Plus some pension policy and some recommened reading
If you’re driving around the Lilac City these days, you’re likely seeing evidence of how seriously Spokane’s biggest local political action committee is taking Democrat Lisa Brown’s bid for the mayor’s office.
Billboards went up recently painting Brown and Betsy Wilkerson, a city council member running for council president, as soft on crime.
The billboards, which only cost a few thousand dollars, are a relatively minor part of the Spokane Good Government Alliance’s independent campaign against Brown on behalf of incumbent Mayor Nadine Woodward and a slate of city council candidates. There’s also a $75K digital advertising push and $25K in TV advertising.
The Alliance has spent nearly $380,000 this cycle on keeping incumbent Woodward in office and electing a business-friendly city council. It’s money comes from a who’s-who of Spokane business interests, most notable developer Lawrence Stone.
The Spokane mayor’s race is by far the most expensive in the state this year. Woodward and Brown have both raised more than $400K, more than double the amount pulled in by any of the candidates for Seattle City Council, where the city’s democracy voucher system is serving — at least for now — as a restraint on fundraising and spending.
Brown, who represented Spokane in the Legislature for years before an unsuccessful bid for Congress and a stint as Gov. Jay Inslee’s commerce secretary, got more than 47 percent of the vote in the August primary, compared to less than 36 percent for Woodward. However, nearly 13 percent went to a challenger who was coming after Woodward from the right.
Since then, Woodward’s come under fire for hanging out with Matt Shea, the far-right former lawmaker, at a Christian nationalist event.
Expect a dogfight through Election Day.
Kitsap bus drivers look to sidestep state retirement contributions
Bus drivers serving the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and thereabouts in Kitsap County want to opt out of state retirement benefits they say will needlessly carve out their paychecks.
This conundrum concerns the Public Employees’ Retirement System, the lifetime pension plan offered by the state for public employees like the transit operators who hit Olympia on Tuesday to share their unusual dilemma with the Select Committee on Pension Policy.
For years, bus drivers who shuttled sailors and other military personnel were covered by the Federal Employees’ Retirement System. They include part-time lead and backup drivers on the payrolls of both PSNS and Kitsap Transit due to busing civilians to the area on occasion.
Here’s the real problem. The folks at Kitsap Transit recently concluded that PSNS’s 51 drivers, under state law, do qualify for PERS after all given the hours they spend shuttling themselves to and from their own jobs. Theoretically, this would see them have to automatically enroll in the state’s PERS and pay into two different retirement plans.
Turns out most of the folks driving to and from PSNS aren’t too keen on losing more take-home pay, according to Robert Driskell with Teamsters Local 589, which represents the drivers. Most are nearing retirement anyway and would rather peace out with the retirement plan they signed up for. Paul Shinners with Kitsap Transit told lawmakers Tuesday those drivers mostly get their money from PSNS rather than Kitsap, so their PERS contributions would mean a paltry return this late into their careers.
Lawmakers on the committee said they would mull legislation to officially allow the bus drivers in question to sidestep PERS with legal counsel. Any formal bills addressing the matter will likely be filed in December.
Runner/activist appointed to Hansen’s House seat
Greg Nance, a Bainbridge Island Democrat best known for running across the country for charity last year, has been appointed to replace now-state Sen. Drew Hansen in the House.
Per Kai Uyehara of the Kitsap Sun, the Kitsap County Board of Commissioners chose Nance from a shortlist put forward by the county Democratic Party. Commissioners passed over Brynn Felix, the first choice of local precinct committee officers. Felix was also a finalist when Hansen was appointed to replace Christine Rolfes, who resigned to take a spot on the aforementioned Board of Commissioners.
It’s not radically unusual for county officials to make such a choice. It’s notable in this case because Felix had the support of some prominent progressives in the Legislature who don’t represent the 23rd.
The commission touted Nance’s strong support from labor unions and the Suquamish Tribe.
Seattle's new drug law and the politics of prosecution
The Seattle City Council somewhat reluctantly adopted a version of the state’s new simple possession law into the city’s code this week, reversing a vote against a similar measure earlier this year.
If you want to get into the weeds, we commend Erica C. Barnett’s piece at Publicola. We’re mostly interested because the whole thing harkens back to the city’s weird prosecutorial politics of recent years.
The effect of the council’s move was to give City Attorney Ann Davison the power to prosecute under the new law. Longtime readers will remember that Davison, a onetime Republican, got elected in 2021 after the city’s moneyed elite recoiled at the notion of a public defender becoming city attorney and bankrolled a bare-knuckled opposition campaign against Nicole Thomas Kennedy, who lost narrowly.
Davison campaigned on cleaning up the visible dystopia and rampant low-level crime that characterized Seattle during the pandemic; she very much wants to enforce the new law. Most of the left-leaning council, meanwhile, is wary of Davison in particular and prosecuting low-level drug crimes in general.
Control of the council hangs on November’s election, and members facing tough challenges from the right didn’t want the issue hanging around until the fall. (One exception was Tammy Morales, who elected to vote “no” and roll the dice despite challenger Tany Woo literally getting on a megaphone about the issue outside the building. The two are squaring off in District 2, which covers Southeast Seattle and the Chinatown International District, home to some of the most persistent dystopia.)
Adding to the weirdness is the fact that King County Prosecutor Leesa Manion, who was elected last year despite a similar independent campaign against her, has declined to prosecute simple possession in Seattle, arguing that the resources of her office are better spent elsewhere.
As with the Legislature’s big bipartisan compromise on this issue in the spring, much was made of diverting offenders into treatment. Now as then, we feel compelled to point out that there is a chronic shortage of drug treatment, and what is available is frequently ineffective.
Rise of the EVs — at least in Puget Sound
Danny Westneat over at The Seattle Times digs into a big increase in electric vehicle registrations in Washington State – an increase focused largely in greater Seattle.
The headline number in the piece: A quarter of new vehicle registrations in King County in August were either all-electric or plug-in hybrids, up from 13 percent a year ago and 5 percent three years ago.
Westneat views this through an economics lens, seeing it as a response – primarily by affluent consumers – to high gas prices driven by the state’s climate policies, which at least envision a broad adoption of EVs in the next 10 years. He correctly points out that adoption lags outside central Puget Sound, where fewer folks can afford to spend $50K on a new ride even though it will save thousands a year on gasoline.
But it got us thinking about the demographics of all that wealth. Along with a bunch of grey-haired rich folks looking to virtue signal, King County in particular is home to a disproportionate number of people who are both loaded and young, newly minted tech workers with signing bonuses and stock options just begging for a splurge on a cool new ride.
Assuming those folks are smart enough to look not just at the price of gas now but the likely price of gas in the future, electrons have got to be looking great. If you think the state’s cap-and-trade system for major emitters has driven up the price of petroleum-based fuels, wait until the low-carbon fuel standard really kicks in. That law is specifically designedto encourage EV adoption and other alternatives by making petroleum-based gas more expensive.
Plus, if you’re a younger consumer, an EV isn’t an exotic item; the Tesla Model 3 came out when you were in high school. And finally, there’s the increasingly unavoidable fact that EVs are in many respects, just better. If you’re 26 and you’ve got the money, buying a new gas-powered car has to be the equivalent of an early 20th-century transportation consumer contemplating the Model T and saying: “Y’know, I’m going to stick with the horse.”
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All this writing is boring the dog…
Cap and trade just added an extra environmental compliance cost to the business of making gasoline. In theory, the oil companies could just eat that cost. (News flash: They didn’t.)
Setting aside range anxiety and charger availability, of course. For example, the top-end Ford Mustang Mach E SUV — despite not really being a Mustang— can get from 0 to 60 in a disaster-courting 3.5 seconds, substantially faster than the “real” Mustang GT Premium equipped with a snarling 5-liter V8. Plus your friends will fit in the back seat.