Midday Scan: A freshman mistake for lawmakers; zombie Kucinich; cheapskates anonymous

Too late for tax reform in the legislature, Kucinich's formerly dead campaign considers revival, 520 makes cheapskates of us all.

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Traffic on the Highway 520 floating bridge

Too late for tax reform in the legislature, Kucinich's formerly dead campaign considers revival, 520 makes cheapskates of us all.

Freshmen legislators, like student medical-experiment volunteers, are idealists striving to make a difference. And just like college guinea pigs, novice lawmakers usually end up poked and bedraggled with little to show for their efforts except a Dixie Cup of OJ and a cursory thank you.

As the Seattle Times' Stephanie Kim writes, "Freshman House Democrats Wednesday unveiled a package of tax proposals they say would help bring in more revenue and balance the budget. The proposals include a capital gains tax and elimination of certain tax exemptions." 

Many of the proposals look sweeping and farsighted. Why, then, are these bills being forwarded near the very end of the legislative session? Trial balloons or evidence of having at least tried? Too bad that these efforts weren't initiated earlier in the session with more senior lawmakers in the vanguard, especially since Washington's tax structure is so, well, cattywumpus.    

Montana's top federal judge admits that he sent out a racist email regarding President Obama. The good news, however, is he claims (surprise!) that he is not a racist. 

"Montana’s chief federal judge apologized Wednesday for forwarding an email that contained a joke involving bestiality and President Barack Obama’s mother, saying he did so because he dislikes the president and not because he’s racist," the AP reports. "Judge Richard Cebull, of Billings, forwarded the email from his chambers to six other people on Feb. 20, the Great Falls Tribune reported."  

Cebull underscored that he is simply anti-Obama. It's an explanation that doesn't quite square with the duck test (if it walks like a duck, and acts like a duck...). As Travis McAdam, the director of the Montana Human Rights Network, observed, "We have a hard time believing that a legitimate criticism of the president involves distributing a joke that basically compares African-Americans with animals." 

Dennis Kucinich may still grace Washington with his candidacy. Zombie-like, Kucinich could rise again and challenge the slew of Democrats in the newly drawn 1st Congressional district. Scribes throughout the Northwest would flock to towns from Marblemount to Medina to witness the Kucinich style of retail politics. It would be a journalistic Valhalla as much as a voter's living hell.  

As Politico reports, "How's this for a scenario: Dennis Kucinich loses next week's primary to Rep. Marcy Kaptur, but then decides to take another shot in another state. Say, Washington, where he was openly putting out feelers last year. The filing deadline there isn't until May 18, so he'd have plenty of time." Is it possible for state lawmakers to retroactively change the filing deadline to, say, today?

The Seattle Times' Danny Westneat confesses to a cheapness that extends to most of us. When tolls can be avoided, we avoid them. It's one of the reasons that public policy needs to align with human behavior. Or else. Westneat writes, "Tolls can be a fine tool to ease gridlock — as the giddy folks now careening 70 mph across the formerly clogged 520 demonstrate. Who knew a lousy three bucks would scare away nearly 40,000 drivers a day?" 

Westneat uses the 520 example as well as the recently announced $200 million tolling shortfall projected for the Highway 99 tunnel to argue for no tunnel tolling at all. It's a provocative idea, although planners and politicians will agonize over how to nail down the revenue.

Lastly, another marker in the Northwest's changing demographics. As the News Tribune reports, Pacific Lutheran University has picked an impressive new president who is not a Lutheran! It will be a first in the school's history, although enrollment of Lutheran students has been declining for decades. What's next, a Mormon to lead the UW?    

Link Summary

The Seattle Times, "Freshmen House Democrats unveil tax proposals"

The Missoulian, "Montana's top federal judge admits sending racist email about Obama"

Politico, "Kucinich spokesman doges the Washington option"

Seattle Times, "Toll the tunnel? Price it for cheapskates like me"

News Tribune, "PLU names new president--and he's not Lutheran"


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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