Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Say Goodbye to the Internet As We Know It

Ajit Pai was chosen by President Donald trump to be the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in January 2017. Pai almost immediately made his intentions clear, “We need to fire up the weed whacker and remove those rules that are holding back investment, innovation and job creation,” Pai said. It turns out that in Pai’s opinion, the net neutrality rules put in place under the Obama Administration are some of the weeds that need wacking.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia fully upheld the prior FCC’s net neutrality rules on June 14, 2016.

These weedy rules prohibit internet service providers (ISPs) from blocking or slowing web traffic or creating so-called paid internet fast lanes. Without network neutrality, ISPs can legally create a tiered internet where some sites will load faster than others.

Right now, for example, ISPs are banned from prioritizing content and services of their affiliates. Remove this rule, and Comcast would be able to provide its NBCUniversal affiliate faster movie streaming than, say Netflix. It’s hard to know who owns what in today’s fast-changing media empire wars. For example, one of the websites I visited for information on this story contained a footnote, saying, “Comcast, through its NBCU arm, is an investor in Vox Media, which owns this website.”

Pai’s rollback also scraps the legal foundation that the FCC’s old Democratic majority adopted in 2015 to tighten federal oversight of internet service providers, and it would get rid of the so-called general conduct standard, which gives the FCC authority to police behavior by ISPs it deems unreasonable. According to Ars Technica, Comcast is already the most hated company in America, so apparently the way they're screwing consumers is considered reasonable.

The only people who seem to want Ajit Pai's revisionist policy are the people at companies like Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T. Incidentally, these companies routinely give immense amounts of money to members of Congress. Here in Eastern Washington, Cathy McMorris-Rogers (R-WA5) and Dan Newhouse (R-WA4) are grateful recipients.

Americans can contact their elected representatives and ask them to urge the FCC take action to protect network neutrality with strong legislation. Unless, that is, you live in the 4th or 5th Congressional Districts, where Representatives Newhouse and McMorris-Rogers have made their intentions known. They’re going with the big money players.

You’ll be better served by going directly to the FCC and commenting on the proceeding, which is known (I kid you not) as “Restoring Internet Freedom,” Proceeding 17-108, https://tinyurl.com/m99426b.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Tax Policy: A Reponse to Rep Dan Newhouse

by Bob Scherpelz
Congressman, Dan Newhouse (R-WA4), sent out emails asking what we thought should be in the new tax policy. Here's what I sent him:

Congressman Newhouse:

Last week you sent a letter to us asking what we think tax reform should look like. Thank you for offering the opportunity to tell you my vision.

I would like to propose a radical idea: that the tax system should raise sufficient revenue to adequately fund all the essential functions of our government. We need a strong military, and a capable foreign presence. We need to provide a sound safety net to all of our citizens who need it. We should provide an infrastructure that looks like a world-class country rather than a shabby one. We must maintain our leadership in education and scientific research. I have probably forgotten a few areas, but I think that the USA should be the world's superpower; it should be the leader of the free world; and it should be a just nation, a model to all others. This sounds like an expensive proposition, but our country has tremendous wealth and resources, and if we had the will we could produce the nation I describe.

The nation's tax system should share the burden equitably, which means an aggressively progressive structure. This is based on standard Christian ethics, as President Kennedy stated, drawing from the gospel of Luke: "For of those to whom much is given, much is required". A progressive tax structure will produce better equity, both in income and wealth, working towards a just society.

I know that the Republican party is unlikely to follow my suggestion, since they are discussing large tax cuts, especially for the wealthy. Their justification is that the resulting stimulation of the nation's economy will more than make up for a decrease in tax revenue. A number of economists disagree with this principle and point out that recent tax cuts did not produce the promised economic stimulus. I propose that legislation providing a large tax cut should include an accountability clause. It should have numerical targets, as a function of time, for the growth of GDP, the growth of employment and worker wages, and the decrease of the national debt. If these targets are not met, the tax structure would automatically revert to one that raises enough income to bring the deficit and debt down to appropriate levels.

Eliminating the estate tax would be a terrible mistake. This tax affects only the wealthiest members of our society (I don't know anyone likely to leave $11 million to their heirs), so eliminating the tax would be a gift to the super wealthy. The argument of being "taxed twice" is phony: the recipients of the inheritance will be taxed for the first time. I don't see anything special about a given packet of money, tracking how many times it's been taxed: how many times will a $20 bill have sales tax applied to it.
 Simplifying the tax code would be a good thing, but of course every deduction has a defender. But if popular middle class deductions are eliminated, I hope that there will be a vigorous effort to eliminate the many provisions that benefit the wealthy. I would particularly like to see the "carried interest" loophole eliminated.

Congressman Newhouse, I know that you have a difficult job ahead of you. But there is an approach to taxation that has not been tried in a while: instead of treating taxes as an unjust burden that people should be freed from, I think that you should appeal to Americans' basic generosity and patriotism. Remind them that they are living in the greatest country in the world, that we could and should be the world's leader, but that this is not cheap, and there is no magic pot of money to tap - it is the responsibility of all of us citizens to share our treasure to make this country great. That argument would work with me.

Sincerely, etc.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Tri-Citians Demonstrate Support for DREAMers

On a hot, smokey Tuesday afternoon, dozens of people lined George Washington Way in Richland to demonstrate against President Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy. Many wore protective masks to avoid breathing in the throat-searing smoke. Most held signs expressing their views on the issue. All were supportive, and most of the traffic along GW Way, blew their horns and raised their thumbs in solidarity with the demonstrators, including a couple of semi-truck drivers, who blasted out their accord on their big rig's air horn.

According to Johanna Walters, writing in the Guardian, “The DACA program was a compromise devised by the Obama administration after Congress failed to pass the so-called Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (Dream) Act (thus the term “DREAMers), which would have offered those who had arrived illegally as children the chance of permanent legal residency. The bipartisan act was first introduced in 2001 and has repeatedly failed to pass,” due to Republican opposition.

The Northwest Immigrants' Rights Project provides basic information on DACA including President Trump’s decision to end the program as of March 5, 2018. The website also provides specific information on what you can expect if you’re a DACA recipient, and what to do under a variety of circumstances.

If you want to show your support for DACA, a good place to find ways to do that is the Faith Action Network page. To express concern and to demand legislative action to restore DACA and create a pathway to citizenship for its recipients, contact Rep Dan Newhouse, who has  already spoken out against this decision.

Washington AG Bob Ferguson has labeled the decision “cruel and unlawful,” and is threatening “to take Trump to court to protect the thousands of Dreamers in Washington state.” Go to his Twitter page and tell him thanks @AGOWA.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

First Day at the Benton-Franklin Fair

Richard Badalamente (L) and Mickey Beary (R) manning the Democratic Booth on the 9:30 am to 3:30 pm shift

Buck Sisson joining us at the booth. Buck manned the first shift with Barbara O'Brien and son, John

Hollis Morris, who served aboard the heavy cruiser, USS Baltimore from 1951 to 1955 stopped by to chat. Hollis said the Baltimore docked in England in 1953, he received liberty and was ashore for Queen Elizabeth's coronation.

Cristine Brown, Democratic Candidate for the 4th CD, stopped by the booth to chat.
We'd like to see some of our candidates for local elections come by the booth. Bring along your campaign literature. I brought extra copies of the WA Indivisible Voters' Pamphlet. Although the council seats are non-partisan, the opportunity to talk to voters is important, and you're welcome at the booth.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Democrats at the Benton-Franklin Fair & Rodeo 2017

Democrats of the 8th Legislative District and Benton County will be represented at this year's Benton-Franklin Fair & Rodeo again this year. Becky Voll, who managed the fair committee for us last year, rode in from Portland on her white steed to rescue the project.

When we looked at sign-ups for the fair last Friday, we had only about 10% coverage. By the end of the day Sunday, we had 90% of the shifts covered -- thanks to all of you who stepped up! -- and we had the booth up at the fair grounds. We're looking forward to meeting with all of you democrats at the fair. By the way, the "El Fat Cat Grill" is right next to the back entrance to the building.
As you enter the fair from the ticket windows, you'll see the Mattress Firm Expo Building Straight Ahead
Mattress Firm Expo Building
 Our booth location has changed from last year. We are still in the building labeled "Mattress Firm Expo Center," but the booth is along the side, rather at the entrance. The booth will be manned from 9:30 am to 11:00 pm, from Tuesday, August 22nd to Saturday, August 26th.

We still need some help on shifts. I need a partner for my 12:30 pm to 3:30 pm shift Tuesday, August 22nd. Ginger Wireman needs someone to help with her 7:00 pm to 11:00 pm shift Wednesday Aug 23rd. We need someone to take 11:30 to 12:30 Thursday, Aug 24th, and we'd like to get another person Friday, Aug 25th, 3:30 pm to 7:00 pm. Please let me (Richard 509-546-1420) or Becky (971-222-8862) know directly if you can help.
Becky enlisted the aid of her husband, Jim, to help construct the booth. John and Mimi Latta came over from the West Side to help.
Backdrop is up
Mimi Latta putting up the banner.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

8th LDDCC Bylaws -- In Case You Wondered

The 8th LD Democratic Central Committee (LDDCC) Bylaws are amended as part of the reorganization process undertaken in December or January following each state General Election held in even numbered years. The 8th LDDCC Bylaws were amended after the 2016 General Election, and approved by the Body on April 15, 2017.

As part of the process, the 8th Legislative District Democratic Organization (LDDO) was renamed the 8th Legislative District Democratic Central Committee (LDDCC).

The new Bylaws are awaiting the LDDCC Chair's sign-off and decision on their distribution and disposition. You can read the unofficial version here. Refer to the April 15th Meeting Minutes to see the discussion on the Bylaws.

8th LD Committee Woman Report, 8/23/2017

by Barbara O'Brien

WSDCC MEETING

The next meeting of the Washington State Democratic Central Committee will be held September 9-10, 2017 at the South Seattle Community College at 6000 – 16th Ave. SW, Seattle, WA 98106. The host hotel will be the Red Lion Seattle Airport (18220 International Blvd., Seattle, WA 98188).

Unlike past State Committee meetings, this meeting will be held over a Saturday/Sunday

All State Committee members are expected to attend (those committee members with unavoidable conflicts should send a proxy. Chairs, Vice Chairs, and other Party Leaders are also invited.


FULL TIME EASTERN WASHINGTON ORGANIZER (tidbits from Tina)

Full-time, long-term Eastern Washington Organizer to our team!  Alex Scott - most recently Ben Stuckart’s Congressional Campaign Manager - started on August 14th. Alex trained with our team in Seattle for that week, and hit the ground running the following weekend in Spokane!

This marks a very important moment for us - delivering on a commitment to have full-time, long-term organizers on the ground in Eastern WA to help us compete in every race, in every place.  We're so excited to bring Alex's extensive local political experience to bear on our long-term project of building our grassroots organizing infrastructure from Asotin to Northport.

Information about Alex:

Alex is a Eastern Washington native.  Born and raised in the Walla Walla Valley, Alex served a four-year term on the College Place City Council, where he was elected as a college sophomore.  After graduating from Walla Walla University, he moved to Spokane to study law at Gonzaga University.  During his time in law school, Alex was a student intern in the Environmental Law and Land Use Clinic, the WSBA Moderate Means program and the Washington State Senate in Olympia. 

Following his graduation from law school, Alex worked for Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart as a legislative aide, and later as campaign manager during Stuckart’s congressional bid.  Alex is a member of the Institute for a Democratic Future Class of 2017.  He lives in Spokane, where he enjoys playing basketball, performing with his band Grooveacre, and exploring the great outdoors with his wife Camlynne and their two dogs, Kingsley and Beatrice.

Alex joins our full-time organizing team with Dylan, Kali, Maria and Nathan on data - a team that did not exist at all six months ago.  It’s The Resistance, and low dollar grassroots fundraising, that has made this possible.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT GRANT AWARDED TO TRI-CITIES REGION

WASHINGTON, D.C. – This past week U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) announced that the Benton-Franklin Council of Governments had been awarded an Economic Development Administration (EDA) grant to implement a comprehensive economic development strategy (CEDS) for the Tri-Cities region.

The grant contributes $75,000 to the $150,000 CEDS project, which establishes a roadmap for private and public sector collaboration to create economic development that strengthens and diversifies the regional economy, supports private investments, and creates jobs in the region.


HANFORD REACH PROTECTED

The Antiquities Act was signed by President Teddy Roosevelt in 1906 to safeguard and preserve federal lands and cultural and historical sites for all people to enjoy. Since then, 16 presidents have used this authority to protect stunning landscapes, including the Grand Canyon, Acadia, Zion, and Olympic National Park.  Trump had included Hanford Reach as one of the sites he was not going to support.  Hanford Reach is 195,000 acres of land that is important to our area

JULY 12th

BREAKING: Senator Maria Cantwell and Senator Patty Murray have met with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, and have confirmed that Hanford Reach will continue to be protected.

She thanked members for submitting comments to protect our national monuments!   I was one of them.  So if you receive requests, please do so.  It's something you can do at home even if you can’t make it to other events due to physical or other commitment problems.  

MISC

Even though I was traveling this summer, I signed numerous petitions and questionnaires to save Planned Parenthood, Environmental Issues, Overturn Citizens United, Save Affordable Care Act, Social Security, Medicare & Medicaid, gun control laws, petitions against his cabinet, too numerous to name.  Most of them to dump Trump.  Also wrote letters to Congress and the House.  I really fear for our country under Trump's leadership.

If you have any questions or want further information, I’ll be glad to email you more information.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Resolution Censuring President Donald Trump

Rep Pramila Jayapal's (D-WA)
From CNN today, 8/16/2017:

"Three House Democrats drafted a resolution to formally censure President Donald Trump for saying Tuesday that "both sides" shared responsibility for the violence at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that resulted in the death of Heather Heyer, a young woman protesting hate groups, as well as injuring more than a dozen people.

Rep Jerry Nadler of New York, Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey and Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington announced they planned to introduce the resolution when the House of Representatives has a brief "pro forma" session Friday. The House is currently on a five-week summer recess and members are not scheduled to be back in Washington until after Labor Day."

Here is Democratic Rep Pramila Jayapal's (WA-7) tweet linked to the resolution:
Call Rep Newhouse's office and urge that he support this resolution. Tell whoever answers the call that there aren't "many sides" to blame for the horror of Charlottesville. There's only one side. The side that supports Donald Trump, and vice versa. The side that spouts bigotry and hate. The side on which the White Supremacists and neo-Nazis reside. The slimy underbelly of the alt-Right movement to which Donald Trump panders. That side. That side's to blame. And he along with it.

His local office numbers are:

Tri-Cities: 509-713-7374
Yakima: 509-452-3243

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Early Returns for the 2017 Primary

We Tri-City voters are well on our way to exceeding our 16.85% voter turnout for the 2015 primary. Voter turnout for the 2017 Primary as of 8:03 PM was already at a whooping 19.85%! There are an estimated 3000 ballots to count, which would bring our total returned ballots to 24,390. The number of registered voters is 107,770. Thus, we could achieve 22.63% voter turnout for the 2017 Primary, exceeding our 2015 turnout by almost 6 percentage points!

Clearly, Tri-City voters are excited about electing people to local office who represent their values and beliefs and will best reflect those values and beliefs in the policy decisions they make on voters' behalf. For example, city council council seats were featured during this election. What do they deal with? You can get a feel for it from this list of commissions/committees:
  • The Arts Commission
  • Block Grant Advisory Committee
  • City's Consolidated Plan
  • Community Development Block Grant,
  • HOME Grant, and other grant programs as they relate to housing and community needs
  • The Civil Service Commission
  • Diversity Commission addressing the diverse culture in our community
  • Conservation Commission works to identify and actively encourage the conservation of the City's historic
  • The Parks and Recreation Commission
  • Planning Commission is a seven-member body appointed by City Council as advisers on matters relating to land use, economic development, infrastructure, and urban design.
So, voters pretty much determine the livability and sustainability of our communities.

That's apparently why voters were so willing to pry open the envelop in which their ballots were delivered -- practically to their front door -- fill in the few boxes for their city, and put the ballots in the mail box sometime during the more than three weeks they had to do this. Some voters may even have done background checks on the candidates. WA Indivisible CD4 provided them a pamphlet that did the job for them, so perhaps the decisions they made were actually informed. One can only hope.

Something less than one quarter of voters in our communities will choose the people who may ultimately determine the livability and sustainability of our communities.

I'm overwhelmed!

Friday, July 28, 2017

No Time Like the Present

The primary election is in 3 days, 7 hours, and 52 minutes. Oops! I mean 51, 50, 49... you get the drift. Time is running out to get those primary ballots in the mail, or to the drop box.

According to the Washington Secretary of State website, only 14.8% of ballots in Benton County had been returned as of 8 am this morning. What the hell, folks! These local elections are important; city council, school board, sheriff... The people in these positions directly impact our communities.

Indivisible WA4 created a voters' pamphlet and has been delivering it to businesses around the Tri-Cities. You can help GOTV by emailing the link to on-line version, or calling Jenna Bilbrey Pope, 850-712-9091, who may still have some hard copy guides you can hand to friends and neighbors.

Please forward this blog post and urge people to vote.

Monday, July 17, 2017

League of Women Voters Forum for Kennewick City Council Candidates

The Benton-Franklin League of Women Voters (LWV) sponsored a forum for Kennewick City Council Candidates tonight at the Kennewick Library on Union St. in Kennewick. The library parking lot was full to overflowing. Many people, like myself, were forced to park in the adjoining Grange parking lot. My rough estimate is that 100-plus people attended the forum.
A large crowd attended the forum
Cameras were there
Leo Perales answers a question with a touch of humor

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Tri-Cities Pride March, 2017

The Tri-Cities Pride March #TriPride2017 was a wonderful, enriching, inclusive, just plain fun event. Thanks to all those who worked so hard to bring it off, and to all those who attended.

There were rumors that Richland Mayor Bob Thompson was there for the festivities, but I didn't see him. He may have been in drag. Who knows? In any case, perhaps he'll change his mind and support an "inclusiveness resolution." Let's keep trying.

Here are some pictures I took today.




#TriPride2017 at John Dam Plaza, Sunday, July 16, 2017

Friday, July 14, 2017

Voters' Guide 2017

Indivisible WA State 4th Congressional District has produced a Voters' Guide for the 2017 local election. As you know, Indivisible is non-partisan, thus the Voters' Guide does not endorse any individual candidate, rather the Guide provides expanded information about the candidates based in part on responses to questions posed to them.

Susannah Burrows, of Indivisible, writes:

"A team of community members, led by Indivisible WA-4, has been working hard over the past couple of weeks to bring you this Voter's Guide, with responses to questions from candidates for local public offices. This will improve voter information about the upcoming primary and is part of Indivisible WA-4's efforts to defend democracy at the local level."

Indivisble plans to distribute a print version of the Guide to local businesses (coffeeshops, bookstores, etc.) and at events around the Tri-Cities. They would appreciate help in doing this, with the first priority being help paying for the Guide's printing. Please make a donation to their crowdfunding campaign.

The next action you can take is to pick up a bunch of guides from Susananah and drop them off at your favorite hangout, or at the Pride Event this weekend, at your church, or anywhere that gets a lot of traffic (except GW Way & 240!). You'll be facilitating democracy by doing this. The guides will be available by Wednesday, July 19th.

The Voters Guide is also available on Indivisible's blog, where you can read about other Indivisible activities/issues.

Finally, share Indivisible's crowdfunding campaign, and the Voter's Guide, with your Facebook friends and groups.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The End is Approaching!

Monday, July 24th, is the last day for in-person registration in order to vote in the August Primary.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

2017 Primary Candidate Forums

Seeking council seats on the Columbia
Ballots for the Aug. 1 primary election will be mailed next week in Benton and Franklin counties. These are nonpartisan races for city councils and school boards.

The League of Women Voters of Benton and Franklin Counties has scheduled three forums in July to offer people an opportunity to meet the “top-two” primary candidates.

The first forum for Richland City Council candidates will be held 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 11 at the HAPO Stage at John Dam Plaza in Richland. Candidates for four Richland City Council positions will be questioned by a LWV moderator, and if time allows, questions from the audience will be allowed as well.

The Kennewick City Council candidate forum will be 6:30 p.m. Monday, July 17 at the Mid-Columbia Library on Union Street in Kennewick. Candidates vying for two different city council positions will participate. As the Tri-Cities Herald has written, “Of particular interest will be a chance for people to see all six candidates running for the at-large post being vacated by Kennewick City Councilman Bob Parks."

The Pasco LWV forum will be 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 19 at the Pasco Police Regional Training Center, 204 Clark Street. It will feature candidates for two Pasco School Board and two Pasco City Council positions.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Does that banner still wave?

Fox News, in its inimitable fashion, has pinpointed what Americans should be thinking about this Independence Day. In an article today headlined, “Stars, stripes, and suds: Where to drink this Independence Day,” the author, Katie Jackson, gleefully tells us that July 4th is “America’s biggest drinking day,” with guzzlers spending more than $1 billion for beer alone. Katie opines that, “Any bar worth its weight in margarita salt is hip to this spending trend, and goes out of its way to celebrate Independence Day.”

Well, I hate to throw cold water on Katie’s beer, but I won’t be so much celebrating Independence Day this year as reflecting on it’s meaning, and in my reflections wondering how we find ourselves with someone like Donald Trump as President, and how we can free ourselves from his deceitful, destructive, potentially disastrous rule.

It isn’t just the President’s rule that we must resist, of course, but also the agenda of a Republican Party that sees itself in charge of both houses of Congress, and dominant at the state level, with 33 governors and 32 republican-controlled legislatures — legislatures in which the GOP has majorities in both houses. Democrats and their progressive base find themselves in a deep hole, and the consequences have been rapid in developing, with the repeal of the Affordable Care Act only the most egregious — I almost said “visible”— of those consequences.

As Richard R. Beeman has said, we have been so successful, “in building a powerful and cohesive democratic nation-state in post-Civil War America that most Americans today assume that principles of democracy and national harmony somehow naturally go hand-in-hand.” They don’t. We are beset by challenges internally and externally, seen and unseen, imminent and inevitable.

And all the while, we are ruled by a man with no moral compass, whose only objective is to “win” — win against his enemies, his critics, and his personal demons. His weapons of choice are insult, innuendo, threat, fear, and anger, and, like a terrorist, he wields them with disdain for any collateral damage he may cause.

This Independence Day we are fearful for our Republic. We do not accept Mr. Trump’s refusal to abide by the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, we do not accept Mr. Trump’s defaming of the FBI, we do not believe the Press is “the enemy of the American people,” we will not allow our personal voter records to be easily surrendered to an autocratic regime. We will resist, and in the end, we will, working together, overcome a tyrannical despot and keep our Republic.

O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave 
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

Friday, June 30, 2017

Tri-Cities Young Democrats Candidate Forum

The Tri-Cities Young Democrats hosted a forum for candidates vying for city council seats in Kennewick, Pasco, Richland, and West Richland. Click on the color-coded hyperlink to see a video of the forum.

Candidates participating in the forum included: Dori Luzzo Gilmour (Richland P-7), Willian 'Dan' White (West Richland P-1), David Milne Pasco P-5/5), Bob Hoffman (Pasco D-6), Rhoda Williams (Richland P-1), Jim Millbauer (Kennewick P-4), Michael Alvarez (Richland P-7), Ryan Lukson (Richland P-4), Kalen Finn (Richland P-1), Steve Lee (Kennewick P-2/2), Craig Maloney (Pasco P-6), Sandra Kent (Richland P-3), Rick Rios (Pasco D-3), Jess Monterey (Richland P-1), Shir Regev (Richland P-3), Eldon Eskeli (Richland P-7), Ginger Wireman (Richland P-4), Blanche Barajas (Pasco D-1), Mike Luzzo (Richland P-4), and Kate Moran (West Richland P-6).

Candidates made opening remarks and then participated in a lengthy question and answer session. Again, to view the forum, go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WUhdhDqMhXk&feature=youtu.be

One can read the statement of candidates who chose to make them on the Benton County On-Line Voters Pamphlet, and/or the Franklin County On-Line Voters Guide.

City Council positions are ostensibly non-partisan. Nevertheless, it isn't too difficult to see that the candidates' political positions tend to align with conservative or progressive values. For example, ccandidates not participating included Richland Mayor Bob Thompson (P-1), who's been in a bit of hot water over an unfortunate remark he made at the State of the Cities gathering at the end of May this year.

In my opinion, his remark illustrated a pro-growth bias at the expense of environmental and sustainability concerns, as well as a disdain for community members who voiced concerns about this. The Richland City Council under Thompson leadership has also been reluctant to take up the issue of inclusiveness -- an important value for progressives.

The primary for 2017 elections opens in just two weeks. Ballot drop boxes open Wednesday July 12th. Voting runs for 18 days.

Do your due diligence, determine for whom you'll cast your ballot, and VOTE! VOTE! VOTE! (please only vote once, but do it).

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Meet the BCDCC Elections Committee

Based on Elections Committee Report at the BCDCC Meeting Wednesday, 6/21/2017

Sandra Vantine-Murray, a co-chair of the BCDCC Elections Committee, reported on the establishment and conduct of operations of the newly-formed committee. This committee replaced the original committee of Heidi Hill and Christine Brown, after Christine decided to throw her hat in the ring for the 4th Congressional District seat.

Members of the Elections Committee were drawn from the Honey Hive: Tri-Cities Huddle Network Facebook group. Sandra co-chairs with Jennifer Ruth Keller. The remaining five members are: Barb Chen, Amanda Jenel, Amber Key, Laura Molu, and Ruth Wolberg.

The committee's charter is to identify potential candidates for public office who exemplify the progressive beliefs and values that define our 8th LD, Benton County, and Democratic Party generally. In essence, the committee performs the due diligence that we as individuals often fail to undertake until ballots are due.

The committee’s identification of potential candidates does not constitute an “endorsement” by the 8th LD or BCDCC of any particular candidate. Any person who identifies as a Democrat, is registered as such, and is otherwise qualified, may bring their intended candidacy before the committee, or directly to the executive board. As always, the Executive Board will comply with Washington State Democratic Central Committee (WSDCC) rules for the selection of democratic candidates.

The Elections Committee advices all democratic candidates for partisan office on the requirements and procedures for running for public office.

In addition, the Elections Committee has jurisdiction over voter registration. Working with and through the Organization Committee and PCOs, they are responsible for encouraging, promoting, supporting, and carrying out voter registration efforts.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Establishing a Tri-Cities Immigrant Support Coalition


If you are interested in helping people in our community who are living in fear of deportation or have other concerns as immigrants, please consider attending this meeting.
There is need for a coordinated structure to support immigrants in the Tri-Cities. At this meeting we will
  1. Discuss what the different local groups are already doing to assist immigrants.
  2. Learn about the structure that a group in Walla Walla has in place (they are willing to help establish, and provide  trainings and support for a TC group, for as long as is needed).
  3. Know Your Rights training: Learn about the legality and techniques we need to know if we want to assist  undocumented residents facing possible detention by the ICE?
  4. Follow-up:  determine who from this meeting would like to become the core group for a Tri-Cities coalition; plan next meeting (next steps).
Please help spread the word about this meeting to anyone you think may be interested. We hope to find volunteers  to assist people in fear of deportation, by answering questions (their phone calls), accompanying them when visiting an attorney, etc, and through legislative advocacy.
When: Sunday, June 25, 2pm-5pm
Where: Shalom UCC, 505 McMurray, Richland
Lora Rathbone
Missions and Social Action, Shalom UCC
ldrathbone@outlook.com
 

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Washington State Government Shutdown Looming

With Republicans continuing to block passage of a state budget that fully funds education and essential state services, state government is heading towards the brink of a government shutdown.

The legislature needs to pass a budget by July 1st or the government will halt nearly all of its services. We need to force Republicans to come to the bargaining table so the legislature can come to an agreement on a budget and we can all avoid an unnecessary, costly, and potentially dangerous government shutdown.

More than half of the state's 50,000 employees will be on indefinite stay-home status.

There will be skeleton crews in Public Health Labs to conduct newborn screenings and assess potentially fatal biological threats and chemical exposures.

HIV client services will be suspended.

Sex offenders who are currently on round-the-clock GPS monitoring will cease to be monitored.

Fish hatcheries — home to millions of salmon, trout and steelhead who rely on the Department of Fish and Wildlife to feed them — are slated to close.

Washington State Parks sent notices of possible cancelation to some 10,112 people who have reserved space to recreate in the parks during the first week of July.

State Opportunity Grants for fall quarter will cease to be available to students at universities and community colleges.

And if you're mad enough to shoot someone about this, forget it; No new gun licenses will be issued.

Call your legislators at the legislative hotline – 1-800-562-6000 – and tell them Republicans need to come to the table so we can fund schools and avoid a shutdown.

Rep. Newhouse Responds to My Letter Urging a 'No' Vote on the American Health Care Act

Dear Dr. Badalamente,

          Thank you for contacting my office regarding your thoughts on the American Health Care Act.  It is important to hear from constituents as I work in Congress representing the people of Washington’s 4th District.  I sincerely appreciate you reaching out and sharing your views on this important issue.
          I strongly believe Congress must act to improve our health care system and ensure all Americans have access to quality care.  The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has failed far too many Americans, and this trend continues with fewer and fewer plans available to families across the country as insurers continue to flee the market, limiting options and increasing costs.  Right here in our state, the health insurance market continues to collapse.  The Office of the Insurance Commissioner (OIC) recently announced drastic reductions of choices in the 2018 marketplace, resulting in less than half the number of individual health plans Washingtonians can now buy in and outside the state’s insurance exchange.  Currently, 13 insurers offer 154 plans in Washington state.  In 2018, that number will be cut down to just 71 plans offered by 11 insurers.  These changes will impact tens of thousands of patients in our state.  Chelan, Ferry, Pend Oreille, and San Juan counties will all have only one insurer offering coverage plans on the exchange—that is no choice at all.  Douglas County, right here in Washington’s 4th Congressional District, will also only have one option.  Even more devastating, Grays Harbor and Klickitat counties will have no options at all; zero insurers are offering insurance plans in these counties, both in and outside of the ACA exchange.  This year alone, premiums rose 13.1 percent in our state.  If Congress does not address this issue, premiums, deductibles, and other health care costs will continue to rise and choices for coverage will continue to diminish.  Too many families are being afflicted with skyrocketing costs and limited access to care, which is why I remain committed to providing relief for the American people and to fixing our broken health care system.

          As you may know, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 1628, the American Health Care Act (AHCA), on May 4, 2017, by a vote of 217-213.  The legislation is now being considered by the U.S. Senate.  I released the following statement upon passage of H.R. 1628 in the House:
 
“For years, I have been hearing from Central Washington families who lost insurance that they wanted to keep and are now paying more for health care due to the Affordable Care Act.  Their stories of paying higher prices for insurance and higher deductibles with limited insurance options have been the reason I have voted in the past to repeal Obamacare along with its mandate and bureaucratic regulations.  I strongly believe that every American deserves access to affordable health care, and the status quo under the ACA is not working.  Because of my wife Carol’s health, I have largely remained by her side and was unable to be in D.C. for the vote on the AHCA.  I am pleased the process to improve our health care system will continue with action by the Senate and further negotiations with the House.  I will continue to work with my colleagues to keep my promise to reverse the burdens created by Obamacare and restore patient-centered health care.”

          I believe all Americans deserve access to quality, affordable health care.  We owe it to the American people to replace the ACA with an alternative that reduces costs and ensures patients have access to quality care of their choice.  The AHCA eliminates the federally dictated individual and employer mandates established by the ACA, which have driven many consumers from the marketplace or forced them to buy costly plans that don’t fit their individual needs.  I fundamentally believe the federal government should not be mandating Americans to purchase a one-size-fits-all health plan, but rather should encourage Americans to purchase the health plan they deem best fits their needs or those of their family.  The bill also dismantles the vast array of burdensome taxes set down by the ACA.  Instead, the AHCA will help Americans access affordable, quality health care by providing tax credits for low- and middle-income individuals and families so they can purchase insurance in the private market.  The bill also establishes a Patient and State Stability Fund that provides $138 billion to states to design programs that meet the unique needs of their patient populations while helping low- and middle-income Americans afford quality health care coverage.  Additionally, the AHCA enhances and expands Health Savings Accounts so Americans can plan and save for their future health care needs.  By eliminating burdensome taxes and lifting the mandates currently weighing on the shoulders of millions Americans, I believe we can spur a robust market for individuals and families to access the best care they need, cut out-pocket costs like premiums and deductibles, promote access to health care services, and lower costs for Americans.

          There has been an extensive amount of misreporting about the AHCA, particularly regarding the update to the bill known as the MacArthur amendment.  To reduce insurance premiums, the MacArthur amendment provides states with the option to apply for limited waivers from certain federal insurance regulations that increase premiums.  This new flexibility will allow states to design insurance frameworks that are best for their unique populations, providing better care and lowering costs for patients.  States that apply for these waivers must have established a risk-sharing program with the purpose of lowering premiums and other out of pocket costs for patients in the program.  To be clear, under the AHCA and the MacArthur Amendment, insurance companies are prohibited from denying or not renewing coverage due to an individual’s pre-existing condition.  Insurance companies are also banned from rescinding coverage based on a pre-existing condition.  And, insurance companies are banned from excluding benefits based on a pre-existing condition.

          The waiver only applies to the individual insurance market, where approximately seven percent of the country purchases coverage.  It does not apply to the 93 percent of Americans with employer-provided coverage or a government coverage program, such as Medicare, Medicaid, Tricare, and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits.  In the rare circumstance when a person who purchases health care in the individual market may be affected by a waiver and charged a higher premium, it would be due to that individual not maintaining continuous insurance coverage.  Under no circumstance could they be denied coverage for a pre-existing condition.  Additionally, higher premiums could only be charged to these individuals for a period of one year.  The $138 billion Patient and State Stability Fund includes $100 billion for states to establish these high-risk pools, cut out-of-pocket costs, promote participation in private health insurance markets, increase the number of options available through the market, and develop other innovative risk-sharing programs.  $15 billion is made available to establish a federal risk-sharing program to serve as a secondary buffer for high-cost individuals.  An additional $15 billion is made available specifically to cover costs associated with maternity and newborn care, mental health care, and substance abuse disorders.  Finally, $8 billion is specifically targeted to reduce the premiums and out-of-pocket costs of those citizens with pre-existing conditions who find themselves in the unlikely situation outlined above.

          I was disappointed to see the many outlandish and appalling claims being made about the AHCA, including the dangerous assertion that rape and sexual assault are classified as pre-existing conditions that could prevent an individual from accessing insurance coverage.  This is a patent lie, as no one can be denied coverage, and I am glad the Washington Post rated it false with “Four Pinocchios”: http://wapo.st/2sjrmUl.  Various other claims have been debunked or fact-checked as false, including baseless and irresponsible assertions that seven million veterans will lose their health insurance tax credit, that 129 million people with pre-existing conditions could be denied coverage, and that the AHCA goes “back to the day when insurance companies could deny coverage to those with pre-existing conditions.”  Honest public debate should rightly take place in our country when comprehensive reforms are being discussed and considered—but such debates must be made on the facts, not on fear-mongering hyperbole.

          Again, I believe we can do better for Americans struggling with high health care costs, and I will continue to advocate for a system that benefits all Washingtonians and all Americans.  We can protect the most vulnerable amongst us without sacrificing the livelihoods of many in the middle class.  We can strengthen the safety net for those who need it most, aid those transitioning out of the safety net by supporting them with tax credits to purchase affordable care that fits their needs, and make it easier for middle class families to access and acquire the care they desire.

          Over the past several months, I have been meeting and speaking with constituents from all sides of the health care debate, including doctors, nurses, hospital and health district administrators, insurers, patients, and constituents—all who have a variety of perspectives and helpful input.  It is vital we continue to have a dialogue in order to find common ground and solve these problems together.  My door has been, and will always be, open to hear from patients, providers, experts, physicians, and all people of the 4th Congressional District as we continue to have this national debate.  I remain committed to reforming our health care system to ensure current and future generations have access to the care they need, and I greatly appreciate the input of engaged citizens like you.
 
          I hope you will continue to be in contact as Congress debates the many issues of importance to the country. I also encourage you to connect with me on Facebook and Twitter and to sign up for my e-newsletter for the latest updates on my work to represent Central Washington’s views in our nation’s capital.
          Thank you again for taking the time to share your concerns with me—I am always glad to hear from constituents of the 4th District. It is an honor and privilege to serve you in Congress.
Sincerely,

Dan Newhouse
Member of Congress

________________________________________ http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2017/mar/22/republican-health-care-bill-cheat-sheet/

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Are We Living Up to Our Principles?

I have a question for you today: Are we living up to our principles as we work to strengthen our party, win back our political power, and strive to protect and preserve “a more perfect union?” I speak of a union that serves the needs of all people, rich and poor, young and old, black and white and brown and rainbow colored, with us now, and those yet to come.

Our 2016 Democratic Party Platform states that,


“Democrats believe that cooperation is better than conflict, unity is better than division, empowerment is better than resentment, and bridges are better than walls.”

It goes on to say that,

“As Democrats, we respect differences of perspective and belief, and pledge to work together to move this country forward, even when we disagree. With this platform, we do not merely seek common ground—we strive to reach higher ground.”

Now anyone paying any attention at all knows that we are not united. There are factions nationally and locally. I think the perception is that the divide is between "Establishment Democrats," and the "Berniecrats," or what I think of as the liberal/progressive and the even more liberal/progressive factions.

But I believe it's more than that. I believe there's a new energy within the younger generation driving towards a different philosophy of governing -- of creating a more perfect union. These young people have a fire in the belly and there are those in the Party who worry that rather than building up to reach higher ground, those with fire will burn the Party to the ground.

How we harness this new energy, how we deal with our differences, how we treat one another, will determine how successful we are in winning back our political power.

We can start by agreeing to rules of conduct,* which at first blush, seem simple common sense, but are surprisingly difficult to sustain in practice:
  • Model inclusion, respect and fairness in all our actions
  • Be open and above-board in all that we do — no hidden agendas
  • Be courteous, patient and civil
  • Keep emotions in check
  • Respect other’s points of view
  • Assume opponents have positive intentions
  • Don’t take things personally
  • Identify problems, propose solutions
  • Understand before disagreeing, and disagree without being disagreeable
  • Remember we are all neighbors and community members
If we can abide by these rules, and hold ourselves accountable for doing so, I believe it will strengthen our Party, but more importantly, it will make us better people.
_______________________________________
*These rules of conduct have come from a variety of sources, including remarks by former President Barack Obama, and from Indivisible Washington.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Rep. Dan Newhouse Responds to My Letter Regarding Russia's Influence in the 2016 U.S. Election

May 31, 2017

Dear Dr. Badalamente,

Thank you for contacting my office about the investigation into Russia’s influence in the 2016 election cycle.  It is important to hear from constituents as I work in Congress representing the people of Washington’s 4th District.  I sincerely appreciate you reaching out and sharing your views on this important issue.
Recently, concerns were raised over President Trump’s firing of James Comey, the former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). These concerns are centered on Director Comey and the FBI’s active investigation of potential ties between the Trump campaign and Russian officials’ interference in the presidential election.
You may be pleased to know that despite the firing of Director Comey, the FBI is continuing to investigate Russia’s potential role in last year’s elections and any potential ties between Trump campaign officials and Russia.  Additionally, you will be pleased to know, on May 17, 2017 the Department of Justice (DOJ) appointed former FBI director Robert Mueller as a special counsel charged with overseeing the federal investigation into Russian interference in the election.  Many individuals have asked for a special counsel to be appointed since this investigation began, and Director Mueller is highly respected and has served both Republican and Democratic Administrations.
Additionally, the Senate and House Intelligence Committees are also conducting investigations into this matter as well. I am encouraged by the effort to determine the facts in this matter and determine the extent of Russian interference, and whether there was collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.  No one is above the law, and Congress, the FBI, and DOJ will act accordingly when the findings of the investigation are released.
I hope you will continue to be in contact as Congress debates the many issues of importance to the country. I also encourage you to connect with me on Facebook and Twitter and to sign up for my e-newsletter for the latest updates on my work to represent Central Washington’s views in our nation’s capital

Thank you again for taking the time to share your concerns with me—I am always glad to hear from constituents of the 4th District. It is an honor and privilege to serve you in Congress.
Sincerely,

Dan Newhouse
Member of Congress

The "Financial Choice Act" is a Choose to Lose Act

James Comey Before the Senate Intelligence Committee, June 8, 2017
While the American public has been riveted to the TV as former FBI Director, James Comey, tells us what we already know about President Donald Trump's attempts to "deal" his way out of the Russia collusion investigation, and TV pundits tell us all over again what Comey was asked and what Comey said, and what it all means, etc., ad nauseam, Congressional Republicans have been going about the business of remaking America in their own image; repealing the Affordable Care Act, rolling back environmental regulations, pulling America out of the Paris Climate Accord, instituting a travel ban on mostly Muslim countries, cutting corporate taxes, de-funding Planned Parenthood, making bathrooms "safe again," etc.

Much of what the Republican Congress is doing involves rather arcane law. For example, yesterday, June 8th, while Comey was testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee, the House approved legislation to erase a number of core financial regulations put in place by the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act. The bill’s passage in the House, by 233 to 186, along party lines, is another of the Republican Party’s efforts to erase one of President Barack Obama’s signature accomplishments.

During the campaign, Republicans argued that Hillary Clinton was too close to Wall Street. Now, Republicans are giving a handout to Wall Street while putting everyday investors at risk. A Party led by a president who knows how to "do bankruptcy" apparently reassures Republican Congressional leaders that it's all going to "make America great again." Like it was in 2008.
One of the key provisions of the Republican bill is gutting the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), a core creation of Dodd-Frank. The bureau's independence would be removed; it would be placed under the executive-branch, with a director who could be removed at will by the president.

The current Director, Richard Cordray, could be invited to a private dinner with President Trump, just as Comey was, and asked to eat crow. If he claimed to be a vegan, he would be summarily fired, and learn of his termination while watching the Nightly Business Report on PBS, still broadcasting despite Trump's budget cuts to public media.

The House legislation would also strip the CFPB of its authority to police “unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts and practises.” Under the plan, the agency would lose its oversight of the payday loans market, you know those outfits that charge up to 400% interest, and pray on the most vulnerable members of our society (many of whom, ironically, are Trump supporters).

Also, the Republican plan would revoke the Volcker Rule, a Dodd-Frank provision that bans banks from trading with their customers' savings for their own gain. This effectively shifts the risk from the bank to the consumer and ultimately, the taxpayer. This creates the same moral hazard that almost brought the U.S. economy to its knees in 2007-2008.

The bill would also eliminate the Labor Department’s fiduciary rule, which requires brokers to act in the best interest of their clients when providing investment advice about retirement. Although such a requirement might seem intuitively obvious to those of us not earning 6 or 7-figure bonuses, it's a real hindrance to the accumulation of wealth for the Republican constituency.

The bottom line (no pun intended) is that Americans must pay attention to what is actually going on in congress, bills that if enacted into law, will actually impact their health and welfare. Our 4th CD congressman Dan Newhouse voted yes on the Financial Choice Act. Call him (202-225-5816) and express your opinion of his "choice" to abandon his constituents to the wiles of Wall Street.

Then call senators Murray and Cantwell and urge them to vote against this bill. While you're at it, tell them you think Donald Trump should be impeached.