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updated 2:54 PM UTC, Jul 28, 2018

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Voters, rather than the High Court or lawmakers, should decide school funding

What the Washington State Supreme Court seems to have done, with its ruling last week that charter schools violate the state constitution, is to reinforce its message to the governor and the legislature: "you are not in charge in this state. We are."

And anyone who agrees with the assessment that the state highest court's two education-funding cases amount to unsettling steps into the separation-of-powers arena could also agree that the constitutional question the court is thus raising is one that merits a focused public discussion.

The question of whether the Supreme Court has embarked on an undesirable drift away from the principal of three equal branches of government can be put into discussion by conversation on social media and analysis and commentary from traditional media.

But closure to that question in the form of "a ruling" by the state's citizens, the ultimate court to which all three branches of government answer, can only come in a meaningful way with the kind of debate that occurs during election season when the judges actually have to face public scrutiny.

Meaning the three Supreme Court judges up for re-election a year from now, three of whom were in the majority in the 6-3 ruling, including Chief Justice Barbara Madsen who wrote the majority opinion, should face opponents who feel the court has encroached inappropriately on the essential separation of powers.

The value of competition in next year's election for those three justices, Charles Wiggins and James Johnson in addition to Madsen, isn't to seek to punish them for their views but rather to ensure a sufficient airing of public attitudes on the issue of whether they are endangering the proper separation of powers.

Certainly the role of the Supreme Court is to have the last word, passing judgement on laws passed by the legislature and signed by the governor. But what troubles concerned legal observers is that in the two education-funding decisions, the court has assumed for itself the first word, telling the governor and the legislature what they WILL do rather than passing judgment on what they did.

If the sitting judges are voted out, it will amount to an affirmation of the view that the court has gone too far and the remaining six judges can then ignore that at their peril.

Now for a review of the court decisions that lead to the questions about limitation of the powers of the court and the possible abandonment of the tradition that the high court imposes those constraints on itself.

The court's most recent ruling held that charter schools are unconstitutional, ultimately because they are governed by appointed rather than elected boards and that the constitution requires that the boards that oversee common schools must be elected.

The state constitution merely requires adequate support for common schools. So in decreeing that elected boards must govern common schools, the court has basically usurped the legislative and gubernatorial right to decide in the future the manner in which the constitutional funding requirement can be best carried out. That means the lawmakers might want to decide whether funding oversight is best served by elected or appointed boards, perhaps at the state level.

Budget leaders in both houses and both parties have suggested that the state take a larger role in oversight, as in setting pay, for example. And some lawmakers are even convinced that they have to do that, since the lawmakers, just as they are answerable to students to provide a good education, are answerable to state taxpayers to ensure that those school dollars the court has ordered them to increase are being spent as wisely as possible.

They realize they need to step into the management role in ways that could elude locally elected school boards.

In the first education-funding decision, known as the "McCleary decision," the court ordered the legislature to spend more money on education, then followed up by holding the lawmakers in contempt for failing to provide enough additional funding. And in the past few weeks the court actually imposed a $100,000-a-day fine on the lawmakers to failing to "sufficiently" fund education.

In that McCleary ruling, the court said common schools funding needed to be 'ample" but also "uniform" and "stable."

Now the court's sole position is spend more money, focusing only on "ample" while saying it has "no opinion" on the "stable" or "uniform" points.

Some court observers have described as curious the fact that the high court backed off from two of the three central points on education funding, leaving only the edict of spend more money.

And since in the constitution, common schools specifically excluded high schools and "normal schools," (which became the state's Eastern, Central and Western state universities) the court may have cast doubt on the constitutionality other programs not overseen by elected boards, like Running Start, a program by which high school students can gain college credit.

All represent more than enough reason for deliberation beyond the legislators, governor and the courts to include the public in decisions about where the state should go with education funding and the process by which that should occur. 
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Concerns about Internet advertising may make crowdfunding tool difficult for entrepreneurs

It was born with great flourish in the spring of 2012, passed by Congress and signed by the president and hailed as the wellspring of new companies and jobs as the nation sought to emerge from the Great Recession. In fact, with a marketer's touch in a presidential election year, it was even called the JOBs Act.

Now after a nearly four-year wait for a recalcitrant Securities and Exchange Commission to adopt the rules required to implement the intent of the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act to allow businesses to raise up to $1 million a year from a large number of small-equity investors, the rules are set to go into effect May 16.


Meanwhile, more than half of the states, tired of waiting for the SEC to act, have adopted their own versions of what is known as crowdfunding, which is largely expected to be Internet outreach to large numbers of potential investors by entrepreneurs seeking capital.

Because of SEC rules in effect under the Securities Act of 1933, the states' legislation limits fund-raising to residents in the state where the business is located.


And with the arrival of federal crowdfunding comes a growing concern that the crowdfunding laws of the various states may be rendered "impractical" since those who use the Internet or social media, the logical tools to reach a "crowd" of prospects, must ensure no one in another state can see the offering.

Washington was one of the first states to enact legislation to permit crowdfunding, with many of those testifying during the Washington Department of Financial Institutions' rule-making process suggesting entrepreneurs would be queuing up to look to crowdfunding to raise money.

But despite that expectation, in the 15 months since DFI enacted the rules and the law went into effect, only two businesses have filed to raise money in this state via crowdfunding. In fact, according to DFI Director Scott Jarvis, only 100 companies around the country have used intrastate crowdfunding to raise capital.

 
Joe Wallin 
Thus given that there is no line of entrepreneurs forming to seize the crowdfunding opportunity, there is no certainty how much demand there will be for the opportunity to raise money through crowdfunding once entrepreneurs have a choice between federal and state rules. The federal will allow businesses to raise money from investors anywhere in the country rather just in their home state. Using state law requires entrepreneurs to only raise money intrastate. 

One reason for slower-than-anticipated interest could be that the resurgent economy has made it easier to raise money through traditional funding sources, suggests Joe Wallin, a Seattle attorney with Carney Badley Spellman, who basically wrote the state legislation that was passed two years ago.

"The ebb and flow of the economy may impact the ability of entrepreneurs to tap traditional sources of capital so at some point, if not right away, the crowdfunding approach may become more popular," he said.

And now comes the likely additional deterrent to intrastate crowdfunding with the warnings about Internet use to advertise the offering, since the advertising may only be to residents of the state in which the offering is made.

Faith Anderson 

According to the SEC's directive, if someone in another state sees the information on the offering, it is no longer intrastate, which would basically nullify the fund-raising effort.

In one of the most thorough examinations of the new role of states in the crowdfunding phenomenon, Faith L. Anderson of the state DFI's Securities Division, describes as "draconian" the fact that rules "do not provide any relief for insignificant deviations" from the advertising limitations.

"A single out-of-state sale will void the exemption (for the entrepreneur raising money via intrastate crowdfunding) and result in an unlawful offer or sale of securities in the absence of another available exemption," she wrote.

Anderson's comments are part of a report she produced for securities departments of all 50 states as chair of the Small Business/Limited Offerings Project Group of the National Securities Administrators Association.

Anderson's document to her peers is designed to explain the strengths and weaknesses of both federal and intrastate crowdfunding options. But her focus on the challenges the SEC rules pose to intrastate offerings includes the comment that the combined effect of federal rules "is to severely restrict an issuer's ability to take advantage of state crowdfunding provisions that are premised on these federal provisions."

But the SEC staff has said the agency is considering amendments that could make Internet use possible.

"There is no timeframe by which the SEC may finalize the proposed amendments to Rule 147 (the rule that has raised a number of concerns for intrastate crowdfunding)," Anderson said in an email exchange with me. " In fact, they may never as they do not have a Congressional duty to act in this regard."

And Wallin added: "Unless it makes the changes being suggested for use of the internet in intrastate crowdfunding, the SEC is tamping down a nascent but important opportunity to cultivate local funding and entrepreneurship ecosystems before they even have an opportunity to develop."
 
But Wallin notes he is "optimistic that whatever the SEC finally decides, the state can figure out...maybe through new rules or amendments."
 
And Anderson closes her briefing to peers with: "As we learn what works and what doesn't from the viewpoint of entrepreneurs and small business owners, states and the SEC may make further adjustments to their crowdfunding rules."
 

Thus there seems to be optimism that what Congress launched with the right intent, but watched while the SEC dithered for almost four years, may still produce an opportunity for entrepreneurs to create jobs rather than being jobbed by thoughtless regulations.

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LSDF may metamorphose into life science, cancer research administrator

Recrimination and agitation over the Republican-led legislative defunding of the Life Science Discovery Fund Authority (LSDF) has given way to cautious enthusiasm about the possibility its staff and board may be tapped to administer and oversee funding activity for the state's new Cancer Research and Endowment Fund (CREA).

It's not yet certain that LSDF, created a decade ago out of the state's share of Tobacco Settlement millions to promote growth of the life science industry in this state, will take over administration of what would be a Center of Excellence for Life Science and Cancer Research. But bringing that about could amount to creating some vision out of what has been legislative confusion.

The Legislature's 2015 final budget compromise funded the cancer-research entity in a head-scratching manner while killing future funding for LSDF. But the lawmakers did not put the organization itself out of business because LSDF must function well into the next biennium to oversee fulfillment of the 46 grants already awarded from the fund. It just can't make any more life-science grants.

The quixotic aspect of the Legislature's creation of CREA was that the lawmakers gave specific detail to its board makeup and duties and required that it contract with "a program administrator" to oversee grant solicitation and distribution and fund management.
 
But lawmakers didn't designate who would manage the $10 million annual state-fund grant that would have to be matched from the private sector before it could be spent, so there has been speculation since then that LSDF would be a logical entity to oversee CREA.
 
Rep. Jeff Morris 

The proposal to turn cancer-fund administration over to LSDF has been up in the air since it was approved by the state House and passed out of committee in the Senate, but stalled in the Senate Ways & Means committee when the regular session ended.

Democratic Rep. Jeff Morris, a member of the LSDF board and sponsor of the proposal, said he hopes the legislation paving the way for a new role for LSDF will be part of final budget negotiations. He explained that Sen. Andy Hill, chair of the Ways & Means Committee and the key Republican in the negotiations, "asked if we would object to a 6 percent administrative-cost cap and I indicated we would not."

John DesRosier 
eanwhile, as a future role for LSDF remains unclear, its board of trustees, staff members and a number of recipients of its grants will gather March 25 to celebrate the contributions of John DesRosier, who served first as director of programs when LSDF was established in 2005, and through most of the Authority's existence as executive director. DesRosier, who has retired, had spent almost a quarter century in research and technology commercialization before joining LSDF as it was forming.

Among those who will be on hand to thank Des Rosier is Lee Huntsman, the first executive director, who was appointed by then-Gov. Christine Gregoire after LSDF was established in 2005 by Gregoire and the Legislature.

I asked Gregoire for a comment on the decade of LSDF's existence and on DesRosier's role and she said: "LSDF has accomplished more than I could have hoped. I believe it has helped save lives and I believe it will continue doing so and there is no greater accomplishment. We were fortunate to have John DesRosier as the leader to make it happen."

Commenting on DesRosier's role guiding LSDF, Morris said "John was one of the best strategic hires I've seen by our state in my years of public service. He made our grant-selection process world class and many other states have looked to our process to improve their own performance"

Part of what the cancer-fund legislation envisions is a board that better reflects an understanding of cancer, but by coincidence that comes somewhat with the current board, whose chair is Carol Dahl, executive director of the Portland-based Lemelson Fund. 

Dahl's research while a faculty member at the University of Pittsburgh was cancer focused and she also spent nearly six years at the National Cancer Institute and built the Office of Technology and Industrial Relations and multiple programs there during that period. 

Asked about her view of DesRosier's role, she said he"has truly been an amazing advocate for the life sciences in Washington and an outstanding steward of the state's investment in LSDF."

"The substantial impact of the LSDF funding resulting in over $60 million in health-care saving, more than a half billion in follow-on funding, and hundreds of lives saved ,is a credit to John's leadership and the dedication of the entire staff that has supported  LSDF since its inception," Dahl said.

One of the largest grants from LSDF was $5 million to Omeros Corp., which related to a $20 million partnership with Vulcan to advance the company's leading-edge G protein-coupled receptor program. GPCRs, which mediate key physiological processes in the body, are one of the most valuable families of drug targets.

Omeros chairman and CEO, Dr. Gregory Demopulos, described LSDF as "an important catalyst for innovation in Washington State's life sciences. And through investments like the one for Omeros has left a legacy of creating jobs and improving health and will have a sustained impact on the people of the state."

DesRosier described LSDF as having been a "critical resource" in helping early stage companies survive so they could gain traction for new sources of funding, including attracting traditional investors.
 
One such beneficiary of LSDF grants is M3 Biotechnology, a young Seattle biotech company focused on commercializing a drug that would reverse neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's by re-growing brain cells.
 
"LSDF funding allowed us to cross the start-up 'valley of death' until we could gain funding traction," said Leen Kawas, the 30-year-old CEO and president of M3 who recently announced completion of an over-subscribed A-Round that brought in nearly $10 million.

Because I was assisting Kawas with marketing and introductions while she was awaiting key grants from LSDF, I bit my lip for being unable to write about LSDF or its challenges with the legislature until her grants had been approved and there was no longer a conflict of interest.

I asked DesRosier if there was anything he wished LSDF had accomplished before the lawmakers struck it from future funding.

"I wish we had been able to create a more diversified revenue stream and not be dependent solely on state funding," he said.

Dr. Bruce Montgomery, perhaps the Northwest's most prominent biotech entrepreneur as well as the longest-term member of the LSDF board, may have best summed up the feeling of lost opportunity that the end of LSDF's life-science mission embodied for many.

"The best quote I can offer is the line from Joni Mitchell's 'Big Yellow Taxi': 'don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you got 'til it's gone,'" Montgomery replied to my request for a quote.
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Longtime elected official Lloyd Hara retires, leaving legacy of property-data innovation

Lloyd Hara, who has held more local elective offices over a longer period of time than perhaps anyone in the history of the state, departs at the end of this month from the King County Assessor's office he has occupied for the past six years, likely bringing an end to a career in elective office dating back to 1969.

Lloyd Hara 
But as he turns the keys to the office over to John Arthur Wilson, the one-time aide who defeated him in the November General Election and will be sworn in January 3, he leaves a first-in-the-nation data legacy that will benefit residents, government and non-profits well into the future.

That data file, named LocalScape, was launched last March by Hara's office. He refers to the innovation, which amounts to a property data portal, as a "dynamic m apping tool designed to unleash the power of community data and redefine civic engagement" by layering local property tax value, tax data and census information.

Hara's 76th birthday was December 8 so, appropriately, King County Executive Dow Constantine and the King County Council proclaimed that day Lloyd Hara Day in the county.

And in a last holiday greeting to members of his staff, Hara thanked them for their role in the "nine national awards for innovation, customer service and leadership" that the office won from the national organization of assessors and other groups.

One of his innovations that he had to press for approval from the county's executive and council, was selling advertising on his department's website, which he viewed as adding a logical source of revenue, suggesting that every agency should be open to that idea.

Throughout his career, Hara was an official who genuinely enjoyed meeting his constituents, and thus established a tough standard for his successor.

He has logged more than 200 speaking engagements per year to service organization, real estate gatherings and town hall meetings, in addition to regular meetings with all 39 cities in the county and traveling to Olympia to meet with lawmakers on not only his department's issues, but also issues impacting the county.

As port commissioner, Hara chuckled at the sense that he had so many meetings out and around the county that he sometimes encountered people who didn't even know they were in the Seattle Port District.

Hara, then finishing his first term as a commissioner for the Poet of Seattle, was elected in 2009 to fill the unexpired term of King County Assessor Scott Noble, who resigned. He was subsequently elected, in 2011, to a full four-year term.

He thus undertook a role that made him, in essence, the "tax man" in the county since notices of taxes came from his office, although his office merely served to take the budget approved by the County Council and turn it into the tax per property parcel.

But throughout his years as assessor, Hara seemed always in quest of ways to lower property taxes, sometime stirring discussions with other elected officials, some of whom he sought to put out of business for taxpayer benefit.

One of his controversial suggestions sprang from his sense that regionalization that would involve consolidating functions of various elective offices may be a way that taxpayers in smaller counties may be better served, less expensively.

And he wondered aloud in one of our interviews a couple of years ago "how many jurisdictions should there be that taxpayers are helping support? Could some services be merged into regional units? Can some be privatized?"
It's out of the echo of such discussion Hara started that new ways of doing things at the local-government level may emerge as lawmakers and policymakers cope with new funding realities.

Hara told me that a family challenge, when his son, Todd, learned in August that he had a cancerous tumor in his kidney, put his 2015 re-election campaign in perspective. He said Todd's surgery a week before the election and his doctor's assessment that he was cancer free far outweighed the outcome of a political campaign.
Todd turned 42 on his birthday last week, three days after Lloyd's birthday. 

In fact, it was the second time that a family challenge came during a tight campaign, ironically, he says, in that they were during the two elections he lost.

The first was during his only run for statewide office, 1988, when his race for state treasurer was dimmed in importance by the death of his father.

The start of his career in elective office came for Hara, a graduate of Roosevelt High School and the University of Washington, in 1969 when he was appointed to the office of King County auditor, the youngest person to hold that office.

He was elected Seattle Treasurer in 1980 and served in that role until 1992, winning accolades from the Government Financial Officers Association, the Association of Government Accounts and the Municipal Treasurers Association of the U.S. and Canada, an organization he served as president for a term.

In addition to his elective offices, Hara founded the Asian Pacific American Municipal Officials, the Seattle International District Rotary, the North Seattle Community College Foundation and is past president of the Japanese American Citizens League, Seattle Chapter.

Hara is taking a few days vacation with his wife, Liz, and told me in an email that while he has not made any future commitments, he has "too much energy to simply retire," adding "life is good and there is life after politics."
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A rural economic development strategy focused on entrepreneurs

 

If Global Entrepreneurship Week, the annual worldwide celebration of innovators and job creators, had been a competition among nations, states and regions, Washington State could have laid claim to being the hands-down winner. And that would be appropriate recognition for the man who has guided much of this state's effort to advance entrepreneurship, particularly in rural areas and particularly with young people, for 25 years.

 

 

 

 

Maury Forman, senior manager for the Washington State Department of Commerce, is proud of the fact that in this state, GEW 2015 was actually Global Entrepreneurship Month and extended to every corner of the state with activities in all 39 counties. Four years ago, when Forman plugged the state into GEW activities, three counties participated.Forman says "we are changing the way communities look at economic development." That's an outgrowth of his effort, over much of his quarter century overseeing key economic-development sectors, to develop a culture of entrepreneurism in rural areas.

Global Entrepreneurship week was founded in 2008 by the Kauffman Foundation, the Kansas City-based 501c3 that is the nation's pre-eminent entrepreneur-focused organization, to create an annual celebration of innovators and job creators who launch the start-ups that drive economic growth.

 

Forman, who joined what was then the Department of Trade and Economic Development in 1991 in a career transition from healthcare at the age of 40, says "No other state can claim that every part of the state had at least one event that celebrated entrepreneurship."

 

 

"One of the exciting aspects of this year's celebration of entrepreneurship was the number of high school programs being held throughout the state," Forman said. "In many cases, college isn't the natural next step it was once for high school students so these programs expose them to the idea of starting their own business once they graduate. Or if they do go on to college, they can focus their education on skills that will allow them to start a business in the years to come."

 

 

Forman says he has kept his primary focus on rural economies because "they need the assistance much more than urban communities," as well as because he has become convinced that the strategies for growth of many rural areas that has been focused on recruiting companies from out of state is outdated.

 

 

"That has to change if rural communities are to survive," Forman said. "Communities have to be shingle ready and not just shovel ready."  

 

 

In a recent article in Governing, a national magazine covering state and local government news, Forman wrote about Washington's three-year-old program called Startup Washington that focuses on building local economies "organically" by serving the needs of local startups and entrepreneurs.  

 

 

Forman is likely among the national leaders in the conviction that programs to enhance local economic development "must nurture the belief that young people who grow up in rural communities can be guided to start businesses in their own community rather than moving to urban centers."

 

 

"Just as young people are looking at new ways to enter the work force other than working for someone else, so too are communities looking for ways other than recruitment of businesses from elsewhere to grow their economies," Forman said.

 

 

One of the ways he is seeking to do that "is by matching those students that are serious about being entrepreneurs with mentors, especially in rural communities."

 

 

Indeed matching students who hope to be entrepreneurs with mentors is becoming the model for successful communities, particularly rural ones, to pursue.

 

 

Some communities have long been employing that model, as chronicled in the oft-quoted book written by Jack Schultz, founder and CEO of Agracel, a firm based in Effingham, IL, that specializes in industrial development in small towns.

 

 

It was in pondering why some small towns succeed where others fail that Schultz set out on the backroads to rural America to find out as he became the nation's guru of rural economic development and wrote of his travels in Boomtown USA: the 7 ½ keys to Big Success in Small Towns.

 

 

I emailed Schultz about entrepreneurism's role in small town success and a possibly emerging role for mentor programs.

 

 

"Embracing entrepreneurism in communities has been a key factor that differentiated great communities from also-rans," he emailed back. "Increasingly, we are seeing those great communities taking it a step up by tying their local entrepreneurs up with their young people, educating them on both entrepreneurship and also the great things happening in the private sector of their towns."

 

 

Schultz' successes in believing in small-town entrepreneurs and small-business lending is partly responsible for the fact the Effingham-based bank he helped found and now chairs the board, has grown eight fold to $2.9 billion in assets and gone public.

 

 

"At Midland States Bank, we have very much focused on small business lending and it has been a major factor in our growth over the last several years," Schultz said.

 

 

In an unusual and innovative commitment to the dozens of communities it serves, the bank has funded a not-for-profit institute to expand an entrepreneurship class that was started in Effingham eight years ago and has now expanded to 27 other towns.

 

 

Forman seemed intrigued by the details Schultz provided:  The class meets each day during the school year from 7:30 to 9 am; meets in local businesses; is totally funded by local businesses with a maximum contribution of $1,000 per business or individual.  Each class has a business and each student must also start a business.  

 

 

Meanwhile, Forman approaches his 25th anniversary with the department on January 1 having collected numerous regional and national awards for his work and successes. Those include last year winning the international Economic Development Leadership Award and recognitionby the Teens in Public Service Foundation with the Unsung Hero Award for his work with at risk kids.   

 

 

He has authored 14 books related to economic development, and has also designed and developed creative "game show' learning tools, including Economic Development Jeopardy, Economic Development Feud and two board games for the profession.

 

 

Forman credits the directors who have guided the department over his time there for allowing him "to be intrapreneurial," meaning behaving like an entrepreneur while working in a large organization, noting "not many government agencies allow the freedom to take risks in an effort to solve a given problem."

 

 

 

 

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Reflections: Brexit, out-of-touch High Court ruling, talk of 28th Amendment

It was well over a year ago that my brother, a retired Spokane small-business owner, began telling me, in support of the Donald Trump phenomenon, “Mike, you don’t understand, the silent majority is roaring.” My response was always, “I hear the roar, but it’s a minority made up of those unsettled by the murky mix of terrorism and immigration policies and angered by their lack of influence, or even contact, with the establishment.”

Then came last week’s Brexit vote, where the English version of folks I described turned out to be the majority, leaving establishment leaders of both major parties in this country to ponder whether what’s at stake is a desire to throw out the system rather than merely overturn particular politicians or policies. And what that means come November.

Or for the future. Thus perhaps an appropriate time to ponder questions as Independence Day approaches

Now a week following the blow to the U.K. comes a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court almost certain to fuel anger at the established order, the court making it harder to prosecute public officials for corruption by basically saying it’s ok for “the system” to include paying elected officials to influence their decisions.

At issue was the case of former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell, who was convicted by a lower court of using his office to help a businessman who had provided McDonnell and his wife with luxury products, loans and vacations worth more than $175,000 when Mr. McDonnell was governor.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., writing for the court, narrowed the definition of what sort of conduct can serve as the basis of a corruption prosecution. He wrote that “routine political courtesies like arranging meetings or urging underlings to consider a matter generally, even when the people seeking those favors give the public officials gifts or money,” do not represent corruption.

The alternative to the new limits, Roberts wrote, would be to criminalize routine political behavior. “Conscientious public officials arrange meetings for constituents, contact other officials on their behalf and include them in events all the time,” he wrote. All the time! Isn’t that the problem?

By now readers of this column have likely concluded that the usual focus on people, companies and issues that relate the Northwest is being upstaged to Harp about some personal thoughts on an issue that impacts us in this region, but that transcends us.

Fodder for thought following Brexit, for those who care to think, is offered by The Los Angeles Times‘ Vincent Bevins: “Since the 1980s the elites in rich countries have overplayed their hand, taking all the gains for themselves and just covering their ears when anyone else talks, and now they are watching in horror as voters revolt.”

It has to be hoped that the revolt is aimed at reconstructing rather than destructing the Democratic process. But that may not be certain.

A quote from author and MSNBC commentator Chris Hayes is getting attention on social media in the wake of the Brexit vote.

“The mechanism that western citizens are expected to use to express and rectify dissatisfaction – elections – has largely ceased to serve any correction function. When Democracy is preserved only in form, structured to change little to nothing about power distribution, people naturally seek alternatives for the redress of their grievances, particularly when they suffer.”

Coincident with the post-Brexit analysis have come a couple of group emails in which I was included, both suggesting that the idea of change by the ballot isn’t being totally abandoned. Both related to a focus on the 28th amendment to the U.S. constitution and both widely popular but not yet widely promoted.

The first relates to ongoing discussion about an amendment to overturn Citizens United, the U.S. Supreme Court decision that held political expenditures by corporations could not be limited.

Polls show the efforts for a 28th Amendment to overturn Citizens United is supported by more than 75 percent of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents and sixteen states have enacted 28th Amendment resolutions.

The other idea gathering support as a proposed 28th amendment: "Congress shall make no law that applies to the citizens of the United States that does not apply equally to the Senators and/or Representatives; and, Congress shall make no law that applies to the Senators and/or Representatives that does not apply equally to the citizens of the United States."

It strikes me that this idea could generate some positive action from voters by, between now and the November General Election, insisting every member of Congress on the ballot, as well as every state legislator, commit to voting in favor of the constitutional change next year. Or bite the bullet as voters and vote for the opponent, regardless of ideological compatability.

There are examples of the manner in which a fed-up public can bring a positive focus to their anger and bring about beneficial change within the system.

 

One such example was actually the result of an idea of someone from inside “the system,” then-Washington congressman Brian Baird, who during the last three of his six terms as the representative from the state’s third district sought to gather support in Congress for what he called the “Stock Act.”

 

Baird sought to prevent members of Congress from doing stock transactions in areas they regulate, in essence, prohibiting their investing in a manner that those in the real world call Insider Trading.

 

I wrote about it in a November, 2011, column after a program on CBS’ “60 Minutes” brought national attention to Baird’s idea with a program titled “Honest graft.”

 

For ordinary citizens, reaction to Baird's proposal would be a laughable "well, of course." But in a place whose mantra is "the rules we make for you don't apply to us," seeking to force action by the lawmakers on one small, self-imposed ethical constraint could become a rallying point for a fed-up public.

 

The thrust of the CBS segment was that lawmakers often made stock purchases and trades in the very fields they regulate. While ordinary citizens could be jailed for engaging in the kind of investment shenanigans that those in Congress involve themselves in, there's wasn’t even an ethical concern among lawmakers.

 

Reporter Steve Croft questioned then-House Speaker John Boehner and former Speaker Nancy Pelosi at their respective news conferences. And the ineptitude with which both Boehner and Pelosi tried to answer Croft's questions about whether their investment practices were at least conflicts of interest, the thought that had to occur was "Who elects these people?" The answer, unfortunately, is people like us elect them. And both have continued to be elected. Shame on us. And so maybe a revolt wouldn’t be that bad.

 

As a result of the outcry following the program and You Tube pieces on the congressional leaders’ confused responses, the Stock Act was passed overwhelmingly in the spring of 2012 with what observers described as “vulnerable congressmen” at the forefront of supporters. So now Members of Congress and employees of Congress are prohibited from using private information derived from their official positions for personal benefit, and for other purposes.

 

Baird had already retired by then, having decided not to seek a seventh term, thus exemplifying one of the concerns about the future of the Democracy as currently operating: The Nancy Pelosis remain in office and the Brian Bairds decide to leave.

 

 



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Reflecting on the memories of daughter's route from college to Court of Appeals judge

The Oregon Court of Appeals building in Salem is just across the street from the Willamette University Campus. But 29 years of memories separate the two for Betsy and me, from that day we left Meagan standing on the curb, both she and we a little uncertain as we drove away from the young lady about to begin her college career, to the day last week when she was sworn in as Oregon's newest appellate court judge.

Most of these weekly Flynn's Harp missives, over the six and a half years I have been writing and emailing them to more than 1,400 friends and acquaintances, have been about people and issues I think readers in business, politics and academia, should know about.

But occasionally recollections of the personal have seemed important enough to share, ranging from the day Betsy and I moved from our home of 40 years, taking with us the four decades of memories, to fond recollections of my '55 T-Bird, my mom and my 100-meter medal at the World Senior Games four months after my successful colon-cancer surgery.

And so it is with this personal reflection on the young lady who now wears the judge's robe.

The first-born child inevitably holds a special place in the emotions of parents, even though it always turns out there is enough love to share with subsequent children. And thus it was when Meagan arrived in July of 1967.

In fact Meagan always occupied a special place for not just her parents, but for many who have had occasion to get to know her. That included the fifth-grade teacher in Kalispell, MT, where Betsy and the three kids settled in while I spent six months as editor of a daily newspaper in my home state.

"A teacher spends their life waiting for the perfect student, and she was it," her teacher told me, with fondness and sadness, making me sad as well as I took Meagan to say goodbye to her classmates as we all headed back to Seattle where I was returning to work at UPI.

Meagan always had a competitive bent, which she usually did a good job of hiding, except as a seventh grader in Piedmont, CA, when she found that a male student was challenging her for top student. Her jaw always locked a bit when the male student came up in conversations. The two of them ran for 8th grade class president (except the title was commissioner general) in a hotly contested race that she won, expressing smug pleasure at coming out on top.

She had a goal of being an attorney from early on because her role model was her cousin, Sheila, who was a very successful Seattle attorney.

As she prepared to graduate from Holy Names Academy in Seattle, where she was salutatorian of her class, I urged her to apply to Stanford because her friend, who was valedictorian, was applying there.

"Be cool if you could say you were accepted to Stanford," I told her, even though I knew she had already decided she wanted to attend Willamette.

To my surprise, though likely not her's, she was accepted to Stanford and I feared she would decide she wanted to go there since it would have been a financial challenge for us at that time.

But the ducks on the pond at Willamette, which were the initial attraction the day she first visited the school (although its academic reputation and its law school had roles in the final decision), had already drawn her interest to Willamette.

Good thing, since that's where she met her husband to be, who was also intent on become an attorney, though eventually Gonzaga law school won out for both of them and after graduating they built partner-role practices at separate small firms in Portland. They also provided us two of our granddaughters.

Meagan's practice focus was as a specialist in doing appeals and I once asked her if it was difficult to get the judges to take her case.

Once we learned Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber had appointed her to the court, the potential downside of a daughter who was a judge started to emerge, as when Betsy advised me one day as I was driving up I-5: "You had better not get a ticket! That could be very embarrassing to your daughter!"

So last week she was sworn in as Oregon's newest judge on the court of appeals by the same judge whom she went to work for as a clerk 20 years ago, soon after he had taken his oath as a then-new appeals court judge himself. He brought to her swearing-session last week a picture of that first clerk-judge meeting in 1994.

Now they are both among the 13 judges serving on the Court of Appeals.

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Granger schools create model that deserves attention

 The search for education innovations that represent steps toward excellence is a challenging process at best, and one that seldom includes schools in underprivileged areas or those with large minority enrollment. 
 
Thus the dramatic turnaround in absenteeism for the schools in the Yakima Valley community of Granger to achieve the lowest incidence of chronic absenteeism in the state merits the attention of those seeking to bring change and educational enhancement to schools. After all, this is a district where nearly 85 percent of the students are Hispanic and a third of the families live below the poverty level.
 
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© 2016 Mike Flynn

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