Sunday, July 10, 2005

It seems that some of our local elected Republicans have stepped over Republican Party lines and are getting a lot of hate and discontent from the party faithful. I decided to look deeper. Here are the issues:

Item A: Councilmember Dick Muri is calling for the county to go to all mail-in balloting, and,

Item B: The Republican majority on the County Council is restricting free speech during County Council meetings.

Item A: Some facts and Research. Dick proposed that the county go to all "mail-in" balloting because conventional wisdom says it costs less -- a lot less. Now that sounds pretty Republican to me. Anything that means paying less taxes and getting the same service is a Republican value. Besides, for last 4-5 years over 75% of the Pierce County ballots have been mail-in anyway, so it's not a great leap of faith to add the last little bit. Unfortunately, voter trust of the election system is at an all time low. Going to an all mail-in system without clear oversight of who is counting the ballots sounds ominous and without a clear rationale to change, Dick is risking the wrath of the party faithful AND the voters in general. So what to do? Actually, Dick and the Council did what they should do. They appointed a free (a nice Republican word) Citizens Advisory Panel to research the issue and give advice. They did and found that the conventional wisdom is bogus. Mail-in balloting cost about the same as all-poll voting or a mixture of systems. So with Dick's rationale out the window and the political problem of voter trust at an all time low, the Citizens Advisory Panel advised "no change".

Item A: Political Analysis. Dick was right to bring up the subject, but his political timing was incredibly clumsy. On the other hand, how was he to know about King County's cheatin' heart? How was he to know that the idiots up north, sorry, the ethically-challenged, "professional" card counters working for Ron Sim's election department, could create votes and ignore others with impunity? Does this remind you of Stalin's "It is not who votes that counts, it's who counts the votes". Dick's good intentions (the road to hell are paved with such) are played against the resulting Republican fury and Dick came out second. Does Dick deserve hate and discontent? Does he deserve to be called RINO? Nope. He asked the right question for the right reason at the wrong time. He deserves a "tsk tsk" for a politically inept move. Dick got the answer he needed. So let's back off and move on.

Item B: Some facts and Research. The Pierce County Council broadcasts its weekly meeting live on a county-wide cable channel. The broadcast is stem to stern without interruption unless the council goes into recess. The agenda is full of ordinances, resolutions and County Executive appointments confirmations. And after the council and staff have asked questions and discussed an agenda item, all interested citizens are invited to speak on camera for up to three minutes to convince the council that the ordinance or resolution in question is brilliance or folly. That includes our being able to comment on camera on every amendment or change as it is being proposed. More pertinent, at the end of every meeting the public is invited to speak on any county issue past, present or future for up to three minutes. It's all pretty cool, if not boring. A little over a year ago, the then County Council Chair, a likeable but soon to retire Democrat named Harold Moss, and the Democrat majority got tired of the personal attacks they were getting especially during the meeting's final three minutes public session -- mostly from the same folks every week. So the Democrats voted to turn off the camera during these three minute closing speeches. Both the Republican Party and the TNT noted this free speech restriction, but also noted the free speech versus civil discourse dilemma. There are some restrictions on free speech: you can't give aid and comfort to an enemy (hear that Jane Fonda?), you can't swear in public, you can't libel, and you can't yell fire in a crowded theater when there is no fire. Republicans vowed to change this restriction if they were able to get into the majority. And majority they got with the 2004 election of State Representative Roger Bush to the council. So a few weeks ago the council took up the issue and the majority Republicans decided to turn the cameras back on during the final meeting segment and let the free speech chips fall where they may -- with one exception. The said that speakers could not swear nor use their on-camera time to personally attack a council member. At first blush that sounds pretty reasonable. But now the ACLU and the TNT (and lots of Republicans -- see Marsha Richard's 8 July blog in Sound Politics) are after the Republican majority for restricting a citizen's right to question and point out rotten politicians. In their argument, free speech is an unrestricted right without responsibility and civil discourse is not mentioned. So what to do?

Item B: Political Analysis. When the majority Republicans voted to restart the camera, but added the personal attack restriction the Democrats on the council didn't participate. So the Republicans look like the bad guys for adding a restriction. We got trapped. No one ever said our opponents (not enemies) were stupid. The ACLU and TNT do not mention that this whole issue is Republicans correcting a Democrat overstep. But, my surprise level is low. I would not expect the TNT or ACLU to come after a Democrat majority for their restrictions. My advice now is to back off the issue. A Republican majority member should "move to reconsider" the previous resolution and then all should vote to turn the camera back on WITHOUT RESTRICTION. (Now usually a motion to "reconsider" takes a two thirds majority. So it will take a few Democrat votes to get it passed and remove restrictions. If the "D"s don't give us the votes, then the tables are reversed and they are the bad guys.) The council will just have to endure the occasional overzealous and passionate citizen. Welcome to democracy in action for which they get $80,000+ per year. Do these Republican Council members deserve our hate and discontent? Are they RINO's? No. But they sure got flummoxed by a shrewd Democrat maneuver which was aided and abetted by the ACLU and TNT. Get smarter guys -- fix it and let's move on. We have roads to build, criminals to jail and taxes to reduce,... and miles to go before we sleep and miles to go before we sleep. (Apologies to Robert Frost).

My $00.02 offered with perfect 20/20 hindsight.



At 10 July, 2005 17:06, Blogger Dick Muri said...

Interesting series of posts. Most are not even close to understanding the situation or the Pierce County ordinance that was put into place. Though the vote was 4 to 0, it would have been 7 to 0 if everyone had been in attendance. This has never been a partisan issue and the current Pierce County council does not operate in a partisan manner. More than 99.9% of all Pierce County Council committee proceedings are broadcast on our cable broadcast at government expense (your tax dollars). The only item that was removed from broadcast was the Citizens Open forum at the weekly meeting of the full council. Many citizens told us they would rather address the council if it wasn’t televised (many are nervous in front of a camera). Others took this forum as an opportunity to rant and rave to the cameras and turn our council meetings into another version of the Jerry Springer show. Our right to freedom of speech doesn’t mean there is a requirement or a right for everyone to listen, especially at taxpayers expense. It is amazing how everyone thinks the ALCU is correct on this issue. They are just trying to “grandstand” and get some publicity. And I find it amusing that I am being called a RINO. I was told in 2003 I am too conservative to get elected (received 59% of the vote in 2003 and 58% in 2004), now I am being told I am too much of a moderate. I never expected to please everyone, fortunately I have the respect of a clear majority of my district six constituents.

At 10 July, 2005 17:23, Blogger Steve said...


A couple of items:

1 and this is a big ONE - I am not on your blog notification list!

2. I did not agree with Dick Muri on the mail in voting from the outset. I believe his stance was self-serving and disingenous but that does not disqualify him from being a Republican.

Dick Muri is not the only R included in the "RINO" classification. The Mainstream Republicans came in for considerable abuse when Erika Cranmer and Jennie Stephenson pounced on me at Sec'y of State's office on Friday. Jeff Cunningham was abused for not allowing signature gathering at the PCRP booth at the fair (which, I believe I heard YOU say was the PCRP arrangement). I, for being Mainstream and the Mainstream announced in favor of the gas tax, though several Mainstream voted against the tax and support I-912.

Apparently, if anyone disagrees with their belief or agenda, they really are not Republicans. So, I guess that anyone who does not fully support one of your basic PCRP Republican tennets is actually a RINO. It would seem that it is their way or the highway and that may be why only a third of so of the precincts have PCO's and why most of us are old and gray and the youth are seldom seen.

Perhaps you would like to muse about being a Republican and tolerance of individual beliefs, something about the 80:20 or 70:30 or maybe even 51:49 rule. I will send you a copy of a piece by John C. Danforth that is quite interesting (under separate cover since this space seems limited).

I will tell you that you have some very vociferous but intolerant and ignorant folks that you need to get under control.


At 11 July, 2005 11:42, Blogger Nathan said...

A couple things,

First, I have my response up at Pajama Jihad. It might be worth a look, and you're free to take it with a grain of salt.

Second, more than anything else the lack of young faces in local politics has to do with the fact that it is ridiculously difficult to find out how to get involved.

The last two times I tried to email Party leadership for my district my emails got bounced, and the county website isn't exactly helpful.

Blogging has networked me somewhat, but I'm still a bit clueless. I want to get involved, but you guys haven't made it easy. If you want young faces, go out and get them. Don't throw them a half-assed map and expect them to come find you.

At 26 July, 2005 20:26, Blogger LJ Sharman said...

I think public comments about specific people within the GOP is in poor taste and somewhat reminiscent of Howard Dean. Our freedom to be able to express our opinions without fear is one of the principles that make this country great. Some may differ with our thoughts on various issues, but the beauty of it is that we can debate and discuss these issues! In the process, let's not name names but instead try to stay united as GOPs. We'll reserve the name calling for Howard Dean.


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