HELLA BUS BLOG
Your source for all Bus-landian culture and happenings.
- 14,357 registered voters statewide
- 20,000+ doors knocked
- 95,000 phone calls to young people
- 4,000+ volunteer engagements
- Students couldn't get to school.
- Workers couldn't get to work.
- People with disabilities who are unable to drive couldn't get anywhere.
- Car drivers would find themselves sitting in far worse traffic when previous bus riders found themselves driving instead.
Motor Voter 16 and 17 year old Pre-Registration - Double the excitement of getting your driver's license by registering to vote? Yes, please.
Extending the Voter Registration Deadline - This bill was amended to move up the online voter registration deadline from 29 days to 11 days. Studies suggest that this little 'ol change could boost voter turnout by roughly 85,050 votes every year. And many of these late bloomers will be first time voters.
Washington State Voting Rights Act - To put it simply: Democracy works better when more people are involved and everyone is represented. The Voting Rights Act ensures that when structural barriers are leaving people out, we have a way to address them. Learn more at wavotingrights.org!
This image of Rep. Sam Hunt only begins to describe our happiness.
Below are some of the best people we can think of, the 2014 Washington Bus Winterns! Come catch them at a phone bank at the Bus Office, getting folks to talk to their legislators about awesome voter access bills, or throwing the next great party for a purpose. Want to apply to be a Bus intern? Head on right over here for more.
Dagmawit Kemal, nicknamed Dee, is currently a Junior at Garfield High School. She was born in Ethiopia and moved to Seattle at the age of 3. On her free time, she enjoys researching the happenings of the world, jamming out with her friends and social networking! Now the Scheduling Intern for the Bus, Dee is hoping not only to restart the Hella Bus Blog with her fellow Intern Isabella, but make it the best blog on the Internet!
Emma Kibort-Crocker grew up in Seattle, and after graduating high school, spent a year in Rhode Island working with City Year. Missing Seattle, she headed back to the great ol' PNW to attend the UW where she is currently a sophomore. When Emma's not rocking out as the Parliament Lead intern, she enjoys exploring the outdoors, singing with (not to) Beyonce, and finding the best pizza joints in town.
Isabella Fuentes is excited to be the Content Lead for the Hella Bus blog this 2014 Winternship! A serial intern, she's been on the Bus for four seasons now, and is probably never leaving. Isabella is junior at Ingraham High School, and when she's not blogging, she likes to go to concerts and collect presidential biographies.
Lucas Simons is a born and bred Seattleite. Graduating from UW in 2012, he joined the Bus as a 2014 Wintern and sits as the WA Voter Rights Act Lead. Lucas is also volunteering with the Move County Now campaign to save Metro bus service. He really loves buses, obviously. After his Winternship Lucas hope to move on to bigger and equally good things and maybe someday own his own bus.
When she's not doing humanitarian work in El Salvador, you may see Maya Garfinkel wandering the streets of Capitol Hill on her way to the Bus office as the Elections Access Lead. She has lived her whole 17 years in Seattle, and is currently a Junior at the Northwest School, though rumor has it she is solely a student at the School of Bus. Having blogged, canvassed, door-knocked, and made plenty of phone calls, Maya is helping to get support for Pre-Registration for 16 and 17 year olds and extending the online voter registration deadline through petitions and phone banks!
Meron Tiezazu, your 2014 Pre-Registration Intern, is a 17 year old junior at Garfield High School. She enjoys playing games and discovering new music. When Meron's not getting her peers to sign petitions or attend a phone bank, her favorite hobbies include window licking, sleeping in the sun, and biking through forests.
Njeri Mburu is a sophomore at UW Tacoma, currently exploring different majors. Born and raised in Seattle, she's been part of many different organizations and programs, such as the Service Board, Seattle Youth Commission, and Mary`s Place. Ever since Njeri got involved in political issues as part of the Public Service and Political Science academy at Franklin High School, she's been passionate about politics and youth issues. As the Welcome Wagon Lead, she has been focused on creating the best volunteer engagement event at Bus HQ, a venue that looks a little like a "Real World" house.
President Obama delivered his fifth State of the Union speech last night, once again pleading with congress to you, know, legislate or something.
More newsworthy was Obama's decision to take action on his own, circumventing congress's political gridlock to work on addressing our country's growing problem with income inequality.
While Obama asked congress to pass a bipartisan bill raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, he also decided to issue an executive order mandating all federal contractors start paying $10.10 an hour immediately.
"If you cook our troops' meals or wash their dishes," said Obama. "You should not have to live in poverty."
Personally I'd say if you are working a full time job (or two) you shouldn't have to live in poverty either, but I guess that's outside of Obama's hands.
Using an executive order to push for progressive employment policies is nothing new. Franklin D. Roosevelt passed an executive order back in 1941 prohibiting racial discrimination in the national defense industry. Closer to home, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray signed an executive order raising all City employees wages to $15 an hour.
And perhaps following in the lead of successful movements such as SeaTac's Good Jobs initiative, Obama spoke directly to local leaders:
"To every mayor, governor, state legislator in America, I say, you don't have to wait for Congress to act; Americans will support you if you take this on."
Currently in Washington State Governor Inslee has suggested raising the current minimum wage of $9.32 an hour an extra $1.50 to $2.50, and Representative Jessyn Farrell introduced a bill raising the state minimum wage to $12. The bill currently has 32 sponsors in the Democratically controlled house.
And Seattle itself is working to extend the $15 an hour minimum to all workers, not just city employees. The City Council and the Mayor's Office are deliberating on how best to implement the wage increase, with added urgency from Councilmember Sawant's threat to send an initiative directly to Seattle voters.
Realistically Congress isn't going to pass a minimum wage increase in the next two years. But the issue clearly has popular support. Legislators who don't realize that may find themselves out of a pretty high paying job. Perhaps then and only then will they appreciate how hard it is to get by on the current minimum wage.
Full video of the SOTU after the jump:
On the very first day of the 2014 session, the Dream Act passed the Washington State House 71 - 23, showing dramatic support from both Republican and Democratic legislators.
You may remember the Dream Act from last year, when it also passed the House and then was stalled by the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus. The legislation would allow undocumented immigrants who grew up in Washington State access to the same tuition assistance as their peers.
Rodney Tom, the Democrat who brought the Republican-dominated coalition into power has said he supports the Dream Act, but his conservative peers in the MCC have so far prevented the bill from coming up for a vote. Supporters of the Dream Act believe that the bill would pass if allowed a vote on the Senate Floor.
Which is where you come in.
The Senate just voted to end the filibuster. Which is huge, and by my count, years and years behind schedule.
By a vote of 52-48, senators changed the rules to set the threshold to confirm Presidential nominees by just 51 votes (a.k.a. democracy). The move came in response to Republican senators unprecedented use of the filibuster to block anything from getting done. Because Obama.
Recently the minority party has been using the filibuster to block Obama's appointment of judicial nominees. But before that they were using the filibuster to block confirmation of agency directors. Before that to kill laws. Before that lunch deliveries.
Which brings to mind the question: why now? If the Democratic majority could have used a simple majority vote to change the rules in 2009, a lot of really cool legislation could have been passed. The Affordable Care Act would have had a Public Option if the Senate only needed 51 votes. The U.S. could have made some progress on Cap and Trade. The stimulus program might have come with unicorns.
The real irony of all this is just how bad the timing really is. The House of Representatives is gerrymandered in such a way as to nearly guarantee Republican majorities until at least 2020. This new rule change will allow for presidential appointments, but we're still unlikely to see any movement on needed issues like immigration reform or gun safety at the national level.
And while the newest set of rules still requires 60 votes for legislation and Supreme Court Nominations, there's really no reason why 51 Senators in the future wouldn't vote to change the threshold to 51 Senators for anything. Because it'd be silly not to.
Regardless of timing, this is needed reform. Requiring 60 votes just to begin or end debate on legislation was never set forth in the constitution. And as we've seen here in Washington State, requiring supermajorities for simple tasks is "antithetical to the notion of a functioning government".
Primarily Speaking is an on-going blog series brought to you by the Spring Interns at the Washington Bus. For questions on content, contact our series editor, Maya Garfinkel.
Overview by Maya Garfinkel
In a just over a month, voters across the city and state will be voicing who best represents their community. Tim Burgess, mayoral candidate once stationed in Capitol Hill, missed the deadline to file. He stated he will return to "the most rewarding job" of his life, his seat in the City Council. He insists that our city needs leadership change, though some say Burgess' dropout could help McGinn's chances at being reelected.
This race is a classic example of local government and why it matters. Mike McGinn's opponents love to criticize his office's ineffectiveness, but this begs the question, ineffectiveness in what? Local government is humorously confusing, but when you are picking the best candidate this election season, understanding what the mayor actually does should be a top priority.
Arguably the most exciting mayoral duty is the ability to push initiatives and budgetary measures that change the landscape of Seattle. McGinn has championed many levies and initiatives, doubling the budget for the Families and Education Initiative, along with enabling churches to host more of the homeless and much more. Ultimately, the mayor is able to use their political muscle to put money in their chosen issues, with the help of the Seattle City Council.
The mayor is also able to veto any measure passed by the council, though only if the Council does not have a 2/3 majority support. The appointment of department heads require their support as well. McGinn appointed former police chief, John Diaz, in 2010, with highly controversial results. Ultimately, they are required to collaborate with the City Council, statewide elected officials and departments across the city, something McGinn has been criticized for in his inability to do so endlessly.
Not sure who to vote for? Check out Ed Murray and look soon for the remaining mayoral candidates on Primarily Speaking.
Frequent Hella Bus readers may be all too familiar with our ongoing failure to adequately fund state government. Thanks in part to the now extinct 2/3rds requirement and a regressive and out-of-date tax system, we are failing to keep up with the baseline costs of running our state.
There could be no better metaphor for this civic negligence than an I-5 bridge literally falling into a river.
Drowning government in a bathtub.
Last Thursday evening a truck carrying an oversized load hit a section of the I-5 bridge spanning the Skagit River. The bridge, listed as "functionally obsolete" by the Federal Highway Administration crumbled and fell into the water. The truck managed to make it across but two cars and three people were thrown into the abyss. Thankfully no one was killed.
The most terrifying thing about this tragedy is how unremarkable the bridge was. According to a report by the American Society of Engineers, 366 of Washington's 7,840 bridges are considered structurally deficient, and another 1,693 bridges are considered functionally obsolete. Together that's one in four bridges in Washington State. On my daily commute I cross two.
Many of these bridges were built during the Eisenhower era and are badly in need of upkeep; upkeep that has been stalled by our
inability refusal to pay for it.
A bit of background: Washington's gas tax is a flat fee, not a percentage. In 2005 legislators last voted to raise our gas tax to 37.5 cents per gallon, where it sits today. Back then a gallon of gas cost $2.55.
With gas hitting $4 a gallon and fuel efficiency standards going up, state revenue just isn't keeping pace with need. House Democrats passed a transportation package dedicating $911 million to maintenance and preservation. To pay for it, they would increase the gas tax $0.10 over a period of four years.
The bill is currently stuck in the Senate, where the Majority Coalition is opposed to any package that includes a tax increase.
This knee-jerk refusal to raise revenue affects much more than our bridges. King County is currently legally unable to raise the revenue necessary to maintain Metro. Not broke, not living outside its means, but lacking permission from Olympia to pay for the things King County values.
This is (ten) penny smart and pound foolish. A functioning Interstate system is crucial to our economy, as is moving people smoothly through our cities.
Government provides for a lot of our needs, in ways that used to seem intangible. And it doesn't do so for free. Hopefully this bridge collapse will kick off a conversation on our shared values, and how we're willing to contribute. If not? I guess we get what we pay for.
Wanna make a difference in the youth and democracy? And have your difference make an even BIGGER impact? Make a gift to the Bus through the Seattle Foundation on May 15, all 24 hours of it, and your gift will be stretched!
In 2012, BUS supporters like YOU is what allows us to make amazing things happen across the state:
As thanks, for every giving milestone, the Bus will release a one of a kind .GIF on Facebook! Tomorrow, click on the Donate Now link below and help us fuel the Bus year round!
Remember two years ago when King County Metro was facing 17% service cuts? People came out in
droves mass transit to testify as to the importance of our beloved transit system. Estimates put between 500 and 1,000 people at the hearings. The rooms were packed, lines extended around the block and testimony that started in the early afternoon extended until 10:30 at night.
Not as crowded as your bus will be if these cuts go through.
I was there in the sweltering room listening to the passionate testimony. Over and over again I heard that with these cuts:
The intense outcry worked in 2011, and the County Council agreed to increase car tab fees by $20. But this was a stop-gap measure to get us through the next two years. It was never intended to be permanent.
Well, we're two years in and stuck in the same situation. Even worse, this time the King County Council isn't able to solve the problems themselves. They need authorization from the Washington State legislature in Olympia to grant the power to tax themselves to save Metro.
Did you get that? Olympia gets to decide whether King County is allowed to pay for the buses they want.
The House Democrats passed a transportation package that would protect King County from these cuts. But the Republican-oriented Senate Majority Coalition led by Sen. Rodney Tom is currently against the package.
Special session kicks off May 13th. Legislators will be focusing on the budget. It is crucial local funding options are addressed during the special session.
If you ride the bus, love buses, or drive on the same roads that feature Metro buses, speak out. You can attend a hearing at the King County Council next Tuesday afternoon.
Or if you, like many transit-dependent people, work from 4-7 on a weekday afternoon, contact your legislators.
Primarily Speaking is an on-going blog series brought to you by the Spring Interns at the Washington Bus. For questions on content, contact our series editor, Maya Garfinkel.
"To Olympia and Back with Ed Murray" by Brigit Rossbach
Ed Murray is currently the Leader of the Democratic Party in our state Senate and is running to be your mayor! He has served in state legislature since 1995, representing the 43rd district, which includes Fremont, the University District, Capitol Hill, Madison Park, and parts of Downtown. In his years in the Senate, he has done some great things for the young people in the state of Washington. He helped keep the Guaranteed Education Credits alive, allowing more Washington youth to go to college at an affordable rate. He was the prime sponsor of an act in 2002 that has protected LGBTQ youth from harassment and discrimination in schools, and was the prime sponsor of the Marriage Equality bill that passed last year. He was endorsed by the National Human Rights campaign and is a powerful leader for equality. There are some concerns about whether he has a vision for Seattle and a firm grasp on the issues facing the city, considering that his long standing focus has been on state issues. Overall Ed Murray has championed progressive issues that are good for young people of both our city and state.
Check back soon for Primarily Speaking Vol. #3, where we'll discuss fellow challenger Tim Burgess.
Primarily Speaking is an on-going blog series brought to you by the Spring Interns at the Washington Bus. For questions on content, contact our series editor, Maya Garfinkel at hellabus[at]washingtonbus[dot]org.
Overview by Maya Garfinkel
Still recovering from November? In Washington State political withdrawal? Still cleaning out your inbox of campaign emails? Well, get excited, because here in Seattle we have a whole lot of influential seats up for election this November! Primarily Speaking will discuss our city's candidates, political structure and all the mystery that comes with both. Following the August 6th primary, two mayoral candidates will advance to the November election. We are kicking it off with a glance at the incumbent, Mayor Mike McGinn. For more information on this unique candidate, check out his op-ed in response to his fellow candidate Ed Murray.
"The Unconventional Incumbent, Mike McGinn" by Thomas Shewe
This blog post was written by Paloma Pineda, a Sophomore at Holy Names who spent her Spring Break volunteering at the Bus office:
Even before I started volunteering at the Bus I was passionate about human trafficking, having completed an independent project on sex trafficking and the effects on the victims in the 8th grade. So when Emilio presented me with Senate Bill 5563 - a bill that puts in place training programs in public schools about sexual abuse - I knew this was my cup of tea. In retrospect, during my years of elementary and middle school I was never educated or talked to about sexual abuse. The topic of sex trafficking remained a mystery to me until I learned about it through my own research in the 7th grade. This is what excites me so much about this bill; the power of education gives us the opportunity to take a step towards stopping child sexual abuse and sex trafficking.
In researching sexual abuse in the United States, I came across jaw-dropping statistics on the abuse of children. About 20% of women and 5–10% of men in the United States have experienced sexual abuse as children. Showing just how crucial public school education is on this issue, some 9.6% of students are targets of educator sexual misconduct (in same-sex schools this number can range to between 18-28% of reported cases). Despite these horrible statistics concerning child sexual abuse, little is being done to inform teachers and K-12 students about sexual abuse of minors. This is where Bill 5563 comes into the picture. This bill requires the training of school employees in the prevention of sexual abuse on the laws related to sex offenses, how to recognize behaviors of sex offenders, how to prevent victimization, and how to prevent children from being recruited into sex trafficking.
Another question that has been raised is the funding that is needed to implement this program in the public schools system. Yet, let’s consider the bigger picture; preventing child sexual abuse saves scarce dollars that would be needed to treat victims in future circumstances. Children who are sexually abused are more likely to engage is risk-taking behaviors, including school dropout, substance abuse, depression, eating disorders, and may even be subject to the sex trafficking trade. In fact, 75 to 95 percent of all prostitutes and people in the sex trade were sexually abused as children. Laws and education of the sex trade are focused on combating sex trafficking, while we need to focus on the root of the problem, child sexual abuse. This bill would not only inform young students about the dangers of abuse, but help to prevent further abuse from continuing.
As of April 3, this bill has officially passed both the Washington State Senate and House of Representatives with unanimous bi-partisan support! Success! Keep an eye out for this bill being enacted in public schools in your neighborhood!
GOOD THING ALERT: Seattle Works, the non-profit that "brings together individuals seeking to take the next step in their community engagement and causes seeking to connect the next generation of leaders" (or, good people doing good stuff for good reasons), is having a big 'ol bash of volunteerism on Saturday, 5/18 and they want you there!
Read all about it here or see the info below to learn how to get involved.
Coal is so uncool. UnCoal you might say. Check out this action alert from Climate Solutions about updates in the other Washington!
Big Coal and their allies are at it again. This time in the US Senate. They're attempting to attach an amendment to the budget that would undermine the ability of federal agencies from considering greenhouse gas emissions produced outside the U.S. when permitting export proposals, including for coal. Senator Barrasso's budget amendment, #184 is likely to come up for a vote on the floor of the Senate in less than 24 hours.
Please call your U.S. Senator today and let them know you are very concerned about coal export proposals in the Northwest and that you OPPOSE Amendment 184.
Senator Cantwell, WA:
Senator Murray, WA:
(866) 481-9186 toll free Seattle office
Senator Merkley, OR:
Senator Wyden, OR:
* Under the National Environmental Policy Act, an agency that issues a permit for a major project involving the extraction and combustion of fossil fuels has to consider the impacts of burning those fuels on the health and well-being of Americans, regardless of whether those fuels are burned in the U.S. or whether they are exported and burned somewhere else in the world.
* It's the agency's duty to consider the health and environmental impacts that fall on Americans, regardless whether the pollution is released here at home or takes place abroad.
* When it comes to greenhouse gases, the impacts on Americans are exactly the same wherever the fuel is burned, because carbon pollution spreads globally and respects no boundaries.
* So under the amendment, agencies reviewing major projects involving extraction and combustion of coal, oil, or natural gas would still have to consider the impacts on of Americans' health and well-being of burning those fuels inside the U.S. That's as it should be. But under this amendment the agencies would be compelled to ignore the same impacts on the health of the same Americans, just because the fuels were exported.
* All this does is protect the profits of the big corporations that export American energy, at the expense of the health and well-being of the American people.
Please call now.
Thank you for speaking up!
This post is written by Washington Bus Wintern Maya Garfinkel:
I have been involved with the Washington Bus since September. As a high school volunteer and then intern, I put in countless hours of organizing phone banks, attending events, and canvassing for the fall 2012 elections. And if you're wondering, no, I can't vote yet.
So this November, when I was walking up a busy street with my lists of addresses reminding folks to vote and a man shouted from his car, “You’re too young for this!” I shouted back, “No, I'm not!” Creepy-ness aside, I'll tell you why this bothered me. Young people, whether or not they can vote, should be encouraged and welcomed in the political realm. This is also why a bill like Pre-registration for 16 and 17 year olds is so exciting.
House Bill 1279, or Senate Bill 5270, is being reintroduced in Olympia this year, and would enable 16 and 17 year olds to pre-register to vote when they get their license. According to the Washington Secretary of State, currently 40% of voter registrations already come from the Department of Licensing. This bill would only result in a one-time cost of $100,000, along with relatively low costs to accommodate the new procedure. If this law is passed, when I am eligible for the next election, I would receive a confirmation slip reminding me that I have registered, and later, a ballot in the mail. I can’t tell you how exciting this is for me.
Not as excited for the notoriously long lines.
At the Bus, we believe that no matter what party/ideology you adhere to, getting young voters to the polls (or to their mailboxes) and engaged in their government should be a top priority. Currently, seven states and the District of Columbia hold a similar pre-registration law, and studies show that not only has this increased young voter registration, but folks who pre-register actually vote at a higher rate than their peers. More young people registered, more young voters, I'd call that a win/win.
This bill would enable students like me to not only think of our future in voting, but also would encourage us to get involved in our democratic process. This bill is what the Bus is all about: creating a more inclusive political environment for young people. And I believe that Olympia should be about this, too.
We'll be phone banking for pre-registration (and three other bills) this Wednesday, March 6th and continuing every Wednesday through the end of the month, from 5:30 to 8pm at the Bus office. if you'd like to join us, please sign up on our events page.