Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Monday, December 31, 2007

A Religious Test for President?

This is from a friend some very good things to ponder as we go into the process to elect a new leader. -- Ray

Presidential elections are a challenge. Invariably they force us to consider what qualities and values we deem important to be worthy of our support. Because it’s rare for a Presidential candidate to have all the desired qualifications, we’re forced to rely on a core set of standards to judge each candidate in making our decision. Before even thinking about electability, I try to assess four areas: the person’s spiritual condition, their core principles, their ....

character, and finally their experience.

In past elections, conservative candidates could turn out a significant portion of the evangelical vote. In response, liberals looked for candidates that were secularists, or claim some form of weak or Christ-less Christianity in order to ensure a Biblical worldview would not influence policy decisions. This election cycle, the unspoken litmus test of religion has become even more central to the debate. For example, Democrat candidates have increased their use of “religious” terminology to woo people of faith. If insincere (no matter what party affiliation), it’ll be seen for what it is – hypocrisy. On the Republican side, one leading candidate is a Mormon while another is an ordained Baptist preacher. In this election environment, Biblical orthodoxy can definitely become a big issue. It gets even worse when founding principles and the Constitutional are invoked. For the record, the relevant Constitutional text is found in Article VI: “...no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” Our founding fathers were wise in restricting the government’s role for several reasons. If a religious test of some kind were implemented, by necessity it would have to differentiate between competing Christian doctrines and practices (i.e. denominations). Secondly, it would be tantamount to declaring our nation a theocracy – which it isn’t. Third, unregenerate (or non-Christian religion) candidates could lie about their beliefs, making a mockery of the entire test. And finally, if we can’t easily judge the spiritual condition of someone’s heart – why would we ever think government could?

Government is restricted, but what about the individual voter? Should we employ a faith test of some kind? If we do, is that discrimination, bigotry, or intolerance? I realize we’re voting for a President and not a pastor – but I prefer to say we’re electing a national (world) leader that represents the essence of what our country is built upon – Biblical truths. Whoever occupies this office represents our historically Christianized nation to the world and sets a personal example for everyone. If the President is a sexual predator it shames us all, if he’s reckless with military force we’re feared by our allies, if he claims a Christian faith contrary to true Biblical faith his personal example gives credibility to error that could have eternal consequences in people’s lives.

The fact there’s a spiritual and secular realm with eternal and temporal effects shouldn’t trouble anyone except those wanting to remove all “faith” from public service. Ignoring this duality may be ignoring what’s most significant to God. I believe we have the right and obligation to consider a person’s faith in our voting decision. From the wellspring of a person’s beliefs flow their core principles and resulting actions. If a person claims to be a Biblical Christian, but denies the true nature of Jesus Christ, or the ultimate nature of man, or the exclusivity of Biblical authority, what kind of faith do they have? The more a person aligns themselves with extremely liberal or unorthodox forms of Christianity – the farther they are from the truth that should be the light in their lives. Other, non-Christian religions are even more removed though they may embrace the same moral imperatives we cherish and work together to implement. Can a Biblical Christian make policy mistakes, of course they can. But I have more hope for them to be corrected by Biblical truth than those with a false view of the Christian truth.

I encourage everyone to earnestly study the different Christian beliefs of the candidates – be they Democrat or Republican. This is the bedrock that should affect and inform everything else. With that understanding, consider the candidate’s core guiding principles and character when approaching the upcoming Presidential Primary in February. This Primary is an opportunity to vote for those that most closely represent our values and concerns, be they moral, social, defense, or fiscal. Though electability issues are critical for the fall General election, it’s important for us to clearly inform whoever receives the final party nomination what our priorities are. The Presidency is a unique office in the world. Though not a spiritual post, it has strong spiritual implications for us all. To ignore this would be irresponsible.

Frank Kacer
Executive Director, Christian Citizenship Council of San Diego

Just to clear things up!

I am reading a column written by Robert L. Jamieson Jr in the Seattle PI. He says that we should not have the death penalty. That we shouldn't be like Texas. We should be like New Jersey. I disagree!

And just so it is VERY CLEAR. I need to say this to you, because after I am dead I cannot speak for myself.

Should I ever get murdered by someone, I want him to receive the death penalty.

Never should I hear (from beyond the grave) someone speaking on my behalf saying I would want the person to have life in prison.

Heck, I will put a provision in my Will that should I be murdered, my estate shall purchase a 10 foot piece of rope which will then be donated to the prison system.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Minimum Wage is up again

The minimum wage goes up... yet again. This time it is 14 cents, keeping Washington with the highest minimum wage in the nation.

According to a Seattle PI article a Washington State University study made claimed the minimum wage has done very little to hurt the state. The study claims we have only lost a few jobs.

I have to question whether the study only looked at minimum wage workers. Did it take into account the other wage earners who were not minimum wage, but lower paid workers?

For instance I work in a job where I start at minimum wage while I am training. But when my training is done, I get a raise of fifty cents. Now, that the minimum wage is up 14 cents, my fifty cents raise over the new employees is now only 36 cents. In other words my paystep above the beginning workers has been made smaller.

So did it take into account the possible "bumps" in pay that would have to take place to those who are paid above minimum? That will also affect me as an employer. So, it is possible that a raise in minimum wage will also make me, as an employer, raise other wages ultimately costing me more money to operate.

I have to also question the article saying it hasn't hurt the state. Did it do a special study on border towns? Places like Vancouver and Pullman... For a while the business owner will probably just absorb some of the high wages from the business owners' cut of the pie. But at some point he can no longer take those hits and has to raise prices.

With higher prices, the extra money that a minimum wage earner makes will get used in paying for the higher prices. Here is an example from the Seattle PI:
According to a survey conducted by the Washington Restaurant Association, eight years ago, you could get a hamburger, fries and drink at a full-service restaurant for $6.26; now, the average price for that same meal is $14.07. The association says that among the rising costs restaurants face, minimum wage increases are part of the problem.

Speaking of the Seattle PI article, it started out with the story of a 23-year-old woman who has three young kids. She works two minimum wage jobs to try to make ends meet.

I would argue that a better way to make ends meet is to work on obtaining a non-minimum wage job.

I am tired of these emotional anecdotal examples used to argue that the minimum wage needs to increase. Why not profile the 17-year-old who uses his money to buy new stereo components for his car or new video game systems? Doesn't quite have the emotional touch.

Also, don't give me an example that the single mother can't find a good paying job because of this or that. I know of a woman who had three kids when her husband died. She was a meat wrapper at a major chain store. She knew she needed to make more money, so she did something about it. Her option was not to lobby the government to force the business to pay her more.

She worked during the day and went to night school to learn to be a meat cutter. That would provide the money she needed to care for her three children. It was hard on her and her kids, but she did what she had to. The answer is NOT to raise kids on a minimum wage job, but instead to work on obtaining a higher paying job.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Top Ten Reasons To Belong To Al Qaida

10. You refine heroin for a living but you have a moral objection to beer.

9. You own a $300 machine gun and a $5,000 rocket launcher but you can't afford shoes.

8. You have more wives than teeth.

7. You think vests come in two styles: bullet-proof and suicide.

6. You can't think of anyone you haven't declared Jihad against.

5. You consider television dangerous but routinely carry ammunition in your robe.

4. You've never been asked, "Does this burka make my ass look fat?"

3. You were amazed to discover cell phones have uses other than setting off roadside bombs.

2. You've never uttered the phrase, "I love what you've done with your cave."

1. You wipe your butt with your bare left hand but consider bacon unclean.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Random Thoughts

Let's stop 36 murders! How you ask? Let me fill you in.

Today on the way back from Colfax a talk radio host was relaying parts an academic study performed on the death penalty. What was said that for every execution there are 18 murder that are deterred. The argument is that there is quantitative evidence that the death penalty actually helps to decrease the murder rate.

I would like to lower the murder rate by 36 here in Washington by putting to death the dirtbags who decided to wipe out three generations of people in Carnation, WA over Christmas.

Random Thoughts

One of the arguments that I have heard anti-war protesters making toward college Republicans and others is "If you support the war, why don't you go sign up for duty." They insinuate that you cannot support something unless you are actually doing said activity.

Let's apply that same sentiment to law enforcement. You cannot support crime fighting unless you become a cop and put your life on the line to protect and serve.

You scoff and say that I am being silly? I am being no more silly than people who believe you have to be a soldier to support the war.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Couldn't They Do More?

If you haven't heard the news, there was a killing of six people in Carnation, WA. It is a suburb of Seattle. It was a husand and wife. Their son and daughter-in-law, plus their two grandkids. It took place on Christmas Eve.

A daughter of the husband and wife and here boyfriend went to the house and killed the elder people. Then when the son and daughter-in-law and grandkids came, they were also killed. The sickness you must have to kill your parents, your brother and his family. To shoot and kill a six and three year-old.

There is a small outcry brewing over the police response. A 911 call came in from the address. Two Sheriff deputies responded to the location. It took, from the reports I read, about thirty-five minutes to drive there. The gates to the property were locked and there were not circumstances that allowed for the deputies to make entrance.

Several people on the Seattle PI website are commenting on this story. One of the common threads is that the police should have investigated more. They should have gotten there quicker. It was a 911 call, therefore they should have the right to break down fences.

What people don't understand is that by law a 911 call by itself is not enough to overpower the 4th amendment. There is only so much someone can do, while still allowing for people to have privacy. This is one of those times where in 10 situations 5 times they will be yelled out for breaking in and invading someone's privacy. And 5 times they will get yelled at for not breaking in and stopping a crime.

People seem to want it both ways. They want the cops to drive code to get to everything, but when a cop gets into a wreck going to a 911 call that was a mis-dial, they question whether cops should go code to unknown 911 calls.

One people in the comments said it correctly. Why are you [the people complaining about the cops] blaming the police, the shooters are to blame.

Bottomline is the situation is tragic. The outcome is sad. The dirtbags should get a gift of a short piece of rope.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Random Thoughts

If it is such a bad company, why don't people picket Wal-Mart in Moscow?

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas To All!

And Happy New Year.

I would like to send a Merry Christmas to everyone. Today it is about the birth of Christ. Everything else seems to pale in comparison.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

A Christmas Thank You Prayer

Dear God, Thank you for sending me to Timmy's house, and not Michael Vick's.

Christmas In Costello Land

Well, the tamales are made and the menudo is simmering. It's a traditional Costello family Christmas in Arizona.

I remember about 6 years ago when the New York Times published a rather snarky article about how the Bush family celebrated Christmas, with tamales and other traditional Mexican dishes. The Times treated it as though they had discovered that the Bush family was a bunch of rubes. Nope. They were just Southwesterners.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Merry Christmas From Fred Thompson

How about that? Not at all like the self-centered Christmas messages we've been getting from the other candidates, or in the case of Hillary, a happy holidays message.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Just In Time for Christmas; Colfax Has Added Yet Another Branch of Police

Not satisfied that there is no longer any commerce in Colfax, or that Colfax is considered the speed trap of Washington State, they are now cracking down on offending Christmas wreaths and Coug flags.

Here is the City of Colfax's idiotic but feel-good, sensitive, politically correct statement, as reported in today's Whitman County Gazette:

Mayor Norma Becker at the start of Monday night’s council session outlined city policy behind an order which required Assistant Chief David Szambelan to remove a Christmas wreath from his assigned squad car. Szambelan reported on the wreath ban in a letter to the editor of the Gazette. He said he was ordered by the police chief to remove the wreath after the chief received a complaint from a city council member who was not identified.
Mayor Becker said the city’s police manual has been made more explicit on the use of city police cars. She said once the city received a complaint she felt the city really had to address the issue. After getting the complaint, she said she felt the wreath was very inappropriate.
Mayor Becker said the city’s personnel manual did not specifically address the situation and suggested it could possibly be changed.
City Attorney Bruce Ensley advised against changing the personnel policy to meet every contingency. Ensley said under the city’s chain of command the police chief had the authority to order the removal.
Councilwoman Jeannette Solimine said she felt Szambelan’s letter, which said he was ordered to remove the wreath because of a complaint from a council member, “really put a bad light on the council.” She added she was under the impression that the city over the years has received several complaints about the Christmas decoration and a WSU window flag which Szambelan has also flown on the squad car.
Mayor Becker pointed out motorists from Oregon or other areas who were stopped by police could find reason to object if the squad car was flying a WSU Cougar flag.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, Pullman!!!

From the "Forbes Gang!"

This will be my final post of 2007. I am beginning my annual hiatus from the blog to spend Christmas with my family. My oldest daughter is flying in from college in Virginia, so I am very excited!

May the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you and your family during this holiday period. And let us all remember the reason for the season.

"Washington lawmakers bring back 1-percent cap; Whitman County officials hope Legislature revisits issue during upcoming session"

I missed this before as I was in Mexico when it happened.

The restoration of the 1% property tax cap established by I-747 during a special legislative session last month was a huge victory for the Washington State Republican Party and a huge loss for the Democrats. Even though the GOP is crippled with a historic low number of seats in Olympia, the specter of Dino Rossi winning the 2008 gubernatorial race and sweeping in more Republicans in the House and Senate with his coattails sent the Rats running away from their left-wing environmentalist/big labor special interest base and towards the taxpaying citizens of Washington. Thank God we still have a two-party system in this state.

From the November 30 edition of the Moscow-Pullman Daily News:
Whitman County officials aren't surprised the Washington Legislature reinstated a 1-percent cap on annual property tax increases during a one-day special legislative session.

Gov. Chris Gregoire called for Thursday's special session in Olympia after the Washington Supreme Court ruled Initiative 747 and its 1-percent cap unconstitutional earlier this month.

Whitman County Commissioner Greg Partch said the cap makes it difficult for cities and counties to operate. He hopes the Legislature re-examines the cap when it convenes Jan. 14 and takes the interests of small taxing districts into account.

"I am really hoping during the session they really sit down and take a look at the effects," Partch said. "I think they will realize a lot of people are hurting - 1 percent does not cover it. (Olympia) does not live under a 1-percent cap, but they expect us to. I think it is rather interesting that they lift their caps and do what they want and then they expect local government to bear the brunt."

Whitman County and three nonprofit organizations challenged the constitutionality of I-747 in King County Superior Court in January 2005, claiming the voters were misled by the Voters' Pamphlet. The trial court ruled in favor of the challengers and the Supreme Court upheld the ruling, finding voters were deceived by the initiative and that the Voters' Pamphlet was ambiguous as to whether the effect of I-747 would generally lower the property tax levy limit by 1 percent or by 5 percent.

The ruling meant city and county governments and taxing districts could revert to the - percent limit that was in place before voters approved Initiative 747 in 2001.

Gregoire praised lawmakers for approving the cap and a second property tax relief bill, and said the measures would help soothe Washingtonians' worries about soaring tax bills.

"All of those legislators recognized the literal fear that is out there with regard to property taxes," she said.

Lawmakers were in session for less than 12 hours Thursday, rushing through a pair of bills that minority Republicans sometimes jeered. In the end, the Democrats' robust majorities and the politically touchy nature of tax votes ensured both measures would pass.

The main bill approved Thursday reinstates a 1-percent cap on annual property tax increases, which voters endorsed in 2001 under I-747.

Also enacted was a tax deferral program for people making less than the state's median income, presently about $57,000.

Both measures take effect immediately.

A handful of majority Democrats voted against the property tax cap in both chambers, saying a limit below the rate of inflation hurts local governments that are being squeezed to provide services.

The tax cap bill was "based on a flawed law that never should have been approved by the voters in the first place," said Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle.

Minority Republicans in both chambers seemed generally happy to vote for the tax cap, although some of them - along with GOP governor candidate Dino Rossi and anti-tax activist Tim Eyman - said the measure didn't go far enough.

The 1 percent cap under I-747 "has dampened tax increases. It hasn't stopped them," said Sen. Mike Carrel, R-Lakewood.

Thursday's vote in favor of the property tax cap bill was 86-8 in the House, and 39-9 in the Senate. In both cases, Democrats cast the only "no" votes.

The court ruling on I-747, which came just days after voters displayed a penny-pinching mood in the statewide election, prompted Gregoire to call the special session.

The initiative was sponsored by one of the Olympia establishment's biggest antagonists, anti-tax activist Eyman. It capped annual increases of certain property tax collections at 1 percent, unless voters approved a higher levy.

The property tax cap doesn't stop a homeowner's tax bill from increasing more than 1 percent per year.

Each taxing district affected by the cap can get its 1-percent increase. Some taxes, such as new construction and school levies, also aren't subject to the cap.

The state Department of Revenue estimates the average homeowner's property tax bill has climbed 5 percent per year in recent history.

Eyman criticized lawmakers just after the session got under way Thursday morning, saying Democrats weren't going far enough to limit property taxes.

About $100 million in old, unused taxing capacity - which Eyman unsuccessfully tried to wipe out with an earlier initiative - also should be repealed, he said.

"Gregoire and the Democrats don't care about the taxpayers. They're pretending to care about taxpayers," Eyman said.

Rossi and Republican lawmakers echoed that criticism.

Democratic leaders largely dismissed their complaints, but some said the issue could be part of a deeper look at property taxes expected once the Legislature returns in January.

Democrats, however, already appeared split on just what those reforms would look like.

House Speaker Frank Chopp, D-Seattle, said the 1-percent cap would be a closed issue after the special session. But Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, didn't rule out more changes.

"When we come into a new legislative session, all the property tax proposals will be on the table," Brown said.

Thursday's second bill, the tax deferral program for lower-income homeowners, was modeled after an existing plan for seniors and the disabled.

It would allow homeowners making less than the median state income to put off paying as much as half of their yearly property tax bill until their home is sold.

State dollars would replace what local governments normally would get, and the state would get repaid with interest when the property changes hands. There are some conditions for participating in the program.

Some Democrats and activists on the political left have been unhappy with the entire special session, saying it amounts to a politically calculated cave-in that gives a victory to anti-tax forces.

At a committee hearing earlier Thursday, Washington State Council of Fire Fighters spokesman Bud Sizemore said the 1 percent limit hurts local government.

"The business world wouldn't live with this, and I don't think that we should," Sizemore said.


IN AND OUT: Washington state legislators met in an unusual one-day mini-session Thursday to adopt two property tax relief measures. They convened at 8 a.m. and wrapped up less than 12 hours later despite political skirmishing.

747 FLIES AGAIN: Washington lawmakers reauthorized a 1-percent annual growth limit for property taxes. It was a reaction to the state Supreme Court throwing out similar provisions of Initiative 747 on technical grounds. House Bill 2416 was quite popular, passing 86-8 in the House and 39-9 in the Senate.

DEFERRAL TIME: Less popular was a voluntary program to let some property owners defer paying as much as half of their annual tax bill, to be repaid with interest at the time of sale. The Senate vote on Senate Bill 6178 was 27-21; the House vote was 55-39.

JUST A BEGINNING: House and Senate leaders say the broader issue of property tax equity and the needs of local government will be aired at the upcoming regular session.

GOVERNOR'S ROLE: Gov. Chris Gregoire, a Democrat locked in a potentially tough bid for re-election, called the special session and happily signed the bills Thursday night.

"Spending without guilt"

Scott Braski of Moscow has a great response to PARDner Don Orlich's recent letter chastizing the Walton Family Foundation (i.e. the family that owns Wal-Mart) for supporting school vouchers.

Braski probably doesn't know Orlich and the PARDners as well as we do. Choice and freedom to them are things that belong in the hands of faceless government bureaucrats, not the individual.

By the way, the Walton Family Foundation's emphasis on providing tuition assistance for low-income families wanting to give their children the best possible education through attendance at a private school came from Sam Walton's son John, who died in an experimental aircraft crash in 2005.

Though he was the son of a millionaire entrepreneur, John Walton dropped out of college, enlisted in the Army, and became a member of the Special Forces. He was wounded in action and won the Silver Star for heroism in Vietnam as part of a top secret, behind the lines MACV-SOG unit, Recon Team Louisiana.

John Walton was a man who knew a thing or two about freedom and fighting for it. How dare some statist educrat question the fact Walton decided to spend some of his birthright on providing opportunity and freedom for others less fortunate.

From today's Moscow-Pullman Daily News:
There is more to Donald C. Orlich's recent letter to the editor than meets the eye (Opinion, Dec. 14), and I have a few questions. Yes, the wonders of Pullman are due to public education. Yes, most of the students at Washington State University received a public education. No one is debating that. The question is, would it have been possible to have the Pullman public education be any better? If so, would it have been wrong for a set of parents to want a better education for their child?

If I work extra hard so that I can afford to purchase a better-than-public education for my child, should I feel guilty for wanting to invest my money in my own children? I am required to pay taxes that support public schools, even if my kids never set foot in one, so I'm not leaving the poor in the cold. Should someone else have the right to force me to educate my child a certain way?

As for Wal-Mart, Orlich believes the company doesn't have the right to invest its post-tax earnings as it wishes. At what point does one lose that right? When one becomes a certain degree of successful? The harder you work, the more skill you apply, the less control you should have over your own money? One of these omniscient philanthropy committees needs to draw an exact line somewhere, so we all know exactly how successful not to become, and how hard not to work. Is not a good definition of freedom the ability to spend your own after-tax earnings as you wish? Erode that freedom and you'll find you have none left.

Scott Braski, Moscow

Pictures From This Morning's House Fire in Pullman

More on KREM.com

"Arson Not Suspected"

The Lewiston Morning Tribune is reporting that arson is not suspected in this morning's fires. That's a relief, the timing of this morning's fires and the arson fires set on Novemember 15th are eerily similar.

Fire Alert

KQQQ is reporting two fires this morning. The first was a barn at Alpine Animal Hospital and the latest a house on Lori Court. Please take a minute to scout your house and neighborhood.

Type rest of the post here

Thursday, December 20, 2007

"Pullman Wal-Mart decision months away; Court of appeals hears final arguments from giant retailer, PARD"

Today's "news story" in the Moscow-Pullman Daily News about the Wal-Mart appeal hearing reads more like a PARD press release.

The reporter let stand, without any rebuttal whatsoever, propagandistic statments from PARD's union hired gun overexaggerating the amount of time that it will take to reach a decision, telepathically reading the judges' minds, conjuring frightening images of dead school children in the streets, and the outrageously false assertions that Wal-Mart will somehow steal business from non-existent Mom-and-Pop retail stores and that sales tax revenue will not increase. But my favorite quote is when Bricklin, who lives in Seattle, arrogantly states, "I think the citizens of Pullman deserve more than that." What we deserve, Mr. Bricklin, is the truth behind who is paying your fees and forcing the REAL taxpayers in Pullman to waste our hard-earned money on this fight.

And at last TV Reed finally 'fesses up about the whole Bishop Blvd. location red herring when he said: "I can't imagine a worse site to build on, but I can't imagine many better, either."

Sure, Chuck Maduell (of the Davis Wright Tremaine law firm - what happened to McCullough Hill?) had nothing to say. But what about contacting the city or the grassroots group in Pullman backing Wal-Mart, Businesses & Residents for Economic Opportuniy (BREO). Certainly there was time to do that. Speaking of the city, why didn't Laura McAloon present oral arguments? That's something that could have been covered in the article besides giving PARD even more space to spout their lies.

Oh well. Luckily, biased reporters don't decide if we get Wal-Mart, the Court of Appeals does. And I am confident they will make the right decision. Let us remember the words of Epicetus:
Nothing great is created suddenly, any more than a bunch of grapes or a fig. If you tell me that you desire a fig. I answer you that there must be time. Let it first blossom, then bear fruit, then ripen.
From today's Daily News:
SPOKANE - Pullman Alliance for Responsible Development attorney Dave Bricklin said it could take three to six months before a decision is rendered by the Division III Court of Appeals regarding Wal-Mart's plans to build a super store in Pullman.

Bricklin and Wal-Mart attorney Chuck Maduell voiced their final arguments regarding the proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter on Bishop Boulevard in front of a panel of three judges in Spokane on Wednesday. Each side was allowed 15 minutes and no new information was permitted, as only facts outlined in previously submitted briefs could be argued.

Bricklin said he hopes the judges' silence during the 30-minute proceedings were a good sign.

"They didn't say much, but maybe that's because they favor our side," he said.

Wal-Mart announced plans to build on Bishop Boulevard in October 2004 and a site plan for the store was later approved by Pullman Public Works Director Mark Workman. PARD appealed the city's approval of the retail corporation's environmental checklist and site plan on the grounds that the store would impact stormwater run-off, traffic and negatively affect Pullman's local economy.

Washington state law allows only one public hearing on a proposed development. Spokane attorney John Montgomery - who acts as Pullman's hearing examiner - was called to oversee PARD's initial appeal. Montgomery compiled a findings of fact document from Wal-Mart, PARD and Pullman and concluded the retail giant's site plan and environmental checklist was sufficient. Montgomery's decision was upheld by Whitman County Superior Court Judge David Frazier and PARD's appeal was dismissed.

PARD then took the case to appellate court.

Bricklin pointed to Montgomery's findings of fact document Wednesday to show the store would have significant effects on traffic, the environment and the local economy. Bricklin argued that Montgomery's document was not comprehensive, as a Wal-Mart-sponsored traffic study was taken at face value and was not questioned.

As examples, Bricklin said the traffic study focused on weekdays only and provides no results on potential customers accessing the store on weekends, "Wal-Mart's busiest shopping days." He noted that the study also did not identify how the increased traffic would effect police, roads or pedestrians, particularly students from nearby Franklin Elementary School and Lincoln Middle School.

"There was no mitigation of the effects on schools and no analysis of it," Bricklin said. "We don't think the impact on 800 school kids is inconsequential."

Maduell also pointed to Montgomery's findings of fact and said despite the absence of some facts - such as how much traffic the stores generate on weekends - Frazier found the document to be adequate.

"It may not have been perfect, but the code does not require that," he said.

Maduell said it is up to PARD to prove Wal-Mart's plan would not meet Pullman codes.

"The burden is on them," he said.

Maduell declined comment after presenting his oral arguments.

Bricklin said the fact that Maduell admits Montgomery's findings are "not perfect" should be a red flag that the corporation didn't do all its homework.

"I think the citizens of Pullman deserve more than that," he said.

Bricklin also argued that Pullman Financial Director Troy Woo's "assumption" that the city would benefit from a Wal-Mart store is insufficient.

Wal-Mart may generate sales tax for the city, but would do so by taking away revenue from current Pullman businesses, he said.

"While Wal-Mart may benefit, the city's tax revenue will not increase," Bricklin said.

PARD Spokesman T.V. Reed said he's glad the case is back in motion.

"I'm glad things are moving along," he said. "Now all we can do is wait. We'd like to win and get this over with."

Reed said he hopes judges will side with PARD, which would force Wal-Mart to conduct more extensive studies of the store's impact on traffic and the environment. He would not say whether PARD would accept the retail giant locating at a different site in Pullman.

"It does not make sense on Bishop Boulevard," he said. "I can't imagine a worse site to build on, but I can't imagine many better, either."
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Join Team Rossi's O-Line

A messsage from former Coug and Seahawk great, Robbie Tobeck:
Dear Team Rossi Member,

As a former Seattle Seahawk and Washington State Cougar, I know the importance of building a cohesive team who can work together to secure a win for everyone. Team leadership and hard work are essential to success both on the football field and within our own state. But today, our state is in desperate need of new team leadership. Our current governor, Christine Gregoire has built a culture of failure in Olympia that needs immediate change and that's why I'm writing to you today.

I'm supporting Dino Rossi in his campaign to be our next Governor because I know he's the right candidate who will bring the change we need. Dino is proof that if you do the necessary hard work and you are willing to do what it takes to build a great team, you'll achieve success.

So, I'm asking you to take the time today to join me on Dino's team by following this link. Early supporters are essential to the Rossi campaign, so we're working hard to get as many supporters as possible to make a financial commitment by Monday, December 31st.

The polls show this race is already a dead heat. There's no doubt in my mind that the Rossi campaign will need to build a strong offensive line early on to block negative attacks from Christine Gregoire and the special interests supporting her failed agenda. Will you join the Rossi campaign's offensive line today by making a special donation of $61 in honor of my Seahawks number?

Our goal is to raise $100,000 online by the 31st and we're less than $10,000 away from this goal. Please make your immediate donation today to help us reach our goal by December 31st!

I have been proud to call Washington my home for many years. As a family man and businessman, I have a personal stake in this election. I'm as concerned as my friends and neighbors about the tax increases, crowded roadways, unsafe neighborhoods, and my children's education. I'm ready for new leadership- I'm ready for a leader who will go to Olympia and bring real reform to our state.

Because of the competitive nature of this campaign, Dino needs each and every one of us to make a commitment today to his campaign. There's no doubt in my mind the negative attacks will start any day now. As Dino's supporters, we need to band together to build an effective offensive line to combat these attacks. Your immediate gift of $1,400, $1,000, $500, $250 or even $61 will go a long way in helping to build the "Rossi O-Line." Please join us today!

Thanks for your time,

Rob Tobeck

P.S. Your support is needed to elect Dino as our next Governor. He knows how to lead an organization to produce positive results for our state. Please join me in helping Dino build a winning team by making a generous donation of $61 or more today so we can reach our goal of raising $100,000 online by December 31st! Thank you for your support.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

"Pullman firm to design WSU hotel; Duane Brelsford's Corporate Pointe Developers will take lead on $20 million conference center project"

Congratulations to WSU for supporting a local business. And congratulations to Duane Brelsford, Jr. and his partners. They earned the win. Now the speculation begins as to what company will operate the hotel. From today's Moscow-Pullman Daily News:
Pullman-based Corporate Pointe Developers has been chosen to design a hotel and conference center on the Washington State University campus.

Ryan Ruffcorn, a project manager for WSU Capital Planning and Development, said Corporate Pointe President Duane Brelsford and his team were selected from the pool of four finalists because of their impressive presentation to the university.

The fact that Brelsford and his team have ties to Pullman also was a benefit. In addition to Brelsford, the project design will include general contractor Bob Askins, Tom Sheldon from the architecture firm GGLO of Seattle, and Yogi Hutsen of Coastal Hotel Group. Brelsford, Sheldon and Askins all are Pullman High School graduates.

"They're all invested in WSU and Pullman," Ruffcorn said. "They have a good grasp on the area - they understand the market."

Ruffcorn said the university began to investigate the need for a hotel and conference center in 2002. Independent analysis identified a need for such a development and a campus group survey indicated many conferences and professional seminars happen outside of Pullman because of a lack of facilities.

Ruffcorn said the research results were received before the Schweitzer Engineering Laboratory Event Center was constructed in 2006.

"We're excited about it," he said. "After five years, we're ready to get something rolling."

Brelsford said the approximately $20 million project will likely be constructed on university property on Fairway Drive and include a 120-room hotel and 20,000-square-foot conference center. Construction isn't expected to begin until late 2008 or early 2009.

Brelsford hopes for his company to own and manage the hotel and conference center upon its completion and lease the land from the university. He added that he soon plans to launch a marketing analysis on a group of condominiums proposed for an adjacent property, which may draw WSU alumni to "come back to Pullman and participate in the amenities."

Brelsford said his company's long-term plan for the project probably worked in its favor. Companies competing with Corporate Pointe included: Spokane-based ANA Construction and Development; Concord Eastridge, a company with headquarters in Scottsdale, Ariz., and Arlington, Va.; and Chicago-based Johnson & Partners Development and Co. in partnership with Columbia Hospitality in Seattle.

"We're not just here to do it and turn it over to a flagship company to operate it," Brelsford said. "We know there's a market out there and we want to address that market as soon as possible."

Ruffcorn said the university has not yet made any funding or operations decisions regarding the project. University officials will work with Corporate Pointe to draft a letter of intent, which will bind the two entities together as far as scope and vision of the project, followed by the initial design phase.

Any other discussions regarding possible land leases or other opportunities on the property will come later, though Ruffcorn said condominiums are something the university "sees as a possibility" in the project.

"We're open to just trying to find the right relationship," he said. "We'll just see how this all plays out."

Brelsford said the hotel and conference center will be in an attractive location, especially with the university's 18-hole golf course, tennis arena and recreation center within walking distance.

"We're looking to attract a lot of conferences. We're trying to keep those local," he said. "I've always had a love for the hotel industry. It's fun to get back into it."

Corporate Pointe has built about 1,400 apartments, 150,000 square feet of office and retail space and theaters that house more than 40 movie screens in Pullman, Lewiston and Spokane. Before Brelsford began developing, he was a project engineer and project manager for the construction of nine Embassy Suites hotels and oversaw the renovations of two inns.

The Huckabee Factor

Nice (and lengthy) write-up on Mike Huckabee in the New York Times Sunday Magazine.

My favorite quote from the article:
In fact, as he wrote in his book ‘‘Character Makes a Difference,’’ he considers liberalism to be a cancer on Christianity.
Read the whole thing.

News of the proceedings in Spokane

Decision on proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter in Pullman not expected anytime soon (says PARD's mouthpiece)

Pullman Alliance for Responsible Development attorney Dave Bricklin said it could take three to six months before a decision is rendered by the Division III Court of Appeals regarding Wal-Mart's plans to build a super center in Pullman.

Bricklin and an attorney for Wal-Mart presented their oral arguments before a panel of three judges in Spokane on Wednesday.

PARD spokesman T.V. Reed said he's glad to once again have the process moving forward.

"All we can do is wait," Reed said. "We'd like to win and get this over with."

Wal-Mart attorney Chuck Madull declined comment after presenting his oral arguments.

PARD's Doomsday Clock


It IS easy being green

Wal Mart to sell electric cars

It's kind of a joke to say Wal-Mart sells everything. Does Wal-Mart sell electric cars? Well, this Christmas... they do sell electric cars! Sam's Club, a unit of Wal-Mart stores Inc, will sell an electric car in a Christmas promotion November 8 through December 29. The car is the Mercedes-Benz Smart and it's actually on Sam's Club front page right now below a pre-order of Guitar Hero.

For the low, low price of $35,000 you also get lithium-ion batteries from Hybrid Technologies, bringing the car's range to over 100 miles per charge. That bouncy, yellow, happy face is not done with you yet: Along with being the only owner of the Hybrid Technology's Smart, you also get a trip to the Kennedy Space Center! The Sam's Club site says this is a Once-in-a-Lifetime offer "you won't get a second chance at."

Does This Ad Offend You?

It does some people. Heaven forbid that someone mention the "birth of Christ" at Christmas. As Governor Huckabee said:
If we are so politically correct in this country that a person can't say enough of the nonsense with the political attack ads could we pause for a few days and say Merry Christmas to each other then we're really, really in trouble as a country.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Cross-Post: Spam the Dictator

From my own blog:

"I found Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's blog this evening:


I encourage every freedom loving individual to go there and spam the holy living crap out of it. Unleash your inner South Park!"

Go get him!

Happy B-Day, Scotty!

What the title says! Happy birthday, Scotty!

Quote of the Day

Wal Mart lovers...You are a sad bunch of hateful conservatives. I pray that your gun privelages are taken away and you resolve to stop blaming others for your pathetic problems.
- Comment left by "God" on Moscow-Pullman Daily News website, December 18, 2007 (It appears that "God's" spell checker privileges were already taken away.)


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"Moscow City Council tables gun ban debate indefinitely"

The lame duck period of Queen Nancy's reign has officially begun. She couldn't get her misbegotten gun ban proposal through the EXISTING liberal city council.

This quote from the Queen is one for the ages:
I'm just saying that the person loses their temper and they have something readily at hand, they may use it regardless of what it is, if it's a bag of popcorn or a firearm.
Only a barking moonbat from San Francisco could equate the spectrum of violence required from a tub of Orville Redenbacher's finest to a Glock 17 as being the same. From today's Moscow-Pullman Daily News:
Moscow resident David Klingenberg said he'd like a City Council resolution encouraging the Idaho Legislature to allow cities to restrict firearms in city-owned spaces to be "permanently shot down."

Still, the longtime opponent of firearms restrictions was pleased the City Council voted Monday to postpone the discussion indefinitely.

Councilman Aaron Ament proposed the postponement, and council members Linda Pall, John Weber and Bill Lambert voted in agreement.

Pall said she voted to postpone the discussion "because I think that if our legislators would like to bring it up, they can certainly bring it up. ... There was no special reason why we needed to do that."

Ament left the meeting early and was unavailable for comment.

Mayor Nancy Chaney said she was disappointed, but accepted the decision as part of the political process.

Chaney initiated the firearms discussion in August when she asked City Attorney Randy Fife to ask the Idaho Attorney General's office whether the city had authority to restrict firearms in public, city-owned places such as City Hall, city parks and the Hamilton Indoor Recreation Center.

Deputy Attorney General Stephen A. Bywater sent a reply in September stating the city cannot restrict people from legally carrying firearms. Chaney then wrote to local legislators asking them to consider introducing state-level legislation on the matter. Such legislation could give cities power to restrict firearms, or could add city halls and other areas to an existing list of places where guns are restricted, such as federal buildings and schools.

State Rep. Shirley Ringo agreed to help Chaney, but she cautioned that such legislation would be difficult to pass, even if it was well-supported.

Councilwoman Kit Craine and Councilman Tom Lamar spoke in favor of the resolution.

"I'm sure we can all imagine how far we'll get in the state Legislature with this, but I think this can be discussed in terms of whether it's appropriate to have firearms in certain areas, and we should deal with this now," Craine said.

Chaney said "the discussion is about whether it's time to ask this question."

She said other federal and state government buildings restrict firearms, so it's appropriate to consider city buildings as well.

Lambert suggested changing the resolution to allow people with concealed weapon permits to carry firearms in public buildings.

He said people who have concealed weapons permits have been scrutinized by law enforcement.

Chaney countered that the permit system is "not as fail-safe as you might anticipate."

She said she did not intend to question the responsibility of people with permits, but she believes there are circumstances where firearms are not appropriate.

The presence of a gun could keep someone from thinking as clearly as usual if they became angry, she said.

Weber asked if the mayor was suggesting "that because someone may or may not have a concealed weapons permit that they're less likely to control their temper in an argument."

Chaney said she was not, and that an angry person may use anything at hand - even a tub of buttered popcorn - as a weapon.

Justice Denied...But Not For Much Longer

In his November 29 letter to the editor of the Moscow-Pullman Daily News reprinted below, Don Pelton spoke of "justice delayed is justice denied" with regards to PARD's lengthy and costly appeals to stop Wal-Mart from coming to Pullman. According to the PARD Doomsday Clock above, that delay will be over in less than 24 hours.....
Wal-Mart saga continues

Oct. 19 was the date set by the court of appeals in Spokane to hear the appeal from the Pullman Alliance for Responsible Development to block construction of a Wal-Mart Supercenter in Pullman. But it did not happen. Although the notice of appeal had been filed with the court almost a year earlier, PARD filed notice of its own intention to present oral arguments in addition to the usual written briefs. This stopped the clock again. Now the court has set Dec. 19 to hear a few minutes of vocal pleading.

PARD's appeals have already consumed about two years in legal maneuvers. This new action will add more months.

It is true: "Justice delayed is justice denied." There are only two issues in PARD's appeal: Wal-Mart will compete with existing businesses, and Wal-Mart will add to traffic congestion in Pullman.

Competition arises because Wal-Mart's inventory of about 150,000 items is so large that at least one item will compare with some product in every business. This could wipe out most stores including even Brused Books because Wal-Mart sells an occasional book.

Traffic congestion will result when sophisticated Pullman shoppers drive to Bishop Boulevard in order to shop. Apparently so many of our friends and neighbors are Wal-Mart shoppers that they will clog city streets preventing emergency vehicles from reaching the hospital and school buses from getting children to school. Where are these folks now? This will happen even though 5,000 persons in a population of 27,000 pledged never to shop at a Pullman Wal-Mart.

Thus Wal-Mart's saga goes on and on.

Don Pelton, Pullman
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The Hit-Job Mentality

Howard Kurtz, media reporter for the Washington Post has had enough:
Memo to political reporters: Enough already.

Is it really necessary to allow operatives from one campaign to attack another candidate without their names attached? These strategists are paid to slam the other contenders. Why should they be able to hide behind a curtain of anonymity? Do you really want to be aiding and abetting that sort of cheap-shot politics?
Exactly. And do we want our community newspaper to aid and abet cheap-shot politics by providing a curtain of anonymity?

Monday, December 17, 2007

Say What?

Actually, I didn't mention the City Council because I distinctly remember Tom Forbes and the Forbes Gang at the time saying the City Council had NOTHING to do with the Wal-Mart decision and that people should NOT vote for candidates on that basis. They pointed out that the decision on the Site Plan and SEPA evaluation were not under the jurisdiction of the City Council. It sounds like the same people (hard to say since they don't identify themselves) have now changed their tune!
- Chris Lupke, Comment on Moscow-Pullman Daily News website, 12/17/2007
How can you help? Sign the boycott petition against a Pullman Wal-Mart. And if you are registered, vote in the upcoming election. In Ward 3 (most of campus), Judy Krueger is running in favor of responsible development, which does not include this massive boondoggle. In Ward 1, part of College Hill and other areas in town, Gary Johnson is running as a write-in candidate for the same causes. Please vote for them. Students are entitled to a voice in the place they live.
- Chris Lupke, Daily Evergreen, October 27, 2005
I received a card too. Asked them not to build. Sent it back right away. I heard they didn't get many pro-Walmart cards. Guess that's why they never made a big deal of it afterwards.
- Anonymous comment, Moscow-Pullman Daily News website, 12/17/2007
We feel we have strong support from long-term Pullman residents that know what's good for their community.
- Wal-Mart spokesman Eric Berger, Spokesman Review, March 12, 2005

Berger was referring to a Wal-Mart survey in which every permanent resident of Pullman (about 9,000) was contacted by mail in early 2005. Wal-Mart received back 6,000 responses. 4,000 of those respondents supported the Supercenter project, a ratio of 2 to 1. Wal-Mart also contacted more than 1,000 registered Pullman businesses and an even larger majority expressed support. I have a copy of the results of Wal-Mart's survey.

"Moscow should rescind water appeal"

Queen Nancy fiddles while Whitman County suffers. From today's Moscow-Pullman Daily News:
Moscow should rescind water appeal

Since 1994, the town of Colton has been working on a plan to increase the water rights for the town in order to support the growth of residences and businesses within the city limits of Colton.

In the past 10 years, the town of Colton has had an aggressive plan to conserve water use and, as a direct result, the per capita water use for the town has declined.

Due to the fact that we live in a dryland agriculture area, very few water rights are available for transfer to our town.

The town of Colton is limited in growth because of the lack of available water rights. Not the lack of actual water, just the piece of paper giving them the right to pump the water out of the ground.

In the past couple years a chance to purchase some additional water rights became available. As the process moved forward, the Hawkins Companies approached the town of Colton and, in exchange for the 22 acre-feet of McKeirnan water rights that the town of Colton was purchasing, Hawkins Companies would find 100 acre-feet of water rights for the town of Colton.

The town was well on its way to making this happen when the city of Moscow, led by your mayor, Nancy Chaney, stopped the whole process by appealing the decisions made by the Washington State Department of Ecology. The actions taken by the Moscow City Council has stopped dead in the tracks any more development and expansion of businesses in Colton.

The city of Moscow is now paying a water rights attorney from Helena, Mont., to represent them in this matter. We wonder if the residents of Moscow know how much of their taxpayer money is being spent to restrict the growth and development of our small community.

We would hope that the new City Council elected by the people of Moscow would reconsider the decision of the past council and rescind their appeal of the water right transfer for the town of Colton.

Greg Schultheis, president,

Art Schultheis, secretary,

SD7, Inc., Colton

Whoopi! Sometimes Liberals Get It

Comedienne Whoopi Goldberg has a long track record as a liberal Democrat. But like a broken clock, libs occasionally get it right.

Goldberg, one of the hosts of ABC's "The View," stated on the December 4 show:
I'd like somebody to get rid of the death tax. That's what I want. If I give something to my kid and I already paid the tax, why do I have to pay it again because I died? It doesn't matter if you have or you don't have money. Once you paid your taxes, it should be a done deal.
Welcome to the party, Whoopi. Unfortunately, taking what someone has earned through their hard work and giving to someone else who hasn't earned it, as often as possible, is the mantra of the liberal Democrats.

Predictably, Goldberg, who started off as a single mother living in poverty, is being called greedy by the leftists for her opposition to the death tax.

"Online Anonymity: The Ring of Gyges Made Real"

Paul Zimmerman has a great post on online anonymity over at his blog.

Now compare with Paul and I have to say about online anonymity with this paper from the Cato Institute.

The writer, Jonathan Wallace, concludes:
Anonymous and pseudonymous speech on the Internet forms a part of the rich tradition of such speech in prior media, including print, and is entitled to the same First Amendment protections. Legislation against anonymity threatens to end that rich tradition and should be opposed. If such legislation is passed, we can be confident that the Supreme Court will again find it inconsistent with our Constitution and our history.
Wallace cites several examples of anonymity and pseudonymity from American history and how the Supreme Court has consistently upheld anonymity as "a shield from the tyranny of the majority."

I generally agree with these sentiments and Oliver Wendell Holmes belief that: “The ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas. . . . The best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market." However, the Republic is not in danger if commenters must reveal their identities on the Daily News website. It is not whistleblowing that goes on over there, but mean-spirited accusations meant to discredit and defame individuals who have identified themselves publicly. And there is a legal tradition going back to Roman days that guarantees an individual the right to face his or her accusers.

Also, to have a truly open debate and a free marketplace of ideas, one must be able to judge all the merits of the argument. A person's identity has much to do with their credibility and veracity. You wouldn't buy a car without knowing the make and model. Why should you buy an idea without knowing its source?

Victor Davis Hanson, as usual, has it right:
Anonymity on rare occasions may have a place in protecting whistleblowers or honest journalistic sources fearful of retaliation. But lately it is being misused in a variety of different contexts to destroy people and institutions — and as a way for authors of all sorts to avoid responsibility for what they write...

Anonymity is a vicious but seductive Siren that lures its heedless listeners to shipwreck on the shoals.

Going (for the) Green

If you think all the global warming nitwittery has been limited to Stockholm and Bali lately, read on.

A December 6 Seattle Times story detailed some possible legislation concerning global warming in Washington, such as:
Seattle leaders have been talking to lawmakers about a bill that would impose an added fee for license tabs that would be scaled based on fuel efficiency. Gas-hogging SUVs would pay more; hybrids and electric cars would pay less.

While the actual fee amount would be up to the Legislature, Ceis said a reasonable average would be $100, with gas guzzlers possibly going as high as $300.
Of course, people with families like myself drive those "gas guzzler" SUVs and minivans. As the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers stated, "It's really nothing more than an added tax on families and small-business owners who need larger vehicles."

And if you thought the Department of Ecology had killed business in Washington border counties with their ridiculous stormwater requirements, wait until this is implemented:
Meanwhile, the state is already preparing to order cities and counties to study what effects new projects, such as office buildings, will have on the climate. State environmental law probably already requires it, though it hasn't been done in the past, said Jay Manning, head of the state Department of Ecology.

As for environmentalists, one of the top priorities for this year will be trying to change state land-use laws so communities have to factor in climate change as they plan for growth.

They, along with the Ecology Department, also would like to start an accounting system for larger companies or governments to track their greenhouse-gas emissions. That would help set the stage for future regulations aimed at cutting the gases.
God help us.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The End to Sockpuppetry at the Daily News

An end to sockpuppetry at the Daily News? Yep. Managing Editor Steve McClure announced yesterday measures that the Daily News is going to take to cut down on the fraud and abuse regarding online comments. I generally applaud these measures, but still think they don't go far enough. As long as people hide behind anonymity to launch irresponsible, vicious attacks on people who have the courage of their convictions to take a public stance on an issue, I will continue to advocate for an end to anonymity, for I agree with technology writer Mark Minasi:
Instead, I suggest that administrators who run Web sites that host forums and reviews require that their contributors identify themselves. I'm not suggesting censoring any conversation—just cutting out the masked men. Sure, this approach has problems. For instance, what constitutes "identify" and what about sites that cover topics where anonymity is necessary; no question, those are issues that would need discussion. But removing the anonymous from most online forums and review sites would, I think, lead to more information and less flaming. Ad hominem attacks and vicious public spleen-venting accomplish nothing and drive many people away from our online community.

I don't think asking contributors for a real name and perhaps country of origin, no more than that, is asking too much, particularly if it makes Internet conversation the property of us all, rather than the property of the loudest, angriest, and most uncivil.
I will share my views with Daily News publisher Nathan Alford tomorrow when we have lunch and then plead the case to a the Daily News readers.

From yesterday's Moscow-Pullman Daily News:
COMMENTARY: Screen names and sock puppets collide with online changes

I always thought a sock puppet was just that - an old tube sock on your hand given voice and personality to entertain someone younger than age 8.

Ah, but the Internet has opened a new avenue of opportunity for socks and the puppets they became.

"Sock puppetry" apparently refers to those people who comment online and then respond to their own comment under another name.

I discovered that about a month ago after a meeting with our new group of Town Criers. They had asked about participating in the debate that can occur under their columns in the comment section at DNews.com. Our suggestion was that those can be great conversations, particularly if they use their own name.

Given that our Web site allows for people to make comments without their real name, I also encouraged them not to go in under multiple names to comment on their own work.

One of the Criers shot me an e-mail a few days later to tell me they'd tracked down the phrase for that at wordspy.com.

That's where I discovered sock puppets had evolved.

With changes coming to the comments section of our Web site, they'll likely change again.

One of the changes that will become obvious to those who participate in the comment section is the requirement that online users select a single screen name. Once it's picked, our system (which records comments by username) will attach that screen name that person's postings in the comment section.

Our hope is that it will resolve one of the problems we've noticed since we launched the comment section in March - namely, people participating in the comments forum under multiple names and personalities.

The unmoderated nature of the comment section has led to some wide-open discussions - both online and in our newsroom.

We expect some of the coming changes will allow the debate to continue but provide a greater degree of accountability and give online readers more options to improve the tone.

Another significant addition will be a reader-moderating tool that gives folks on DNews.com the chance to vote up or vote down specific comments. There will be a "thumbs up" and a "thumbs down" icon attached to each comment.

If the cumulative total of "thumbs down" hits six, the comment will minimize and disappear from the main thread of comments. Readers can still go find the comment and, if they decide to, give it a "thumbs up" to vote it back into the discussion thread.

Each user will be able to vote once on each comment.

Participants also will be able to comment on specific comments of another person. That allows users to address the author of a comment while maintaining the general thread of comments on a news article or opinion piece.

The plan is for these changes to take place in the coming week.

Once everything is in place, our hope is that it will allow for a constructive exchange of opinions from the wide variety of people who participate in that forum.

NEWS FLASH -Wal Mart Controls Airplane Parts Industry

Pay in aerospace is low for non-Boeing workers

It appears Wal Mart isn't the only place the unions don't think of as the worker's paradise it should be. This story from today's Seattle Times is sure to be ignored by our PARDners. I can't wait to see them packing for those road trips to protest the construction of new aircraft parts factories run by Wal Mart like employers that have the temerity to want to make a profit and stay in business. I wonder how many of C&D's employees are forced to seek public assistance? Oh, the humanity!

Since March a recruiting banner visible from Interstate 5 has hung on the fence outside C&D Zodiac's airplane-parts plant in Marysville: "Now hiring highly motivated and dependable people."

The hiring drive is fueled by two big contracts for the 787 Dreamliner. C&D will add a third shift and operate 24 hours a day by 2010, said manufacturing manager Ron Spliethof.

Yet the hundreds of assembly jobs at C&D are mostly unskilled, entry-level positions. At the factory earlier this year, a close-knit team of young Asian immigrant women applied the finishing touches to aircraft interior panels. Adjacent production cells were manned by other immigrants and young people not long out of high school.

The pay reflects that. More than two-thirds of C&D's 369 production workers earned between minimum wage and $15 an hour last year, according to data filed with the state. At the top end, that's base pay of about $31,000 a year.

Washington passed a massive package of tax breaks for aerospace manufacturing in 2003, intended to keep assembly of the Dreamliner in the state and invigorate the broader aerospace industry that clusters here like maintenance vehicles around a jumbo jet.

Outside of Boeing, however, the tax breaks are boosting companies that pay mostly low wages, according to pay and employment data that aerospace companies filed to receive the tax benefits.

The previously unpublished wage data analyzed by The Seattle Times show that among 161 companies claiming the state tax breaks for aerospace last year, almost half the non-Boeing production workers earned no more than $15 per hour. At Boeing, just 4 percent of production workers were below that level.

"We've always thought of aerospace manufacturing as being a very high-skill, high-productivity and therefore lucrative sector," said Alan Tonelson, a research analyst with the U.S. Business and Industry Council, which lobbies nationally on behalf of small- to medium-size private manufacturing companies. Shown the data on non-Boeing aerospace jobs, he said, "These wages are mediocre at best."

The Times analysis, based on data companies submitted to the Department of Revenue, reveals the flinty reality of the industry — outside Boeing, the hours are long and the pay is hardly sky-high:

• In 2006, more than 66,000 workers in the state worked at companies claiming the aerospace-tax breaks. Nearly four-fifths were at Boeing's commercial-jet plants and the remaining 14,000 at small- to medium-size aerospace-supplier facilities.

• Only 20 percent of the non-Boeing aerospace-production workers earn more than $20 per hour — about $42,000 annual base pay. At Boeing, it's 92 percent.

That means more than four-fifths of the non-Boeing aerospace-production workers earned less than the average wage of all Washington workers in 2006, which according to the Employment Security Department was almost $43,000.

• The 2006 median-wage rate for a non-Boeing aerospace-production worker in Washington was just over $15 per hour, compared to nearly $28 per hour for a Boeing production worker.

As part of a longtime strategy, Boeing has outsourced lower-level parts and design work to suppliers who can do it more cheaply, not just overseas but also right here in Washington state.

That angers Machinist union leaders, who lobbied hard in 2003 to help pass the tax breaks that now support local companies paying low wages for work once done at Boeing.

Though Boeing union jobs have always paid a premium, veteran Machinists recall that back in the late 1970s machine shops around the Puget Sound region offered alternative blue-collar jobs at attractive pay.

Today, with the decline of nonaerospace manufacturing and aerospace suppliers squeezed to reduce costs, well-paid alternatives to Boeing are fewer.

It's creating "an aluminum ceiling," in the words of industry analyst Richard Aboulafia. "It implies almost a two-class system that emerges in aerospace manufacturing."

Entry-level jobs

The 787 Dreamliner is a breakthrough airplane, built out of composite plastic in large pieces around the world and assembled in Everett. Due to fly by next March, its sales have outpaced those of any previous Boeing jet. The company's future rests upon its success.

Under the 2003 legislation that ensured Boeing would put the plane together in Washington, each recipient of the aerospace tax reductions and credits is required to file an annual report detailing its employment, pay rates and benefits.

Gov. Christine Gregoire said the tax incentives bolster the entire industry, and the lower-paying positions provide a living for those "who won't otherwise get a job" or who are just stepping on the career ladder.

"I started as a clerk typist," said Gregoire in an interview. As governor, she added, "I need those entry-level jobs in this state."

She expects wages to rise as the aviation boom continues.

"Once those companies get the skilled, trained workers they need ... they are going to have to raise wages," Gregoire said.

To be fair, demographics exaggerate the disparity between the Boeing and non-Boeing wages.

Many suppliers have been hiring younger workers. But because of union rules, the vast majority of the Boeing workforce is senior and earns top-of-the-pay-scale wages.

Yet the only fast-track wage ladder evident is at Boeing, and it's provided by the unions.

When Boeing hires new mechanics today, the entry-level wage is just $11.75 an hour, not much higher than the $10 per hour at C&D. But the Machinists union contract ensures that in just six years that mechanic will top the initial pay scale at $26 an hour.

At the suppliers, few workers have climbed as high, according to the state wage data.

Blue-collar engineers

Engineers are not exempt from the outsourcing pressure, or from the lower pay.

The data show less than 1 percent of Boeing's engineering staff earns $20 an hour or less. At Tyee Aircraft in Everett, by contrast, that's the rate for the majority of its small engineering staff.

"You tend to get inexperienced people and spend a great deal of time in training and teaching," said Jim Mullen, Tyee vice president of engineering and product development. "It's about the only way a little guy like ourselves can compete."

Close to Boeing's final-assembly plant in Everett, Tyee supplies Boeing's Dreamliner with aircraft tie rods — the connecting rods that brace internal bulkheads, hold galleys or airplane lavatories in place, and anchor heavy stowbins so they don't plow forward into the flight deck when a plane brakes upon a heavy landing.

Tyee outsourced to Mexico the production of the basic tie-rod tubes. Its own workers finish and assemble the rods and also do the engineering design work.

During a visit by The Times last spring, Tyee engineer Dan Valleroy showed off on his computer screen the design of a small 787 tie rod capable of holding the weight of a Ford Ranger pickup.

Valleroy, 52, was a blue-collar tool-and-die maker by trade. Three years into his 18 years at Tyee, he transitioned to white-collar engineering work.

He has no engineering degree. He's learned what he knows through in-house training and on-the-job practice. Classes toward a degree in engineering at a local community college have been "on the back burner" for more than a year.

"Boeing tells us what they want, and we design it from there," Valleroy said. "I do some design, then build the actual prototype parts and test them."

His Tyee engineering colleague Jess Washabaugh, 46, was a mechanic for 10 years at Goodrich's Paine Field aircraft-maintenance facility. With a two-year associate's degree in engineering graphics, Washabaugh helped design the machinery Tyee uses to assemble the rods. His pay still isn't as high as when he was a Goodrich mechanic, but "it's getting there," Washabaugh said.

Five of the firm's nine engineering workers earned between $10 and $20 an hour in 2006.

On the plus side, the wage distribution for Tyee's production workers was healthier than at most other local suppliers — a third earn more than $20 an hour.

Hahn Vo, 29, puts together plastic composite tubes and metal end fittings to complete the tie rods Valleroy helped design.

Vo, who has been in the U.S. six years, studied economics at a university in Vietnam. Her sister-in-law, a Tyee supervisor, helped her get hired three years ago.

Sitting at a bench, surrounded by co-workers in Tyee's final assembly room, Vo puts together up to 1,000 tie rods a day.

Over the fence

Machinists union district President Tom Wroblewski points out that when Boeing outsources well-paid union work to suppliers that pay half as much, it's not always going overseas.

"In some cases, Boeing throws our work right over the fence," he said.

In addition to 787 parts, C&D, previously known as Northwest Composites and now a subsidiary of French aerospace conglomerate Zodiac, makes the interiors for Boeing's 767.

"That's work we did," said Wroblewski of the 767 interiors. "It was never our intention, when we worked with the legislators and the governor to give tax incentives, that they'd bring in folks paying these kind of wages."

Wroblewski complains particularly of tax-break-supported companies that fiercely resist his union's attempts to organize their workers.

The Machinists tried and failed to unionize Toray Composites in Tacoma, which supplies the carbon-fiber raw material for the Dreamliner. According to a federal labor filing, Toray spent more than $200,000 in late 2005 on three consultants who led meetings to persuade employees not to join a union.

The 2006 wage data show that 78 percent of Toray's 217 production workers earned $15 an hour or less. Toray declined to comment.

For Wroblewski, the state wage data demonstrates that "it pays to belong to a union."

Yet the very success of the Machinists union in raising its members' wages gives impetus to Boeing's outsourcing.

John Monroe, a former Boeing executive who now works for Snohomish County and the state to bring aerospace jobs to the region, said the shifting of work such as the 767 interiors fabrication to C&D — while "really unfortunate" for the Boeing production workers — is inescapable.

"From the Boeing standpoint, this is goodness," Monroe said. "They still get high-quality parts and they don't pay as much."

"Boeing has to lower its costs. If that means parts made by a nonunion shop, that's just the way it is. You've got to make a profit," he added. "They can't pay you $20 an hour to have you build something that somebody across the street can build for $10 an hour."

Not a career

On a C&D factory tour in February, it was clear that for some workers the aerospace industry is little more than a temporary job.

In one production cell, workers cut holes from the plastic panels. In the next, they cured the panels in small ovens. Successively, they sanded and cleaned the panels, squirted adhesive into screw holes, and glued the edges of the decorative surface ply for a smooth finish.

Two young men in white lab coats who filled and sanded panels didn't seem to view their jobs as first steps in a manufacturing career.

Adabert Aday, 23, born in the Philippines, has worked at C&D more than three years. He works second shift and is designated an in-line inspector.

Each morning before work Aday, muscled like a bodybuilder, works out at the gym and attends classes part-time at Everett Community College, where he studies computer programming.

Aday's workmate Bryce Hagen, 21, had worked at C&D for two years. In April, overwhelmed by the pressure to work a 50-hour week while going to school, Hagen quit to take a part-time job at Costco that allowed more time to study.

"It was a lot of fun" at C&D, Hagen said after he'd left. "Most of the people hired there were younger, my age."

Starting at C&D straight out of high school, how did he learn what he needed to do the work?

"You would just observe other employees work and figure it out for yourself," Hagen said. "Those who couldn't figure it out didn't last."

Nearby, some half-dozen Asian immigrant women finished the interior panels. Manager Spliethof, 44, praised them as ideally suited for the meticulous hand work — "They pay more attention to detail."

C&D's $10-an-hour entry-level starting pay is boosted $1.25 for those working second shift from 3 p.m. to 11:30 p.m., and another dollar for those assigned as "inspectors." Training is "on-the-job," Spliethof said.

Ironically, while C&D certainly benefits from the state's aerospace-tax incentives, its location close to the Dreamliner final assembly site isn't all that relevant.

C&D's 787 parts go to the major global partners in Japan, Kansas and South Carolina — not to Everett.

As Spliethof acknowledges, this work would likely have come to Marysville even if Boeing had decided to build the jet somewhere else — and the 2003 tax breaks had never been passed.

Dominic Gates: 206-464-2963 or dgates@seattletimes.com

Justin Mayo: jmayo@seattletimes.com

"City points to delicate balance as state, federal money dries up; Initiatives and mandates clash with increased costs and public demands"

Increased taxes or increased sales tax revenue? Which do you think the residents of this town prefer? I have never seen a better case laid out for a Pullman Wal-Mart Supercenter than in the article below. Do you think the PARDners will get it? No, I don't either.

Of course, I made this same case two-and-a-half years ago. Wal-Mart will generate somewhere around $1 million a year in sales and property tax revenue.

From yesterday's Moscow-Pullman Daily News:
Former Pullman Mayor Mitch Chandler remembers when his position as city leader was easy. The city was booming with projects and money was in place to fund them.

"In government, it's a lot more fun when there's money to spend," said Chandler.

Chandler and the City Council weren't aware that two controversial state initiatives loomed a few years down the line that would cause a near budgetary catastrophe for the city. Pullman has never quite regained its fiscal balance, and city officials are desperate to increase funding.

Finance Director Troy Woo said the problem is deeper than simply rearranging the budget.

"There isn't a lot of room to be creative," he said. "Each year we've gone through the same types of actions to control our expenditures."

Chandler was elected in 1996 at a time of relative fiscal certainty. The city was recovering well from the 1987 elimination of the General Revenue Sharing - a 14-year federal program that provided $4 billion in unrestricted money to municipalities across the country.

City Supervisor John Sherman points to former President Ronald Reagan's term as an era when states and local governments were expected to begin fending for themselves. In addition to the elimination of GRS, the role of the federal government as a mechanism for local projects was diminished.

As an example, Sherman said in the early '80s the federal Environmental Protection Agency and state Department of Ecology once provided funding for 90 percent of Pullman's wastewater treatment plant costs. The funding was later lowered to 75 percent. Now, it's zero.

"That was a change," Sherman said.

Intergovernmental contributions provided 32 percent of the city's $7.4 million general fund revenue budget in 1991. The $14.1 million 2008 budget was adopted by the City Council earlier this month and includes 9 percent revenue from intergovernmental sources.

The devolution of funds wasn't necessarily a bad thing, Sherman said. The city was able to repair blows to the budget relatively quickly, as the city looked have more local control and to initiate its own taxes to pay for future projects.

"The incentive is that you don't have the choice," Sherman said.

Washington cities were allowed to increase sales tax by one-half a percent to replace lost federal money, and Pullman voters agreed to increase the tax on gas, electricity and telephone bills by 2 percent.

Chandler said during the late 1990s, "the city was running sound. There were no problems."

Enter Initiative-695, which lowered vehicle taxes from 2.2 percent of a vehicle's value to a flat $30 fee. The initiative later was declared unconstitutional, but the Legislature enacted the $30 fee provision during its next session. Woo said Pullman lost approximately $1.3 million in revenue.

Following the passage of I-695, city hiring freeze was instituted and all expenditures had to be approved. The city's public services director, switchboard operator and public communication specialist positions were eliminated in 2002 and remain unfilled.

"That was very hard," Chandler said of the layoffs. "Those are people's livelihoods."

The city hasn't fully bounced back from I-695 and Pullman officials now must look to year-end savings to balance the budget. The creation of the Real Estate Excise Tax has helped fill some of the gaps left by I-695. Pullman, for instance, receives about $102,000 in backfill funding from the state, which is better than nothing but still a dramatic decrease.

"We'll always feel the effects of 695," said current Pullman Mayor Glenn Johnson.

Initiative 747, which limits local governments from increasing property taxes more than 1 percent a year, was another low blow to cities in 2001.

"It was limited to Washington state. It was one more example of funding sources drying up in the state of Washington," Woo said. "This has the potential to be a long-term problem. There's the potential that we're in a continual state of reduction."

Sherman said despite a 1982 comprehensive plan goal to increase Pullman's retail tax base rather than implement taxes, the city went to residents for help.

Woo said since 1999, voters agreed to increase the property tax levy to $3.60 per $1,000 in order to hire three fire and three police employees. Property owners also approved a 50 cent property tax levy to help fund Emergency Medical Services and a 50 cent per $1,000 levy to create the Metropolitan Park District. City fees have increased and a gambling tax was passed. Washington State University students voted to increase fees by $15 to keep Pullman Transit operating, and residents approved a $2 million bond in 2006 to improve city parks and paths.

Sherman said the city is now at its maximum taxing ability without having to go for voter approval.

I-747 is an example of an unfair mandate, he said.

"It would be preferable to not have restriction. Those are the types of strings that really kill us. It's burdensome," he said. "We need additional funding to sustain current operations. Let our City Council as decision makers for our voters determine what is best for the city of Pullman."

Former Mayor Karen Kiessling agreed. She said during her 1976-1980 term, brainstorming sessions and public meetings paved the way for a mix of grants and taxes to pay for needed city projects.

"Pullman is at its best when we can solve our own problems," she said.

Johnson said in the last several years, the city has not increased the burden on Pullman residents beyond the allowable 1 percent yearly property tax increase.

"I understand they don't want to raise taxes, but then in the same breath, they say 'we want these services,' " he said. "We're a council that is trying to keep everything intact and we don't have any another way."

Woo said Pullman provides services for a population of approximately 27,000, though revenue reflects that of a much smaller city. The property tax exempt status of the university and small retail base in Pullman decrease the city's per capita property assessed value at 30 percent of the state average, while sales tax generation is 47 percent of the state average per capita.
Woo said an increased assessed value of more than $50 million to the city due to new construction has helped postpone further financial woes.

Much of the construction has taken place on the WSU campus and includes renovations to Martin Stadium and the Compton Union Building. Many of the projects will be wrapped up by 2008, and Woo has warned the council that when construction projects are complete, the funding stream will be, too.

Until the budget is better under control, the city will still have cutbucks. Spending requests for 2008 that included a handful of new police staff and a parks maintenance worker were denied, and the city pulled more than $800,000 out of reserves to balance the $14.1 million budget.

"We haven't been able to address some very justifiable needs for service," Woo said, adding that increasing cost of living, medical premiums and benefits are inflating the city's expenditures.

Kiessling said the city needs to be more assertive by letting legislators know not enough funding could be disastrous to cities and counties.

"We just don't let the disaster happen. We promise it ... then the climate of the whole governmental function will have to improve. Those who speak louder will get most," she said.

Johnson said federal and state money is available, but mostly through competitive grant programs or low-interest state loans.

"It's not the case that they give you money and say 'this is for the benefit of the public,' " he said.

When grants do come in, Woo tries to keep the money in capital projects, such as the grant used to expand the Pullman Transit maintenance facility.

"That way, if the funding's gone the next year, we don't have to cut operations," Woo said. "The keyword there is 'competitive.' The grants are very limited."

Unfunded mandates also don't help.

Sherman pointed to the stormwater management permits issued by the Washington State Department of Ecology to manage the quality and quantity of runoff from development and to control stormwater discharges into sewer systems statewide. The DOE has provided $75,000 so the city can begin to institute the estimated $4 million, 5-year program.

"If you're going to give us the money, you can put some restrictions on it. But if you aren't giving the money, who are you to tell us what to do?" he said.

Sherman said the city is still driven to achieve the comprehensive plan goal to increase the retail sales tax base. In the 1980s, the Pullman Industrial Park was developed with the Port of Whitman County and Bishop Boulevard was created as an attractant to new commercial businesses. Recently, the city helped the port expand the industrial park, and city officials have hopes that a super Wal-Mart will soon locate on Bishop Boulevard. New retail spaces also have been constructed and await tenants.

"That's the most attractive way of doing it. If you increase taxes, you risk driving away all your residents and businesses. It's a delicate balance," Sherman said.

Woo said he doesn't see the city's financial woes lifting anytime soon without increased taxes or increased sales tax revenue.

"Every year the departments present budgets to the mayor that include various issues that we simply aren't able to fund," he said. "Right now, with revenue and expenditures going in opposite directions, it's kind of a recipe for disaster."
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