For too much of the liberal crowd in this town, I-200 is an easy call. Indeed, to even raise questions about affirmative action is somehow


Our Endorsements

I-200: Affirmative Action

For too much of the liberal crowd in this town, I-200 is an easy call. Indeed, to even raise questions about affirmative action is somehow considered, at the very least, uncouth. But the people who brought us I-200 are rightly shining a critical light on a highly flawed and troubling program. Affirmative action in the public sector is disturbing not just because it institutionalizes racial and gender discrimination as an official government policy; it also serves as a convenient fig leaf to cover up the fundamental and persistent inequalities of education and opportunity that set minorities back, long before they are ever applying for jobs or college admissions.

I-200, though, while eliminating a flawed program, would do far more harm than good. It's hard to imagine John Carlson and his I-200 crowd out there after Election Day, seeking new and "fairer" ways to help minorities and women. Instead, we suspect they'll be looking to sue to stop any program that's specifically tailored to help them. Meanwhile, the officially sanctioned preferences for veterans and the disabled—which primarily benefit white males—will remain, untouched by I-200, as will all the many unofficial preferences that serve to keep the powerless in their place. Vote No.

I-688: Minimum Wage

Both sides in this debate over whether to increase the minimum wage to $6.50 an hour by the year 2000, as proposed by I-688, agree that even that rate is too low to be a livable wage. So what's the argument for keeping the minimum at $5.15, the level that currently applies to most jobs? Not much of one.

Opponents of I-688 portray the minimum as a "starting wage" used mainly by people who don't need the money—teenagers and those in families with other earners. But a scouring of statistics and real-life examples shows that the vast majority of minimum-wage earners are making their own way—though that is far from easy to do. One McDonald's worker we talked to couldn't spare $12 so that the granddaughter she is raising could get school pictures.

The minimum wage wasn't always so stingy. If it had kept up with the rate of inflation over the past 30 years, it would now stand at approximately $7.40.

Still, there are questions about the initiative's call for annual automatic increases that would follow the inflation rate. Opponents say business owners could be devastated in hard times. The increases would be gradual, however, rather than the big jump that happens when the minimum is raised after a long lull.

Moreover, to state the obvious: In good times and in hard times, people need to buy food. If it costs them more to get it, they need to earn more. Vote Yes.

I-692: Medical Marijuana

It's so hard to argue that medicinal marijuana is a bad thing that opponents of Initiative 692 don't even try. Nor does the medical establishment. According to The New England Journal of Medicine, "thousands of patients with cancer, AIDS, and other diseases report they have obtained striking relief from devastating symptoms by smoking marijuana."

Opponents of I-692 instead argue—disingenuously, we believe—that the proposal is flawed because it provides no safe or legal means for distribution, as is provided for FDA-controlled prescription drugs. They also object on the grounds that I-692 is the first step in a backdoor effort to legalize marijuana for the general public. (This is a bad thing?) There is, however—contrary to opponents' protestations—no indication that the initiative itself encourages recreational pot smoking. In fact, since California passed a similar initiative in 1996, marijuana use has gone down among teenagers.

Last year, initiative advocates proposed a vague and sweeping initiative that included broad legalization of medicinal drugs, including heroin. We opposed that effort and urged supporters to come back with narrower, more specific provisions for getting marijuana to desperately ill people who will benefit from a joint or two and deserve our compassion. They did just as we asked. How can we complain? Vote yes.

I-694: Partial Birth Abortion

Delving into the details of abortion of all kinds makes plain what a morally complex and harrowing practice it is. Whether you call it a baby or a fetus or even "the products of conception," as one Planned Parenthood doctor put it, there's some kind of being in the womb that is destroyed—usually while it still has a heartbeat.

It is, however, possible to insist that women not be forced to undergo the prolonged and incredibly demanding rigors of pregnancy and birth—not to mention the hard years of labor involved in raising a child—while at the same time considering whether the abortion methods used are the most humane possible. It's also fair to ask whether we have set the right time limits on abortion.

Yet the backers of I-694 and a wave of similar laws around the country aren't looking to promote honest discussion. They give the misleading impression that the abortions they want to ban occur in the third trimester, when a baby is in the process of being "born." In fact, these abortions are usually performed in the second trimester, before viability, and begin like any other abortion at that stage, with a doctor using a forceps to pull the fetus out. Because the next step causes brain death, the method seems no more—and possibly less—gruesome than others.

Moreover, if supporters of I-694 truly wanted to ban just this particular method they would have specified its medical name: intact dilation and extraction (or evacuation). Instead, they have crafted a vague law that could apply to all abortions. Vote No.

Referendum 49: Transportation Finance

This sweeping, head-spinning reshuffling of state finances is couched behind one appealing bit of pandering: a $30 reduction in annual motor-vehicle excise taxes. Before you swallow this bait, read the fine print. Referendum 49 is Reaganite voodoo economics at its worst, dangerous to the state's financial health and to basic services like education. Among other things, it will nearly triple the share of state highway construction financed with debt, raising it to 20 percent vs. a national average of 6 percent. It will saddle the next 25 years' budgets with $1.9 billion of this debt, rather than letting those who use the roads pay for them through the gas tax. It will shift further highway funding away from the gas tax—an equitable user fee—to the vehicle tax. It will jerk a large share of the vehicle tax away from the general fund, where it would otherwise help for parks, schools, and rainy-day emergencies in the event of a recession. It will squeeze basic services further by reauthorizing I-601 (Linda Smith's gift to the state, which we opposed), which limits general-fund expenditures regardless of receipts. And it will spend $2.4 billion on highways and roads but not a cent on transit.

Referendum 49 is a Swiss Army knife of a package, full of fiscally and environmentally regressive concealed measures. Throw it back at the statehouse Republicans who concocted it and wait for an honest, responsible transportation plan. Vote No.

Seattle Proposition 1: Library bonds

Yes, the city shouldn't have been so quick to use up its discretionary funding capacity on other, less important downtown projects. And yes, a better site could have been chosen. And yes, we might limp by and save a little money (not a lot) by renovating the current building. But we shouldn't cut off the kids and everyone else who deserves a better library system to spite our improvident officials, as the anti-library Initiative 45 would do. After an earlier, flawed library plan failed at the polls, the planners listened and tinkered. This package strikes a reasonable balance between neighborhood needs (new libraries where they're needed most and upgrades everywhere) and the whole citizenry's need to meet and learn in the sort of space that only a surpassing central library can provide. This town deserves a great library, and this is a pretty good plan for building it. Vote Yes.

US Senate: Patty Murray vs. Linda Smith

OK, our first inclination was to vote for Patti Smith. But once that rock 'n' roll moment wore off, we were faced with the fact that Patty Murray and her politics are about as exciting as . . . well, as a mom in tennis shoes. Moreover, the far more galvanizing Linda Smith has only two things going for her: her tendency to speak her mind and her admirable stands on campaign finance reform and human-rights issues in totalitarian countries with which her richest corporate constituents want to conduct lucrative trade. Were it not for the fact that the rest of Smith's platform is frightening, she would win our endorsement, hands down, on the strength of campaign finance and human rights alone.

So our endorsement of Murray comes with some regret. She has in many ways turned into a standard Washington insider, too beholden to corporate interests to do a proper job of representing her constituents. We hope that when she returns to DC, she remembers that the populist Smith has advanced as far as she has in politics—against the wishes, remember, of her own party's establishment—because she is right to point out, insistently and vociferously, that money has thoroughly corrupted Congress. The next candidate to live by Smith's principles might be less enough of an extremist in the rest of his or her politics to give Murray a run for her money. Vote Murray.

1st Congressional District: Jay Inslee vs. Rick White

Let's face it—Rick White is nothing more than Newt Gingrich with a human face. He's like Linda Smith without the charm or the ethics. His sole claim to fame—as an expert on Internet and telecommunications policy—is both undeserved and little more than pandering to his monstrously rich constituent, Microsoft. His voting record is so reliably far right (for impeachment, against banning assault weapons) that he should be representing Orange County, California, or Neanderthal County, Mississippi.

Inslee, by contrast, has a moderately liberal voting record, a far more enlightened stance on the environment, and an ability to vote his conscience. He had the courage, for example (courage that White conspicuously lacks) to stand up to the National Rifle Association; it was his vote for an assault weapons ban that raised the NRA's ire and cost Inslee his seat in Congress in 1992.

White was swept into Congress that year on the Republican Revolution tide, unseating the competent Maria Cantwell. By voting for Inslee this time around, citizens can reverse two wrongs with one pull on the lever: Return the deserving Inslee to Congress, and throw White out. Vote Inslee.

King County Prosecutor: Fred Canavor vs. Norm Maleng

This was far and away our closest call, as both candidates strike us as highly capable, reliable, and deserving of the office. Maleng has served as prosecutor for 20 years, and our only major complaint about his tenure was his influential support of the Sentencing Reform Act, which we regard as a tragic mistake at best.

That issue, though (on which Canavor disagrees with Maleng), is a deal breaker for us, along with the conviction that the office could use some new blood. Canavor, a former assistant attorney general in New York and prosecutor for San Juan County, brings a bracing zeal and energy to an office that has grown stale and complacent. With his determination to cut costs spent on outside counsel and to strengthen the criminal division in the prosecutor's office, Canavor strikes us as a very qualified, energetic replacement for the distinguished—but, in our view, fading—Maleng. Vote Canavor.

State Supreme Court, Pos. 5 & 1

Since making the jump from Seattle Municipal Court in 1992, Barbara Madsen has proven her ability to stand up to the high court's probig business/probig government majority with some eloquent dissents. Which is why some were mystified when King County Superior Court Judge Jim Bates decided to challenge her. Unfortunately, we're still mystified: The mild-mannered Bates hasn't made much of a case as to why he should replace the capable Madsen, so we're sticking with the proven quantity.

The curse of state court races has always been the "name game," in which little-known lawyers register for the ballot, hoping that the combination of a familiar-sounding name and an uninformed electorate will lead to an election win. The latest name-gamer is James Patrick "Jim" Foley, a self-proclaimed "common-sense country lawyer" who skipped debates and ratings boards on his way to a second-place primary finish. Foley's unlikely success leaves a single qualified candidate in the race, King County Superior Court Judge Faith Ireland. While not our first choice in the primary, Ireland is an experienced jurist with a long record of leadership in judicial groups and the community. Vote Madsen and Ireland.

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