Washington's Public Disclosure Commission, established by Initiative 276 nearly 40 years ago, is one of the more obvious examples of the Northwest's appetite for transparent, boy-scout-clean government. As Tacoma News-Tribune columnist Peter Callaghan notes, however, the PDC is overstretched and underfunded, limiting its role as a political watchdog. "It is politically unwise to be openly opposed to disclosure and open records anymore," Callaghan writes. "Assaults, instead, are hidden behind privacy and budgets. And political strategists spend hours finding loopholes to campaign disclosure, always one step ahead of attempts to close them." The middle-aged commission could address its soft-in-the-middle appearance by turning to something novel — a dedicated funding source.
Below-standard reading scores could derail graduation for thousands of Oregon high school students, the Oregonian reports today. The 2012 graduating class will be the first required to pass the reading test, although students can opt for an "equivalent exam." These equivalent tests require students to read two 1,000-word essays and respond to a series of questions. Unfortunately, most of the seniors who fail the reading exam are also more likely to lack the necessary credits for on-time graduation. Was this the intent of test-based school reform?
In a post last week in Seattlepi.com, David Horsey gives expression (in both cartoon and essay form) to how conservatives and liberals both got Libya wrong. Conservatives were repelled by the Euro-centric, multilateral strategy, what has come to be known as "leading from behind." Liberals were averse to any military operation that violates the sovereignty of yet another country in the Middle East. All the while, President Obama, bypassing the War Powers Act, moved with the winds of a burgeoning Arab Spring. For now at least, the winners are the Libyan people and Obama.
Jerry Cornfield at the Everett Herald revisits the issue of lawmaker paycuts. Legislators, in solidarity with state employees shouldering a 3-percent reduction in salary, are voluntarily returning part of their pay. However, the symbolic rush to give back has already begun to sputter. As Cornfield observes, most legislators are not requesting a pay cut. Will this keep-all-of-my-money trend change, say, a few month before the November 2012 elections? The broader question of a citizen legislature: If lawmakers are working full time, shouldn't they be paid accordingly?
As if to reinforce Washington state's new austerity, the Seattle Times opines that cutting public-sector jobs is a necessary evil. "Public jobs are carried by the private economy, and the private economy is still weak." Yes, but with the federal government cutting back so many programs, might it not make sense for local governments to take up the slack, reorienting these programs better to local priorities? Welcome to the new normal.
The News Tribune, "Citizens should update, fund Public Disclosure Commission."
Seattlepi.com, "Liberals and conservatives both got Libya wrong; Obama got it right."
The Herald of Everett, "Most lawmakers pass on pay cut."
The Seattle Times, "More public sector job cuts painful but necessary."