Thursday, November 4, 2010

Whatcom Democrats Sore Tie-ers?

While Whatcom county and Washington State wait for complete voting results, the outcomes of most of the races are pretty clear.

Out of the candidate races, the biggest surprises to me included the Buys victory over Linville and the Larson victory over Melious. I was surprised not based on the candidates abilities but rather their seniority in the first case and what I perceived as a superior campaign performance in the later.

Initiative surprises included the passage of I1107 as well as the rejection of I1098. These were initiatives that I expected to go the opposite way.

On election night I wanted to follow the election results with fellow political activists. Since I live in Bellingham and also had another earlier evening engagement the only election night party I could attend was the Whatcom Democrats event at the NY Pizza bar in downtown Bellingham. I could write a whole separate post on that experience, and maybe I will if I have time, but in general I had a good time and was welcomed. I didn't hide the fact that I was a Republican (elected PCO) as well as that I was "Bellinghammer" but still enjoyed my evening and had good discussions with several Democrats even as results came in and it was clear that the Democrats weren't going to have as good a night as they have had recently.

That's why I'm a little surprised by several Democrats reactions post election day. Hopefully we can disagree on policy and even roles of government but come together post election, respect the will of the voters and try to work together to get things done.

When you examine the results in this county and for the entire state against the voting recommendations provided by the county parties you see that voters evenly split their votes and sided with Republicans 9 times and Democrats 9 times.

Again, I implore candidates, electeds, and yes even the local political parties to work together and tackle the challenges facing this county, state, and country. If you can't work resolve your differences at least demonstrate respect for the other side. What helps me is to remember that "they" are your fellow neighbors, friends, grandparents and that ultimately we all want the same thing. A better community in which we can live, work, and raise our families.

Will of voters versus Whatcom Party Recommendations
40th Seat 1LyttonD
40th Seat 2MorrisD
42nd Seat 1OverstreetR
42nd Seat 2BuysR
42nd SenateEricksenR
Supreme CourtSandersR
COB Prop 1 Sales TaxYesD
BSD LevyYesD
County CouncilLarsonR
US SenateMurrayD
US HouseLarsenD

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

WA State freezing up access to capital

I received a new "State Financial Suitability Requirements" notice this morning as I logged into my prosper account. Basically Washington State is deciding whether or not it's wise for people to invest in peer to peer lending. If you don't meet their requirements then you will be breaking the law if you continue to lend.

How long until we see these sort of requirement before one is allowed to invest their own hard assets in the stock market, real estate, heck why not even charitable giving?

For the record my small Prosper investment has payed out 12.44%. That's way more than any of my other more traditional investments. I also appreciate the fact that it gives me the ability to lend capital directly to people and businesses who are in need at a time when we continue to hear news stories of frozen capital markets. Is prosper a risky investment? Oh heck yes, but if investors know that going in and aren't expecting any sort of bailout in the case of lose, then stay the heck out of my financial dealings! I wouldn't be surprised if banks or other financial institutions had a hand in drafting these requirements as they would rather individuals be forced to lend their capital through them rather than via a more direct channel.

State Financial Suitability Requirements
The state of Washington has financial suitability requirements.

1. Financial Suitability Requirement:

The Notes are being offered only to a lender (a husband and wife are treated together as one lender) who satisfies the suitability requirements set forth below. You must meet one or more of the suitability requirements (a-b) in order to purchase Notes from Prosper.

A - I have an annual gross income of at least $70,000 and a net worth as set forth below, of at least $70,000, and I will not purchase Notes that in the aggregate, exceed 10% or more of my net worth as set forth below, or
B - I have a minimum net worth of $250,000 and I will not purchase Notes, that in the aggregate, exceed 10% or more of my net worth as set forth below.
Note: Net worth is calculated exclusive of home, home furnishings and automobiles, and Lender members may not value assets included in the computation of net worth at more than their fair market value.

2. Certification under Penalty of Perjury:

The undersigned has carefully read this Suitability Questionnaire for Individuals and confirms, under penalty of perjury, that the information contained herein is accurate, true and complete and if there should be any change in such information at any time, the undersigned will immediately furnish the revised or corrected information to Prosper.

Under penalty of perjury, I confirm that the information contained herein is accurate, true and complete and:

[ ] I confirm that I meet one or more of the financial suitability requirements in sections a or b set forth above.

[ ] I confirm that I do not meet any of the financial suitability requirements above.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Cornwall's Easter Service Surprise

Another great Easter service at Cornwall Church this year. A couple of years ago Cornwall stepped out on a limb and announced that it was donating the entire Easter service collection to a number of local and global charities. In spite of the economic downturn, and in great faith, Cornwall Church again chose to give it all away for a good cause.

All the money given on Easter weekend and through April 8 will be used to rebuild an orphanage in Haiti...a home for 39 children.

The original orphanage, located in the Terre Noire Valley, 8 miles east of St. Marc, was significantly damaged by the Jan. 12th earthquake and has since been torn down. The 39 orphans ranging in age from 4-18 years are currently living in tents and small classrooms. Although they have more physical land on their compound than those living in tent cities around Port-au-Prince, they are none-the-less living as earthquake refugees with no place to call home.

Cornwall Church intentionally chose to give all of its Easter offering away because Easter is one of the highest attended services of the year. Simply put: more people means more money for the cause (not the church). You may say, "So what? This is not a first; other churches have done this kind of thing before." The big deal is that Cornwall Church represents many hearts in Whatcom County. Hearts of compassion and generosity. Hearts that believe that individually and corporately we can effect positive change. Three months after the 7.0 earthquake, the need is still great. The need for these 39 orphan children is a place to take refuge from the harsh climate, a place to call home. As a sponsor of one of those orphans this is very exciting news indeed.

If you would like to share your heart of compassion and generosity by helping to rebuild a home for these Haitian orphans, donations must be received by Cornwall Church no later than April 8, 2010. Checks can be made payable to Cornwall Church, and in the notes field write “Easter Donation.”

Friday, March 26, 2010

HB3191 - Custom Software tax

Almost every developer I know has at one time or another worked on side contracts relating to "custom software". Provisions in HB 3191 would require that state sales tax (currently at 6.5%) now be added on.

This provision came to my attention through some discussion on our local Bellingham Linux Users Group mailing list with several people responding that this would hurt their small business as well as one suggesting that they might consider leaving the state.

The Ubermind blog also has a good posting on how this custom software tax will do much more harm than good. Specifically they mention the following great points:

To be abundantly clear, any company in Washington will suddenly have to pay at least 6.5% more for custom software services. Here are a few of the important points that surround this thoughtless bill:

“Professional Service,” not “Retail Sales” – custom software is a professional service no different than the services rendered by attorneys, engineers, management consultants and other similar professions; reclassifying custom software to a “retail service” is simply not logical

Increases an Already Heavy Tax Burden – requiring custom software companies to charge their customers state sales tax will increase the costs and taxes for all types of Washington businesses

Increases Offshoring – large customers of custom software companies will seek to avoid cost increases from state sales tax by using offshore providers, which will lead to job loss among Washington’s custom software providers

Businesses Will Leave – custom software providers may decide to relocate their offices to a neighboring state to avoid the burden of collecting sales tax revenue for the state

Headache for Consumers – companies that use out-of-state custom software providers will be burdened by use tax, which must be paid in lieu of state sales tax that out-of-state providers do not charge

Endless Ambiguity – the Dept. of Revenue and taxpayers will find themselves looped into endless discussions and arguments over tax liability; for example, should a web design firm be considered a “custom software” provider?

Poor Classification – unlike sellers of “digital goods” (e.g. MP3’s from Amazon), the majority of custom software providers are not set up to receive payments from clients via credit card; implementing new e-commerce systems allowing sales tax collection will, again, be burdensome and costly.

Make sure you contact your local representatives and let them know what you think about the custom software tax provisions in HB 3191.

Friday, March 19, 2010

President Obama Special Interview by Fox News, Really

The Obama White House recently permitted the first exclusive interview to Fox news. The interviewer was Bret Baier. I'm not a Fox News loyalist, but this interview was by far one of the most informative ones I've seen since Obama has taken office. This was due in large part to the reporter being willing to ask hard questions, keep the President on track in his answers, and politely step in when the President attempts to filibuster with wordy but non-informative campaign speak.

Peggy Noonan with the Wall Street Journal provides an excellent recap of the interview and what new information we can glean from it.

Also, you can see the two part interview for yourself here: part 1 and part 2. Check it out now before Rupert Murdoch puts it behind some pay wall.

Does anyone know what the heck the President was talking about when made the case that the "Louisiana deal" in the health care bill will help events like the "earthquake in Hawaii"?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Canadian Premier travels to US for heart surgery

I came across a very entertaining/interesting article detailing how Canadian Premier Danny Williams came to the US for a heart procedure that could/would not be performed in Canada.

Some interesting quotes from the Premier and points to ponder before we people talk about wanting to imitate the Canadian health care system.

"This was my heart, my choice and my health," Williams said late Monday from his condominium in Sarasota, Fla.
"I did not sign away my right to get the best possible health care for myself when I entered politics."

The above quote is in regards to the fact that the procedures available under the Canadian system would have require breaking his bones and a much longer recovery time than the minimally invasive procedure performed in the US for his condition.

"I would've been criticized if I had stayed in Canada and had been perceived as jumping a line or a wait list. ... I accept that. That's public life,"

"(But) this is not a unique phenomenon to me. This is something that happens with lots of families throughout this country, so I make no apologies for that."

Yes, many Canadians (not just their politicians) who can afford it get out of the Canadian health care "line" and choose to come to the US for procedures that can be performed more quickly or efficiently.

"We do whatever we can to provide the best possible health care that we can in Newfoundland and Labrador. The Canadian health care system has a great reputation, but this is a very specialized piece of surgery that had to be done and I went to somebody who's doing this three or four times a day, five, six days a week."

Specialized surgeries and procedures are exactly the kind of procedures that get ignored in socialized health care systems because resources are focused on general procedures that affect the masses rather than more specialized / less common ones. The Canadian procedures offered to the Premier was more blunt and less specific and therefore is a surgical option that could be applied to a larger set of procedures.

Update: I found this other Canadian article talking about the same issue but in defense of the Canadian health care system. It doesn't explain why the premier would choose to get this performed in the US if he could just have easily had it done in Canada, but it does offer some interesting prospective.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

SB 6688 - Concerning filling vacancies in nonpartisan elective office

The Washington state legislature has it's hands full tackling budget issue this session, but it appears they also found time to erode counties rights and responsibilities concerning filling vacancies as well as increasing partisanship.

Senate Bill 6688 aims to change the way that county vacancies are filled. It's interesting that this bill comes up after Whatcom County had it's own difficulties recently in filling a non-partisan county council seat.

As I read the bill it sets out the following vacancy plan:
1. County executive chooses three possible candidates to fill vacancy.
2. Count council votes on the possible candidates.
3. If a majority of the council agrees on a candidate they fill the vacancy, otherwise the state governor chooses the successor from the list.

My initial response upon seeing this bill was to ask why is the State legislature taking it upon themselves to setup county specific rules? This is not something that should be the purview of state government. Once I got past that initial revulsion of state infringement on local issues the following questions arose:
The state governor is a state-wide partisan office.

  1. How is the state governor more qualified to make a county specific decision than the more local, non-partisan county executive?
  2. Since the governor is elected on a statewide basis. Doesn't this in effect give voters outside the county a voice in filling vacancies?
  3. Doesn't the state governor have other more pressing state wide issues to concern themselves with? How much time could they possibly devote to making a county specific decision taking in nuances and traits specific to that county?
  4. If the state attorney general has made it a pratice to not issue opinions on county specific legal issues for counties operating under home rule charters then how/why should the state governor be given authority to name a successor in those counties?

So far SB 6688 has passed the Senate and will be discussed on Feb 19th at 11am before the House Committee on State Government & Tribal Affairs. Please take some time to contact the members of this committee and voice your opinion on this bill. Also please contact your state representatives and ask them not to infringe on the rights and responsibilities of county government.

It is clear after Whatcom county recently went through the process of filling a vacancy that changes and clarifications are needed to our county process. My understanding is that the Whatcom county council is taking steps to clarify this process, let's handle this on a local level and not rely on outside influences to determine who fills non-partisan county positions.

Please contact your state representatives today!
40th LD
REP Dave Quall
REP Jeff Morris
SEN Kevin Ranker - Voted FOR SB 6688.
42nd LD
REP Doug Erickson
REP Kelli Linville
SEN Dale Brandland - Voted AGAINST SB 6688.

I'll be asking my 40th LD representatives where they stand on this bill. Hopefully we won't see it get enacted. Stay tuned.

Update 1: County councilman Ken Mann also commented on this bill. Included with his post is a comment from Bellingham city councilman Stan Snapp. Thanks Ken and Stan for your support of non-partisan local government!