Monday, February 27, 2006

Initiative Reform: make the petition page size smaller

David at has some good reforms for the initiative process:
  1. Ban paying per signature
  2. Restrict editorial content on petitions
  3. Allow legal challenges prior to the ballot to prevent blatantly unconstitutional or illegal initiatives from making it to the ballot
  4. Create incentives for filing initiatives to the legislature to encourage democratic deliberation
  5. Charge a reasonable filing fee to prevent frivolous filings
The only idea I don't like is increasing the filing fee because it restricts the process to folks that can afford it. Tim Eyman and money interests otherwise won't have a problem coming up with any fee, even if you put it in the thousands of dollars. It won't restrict them from filing frivolous initiatives. What is will do is restrict less-moneyed folks from coming forward.

My dream reform would be to simply change the size of the petition page sheet from "not less than eleven inches in width and not less than fourteen inches in length," to "not less than 8.5 inches in width and not less than 11 inches in length." (Here is the RCW)

Right now, hardly anyone can print petitions out on a home printer (unless you have a really nice printer with some large paper). If you allow a petition size small enough to print out at home, you potentially make a much larger group of people signature gatherers. If you want to blunt the effect of paid gatherers in general (David notes that you can't make it illegal for people to get paid, just paid per signature) you make everyone a signature gatherer.

Imagine printing off a signature page, signing it yourself, and then walking around with it for the next few days asking your family and friends to sign it too. It changes signature gathering for an initiative from a commercial process outside a Mariners game to something more regular and everyday.

Instead of a paid signature gatherer asking for your support, its a friend of yours. Speading out the ability of gathering signatures makes it less likely that people will sign initiatives supported by bands of paid gatherers. They will seem shrill and base compared to honest friends that ask for your support.

And, its only changing two numbers in one line of law.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Krist Novoselic had some good points

Krist Novoselic posts a diary on today, and I'm happy that he's putting out there issues that as Democrats (and Republicans for that matter) pretty much ignore. We allow out state party to sue over the primary election, but we don't discuss much a system we'd rather see. I know Republicans would rather not see tons of people vote or get involved, but as Democrats we should more seriously our role in politcal life and how we can increase participation, not just in voting but in general.

I like this graph the best, but read the entire thing for yourself:

The grassroots of the major parties are weak. Their abdication only makes more room for initiative peddlers, media, political consultants and the special interests that fund the whole enterprise.

The solution is more participation based in the notion of people coming together for the common good. The party rank-and-file can and need to resolve the current crisis by holding precinct nominating conventions and endorsing Ranked Choice Voting. The alternative is continued irrelevance.

Friday, February 17, 2006

New Chambers Lake Basin NA website

Association of Citizens Concerned About Chambers Lake Basin

Our original website was basic and informative, but didn't offer a way for anyone except for the webmaster to edit or add anything. This new drupal based site will let anyone of our members add comments, and our leaders add front page conent, including events.

I have been for the past few weeks trying to find a way to tie an email discussion group with a drupal/civicspace site, but I'm not that big of a nerd yet, so I gave up. For my NA instead I grabbed a google group, which should be nice.

Now that I've done this, I'm wondering if there is a way for all the NA websites in Olympia (and beyond?) to tie together. Hmmm... smarter people than me should ponder this as well.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Washblog exploding, and not in a good way

What started as a, relatively speaking, fairly innocent post about why the folks at the state party were having trouble accessing has turned into a horror-show. Take a look for yourself.

There are a lot of things I could say here, but suffice to say, its no wonder that the 80 percent of the people in the middle think the 10 percent at each end are crazy.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

They shouldn't ban, they should REQUIRE it

This is a brainstorm I had last night that I'm still pretty excited about. I crossposted it at Better Donkey, because Democrats are good at education and democracy.

A few weeks back some schools back east made some ink by making sure (or at least making noise that they were going to try to make sure) their students weren't using social websites like or xanga to socialize. At the same time, we're seeing deepening disengagement among youth politically and civically.

While voting among "youth" (18-24 year olds) surged in 2004 by 11 percent, voting is only the apex of a much broader category of participation that includes anything from writing a letter to the editor, attending a meeting, joining an organization or blogging. To that end, schools shouldn't ban social websites, they should encourage them, or even require them as part of an overall education to train students how to be engaged.

We talk alot about wired government and extreme democracy, and a lot of that talk has to do with how technology will change the way we do politics. Much of it though experiences the slow grinding pain that is politics, so in our everyday life we aren't seeing much of it.

But, high school governments that are lead by high schoolers who are already using many of the tools that we want to see used in campaigns and governments, are uniquely qualified to be a training ground for citizenship skills and a testing ground for online democracy.

Imagine showing up at school, and part of being a student in an online account (with myspace or maybe a school centered website) where in addition to simply, you are required to be involved in some level of student government. You either must propose or support certain ideas, register your vote on initiatives and vote, nominate and then complain to your officers.

We teach about our government and civics, but (from my experience) we do little to train the skills needed to be an active citizen or use the tools that will facilitate that engagement. The popular Newspapers in Education program promotes reading newspapers to high school students, but it ignores how most of us will engage in the future.

We're also in a time where those skills are being adapted to new technologies and those technologies are being best used not by use almost 30-somethings, but by the kids coming up behind us.

HB 6221: Public financing, at least locally

It is'nt a wide ranging bill as has been passed in Maine or as the Republicans are trying to get rid of in Arizona, but HB 6221 passed the Senate yesterday, which would allow local governments to fund election campaigns. This bill is essentially recreates the rules regarding public financing that were in place prior to the election system reforms in 1993.

As in Arizona, Republicans in Washington aren't exactly supporting this bill either:

Conservative Republicans like Sen. Don Benton of Vancouver blasted the
bill as an unconstitutional, illegal and even unethical misuse of
public money.

...“The argument against
is, you can’t take taxpayer money and give it to candidates,” Benton
said. “Legally and ethically, you can’t do it. … It sets up a means for
local governments to dole out taxpayer dollars to their favorite
candidates. It’s just plain wrong.”

I'm not sure how "favorite" would translate into "anyone that would want to follow the rules," but also as in Arizona, it has been Republicans that have had a hard time following the new money rules. Go figure.

A wider version of this system, where the state offers financing for legislative candidats that can display wide support (through a certain number of small donations) opens up the politcal process to folks that could never have afforded or had the rich friends to get into elective politics. In the same way that Dan Swecker's full time legislature would have allowed a wider range of people to serve, public financing allows a wide range of people to run in the first place.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Talking about community, in the Donkey sense

I'm not supporting Tom Vilsack, but he's got a good point:
What Republicans have done in my view is that they are systematically dismantling a sense of community in America. There are two great institutions in my view in the American experience: one is the self made, hardworking individual who does well and dreams big dreams and accomplishes them. But that person is always surrounded by a strong community, and what Republicans have done with their policies is they've sort of ignored the whole sense of community in America. There was no ask last night for us to sacrifice. There was no call to us for a common purpose. There was no effort to try and unite this country towards a big goal, an inspiring goal. So I think it's important for Democrats win election because I think Democrats can do that and I think they can build a new America, they can restore faith in the American dream.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Grange is going to lose Top Two Primary case

The Grange doesn't seem to be making friends with the 9th Circuit:

"My football team preference is the Seahawks," Ahearne said. "No one is
going to take that to mean I'm a member of the Seahawks."
"I don't think that's a good analogy," Judge Raymond Fisher responded.
It still looks like if the grange is going to make another go at this, it will be with a non-partisan ballot initiative.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Olympia Community Wireless Network (new improved)

This is pretty cool, if I don't say so myself.

If you know about any wireless locations that aren't on this map, feel free to add them yourself.