Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Quote of the Day

"If it's not Wal-Mart there, it will be something else."
Pullman Public Works Director Mark Workman, as quoted in today's Moscow-Pullman Daily News, when asked if a planned traffic study of Bishop Boulevard was premature. That's right PARDners, even if you drive off Wal-Mart, something else will come in and "threaten the poor school children and grandmas crossing the street" and "block access to the emergency room."

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The Pullman NIMBY Manifesto

WSU Professor Kathryn Meier's Town Crier column in today's Moscow-Pullman Daily News is a Pullman NIMBY Manifesto for the ages.
The Palouse is an incredibly beautiful place. While traveling elsewhere, I have pointed to the ubiquitous Microsoft screensaver with the rolling green hills and said with pride, "That is where I live."

I fear that we may be taking this natural beauty for granted. In the course of discussions about public policy in Whitman County, I cannot recall seeing anything that specifically addresses issues concerning landscape, terrain and green space.

A couple of ongoing construction projects serve to illustrate the point. On Military Hill in Pullman, a development called "Meadow Creek" is being built opposite the high school. The name itself is ironic. In order to create access to the new housing development, a charming little valley has been partially filled in with massive amounts of soil to generate a roadway. The fill has obliterated a large section of the meadow, along with part of the creek (which now flows through a culvert). This is a rather major reworking of the local landscape, but I do not recall seeing any discussion of public hearings in the local press. It is possible the finished project will be gentle on the eye, and it will certainly provide much-needed housing, but I find the apparent lack of discussion about the larger issue disturbing.

Another interesting development is the small retail mall nearing completion along Bishop Boulevard. The building is attractive enough, and the retail space should be a great addition to Pullman. Again, what concerns me is a lack of debate about the location and design of the project. The new building sits along the bank of the river. Trees that had once been planted for public beautification were torn out along the riverfront, although some trees remain. The windowless back of the building faces the river. Aside from flood concerns, which certainly must have been addressed, the building seems to make poor use of a potentially scenic site in order to maximize frontage along Bishop Boulevard. I would have expected such a project to be scrutinized in a public hearing.

I have been saddened to read some recent letters to the Daily News stating landowners should be able to do whatever they want with their property, without any public oversight. Such an attitude seems to fly in the face of the concept of "civilization."

Some cities, such as Houston, have been notorious for laxity of building or zoning codes. This can result in an unfortunate hodgepodge in which liquor stores are situated next to day-care centers (as an example). In a city with geographical features as varied as ours, lack of public oversight can potentially result in significant remodeling of the landscape, or in buildings that disrupt their surroundings. While such developments may temporarily increase tax revenue, it is not in the long-term interest of a community to lose the very features that make it unique.

Since I am not serving as an investigative reporter, I have not scrutinized the local and state regulations that apply to the examples cited above. I can only comment that the level of public input in Pullman is much lower than what I have seen elsewhere. The idea that there can be only one public hearing on land-use issues is foreign to me. In our previous community (on the East Coast), such issues were subject to three hearings before the zoning and land-use board. The first hearing served to get people involved, as the local newspaper would report on the discussion that occurred. For a high-impact issue, more residents would then attend the subsequent meetings, bringing more data to support their viewpoints. Numerous residents were able to speak out at the meetings, and their opinions definitely made a difference. Participants in the meetings were able to hear both sides of the issue, and to see firsthand how consensus and compromise were reached by their officials. In Whitman County, petitions and letters to the editor appear to be a major means of public input, but I do not find them as effective as live public debate. If current policy actually prohibits more than one public hearing on issues that significantly affect our future, then perhaps it is time to change the policy.
I, for one don't live in a "screensaver." In the real world, as opposed to Ms. Meier's academic world, we live in a living, breathing, working community that has needs like affordable family housing, adequate retail, and a thriving tax base to keep the schools open, the fire and police departments staffed, the streets paved, and the water flowing. Wealthy professors like Meier and Jim Krueger move here from somewhere back East and expect Pullman to be like DisneyWorld I guess, beautiful scenery with no visible support or infrastructure so as not to disturb their little corner of paradise.


I can tell you that I drive (and walk) past the proposed Meadow Creek subdivison every day and it was not a "charming valley." It was just a weed-covered depression between two hills as you see in hundreds of thousands of other places on the Palouse. Give me a break.

So Ms. Meier wants her personal aesthetic tastes to trump private property rights, affordable family housing, adequate retail, and a thriving tax base? Washington's regulations are already perfect for Ms. Meier and the NIMBYers. All it takes is a few people to get a burr under their saddle and a developer's project is either cancelled or held up for years. Pullman like Houston? Please. If only we could be as prosperous as a city like Houston, but we never will because of selfish snobs like Meier and the outrageous environmental laws in Washington.

I am going to wrap up by quoting from a Mesquite [NM] Local News editorial I used a while back. It utterly destroys Ms. Meier's arguments and those of her ilk:
It’s ironic that residents of this gated community have started a petition to stop development of a new housing project because of their claim that the construction will “destroy the beautiful mountain ridges, bluffs and natural desert areas adjacent to Copper Bluffs.”

The irony is that they are living in a neighborhood that was only made possible after the land where their houses are now sitting was similarly carved and shaped to accommodate the construction.

It’s become a common cry in Mesquite for people whose homes often sit atop regal perches that were once deemed beautiful landscape features to now rail against the same kind of desecration that might mar their views.

More importantly, it’s un-American to tell a legitimate land-owner that he cannot use his land as he sees fit because it might “mess up somebody’s view.”

As has been pointed out before, you can’t buy a view, even when you’ve paid a half a million dollars for your house.

The only way is to get together with other like-minded neighbors and purchase the land, then apply deed restrictions to keep it pristine and untouched.

But the truth is that most homeowners aren’t willing to “put up or shut up” and tie up their own money to protect their surroundings.

Instead, they insist that their governments use tax dollars paid by all of us to buy the land to preserve their high-dollar views.

Or coerce their government officials to use building permit restrictions and zoning filibusters to accomplish the same goals, shutting out new residents hoping to taste that which has drawn the current homeowners to this desert delight.

Discovering the Network

If you take a look at the faculty page and the graduate student page for the WSU Department of American Studies, an interesting nexus develops between that department and some of the news in Pullman over the last few months. Click on the chart for a larger view.

"Workers speak out against Dole, Wal-Mart"

Now KLEW TV out of Lewiston is getting into the act.

Unlike the Daily News, at least the report mentioned PARD and its fight against a Pullman Wal-Mart and gave Wal-Mart an opportunity for rebuttal.

The only problem is apparently KLEW reporter Molly Blancett didn't actually bother showing up for the "walking tour" because she stated:
Monday night's event was part of what is being called a "Sweatshop Tour" of employees like Fuentes. The tour on the Palouse began Monday afternoon with a walk-through at the Moscow Wal-Mart.
Oops. As you know, that "walk-through" was canceled due to "bad weather."

And Pullman was where Edward R. Murrow went to school?

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Global Warming Hypocrisy Breaking Out All Over

Algore is not the only global warming plastic bananas out there. Add California' Senior US Senator Dianne Feinstein and California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to the list.

While Dianne Feinstein and Arnold Schwarzenegger lecture us and propose greenhouse gas laws that the rest of us are to follow, they fly on private jets. It would take the average American nearly two years to spew as much carbon into the atmosphere as she does during one cross country flight on her husband's private jet.

Plus, those global warming indulgences handed out to Hollywood celebrities during the Academy Awards might cause the recipients more than just embarassment.

Hat tip, the Blogfather.

Update: A carbon trading scheme that little people can use.

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"Hawkins submits four water rights requests"

With no protesting, panel presentations, or lawsuits (yet), the Hawkins Companies development is one step closer to reality.
From yesterday's Moscow-Pullman Daily News:
Development company seeks annual rights to 264 million gallons of water

Boise-based Hawkins Companies has applied to transfer annual rights for 264 million gallons of water to its proposed 700,000-square-foot shopping center in Whitman County, just across the border from Moscow.

The development company recently presented the Whitman County Water Conservancy Board with four proposals to reallocate existing water rights to its proposed 110-acre development on the eastern edge of the Pullman-Moscow corridor.

If approved, the water rights would come from Colton, areas along Union Flat Creek and north of Pullman.

As part of the transfers, Hawkins is requesting the annual rights to 74.5-acre feet, or 23 million gallons, that currently flow in the South Fork of the Palouse River be switched to water the company could extract from its wells.

Comparatively, the city of Moscow used 856 million gallons of water in 2006.

If Hawkins' requests are granted, the 264 million gallons would be righted to the company, but that does not mean the company will use that amount.

The water conservancy board will hear testimony on the water right transfers at 2 p.m. March 7 in the Public Service Building in Colfax. Written testimony will be accepted until March 30.

At the end of the comment period, the water board can either deny the application, ask the Washington State Department of Ecology for technical assistance in evaluating the transfer requests, or approve the request and send its recommendation on to the Department of Ecology.

Guy Gregory, senior hydrologist and technical unit supervisor for Ecology's Eastern Region, said the department has 45 days to review an application once it has a recommendation from the water board.

It can extend that period for an additional 30 days if necessary, and any interested party can make an appeal to the Water Rights Pollutions Control Hearing Board after the Department of Ecology reaches a decision.

Additional appeals can be made to the state's superior court system.

"We all want to be very careful with the Hawkins application," Gregory said. "We want to make sure that the Hawkins changes are made properly and the decision is made properly."

Hawkins received a conditional use permit for its development from the Whitman County Board of Adjustment on Feb. 15.

Jeff Devoe, project coordinator with Hawkins, said at the conditional use permit meeting that the water rights reallocation process was time consuming. The company and its contractors reviewed more than 300 water rights in the area to find rights they believed could be transferred.

Some are skeptical if the water right transfers would represent the actual water in the ground and if the water transfers would comply with Washington's water laws.

Mark Solomon, with the Palouse Water Conservation Network, doesn't see how some of the water rights can transfer.

"From what I have seen, they are proposing transfers that are against Washington law," Solomon said.

Solomon said he's holding off filing a critique of Hawkins' plans until it presents its privately funded findings.

"It's safe to say, even without the technical document, that the Palouse Water Conservation Network will be considering filing a protest," Solomon said. "But until we review the document, I can't say definitively."
Of course Solomon will be filing a protest. It's what people do around here. Washington law allows one person or a small group of people to hold up multi-million dollar projects for years for the most frivilous of reasons. In the meantime, the "protesters" get to pontificate to the local media about what "heroes" they are and everyone breathlessly awaits "their next step" after they inevitably lose.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Shame on the Daily News

It seems I criticized David Johnson of the Tribune too harshly. Hillary Hamm's story on PARD's "sweatshop" presentation on today's Moscow-Pullman Daily News is horrible compared with Johnson's piece. Hamm never mentions PARD as being involved at all. That would have clearly demonstrated a link with the unions that PARD has consistently denied. Nor does she point out the blatant hypocrisy of how Fuentes doesn't want a boycott of Wal-Mart as that would cost jobs, versus PARD, which has circulated a petition calling for a boycott of Wal-Mart as Johnson did. Apparently the issue of PARD's support of Target, which also buys from sweatshops, never came up either. And of course no one defended Wal-Mart. There were no opposing viewpoints being presented. Shame on the Daily News for buying into all this propaganda lock stock and barrel with no fact checking or opportunity for rebuttal.
Wal-Mart supply workers 'press for change'

Groups want retail chain to take responsibility for conditions at foreign companies that produce its goods

Beatriz Fuentes doesn't want consumers to boycott Wal-Mart. If they did, it would mean the cut-flower plantation she works for in Colombia might go out of business, leaving her without a job.

Instead, she wants people to be aware of the conditions she works under, and why Wal-Mart - which purchases 80 percent of her employers' Splendor Flowers products - should be held accountable.

"Wal-Mart only cares about quality and quantity. They don't care about workers," she said through a translator.

Fuentes, 29, described a workplace where pesticides from flowers make workers sick, repetitive tasks cause back problems and carpal tunnel syndrome, and workers are forced to work as much as 20 hours per day.

Owned by Dole, a worldwide supplier of produce and flowers, Splendor Flowers began to lay off workers who could not meet quotas and tried to run out employees who tried to unionize, she said. The company also supplies flowers to the grocery chain Albertson's.

Fuentes is one of three people who are on tour throughout the United States and were brought to Pullman by the International Labor Rights Fund. The Washington, D.C.-based advocacy organization is dedicated to achieving humane treatment for workers worldwide.

About 50 people from the community turned out for the event, held in the Center for Undergraduate Education Building on the Washington State University campus. None of the audience members defended Wal-Mart.

The event was sponsored by the WSU Chicano/Latin Student Center, the Progressive Students Union and the department of comparative ethnic studies.

Trina Tocco, campaign coordinator with ILRF, said the group is trying to bring awareness to American consumers about conditions in supply factories that ignore labor laws and retailers who take advantage of foreign and domestic workers.

"Be assured, Wal-Mart is not the only problem. We focus on Wal-Mart because they are the largest. They are the biggest problem, but they are not the only problem," she said. "You can also do this for Nike or the GAP. Walk in and start asking questions."

Led by Tocco, the group initially planned to give a walking tour through the Moscow Wal-Mart. But they were delayed while driving into town, and the tour was canceled. Wal-Mart employees were waiting for the group outside the store and would not have allowed them to proceed with a tour through the Moscow store.

Tocco said they have been able to conduct the tour in some Wal-Marts when managers were not privy to their presence. They also have been kicked off Wal-Mart property.

Police were on-hand in the Moscow Wal-Mart parking lot Monday.

Kotagarahalli Ramaiah Jayaram, a former garment worker in Banglalore, India, said workers made less than $2 a day and were not provided adequate benefits. Injured workers were not allowed to leave to receive medical treatment and risked public humiliation or being fired. His former employer, Textport Syndicate, also made apparel for the GAP and Nike.

Cynthia Foley, an ex-dairy stock worker for a Wal-Mart in Florida, said she experienced comparative conditions domestically by not making a living wage and facing unjust management practices.

"Wal-Mart hires you under the impression that you'll have ... a good-paying job," she said.

Foley was fired after she tried to alert managers to a co-worker who continually sexually harassed her.

"They were trying to keep me quiet," she said. "I'm still trying to fight them."

Jayaram, now an organizer for the Garment and Textile Workers' Union, said workers deserve safe and fair conditions.

"Workers want a reasonable product quota. Workers want a living wage," he said.

Mahlon Kriebel, of Garfield, empathized with the panel, but said United States-based groups such as ILRF are not going to enforce change.

"Don't look to Americans for change," he said. "We're living in a capitalistic state."

Instead, Kriebel believes global unions should be formed to create more strength in numbers.

"Big companies are global. The unions aren't global," he said, adding he had no suggestions as to how global unions would be formed.

Christina Vala disagreed.

The Pullman resident was openly moved by the panel's first-hand accounts and said everyone, regardless of country or political affiliation, needs to rally for change.

"We need to hear these stories," she said. "It's time that we care. This is ridiculous. We can't just sit back and say, 'We're in a capitalistic society.' We can't just sit back and say, 'Oh, well.' "

Tocco said consumers everywhere need to be aware of where their products come from. She suggests communicating concerns with both companies and legislators, buying "ethically produced goods" and financially supporting causes such as ILRF.

"We're part of this because we put on a shirt each morning," she said.

Fuentes is optimistic. She and her co-workers have pushed for improved working conditions such as gender equality and overtime pay, though progress is slow.

"We need the strength to press for change," she said.
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Al Gore's Hypocrisy Nothing New

It's worth recalling Al Gore's 1996 Democratic National Convention speech when he claimed that he converted from tobacco grower to anti-tobacco activist.

The fact is that Al Gore continued to grow tobacco and courted the tobacco farmers' support during the 1988 presidential primaries, long after his sister had died.

In the 1988 campaign, Gore bragged of his tobacco background: “I want you to know that with my own hands, all of my life, I put [tobacco] in the plant beds and transferred it. I’ve hoed it, I’ve dug in it, I’ve sprayed it, I’ve chopped it, I’ve shredded it, spiked it, put it in the barn, and stripped it and sold it” (Newsday, 2-26-88).

Here's another source of Al Gore's habitual Barbra Streisand.

Of course, it could be the company he keeps.

"Wal-Mart protest stalls out"

Poor PARDners. You could almost feel sorry for them if they weren't such arrogant, elitist jerks. From today's Lewiston Tribune:
A scheduled protest at the Wal-Mart store here failed to materialize Monday after members of a "sweatshop tour" were delayed in travel, an organizer said.

But a man from India who makes pants, and a Colombian woman who cuts flowers for a supplier to Wal-Mart said later they're touring America to expose how Wal-Mart's low prices come at high human cost.

Members of the media had been alerted last week a "walking press conference" tour of the Moscow store would underscore "horrendous working conditions" experienced by employees of Wal-Mart's overseas suppliers.

The demonstration, in conjunction with a panel discussion Monday night, were sponsored by the Pullman Alliance for Responsible Development (PARD) and three Washington State University groups.

The two workers, Beatriz Fuentes, of Colombia, and Kotagarahalli Ramaiah Jayaram, of India, were ready to escort the media through the Moscow Wal-Mart and identify products made under "unacceptable pay and working conditions," according to a PARD news release.

But Jennifer Holder, public affairs manager for Wal-Mart in Seattle, said employees at the Moscow store had been told to not let the tour take place. She said Wal-Mart and PARD are currently locked in a legal dispute over the proposed construction of a super center in Pullman.

"We are in litigation and it would be inappropriate to comment," Holder said. She said no one had alerted Wal-Mart to the planned tour. Members of the media had been asked to meet at 2 p.m. outside the Moscow Wal-Mart.

Contacted about 30 minutes later, PARD spokesman T.V. Reed of Pullman apologized for the delay and said there might be an attempt to reschedule. He said Fuentes and Jayaram were driving and had apparently been delayed by bad weather. The two have been part of a "Wal-Mart Workers Speaking Tour" throughout Washington and Oregon. The tour was organized by the International Labor Rights Fund.

The scheduled panel discussion was sponsored by the Chicana/o Latino/a Student Center, the Progressive Student Union and the Comparative Ethnic Studies Department at WSU.

"The workers have traveled here to hold Wal-Mart publicly accountable for the human rights violations its policies encourage and abet in its supply chain and retail stores," said a statement on PARD's Web site.

Holder said the store is private property and has a right to prohibit demonstrations, especially since PARD is locked in a legal dispute with Wal-Mart. Told about Wal-Mart's stance, Fuentes and Jayaram decided to be interviewed off the store's property.

Trina Tacco, spokeswoman for the Labor Rights Fund, said her organization and worker representatives have successfully conducted walking tours at other Wal-Mart stores throughout the country.

Fuentes said the plantation where she works is closing after she and others organized a union to improve wages and benefits. She said, through an interpreter, that Wal-Mart refused to purchase flowers for prices that would support increased worker wages. She said the plantation used to employ 1,600 workers, but now has 150. A complete closure was announced recently.

Jayaram said he's part of a 32-member team that makes pants at a garment factory in India. He and the others get paid $2 a day each. They can produce about 600 pairs of pants in an 8- to 10-hour day, he said. He carried a pair of similar pants with him on the tour. The Wal-Mart price, according to a store label, was $12.75.

Rather than encourage a boycott of Wal-Mart, Jayaram said he wanted to encourage Americans to pressure the company to charge more so that everyone, including the workers who make the garments, can make more money.

PARD, on the other hand, continues to encourage a boycott of a Wal-Mart Supercenter, if it's built in Pullman.

Reed said he and other PARD members have collected more than 10,000 signatures from people supporting a boycott. He said 6,500 of the signatures came from Pullman residents. PARD has appealed a court decision that would allow construction of a super center.

Wal-Mart, meanwhile, announced last year that it had abandoned, at least temporarily, plans to build a super center in Moscow.

However, as funny as this story is, it begs several questions:

Why does the Tribune, and reporter David Johnson in particular, lavish so much coverage on PARD? Why cover an event that didn't happen?

If PARD couldn't get into Wal-Mart, why not go to ShopKo? ShopKo has plenty of "sweatshop" made goods. Just look at some of the clothing labels next time you go in the store.

I'm very disappointed that this didn't go off. I hope it is rescheuduled (although forewarned is forearmed now for Wal-Mart). The people of Pullman need to see the ugly, radical truth behind PARD.

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Sweatin' to the Lefties

Here are some facts about "sweatshops" I guarantee were not discussed at last night's PARD panel discussion.

Dr. Pranab Bardhan, an economics professor at the University of California, Berkeley, wrote in the April 2006 edition of Scientific American:
Global market competition in general rewards people with initiative, skills, information and entrepreneurship in all countries. Poor people everywhere are handicapped by their lack of access to capital and opportunities to learn new skills. Workers in some developing countries--say, Mexico--are losing their jobs in labor-intensive manufacturing to their counterparts in Asia. At the same time, foreign investment has also brought new jobs. Overall, the effect appears to be a net improvement. In Mexico, low-wage poverty is declining in the regions that are more involved in the international economy than others--even controlling for the fact that skilled and enterprising people migrate to those regions, improving incomes there independently of what globalization accomplishes. A recent study by Gordon H. Hanson of the University of California, San Diego, which took into account only people born in a particular region (thus leaving out migrants), found that during the 1990s average incomes in the Mexican states most affected by globalization increased 10 percent more than those least affected.

In poor Asian economies, such as Bangladesh, Vietnam and Cambodia, large numbers of women now have work in garment export factories. Their wages are low by world standards but much higher than they would earn in alternative occupations. Advocates who worry about exploitative sweatshops have to appreciate the relative improvement in these women's conditions and status. An Oxfam report in 2002 quoted Rahana Chaudhuri, a 23-year-old mother working in the garment industry in Bangladesh:

This job is hard--and we are not treated fairly. The managers do not respect us women. But life is much harder for those working outside. Back in my village, I would have less money. Outside of the factories, people selling things in the street or carrying bricks on building sites earn less than we do. There are few other options. Of course, I want better conditions. But for me this job means that my children will have enough to eat and that their lives can improve.

In 2001 Naila Kabeer of the University of Sussex in England and Simeen Mahmud of the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies did a survey of 1,322 women workers in Dhaka. They discovered that the average monthly income of workers in garment-export factories was 86 percent above that of other wage workers living in the same slum neighborhoods.

Another indication of this relative improvement can be gauged by what happens when such opportunities disappear. In 1993, anticipating a U.S. ban on imports of products made using child labor, the garment industry in Bangladesh dismissed an estimated 50,000 children. UNICEF and local aid groups investigated what happened to them. About 10,000 children went back to school, but the rest ended up in much inferior occupations, including stone breaking and child prostitution. That does not excuse the appalling working conditions in the sweatshops, let alone the cases of forced or unsafe labor, but advocates must recognize the severely limited existing opportunities for the poor and the possible unintended consequences of "fair trade" policies.
Dr. Richard Vedder, distinguished professor of Economics at Ohio University writes in his new book, The Wal-Mart Revolution:
Generally, critics claim that companies in the developed world purchase goods in developing nations from firms that engage in sub-standard labor practices. For example, there are claims of exploitation of labor and of women, who are forced to work in "sweatshops." The critics allege that these manufacturing activities increase income inequality, both within the producing nations and in comparison with more developed nations. Moreover, they claim that the factories that produce goods for the big-box stores drive down wages in their home countries. In sum, it is often heard that the developing-world companies, including big-box retailers, are participating in a global "rqce to the bottom," through their international purchasing practices.

This grossly inaccurate characterization of employees in low-cost countries as being paid "slave wages" and forced to work long hours is an exaggerated and emotionally loaded use of very serious terms denoting a labor condition - slavery - which the world has worked hard to eliminate.

Forced labor is illegal in virtually all nations of thr world. The employees who work at low-cost manufacturing plants in China, Indonesia, India and elsewhere are not forced to work there. They have freely taken their jobs, principally because they are the best on offer. The alternative for such is not a better-paying job. It is, rather a job that pays less or no job at all. Thus, manufacturing employees in China, Indonesia, India and elsewhere are better off for being employeed by contractors to General Motors, Carrefour, Wal-Mart, IKEA, and the like. If they were not, they would not work in the factories. It would, of course, be preferable for them to work in the safer, cleaner, and more comfortable environments typical of American or Western European factories. However, forcing such standards on weak economies would destroy the very jobs that provide the best present hope for economic advancement, simply because productivity levels are so low there.

The American "sweatshops" of the early nineteenth century created much capital formation, much innovation, and much wealth that helped propel America through its Industrial Revolution and beyond. Later on, wages got relatively high in New England, and the industry migrated to the American South, and then to Japan, then to Southeast Asia, and now to South Asia - as history repeats itself and the so-called sweatshops are incubators of prosperity.
So why all the brouhaha? Robert W. Tracinski cut right to the chase in a September 6, 2003 article in Capitalism Magazine:
Well-off American college students and $25 per hour union workers have banded together in a growing movement for what they describe as a "progressive" cause and a battle against "exploitation." Their goal: to take away economic opportunities from desperately poor people in the Third World.

This is the vicious contradiction behind the recent campaign against so-called "sweatshops": The "progressives" scream loudly about "workers' rights" -- but their actual goal is to deprive poor people in the Third World of their right to work.

The first mark of a dishonest campaign is a refusal to define its terms. Campus activists use the term "sweatshop" as a catchphrase to rouse the hearer's emotions, but not to convey information. And to the extent they do explain the term, notice that they package together real, concrete violations of individual rights -- such as forced labor -- with such minor charges as not providing enough bathrooms for workers.

And that brings us to the second mark of a dishonest campaign: the refusal to mention facts that don't fit one's prejudice.

Why all the outrage, then, from the "progressives"? The anti-"sweatshop" campaign is driven, not by concern for Third World workers, but by hatred for American corporations. The activists' real complaint is that Third World factories are run for the purpose of making profits and not as a form of foreign aid. Wages, in their view, should not be set by the free market or by the requirements of investors and business owners. Instead, wages should be a kind of subsidy paid by American corporations as a welfare payment to the Third World.

The activists' campaign is driven by the dogma that anything motivated by self-interest is inherently evil -- no matter what the actual facts. In service to this dogma, any benefits gained by workers from industrialization and "global capitalism" must be ignored, rejected, and eventually outlawed -- even if it means more poverty for those whom the "progressives" allegedly want to protect. This scam should be unmasked and this anti-capitalist dogma rejected. It should be done in the name of American corporations, who have a right to profit from inexpensive goods freely produced in the Third World. And it should be done in the name of the workers in these factories, who have a right to improve their lives by seizing the economic opportunities offered to them.
Well-off American college students and $25 per hour union workers? You be the judge.

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Meanwhile, "W" Lives Green

While Al Gore talks the talk, President Bush walks the walk.

Check out the date on this article April 29, 2001.

Geothermal heat pumps located in a central closet circulate water through pipes buried 300 feet deep in the ground where the temperature is a constant 67 degrees; the water heats the house in the winter and cools it in the summer. Systems such as the one in this "eco-friendly" dwelling use about 25% of the electricity that traditional heating and cooling systems utilize.

A 25,000-gallon underground cistern collects rainwater gathered from roof runs; wastewater from sinks, toilets and showers goes into underground purifying tanks and is also funneled into the cistern. The water from the cistern is used to irrigate the landscaping surrounding the four-bedroom home. Plants and flowers native to the high prairie area blend the structure into the surrounding ecosystem.

No, this is not the home of some eccentrically wealthy eco-freak trying to shame his fellow citizens into following the pristineness of his self-righteous example. And no, it is not the wilderness retreat of the Sierra Club or the Natural Resources Defense Council, a haven where tree-huggers plot political strategy.

This is President George W. Bush's "Texas White House" outside the small town of Crawford.

For 6 years now, the press has known that Al Gore is a hypocrite while George W. Bush actually lives closer to the lifestyle Gore advocates that does Gore or any of his Hollywood buds.

Monday, February 26, 2007

An Inconvenient Truth

The day after winning an Oscar for his environmental Chicken Little story, the truth about Al Gore's own lifestyle comes out.

The average household in America consumes 10,656 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year, according to the Department of Energy. In 2006, Gore devoured nearly 221,000 kWh—more than 20 times the national average.

Last August alone, Gore burned through 22,619 kWh—guzzling more than twice the electricity in one month than an average American family uses in an entire year. As a result of his energy consumption, Gore’s average monthly electric bill topped $1,359.

Since the release of An Inconvenient Truth, Gore’s energy consumption has increased from an average of 16,200 kWh per month in 2005, to 18,400 kWh per month in 2006.

Gore’s extravagant energy use does not stop at his electric bill. Natural gas bills for Gore’s mansion and guest house averaged $1,080 per month last year.

“As the spokesman of choice for the global warming movement, Al Gore has to be willing to walk the walk, not just talk the talk, when it comes to home energy use,” said Tennessee Center for Policy Research President Drew Johnson.

In total, Gore paid nearly $30,000 in combined electricity and natural gas bills for his Nashville estate in 2006.

And, that's for only one of Al Gore's three mansions.

PARD Media Circus Alert

Palousitics has learned that PARD plans to have a "press conference" at the Moscow Wal-Mart this afternoon. No doubt this is a PR stunt related to the "sweatshop" panel dicussion scheduled for tonight.

I say "planned" because obviously Wal-Mart will not allow such a press conference to be held on its property. I'm sure PARD is hoping the police will be called and then provoke a confrontation in front of reporters.

I urge the local media not to give in to this shameless media whoring by PARD. It shows how truly desperate for coverage and relevance they have become. This is all about land use laws and changing zoning procedures and the comprehensive plan, right PARDners? Everyone on the Palouse will now get a chance to see the "red roots" underneath the "grassroots." This will be great!

If you have the time, you might drop by the Wal-Mart this afternoon (I don't know the time yet) and hold PARD accountable for how they can support Target while Target also utilizes "sweatshops."

Just so we're clear on who's responsible for the "Wal-Mart Speaking Tour in Oregon and Washington Feb 19-28," it's the International Labor Rights Fund, funded by the AFL-CIO and in league with all of Wal-Mart's enemies including Wal-Mart Watch, Wake Up Wal-Mart and ACORN. Remember, "no one opposing Wal-Mart here in Pullman is funded by, or to my knowledge even a member of, a union."

Speaking of the rotten ACORN, when we last heard from them, they were submitting fradulent voter registrations in King County and not paying their employees "living wages." Now, an ACORN member is speaking about how "evil" Wal-Mart is at WSU tonight:
From the United States, Cynthia Foley is an ex-Wal-Mart dairy stock overnight worker. Cynthia was employed by Wal-Mart for 1 year in Apopca, FL. Cynthia experienced sexual harassment and even inappropriate touching by a fellow co-worker and she tried to get management to reprimand her co-worker. Instead management called Cynthia into their office on April 10, 2005 and said she no longer had a job. Cynthia is an active member of Florida ACORN with one daughter and two grandchildren.
Stay tuned for details.

UDPATE: I guess the protest was supposed to happen at 2 PM. The Moscow Police Department was called in advance to ensure that there would be no trespassing. I don't know anything else at this time.

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President Lincoln Day Dinner

God Bless America.

Passing Grade?

At the same time, news arrives that a store that makes much more sense for Pullman, Target, has plans to build here. A Target, if of modest size and located away from Bishop Boulevard, will cause far less disruption and will actually accomplish the stated goal of super-center backers to bring people in from Moscow and even Lewiston.
- PARD Member TV Reed, Moscow-Pullman Daily News, November 2, 2005
I also have been asked the question, “If Target was planning to build in Pullman would there be the same opposition?” The answer is no. I think Pullman would welcome Target with open arms.
- PARD Member Leilani Alamillo, Moscow-Pullman Daily News, January 11, 2006

- Co-Op America's Retailer Scorecard on Human Rights
For example, Wal-Mart's most direct competitor-Target Corporation-escapes any scrutiny for paying similarly poor wages, extracting public subsidies, weakening downtowns, and selling clothes from Chinese sweatshops.

Suppose the campaigns against Wal-Mart succeed in diverting customers to Target or Kmart. Or perhaps they win a few labor concessions from Wal-Mart that help smooth the way for the corporation's continued dominance and evisceration of community-based businesses. Would that be a victory?
- Jeff Milchen, Reclaim Democracy

See more here about Target using sweatshops in Jordan, Guatemala, China, Saipan, American Samoa, and El Salvador.

Gosh, I wish that back when I was in college my professors would have considered D+ a passing grade.

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Sunday, February 25, 2007

Monday Feb 26th The PES

On The PES (90.7FM or the net www.kzuu.org) from noon to two o'clock PM, Monday, Feb 26th we will be talking about the recent taser incidents in Pullman and expand into a more broad range discussion of tasers in the use of force. I would love to hear from people and get an idea of how people view tasers. I would love to also hear if the information that is presented in the show clears things up or changes peoples' minds on tasers.

Brandon Koe is an eye witness to the taser incident and will give us an account that has not been reported.

Also I hope to hear from Tom about this evenings Dinner. I sure that was a great success! [Or perhaps from someone else who attended, as I was not able to make it (see prior post) - tf]

Give me a call on the show and lets talk tasers and the use of force, the studio line is 509.335.2207.

WCRP Lincoln Day Dinner

A good time was had by all, and thanks are due to everyone who made it all happen.

It was good to take an afternoon and break with my usual routine to sit down to a great meal with great people. It was also good to hear directly from our elected representatives in various levels of state and national government as to how they continue to defend our individual rights and prosperity. And, as always, it was good to have some more conversation with our College Republicans, who represent the only real hope WSU has left of turning out productive citizens.

But there seemed to be something missing this afternoon: TOM! Where were you, buddy? We all missed you there today!

Sprawl: The Real Smart Growth

Very interesting story on the front page of today's Seattle Times on Washington's top 5 hot spots for jobs. Guess who's #1?

For years, the Vancouver area has been dismissed as hip, eco-urban Portland's dowdy sibling — the repository for all the development that couldn't be contained within Portland's tight urban-growth boundary. Local officials have sought to turn that distinction to the county's advantage.

"Clark County is still filling up, and there's lots of developable land," said Scott Bailey, the state Employment Security Department's regional labor economist for Southwest Washington. "The land-use plans have continually allowed for as much residential development as we could take. It's been 'Come on in, homebuilders.' "

Now, Bailey said, the county's population has grown enough that it can support a level of retail and services that once could only be found across the Interstate Bridge — though Oregon's siren call of tax-free shopping continues to beckon.

People who bought into the stacks of newly built homes across from Legacy Salmon Creek, for instance, can now shop at a new Best Buy store a few miles down Interstate 5. (Clark County has added 2,400 retail jobs during the current boom.)

"Now we're getting all the stores Portland has, only ours are all brand-new," said Gretchen Amacher, manager of Legacy's Family Birth Center.

One industry that helped fuel growth in the late 1990s, semiconductor manufacturing, isn't much of a factor this time around. Chipmakers shrank or closed several of the newly built plants during the recession. Employment in computer and electronics manufacturing shrank from 5,300 at the end of 2000 to 3,000 at the depth of the recession, and the sector has added just 500 jobs since then.
That's right, Vancouver has taken all the "sprawl" that snooty Portlanders turned their nose up at. (including three Wal-Mart Supercenters) and is now thriving. Remember which WSU campus is actually GROWING in enrollment? There's a lesson in there for Pullman, Whitman County and anyone who advocates "smart growth.".

Do the Unions' Dirty Work

Speaking of Michael Costello, here is his column from the Tribune yesterday. I changed the title to what Michael chose, as the Tribune's version is not nearly as good.
I have heard it said that I don’t have much nice to say about Democrats. Well, I have this to say about Washington’s Democrats. At least no one in the legislature has yet introduced a bill banning the deployment of space-based mind control weapons, as U.S. Congressman (D-Ohio) and former presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich did. Nevertheless, the Democrats have felt sufficiently invigorated by the majority they won last November to embark upon an unmistakably Democratic course. And, in this state, that means handing their puppet strings to the unions.

Only about 1 of every 8 wage and salaried workers in this country belongs to a union. The only union sector that is still growing is the public employees sector, where the rate of union membership is about 37%. More and more, private sector employees are choosing to remain non-union and non-unionize industries tend to perform better than unionized and so grow faster. But when people exercising their freedom of choice fail to choose as the union goons believe they should, the unions yank on their puppets’ strings and invoke the coercive power of government.

Governor Gregoire knows full well that she owes her current job to the unions, and in particular to the teachers’ union. Had the unions not repaid her for subverting a Washington state initiative that forbade unions from using union dues for partisan political purposes, then she would just be another out-of-work ex-attorney general. I can just imagine her standing on street corner somewhere holding up a hand lettered cardboard sign reading: “Will undermine the will of the people for food.” But, it didn’t turn out that way.

Her contribution to union goonery, was rewarded with the governorship. To gain that assistance, she used her previous office to eviscerate Initiative 134, a law that was passed by 72% of the voters in 1992. This law prevented unions from using union dues for politics. The teachers’ union persisted in supporting Democrats with union dues and was sued by the Evergreen Freedom Foundation. Christine Gregoire and the Public Disclosure Commission formulated rules that allowed the unions to take and spend its members’ money as long as it was passed through some sort of intermediary account before being deposited in her and her party’s campaign coffers.

This did not end the legal wrangling and the case of dissenting teachers is now before the United States Supreme Court. The unions and the Democrats are not optimistic about their prospects and are now pushing a preemptive law that would erode the final workers’ protections granted by the voters 15 years ago. So, even if the court restores a bit of financial liberty to Washington’s union members, the legislature is preemptively planning to take it away.

And, the unions are also directing their marionettes to regulate non-union shops into oblivion. And, of companies whose employees elect to remain non-union, Wal-Mart predictably stands as the biggest and juiciest target. The unions have selected about 30 states, including Washington, for their scheme to force large employers to purchase health care insurance for their employees. Washington’s law is modeled after a similar one, which was recently struck down by the courts in Maryland. The law would force large employers to spend an additional 9% of their payroll purchasing health insurance. And if they don’t, they have to give the difference to the state government.

Contrary to the popular wisdom, Wal-Mart does offer its employees health insurance. Wal-Mart’s sin is that its insurance plan is voluntary. Employees may purchase low cost health insurance through the company and/or deposit money, with Wal-Mart matching the contribution, into a medical saving account. That’s actually a pretty good deal. Most of Wal-Mart’s employees are young and their jobs are entry level. For people in this demographic, health insurance may not be a good gamble. Most people within that age group do not require as much medical care as health insurance costs. Their choice not to purchase health insurance can actually be defended as economically sound.

But unions, and by extension, Democrats, do not wish to grant Wal-Mart employees this freedom. Their plan is to make health insurance mandatory. The result will inevitably be less take-home pay for Wal-Mart employees, fewer employees and higher prices for everyone else.

Space based mind control maybe be out. But centrally planned economic control is definitely in.
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Saturday, February 24, 2007

Important Announcement

I'm extremely excited to announce that long-time Lewiston Tribune weekly opinion columnist Michael Costello has joined Palousitics as a contributor. Michael lives in Pullman and is a Research Technician at WSU.

I am a big fan of Michael's. He destroys pompous liberals effortlessly with his superb stinging prose. And I can't think of any other writer, local or national, with whom I agree so often.

Michael frequently writes on Pullman and Washington issues. He also has very strong opinions on the War on Terror. Hopefully, being on Palousitics will give his writing the exposure on the Palouse it deserves.

Let's all welcome Michael!

1 Picture, 1000 Words

An Iraqi boy rests on the arm of U.S. Army Cpl. James Reinhardt outside an Iraqi police department in Baghdad, Iraq, on March 12, 2006. Reinhardt and other soldiers of the 519th Military Police Battalion are delivering police uniforms and other police gear to Iraqi police at the station. DoD photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Bart A. Bauer, U.S. Navy.

Friday, February 23, 2007

PARD and Your Tax Dollars At Work

The Pullman Alliance for Responsible Development continues to use taxpayer funded facilities for its own private campaign against Wal-Mart.

Below is an e-mail from PARD.
From: PARD Webmaster:
To: pawsmeet@pullman-ard.org:
Sent: Friday, February 23, 2007 4:25 PM
Subject: [PARD - PAWS Campaign] Wal-Mart Sweatshop Workers Panel Presentation


Workers from Colombia, India and US to Confront Giant Retailer

WHERE: Washington State University, CUE 203

WHEN: Monday, February 26th at 7:30 PM

Two workers from Wal-Mart supplier sweatshops and farms abroad will hold speaking at WSU expose the abuses they experience in making products for Wal-Mart’s stores. One worker from a Florida Wal-Mart retail store will also speak of abuses to US workers.

The workers have traveled here to hold Wal-Mart publicly accountable for the human rights violations its policies encourage and abet in its supply chain and retail stores

Beatriz Fuentes from Colombia produces cut flowers for Dole and Wal-Mart at Splendor Flowers.

Kotagarahalli Ramaiah Jayaram from India worked in garment factories supplying Wal-Mart & other stores from age 18.

If you are not familiar with the WSU campus, the campus map is available online at: http://www.campusmap.wsu.edu/campus-map/FULL/quadrant-14.html
Fuentes and Jayaram have been touring the country touting their anti-Wal-Mart message, no doubt paid for by labor unions fighting Wal-Mart. Someone from PARD should ask if those "other stores" include Target in their "sweatshops" as well.

PARD has every right to trash Wal-Mart 365/24/7, but not on our dime, in buildings we paid for. You can't use state facilities for political purposes. Why is this any different? If PARD wants to have a "panel" on "sweatshops," then present both sides of the issue and allow debate. This is not education, it's pure propaganda. Will WSU allow for a rebuttal panel? Sure, right about the time I get my third set of teeth.

Write WSU Provost Robert Bates and let him know you don't appreciate taxpayer funded WSU facilities being used in this manner.

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Mixed (Up) Nuts

You may remember the union-backed radical group ACORN (appropriate name for a bunch of left-wing nuts) from the "living wage" ordinance for retailers over 90,000 square feet they pressured the Chicago City Council into passing last summer in an effort to keep Wal-Mart out of the city. Mayor Richard Daley ultimately vetoed the ordinance.

A story in today's Seattle Times provides a bit of rich irony.

Hundreds of voter-registration cards submitted as part of a drive to sign up low-income and minority voters may have been forged by paid canvassers, a King County election official said Thursday.

Problems were found with many of the 1,829 forms within a day after they were received from ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, whose canvassers have been under investigation in some other states for possible registration fraud.
That's bad enough, and shows what kind of organization ACORN is. But that's not the best part.
ACORN's Whelan said at least two paid canvassers in King and Pierce counties were fired last fall because of "quality-control concerns," but he said he had no other details about the firings.

If any registration cards were forged, he said, it would likely have been done by temporary workers "trying to pad their hours."

Most of the registration drive was conducted by 43 paid canvassers, who initially earned $8 an hour but were given a raise to $9 when ACORN needed more workers. Initials on the King County registration forms indicate they were collected by six canvassers, Egan said.
Let me get this straight then. Do we have voter fraud going on because ACORN hypocritically doesn't pay ITS workers a LIVING WAGE????? The Employment Policies Institute concludes:
ACORN may be the single most hypocritical employer in America...ACORN’s history is one of attempting to deny its employees the “living wage” it would mandate for others, seeking legal exemption from paying its employees the minimum wage increases it advocates for other businesses, being forced by the government to pay its employees overtime, completely missing wage payments to its employees, forcing its employees to operate in unsafe work environments, and busting unionization attempts of employees trying to address the preceding faults.
Or do we have voter fraud going on because ACORN is a corrupt extremist left-wing organization that will do anything to get ahead? I suspect its both.

I say it's time for the nuts to be hoisted on their own petard and roasted slowly.

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Presidential Straw Poll Update

In the Palousitics Presidential Straw Poll, Rudy Giuliani leads John McCain 37% to 23%.

This tracks very closely with a USA Today poll of Republican voters conducted February 9-11 which shows Giuliani leading McCain 40% to 24%.

If you haven't voted yet, please take a moment to do so.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

College Republicans Are At It Again!!!

No, not THEM. I heard this reported on "The Glenn Beck Program" on the radio this morning.
'Find the Illegal Immigrant'
College Republicans' event today incites protest from student groups

A contest called "Find the Illegal Immigrant" - a mock hunt for a student posing as just that - is being met with widespread protest on campus and receiving local and national media coverage.

The event, sponsored by NYU's College Republicans, is planned for today in Washington Square Park from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The student posing as the illegal immigrant will wear a name tag saying so. Other students will try to find him or her, playing the part of border patrol agents and wearing nametags that say "INS," referring to the former Immigration and Naturalization Service.
The contest's premise has caused an uproar on campus. Student groups - including the ACLU at NYU, the College Democrats and several multicultural clubs - have organized a protest that they expect will draw hundreds of students.
Also predictably, the student newspaper trashes the CRs
The Republicans have an inflated sense of their own marginalization on our campus. Yes, we recognize that most students here are liberals, as are a majority of professors. But that is something different from the liberal tyranny College Republicans think goes on here. It rarely does, yet the College Republicans overcompensate for this imagined oppression by staging excessively bombastic events.
It's so easy to be critical when you are in the majority. These liberals are so blase'. Where are the radicals of the Sixties fighting to stir up the system? "Publicity stunt?" Isn't that what politics is all about? How else would Republicans get out their views? Student newspapers packed by liberals? A seminar that no one would attend? It's guerilla marketing, and it works. The lefties are just jealous because when you are in the majority on campus, you don't get big media coverage for mouthing PC platitudes.

That's right, as happened here, but only on a much larger level as it is New York City, the media capital of the world
In light of the event, TV vans and national news stations swarmed onto NYU's campus yesterday. Many local stations reported live in front of the Kimmel Center, while the story made headlines nationwide, including coverage on CNN, Fox News, NPR and talk radio.
Even the repellent Chuckie Schumer is getting involved
In an appearance yesterday at NYU, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer condemned NYU's College Republicans for planning to stage "Find the Illegal Immigrant," a controversial demonstration set to happen today.

"What I really find obnoxious - and that's how I'd describe what the College Republicans are doing - is it dehumanizes [illegal immigrants],"
The President of the NYU Colege Democrats states
"We're hoping for a peaceful protest that displays our disgust with the event," Toiv said. "If we come out looking crazier than the Republicans do, then we will have failed. But if the protest can go off peacefully, it will be a victory for us."
Good luck with that. The moonbats like Mssrs. Leonard and StreamasALWAYS look crazier. That's why the libs always fail and that's why these events are such fun to do and quite illuminatring for the rest of the country. The left just doesn't understand how regular Americans feel about illegal immigration.

Glenn Beck put it beautifully this morning. No one's saying to the immigrants don't come. We need you. But it's like a store. Don't come in the middle of the night through the side window. Come through the front door during business hours. If you come through the side window often enough, even if you leave money on the counter for the things you take, eventually someone will rob the store blind. That's why the owners have to put bars on the side window.

"Boost in property values means higher taxes"

From today's Moscow-Pullman Daily News:
Recent assessments increase property values by about 20 percent

Some people may welcome increased property values, but Pullman resident Lee Staba isn't one of them.

"It's a concern," she said. "It's hard to escape."

Staba is in her 60s and worries each time her house increases in value. The value of her Darrow Street home has more than doubled from the $30,000 she and her husband paid for it 30 years ago.

She knows that increased property values often translates to increased property taxes.

"It has a big impact on our budget. You have to find the money to pay for it, or you lose your house," she said.

Staba and other Pullman property owners will receive their property tax bills in the mail by the end of the month. Recently assessed Pullman properties have increased in value by 20 percent. The increase is reflected as a 20-percent boost to Pullman's assessed value and new construction accounts for an additional 3.5 percent.

The average Pullman home, valued at $175,000 in 2005, is now worth an estimated $210,000.

Whitman County Assessor Joe Reynolds said properties are evaluated for assessment every two years. In 2005, the county primarily assessed rural farmland, then focused on Pullman in 2006.

The market dictates property values.

"They're selling for more. It's all set by the public - they set the market," Reynolds said. "Anytime you raise prices, you raise taxes. That's a gimme."

Property value increases of about 20 percent are relatively low, Reynolds said, noting that values increased by more than 30 percent from a regional standpoint. For instance, property values in Spokane spiked nearly 40 percent in 2006.

City Finance Director Troy Woo said a positive that comes with increased property values is a decreased levy. Levies, or tax rates, are calculated by dividing a municipality's assessed value by general property tax revenue. In Pullman, a roughly $1 billion assessed value is divided by a tax revenue of $3.2 million to total a levy rate of nearly $3.04 per $1,000 of assessed value. In 2006, the levy rate was $3.58 per $1,000.

The Pullman City Council voted to increase property tax receipts by 1 percent - the maximum allowed by law - to account for inflation, Woo said. Additional property tax receipts are estimated for new construction.

Because 2006 was a re-evaluation year, the city now accounts for more of the county's assessed value. The city's assessed value increased by 4 percent and now accounts for 46.4 percent of the county's assessed value.

"That means we have a bigger share of the tax burden," he said of Pullman, noting that increases to taxes often happen in assessment years. It won't spike as high again "unless you see the market grow to that. That's doubtful, I would say."

Woo stressed that a 20-percent increase in property values does not automatically mean property taxes will increase at the same rate.

The city of Pullman collects 29 percent of property taxes - an average increase of $12.60 per household from last year. Levies from the local school district, county and a handful of bonds account for the rest of the increase.

"(The city) can't take all the blame," he said.

Woo estimates average Pullman homeowners will see an increase of about $100 on their property taxes.

Staba braces herself for yearly tax increases to put a financial pinch on her household. Staba and her husband, Nick, rely on Social Security and retirement funds as their main source of income.

"Our income doesn't go up when our house value goes up," she said. "You just have to take money away from something else. There aren't a lot of options."

Woo said increasing valuations can be good or bad, depending on perspective.

"In theory, they can get more from their houses," he said. "But they will pay more taxes. It's a mixed bag."

Staba isn't planning to sell her home. If she did, purchasing a new home would be a headache and a financial burden, as markets throughout the country have skyrocketed.

"I don't know what people do in Seattle," she said. "It's something that's a concern and it's going to have to change because no one can afford it."
This article brings up some interesting points, both of which are being addressed in the Washington legislature at the momemt.

First is the $400 property tax rebate to every homeowner proposed by House Republicans last week. That would take the bite out of the increased property taxes for someone like Ms. Staba.

The other, larger issue is I-747. Initiative 747, passed with 57% of the vote in 2001, applies to all regular levies the state of Washington allows taxing districts to collect, limiting the increase on the amount collected to 1% over the prior year without a popular vote. Before I-747, taxing districts were allowed an increase of up to 6% on the regular levy portion of property tax. That is why the Pullman City Council can't increase property tax receipts more.

Last year, a King County judge ruled that I-747 was unconstitutional because it amended I-722, a law that was declared unconstitutional in September 2001. The only one of Washington's 39 counties that was a party to that suit was Whitman County. Attorney General Rob McKenna is appealing that ruling.

Democrats have introduced HB 2309 to overturn the voter's will and allow property tax increases based on inflation without a popular vote.

Republicans have introduced HB 1170 to preserve the I-747 1% cap, one of the bill's sponsors being our very own 9th District State Representative.

The irony: The Whitman County Commissioners who voted to join in the lawsuit overturning I-747 are Republicans. The reason: Whitman County is so desperately underretailed and suffers such large sales leakages to Moscow, the county is overdependent on property tax revenues.

But if I-747 is overturned for good, what happens to folks like Ms. Staba?

Maximum Exposure

Check out the House Republicans website's new feature Maximum Exposure, which "paints a troubling picture of majority lawmakers' priorities."

Pay special atention to:

HB 2094 - Creating the taxpayer health care fairness act (i.e another "Wal-Mart" bill)

HB 2138 - Regarding fuel tax rate indexing (i.e automatic annual gas tax increases)

SB 5150 - Providing fiscal reform (i.e. state income tax)

HB 1026 - Regulating the sale of firearms at gun shows and events (i.e more trampling of the Second Amendment)

HB 2079 - Concerning use of agency shop fees (i.e. an end-run around the pending U.S. Supreme Court decision on politcal use of Washington Education Association dues)

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Spinning the Unspinnable

Daily Evergreen managing editor Lisa Waananen is desperately trying to spin the unspinnable on the Evergreen's Editorial Blog.

She writes:
Our position is that if any members of our community perceive racism, it becomes an issue the entire community must address. We’re not judges; we’re proponents of open discussion.
Well, some members of the WSU community percieve that the CES department is filled with intolerant, foul-mouthed, and unprofessional professors. Where's the editorial and open discussion on that? What if some members of the community perceived that Muslim students were potential terrorists? Please, spare us the soliloquy. The Evergreen only editorializes and debates viewpoints which conform to a particular liberal and PC orthodoxy. Not every perception deserves public discussion or debate, particularly if no real proof or evidence can be presented. Often, they are simply solutions in search of a problem.

But you must always remember that perception quickly becomes reality, especially when it is memorialized in newspaper ink. It is an awesome responsibility. A printed public apology would be much better than spinmeistering on a blog.

"WSU wades through stormwater standards"

I wonder what Chuck Pezeshki's reaction to this story from today's Moscow-Pullman Daily News will be? The "avid Wal-Mart groupie" (i.e. me) is not mentioned at all.
Uncertainties abound as to how state’s new permits apply to university’s campuses

Washington State University has roughly 100 acres of parking lots, roads, sidewalks and roof structures on its Pullman campus. Factor in its three branch campuses and research and extension facilities throughout the state, and WSU covers a lot of ground.

WSU’s statewide presence may cause headaches for university officials when it comes to enforcing strict stormwater management standards set by the Washington State Department of Ecology.

The department’s recently issued standards apply to the quality and quantity of stormwater runoff and are intended to reduce pollution and contamination of downstream waters. The city of Pullman was issued the Ecology permit Jan. 17 and WSU-Pullman acts as a secondary permittee, said David Duncan, an ecologist for the Department of Ecology’s Water Quality Program.

WSU is “most unique” as it pertains to the permit, Duncan said. For now, WSU’s many facilities all are classified as secondary permittees with the municipality in which they are located.

Duncan said it is uncertain if WSU’s facilities will remain a secondary permittee with municipalities or take on the role of co-permittee, which would allow the university to jointly apply for the permit with another applicant, such as a small city.

Secondary permittees must abide by codes set by primary permit holder, Duncan said. Permits were issued to 20 cities and eight counties in eastern Washington and 81 cities and five counties on the west side of the state.

Further complications stem from the fact that permits were issued based on region. Pullman was issued an eastern Washington permit, which took into account the region’s low precipitation levels, soil types, topography and threat of erosion.

Some WSU facilities may not have to comply with the permit because they do not meet population minimum requirements, but there still are many unanswered questions.

WSU officials admit the concept is frustrating, and they have decided to appeal the permit.

“This is fairly new,” WSU Director of Construction Services and Quality Assurance Keith Bloom said. “There’s a lot of information. Even the Department of Ecology is not clear about how all of this is going to come together. It’s very convoluted.”

WSU Environmental Health and Safety Director Dwight Hagihara agreed.

“We need to have a common understanding of what’s going on, even though it’s unclear at this time,” he said “We need to know are we in or out in each of our facilities?”

Bloom said talks have touched on the idea of consolidating the entire university system under one permit. The benefit to that would be cost-savings. The university would pay a single permit fee rather than one for every WSU facility throughout the state.

“That’s an option that we’re looking at, but it’s complicated,” he said.

Duncan said Ecology officials are actively discussing the matter with the university to iron out the details. WSU’s mandated notice of intent has been delayed until the group can figure out the logistics to make the permit work on all of the university’s campuses. Workshops will be scheduled to create an open dialogue between Department of Ecology ecologists, municipalities and the public during the educational phase of the five-year permit.

“The answer isn’t simple,” Duncan said. “Ecology is trying to work with them until they figure it out.”

Area officials argue that the Palouse landscape does not fit the confines of the permit. The Pullman City Council recently voted to join a handful of other cities in the Association of Washington Cities to appeal the permit to the state’s water pollution control board.

Pullman City Supervisor John Sherman has said Pullman should not be included because the area’s unique topography, soil types and clay levels make permit compliance difficult.

WSU is appealing independently for similar reasons, said Bloom, who also is a city councilman. He noted that for the last four years WSU has enforced stormwater management tools in all new development as “good practice.”

“We have a lot of room for improvement. No one’s saying we’ve perfected our technique (for cleaning stormwater), not from the city’s standpoint or the university’s,” he said. “We know what the problem is, but we can’t get our arms around the solution because the issue is hard. We’ve got lawyers, we’ve got engineers, we’ve got environmentalists, and we’re all sitting around saying what do we do?”

Municipalities, such as Pullman, have been offered grants to fund some of the costs of implementing the permits. Entities such as WSU are not eligible for the same grants. Bloom said preliminary cost estimates to meet the requirements of the permit on the Pullman campus could be as high as $1 million. The money would pay for additional employees, equipment and infrastructure needed to meet permit requirements.

“While we’re being directed to do this, there’s no money coming in to do this,” Bloom said.

Hagihara said because the process is new, the university intends to work closely with Ecology until the complex permit language is understood.

Working jointly is the “best way to implement the permit until we hear about the appeal,” he said. “We’re all trying to learn about this.”

Adult Supervision Required

There is quite a bit of fallout in today's Daily Evergreen over Martin Boston's column last week in which he accused the Pullman Police department of being racist following the tasering of a UI football player outside Mike's Bar (click here to read the PPD press release on the investigation). Even a staff editorial last Thursday alleged that "there is no doubt that a perception of racism exists in this city."

Today, a letter to the editor from a WSU alum accused the Evergreen editors of bad journalistic practices for allowing Boston, with an obvious conflict of interest as he was personally involved, to write a column on the incident.

Another letter pointed out the observation Scotty made earlier about how one of the officers involved in the tasering is African-American and how it is "asinine to accuse that officer of prejudice when he is also a minority."

Then there is a wonderful rebuttal column (which I'm surprised the Evergreeen allowed, knowing how they feel about "non-student viewpoints" ) from the attorney who successfully defended the Pullman Police Department in the recent Top of China lawsuit. Stewart Estes got right to the heart of the matter:
What Boston failed to disclose is that only days before this incident, he himself was a plaintiff suing Pullman Police officers for race discrimination and excessive force. Boston actually sued the very officer he criticized, and demanded $200,000 from him – for being at the Top of China restaurant when officers used pepper spray to break up a fight. We expect objectivity from journalists, and when they are biased, we expect them to tell us about it. We didn’t get that from Boston’s column.

Unfortunately, The Daily Evergreen Editorial Board, in a Feb. 15 staff editorial, compounded this problem by using Boston’s sour-grapes diatribe as a factual basis to assert that racial bias may exist in the Pullman Police Department. This paper chose to ignore the fact that a four-year-long, detailed judicial review of police department practices and actions resulted in the rejection of all claims of racial bias. No department in recent memory has been more highly scrutinized.

Apparently, for this newspaper, the mere fact that a disgruntled litigant makes the same tired allegations means the department is again guilty until proven innocent. Likewise, after admitting that he cannot prove his point, Boston said he “would be interested to hear any proof that their actions were not [racist].” What Boston and The Daily Evergreen are saying is that in our country it is now the accused who has to prove it is not racist. Not only is that legally and morally flawed, but I just spent the last four years of my life disproving just that. The staff editorial asserts that the jury’s verdict “only clears [the officers’] names in the eyes of the justice system.” I would ask: Where else can you go to clear your name? By what logic is a jury verdict – the fundamental basis for our freedoms – to be ignored and the “perception” of an embittered, interested party given greater weight?... Baseless claims of racism, even those based on genuinely held beliefs, are irresponsible and damage the decades of work that we have all put into this issue. While feelings and perceptions are, of course, important, they cannot form the basis for a public allegation of racial prejudice – one of the most damaging claims in modern culture. This requires proof. The proof here is that a court concluded that neither the officers, nor the department, have any racial bias.
Touche', Mr. Estes!

Nick Eaton, Evergreen editor-in-chief, writes on the Evergreen Editorial blog :
We stand by Boston’s column as a valid perception of the indicent that occurred on Feb. 11. He was present at the incident, just as other journalists would be if something happened right in front of them. He wrote his column without deceit. And he wrote it without trying to pass it off as objective repoting (it’s a column, after all). Reporting was what the news article was for.
But the paragraph before, Eaton admits:
...we were unaware Boston was a plaintiff in that complicated case until several days after his Feb. 14 column was printed.
Sure sounds "deceptive" to me, as well as a bit unbelievable. The Top of China suit had been going on for how long? How long has Boston been writing for the Evergreen? You don't think that subject ever came up with any Evergreen staffer?

All this comes at an interesting time. There is a bill making its way through the Washington House of Representatives at the moment (HB 1307) that would give high school and college newspapers complete "freedom of the press" (which is ironic, as the Evergreen editors haven't seen fit to extend that same right to the Pullman community).

Columnist Bruce Ramsey of the Seattle Times, doesn't think that's a good idea. He wrote on February 7 that:
Who owns the student press? The bill's supporters said the people owned it, the readers owned it or the students owned it, or some minestrone of the above. Eddie Reed, math specialist at the Tukwila School District, set them straight: "The school district owns it."

Then it should serve the school district's purposes: education, an activity that requires adult supervision.

The students who spoke for the bill said they were willing to take the responsibility. But when a teenager says, "I'll take the responsibility," what does it mean? Maybe not a lot.
The Evergreen's overreaction to the tasering incident might prove Ramsey correct. The Evergreen editors in their youthful ideological zeal, and apparently without the benefit of any sort of legal review, are heading into dangerous waters with completely irresponsible and unfounded accusations of racism against the Pullman police. God forbid any harm to persons or property comes as a result of it. At the very least, it doesn't help with WSU minority recruiting efforts, supposedly such a big issue on campus.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Palousitics 2008 Presidential Straw Poll

For those of you unable to make this Sunday's WCRP Lincoln Day Dinner, I thought it would be fun to gauge conservative opinion here in Pullman/Whitman County/Washington on next year's wide-open Republican Presidential horserace. I figure if you're going to vote for Hillary or Obama, you aren't likely to be reading this blog anyway. Besides, another Clinton in the White House and I'm heading for Greenland. I understand the real estate potential is growing there.

I have found myself getting more and more interested as various candidates have officially declared their candidacy over the past few weeks.

On the right, you can see a new poll that I created. Please take a moment and vote. The results, of course, will be totally unscientific, but please, you partisans in particular, try not to abuse/manipulate it too badly. Feel free to post comments about your choice or to discuss candidates.

This site is a great reference for all known and potential Republican candidates.

"Eating the greens"

This essay, presented a week ago by British writer Austin Williams at the New School in New York, is an incredible critique of environmentalists and is a must read, given all the letters appearing daily in the Daily News skewering Ed Iverson for daring to question the global warming orthodoxy.

I especially agree with Williams when he states:
It’s a confusing complaint for those like me who are interested in more human-centred politics, because, to me, it seems that rather than the eco-message being marginalized, there is in fact an incessant, domineering, environmental orthodoxy that seems to infect every issue under the sun.

The absence of a critically engaged public discourse on environmental matters – and political culture more generally – caused by the closing down of public debate around environmental concerns, means that ‘green’ issues have entered the public domain as mantras rather than propositions to be debated, fine-tuned and rejected/accepted according to their own merits. One of the curious consequences of this un-contended situation is the inability of the environmental ‘movement’ to believe in their own moral high-ground. In truth, their elevated status has been given to them, rather than won.

The fact that environmentalists have hyped up the evidence-based justification for their existence (however much the actual science of global warming has been disputed by others) means that they see success through the prism of tangible evidence-based results and have ended up as tick-box, check-off managers of good behaviour.

I believe that the logical consequence of an unquestioning acceptance of limits, reduced resource use and individual responsibility - the essential ingredients of the environmental agenda - is a tendency towards small-thinking, while pretending that we're looking at the Big Picture. Unfortunately, without a critical appraisal of the problem and an open-ended debate on possibilities we are simply accepting a new and slightly more cynical spin on the old environmentalist agenda.
Brit Hume had a perfect example of this behavior management foolishness today:
According to a recent report from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, America's meat eaters are a major cause of global warming. American meat eaters are responsible for 1.5 more tons of carbon dioxide than vegetarians every year...According to Noah Mohr of EarthSave International: "Arguably the best way to reduce global warming in our lifetimes is to reduce or eliminate our consumption of animal products."
Oh brother. And yet
Anthony Leiserowitz, a professor of environmental studies at the University of Oregon writes: "Most Americans believe global warming is real but a moderate and distant risk. While they strongly support policies like investing in renewable energy, higher fuel economy standards and international treaties, they strongly oppose carbon taxes on energy sources that put carbon dioxide into the atmosphere."