Category Archives: Washington

The perplexing push for affordable housing

snoco houseBack in 2003, Mr. Words and I decided that we needed more open space than our tiny postage stamp yard afforded, so we started looking for a new home with a bigger yard. At the time, we lived in a virtual hovel in what was probably the worst neighborhood in a very expensive area and we knew we’d have to move farther “out” to find a house on more land within our price range.

Before that, many years ago, I lived in Sumner (now Bonney Lake), Washington, and worked in what is now called the SoDo District of Seattle. At the time, it was a 45 minute drive on good days, but could be much longer depending on traffic. In a car with no air conditioning. On bad traffic days in the summer, it could be brutal. But I did it because Sumner was the place we could afford a cute little house with a nice, big yard and friendly neighbors.

That’s what fiscally responsible people do, right? You live where you can afford the rent or the mortgage payment.

So you  might wonder why people like Seattle Mayor Ed Murray are constantly going on about the need for affordable housing and cutting deals by upzoning, or rezoning, various Seattle neighborhoods for more intensive use. This allows developers to build taller buildings, yielding more units with smaller footprints. The upzoning triggers a Seattle ordinance that requires developers include a minimum number of rent-controlled units in their buildings or pay a fee to help develop them elsewhere.

micro unitThat might also lead you to wonder why Seattle effectively killed the micro housing industry, which naturally provided affordable housing units without the need for government intervention.

To get back to my question, why doesn’t Ed Murray (or other mayors in large metropolitan areas, for that matter) just let market forces work? Why do he and the city council prefer to force developers to include rent-controlled (i.e., government controlled) units in their buildings?

Let me propose this: Affordable housing is only an issue of government concern when that same government wants or needs “everyone” to live in densely populated urban centers, and rent control only when government pursues perverse policies that unnaturally limit the affordable units that would otherwise be provided through the free market.

High rise housing in Hong Kong

Is high-rise housing, Hong Kong-style, in your future?

If you’re wondering why the government cares where you live, let me direct your attention to ESS HB 2815. This was passed into law in 2008 in response to then-Governor Christine Gregoire’s executive order 07-02. The executive order set some fairly aggressive goals for CO2 reductions which, to an ordinary person, seem rather arbitrary and unattainable given the current state of technology. At least one provision of the law, participation in the Western Climate Initiative, was abandoned when it became clear that the State Legislature was not likely to to enact cap and trade.

One thing that did come to pass was the implementation of a work group to study various policies that could be utilized in pursuit of those carbon reduction goals. In November of 2008, the work group presented a report with their recommendations. Among other things, the report concludes, “However, to significantly reduce VMT and GHG emissions in Washington State, the majority of people in Washington State will need to live and work in places that both support bicycling and walking for shorter trips and provide reliable and convenient public transportation that meets mobility needs for longer trips.”

Right now, just under half the population of Washington State, roughly 48%, live in the three most populous counties, King, Pierce and Snohomish. But not everyone in those counties lives in an urban area with access to public transportation. Consider this system map from King County’s Metro division. Do you see all those areas that have no bus routes? Those are areas where leftists would prefer that people not live.

This is an aerial view of Covington, Washington, an area included on the linked system map. Does this look like an area that can ever “support bicycling and walking for shorter trips and provide reliable and convenient public transportation that meets mobility needs for longer trips?”  No, it doesn’t, because going almost anywhere is going to be more than a short trip. Is it ever going to be close to where the majority of the people living there work? No again.

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Remember, the study group concluded that the majority of people in Washington need to live and work in urban areas. That means that to meet their goals, people who currently live in exurban and rural areas are going to have to accept that their lifestyles will change. This, in a nutshell, is why it’s vitally important to Ed Murray that the city include affordable housing.

ratsIf our leftist overlords are going to herd us into the cities so that we can live and work there like rats, there needs to be housing available. And too bad for you if you’d rather not live that way. Do you think it’s beyond the reach of government to make your daily commute a living hell? Or tax you out of homes outside the reach of economically feasible public transportation?

Leftists embrace an ideology that’s diametrically opposed to liberty. They want to control where you live, how you live, where you work, what kind of vehicle, if any, you can drive, and where you can go. That doesn’t leave much to your discretion, does it, but, I mean, really…is anyplace you can’t reach via public transportation a place that’s worth going? So no big deal, right?

You have to admire leftists; they never do anything that doesn’t move their agenda forward. So the next time you see a leftist say or do something that doesn’t make any logical sense at all, look for the hidden agenda.

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Seattle knows best

Washington State ferry, Olympic Range

Seriously, who wouldn’t want to live here?

I consider Seattle to be my hometown, having grown up in unincorporated King County with a Seattle address. The region is abundantly blessed with natural beauty and a mild climate, so it’s no mystery why people want to live and work there. Seattle also boasts a robust economy, in spite of a city council that at times seems perversely focused on creating a hostile environment for business.

The first blow to business was the 2014 ordinance raising the minimum wage in yearly steps to $15 per hour by 2017 for large businesses and by 2021 for small businesses. Seattle defines as large any business that employs more than 500 people nationwide.

However, local franchises for national chains such as McDonald’s are also classified as large under the ordinance, regardless of the number of people actually employed by the franchisee. Too bad, franchise holders, that you can’t be trusted to determine how much you can afford to pay your 75 employees. Seattle knows best. 

(Slightly off topic: It’s evident that raising the minimum wage is a really effective way to redistribute wealthfrom the low wage workers who will lose their jobs to the low wage workers lucky enough to retain their jobs. It also chills job growth, even in really hot markets like Seattle. But enough of that.)

The second and third blows came in quick succession. First, in August of 2016, the Council passed an ordinance that requires landlords choose on a first-come, first-served basis from among the pool of qualified candidates. The reasoning behind this is to prevent discrimination against renters with “alternative sources of income.” So much for being able to select the prospective renter most likely to, you know, pay rent.

But it’s also too bad for you, single mom, trying to rent your basement unit in order to help pay your mortgage, if the first qualified applicant can’t seem to take his eyes off your six-year-old daughter and sets off all your parental alarm bells. Seattle knows best.

fast food workerThen, in September of 2016, came the ordinance dictating how retail and food service businesses schedule their employees. The ordinance includes a provision that requires employers to pay additional “predictability pay” if, for example, they have to call in a substitute employee at the last minute due to illness. Too bad, business owners, if it’s a slow day and you have to pay previously scheduled employees to stand around doing nothing; it’s either that be subject to predictability pay. Because Seattle knows best.

I wonder…How much control over day-to-day operations can government seize from business owners before they lose effective ownership of their own businesses? It’s a question Seattle seems determined to find an answer for.

6/6/17 Update: Now Seattle has passed a tax on sugary drinks (coffee excepted, because apparently Starbucks has some clout in the city) because you really can’t be trusted to make these kinds of decisions on your own. I mean, really, you probably should never have moved out of your mother’s basement. She wouldn’t let you have Coke for breakfast.

To be clear, it’s not the place of government to try to shape what you eat or what you drink, what you inhale or whether or not you wear your seat belt. Responsible adults are capable of making these decisions for themselves. Yes, some people will make poor choices and suffer tragic consequences, but that doesn’t negate the right of the rest of us to live our lives free of government interference.

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Who schooled the Senate?

I’m sure you all remember the fuss Senate Democrats made over the nomination of Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education. Some of the most commonly voiced criticisms stemmed from DeVos’ lack of personal experience with public schools, either as a student or professional educator and her personal advocacy for charter schools and school vouchers.

Stern Obama

A good education is for me and mine, but not for you.

You’d think that Democrats and other leftists would be champions of charter schools and school vouchers. Instead, one of the first things Barack Obama did as president was to end the voucher program for Washington, D.C., students, despite evidence that the program was improving performance. The Democrat-controlled Congress was silent.

It’s not that Senators don’t love private schools. In the 114th Congress, 26 of 100 Senators attended private high schools, compared to about 8% of the general population. Six of ten Democrats who questioned DeVos in committee prior to her confirmation vote were, themselves, the beneficiaries of public school educations, chose private schools for their own children, or have grandchildren attending private schools. In 2009, 45% of Senators elected to send at least one of their own children to private school.

Why is it, then, that Democrats and leftists are so opposed to charter schools and school vouchers? It could be that they’re just that beholden to the National Education Association.

Or it could be this:

Group of students wearing uniformsWealth has it’s privileges and those privileges are not for you and especially not for your children. If allowed a superior education*, the next generation of riffraff might presume to compete with the children of the upper crust to become the power brokers of tomorrow and that cannot be tolerated.

The Democrats and their leftist masters rely on a permanent underclass to maintain their power base. Anything that challenges that must be stopped by any means possible and than includes sacrificing future generations on the altar of public schools.


* Another advantage of the most elite private school education is the opportunity to build networks among the already-advantaged.

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If Trump is so bad…

Why does the media feel the need to make him seem even worse?

media bias

Obama “replaces,” Trump “ousts.” Got it.

 


Reference:  5/15/09; 3/10/17

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Wag the dog

downward dog 1Back in November, Washington State voters approved I-1433 to eventually raise the state’s minimum wage to $13.50 an hour. I wrote about the voter’s remorse some people are experiencing as a result here.

Statewide, the measure passed with 57.42% voting for to 42.58% against, but in Eastern Washington, the measure failed with near-mirror image numbers,  57.72% voting against to 42.28 % for.* In King County, the county with the highest percentage of votes for, it passed with 69.84% voting for and 30.16% voting against. In Lincoln County, the county with the highest percentage of votes against, it was another near-mirror image, with 69.79% voting against and 30.21% voting for.

All 20 counties in Eastern Washington (plus three in Western Washington) voted the measure down. The 16 remaining counties in Western Washington voted to pass the measure. And so, of course, the measure passed. This isn’t surprising; it’s typical that the two halves of the state disagree on ballot measures and candidates elected at the state level, including U.S. Senators. Roughly 2/3 of Washington voters live on the west side of the state; so while I do find it interesting how the results are mirrored, it’s not a mystery.

Now here is the what I find to be discouraging and depressing.

In raw numbers, 687,996 King County residents voted for I-1433. In the 20 counties of Eastern Washington, 642,913 residents voted for and against the measure.

So there were more “yes” votes in King County than the total number of votes cast in Eastern Washington. Let me repeat that…more “yes” votes in King County alone than the total number of “yes” and “no” votes in Eastern Washington.

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This is a real problem.

The domination of statewide elections by King County voters – and in Washington this includes the election of our Supreme Court justices – leads to policies that are at times misguided and at other times downright hostile to the interests of the eastern portion of the State.

The minimum wage initiative is a case in point. It may make sense in King county (although my personal feeling is that it’s poor policy even there), with employers like Microsoft, Amazon, and Boeing, where many employees are already earning over the minimum wage. In the small towns of Eastern Washington, it may lead to unacceptable job losses in small towns where the economy is not so robust.

I mentioned the Washington Supreme Court. Back in October they handed down the Hirst Ruling, which, by depriving rural property owners of the ability to drill water wells, denies them the rightful use of their property.

If you clicked through to the article about the Hirst ruling, you’ll have seen the reference to the Growth Management Act. The GMA requires rural Lincoln County to follow all the same planning procedures as King County. This is despite Lincoln having a population density of four people per square mile with a population loss of just over 2% between 2010 and 2015 while King County has a population density of 938 people per square mile and population growth of nearly 10% over the same time period.

King County residents vote with a complete lack of regard for the issues facing residents of rural areas in Eastern Washington. That’s fine. They have issues of their own and shouldn’t be expected to lay them aside in favor of someone else’s; however, it would be nice if they’d occasionally stop to consider that the answer to every urban problem need not be forced on rural areas.

Instead of voting for a statewide flat-rate minimum wage, they could have waited for a minimum wage tied to cost of living. They could have looked at court decisions like Hirst, recognized that the court had over-stepped its bounds and replaced some of the justices in November (it’s more than likely that most King County residents have never heard of the Hirst ruling). Or the Growth Management Act could have been amended to reflect the idea that counties that aren’t experiencing explosive growth probably don’t need to manage it in quite the same way as counties that are.

east-west splitThis year, two Eastern Washington lawmakers introduced legislation to split Washington into two states. You may laugh, but the frustration that Eastern Washington residents feel is real. We’re outnumbered, so the solution is going to have to come from, you guessed it…King County. Wish us luck.


*I made this calculation from numbers I entered by hand into an Excel spreadsheet; therefore they may be very slightly off due to data entry errors.

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ACA-Lite

Update below.

There’s no graceful way to ease into this, so I’ll just dig right in.

  1. Paul Ryan

    That face you make when your eight-year plan is found wanting.

    The mandate and it’s odious and dubious ‘tax,’ have been renamed the “Continuous Health Insurance Coverage Incentive” and the payee changed from the federal government to insurance companies(!). It’s a misnomer to call it an incentive as it’s actually a disincentive for people to allow their coverage to lapse. Those who do so for a period of greater than 63 days are subject to a 30% premium penalty for the following year.* And it’s not an option for the insurance companies; they “shall” charge the penalty.

  2. The plan keeps the so-called Cadillac tax on premium insurance plans. Sure, you can have really excellent coverage, but in addition to higher premiums, you’re going to be paying the government for the privilege.
  3. Subsidies have been reinvented as refundable tax credits for low and middle income families. Leaving aside the obvious point that unless everyone receiving them is actually paying taxes (think Earned Income Credit), the need for this alone is an admission by the House GOP that under their plan, premiums are still going to be unaffordable, even for middle income families.
  4. The bill “dismantles” all of the ACA’s taxes including those on on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, health-insurance premiums (unless, of course, you want a plan that’s better than they think you really need), and medical devices. Here’s the “but”…it includes a 1.45% income tax increase to make up for them. This may seem like a net win to some people, but for healthy individuals whose employers pay their insurance premiums (and they are out there), this will be a tax increase.
  5. The plan does defund Planned Parenthood, but if they thought this bone would be enough to satisfy their traditional base, they are sadly mistaken. And here’s another thing: nothing under the plan would prevent insurance companies from offering abortion coverage, “…so long as premiums for such separate coverage or plan are not paid for with any amount attributable to the credit allowed under this section…” Paul Ryan has been telling us for years with regard to government funding of Planned Parenthood that money is fungible. Except for when it’s not, apparently.
  6. Under the plan, Health Savings Accounts come roaring back. Unfortunately, that’s the only nod to market-based solutions included. HSAs are great, but they aren’t for everyone and I’m left with the impression that the authors of the legislation offer them as the one-size-fits-all solution to all our problems.

Those are my specific concerns, but there are some undercurrents that I also find troubling, such as having to report my health insurance information to the IRS (disclaimer: I want the IRS abolished, not given more power over my life) and language that implies that the federal government will still be deciding what kinds of plans and coverage should or must be offered.

When the plan first became available yesterday afternoon, I was nearly apoplectic over it. Right or wrong, I expected more from House Republicans. I was especially disappointed to see my Congresswoman, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, defending this stinking pile like she was offering up filet mignon. It’s rather depressing that after eight years of talking about it, this is the best plan they could offer.

This isn’t a repeal in any meaningful sense of the word and I find it rather insulting that House Republicans would try to pass it off that way. We are not so stupid that we can’t see what’s right before our eyes and the GOP shouldn’t think for a second that the passion that inspired the Tea Party can’t be turned against them.

Update: Now we’re hearing about phases 2 and 3, which will supposedly remove state line restrictions and promote competition. You know what, GOP? I’m not buying it. You wasted your last bit of credibility with phase 1.


*I’m not an insurance expert and I’m sure as heck not a legal expert, so the language surrounding the duration of the premium penalty is confusing to me. That’s the long way of saying that I just guessed that the penalty was to be assessed for 12 months. Here’s the actual language so you can see for yourself. If you’re crazy enough to want to read it for yourself, it’s on page 62.

2017-03-07 (2)

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Are you as conservative as you think you are?

3D man near red question markIf you’re okay with a 30% premium penalty for not maintaining continuous health care insurance coverage, you may not be as conservative as you think you are.

If you think it’s a-okay to have to report your health insurance information to the IRS, you may not be as conservative as you think you are.

If you agree that money isn’t fungible after all, as long as the House GOP says it’s not, you may not be as conservative as you think you are.

If you’re down with the government deciding which insurance plans can be offered, you may not be as conservative as you think you are.

If you think Health Savings Accounts are the perfect one-size-fits-all solution to all our health care insurance needs, you may not be as conservative as you think you are.

If you’re cool with having the government boot on your health care, you may not be as conservative as you think you are.

So overall, if you think the House GOP “repeal and replace”plan is better than Obamacare, you may not be as conservative as you think you are.


Thanks to my friend, Brandon, for his contributions to this post.

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