Midday Scan: Reardon's campaigning on county dime; GOP warming to banker tax; dawning of real school reform?

Report says Snohomish County's executive made "extensive use of taxpayer resources" during recent campaign. Olympia's Republicans may have found a tax-break repeal they can embrace; it's the evidence, they say. Is Washington finally ready to join the school reform movement?

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House Minority Leader Richard DeBolt

Report says Snohomish County's executive made "extensive use of taxpayer resources" during recent campaign. Olympia's Republicans may have found a tax-break repeal they can embrace; it's the evidence, they say. Is Washington finally ready to join the school reform movement?

The narrative arc of Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon doesn't bend towards the tragedy of Icarus as much as it brings into focus those who gave Reardon his waxwings to begin with. For years many boosters (including Midday Scan's author) mistook Reardon's verve and glibness for something more. As the Herald's Scott North and Noah Haglund document, we was fooled.     

"Campaign and office records show Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon spent 2011 making extensive use of taxpayer resources to run for his third term in office," North and Haglund write. "Reardon set aside 124 work hours on his county schedule for campaign work, and made roughly 1,000 calls to campaign staff and those who gave money to his re-election. That amounted to 43 hours spent dialing for dollars from his county phone while he was purportedly managing county business."  

The North-Haglund article is as comprehensive as it is damning. While the Seattle Times' Emily Heffter underscores the fallout of Reardon's extramarital affair, the Herald digs deep into Reardon's misuse of public resources to ensure his 2011 reelection. Sigh. It's a depressing, no-winners' saga.

It's okay to change your mind. Really. In politics it's termed "evolution." A less charitable description? "Flip-flop." Either way, Republicans in the legislature are warming to a Democratic push to eliminate the banker tax break on interest generated from first mortgages. As Austin Jenkins reports in the Washington Ledge, House Minority Leader Richard DeBolt and other Republicans are now okay with a partial repeal that targets large, out-of-state banks.  

"Asked to explain the shift in position, DeBolt compared this issue to the effort to eliminate Bisphenol A (BPA) from baby bottles. Originally, DeBolt says, his caucus opposed that move. But eventually his members were convinced of the research that BPA does pose a safety risk to infants. Likewise, DeBolt argues, the evidence is now in on the first mortgage deduction and his members agree it's a tax break that's outlived its purpose," Jenkins writes

As many suspected, News Tribune columnist Peter Callaghan is no Kantian. Motivations are illuminating, but what counts is the telos, the outcome, and meaningful school reform is a goal most Washingtonians yearn for. With Senate Bill 5895, reform with teeth may come to pass, including teacher evaluations. And while it's fascinating to study the horse trades and external arm twisting, the final product eclipses the sausage making.  

"Washington continues to be last to the starting line when it comes to putting accountability into its public school system. Every advance has come mostly in response to outside pressures," Callaghan writes. "Whatever the motivation, however, SB 5895 is a relatively strong reform."  

The quickest way to make a lot of dough? Auction off federal land. It's the national equivalent of a family pawning its gold (and, just like the gold-hawking family, we never get the treasure back.) Conservative politicians such as presidential candidate Rick Santorum know it's a topic that resonates in many parts of the rural West.

"GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum told a Boise audience Tuesday night that he would work with Congress to transfer federal lands to states and sell lands to the private sector," the Idaho Statesman's Dan Popkey writes. "Santorum said the federal government 'doesn't care' about its western lands and could make money and improve management by shedding ownership, an idea reminiscent of the 'Sagebrush Rebellion' of the 1970s and 1980s." 

A Sagebrush redux? It seems unlikely, especially with a more diverse Western economy. Nevertheless, talking up land sales makes for a popular, if disingenious, applause line. 

Lastly, hats off to the UW students who mobilized to protest continuing spikes in tuition. Let's hope their energy and message echoes with Olympia. 

"About 100 University of Washington students described how they struggle to pay the ever-escalating tuition and fees — taking on two jobs to pay the bills and sweating when the rent comes due — during a public forum Wednesday before the school's Board of Regents," the Seattle Times Katherine Long writes. "And while many of the students acknowledged the regents have little choice but to raise tuition because of the sharp cutbacks in state funding, others called for the university to take a harder look at administrative salaries and student fees."  

Link Summary

The Herald, "Aaron Reardon used public resources to raise campaign cash, records show"

The Washington Ledge, "House Republicans flip-flop on 1st mortgage deduction"

The News Tribune, "Whatever the motivation, school reform laudable"

The Idaho Statesman, "Santorum supports sale of federal lands in Idaho and the West"

Seattle Times, "UW students give Regents an earful on tuition woes"


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About the Authors & Contributors

Peter Jackson

Peter Jackson

Peter Jackson is the former editorial-page editor of the Everett Herald. Follow him on Twitter @phardinjackson