means that an official cannot lobby their former agency for three years after leaving the agency. There are additional restrictions on lobbying for former state employees as well

The no campaign doesn’t appear to have a working web site. Looking at the PDC web site, they appear to have limited funding that comes primarily from the contractor and food industry. Supposedly they want us to worry about funding state education before we do this, but I don’t see them making any effort there, so I call bullshit on that point.

The Yes on 1464 campaign is generously funded, at just under $2 million as of this writing. One fourth of that comes from Connie Ballmer, wife of Steve Ballmer. That makes me very suspicious. Steve Ballmer funded the committee that opposed a state income tax initiative a few years ago, and he’s generally behaved like a jerk with respect to Washington politics. Connie Ballmer has also generously funded ($500,000) an attempt to defeat Barbara Madsen, the Washington Supreme Court Justice who wrote the opinion that invalidated one of her pet initiatives, publicly funded charter schools in Washington. Makes me think that she thinks Initiative 1464 won’t hurt her chances to get her own way.

Other contributors to the yes campaign do not follow the rules that would be enacted as part of this. Every Voice has contributed $300,000 to the campaign, but not filed any reports with the Washington State PDC. Neither does $100,000 contributor Represent US. Pretty sneaky for a campaign that supposedly is supposed to increase transparency.

I’ll be voting for this, but it’s not a strong endorsement. Given the Supreme Court’s declaration that campaign contributions constitute political speech, I just don’t see any way we can meaningfully reform campaign finance. Rich people will just opt out of any voluntary system. And frankly, if it fails I won’t shed a tear because the people behind the yes campaign appear to believe their proposed rules apply only to other people.

3 Ways to Tell if Your Distaste For Hillary Clinton is Sexist

3 Ways to Tell if Your Distaste For Hillary Clinton is Sexist

Implicit messages are more insidious because they are consumed and deployed beyond the realm of consciousness. We need not think deeply to identify the racism in Donald Trump’s depiction of Mexican immigrants as rapists or the sexism of his asking if Megyn Kelly’s tough questions were due to her being on her period. Identifying subtler racist and sexist cues is more challenging, however, because no one is immune to these subtleties, even those among us who have engaged in personal and public anti-racist and anti-sexist work.


Seattle City Council’s tone argument

I’m not delusional enough to think Sawant’s fellow council members are only now realizing they don’t like her, but a switch has flipped—maybe it’s as simple as the fact that it’s an election year—and now they’re willing to air their unhappiness in public.

I for one am glad that the era of false collegiality at the Seattle City Council is over. I think too much of our American culture is based on a false niceness. I want us to be a culture where we can openly disagree, sometimes vehemently, and still work together for the common good. What the rest of the city council members are using is essentially the tone argument: we’d listen to you if only you said things nicely. Not only does Ms. Sawant bring different ideas to the table, she brings a different political process.

And I say that as someone who disagrees with her position on rent control. I’d much rather have a discussion with her over how to make housing affordable in Seattle than with the rest of the council, because she values the issue and policy over being nice. She’s not going to take her ball and go home if she’s not shown deference. Most of the rest of them, I think are too worried about keeping everyone happy instead of solving a problem.

Subject line is a link.

Seattle Propositions 1A and 1B – Early Childhood Education

The history of this one is a little convoluted. Labor unions ran an initiative to do a number of things regarding childcare, chief among them raise the childcare worker minimum wage to $15 per hour and require training and certification. They got enough signatures. The city council worked on a universal preschool pilot program. The propositions aren’t exactly one or the other like initiatives 591 and 594 are, but they both concern how to help preschool age children. So the city made it an either-or proposition.

My assumptive goal is to provide children with the resources to be functioning members of society.

So, if either of these measure does that, I’m going to vote yes on part 1. So on to checking both proposals:

Preschool Colors
Photo by Barnaby Wasson (CC By-Nc-Sa)

Proposition 1A

1A does a few things:

  • It sets the minimum wage for child care workers at $15 per hour with a phase-in of three years. The city council passed a $15 minimum wage that can phase in for up to 7 years. I see no reason to make that more complicated. It was a hard negotiated compromise, and I opposed businesses messing with it and I oppose labor messing with it.
  • 1A mandates that the city adopt goals, timelines and milestones to institute a policy that no family pay more than 10% of their income for early education and child care. While that’s a laudable goal, I think a hard limit of 10% is misguided as it doesn’t factor in number of children, their needs, or their families’ circumstances. I think a sliding scale based on family income and adjusted for other factors is a better target. That’s what 1B does.
  • 1A states that violent felons cannot provide child care in a licensed or unlicensed facility. This is perfectly reasonable, though I’d be surprised if the state doesn’t already prohibit violent felons from working in child care facilities.
  • 1A requires the city hire a Provider Organization to facilitate communication between childcare workers and the city. As far as I can tell from the requirements in the initiative, that organization would need to be one of the unions that is sponsoring the measure. I’m all for unionization, but this seems a bit like making the city talk to the union and pay for the privilege.
  • 1A would establish a training institute to be run by the Provider Organization from the last bullet point that would train and certify all childcare workers. Requiring training and licensing seems fine with me, but requiring the program to be run by a union seems a big loss of independence. I’d rather it be run by another organization, or the city itself.
  • 1A creates a Workforce Board to oversee the measure, including the training institute and standards. Half the board is nominated by the mayor, half by the Provider Organization. That seems like too large amount of influence to give to a union.
  • 1A creates a fund to assist small child care providers to meet city standards. That seems like a great idea.

One thing not listed in this is where the funding for it comes from. That isn’t a definitive reason to vote against it in my view, but it does mean I’m gonna look hard at it. The city would have one more priority to work into an existing budget and it’s not like we have a lot of extra money floating around. I’d prefer if we had an explicit ordered priority for our budget so new things like this could be slotted in at some spot in the priority. We don’t, and so the city is going to have to do it, and going to have to cut something or raise taxes for it (and we don’t have much room to raise with current legislative limits). We could raise property taxes similarly to how 1B does it, but will require another vote. I’d much rather it be included in this vote.

All in all, I’m leaning against this, primarily for the reason that it puts too much control into the hands of the industry to regulate and manage itself on the city’s dime. It seems like a way to restrain trade rather than improve education and child care.

Proposition 1B

Proposition 1B creates a four year pilot early learning (i.e., preschool) program with the goal of making it permanent and covering all preschool age children in the city. It will have free or sliding scale tuition based on income. The oversight board includes 12 members of the Families and Education Oversight Committee, which is (I believe) an existing committee that oversees a previous levy. 4 additional members would be part of the oversight board, and they would be Seattle residents with interest and experience with the growth and development of children. Only one of them can be from an organization that receives funding through the measure.

The proposition enacts a property tax that raises $14 million to fund the pilot program. The city won’t need to prioritize other programs out of the budget.

Proposition 1B seems to be a good faith attempt to provide education to young children, which is my goal, rather than provide a large amount of control to a union. I’m all for unions, and even giving them seats at the table. But they should not be in charge, as their interests are with their members, not with children. I don’t think they are opposed to children’s interests, but they aren’t synonymous.

Upshot is, I’ll be voting yes for part 1 of proposition 1, and for 1B for part 2.

Washington Advisory Votes

Due to the remnants of a Tim Eyman initiative, we have advisory votes on anything that can be construed as a tax increase that’s passed by the legislature. There are only two such this year.

Advisory Vote No. 8

Marijuana crop, better known as help over here.
Photo by Stephen McGrath (CC By-Nc-Nd)

After we legalized marijuana two years ago, marijuana growers qualified for standard preferences for agriculture. The legislature eliminated that preference for them, costing about $25 million a year. I am relishing the thought of conservatives having to vote for a tax increase or for marijuana. Since our state is undertaxed, there’s no way I’m voting against what’s essentially a sin tax. That was part of the argument for the marijuana legalization initiative. Legalize it and tax it. So here we are. I’m voting maintained.

Advisory Vote No. 9

The legislature added $1.3 million in excise taxes on leasehold interests in tribal properties. I have no idea what exactly that is, but this is exactly the sort of thing we elect the legislature for. Absent a compelling reason against it, I’m voting maintained.

Washington Initiative Measure No. 594

Initiative 594 would apply currently used criminal and background checks by licensed dealers to all firearm sales and transfers, including gun show and online sales, with specific exceptions.

Gun Show
Gun Show photo by Michael Glasgow (CC By)

While I tend to be a bleeding heart liberal, I’m generally less supportive of gun control measures than a lot of other folks. There’s essentially two things I want to see changed about guns in the United States. The first is that stupid people should not possess or own guns. Who should decide what and who is stupid? Me. Of course, that’s not going to happen. But that’s my ideal.

The second is I’d really like to see a change in culture away from a hard-core attachment to guns. That’s not a law thing; that’s a culture thing. Guns aren’t needed and aren’t useful in 99.9% of the cases people think they are. For example, open carry. To give an analogy, I think flip flops should not be worn except at the beach, pool, or locker room and yet people wear them everywhere. I do not, and would not, support any banning of flip flops. But that doesn’t mean I think people should wear them. Please, stop wearing flip flops. Similarly, leave your gun at home. I don’t think open carry should be encouraged, but I think it should be generally lawful.

So that brings me to I-594. I-594 is not a litmus test for me. I think people can vote in good conscious for this measure without earning my ire. There are two questions that determine my answer to this initiative. The first is, will this do any good? The second is, is it worth the loss of freedom to transfer or sell a gun without a check?

I’m going to delve into the second question first. The answer is, I don’t think so. The burden on a person selling a gun is not substantial. TA quick search says the cost for this is generally less than $100 currently. The wait will be between 0 and 10 days, depending on the results. Generally the check happens instantly if a person doesn’t have issues that need to be dealt with. After 10 days, the sale/transfer can go through even if the background check hasn’t come back.

For the sellers, the burden is the cost. If the cost to purchase a gun goes up, people will buy fewer guns. Licensed gun dealers already factor this in, and they are doing just fine. Unlicensed gun dealers are basically free riding. Truly private sales/transfers between known people will be more inconvenient. I don’t see much more burden for doing this than registering a car though, and that is a pain in the ass, but it’s something we live with and accept. For purchasers, guns will be more expensive and there will be less reason to purchase privately and more reason to just use a licensed gun dealer in the first place. The only real burden is that people who are ineligible to purchase a gun will not have as large of a loophole to get one.

So, the first question: will this do any good? That’s much harder to answer. Few jurisdictions have had background check measures for long enough to have good data. And any changes aren’t going to be easy to measure given that people can and do work around them. If effective, background checks will be more effective when people can’t go to the next state over to purchase a gun without a check. Residents of Spokane can easily evade this because they are 30 minutes away from Idaho which doesn’t have background checks. All this makes it hard to know.

Additionally, if there’s any effect, it’s hard to see it because so many other things affect gun violence. Something might reduce gun violence by 5% but the economy goes south so crime in general goes up by 10%, which obscures the effect of the first. You can’t just look at the fact that gun violence in Colorado went up after they passed background checks in 1999. There are so many causes that extracting that information requires university-level studies.

The pro I-594 web site gives out some statistics, such as 39% fewer law enforcement officers murdered with a handgun in states with background check laws. The web site does not give the source for that. It also doesn’t say fewer than what, what the time frame is, how this was measured, what the confidence is, etc. The Officer Down Memorial page gives the stat that 39 police officers have died in 2014 due to gunfire. That tells me any measurement of law enforcement deaths in background check states is going to have a low sample size. Other measurements might not have that issue, but it’s really hard to tell given what the pro I-594 group posts.

I looked on JSTOR to see if I could find anything. Unfortunately, the only study I could find using background check as the key term wasn’t looking at background check efficiency. It looked used measures of background checks as a proxy for determining gun ownership and effects of that on suicide rates.

At the risk of falling into the trap of something must be done. this is something. therefore this must be done. I’m planning on voting for the measure. My gut feeling is that it will help reduce incidence of bad people having guns, but only slightly, given that people can work around it. I don’t have anything except gut feeling at this point, because actual numbers are so hard to come by. Sorry, pro-gun people, but keeping the government from funding these studies means I have to go with my gut. I hope a local university will actually study the effect and we can revisit the policy in 5 or 10 years. If it’s not working at that point, I’ll support dumping the law.

The argument that it’s a burden or infringing on rights doesn’t hold water with me. California has done this for decades and it’s not a gun free zone.

Washington Initiative Measure No. 591

Kicking off my 2014 General Election ballot is Initiative 591, which prohibits government agencies from confiscating guns or other firearms without due process, and prohibits requiring background checks unless there’s a national requirement to do so.

This initiative is an easy no. We already can’t confiscate guns without due process. A person’s guns have more protection than their houses.

The real goal of the initiative is the second part. The proponents want to prevent background checks. Basically, they want people to be able to sell guns to felons and the mentally ill. Those are the people that background checks catch. Not that background checks catch everyone forbidden to have guns. But it doesn’t make sense to prohibit the checking completely.

Jesse James, half-length portrait, facing front, holding handgun in left hand at his waist
Jesse James, half-length portrait, facing front, holding handgun in left hand at his waist

We have another initiative on the ballot on background checks. I’ll post about that one next. In the meantime, remember that these people want to sell guns to known criminals, like Jesse James.