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    Understanding Rodney Tom would teach Democrats a lot

    The new majority leader's decision to work with Republicans sends a message to Democrats. But don't count on the message being received.
    State Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom

    State Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom John Stang

    State Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom

    State Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom John Stang

    When you prevent a popular lawmaker like Ed Murray from being the new Senate Majority Leader, don’t expect bouquets from the Seattle media — especially if you're a Democrat who wins the coveted position with Republican votes. So, when Rodney Tom ascended to the Senate's top job, he was called “two faced” by online columnist Joel Connelly. The Seattle Times’ Danny Westneat called him a Seattle basher. Even worse, he called him rich. And The Times’ Ron Judd, always a subtle touch, dismissed him as Benedict Arnold. In Seattle’s liberal and left wing blogosphere, “betrayal” is one of the milder words flying around.

    But when Rodney Tom walked away from the Republican Party seven years ago, the media reaction was different. Quite different.

    In 2006 state Rep. Rodney Tom, from Bellevue-Medina’s 48th District, switched parties and successfully won a state Senate seat as a Democrat. The media portrayed him as a new kind of Democrat, a fiscally moderate, pro-education and socially liberal legislator who could win in the suburbs. Moreover, he was a man who left behind a party that was rigid, out of touch and out of date. In short, when Rodney Tom switched from Republican to Democrat, the problem was the Republican Party. But when he walked away from the Democrats, the problem was Rodney Tom. He’s an opportunist, a hypocrite, a cynic, an unprincipled manipulator, etc.

    He’s actually none of those things. I once thought he was, and said so, which is why I understand where his critics are coming from. But I was wrong back then, and so are his critics today. Rodney Tom is one of the most unique, original political figures I’ve come across in more than 30 years (and I’ve come across most of them). He’s intellectually consistent and doesn’t respect people who aren’t. He’s ambitious but utterly fearless about the consequences of his actions. An odd combination, that.

    I first met Rodney Tom back in 2002 when our 7-year-old sons played on the same Little League team in Bellevue. We’d pass time in the outfield kibitzing about kids, work or whatever, and he eventually told me about his campaign for the legislature. He was a neophyte with no apparent political passions, but he had four things going for him. First, an impressive network of friends and supporters committed to helping him.  Second, he was attractive, articulate and energetic. Third, he was a hard worker willing to knock on thousands of doors to meet the voters, and fourth, always important, he had exquisite timing. The House seat was open, no other serious Republican candidate was running for the job, and the Democrat was beatable. That November, the voters sent Rodney Tom to Olympia.

    The Republican caucus was not a natural fit for Rodney. A social liberal, avid outdoorsman and anti-smoking activist, his goals ranked low or no on the Republican agenda.

    I think the moment he contemplated a divorce from the GOP came in 2005, when he was heckled at a large Republican gathering in Bellevue for supporting a higher gasoline tax to pay for more transportation spending. He called the crowd’s reaction “completely inappropriate.” Months later, he announced that he was leaving the Republican Party and would run against incumbent Republican state Sen. Luke Esser.  Again, good timing. 2006 was a Democratic year and Tom outdistanced the popular, easygoing Esser by 6 percentage points.

    Back in early 1994, I interviewed another Republican legislator who jumped parties early in the Clinton administration. “Now that you’re a Democrat," I began, “are you supporting Gov. Mike Lowry for re-election?” The legislator faltered, hemmed and hawed. Follow-up questions about tax hikes and Hillarycare brought similar responses. She lost her next campaign handily.

    My interview with Rodney Tom the day after he left the Republican Party started off in a similar vein. “Since you’re now a Democrat, do you think Hillary Clinton would make a good President? (this was a year before Senator Barack Obama became a candidate). “Yes, I think she’d make a great president!” he said.

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    Posted Tue, Jan 29, 2:25 a.m. Inappropriate

    Rodney Tom is a turncoat jerk. I don't care how many puff pieces Carlson writes, Rodney Tom is a turncoat jerk.

    I wouldn't have as much problem with the turncoat jerk Tom if he had been identifying himself as an Independent; but no turncoat jerks, like Rodney Tom, never tell the truth.
    Tom has been a turncoat to the Republicans, and Tom has been a turncoat to the Democrats. That makes Tom a complete turncoat.

    Rodney Tom is a displayed turncoat. Now, some may find Tom a useful tool. People like Bill and Melinda Gates, other wealthy interests, and the Republican Senators, all see Tom as a useful tool; but I doubt many of them believe Tom to be that competent, intelligent,or even like him. I don't like him. The people he has betrayed don't like him (both Democrats, and Republicans), the people he lies to and has lied to don't like him. No, I doubt many people actually like Rodney Tom.

    Rodney Tom is a real estate salesman, who married a woman with a trust fund; and Tom is a turncoat jerk. One of the most sickening lies Tom has recently made is that his joining with the Republican Senators is bi-partisan and a "coalition". It is not bi-partisan when a couple of jerks join up with the Republicans (who are all marching in lockstep),snd a couple of jerks plus the Republican Senators (who are all marching in lockstep) is not a "coalition". It is a couple of jerks, and the lockstep Republicans, and nothing more.

    I am sure Bill and Melinda Gates, and the other crony wealthy individuals and wealthy interests, will do their best to have their useful tool, the turncoat jerk Tom re-elected. I hope that he is not re-elected, and would take great pleasure in seeing Tom overwhelmingly rejected by the voters. Until Tom is removed, the Senate should be treated like an insane aunt by the other branches of Washington State Government. A psychotic, insane aunt, that must be straitjacketed for her's, and everyone else's good.


    Posted Tue, Jan 29, 6:14 a.m. Inappropriate

    As far as the United State of America is concerned, lockstep Party tools are the real turncoat jerks.


    Posted Tue, Jan 29, 6:34 a.m. Inappropriate

    Exactly, Just like all of the Republican Senators marching in partisan lockstep. Every single one of the highly partisan Republican Senators following their orders from the Party bosses, never stepping out of line, marching in partisan lockstep to where they neither know, or care. They march, and do as the Party orders them.


    Posted Sun, Feb 3, 8:20 p.m. Inappropriate

    Parties are ridiculous.

    Posted Tue, Jan 29, 6:48 a.m. Inappropriate

    Exactly, Just like all of the Democrat Senators marching in partisan lockstep. Every single one of the highly partisan Republican Senators following their orders from the Party bosses, never stepping out of line, marching in partisan lockstep to where they neither know, or care. They march and do as the Party orders them.

    Gee, Generalizations are fun and interchangeable! It doesn't make much sense given the "turncoat jerk" commentary, were you for lockstepping before you were against it?


    Posted Tue, Jan 29, 2:42 p.m. Inappropriate

    The dude is a turncoat jerk, that has nothing to do with Parties. Perhaps it is you marching in partisan lockstep. I despise both of these parties. But I guess partisan hacks, like yourself, can't understand that concept.


    Posted Tue, Jan 29, 7:46 a.m. Inappropriate

    Too bad the comment thread descended so quickly into name-calling. C'mon folks, this is Crosscut, not the Slog.

    My beef with Sen. Tom is his decision to continue calling himself a Democrat while caucusing with the Republicans. The straight-up way would've been to just rejoin the Republican Party. That's something this Democrat could understand and accept.

    And his real joke is calling his new majority caucus bi-partisan -- a bi-partisan caucus in which Democratic goals and values are totally absent. Now that's a truly strange kind of bi-partisanship, isn't it?

    I only met Sen. Tom once at a local political forum. All I remember is a very intense individual whose gaze went through me but didn't see me. When the history of this era of Washington politics is written, I doubt Sen. Tom will rank very highly.

    Posted Tue, Jan 29, 3:14 p.m. Inappropriate

    Look up the definition of "turncoat" and then claim that calling this turncoat, a turncoat, is name calling. Rodney Tom is a defined "turncoat". Calling Tom a turncoat is an accurate description of Tom, not name-calling. Read the definition of "turncoat". Almost any citizen who reads the definition would call a "turncoat", a "jerk".

    Turncoat jerk is an accurate description of Tom based upon the definitions of the words. Being accurate is not name-calling. Pretending what is true, is not true, for the sake of some concept of "decorum" is dishonest, and "indecorous" (and passive aggressive).

    Look up the definitions of the words, look at Tom's past and present actions, and then make your claims that Tom is not a turncoat jerk.


    Posted Tue, Jan 29, 8:07 a.m. Inappropriate

    I have to agree with R on Beacon Hill. I don't turn my nose up at anyone who chooses to run for public office. However, "coalition" government was not on the ballot. Yes, it's up to the electeds to do what they will do. Tom and the East side deep pockets did everything they could to defeat Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe who has "bottled up" so-called educational reform. They lost big with their ditz of a candidate, but squeaked out a win for charter schools.

    I, too, believe that common ground has to be found on numerous issues, but it has to be authentic - what Tom has wrought is not. He and Tim Sheldon need to become Republicans and we can call it what it is - a win for the Rs and move on.


    Posted Tue, Jan 29, 8:56 a.m. Inappropriate

    I understood Rodney Tom's politics enough to think it stupid that the Democrats threw support to him. He doesn't understand that belonging to a party is a two way street and should just have always run as an Independent. Ah but there is the rub -- he can't get elected on his own and he knew it. Don't like the party? Work to change it.

    Posted Tue, Jan 29, 9:57 a.m. Inappropriate

    "Washington state is now known as a reform backwater, a joke."

    Only to ed reformers.

    The rest of the country sees a state that is - for the 9th straight year - at the top of SAT scores.

    That has a decent graduation rate and yet doesn't fund its schools to even the national average.

    Whose largest district worked WITH the teachers union to pass one of the first contracts that involves teacher evaluation using student test scores.

    And fyi, it was NOT just the unions against charter schools. Not by a long shot (especially given that it barely passed by 42,000 votes with a pro-charter campaign spending millions to get it on the ballot and millions to pass it.

    As for Senator Tom, I predict his GOP friends will turn on him at some point and he is going to be a very lonely guy.


    Posted Tue, Jan 29, 11:23 a.m. Inappropriate

    The best SAT ranking I found was 25th, hardly at the top. As for the nine years, sounds like way to much Kool-aid.


    Posted Tue, Jan 29, 2:28 p.m. Inappropriate

    The top referred to in SAT rankings relates to states where more than 50% of all students take the test. The real issue - as its been forever - is that the top third of students in the U.S. are competitive with those who are university-bound elsewhere in the world. Tom is not an agent of change to help the other two-thirds. He is a lakefront liberal of sorts who has decided he has a better way, just like charter school advocates do. Sadly, the evidence in both cases suggests otherwise. Tom's new ideas have no more traction than the mixed - at best - record of charter schools.


    Posted Tue, Jan 29, 6:48 p.m. Inappropriate

    So we are 9th out of -- how many states ?


    Posted Tue, Jan 29, 10:34 a.m. Inappropriate

    "In Seattle, being pro-union means you’re pro-education. Outside Seattle, it increasingly means the opposite. Danny Westneat, take note." Carlson, take note: It is exactly due to false constructs like this that I found Sen. Tom's Seattle-bashing to be so silly. And so misinformed. Now you've joined the club.

    Posted Fri, Feb 1, 1:43 a.m. Inappropriate

    Westneat, your column about Tom was such typical Seattle-centric crap. No wonder the rest of the state can't stand our politics. I live here and it nauseates me. The city of Seattle desperately needs some "anti-Seattle" politics.


    Posted Tue, Jan 29, 11:12 a.m. Inappropriate

    Party fealty - Democrat or Republican - is what strikes me about most of the comments to this story. I am a Democrat and always have been. In fact, a Democrat PCO. And I vote for both Democrats and Republican candidates. And my Republican PCO friends do the same.

    Maybe that makes me a "turncoat jerk." Okay, I can live with that. I have been called worse.

    What disappoints me is the emphasis on party over policy, particularly in a "weak party" State such as Washington. The current example is education, but it is only one example.

    I do not think "charter schools" and other education proposals are the "silver bullet." But I do believe in trying new ideas and my party and the interest groups that support it are making a serious mistake in resisting "change" because it does not conform to their long held orthodoxy.

    "Change" is worth trying. And legislative party rules - Republican or Democrat - that allow Committee chairs to prevent votes on legislation brought to their committee is in conflict with the fact that Washington State voters are an independent group open to new ideas and disillusioned with those that block consideration of them.

    Posted Tue, Jan 29, 11:58 a.m. Inappropriate

    Fascinating to hear the real story of what's going on in the Senate. Tom has obviously upset the establishment apologists, and that's why this story is getting little attention in the Seattle establishment press. Olympia needs a real shakeup, and I'm cautiously hopeful that this is it. It takes real guts to be a, uh... oh, yeah, the phrase I'm searching for is ..."Turncoat Jerk" in this state. Senator Tom deserves the taxpayers' respect, even if he doesn't get their initial support, for being an agent of sorely needed change. Let the support be earned by positive results.


    Posted Tue, Jan 29, 1:24 p.m. Inappropriate

    Tom is a neoliberal, and neoliberals don't belong in either party because they are too socially liberal for the Republicans and to fiscally conservative for the Democrats. They represent the thinking and ethos of big money, the Aspen Institute types whose policy ideas reflect elite bubble thinking. As such he represents the demographics of his district, and is unlikely to lose there no matter which party he aligns with.

    My beef isn't with Tom but with neoliberal thinking that dominates elite precincts of the Democratic Party. It presents itself as "new" thinking, but it isn't. It's just a rehash of classic 19th century liberalism that is even more out of touch with the complex realities of contemporary America than New Deal/Great Society Liberalism, which at least grasps that private markets need to be balanced by policies that derive from the public sector, and that markets left to themselves lead to exactly the kind of radical inequities in income distribution that have resulted from the dominance of Reaganism and neoliberalism the last thirty years.

    It's old thinking. It's simplistic thinking. And when it represents itself in Ayn Randian terms, it's puerile and sophomoric thinking. And all the stuff that follows from it will be shown in due course to be bankrupt, especially the education reform ideas that this mentality promotes

    Posted Tue, Jan 29, 3:13 p.m. Inappropriate

    Exactly, Jack! It's telling that the one pro-Tom Democrat quoted is a billionaire investor who, like Bill Gates, dabbles in education and ponied up to help the charter school referendum after charter schools had been rejected numerous times. For the record, I did like Hanauer's TED talk and I would be happy if he gave me several million dollars to defend his political ideas, whatever they might be.


    Posted Mon, Feb 4, 3:44 p.m. Inappropriate

    Aside from your first sentence about "neoliberals" you have the entire concept wrong. In my mind, and I think others out there, it is exactly about understanding the complexities of the world. Do me a favor and go read both the Washington State Republican and Democratic parties' platforms.

    The Ds have a 25+ page list of contradictory statements and bullet points that shows little or no understanding of how our world works. It is literally looks like a catch-all for every idea, good or bad, anyone could call out in a brainstorming session. Maybe accepting everyone’s' idea as a good one is part of understanding the complex world, but it certainly shows no sort of leadership.

    On the other hand, the Rs platform is short, concise, and easy to make sense of. Unfortunately, unless you subscribe to an ideology that embraces the return to a gold standard, impending hyperinflation due to our fiat currency, return to "traditional" marriage (such a successful institution, it is), homeschooling, markets without regulation, and abolishing abortion, the Rs platform is just as difficult to swallow.

    So yes, there is a growing number of folks, call them "neoliberals" if you like, that find themselves stuck in the middle. At the end of the day, I think most would rather "caucus" with the Ds who see eye to eye on major social/moral issues with the hope they can inject some talk of fiscal responsibility into the conversation, then take on Rs with their guns and bibles in hand.

    Posted Tue, Jan 29, 1:30 p.m. Inappropriate

    Welcome back Senator Tom. http://clearfogblog.wordpress.com/2013/01/04/senator-tom-switches-back/


    Posted Tue, Jan 29, 1:55 p.m. Inappropriate

    Ground control to Rodney Tom
    Take your protein pills and put your headphones on

    Don't let the for profit inerests do for education, what they've done for health care. This is no miracle of efficiency. Whatever the unions and teachers may do to pad their own beds, they are amateurs compared to what the private sector will suck out of the system, before it reaches the students.

    Posted Tue, Jan 29, 3:09 p.m. Inappropriate

    Well, look at the results so far. We have stunt legislation to introduce wolves into Olympia that's being introduced by an angry rural Senator. We have a bunch of legislation by Senator Benton that would affect abortion rights among other things. We've got the possible end of GET. The hopes for reproductive rights legislation and immigration reform are now dead.

    If you're interested in politics because you actually want to change things, rather than just enjoy the warm glow of bipartisanship, then Tom's Senate coalition is a big loss for Democrats and a small win for Republicans. (Small because they can kill laws, but can't pass them without the assent of the House and Governor).

    Most political journalists, nationally and here at home, are still very attached to the idea of bipartisanship, total equivalency between the parties, and what they call High Broderism. Most regular Americans know better, even if they don't agree on a lot of things.


    Posted Tue, Jan 29, 3:18 p.m. Inappropriate

    I think what gets missed here is that I have not heard anyone say "no changes are needed" and that "status quo" charge is really a red herring.

    Example, Senator Tom's way of providing more education funds is to get rid of GET (the Guaranteed Education Tuition program that helps middle-class families save for college) AND College-Bound, a proven program that targets low-income middle school students to help them finish high school and go onto college.

    Senator Tom says this isn't the "business" the state should be in. According to the Constitution, it IS.

    So when I hear Senator Tom wanting to slash and burn education programs rather than even consider getting rid of some tax breaks for huge companies or even gasp! raising taxes, you have to wonder about what else he will do.


    Posted Tue, Jan 29, 6:33 p.m. Inappropriate

    Hard to believe that people are buying this backwash. Rodney Tom's actions are an extreme violation of trust asking for democratic money, support and votes then handing control over to the minority party in exchange for being the lead role. In effect saying, "I cannot work with democratics to pass my agenda, which I could not tell you while you worked to get me elected". So exactly how does that work? He's out there working the democratic party, asking people to support him but all the while thinking "you know, I really can't get anything done if this party gets control". At the town council meeting in Bellevue a few weeks ago - he specifically stated that the committee vice chairs would have equal power to the chairs. Specially calling that out as an example of how bi-partisan this new "alliance", (which seems like a abuse of the word with only 2 dems). Well, you see how long that lasted. His idea that this represents bi-partisanship is nothing but a sham to excuse a grotesque power grab. He says to judge him by the results, and I do - the will of the people being negated by his personal vendatta against democratics in the Senate is all the prelude one needs to know (and the evidence of those assigned to charimenships) to know this is not going to end well - except for the his him. Either he gets a fat job when he leaves or gets a great place in the republican party, where he belongs.


    Posted Tue, Jan 29, 9:02 p.m. Inappropriate

    Understanding the phrase "partisan claptrap" would teach John Carlson a lot.


    Posted Tue, Jan 29, 9:29 p.m. Inappropriate

    The bills that Senator Litzow has filed that Carlson would call "education reform" have absolutely jack-squat to do with improving the lives of students and everything to do with making our public schools worse so that private and charter schools look better by comparison. If the WEA hates Rodney Tom, the feeling is certainly mutual judging by the behavior of his hand-picked chair for the Education Committee.


    Posted Tue, Jan 29, 9:37 p.m. Inappropriate

    Uh, Ryan? Private schools already look better than public schools by comparison. What's made our public schools worse is too much union bureaucracy and government rigidity. Let's put more control in the hands of principals and individual teachers, reward good work by faculty and students, and generate better value for the considerable amount of money we're already spending.

    Posted Tue, Jan 29, 11:12 p.m. Inappropriate

    Your final sentence makes a lot of sense but by what objective comparison are private schools better than public schools? Perhaps you could point to a class of private schools that consistently outperform public schools while (1) getting similar per pupil funding and (2) being required to take all comers like the public schools.


    Posted Tue, Jan 29, 11:49 p.m. Inappropriate

    That so, John? Why don't you find us one "failing" achool (according to the 'ed reformers') located in an affluent school district? Or perhaps you'd like to explain why private schools - where the rich elite of Seattle and other communities send their kids for a great education - cost so much, when according to your logic, that can all be done just as well and for less money in public schools?


    Posted Wed, Jan 30, 9:26 a.m. Inappropriate

    Students in middle and upper class neighborhoods get a better education because the majority of parents consider an education valuable and therefore are engaged in the schools. In low income neighborhoods, a large number of parents just don't give a damn, or are single parents working three jobs and have no opportunity to engage. The parents aren't involved, so the students aren't involved, so the teachers aren't involved, and the whole thing spirals downward. You're confusing correlation with causation if you think that more expensive schools are a prerequisite for better schools. Better conditions at home are the prerequisite.


    Posted Wed, Jan 30, 9:50 a.m. Inappropriate

    dbreneman: Setting aside your over-generalization about parents who don't give a damn, I think you're right about the importance of creating opportunities for parents to engage.

    But that ain't gonna happen unless we start passing some laws that *protect* parents right to engage. There's no way in h*ll employers - particularly the big low-wage ones like WalMart et al - are going to make it possible for parents to earn the kind of money/benefits they need to engage like middle/upper-class parents do.

    That said, I think you're ignoring plain evidence that a good education costs good money. First, there's the supreme court decision (McCleary) that says the state isn't funding basic ed sufficiently. Second, if only parental involvement were required for a great education, then private schools wouldn't cost so much, they'd just require parents be more involved, which only well-to-do parents could afford to do.

    But that's not what's actually happening. Private schools pay - they pay to attract better teachers with better salaries/benefits, they pay to develop a more enhanced/engaging curriculum, and they pay to do more extracurricular activities with their students. *And* they *also* tend to have more involved parents, thanks to the pay/benefits they get with their jobs.


    Posted Wed, Jan 30, 8:51 a.m. Inappropriate

    Private schools already look better than public schools by comparison. What's made our public schools worse is too much union bureaucracy and government rigidity.

    And your proof of this is what?

    The union (at least in Seattle) has gone along with teacher evaluations in their contract, being one of the first in the country to so. Seattle Schools has set up a program where educators, principals and parents can chart their own course. Not so rigid.

    Comparing private schools to public schools is apples and oranges but it helps your narrative, right?


    Posted Wed, Jan 30, 9:32 a.m. Inappropriate

    Let's put control in the hands of principles. Let's give principles the budget to hire staff correctly. Let's make sure they get the money that they are allocated pro rata by the government. Give them control of their hiring budget to build their dream team.

    Why do some schools perform so well? Because they're the Yankees, they have all the highest paid players in the league.

    Posted Wed, Jan 30, 12:50 a.m. Inappropriate

    "He’s intellectually consistent and doesn’t respect people who aren’t. He’s ambitious but utterly fearless about the consequences of his actions."

    I'm not exactly sure why you feel that these are an "odd combination" of qualities, either for people in general or a legislator in specific. Nevertheless, Senator Tom's recent actions in the legislature don't really strike me as someone who is intellectually consistent.

    I confess I haven't followed his career very closely, but his comments on both the GET and College Bound programs are frustrating. If he feels that they are in fiscal trouble, then he should use some of the intellect you see in him to fix them, not dismiss them out of hand.


    Posted Wed, Jan 30, 9:36 a.m. Inappropriate

    Sandik, The "odd combination" refers to being ambitious but fearless about the consequences of his actions. Usually, as political ambitions grow, so does a sense of caution. With Rodney Tom, just the opposite. He follows issues and ideas, not the party he happens to belong to.

    Posted Wed, Jan 30, 11:09 a.m. Inappropriate

    He just "happens" to belong to the Democrats. If Senator Tom had the courage of his convictions he would have ran as an Independent which would have been the intellectually honest thing to do given his viewpoints.

    He didn't.

    I don't care if he doesn't walk lockstep with his party nor would I want any legislator to do so if that didn't represent the people in his/her district. But don't run as one thing and act like another in order to get YOUR singular view agenda done.


    Posted Fri, Feb 1, 1:47 a.m. Inappropriate

    I'd absolutely love to see Tom run is an independent next time around, and even better, to find half a dozen or 10 west-of-the-mountains Democrats and convince them to do the same. I am one lifelong Democrat of the lunch-pail style who thinks that the phony-baloney Seattle "progressives" who dominate the WA State Democratic party need to be put down, and put down hard.


    Posted Wed, Jan 30, 12:20 p.m. Inappropriate

    A brilliant piece of writing, and one that shows plenty of insight into the character of Rodney Tom. Having watched Rodney Tom in the Legislature for the last couple of years, I have to say Carlson captured things pretty well. It took plenty of guts for Rodney Tom to break with his new allies in the Democratic caucus in 2010 -- you don't often see someone write a budget for his team and then vote against it because it goes against his principles. It took plenty more for him to vote for the 9th Order last year, essentially constituting a fiscally conservative majority in the Senate. And even more to form a formal coalition with the Rs (along with Tim Sheldon). Had a majority R done the same and joined with the Ds, I think many of the people who are denouncing Tom today for lack of "loyalty" would be standing up and cheering and applauding that person as a man or woman of principle. As I evaluate the record, I see someone who has remained true to his beliefs first and party labels second (if at all). Many politicians say this is true for them as well, but Tom is one of the few I have seen put it into practice. In my role as a reporter, I try to hang back from making hard and fast judgments about right and wrong. But Carlson is absolutely correct when he says Tom is one of the most original and unique players at the statehouse. I suspect he is being deliberately misunderstood.


    Posted Wed, Jan 30, 12:30 p.m. Inappropriate

    ba, the opposite is true about teacher compensation. Yes, there are a few elite academies such as Lakeside, Bush, Overlake and Charles Wright, but most private schools are nowhere near that well funded. If you check state figures, you'll see that the average public school teacher receives about 20% more money than the average private school teacher -- and that's before health and pension benefits, which aren't even a close call. I know teachers who left public schools for private ones. Not one made the switch because it meant a pay raise.

    Posted Wed, Jan 30, 4:19 p.m. Inappropriate

    It would be nice for you to respond to the other comments. The private schools have an enormous advantage that they select which pupils to admit. That, rather than lower teacher pay, are a more likely explanation for differences in performance.


    Posted Wed, Jan 30, 4:38 p.m. Inappropriate

    John, would you post a direct link to the study/document you are citing to support your assertions about teacher pay? Thanks.

    I note that you haven't addressed my larger point, which is that advocates for status quo K-12 school funding - such as yourself, it seems - can't identify even one "failing" school in an affluent school district.

    That's because the problems schools face have a lot more to do with the problems in their communities - *not* the schools themselves. But addressing that fact would require a) recognizing it, and b) actively fixing the huge class, race and income inequality splits in America.

    It's easier, and more politically convenient, for the far right to just scapegoat unions, or the people who live in those communities.


    Posted Wed, Jan 30, 7:37 p.m. Inappropriate

    ba,you're actually right about schools reflecting their communities, which is why charter schools are so necessary in poor communities. In affluent communities,parents have several private school options if their public schools don't measure up to expectations. In poor communities, there are no alternatives in most cases for parents. They need them.

    There is a wonderful documentary, "Waiting for Superman", that drives home this point convincingly. The next great civil rights struggle in America is education. And the status quo, including unions, often acts more as an obstacle than ally.

    Posted Wed, Jan 30, 9:46 p.m. Inappropriate

    Since the overall record of charter schools is at best only on a par with public schools, it strikes me that school vouchers might actually be a better solution if the goal is to help poor communities.


    Posted Thu, Jan 31, 12:02 p.m. Inappropriate

    "There is a wonderful documentary, "Waiting for Superman", that drives home this point convincingly. The next great civil rights struggle in America is education. And the status quo, including unions, often acts more as an obstacle than ally."

    No, Waiting for Superman is a fairly terrible piece of work. Totally one-sided (and that's probably why it didn't get nominated for an Oscar - bad filmmaking).

    I love that Mr. Carlson used all the ed reform talking points; "status quo", "civil rights", bad unions. It's wonderful that the GOP gets their talking points memo each and every day and repeats it, hoping it will stick.


    Posted Thu, Jan 31, 2:29 p.m. Inappropriate

    Since I've asked, and you haven't responded, it's apparent you have nothing - no data, no sources - to actually back up your assertions about our schools. Oh, except a movie. That's nice.

    At least it's now clear the ax you have to grind is against the unions on ideological grounds - which matches up nicely with your conservative Republican politics: http://www.komonews.com/radio/John-Carlson-political-endorsements-primary-2012-165140266.html


    Posted Fri, Feb 1, 10:59 a.m. Inappropriate

    Not conservative, reactionary.


    Posted Sat, Feb 2, 9:29 p.m. Inappropriate

    Your post is a sorry excuse for a reasoned dialogue.


    Posted Mon, Feb 4, 10:05 p.m. Inappropriate

    Ya think?

    Brevity is the soul of wit. I will also be brief:

    What is it like to post tedious rudeness and repetition?


    Posted Tue, Feb 5, 11:16 p.m. Inappropriate

    So, louploup, what it's like to be an aggressively ignorant, self-righteous, screeching, and obnoxious Seattle "progressive," anyway? Do you ever get tired of your own tedium, or do you lap it right back up, hoping to gather some nutrition from last night's dinner?


    Posted Wed, Feb 6, 1:14 p.m. Inappropriate

    No NotFan, I do not get tired of engaging in a civic dialogue. Nor do I tire of calling out toxic trolls like you. Someone's got to do it.


    Posted Thu, Jan 31, 10:02 p.m. Inappropriate

    Absolutely outstanding article, John.
    I had never read about the treachery pulled by the democrats, pretending to go along with spending cuts, only to "suddenly" forget about them as soon as they deceived others into setting aside the 2/3 requirement to raise taxes.
    That just underscores what some say about the democrat party, that they're a pack of criminals. Sorry, but that's about what the experience has been.
    But nobody else has reported about their deception, designed to raise taxes and keep the spending status quo, when it in fact needed to be reformed.
    another reason to vote republican next time around; the Rs understand that govt. is there to serve US; not the other way around, which is how the Ds see things.


    Posted Fri, Feb 1, 11:01 a.m. Inappropriate

    "the democrat party... they're a pack of criminals"

    You're not sorry at all, except in the sense that your post is a sorry excuse for a reasoned dialogue.


    Posted Fri, Feb 1, 8:23 p.m. Inappropriate

    ba apparently was taken aback by my contention that public school teachers earn about 20% more than private school teachers (on average)not counting health and pension benefits, which are far superior for public school teachers. It turns out that I was wrong....the gap is even higher, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (part of the Department of Education). It's closer to 30%. linkhttps://legacy.fsci.com/exchweb/bin/redir.asp?URL=http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d11/tables/dt11_080.asp

    Posted Sun, Feb 3, 2:47 p.m. Inappropriate

    Loved the article and the discussion that has ensued. Personally, I think the question swirling that hasn't been pointed out is does one vote for a person or a party?

    I personally think it's about the person. I applaud any one to stand for their ideals even if leadership or campaign funds are in question. We can question agendas from here to the moon, I'm sure. And granted, it's easier for the wealthy to take this route but that's a different discussion for a different day.

    But yesterday, I asked my child if they would jump off a roof if told to do so by friends. Follow your instinct I said...not the crowd. You know what is right and wrong and if not ask questions and research it. The adage still stands.

    So yes, I believe it's that simple. It's ok to want to shake up the unions. And I want a budget the state can actually say is balanced. I didn't need to read this article to know that the Dems have done a miserable job of it for the last 10 years. And I like a little balance in power. A Democratic governor and one branch with a Republican leaning second branch is ok by me.

    And nothing Carlson wrote surprised me. I usually like Westneat's article too. But I think for myself. Politicians/leaders at the state level and higher are a breed of their own...ego, bravado, ideals. Just hope they stand up and make good decisions for you and I!! If not, run for an office!!

    Crosscut rocks...keep up the great writing and the diverse opinions!!


    Posted Mon, Feb 4, 3:06 a.m. Inappropriate

    The point is that Tom has represented himself as a member of the Democratic Party. Voters voted for Tom, but they also voted for a candidate who claimed he was a member of the Democratic Party. Citizens do not expect elected officials to toe some party line; and citizens do not wish their elected representative to toe some party line.

    There is a difference between aligning with the Republican Party in order to have the Republican Party gain control of the Senate; and not toeing a party line. No one voted for Tom, or any other candidate who identified themselves as Democrats, in order for Tom to conspire with Republican Senators to have the Republicans gain control of the Senate. Citizens do not vote for a self identified Democrat to work to have the Republicans gain control of the Senate. Citizens do not vote for a self identified Republican to work to have the Democrats take control of a branch of Government.

    What Tom has done is not being a "maverick", or refusing to toe the party line; what Tom has done is actively conspire to have the party, he claims to be a member of, lose duly elected power in favor of the opposing party. That goes far beyond not toeing the party line. That is being a turncoat, not a maverick, or a man of convictions. If Tom had any convictions, he would have removed himself from the Democratic Party. He didn't. He is a turncoat jerk.

    Also, You may wish there to be some "balance of power" "Republican leaning second branch"; but that is what you wish, not what the electorate wished, or voted for. Your wishes, or anyone else's, should not trump the will of the electorate. You essentially say "I know the Republicans did not win enough positions to control the Senate, I know the voters elected Democratic Senators in the numbers for the Democrats to be in control of the Senate; but, I, and the Republicans, know better than the majority of citizens, and what I wish is more important than the will of the majority of citizens, so as long as I get what I want, I don't care if the citizens voice is disregarded and stifled". That is a truly shameful position. That is a position of a supporter of authoritarian oligarchy. To hell with the citizens, huh?


    Posted Mon, Feb 4, 3:51 p.m. Inappropriate

    "To make sure their point was heard, voters also scotched two tax increases affecting the banking and oil industries. When voters side with bankers and oil men against the government, that is a sign that new taxes aren't welcome from either party."

    This was a decent piece, Mr. Carlson. However, you went to far with this statement. I'm an engaged voter and deal with legislation and policy everyday. The descriptions of these two advisory votes in the voters guide made zero sense.

    Any attempt to read into voter intent based on these two votes is flawed. Half the people I spoke to thought the State was giving these companies all this money, rather than the other way around.

    Posted Mon, Feb 4, 4:25 p.m. Inappropriate


    Has anyone else noticed that Mr. Nice Guy Rodney Tom has placed Litzow as chair of the Education committee- and we are seeing ALEC backed bills coming out of the senate?

    Was it really necessary for Mr. Nice guy- living on his wife's trust fund in Medina- to soak the taxpayers for a pair of headphones costing $164.


    Posted Thu, Feb 7, 10:09 p.m. Inappropriate

    Interesting story, John. I wonder if you would've written it if Senator Tom had remained in the Democratic caucus.
    The Rs like to denounce socialism, but then they want everybody to pay the same percentage of their health care costs. But, as we all know, that is but one component of compensation, and if we're comparing only one part of it - health care costs - we're coming up short. I suspect that the pay of most of the classified staff is less than the public sector, and if so, it should be raised to be the same average. Hmmm, but with everybody paid the same, then we're back to socialism!
    Reform total compensation, John, not just one part. When salary surveys are done for the public sector, perhaps they should include some private sector companies, but they operate in a different environment, i.e. they're for-profit. Perhaps some not-for-profits in the mix as well. But, more importantly, would be reforming the rigid compensation system that grants automatic step increases just for time in seat, with no relation to merit, and allows virtually everyone to reach 120% of their salary range. The reform would be this: step increases up until the range mid-point, two consecutive "above average" ratings to move beyond that, and if after that two consecutive "average" or below ratings are received, they drop back to no lower than the salary mid-point, or average. Additionally, give flexibility for promoting people. Rather than having to complete stacks of paper documenting every iota of one's job and undergoing extensive interviews, the successful result being a set pay increase, give managers some degree of flexibility in promoting their staff and the accompanying pay increase. These kinds of changes would collectively improve the productivity of state workers, which in turn would reduce the number of workers needed, which would go far further than artificially setting what a health care premium is based on what everybody else does. Plus, wellness incentives should be part of that equation.


    Posted Sat, Feb 9, 7:57 a.m. Inappropriate

    Rodney Tom's new position is like a big bundle of colorful balloons, fastened to a lawn chair. He is the captain of his own vessel, sailing among the clouds on a voyage of self-discovery.

    Where will he end up? Who knows. For a clue, look no farther than three months ago, at another politician who was rich enough to indulge his fantasies. Mitt Romney lurched from one etch-a-sketch moment to the next, promising anything to anyone but having no ideas or convictions or loyalties of his own. He was grateful to accept the doctored poll numbers from his minions, taking it as evidence that he was on top of the world, making an impact. When reality finally hit, it was apparent that people had been ignoring him for months. Now he is already forgotten.

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