U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Belfair.
Politicians, like parents, often backslide, tumbling headlong into the hypocrisy snare. With lawmakers, a “do as I say, not as I do” mindset can muddle and backfire. Consider Washington state Republicans, many of whom have long talked about advancing K-12 and higher education.
“It’s a disgrace that my generation and the one before mine reaped the benefits of amply funded schools and colleges, and then said ‘thanks!’ by allowing the entire system to wither,” the Seattle Times‘ Danny Westneat writes. “But local Republicans have sung this new song of theirs from the political wilds. What would they actually do if they ever found themselves in charge?”
After last Friday’s state Senate coup d’etat, Republicans have demonstrated what they’d do. It ain’t pretty, and it includes lopping another $39 million from an already starved higher-ed system. In addition, Westneat notes, “Their budget spends $88 million less on K-12 schools, including eliminating $28 million for smaller class sizes in high-poverty elementary schools and a big cut to the popular Running Start college-prep program.” It seems the only thing worse for education than the Democrats’ budget is its Republican alternative.
The budget impasse will ensure a special session. As the Oympian‘s Brad Shannon notes, “hope is fading — barring some midnight breakthrough — that a deal can be struck in time to avoid going past Thursday’s scheduled end of the regular session.” Hope is fading? In Olympia, there are not enough Norse pessimists, steeped in the dark corners of human nature. It’s an election year and the budget differences are too extreme. Believers in a postive outcome must be the spiritual progeny of the Northwest’s Utopian tradition (see Charles LeWarne’s excellent Utopias on Puget Sound.) So abandon all hope, ye who made post-session vacation plans.
Oregon has been hit even harder by a contracting state budget and an anemic economy. Before adjourning this week, the Oregon Legislature went out of its way to aid ailing timber communities that have lost the federal payouts they had grown to depend on. Extra latitude to use road funds to underwrite core services may be a stopgap (and would not be popular in Washington) but it seems a necessary salve.
“House Bill 4175, approved Monday, allows counties to tap road fund money to pay for sheriff’s patrols. Passage was crucial to counties that have lost millions with the end of federal forest payments and are struggling to provide basic services,” the Oregonian‘s Eric Mortenson writes. “At the same time, many of those counties have large road fund reserves that came from the same source — a share of federal timber harvest revenue — that by law couldn’t be used for anything but roads.”
Washingtonians will miss Norm Dicks more than we realize. The congressman not only strong-arms for his district, but also for the state. It’s a lasting and very tangible legacy that, when added all up, will be nearly impossible to emulate.
“He is termed the third senator from Washington for good reason. Tri-Cities leaders know him as a supporter of Hanford cleanup. Everett loves him for his work on the Navy homeport. Seattle politicians give him credit for his work on the bus tunnel and Sound Transit. Environmentalists credit him for funding for parks, wilderness and remediation,” the News Tribune‘s Peter Callaghan writes. “But Dicks has paid just as much attention to the needs of his district. At the first planning session for any project, any program, any idea — Tacoma’s Union Station, the Puyallup tribal land claims settlement, the Bremerton waterfront project — one of the first decisions is who will talk to Dicks to get his support.”
Lastly, Dennis Kucinich, who lost in Tuesday’s Democratic primary in Ohio, may be tempted to venture West and run for Congress here. Thankfully, the writers at The New Republic have compiled a compedium of flaws, “A Preemptive Eulogy for the Ludicrous Dennis Kucinich,” that will either discourage his move or provide ammunition to his opponents. Here’s just one example: “Kucinich raised the ire of Republicans, Democrats, and anyone who opposes brutal dictators when he flew to Syria last summer to meet with Bashar al-Assad. Syria’s state media duly quoted Kucinich saying ‘President al-Assad is highly loved and appreciated by the Syrians.’ ”
The Olympian, “Can you spell special session?”
The News Tribune, “Peter Callaghan: Norm Dicks, a man of the House and his state”
The New Republic, “A preemptive eulogy for the ludicrous Dennis Kucinich”