Midday Scan: High tension for School Board, Barefoot Bandit, legislators ... and even senators' faces

Updated: Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray do pretty well on a rating of smiling senators. Seattle School Board is debating how to conduct itself with the superintendent. Colton Harris-Moore gets derisive about the legal system. Tim Eyman warns legislators against a transportation tax.

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Sen. Patty Murray

Updated: Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray do pretty well on a rating of smiling senators. Seattle School Board is debating how to conduct itself with the superintendent. Colton Harris-Moore gets derisive about the legal system. Tim Eyman warns legislators against a transportation tax.

The Seattle School Board is blowing up! A debate is opening up over a proposal made by School Board President Michael DeBell, which would state what are appropriate and inappropriate actions for the School Board to make, reports Seattle Times education reporter David Rosenthal. This is apparently in response to two newly elected members, Sharon Peaslee and Marty McLaren, whose involvement is rumoured to have overwhelmed Interim Superintendent Susan Enfield and her staff. According to Rosenthal, DeBell said the new members might also have affected Enfield's decision not to seek a permanent position.

Crosscut Editor-in-Chief David Brewster first discussed the new members' likely influence on Enfield in a Dec. 19 article. "The decision, unexplained for the most part, almost certainly stemmed from the surprising fall election, where two insurgents got elected, turning the reform coalition from a 5-2 majority into a 3-4 minority," he said. "With a split board, Enfield quickly ran up her flag for other employment. Uh-oh."

Of course, if School Board members were able to goad one superintendent into quitting, then this may suggest future difficulties ahead. That may be what DeBell is hoping to avoid with his proposal, which was put on the agenda for a meeting today (Jan. 25). 

Turns out, "Barefoot Bandit" Colton Harris-Moore isn't the sympathetic, tragic figure everyone wanted him to be. In December, Island County Superior Court Judge Vickie Churchill imposed a forgiving seven-year sentence, taking into account Harris-Moore's "apparent remorse, his troubled childhood and previously undiagnosed psychiatric problems." His case was called tragic and he himself was termed by the judge a "triumph of human spirit."

But Harris-Moore had little nice to say about anyone. He wrote in intercepted emails that he appreciated the judge for what she did, but said "at the same time her words were greater than her actions," and that she still could have done more, reports Everett Herald writer Jackson Holtz (the author of a book about Harris-Moore). Towards police and prosecutors, he was even more harsh, calling them "swine" and "fools." Harris-Moore went a step further with Island County Sheriff Mark Brown, crowning him as "the king of swine."

Harris-Moore is scheduled to be sentenced Friday in U.S. District Court in Seattle on the federal level. With the bitterness seen in Harris-Moore's words, will the federal court be so sympathetic?

Nobody really loves Gov. Christine Gregoire's proposal of a $3.7 billion transportation package, according to Herald writer Jerry Cornfield. The Legislature has a hard enough time closing the current budget without adding more onto it, and people are pretty sick of taxes, if the recent popularity of initiatives is an indicator. But the biggest protestors at the first public hearings yesterday, it should be noted, were oil industry representatives (there would be new fee of $1.50 per barrel of oil refined into petroleum products) and, of course, Tim Eyman, who called the proposed tax unthinkable and "unconstitutional."

Representatives from different cities, counties, and transit districts said that they understood the need for repairs and maintenence, but that they thought the funding needed to be distributed better, Cornfield reports. They were afraid that all the funding would be concentrated in cities, neglecting towns and rural areas.

One can only wonder that, if major funding is pushed back too far, whether driving along I-5 would be similar to the post-apocalyptic scenes of Mad Max.

Is Mitt Romney really a filthy rich person who pays less money in taxes than everyone else in America? The first part, maybe. But Danny Westneat contends that the second part may not be true at all. In a bit of humility, he states, "I must be some sort of slacker, because I have to admit: I pay less than Mitt."

Westneat goes on, however, to say that the same is probably true of most of us (and certainly this is true of the intern writing this article). According to the IRS, more than 90 percent of Americans don't pay as much proportionally in taxes as Mitt Romney does. In fact, when it comes to the federal income tax —which is what Romney released — nearly half of Americans pay zero or actually receive money from tax credits, Westneat says. Furthermore, the tax statements Romney released does not include corporate taxes, which would hit the presidential-hopeful's wallet more than the average citizen's.

Of course, it's still possible to say all sorts of dirty words about Romney not being charitable enough, but that might be plain mean.

Do senators smile? According to a new tool developed by Dan Nguyen, a developer/journalist at ProPublica, the answer is: sortive. While some, such as Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), have bright, beaming smiles, others, labeled "The Non-Smilers," manage somehow to give the appearance of smiling without moving the ends of their lips upwards. Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) has an especially intimidating and stern "smile," but Atlantic writer Megan Garber notes that Sen. Al Franken has the most depressed smile according to the tool. His smirk is half-hearted and his eyebrows and eyes unexpressive, devoid of feeling. Poor guy — being a senator must not be all it's cracked up to be. Five of the 10 "biggest smiles" belonged to women members of the Senate, but neither of Washington state's members, Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, made that list. Still, seriousness apparently hasn't stopped Sen. Cantwell from wanting to be re-elected.

On Wednesday afternoon, The Seattle Weekly's Ellis Conklin dug a little more into the smiling issue, and found that Murray and Cantwell, did pretty well even if they missed the Top 10 list. He recalled, too, the 2000 senatorial campaign in which Cantwell was sometimes called Maria Can't Smile.

Seattle Times "Proposal spurs emotional debate over Seattle School Board power"

Everett Herald"Colton Harris-Moore calls case against him 'high propaganda,' court documents allege"

Everett Herald, "Critics blast governor's transporation plan tax increase"

Seattle Times, "One more time: Our taxes are OK"

The Atlantic, "Ranking the members of the U.S. Senate (According to Their Smiles)"


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