What if the 99 percent targeting Olympia's sluggish political class exhibits the waste and unconcern of the 1 percent? It's a tempting false equivalence that pepper-sprayed Dorli Rainey, the octogenarian activist, is somehow as much or more of a drag on taxpayers as a middle-aged legislator. Nevertheless, both carry a price tag. As Jordan Schrader and Brad Shannon write in this morning's Olympian, a handful of demonstrators are sapping the state.
"The patrol released totals Tuesday for the money spent the day before to have troopers stand guard and evict protesters. In addition to overtime and travel costs, the patrol counted $76,000 in regular pay for troopers who would have been working regardless of the demonstrations," Schrader and Shannon write. The fallout has an obvious human dimension, including "six troopers and one state employee hurt in scuffles with protesters" and "fifteen arrests, and at least six demonstrators hit with shocks from troopers' stun guns."
To monetize these demonstrations is a public service. It's also worth remembering, however, that the special legislative session, which most observers agree will accomplish little, is an $18,000-a-day drain on the budget. The trade-off message is clear. Schrader and Shannon quote from a state patrol release. "The day to day work of troopers is important, or we wouldn’t have them doing it. If your car broke down (Monday) and you sat beside the freeway for an extended period, that soft cost suddenly has a very real impact." (Read: you would get help if it weren't for those dang hippies.) To bastardize the billboard outside the Whidbey Island Naval Air Station, this is the price of freedom.
The 1972 recording of President Nixon demanding that L. Patrick Gray put the kibosh on the FBI's investigation of the Watergate break-in was Watergate's "smoking gun." Today, the Northwest may have its analogous "smoking salmon" gun (sadly minus Nixon's potty mouth). As the Seattlepi.com's Joel Connelly writes, "A 2004 draft manuscript, leaked out of Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans, indicates that the deadly infectious salmon anemia virus was identified eight years ago in coho, pink and sockeye salmon taken from southern British Columbia, Southeast Alaska, and Bering Sea waters."
This is a big deal, especially if the infectious salmon anemia develops into an epidemic, as many fear. Connelly quotes U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, who has championed the issue. "These troubling reports reinforce the need for a coordinated, multi-national strategy to control the spread of this virus threat. American and Canadian scientists need to have access to all relevant research on this deadly virus. We can't afford to leave the Pacific Northwest's fisheries jobs at risk," Cantwell said.
The virus itself flows from marine-farmed Atlantic salmon. That fact should galvanize public interest. Rude, hacking, liver-bursting fish from Boston and New York are taking over. Haul back to beantown, you sick fish...
Why is Washington an outlier when it comes to state budget cuts? As the Tacoma News Tribune's Peter Callaghan writes, "States are doing better than they were in the depths of the recession, with most showing revenue gains and fewer facing mid-year budget cuts. But all are collecting taxes at levels lower than prerecession years and the rate of increases in tax collections is slow." Washington is only one of two states making mid-year cuts to its fiscal 2012 budget.
Why is that? As Callaghan notes in his related column, much of it centers on how various tax systems respond to a recession. Income taxes don't track with consumer confidence; a sales tax does. "As the economy slowly recovered, jobs increased slightly and wages stopped falling. Income taxes tapped into that relative stability," Callaghan writes. "Sales taxes, however, require not just income but a desire to spend it." It's a persuasive, well-documented argument. So why is Washington weighing a temporary, regressive sales-tax boost? Do we expect consumers suddenly to hemorrhage money at the Tacoma Mall? (True, it is the holiday season, but a tax hike wouldn't kick in until fiscal year 2013).
The University of Oregon's just-fired president, Richard Lariviere, may leave a systemic legacy, in addition to the support and goodwill of faculty and students. As the Oregonian's Bill Graves writes, "The University of Oregon must push for its own governing board, said many angry professors and students rallying on campus in the wake of the firing of UO President Richard Lariviere." A popular university president is enough of a contradiction. Now the push is on for university autonomy and an independent governing board.
"The university plans a rare faculty assembly, the first in more than two years Wednesday to consider a response to Lariviere's dismissal," Graves writes. "Professors are crafting motions to show support for Lariviere, to seek his reinstatement, and to create an independent governing board, said Robert Kyr, president of the University Senate, which includes administrators, faculty, students, researchers, and classified staff." Lariviere has left his footprints. Hopefully other college leaders can emulate his example of brave, imaginative leadership.
Lastly, Congressional candidate Darcy Burner benefits from great contacts and a super-liberal pedigree. As the Seattlepi.com reports, this includes a nod from Berkeley's Markos Moulitsas, who created the dailykos.com and appears to believe that Burner's only political competition for the first-Congressional-district seat comes from conservative Democrats. Beware the elitist label and take heed all candidates for higher office: Some of my closest friends are elites, I just wouldn't want to vote for one.
The Olympian, "Capitol protests take a big toll"
Tacoma News Tribune, "Washington as outlier"
Seattlepi.com, "Darcy Burner: A campaign boost from Berkeley"