Press "Enter" to skip to content

Posts published in “Day: September 17, 2006”

In the center of the boom

Sometimes the pieces come together in ways you didn't quite foresee. Well, maybe you did; we didn't.

We know about the significance of the housing boom, out of which the air now begins to leak. Housing - the financial deals being made, the money arising from seemingly nowhere, the tremendous number of houses being built nationally which has fostered a real boom in construction activity - is the underpinning for the largest share of prosperity the region and the nation has.

We also know that one of the hottest-button political issues on the scene today is that of what to do about people who are in this country illegally. And we've heard no end of political rhetoric on that subject. But their presence in this country is hardly new; is there any reason we should be more concerned, or that their presence is in some way more significant, than it was 10 or 20 years ago?

To put these pieces together, check out a Seattle Times report today about something really significant: The overwhelming numbers of illegal aliens who are employed in housing construction projects.

A quote from Jim Nietmann, who manages construction of thousands of houses - currently at Issaquah: "If I look outside my window right now it looks like we're south of the border ... Easily half are from Mexico, and they're fueling our industry." The article also suggests that five times as many people here illegally are working in construction, as opposed to agriculture.

Spin out the implications. Matters of the border tend to get more complex the more closely you look at them.

Alternative financing

In today's Danny Westneat column bemoaning the attempt by the Building Industry Association of Washington to buy a seat on the Washington Supreme Court - and yes, that is what it is trying to do - appear two notably useful points.

One is the unprecedented nature of the seven-figure sums raised for a Supreme Court candidate, in this case a challenger to an incumbent (and broadly respected) chief justice. The incumbent is Gerry Alexander; the challenger is John Groen, whose signs are closely-placed all over the state, and broadcast ads on whose behalf are spaced even more closely. Apart from the ugly nature of the campaign, which last week dominated politics in Washington state, is the idea that one narrow group would spend the concentrated funds to place its own partisan - and Groen is a former counsel for BIAW and served on its board - in office. They may get it done, too, since Washington voters have been inundated with anti-Alexander ads drastically outnumbering those on the opopsition (which are mostly anti-Groen).

Westneat points out: "A single special interest, the Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW), has directed more than $1 million trying to buy its handpicked candidate, Redmond lawyer John Groen, a seat on the state Supreme Court. The special-interest spending for a judgeship is unprecedented. If you add in $357,000 spent mostly on Groen's behalf by a national business group, Americans Tired of Lawsuit Abuse, these two fat cats have spent more trying to get their guy on the court than all nine candidates themselves combined."

Let's put on a wider-angle lens: What's happening in this race has been happening for a decade and more in the case of ballot issues - narrow interest groups, or individual people of wealth, subsidizing ad campaigns that, for a short run at least, can influence enough voters to pass an issue or elect a candidate. (Oregon saw it earlier this year when Republican gubernatorial candidate Kevin Mannix was overwhelmingly and massively unwritten by a single welathy friend, who didn't even, any longer, live in Oregon.) Increasingly, our system of electoral politics is being gamed by a handful of people who don't parting with wads of cash in the interest of making a good investment - a government that will see things their way.

Is there a way out? (more…)