Release: Spokane Home Builders Association Taking the Lead on Candidate Transparency

(Spokane, Wash.) – The Board of Directors of the Spokane Home Builders Association (SHBA) made the decision this week to modify its candidate endorsement policy to include mandatory background checks for anyone seeking election support going forward.

The background checks are free and self-authorized by the candidates. The SHBA is partnering with Candidate Verification, a non-profit 501C3 organization based in Seattle to make this requirement possible. Once the candidate has had the opportunity to review his or her background check, Candidate Verification will then post it online for the public to see.

More information about Candidate Verification can be found at www.candidateverification.org.

“As an Association that has long advocated for more government transparency, and as one of our region’s strongest and most active political advocacy organizations, it seemed a natural fit to make mandatory background checks a pre-requisite for our endorsement,” said Michael Cathcart, Government Affairs Director for the Spokane Home Builders Association. “We see this as the next evolution of candidate and election transparency and we are excited to be the first in Eastern Washington to sign-on and the second organization in the State to make this mandatory.”

Already implementing mandatory background checks is the Western Washington advocacy organization, Stand for Children. Others encouraging candidates to comply, but not making it mandatory, include: the King County Municipal League, King County Republican Party, Snohomish County REALTORS Association, and Progressive Majority.

“We don’t want to be all alone in this here in Eastern Washington,” added Cathcart. “This is a very non-partisan issue, so we have started the process of reaching out to a broad and bi-partisan range of political, labor, and business organizations that support and endorse candidates and asking them to join us in making candidate transparency a priority. We are calling on the Spokesman Review and the Inlander to join-in as well.”

The background checks through Candidate Verification will include:

  • Civil and criminal records search, including the national sex offender registry search
  • Military records verification
  • Resume verification, including: employment history verification, professional credential verification, and post-secondary degree/diploma verification
  • NOTE: A credit check is not part of this process

“This added step is beneficial for the candidate as well as the community,” said Cathcart. “The candidates will benefit because any erroneous information about their background will be kept to a minimum and the community gets to benefit from the certainty and transparency the background checks provide. The voters will actually have a way to verify some of the information candidates are telling them throughout election season.”

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Rep. Short & Sen. Ericksen Push for Low Cost Alternatives in Climate Plan; Urge Continued Legislative Role in State Climate Actions

On page 1 of their own CLEW report, Rep. Short and Sen. Ericksen call for continued work to “provide legislators with the data necessary to make informed decisions.” Right off the bat they recognize that these decisions are to be made ultimately by the Legislature. They specifically use language in the report such as, Legislation should be enacted…,” and the Legislature should form…” Clearly a stark contrast exists between the two sides in their views over the role of the Executive and Legislative branches of government.

You can view their report in its entirety by clicking here.

Here are the ideas proposed by Rep. Shelly Short and Sen. Doug Ericksen:

  • Incentivize hydroelectric power generation
  • Replace fossils fuels with nuclear generation
  • Promote research and development (R&D) for new technologies
  • Encourage conservation under the Energy Independence Act (I-937)
  • Allow renewable energy credit banking under I-937
  • Modify fuel mix reporting system

Gov. Inslee Ignores Legislature’s Role; Continues Push for Potentially Costly New State Programs

Governor Inslee has refused for weeks to back away from his consideration of implementing low carbon fuel standards and possibly other actions such as Cap N’ Trade by Executive Order. This has been an issue largely seen as a killer for any transportation deals this year.

In the CLEW report issued this week by Governor Inslee, Senator Ranker, and Rep. Fitzgibbon, the Governor uses this as another opportunity to vaguely state the role he believes the Legislature should have in these decisions. On page 4 the report states, “The Legislature should be actively engaged in this process through an ongoing executive and legislative dialogue on the actions we should take to reduce greenhouse gas emissions….once specific proposals emerge, they will be subject to review by legislators, stakeholders, and our citizens.”

On page 13 the report states, “To meet the Workgroup’s statutory obligation, we have identified a set of actions that will secure the additional emission reductions by the required dates and are recommending that the state move forward to design and implement these actions.” Then as the report is wrapping up and addressing the “Future Process and Timeline” on page 16, it states that “policy designs and economic analysis should be organized and conducted by the executive branch in 2014,” and again reiterates the role of the legislature will be to engage in a dialogue and review proposals.

Brazenly, the notion of Legislators taking action on any of the proposals is ignored, instead limiting the role to having a dialogue and allowing a review of materials. Clearly, the Governor’s lengthy stay in the US Congress somehow never educated him on the concept of separation of powers.

You can view the entire report by clicking here.

The recommendations from the Governor includes:

  • Establish a Cap N’ Trade Program (The report calls it a Cap N’ Market Program)
  • Reduce and Eliminate Power by Coal in Washington State
  • Create an Energy Smart Building Programs – Include incentives and financing for energy neutral development.
  • Finance the use of Clean/Renewable Energy Programs
  • Transportation Adjustments – Accelerate the use of clean cars, cleaner fuels, and change the way we finance transportation. Add Climate Change considerations to Land Use plans.

If you like your toilet…will you be able to keep it?

ImageA bill introduced last week from Rep. Fitzgibbon (D-King County) would adopt a more stringent low flow toilet standard overriding the federal 1.6-gallons-per-flush standard that’s been in place since 1994.

Under HB 2414 (read here), as of January 2016, all toilets, other than institutional and commercial toilets, toilets used by children in day care facilities, and toilets used in bariatric applications, sold, offered for sale, or distributed in this state must be high efficiency toilets,” described as having an “effective flush volume…not exceed[ing] 1.28 gallons.”

The bill is scheduled for a public hearing in the House Committee on Environment Thursday morning at 8:00am. You can watch the stream live or after it airs over at TVW.org

An additional question that needs to be asked if this passes is where will they try to take us next?

The bill does include some fluffy language about the astronomical level of savings that would occur “if every home in the United States replaced old toilets with new high efficiency toilets,” and as this Huffington Post articlepoints out, California has already put that mandate into law.

As of Jan 1st in California, homeowners can no longer “get final approval for a variety of home improvements — from replacements of windows to a room addition — unless they have low-flow plumbing fixtures throughout their properties.” In addition, by 2017, homes for sale will have to disclose any substandard plumbing devices during the sale, as though the home was infested with termites or mold.

HB 2414 is just another case of Washington State trying to show up the federal government by further limiting the choices of homeowners and builders.

Update to Downtown Spokane ‘Sit & Lie’ Ordinance

Our friends at the Downtown Spokane Partnership have put out a Call to Action in support of the updated ‘Sit & Lie’ ordinance for Downtown Spokane.

A safe and vibrant Downtown Spokane is vital to the economic health of the region. It encourage commerce, attracts tourists and visitors, and enhances the quality of life that we all expect from our wonderful city. Unfortunately, we’ve all likely witnessed some of the bad actors participating in nuisance behavior or causing public safety hazards typically to the detriment of our Downtown shops and businesses. The update to this ordinance will provide additional tools for Spokane Police Officers to remove these types of individuals or direct them to shelters and/or other opportunities for assistance. It is very important that Spokane has the ability to handle these issues now rather than waiting for us to potentially find ourselves in a situation like Portland.  If you have questions about the ordinance you can some of the additional information below or contact Andrew Rolwes at the Downtown Spokane Partnership (DSP) at arolwes@downtownspokane.net or 509.456.0580.

The final hearing on the ordinance will be:

6pm | Monday, December 16th

Spokane City Hall

–          Michael Cathcart, SHBA Government Affairs Director

[The following information provided by the Downtown Spokane Partnership]

streettalk_DSP

PROPOSED ORDINANCE PROVISIONS:

  • No person may sit or lie down upon a public sidewalk, or upon a blanket, chair, stool or any other object placed upon a public sidewalk between 6am-1am, unless allowed by the neighboring property owner.
  • At all times it is unlawful to sit or lie on any drinking fountain, trash container, planter, bicycle rack, or any other sidewalk fixture not designed primarily for the purpose of sitting.
  • At all times it is unlawful to sit or lie in any entrance to or exit from any building or parking lot, or on any loading dock.
  • Ordinance will not be enforced if all homeless shelters are full.

ADDITIONAL BACKGROUND:

  • This ordinance will not criminalize homeless: it will bring accountability
    to the aimless.
  • This ordinance will only be enforced after the person is given a warning and directed to services.
  • Currently, there’s no motivation for people to find help if needed, so some lay and/or sit on our sidewalks, panhandle for hand outs and in some cases engage in threatening/intimidating behavior.
  • We must take back some reasonable control of our sidewalks and public spaces if we wish to support a vibrant, thriving Downtown neighborhood that welcomes employees, visitors and residents.
  • This is one part of a comprehensive approach to help those in genuine need and provide a tool officers need to encourage people to either receive services or move along.

WHAT CAN YOU DO:

Workers Compensation Fee Increase

In a press release issued December 2nd, Labor & Industry announced that it will be increasing rates on workers compensation just as proposed back in September. The rates will increase on avg 2.7%, but for the building industry construction risk classes will see an average 5% increase.

Today, the Department of Labor and Industry issued their “concise explanatory statement,” which contains summaries and excerpts from the testimony heard across the State. On that note, it is extremely disappointing to see such little interest and poor turnout at the hearings. Across 6 locations in 8 days the total attendance was 50 people and of the 50 only 13 testified. [There is no indication of the number of written comments provided.] Specifically in Spokane, 18 attended and 5 testified, including Jim Breidenbach of Craftsmen Construction and myself. That’s the highest participation out of any of the hearings around the state.

Though largely dismissive of the necessity for further reforms, L&I does provide some short responses to the concerns laid out in testimony. You can read the entire document here.

Urban Growth Area Expansion Update

“Growth” – A 6-letter word that will get your mouth washed out with soap if used around the Growth Management Hearings Board or certain activist organizations such as Futurewise or the Spokane County Neighborhood Alliance. Unfortunately, we also have to add to that list the Washington Department of Commerce and the Department of Transportation, which are really just standing in as proxies for Gov. Jay ‘Cap & Trade’ Inslee.

As you know, back in September 2013, Gov. Inslee directed his Commerce and Transportation department heads to challenge the Spokane County Urban Growth Boundary expansion. You can read the post I made about that here.

On Nov 26, 2013, the Eastern WA Growth Management Hearings Board tossed out the UGA update approved by Spokane’s Commissioners last summer after several years of work on the issue. So why specifically did they rule this way? [You can read the entire Order Here] It was largely a technicality – citing a revised population growth estimation that went without a public hearing. According to the documents, the board found that on July 18, 2013 after the public comment period had ended, the County increased its estimated population projection by 7,571, making the final revised number –  121,112.

The understanding now is that all the County has to do to fix the mistake is to go back and hold a new public hearing with regard to the slight tweak in population projection and then again approve the boundary expansion. In addition, the County can file an appeal to overturn the ruling. Both options are on the table and may be pursued by our County Commissioners.

Consider reaching out to the County Commissioners and give them support as they make this decision:

  • Phone: (509) 477-2265
  • Commissioner Todd Mielke – tmielke@spokanecounty.org
  • Commissioner Al French – afrench@spokanecounty.org
  • Commissioner Shelly O’Quinn – soquinn@spokanecounty.org

According to Daniel Walters at the Inlander, “640 lots, across six different properties countywide” have vested and can now move forward with development no matter the outcome of the challenge. Despite anti-growth activists calling this a loophole, it’s a really a common-sense tool to ensure predictability for all of the parties involved.

You can expect in either 2014 or 2015 that a strong assault on current vesting laws will be made back in Olympia. All the more important to have legislators back there willing to stand up for our property rights.

SENATOR MICHAEL BAUMGARTNER AND COMMISSIONER AL FRENCH TOP THE LIST OF SEVERAL EARLY – ENDORSEMENTS APPROVED BY THE SPOKANE HOME BUILDERS

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(SPOKANE, Wash.) – Last week, the Board of Directors of the Spokane Home Builders Association (SHBA) voted unanimously to early-endorse several incumbent candidates for re-election in 2014. They join Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich who already received the Association’s endorsement earlier this year.

“Our region is truly blessed to have so many hard working elected leaders fighting to make government smarter, less intrusive, and more efficiently sized,” said Michael Cathcart, SHBA Government Affairs Director. “Included among those our board selected for early-endorsements are two local leaders likely to see high profile re-election campaigns next year: Senator Michael Baumgartner and County Commissioner Al French.”

Sen. Michael Baumgartner, Vice-Chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, has been an ardent advocate for smarter, reform-minded policies that eliminate unnecessary government mandates and ensure a more prosperous economic environment for Washington State. His leadership has helped to promote cooperation among the diverse members of the Majority Coalition Caucus (MCC), and has provided a needed Spokane/Eastern Washington perspective within the bi-partisan group.

“Our small businesses and the home building industry very much need to see Sen. Baumgartner re-elected and the principles of the MCC continue to lead the Senate,” said Deacon Band, SHBA President. “The common sense reforms championed by Sen. Baumgartner and the MCC are necessary to continue enhancing our business environment.”

Commissioner French has long been a strong proponent of pro-growth policies such as expanding the Urban Growth Area boundary where needed and making permitting an easier and less expensive ordeal, demonstrating his intimate understanding that a strong economic environment and a robust housing industry are dependent upon each other.

“Al French brings with him a reservoir of knowledge, years of experience, and a terrific track record on property rights, small business, and economic issues,” said Joel White, SHBA Executive Director. “He is clearly the best choice to serve another four years as Spokane County Commissioner.”

The following candidates received early-endorsements from the Spokane Home Builders Association:

Michael Baumgartner – State Senator, 6th District; Rob Chase – Treasurer, Spokane County; Susan Fagan – State Representative, 9th District; Al French – Commissioner, Spokane County; Jeff Holy – State Representative, 6th District; Ozzie Knezovich – Sheriff, Spokane County (endorsed earlier this year); Joel Kretz – State Representative, 7th District; Kevin Parker – State Representative, 6th District; Cathy McMorris Rodgers – Congress, 5th Congressional Dist.; Joe Schmick – State Representative, 9th District; Matt Shea – State Representative, 4th District ; Shelly Short – State Representative, 7th District;

Not all races were considered in this slate of early-endorsements. Additional endorsements will be approved in the coming months.

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Vague and Contradictory Data Make State’s Climate Report a Policy Rorschach Test | Washington Policy Center

Vague and Contradictory Data Make State’s Climate Report a Policy Rorschach Test | Washington Policy Center

—> Click to read the article from the Washington Policy Center

The Climate Legislative and Executive Workgroup (CLEW) was designed earlier this year in a bill sponsored by Sen. Kevin Ranker and championed by Gov. Jay Inslee as a means to develop a broad range of options (including carbon pricing) to meet the greenhouse gas emission goals set by the legislature in 2008. The legislation indicates that it is supposed to analyze the greenhouse gas emission reduction programs implemented in other jurisdictions in order to find the most cost effective program for our state. Specifically its to do so by evaluating, “the relative impact [of those programs] upon different sectors of the jurisdiction’s economy, including power rates, agriculture, manufacturing, and transportation fuel costs; [and] the impacts upon household consumption and spending, including fuel, food, and housing costs, and program measures to mitigate impacts to low-income populations.”

Unfortunately, the group Chaired by Gov. Inslee has struggled to move forward a comprehensive economic impact analysis since it began meeting in May 2013. It even held two public forums, one in Spokane and one in Seattle before any economic impacts of the proposed tax and regulatory policies were known – perhaps indicating that the economics are more of an afterthought. 

Finally, in early November the consultant hired by CLEW released a report (link: http://alturl.com/ctk5k) containing several snippets of data pasted into a series of tables. However, much of the data contained in the near last minute report (the group is set to vote on recommendations in the coming weeks) comes out of jurisdictions different from Washington and in some cases from studies several years old – making the quality and value of these snippets questionable at best. 

Thankfully, Todd Myers of the Washington Policy Center has provided some of his insights in the article linked above.