Old “news”

One might think Mike Baker of the Associated Press had a big scoop with his THREE PART EXPOSÉ! of LEOFF Plan 1 which ran recently in newspapers across the State of Washington and apparently in other states as well.

One might think that if they hadn’t read the same thing several times over the years beginning at least as early as 1976. Seriously, stories about the abuses related to LEOFF Plan 1 are the gift that just keeps on giving for the newspaper industry. Why write something new if you can just recycle what has already been written?

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From the June 17, 1976 edition of the Spokesman Review: State Pension System Claimed ‘Too Generous’

From the June 18,1976 Spokesman Review: City Officials Note Abuses

April 18, 1977 Spokesman Review: Pension Revision Moves

July 23, 1981 Spokane Daily Chronicle: Retirement Plan Change Sought

June 1, 1983 Ellensburg Daily Record: Fire-Police Retirement Provisions Increasingly Attacked

June 19, 1983 Spokesman Review: Police, Firemen Deny Disability Abuses

August 12, 2003 Tacoma News Tribune: LEOFF-1 Disability: The Gift That Keeps On Giving

August 23, 2006 Lewiston Trubune: Brewing: Clarkston Wants Other Entities to Help Pay Retirement Costs of Firefighters

March 19, 2009 Seattle Post Intelligencer: Cash Strapped King County Faces $67 Million Retiree Medical Bill

 

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Ink by the barrel and the same tired old story

Elvis Presley, Groucho Marx and Bing Crosby died. The final episode of the Mary Tyler Moore Show was broadcast and the Love Boat series was launched. The Yankees defeated the Dodgers in game 6 to win the World Series when slugger Reggie Jackson hit three home runs. John Travolta’s new film, Saturday Night Fever made it’s debut and a peanut farmer named Jimmy Carter  from Georgia was inaugurated President.

In Washington State, Dixie Lee Ray was Governor, and the company Bill Gates named “Microsoft” was two years old. The Seattle Mariners played their first games in the brand new Kingdome. The minimum wage was $2.30 an hour and a horse named Seattle Slew won the triple crown.

All these things happened in 1977, the same year that the legislature created the Law Enforcement Officers and Fire Fighters Plan 2 and closed what is now known as LEOFF Plan 1.

deadhorse

So why is it that a story outlining some of the abuses made by members of this long-closed pension system becomes a blockbuster front page newspaper story in 2013, almost 36 years later, spreading via the Associate Press to papers all across the country and igniting public outrage toward current-day law enforcement officers and firefighters whose bare-bones pensions bear little resemblance to the one abused by some of their LEOFF 1 predecessors?

Lifetime medical, the ability to “spike” pensions benefits, disability pensions that were more lucrative than service pensions; those things all went away with the creation of LEOFF Plan 2 in 1977. But incomplete, sensationalistic reporting would have the public believe that something needs to be done, and it needs to be done immediately!

To make things worse, the AP story would have the public believe that these pensions were all paid for by taxpayer dollars. Wrong. Like most public pensions, employees paid a share for these LEOFF 1 benefits, and most of the cost of them was and is paid for by investment earnings, not by taxpayer contributions. In LEOFF Plan 2, employees pay 50% of the contributions and ultimately investment earnings pay for more that 80% of the final pension benefits. But why let the truth get in the way of a shockingly scandalous story?

It’s not hard to jump on the bandwagon and condemn the actions of the LEOFF 1 members and employers that have truly “abused” the provisions of the pension system and the public’s trust.

It’s not hard either to condemn the writer and publishers of the THREE PART EXPOSÉ! for the way it makes the reader believe this is an ongoing problem and that there is something that needs to, or can be done to address the problem. The truth is that anyone who belonged to this long-defunct plan is eligible to receive the benefits written into it by the lawmakers who created it. Truth be told, it was not that unusual in the 1960s and 1970s for pension plans covering police and fire fighters to be written the way LEOFF Plan 1 was.

In Washington State, in 1977, the pendulum swung a long way in the opposite direction. A higher retirement eligibility age for LEOFF Plan 2 members. No more disability pensions for those that risk their lives while protecting the public. A five-year final average salary that eliminated anyone’s ability to “spike” their pension. No more lifetime medical coverage, instead – no medical coverage at all for retirees. Those facts are all conveniently minimized or omitted by  the reporter. After all, facts like those are pretty mundane, and mundane doesn’t help ignite public anger, nor does it sell newspapers.

In this day and age, it’s become a common practice to try make all public employees into the enemy and reason why our country, state and local governments are experiencing economic malaise. It’s not the truth, but it sells papers and television commercials. Hopefully readers will see the story for what it was – an exposé of abuses made by a few to an ancient pension plan and an effort to paint all firefighters and law enforcement officers as having gold-plated pension benefits, when the truth is , the bulk of us will retire with relatively meager benefits after spending a lifetime risking our lives and our health protecting the communities we serve.

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A good person issues an apology

Letter to Membership from Patti Mann

November 15, 2012

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I’m writing to all of you to explain the events and my actions a couple of months ago.

As many of you know, I’ve been involved in politics and the Republican Party for many years.  I have felt that some of my more conservative ideals, and my sense of individualism found concordance in that environment.

Over the past few years, my involvement increased from being elected as my local Precinct Committee Officer, to working on numerous candidates’ campaigns, to running myself in an unsuccessful campaign for Bellevue City Council.  My involvement in politics spanned many aspects, including several political conferences and conventions, memberships and even board memberships in partisan, non-partisan, and bipartisan policy and educational groups.

Each of us goes to work as a firefighter, and when our shift is over and we step outside the station, our identities remain “the firefighter.”  Frequently, due to our fortunate schedule, while we spend time devoted to other ambitions or passions, we always carry the additional designation, “… also a firefighter.”  In my political circles, I was known as, “Patti, the PCO (or candidate, or boardmember, etc), who’s also a firefighter/paramedic.”  So when the ad agency for the Republican Governor’s Association called the King County GOP office, asking if they knew of people who could fill the role of “female small business person,” “female teacher,” and “female public servant,” my name came to mind.

When I was asked if I would do an issue ad about Jay Inslee’s decision-making process, they explained that I would be one of about a dozen folks, scheduled for about an hour of filming during their two days of shooting.  I assumed that anything I said would be cut in (or edited out) with a number of other folks, each with a little sound bite.  I also imagined it would be a YouTube video, similar to what I’d seen all campaign season – not something with saturation airplay on all the major networks.

Unfortunately, I did not consider the impacts to my union.  I viewed this (incorrectly) as just, “Patti: doing an ad.”  Also unfortunately, for a number of reasons, I had viewed my political life very separately from my union life.  I’ve had my responsibilities as a member of our union reinforced, and now understand the formal process we use to endorse our union’s candidates.  To be clear, I never had a single thought of taking any action to hurt the union.  In fact, I LOVE our union, our brotherhood, the ties that bind us, and the memories and love that truly make us one big family.  My 29 years in our Fire Department is filled with hugs, tears, loads of laughs, intense situations, fear, courage and compassion – all moments shared with my brothers and sisters.  I have no greater respect for a group of people.  For that reason, I would never do anything to intentionally hurt anyone in that group, or the group as a whole.  Those that really know me, know that to be true.

For the individuals and groups that I hurt, I am truly sorry.  To know that my actions have injured another person is incredibly painful.  I came to realize that, much as I had invested so very much time, energy and money supporting my candidates, Local 27 and WSCFF had invested a great deal of time, energy and money supporting the candidates that our organization had endorsed through a formal process.  And in one fell swoop, I had been able to negate so many of others’ efforts.  It left me feeling like I’d used an unfair advantage.

Things that I have learned from this difficult experience are multi-faceted.

  • When we join a club, or group, or organization, we enjoy the benefits that that association affords us.  It requires that we play by the rules of the game.
  • Local 27 and WSCFF have a process of deciding how we will be represented, and it is necessary and proper for us to become involved with that process.  Just like getting involved in politics, getting involved in the union process is our opportunity to have our voice heard.  And then, we all agree to go along with the will of the majority.
  • Situations are not always as they seem.
  • The firefighters represented by Local 27 are a very fortunate bunch.  We have a leadership that is thoughtful, principled, VERY hard-working, and value highly the “unity” aspect of “union”.
  • Generally (not unlike our political campaigns), our individual impacts on the outcome of any union actions, are directly proportional to the efforts we contribute.

Thank you to all who have supported me via notes, letters, phone calls, and kind smiles and hugs.  This has meant more to me than you can all know, during a particularly ugly and nasty time.  Thank you to the WSCFF for their sober attitude and receptive approach.  I especially wish to thank Kenny Stuart for his decent, thoughtful and unifying response.

Moving forward, my intentions are to decrease my outside political activity, and to increase my involvement with the union.  I’m looking forward to Kenny’s upcoming request for PAC members to serve in the upcoming year, which will be, as Kenny reminds us, one which will be important for our organization.

Thank you for taking the time to read this letter, and here’s hoping that by believing in our union family, we can move forward together.

Most sincerely,

Patti Mann

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Statement from the WSCFF on phony “Inslee hurts first responders” ad.

 

Got this from the Washington State Council of Fire Fighters today:

Please read the following statement from the WSCFF on the television ad attacking Jay Inslee and featuring Seattle paramedic Patti Mann:

When Jay Inslee announced his bid to become Washington’s next governor in July, 2011, he had this to say:

“When we are trying to build a business now in the state of Washington, it is a little easier for some of these businesses to get capital down in the Silicon Valley,” said Inslee. “We need to find a way to get startup capital for these new innovators. That’s why, when I am governor, I will propose to use a small, defined portion of our state pension funds to create a pool of capital available for startup innovative companies that pledge to start here, and pledge to stay here.”

The Washington State Investment Board (SIB) has a great track record of maximizing returns so our pensions are funded without placing too great a burden on our members, the employers or the state. The SIB has a responsibility to maximize the return on investments that pay for benefits of state retirees.

Inslee’s early proposal, while potentially having the collateral benefit of expanding the number of jobs in Washington and helping our economy, would not necessarily maximize the returns on that small portion of the funds he proposed at the time to use. His goal of creating jobs and economic development was right on.

That’s probably why in the 2005 legislative session, 23 legislators from both parties made the exact same proposal with HB 1594. Some of those legislators are very good friends to firefighters. When the Investment Board testified in opposition at the hearing because it would divert them from their goal of maximizing returns, the legislators dropped the idea.

We think it’s a real stretch and an act of desperation for the Republican Governors Association and their Washington, D.C., allies to use this as an attack on Jay Inslee. We are very disappointed that one of our own members chose to create the false appearance that Washington’s professional firefighters support Rob McKenna.

We appreciate Jay’s focus on job creation in Washington. The only way to stop the cuts, brownouts, and takeaways we as firefighters are experiencing is to get our economy back on track so tax revenues are adequate to ensure public safety budgets are not cut. We also appreciate his years of unwavering support of firefighters and other public employees as a state legislator and congressman. The WSCFF has a long tradition of standing with politicians who have stood with us. That’s why we encourage all of our members to vote for Jay Inslee.

Rob McKenna has a very different focus.  The head of his party’s Governors’ Association compared him to Wisconsin’s governor, Scott Walker, and we think he was absolutely correct in doing so. We don’t want to risk the attacks on public employees we have witnessed from governors like Scott Walker here in Washington, and that’s why we oppose Rob McKenna and support Jay Inslee as our next governor.

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What do you call a selfish firefighter?

Most firefighters I know are selfless. What I mean by that is that they put others before themselves. They spend their life and career helping others, whether it’s on the job, risking everything to save a life, or on their day off, helping their buddy re-roof their house.

Most firefighters I know don’t spend a large portion of their life focused on politics. Hopefully, they make sure to do their part to help elect friendly commissioners or city council members, they work to help pass the levy or bond issues. They vote for their kid’s school levies.

In ordinary times, that would be just about right. We should all strive to be good citizens and community members. We all should help pull the load both on and off the job when our help is needed. But these are NOT ordinary times. It used to be taboo for politicians to propose laying off firefighters or cutting their salaries or benefits. Now it happens every day. And it’s not just local politicians and city managers, Mitt Romney said earlier this year that President Obama just didn’t get the message of Wisconsin, that we don’t need any more firefighters, cops or teacher.

In Washington State, all the professional firefighter organizations are supporting Jay Inslee. I have looked and  cannot find one  firefighter organization that is supporting Rob McKenna. There’s a good reason for that. Rob McKenna is an asshole NOT a friend of public employees. Every chance he gets, he spews hatred toward them. He has since his earliest days as a politician.

I watched the debate held in Yakima yesterday. McKenna disparaged public employees over and over, sneering as he called them Jay Inslee’s friends. Inslee has always supported firefighters and other public employees. He’s clear that he wants lean, efficient government. So should we all. But when it comes to Jay’s support for firefighters, it is unequivocal. On every issue, Jay Inslee has been and will be there for Washington’s professional UNION firefighters.

That’s why it is so mind-numbingly infuriating to see a union firefighter attempting to make it look like Washington’s professional firefighters support Rob McKenna. Any public employee stupid enough to vote for Rob McKenna could easily be compared to a sheep voting for the butcher, a chicken voting for Colonel Sanders or a salmon voting for gillnets. Talk about arrogance. Talk about selfishness. Talk about stupidity on public display.

What do you call a selfish firefighter? You call her Patti Mann.

Please don’t be confused by her stupid selfishness or by her selfish stupidity.

Work for Jay Inslee. Contribute to Jay Inslee. Vote for Jay Inslee for Governor. Do it like your livelihood depends on it, because it does.

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Another day, another ignorant newspaper editorial

I’d like to think that today, the Spokesman Review editorial board revealed their collective ignorance. Sadly, I believe the truth is a bit more sinister. If you’ve been paying attention even a little bit, these lie-filled editorials have been popping up all over the country since the right wing, and their helpers in the Democratic party have made public pension “reform” their crusade. By reform, I mean conversion from defined benefit plans to defined contribution, underfunding, and/or elimination of vested benefits.

Thankfully, a knowledgeable individual calling themselves “Smokie” set the record straight for the Spokeman Review in the comments section. Don’t look for the paper to issue a retraction though. It wouldn’t serve their purpose to do that.

You can read for yourself what I’m talking about here:

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Legislative History Project – 2001-2002 – Strides

The 2000 general election brought a third year of a 49-49 tie in the Washington State House, and Senate Democrats slipped from a 27-22 majority to a 25-24 near tie. 

At the beginning of the 2001 session, Rep. Renee Radcliff (R-21) resigned. Mukilteo city council member Joe Marine was appointed as her replacement. That fall, Marine was defeated by former Mukilteo mayor Brian Sullivan to break the tie and give House Democrats a 50-48 majority.

You remember the 2000 election, hanging chad, Florida, the Supreme Court. It was also the year the dot com millionaire and former state legislator/congresswoman Maria Cantwell defeated incumbent Senator Slade Gorton by  2,229 votes out of nearly 2.5 million cast to become a U.S. Senator and create a 50-50 tie.

George W. Bush was sworn in as our nation’s 43rd president on January 20th. Republican U.S. Senator Jim Jeffords of Vermont declares himself an Independant, changing his party affiliation from Republican and handing a bare 50-49-1 majority to Democrats on June 5th.

Two days later the President signed into law his $1.35 trillion tax cut that heavily favored the wealthy and began to quickly erase President Clinton’s unprecedented budget surplus.

On July 10, 2001, National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice was delivered an urgent warning by CIA Director George Tenet that al-Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden intended to strike the United States. Around the same time, a report from FBI agents in Phoenix was related to President Bush regarding suspicions about Arab students at a Phoenix flight school, directly referring to a connection with Bin Laden.

We all remember what happened on September 11, 2001. Three hundred and forty three of New York’s finest perished.

Afghanistan, axis of evil, Enron, regime change, Homeland Security. It’s a bit too depressing to recall it all.

In Washington State, Barry Ackerly sold the Seattle Sonics to Starbucks magnate Howard Schultz on January 11, 2001. On February 28, we were reminded that we live on several fault lines when the Nisqually earthquake registered 6.8 on the Richter Scale.

On July 10, 2001, four U.S. Forest Service firefighters died fighting the Okanogan County Thirty Mile Fire. On September 4th, Boeing moved its headquarters to Chicago. On September 12th, a Sikh taxi driver at Sea-Tac was attacked after being called a terrorist. November 30th, Gary Ridgeway was arrested under suspicion of being the Green River Killer.

2001-2002 Laws Signed by Governor Gary Locke

HB 1045 - Although the normal retirement age had been lowered from 55 to 53, the age from which actuarial reductions are calculated for total disability remained at 55. This bill lowered it to 53. Rep. Steve Conway (D-29)

HB 1371 - Permits surviving spouses and children of “emergency service personnel” killed in the line of duty to purchase health care benefits from the Public Employees’ Benefits Board. Rep. Dave Morell (D-25) PRO – WSLEA, WPEA, C.O.P.S., RFFOW, WSP, KCPOG

HB 2496 - Allows fire protection district levies for periods up to four years, and for periods up to six years for the construction, modernization or remodeling of facilities. Current law required annual levies. Rep. Hans Dunshee (D-39) PRO – WSCFF, WFCA

2SHB 2663 - Expands existing “presumptive law” in the following manner: A rebuttable presumption is established that a fire fighter’s heart problem is an occupational disease if it is experienced within 72 hours of exposure to smoke, fumes, and toxic or chemical substances. Brain cancer, malignant melanoma, leukemia, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, bladder cancer, ureter cancer, and kidney cancer are presumed to be occupational diseases if the claimant has served as a fire fighter for ten or more years and showed no evidence of cancer upon becoming a fire fighter. HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, meningitis, and tuberculosis are also presumed to be occupational diseases. The occupational disease presumptions do not apply to a fire fighter who develops a heart or lung condition and is a regular smoker. Rep. Steve Conway (D-29) PRO – WSCFF CON – AWC, WFCA

HB 2782 – Revised pension rates downward for most state pension systems, including LEOFF 2. Rep. Mark Doumit (D-19) CON – WSSRA

HJR 4220Constitution amendment referendum for HB 2496 above. Rep. Hans Dunshee (D-39) PRO – WFCA

ESB 5626 - Changed the definition of veteran to include those who served during peacetime. This definition change affected several things, but notably for civil service preference points. Sen Marilyn Rasmussen (D-2) PRO – VLC, DVA

ESSB 5777 - Requires local government employers to allow access to health insurance plans to retirees on a self pay basis. Sen. Margarita Prentice (D-11) PRO – RPECWA, ATU, AFSCME, RFFOW

ESSB 6167 - Made several changes to pension funding statutes, including the adoption of a 4 year smoothing of gains and losses, an increase in the assumed rate of investment returns to 8%, and abolished the Pension Funding Council (governor vetoed this portion). Sen. Lisa Brown (D-3) PRO – WSAC CON – WSCFF, WSSRA, RPECWA

ESB 6380 - Creates new survivor benefit division options for divorced members of the law enforcement officers’ and fire fighters’ retirement system

ESSB 6700 - A person or organization may not, with intent to harm or intimidate, sell, trade, give, publish, distribute, or otherwise release the residential address or telephone number, birthdate, or social security number of any law enforcement-related, corrections officer-related, or court-related employee or volunteer, if categorized as such, without the written permission of the employee or volunteer (court battles ensued). Sen. Bill Finkbeiner (R-45) PRO – COMPAS, DOC,  CON – WACO, Allied Daily Newspapers

Make-up of the Senate: 25 Democrats, 24 Republicans

Make-up of the House: 49 D’s, 49 R’s in 2001 – 50 D’s 48 R’s in 2002

Initiatives to the People: 

I-747 – This measure would require state and local governments to limit property tax levy increases to 1% per year, unless an increase greater than this limit is approved by the voters at an election. Approved: For - 826,258 Against – 609,266

I-773 - This measure would impose an additional sales tax on cigarettes and a surtax on wholesaled tobacco products. The proceeds would be earmarked for existing programs and expanded health care services for low-income persons. Approved: For - 948,529 Against – 486,912

I-775 – This measure would create a “home care quality authority” to establish qualifications, standards, accountability, training, referral and employment relations for publicly funded individual providers of in-home services to elderly and disabled adults. Approved: For – 880,523 Against – 522,848

I-776 - This measure would require license tab fees to be $30 per year for motor vehicles, including light trucks. Certain local-option vehicle excise taxes and fees used for roads and transit would be repealed. Approved: For – 901,478 Against – 849,986

I-790 - This measure would place management of the law enforcement officers’ and fire fighters’ retirement system, plan 2, in a board of trustees consisting of six plan participants, three employer representatives, and two legislators. Approved: For – 903,113 Against – 800,105

Line of Duty Deaths 2001-2002:

Officer Steven Underwood, Des Moines Police Dept.

Volunteer Firefighter Jeremy Chandler, Grant County FPD #5

Firefighter Tom Craven, USDA Forest Service Firefighter

Firefighter Karen FitzPatrick, USDA Forest Service Firefighter

Firefighter Jessica Johnson, USDA Forest Service Firefighter

Firefighter Devin Weaver, USDA Forest Service Firefighter

Volunteer Firefighter Allan Marriott, Port Townsend Fire Dept.

Deputy Matt Herzog, Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office

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How did you vote? Are you causing cuts to public safety?

City to lay off firefighters, police and museum staff  -THE WENATCHEE WORLD

Cuts may hit Vancouver police, fire – THE COLUMBIAN

Longview firefighters agree to pay freeze – THE DAILY NEWS

Deputies eyed in budget cuts – WHIDBEY NEWS-TIMES

King County Deputy of the Year is layoff casualty - KING 5 NEWS

Public hearing on Tacoma police, fire layoffs draws hundreds - KOMO 4 NEWS

Fire District Serving Edmonds Announces More Layoffs - EDMONDS PATCH

City may have to cut 60 fire, police jobs - THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW

Latest budget slashing plan calls for 165 layoffs, mostly in police, fire jobs - TNT

It took me 10 minutes to find these stories using google. Another hour and I could find 50 more. These are difficult times. For each fire or police department job that’s threatened, it’s not a huge leap of logic to say that 25-50 other public employee jobs are already gone. Politicians cut cops and firefighters last. It’s not popular to diminish public safety.

Who could have seen this kind of thing coming? We all should have. As a matter of fact, plenty of cops and firefighters have been voting for politicians and ballot measures over the past 20 years that have led to these headlines and cuts to public safety. Like chickens voting for Colonel Sanders, we have facilitated our own demise.

History repeats itself, especially if you don’t pay attention to it. Some might point to the 1993 passage of Initiative 601 limiting the growth of the state budget to inflation plus population growth and requiring a 2/3 vote for any new taxes. But I think if someone had to point to a date for the genesis of this current round of pain, January 24, 1997 would be as good as any. That’s the day the legislature began to ram through EHB 1417. Sponsored by 11 Republican Representatives and Rep. Tim Sheldon (D-35), the bill was signed by Governor Gary Locke six days after it was introduced.

To be fair, I should note that HB 1037, introduced earlier that same session and vetoed by Locke on January 22nd, contained the same provisions, but enacted them without a referendum to the people. HB 1037 was sponsored by 35 Republican Representatives, Rep. (currently Bellingham mayor) Kelli Linville (D-42) and Rep.(now Senator and Mason County Commissioner) Tim Sheldon (D-35).

That fall, this new legislation was submitted to the voters and approved in the form of Referendum 47. It was described well in this October 1997 Seattle Times Editorial. Short version: The state had a large budget surplus. R-47 cut property taxes to trim the surplus, made them harder to increase in the future, and over time, would shift the property tax burden off of businesses to and onto residences. This last portion was invalidated by the Washington Supreme Court in 1998 – much to the dismay of the self-dealing business interests who had spent more than a half million dollars to pass R-47 seven months earlier.

That same year, a 30 year old frat-boy watch salesman was cutting his political teeth on his first initiative. Tim Eyman from Mukilteo had sponsored I-200 to end affirmative action in Washington State, copying a similar measure that had been successful in California. After it floundered, he handed it off to the right-wing commentator John Carlson, who helped it over the finish line. But he was clearly paying attention when R-74 passed overwhelmingly – 64% to 36%.

In 1998, Eyman sponsored an idea he copied from Virginia to halve, then eliminate vehicle licensing taxes. After it failed to qualify for the ballot, he tried again in 1999, and this time he was successful. Voters approved I-695 that November by a 56%-44% margin, lowering the cost of car tabs to a flat $30, and requiring that the voters approve any tax increase enacted by the state or any city, county, or special district. How did you vote?

The Washington Supreme Court overturned I-695, in large part because it contained more than one subject in violation of the Washington State Constitution, but a shaken legislature and Governor quickly re-enacted the flat $30 fee to avoid the wrath of the electorate. With his signature on SB 6865, Governor Locke wiped out $750 million in annual revenue that had previously been dedicated for transit, ferries, roads, criminal justice, fire protection and many other types of local government services. Incidentally, there were nine “no” votes in the State Senate, and fourteen in the House. All twenty-three were re-elected in their next try.

Buoyed by his victory with I-695, in 2000 Eyman introduced and won approval for I-722 to “put the brakes on ‘skyrocketing’ property taxes and hold taxing districts accountable to the spirit of Referendum 47″ and to “to punish politicians who increased taxes and fees to circumvent [I-695].”

The measure restricted taxing districts to levies that could only be increased by the lesser of 2 percent or the rate of inflation without a vote of the people, and required any taxes increased at any level of government after Initiative 695 was put on the ballot and before it became law to be rolled back and refunded. It was approved with a 56% majority. How did you vote?

Again, the Supreme Court fulfilled their judicial mandate to uphold the Washington Constitution and overturned the law. An increasingly arrogant Eyman came back in 2001 with Initiative 747, bragging that his new lower 1% limit on levy increases was about “punishing politicians … for ‘robbing the voters’ of previous tax breaks”. It passed with nearly 58% of the vote. How did you vote?

Six years later, in late 2007, the Washington Supreme Court overturned I-747. Governor Gregoire, facing a tough 2008 re-election campaign against and public pressure from her previous opponent Dino Rossi, quickly called for a special session to reinstate the limit with a bill prime sponsored by former cop Christopher Hurst (D-31). One lobbyist opposed to the measure said efforts to stop it were like “throwing rocks at a train whizzing by.” Incidentally, none of the 17 members of the legislature who voted no were defeated in their subsequent re-election bid.

Also notable in November 2007 was the passage of Eyman’s Initiative 960, which required a 2/3 vote of the legislature to raise any taxes. In 2010, legislative majorities found it impossible to govern effectively under such constraints and overturned I-960. Voters again passed the 2/3 requirement with Eyman’s I-1053 in November of that year. How did you vote?

Time and time again, opponents of Eyman’s harmful initiatives would warn of their dire consequences to public safety and other services.

The conservative former Rep. Mike Patrick, then the executive director of WACOPS wrote in their August 1999 newsletter about I-695:

“Based on my research, I believe that up to 1,000 law enforcement positions could be lost in this state. In addition, it will be more difficult to retain present members because of lack of funds for salary and benefit increases. As you all know many of our jurisdictions are having a terrible time finding qualified law enforcement recruits for open positions. I-695 will only compound that problem.

The WACOPS Executive Board opposition is not a “sky is falling” position. It is based on solid fact. The WACOPS board is reflective of our membership, which tends to be more conservative. If I-695 was well written and thought out and had a reasonable replacement funding mechanism for the MVET, I am confident that the board would have supported such a proposal. I-695 is not reasonable, it is not responsible and it is not in the best interests of our members or the general public.”

The “No” campaign’s website said:

“If I-695 passes, basic governmental services, such as transportation, prosecutors, police, fire and health programs, will be reduced by billions of dollars. Since Washington state does not have an income tax, license tab fees (officially called Motor Vehicle Excise Taxes, or MVET) are a major source of funding.”

Initiative 722 was so blatantly unconstitutional that opponents didn’t spend much time working against it. But when I-747 came around, opposition was fierce and focused:

“The folks lining up on the ‘no’ side represent some of the front line service providers who will be most impacted,” said Christian Sinderman, spokesman for the no camp. “After what we’ve seen this year… now is not the time to cut back on emergency services. This would cut directly at those services.”

A figure of a firefighter dominates the latest campaign flier against I-747. Since the Sept. 11 attacks, the tax limitation measure’s opponents are increasingly looking to firefighters — and their heroic aura — for help in an uphill political fight.

Early on, the opposition campaign presented a collage of government services that could be hurt — including firefighting, libraries and road maintenance. Since Sept. 11, when hundreds of firefighters died in the collapse of the World Trade Center, the message has sharpened, focusing almost exclusively on firefighters and other emergency services.

Sinderman says a television campaign using firefighters for the final push up to the Nov. 6 election is in the works now.”

Meanwhile, Eyman and his right-wing allies mocked the opposition each time and claimed they were deceitfully using cuts to public safety as a scare tactic. From the Washington Policy Center:

During the political campaign against Initiative 695, opponents made a number of specific predictions, all of them dire, of what would befall the state if the measure became law.

They said funding would be lost for up to 1,000 police officers, funding for basic county health services would end on January 1, 2000, child immunizations, flu shots, daycare and restaurant inspections would all be cut, there would be no new highway projects, cars would be taxed like homes, the budget reserve would be spent, 70,000 transportation jobs would disappear, school safety would be jeopardized, big companies like Boeing and Microsoft would move operations out of state, we would have a state income tax, and so on.

Taken together these claims appeared so overblown that they amounted to a concerted effort to frighten people into voting against Initiative 695. Once their attempt had failed, opponents may be forgiven for hoping that their gloom-and-doom forecasts would be quickly forgotten.

In fact, the vast majority of these predictions have come to pass. It just took several years for it to happen. A gloating Tim Eyman after I-747 was approved stated:

“Our opponents exploited the September 11 terrorist attack for political gain. Voters rejected their shameless scheme.”

But did the opposition to I-747 exploit anything? Or did they just accurately point out that emergency responders are vital in times of crisis, and that I-747 would result on the loss of emergency responders?

Who could have predicted we’d be where we are today in the public safety field, seeing the headlines and feeling the cuts? Anybody who’s been paying attention could have. There is no free lunch. If you, as a law enforcement officer, firefighter or paramedic selfishly supported these initiatives because you figured your job would be safe, shame on you.

In the end, whether or not you personally voted wrong doesn’t matter as much as learning from our history does. If you supported these destructive initiatives and the politicians who promoted them, would you do the same today, knowing what you now know? Let’s hope not.

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Legislative History Project – 1999-2000 – Will A Tie Lead to Gridlock?

For only the second time in Washington’s history, the 1998 general election created a 49-49 split in the House of Representatives. Entering into the 1999 session, newspapers speculated on whether co-Speakers Clyde Ballard and Frank Chopp would be able to get anything accomplished in an environment where 50 votes are needed to pass a bill.

That same 1998 election cycle, the Senate went from Republicans holding a 26-23 majority, to Democrats in control with 27 Ds to 22 Rs.

On January 7, 1999, the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton got underway in the U.S. Senate. He was acquitted of perjury and obstruction of justice five weeks later.

On April 20, 1999, in the small, suburban town of Littleton, Colorado, two high-school seniors, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, enacted an all-out assault on Columbine High School during the middle of the school day, killing 12 students, 1 teacher and themselves.

In Neah Bay, Makah Indian hunters legally killed their first gray whale in 75 years on May 17, 1999.

Olympic Pipeline Explosion

On the afternoon of June 10, 1999, Bellingham firefighters responded to a hazardous materials incident and subsequent explosion that occurred after the Olympic Pipeline ruptured and sent 276,000 gallons of gasoline into a creek, killing three.

That November, tens of thousands of labor union members, environmentalist and other anti-globalization forces descended on Seattle to protest the WTO talks that were taking place on the 30th of the month. The event later became known as the Battle of Seattle.

On February 9, 2000, 17,000 Boeing engineers and technical workers went on strike in one of the biggest white-collar strikes in US history. The walkout lasted 38 days.

On March 26, 2000 the Kingdome was imploded.

In November of 2000, Democrat Maria Cantwell defeated incumbent Republican Slade Gorton for a seat in the United States Senate.

1999-2000 Laws Signed by Governor Gary Locke

SHB 1992 – Allows EMTs to administer epinephrine, in response to this story. Rep. Ida Ballasiotes (R-41) PRO – DOH, WSMA CON – Dr. Michael Copass (on behalf of himself)

SB 5986 – Changed LEOFF 1 line of duty death survivor benefits from being taxable, to non-taxable. Sen. Calvin Goings (D-25) PRO – WSCFF

SB 5987 - Allows LEOFF 2 members who recover from a disability to but do not return to work in a LEOFF eligible position to recieve the accumulated remainder of their pension contributions, reduced by disability payments already received. Sen Calvin Goings (D-25) PRO – WSCFF

SHB 2604 - Created additional LEOFF 2 survivor benefit options. Rep. Mark Doumit (D-19)

ESSB 6530 - Omnibus pension bill that in part, reduced the normal retirement age for LEOFF 2 members from 55 to 53. Sen Karen Fraser (D-22) PRO – KCPOG, AFSCME, AFL-CIO, IUOE 609, ATULC, WFSE, Teamsters, AFT, WPEA, WEA, PSE, WSCFF CON – WSAC, AWC, WFCA

SB 6602 – A LEOFF 1 disability board member in small counties no longer has to be a member of the legislative body of cities and towns that do not have a disability board, just a resident. Sen. Valoria Loveland (D-16) PRO – WSCFF

Make-up of the Senate: 27 D’s, 22 R’s

Make-up of the House: 49 D’s, 49 R’s

Initiatives to the People: 

I-695 - Shall voter approval be required for any tax increase, license tab fees be $30 per year for motor vehicles, and existing vehicle taxes be repealed? Approved: For – 992,715 Against – 775,054

I-696 - Shall commercial net, troll, and trawl fishing be prohibited in Washington state fresh and marine waters, except tribal fisheries conducted under a valid treaty right? Failed: For – 682,380 Against – 1,044,872

I-713 - Shall it be a gross misdemeanor to capture an animal with certain body-gripping traps, or to poison an animal with sodium fluoroacetate or sodium cyanide? Approved: For – 1,315,903 Against – 1,093,587

I-722 - Shall certain 1999 tax and fee increases be nullified, vehicles exempted from property taxes, and property tax increases (except new construction) limited to 2% annually? Approved: For – 1,295,391 Against – 1,022,349

I-728 - Shall school districts reduce class sizes, extend learning programs, expand teacher training, and construct facilities, funded by lottery proceeds, existing property taxes, and budget reserves? Approved: For – 1,714,485 Against – 675,635

I-729 - Shall school districts and public universities be authorized to sponsor charter public schools, independently operated, open to all students, and subject to revised state regulation? Failed: For – 1,125,766 Against – 1,211,390

I-732 - Shall public school teachers, other school district employees, and certain employees of community and technical colleges receive annual cost-of-living salary adjustments, to begin in 2001-2002? Approved: For – 1,501,261 Against – 893,001

I-745 - Shall 90% of transportation funds, including transit taxes, be spent for roads; transportation agency performance audits required; and road construction and maintenance be sales tax-exempt? Failed: For – 955,329 Against – 1,394,387

Line of Duty Deaths 1999-2000:

Investigator Melvin Journey – Washington State Liquor Control Board

Deputy Mark Brown – King County Sheriff’s Office

Officer Brian DiBucci – Everett Police Dept.

Trooper James Saunders – Washington State Patrol

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A Roadkill Member Falls in Love

Roadkill Sen. Kastama gazes lovingly at himself
Senator Kastama gazes lovingly at himself

It takes a certain quantity of ego just to run for political office. There’s nothing wrong with that. There are lots of really smart, passionate, committed, principled, and amazing people serving in our state’s legislature who would not be there if they did not think they had what it took to make a difference and decided to ask the voters if they agreed.

But there’s a difference between the healthy self-esteem it takes to step up into a position of leadership and the kind of disturbed self-love it must have required to produce the speech delivered by Roadkill Senator Jim Kastama to the board of the far-right corporate think tank, The Washington Research Council.

You can read the whole thing for yourself here, adoringly transcribed in full today on the blog Senator Kastama’s son Isaac Kastama runs. Sen. Kastama’s voluminous self-congratulatory screed is enough to make me want to vomit.

Before I tear into Kastama’s narcissistic speech, allow me to go on for a minute about self-proclaimed “moderates”.

Language is powerful. Let’s look at some of the synonyms for moderate; reasonable, sensible, restrained, judicious, fair, temperate. That’s quite a list. Any politician would like to have those values ascribed to them wouldn’t they? Now let’s look at the antonyms – the words that describe those that are not politically moderate. They are; extremist, radical, fanatical, zealous and excessive.

Now let’s think about what Kastama, Tom and Sheldon did this past session. Which of the above groups of words best describes three people who voted to usurp the will of the voters by enabling a minority Republican takeover of the Democratic Senate?

Which words best describe three Senators who irresponsibly voted for a budget that never had a public hearing, never received public comment and that wasn’t even presented to the entire Senate until minutes before they first tried to ram it through? A budget that gutted education funding, foolishly delayed pension payments which would cost the state, the employers and employees (including firefighters and law enforcement officers) hundreds of millions more in the long run and a budget that shredded the already tattered safety net by cutting hundreds of millions of dollars meant to help those that cannot help themselves

If you chose the second group of words, you get it. It’s not “moderate” to stab your friends in the back. It’s not “sensible” to gut education funding or delay pension payments. It’s not “restrained” to help ram through a budget that nobody had ever seen before. So the next time someone calls themselves a centrist, roadkill, moderate, bipartisan, or some other word designed to elicit a favorable image, don’t just accept it at face value. Actions speak much louder than words.

Kastama:

“Extreme partisanship is also enabled by the concentration of campaign contributions along clear special interest lines. Let’s face it. In most cases money dictates your political viability. Newspapers track contributions, with headlines and photos going to those candidates who have raised the most money. For Democrats, that money has steadily come from labor unions, teachers, trial lawyers and public employees. For Republicans: from businesses, insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies and agribusiness.”

I suppose it’s telling then that a quick glance at Kastama’s current campaign finance records reveals that nearly all of his large contributions come from businesses, insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies and agribusiness or the various lobbyists representing those entities.

 “There is very little electoral cash reward for being a centrist or working across party lines. There is no interest group looking for people who can bring both sides together or to actually reward those people who are problem solvers.”

Poor Senator Kastama — nobody will give him any money. I guess he’s forgotten about the $665,985 he’s raised since he first ran in 1996.

“[moderates] rarely impress any interest group. Even when one thinks they are doing well on certain issues – business, child safety, labor – they are usually in the middle of the pack, the better of bad choices, but never considered ideal. As a result, raising money is difficult, and therefore one usually has the political lifespan analogous to that of a common housefly, is what I say.”

How about some cheese to go with that whine? Kastama has been in office a bit too long if you ask me. Sixteen years is hardly a short political lifespan.

“Overshadowing this crisis was the success of a small group of Democratic legislators, self-proclaimed ‘Roadkill’ moderates, who had successfully reformed the workers’ compensation program and unemployment insurance and had forged a bipartisan budget agreement in the Senate the session prior.”

Good Lord! The muscle tone this guy must have from patting himself on the back… I guess you can call it “reform” to screw workers at the command of your corporate sugar daddies. I prefer to call it turning your back on your constituents in favor of those that fund your political campaigns. And isn’t it ironic that he points to the great bipartisan budget he helped pass last year – the exact same budget that was so horrible this year that he helped to force two special sessions to try (and fail) to radically overhaul it?

I could go on and on tearing this grotesque, self-praising speech apart, but it honestly makes me physically ill to have to read it again. 

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