Tag: Washington state
By John Stark
Voters’ decision to legalize marijuana in Washington and Colorado poses a challenge to U.S. foreign policy, as well as to federal marijuana prohibition laws, says Shannon O’Neil, senior fellwo for Latin America studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.
Writing on Fareed Zakaria’s GPS blog on CNN, O’Neil says pot legalization would mean lost revenue for Mexican drug cartels, while sending mixed signals to the governments of Mexico, Colombia and other countries that have expressed increasing doubts about the wisdom of the longstanding “war on drugs” approach that the United States has urged on them for decades.
She also quotes research indicating that legalization will likely mean cheaper pot and an increase in pot use.
UPDATE: Here’s more on the Mexican view of the situation, from Diana Washington Valdez at the El Paso Times.
Here’s a quote from a community activist in Cd. Juarez:
Fernando Alvarez, a math consultant and community activist in Juárez, said he agrees that legalization would have an economic impact on Mexico. “Unfortunately, many people who are struggling with poverty turn to the drug trade for employment, as farmers, farm laborers, transporters and smugglers,” Alvarez said. “The Mexican government needs to invest in industries that will create new jobs for these people.” (emphasis added.)
In the past few weeks, I have seen some of my Facebook friends arguing that drug legalization will help to curb drug-fueled violence in Latin America. That would be a good thing–but I wonder if drugs are the sole cause of the horrific violence we see in Mexico, Colombia and other places. Pretext, yes. Cause? I wonder.
Colombia was a violent place long before the drug trade ballooned to its present proportions.
In Mexico, the beheadings and gun battles that have ripped up Ciudad Juarez and other cities might seem to be a relatively recent phenomenon. In the 1970s, when I lived in El Paso, we loved to stroll over the bridge into Juarez for dinner and drinks or handcrafts in the markets. A lot fewer people are doing that today.
But I find it hard to believe that all the young men driving around with cuernos de chivo on their front seats are going to become law-abiding citizens if drug profits disappear.
In the second half of the 20th Century, Mexico seemed to be a far more orderly place than Colombia–but that has been true for less than 100 years.
One hundred and one years ago, a federal garrison at Ciudad Juarez was under seige by rebel forces, and stray bullets killed U.S. residents across the river. That battle was an early round in more than 10 years of violent upheaval that devastated Mexico.
By John Stark
Former Seattle Times reporter Bill Dietrich revisits the uproar over the Seattle Times’ decision to give free ad space to Rob McKenna, and uses that episode to make some observations about the seeming ineffectiveness of hundreds of millions of dollars in campaign spending.
If Dietrich is right, and voters are becoming increasingly immune to the caricatures, half-truths and empty patriotic symbolism of political advertising, that is good news for everybody. If he is right (and I’m not yet ready to declare that he is) then we can all stop worrying about Citizens United and amending the Constitution and all that.
Maybe people are smarter than we thought. Maybe it was always elitism to argue that somebody other than me and my followers would be weak-minded enough to base political decisions on television advertising.
Maybe we’re at the point where political advertising is like advertising for beer and soft drinks. Coke, Pepsi, Bud and Miller spend millions just to maintain market share.
Maybe we’re at the point where people realize that candidates for public office are not beer and soft drinks. They are more like cars. Advertising can get your attention, to be sure. But a car or a political candidate should not be an impulse purchase.
Footnote: Bill Dietrich is a Fairhaven College graduate who started his journalism career at The Bellingham Herald, and provided this newspaper with legislative coverage through Gannett News Service in the 1980s.
By John Stark
With three rounds of ballot-counting completed, Republican Rob McKenna trails Democrat Jay Inslee by more than 54,000 votes in the race for governor. But the McKenna camp continues to predict victory.
On Election Night, I saw two big-name political consultants on a Seattle television station–one a Democrat, the other a Republican–agreeing that a GOP gubernatorial candidate needs to top 40 percent of the vote in King C9unty to have a chance at getting elected. Dino Rossi was the last Republican to do that: He barely topped 40 percent in King County in 2004, and came within a whisker of defeating Chris Gregoire.
How’s McKenna doing in King County? Not good: At this point his vote total there is shy of 38 percent.
Why do McKenna’s staffers continue to predict victory? They claim that the people who dropped their ballots in the mail at the last minute will vote McKenna by a 2-1 margin. Why do they think that?
If this prediction turns out to be true, these guys are going to look like geniuses.
By John Stark
It was a long, long ballot bristling with people and issues that mattered, from the White House to the Port of Bellingham offices on Roeder Avenue. The local races are in some ways the most suspenseful, because there is seldom any polling data to warn us what the voters are going to do.
What election result was most surprising to you? Was it Obama’s win? Rob McKenna’s seemingly weak showing? (People are saying that one is too close to call, but McKenna’s weak showing in King County makes it hard to visualize a comeback for him in late rounds of vote counting.)
How about Democrat Suzan DelBene’s rather healthy margin over hardy perennial John Koster in the redrawn 1st District, which includes most of Whatcom County outside Bellingham?
Or was it the big margin of victory for the Bellingham Home Fund, with city residents once again enthusiastically embracing a tax increase?
How about the port commission expansion, which seemed to have broad-spectrum support in Bellingham but looks headed to a narrow defeat in countywide voting?
Please share your thoughts once or twice.
By John Stark
Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna, GOP candidate for governor, is bringing his statewide RV tour through Whatcom County Saturday, Nov. 3.
McKenna and other elected officials have announced a 10 a.m. rally at Axton Warehouse, 150 W. Axton Road just off Guide Meridian.
McKenna is in a tight race with former Democratic Congressman Jay Inslee, who visited Bellingham on Thursday, Nov. 1.
By John Stark
The Tax Foundation has issued its annual ranking of the 50 states according to their tax climate for business, and Washington state ranks high again because of this state’s lack of an income tax.
The Evergreen state’s sixth-place rank for 2013 is the same as last year’s. The state ranked 8th in 2011.
But the state’s sales tax is panned by the report’s authors.
“The ideal base for sales taxation is all goods and services at the point of sale to the end user,” the report says.
But Washington and some other states levy their sales taxes on business-to-business transactions, including purchases of new factory equipment.
“Companies have been known to avoid locating factories or facilities in certain states because the factory’s machinery would be subject to the state’s sales tax,” the report says.
By John Stark
At 9 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 11, four Seattle television stations will air a live one-hour debate between Washington’s gubernatorial candidates–Democrat Jay Inslee and Republican Rob McKenna.
Northwest Cable News will also broadcast the debate.
Here’s a press release provided by KING5:
SEATTLE— Gubernatorial candidates Jay Inslee (D) and Rob McKenna (R) have agreed to a one hour live debate to be aired on five stations at the same time. The debate will be October 11 from 9:00- 10:00 PM. The unprecedented partnership between KING, KIRO, KOMO, KCPQ and NWCN provides the widest possible audience for the candidates to speak directly to voters.
The broadcast will also be made available to all television and radio stations in the state.
The debate will be held at the KOMO studios in Seattle and will be moderated by Glenn Johnson, professor of communications at Washington State University. The candidates will be questioned by a panel of anchors and reporters including Jean Enersen from KING 5, Dan Lewis from KOMO TV, Angela Russell from KIRO, and C.R. Douglas from KCPQ.
“This is a rare moment for competitors to set aside rivalries and work together as colleagues,”said Mark Ginther, Executive News Director at KING and NWCN. “It reflects the seriousness of our election season and the weight of the decision voters will be asked to make in November.”
Inslee and McKenna agreed in August to a debate co-sponsored by KING 5 and the Seattle Times and carried on KIRO Radio. That debate is set for October 16, three weeks before Election Day. It will be held in the KING 5 studios and televised live from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. immediately following the second Presidential debate. It will also be carried live on king5.com, NWCN and KIRO radio.
end press release
Per-capita consumption of gasoline in Washington and Oregon is at a 50-year low, with high prices inducing many people to reduce their driving, according to a report from Sightline Institute.
“After decades of steady growth followed by years of level consumption, residents of Oregon and Washington are now using less gas. High, volatile prices; social and technological trends; and changing driving behavior are behind the trend,” Sightline says in summarizing the report findings.
Among other things, the report’s author, Clark Williams-Derry, finds that more efficient cars account for just a small part of the decline. A more significant factor is reduced driving by young people.
In Bellingham, gas prices have dipped in the last 24 hours, according to the AAA survey, but remain at a painfully high average of $4.185 for regular.
I was on vacation in the Dakotas, Montana and Wyoming the last couple of weeks, doing my part to increase per capita fuel consumption. It was a shock to go from $3.50 gas in the Plains to the $4.20 gasoline on the West Coast.
Washington state is at or near the top in taxation of gasoline, and a California refinery idled by a fire is causing a supply shortage that is pushing local prices up.
BELLINGHAM – Whatcom County has selected environmental consulting company CH2M Hill to play a key role in the preparation of an environmental impact statement to evaluate the Gateway Pacific Terminal coal and bulk cargo pier proposed at Cherry Point.
The environmental impact statement is a critical part of the governmental review process for the terminal. In preparing the statement, the consulting company will work with government agencies to help determine the likely economic and environmental side effects from the terminal, and what its owner, SSA Marine of Seattle, should be required to do to avoid them.
Whatcom County, the Washington Department of Ecology, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are cooperating to oversee the environmental review process for the proposed terminal and the BNSF Railway Co. projects that will be required to get trains bearing coal and other cargoes to the site.
BNSF officials say they can handle the load by doubling the six-mile railroad line that extends west from the main line at Custer to the existing industries at Cherry Point. The new SSA pier is proposed for a site between the BP Cherry Point refinery and Alcoa Intalco Works aluminum smelter.
But environmental organizations, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and many residents of Bellingham have argued that the environmental review process should also study the environmental, health and traffic impacts of increased rail traffic through communities along the rail lines that link Cherry Point to Powder River Basin coal mines.
That issue will be hotly debated during the preliminary “scoping” phase of the environmental study process, which is expected to begin in summer 2012. The public, along with other government agencies and Indian tribes, will be asked to give their views on this and other environmental impacts that they believe should be included in the environmental impact statement process.
After that input is received in writing and via public hearings, Whatcom County, the Department of Ecology and the Army Corps of Engineers will decide the matter and the environmental impact research process will get under way in earnest. That process is expected to take well over a year.
Whatcom County Council will be asked to approve the contract with CH2M Hill during a June 5, 2012, council meeting. The cost of the contract has not yet been spelled out, but that cost will be borne by SSA and perhaps the railroad, not by Whatcom County or other taxpayer-supported governmental agencies, according to a press release from the Washington Department of Ecology.
Portland General Electric appears to have decided it doesn’t want a coal terminal as a neighbor at the Port of St. Helens in Oregon.
Oregon’s South County Spotlight reports that the Kinder Morgan plan for a coal terminal there (link to The Chronicle of Columbia County) had relied on subleasing port-owned land from PGE, which renewed its own 99-year lease on the undeveloped site in 2008.
But a PGE spokesman told the Spotlight that company officials feared that coal dust from that operation might be harmful to operations at the company’s own generator nearby.
PGE’s decision to deny the sublease is not necessarily the end of Kinder Morgan’s coal terminal at Port of St. Helens. Port officials say they are exploring other options.
Bob Ferris alerted us to this story via Facebook.
As protests and rallies against coal exports proliferate, it looks like some in the railroad and coal business are scrambling for alternatives to the Pacific Northwest.
The Longshore and Shipping News reports that the EPA’s recent call for sweeping environmental review of a proposed Oregon export terminal at the Port of Morrow is helping to motivate the new look at coal exports via Mexico, where environmental regulations may be a bit less stringent.
(Hat tip to Frances Badgett, who alerted us to these reports via Facebook)
Meanwhile, a group called “British Columbians for Climate Action” reports it has sent a letter to Warren Buffett notifying him that on Saturday, May 5, the group plans to block coal trains headed for the Westshore Terminal north of Point Roberts. They say that during the entire 24-hour period of May 5, they will assemble on the tracks in the White Rock area to block any approaching coal trains, while letting Amtrak and other freight through.
On Monday, May 7, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. will headline a noon rally at Pioneer Courthouse Square in Portland, focusing on potential environmental damage from proposed coal ports in Oregon and Washington. Also scheduled to speak are Chinese environmentalist Hao Xin, executive director of Green Zhejiang and Qiantang River Waterkeeper, and Paul Lumley, executive director Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission and member of the Yakama Nation.
The Washington Department of Natural Resources has joined the EPA in calling for a broad and detailed review of environmental impacts of a proposed coal port on the Oregon side of Columbia River.
Here is DNR’s letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, provided by South Fork watchdog and Everybody’s Store proprietor Jeff Margolis.
Among other things, DNR’s Kristin Swenddal calls on the Corps to study potential impacts on Washington aquatic lands across the river, as well as the impact of rail transport of coal through the Evergreen State.
DNR’s stance has obvious implications for the Gateway Pacific Terminal project proposed for Cherry Point north of Bellingham.
When and if that proposal gets the other state, county, tribal and federal approvals that would be needed for construction, it would face one final hurdle: a lease of aquatic lands controlled by DNR.
Whatcom County is looking for a consultant with a strong background in health issues to conduct the environmental study of the Gateway Pacific Terminal project at Cherry Point.
That’s what Whatcom County Planning Manager Tyler Schroeder told the crowd at the Tuesday, March 20 “pre-scoping meeting” that filled the 800-seat theater at Bellingham High School.
The group of physicians calling themselves “Whatcom Docs” have highlighted what they see as health risks associated with exhaust emissions from ships and trains, as well as potential coal dust exposure.
Schroeder said he has already been consulting with the Whatcom County Health Department on these issues, and is looking for a consultant with a good background on health impacts to conduct the environmental study process.
Assistant Washington Attorney General Laura Watson said regulatory agencies have clear legal authority to include health impacts in the Gateway Pacific study.
Randel Perry, representing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said the health impacts and the economic impacts–negative or positive–are all fair game for the environmental scrutiny process.
“It’s the whole range of the human environment,” Perry said.
The length of the public comment periods for the Gateway Pacific Terminal environmental study process could be a significant issue.
At last night’s “pre-scoping meeting,” several people in the audience asked if the 30-60 day period to identify key issues could be extended. (That period won’t actually begin until this summer.) Others asked if the 60-90 day period for review of the draft environmental impact statement could be extended too.
In both cases, the answers were a bit convoluted but sounded like “probably not.”
But on her “Get Whatcom Planning” blog, land use and environmental lawyer Jean Melious contends that the real answer should be “definitely yes.”
“The agencies can (and often do, at least under NEPA) provide more public review time,” Melious writes. “For a project of this magnitude, a 60-day scoping period is pretty minimal, and allowing only 60 days to review a draft Environmental Impact Statement that is projected to take two years to prepare would be crazy.”
State Sen. Mike Baumgartner, a Spokane Republican, is challenging U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell for a U.S. Senate seat, touting an extensive resume of overseas experience that seems to make him a natural for the Foreign Affairs Committee if he pulls off the upset of the century and thwarts Cantwell’s bid for a third term.
His international experiences are so extensive, in fact, that I’m not going to try to summarize them here. If you want the details, read them on Baumgartner’s website.
Suffice to say that since he was 12, Baumgartner has visited 70 countries. Most recently, he has served with the State Department as an economics officer in Iraq, and as an advisor with a private contractor that worked with U.S. armed forces on opium eradication in Afghanistan.
“The U.S. Senate is really the foreign policy advisory board for the country,” Baumgartner said in a recent interview.
As he sees it, too few Senators are qualified for that role.
His experiences have made him skeptical of using American troops for “nation-building” in Afghanistan. He called nation-building “not a realistic goal.”
He described U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East as “confused,” and added, “I think we have too many troops in Afghanistan right now.”
America’s leaders have insulated the country from the cost of the wars, beginning with George W. Bush, Baumgartner said. He faulted Bush for “not taking the country to war,” cutting taxes and urging Americans to go on doing what they were doing while the troops did the fighting. The Bush administration was guilty of a “deficits don’t matter” attitude in cutting taxes and waging war at the same time.
Americans should have been asked to shoulder the financial burden, “even if he (Bush) had just put a penny on the gas tax to remind folks,” Baumgartner said.
But he hastened to add that he is not advocating tax increases today.
Asked if he favors military intervention to shut down Iran’s nuclear program, Baumgartner was skeptical.
“The reality with Iran is that we have a lot of bad options,” he said. “If something’s going to be done, it has to have more chance of success than failure.”
Although — like Barack Obama — he believes that intervention should not be ruled out, he also observed that those who are calling for a U.S. military strike may not have thought it through.
“Presidential candidates have a natural impetus to look tough on these things,” Baumgartner said.
On other issues, he portrayed himself as a friend of higher education in Olympia who wants to take that issue to the U.S. Senate.
In the State Legislature, Baumgartner said he has advocated the creation of dedicated funds to support the university and college system. He suggests a law that would give higher education one cent of the sales tax collected on each dollar.
In the nation’s capital, Baumgartner said he would advocate for strong federal financial support for higher education. He says the U.S. college and university system has been a traditional source of strength for our economy.
“Why we would walk away from that system now is beyond me,” he said.
On energy issues, Baumgartner sounds a bit more like a Republican. He favors more domestic production of petroleum, and wants to see the XL Pipeline built to carry Canadian tar sands oil to U.S. refineries.
He pronounces federal spending unsustainable, and pledges to make reform of entitlement programs a top priority if he is elected.
He believes in a means test for Social Security benefits, meaning that wealthy retirees would get less. He also favors an eventual rollback of the eligibility age for benefits, but postponing that long enough to avoid breaking promises to those now nearing retirement.
Asked if that would be fair to the millions of workers whose jobs involve physical labor, Baumgartner agreed that was a legitimate issue, and there should be a safety net for those who are no longer physically able to continue working.