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Posts published in “Day: November 6, 2007”

WA: Prop 1 grinds to a halt

The loss of Proposition 1 - technically, two ballot measures - on Puget Sound transportation, the Godzilla funding measure, was pretty widely anticipated. We thought it likely too, though the reasons why may be worth some ongoing exploration.

On October 1, we started a post by saying this: "We’re surely not alone in being a bit thrown by the sheer size of Proposition 1, headed for voter decision next month. It’s enormous, but not only that: It’s so enormous, and covers so massive a scope of space and time, that estimates are almost useless." In fact, the estimates of how much money ultimately would be involved ranged from $18 billion to (admittedly this one sounds unlikely) $160 billion.

The point is that probably few Washingtonians probably felt confident that they had a real handle on exactly what this proposal would amount to. (And the concerns and questions ranged up to pro-public transit figures like King County Executive Ron Sims, with whom this defeat is likely to be closely associated.) Lacking that, a defeat would be little surprise. Was it a vote as well against tax increases? Maybe, but that doesn't seem obvious as yet, one way or the other.

(Bear in mind that the percentages were decisive but not a runaway - at this writing the percentages against were about 56% to 44% for.)

The larger question, though, is the policy question - what do the people in King, Snohomish and Pierce counties want in terms of transportation? Certainly few probably are happy with conditions as they are; but what should be done? This result doesn't really offer much answer to that, except maybe that whatever else is proposed to the voters, the details had better be clear.

Boise: Plenty o’ sleep tonight

David Bieter

David Bieter

The count at this hour has only about a quarter of Boise's precincts reporting, but there's no reason to hold off: David Bieter has been easily re-elected as mayor. It was expected to be a romp, and it was, even if its size - his percentage now is 68.6%, and it should stay well above the 60% level you need to call it a landslide - is a little greater than most people probably would have guessed.

We were thinking a percentage of 60 or thereabouts might be a reasonable call, though. To say the campaign of challenger Jim Tibbs (who will retain his Boise council seat) never caught fire is, well . . . there was never even really a spark, never a point at which he seemed to lay a glove on Bieter. Why that is, remains a little mysterious. Tibbs is a smart enough person, well liked around town, and his depth of background in Boise could fairly be described as second to none. He's not hard to imagine in the mayor's office. He just never gave the voters a very strong reason why he should be there, and Bieter shouldn't.

As for Bieter - who did offer concrete justifications for his mayoralty throughout his campaign - he now has a big win. His first in 2003 was relatively close, just a bit above the 50% he needed to avoid a runoff. Today's win is a community endorsement.

And the council races, as widely expected, were all snoozers too . . .

OR: 49 up, 50 down

The conventional wisdom has held, on Oregon's two big ballot issues (49 on land use, 50 on tobacco tax/child health insurance). We haven't seen complete statewide numbers yet, but the figures from the Portland metro (Multnomah, Washington, Clackamas) are clear enough to tell the tale: 49 is passing, easily, and 50 is failing, though by how much is still unclear.

A big win on 49 has been foreshadowed for some time. 50 was wide reputed to be close, with the weight of opinion, generally including ours, that it would go down. Over the last week we began modifying that, partly out of a thought that a really strong yes vote on 49 might add to the 50-yes tally, and partly out of speculation - really no more than that - that the tobacco-industry-backed TV campaign against it might have been too much, and might backfire. (That's not a complete flyer: Last year just that happened in a couple of Washington state elections.) So in the last few days, we uneasily leaned that way.

But the affirmative campaign on 50 seemed too weak, and voters in Oregon as most places need a strong argument to make a change. They got it with the strong 49 campaign, but not on 50. What they got on 50 was not really a strong argument against, but enough generated doubt to block its passage.

The secret vote?

You'd think that after all the complaints about King County elections over the last four years, they'd go out of their way to open things up to the max. But no. "the King County elections office has refused to release precinct-by-precinct vote totals until the vote is certified -- even though election results are an open record under state law and these specific records can be easily generated by county election software. Critics called it unwise and possibly illegal."

Oh, there'll be a lawsuit on this. (Certainly should be.) Unless they wise up, quick.

The Hythiam disclosures

Likely we haven't seen the end of this: A series of apparent ethics rules violations by Washington political figures, with the commonality of involvement with a company called Hythiam Inc. Odds are, we also haven't seen the last of things like it.

Hythiam sells "comprehensive behavioral health management services to health plans, employers, criminal justice, and government agencies," and there's something highly useful about this. One of the videos on its corporate front page suggests "there's a movement from incarceration to treatment," and eventually probably there will be - prisons are becoming so unwieldy and immensely expensive that smarter solutions (for not all but a significant chunk of inmates) are going to be needed.

Thus, providers like Hythiam. Among its key products is this: "Hythiam currently offers initial disease management offerings for substance dependence built around its proprietary PROMETA Treatment Program for alcoholism and dependence to stimulants. The PROMETA Treatment Program, which integrates behavioral, nutritional, and medical components, are available through licensed treatment providers."

It sounds good enough you might want to just leap, maybe before you look. One of the results is incorrect reporting on ethics documents by two Pierce County political figures, County Executive John Ladenburg (who had disclosed an investment interest in Hythiam but less than it really was) and state Representative Dennis Flannigan of Tacoma (who owns 4,000 shares in Hythia but didn't disclose it), both Democrats. (Washington law, much like Oregon's, requires annual disclosure to the state of asset interests by a large number of public officials.)

Kicker A is that, as the Tacoma News Tribune reports, "Flannigan, Ladenburg and other Pierce County lawmakers helped secure a total of $900,000 in state and local funding for Prometa."

Kicker B is that, the paper also reports, "The [county] council and executive agreed in April to spend $400,000 to try the program on offenders in the county’s drug court. But the council suspended funding Oct. 23 after a preliminary report by the county audit staff found little evidence that Prometa is effective."