Monday, February 26, 2007

What a Total Rush!!!

For those of you who don't know, in addition to writing this bit of politics, I also write about cars — primarily reviews of new cars, trucks, and SUVs. My reviews are not only published in the Business Journal and WestSound Home & Garden Magazine, but in 14 city/lifestyle magazines in 10 states as well. It also means that I am a frequent invitee on what is known in the industry as the "manufacturer's press trip" (read press junket). These are usually used to roll out either a new or redesigned vehicle well in advance of it hitting the showrooms in order to create some "buzz" about it

On these events, we are flown to a nice destination, put up in a 4 or 5-star hotel or resort, wined and dined obscenely, and get to drive the vehicle on a predetermined route for evaluation purposes.
Driving at race tracks is typical for a new vehicle launch so its performance can be showcased safely, under controlled conditions. For example, in the past five years (I've been doing this for over 15) I have driven at Talledaga Super Speedway (Yes, that's the one Grant Lynch of ISC runs), Laguna Seca, Willow Springs, Phoenix-Firebird, Heartland-Topeka, Sonoma, Las Vegas Motor Speedway, our own Pacific Raceway in Kent, and Sears Point (for Motor Press Guild and Western Automotive Journalists' Track Days. These are annual journalist-member events).

As i write this, I am finishing up a trip to San Antonio with Porsche, driving the redesigned 2008 Cayanne. We drove to the Continental Tires proving grounds at Uvalde — 5,000 acres about 40 miles west of San Antonio. We put the Cayanne through a series of scripted off and on-road maneuvers with the Porsche Racing Team drivers — including the ledgendary Hurley Haywood, one of the winningest drivers of all time on all racing circuits. At the end of the day, we got to do one, two-lap, flat out run on the 8.5 mile oval track.

Previous to this, the fastest I had ever driven was 140, in the Aston Martin DB9. Today, we hit 163. What a total RUSH!!!

Yeah, I know, this is tough duty. But hey, SOMEONE has to do this, so it might as well be me. And by the way, no, I don't need any help.

The Wrong Approach

I received a press release from Luke Esser, the newly elected head of the Washington State Republican Party, headlined, "U.S. Supreme Court to Resolve "Top Two" Primary Case." After striking down I-872, the initiative that passed overwhelmingly after our political parties stole the open primary away for the voters, and created the Top Two system, BOTH parties, acting in concert, successfully sued to have that taken from us as well, forcing us to choose a single party ballot.

What I found most interesting, was this quote from the release... "The Washington case now going before the Supreme Court arises from an appeal by the sponsors and supporters of Initiative 872, which would have created a “Top Two” primary election that effectively stripped political parties of any role in determining who would carry their standard on election day, and could lead to Republicans being denied a spot on the general election ballot in many parts of the state."

Losing this case seriously worries Esser and the Republicans because they are the minority party in Washington — and not by just a small margin.

Instead of trying to protect a system that voters have clearly said they don't want or like, perhaps the Republican Party would be better served (and attract more voters) if it just moved more into the mainstream, and away from the extreme right where it currently is perceived to be. The majority of voters in our state don't vote Republican because the party doesn't represent what that majority believes in or wants.

Could it just be that simple? Well, DUH!
Will they "get it?" Of course not. They never do.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Seaquist Steps In It

Freshman 26th District legislator Larry Seaquist just couldn't resist...

It's been obvious from the outset that he's an elitist who thinks NASCAR is something distasteful and totally beneath a person of his stature. Never mind what his constituents think (horror of horrors — they could even be fans!) or the possible positive financial rewards it represents. His mind has been closed on this subject from the beginning, and remains slammed shut.

But this week, he revealed his true, bigoted, inner-self with his comments to the Seattle Times He said that International Speedway Corporation is a "terrible corporate citizen," and predicted that NASCAR promoters would be “terrible neighbors.” He then went on to say “These are not the kind of people you would want living next door to you, they would be the ones with the junky cars in the front yard and would try to slip around the law.”

Upon hearing this trash talk, my wife sent him a blistering email, part of, from which I quote...

For your information, I have a PhD in English, am co-owner of a media company, earn 6 figures, have multiple awards for design, etc., sit on community boards and the executive committee of another countywide board. Every year, I am asked to join other boards. I support the Arts, in donating to the Admiral Theatre and the Bremerton Symphony. 2 years ago, I was lauded as a Woman of Achievement for the YWCA. My husband and I personally donate $1,000 a year to the battered women's shelter.

I publish a top notch Home & Garden magazine, representing the Kitsap Peninsula, exclusively. My daily attire is suit and heels. I am savvy, polished and know my way around any group. I belong to the Columbia Tower Club; my husband sits on the board.

I find your characterization of me highly insulting and demand an apology. As my representative, I expect more from you than an uninformed, shoot from the hip response to the media. How unstatesmanlike!

I am a Democrat; I support labor, the race track, and I vote.

THAT got his attention. He personally called her, apologized and stated he had been sort of misquoted, but not exactly — whatever that means. I called the reporter that wrote the story, and he told me that Seaquist had been quoted exactly — and that he had it on tape.

In every market where ISC does business, they are highly regarded as corporate citizens, so I have to wonder exactly what kind of personal experience Seaquist bases his unjustly prejudiced opinion on.

On several talk radio shows the next day — on more than one station — Seaquist and his comments were the butt of numerous jokes. In fact, on the Ron & Don Show on KIRO, during a debate between Pete Crane (representing the Checkered Flag Club), and Ray (not in my backyard) McGovern, of CHECK, Crane stated that Sen. Derek Kilmer had called a number of Democratic legislators in other states where ISC has tracks and asked them about the company. To a person, they stated ISC was a great corporate citizen, and several allowed that it was perhaps their best corporate citizen.

Prior to his election, I wrote here that I though Seaquist was a pompous ass who didn't value anyone's opinion but his own. I was obviously wrong. Based on his statements and actions since being elected, as well as this embarrasing show of ignorance, I now believe he’s a close-minded, uninformed, bigoted, eitist, pompous ass.

In addition to ISC, I believe he owes NASCAR fans everywhere, not just in the 26th District — an apology.

Friday, February 16, 2007

When Norm's unhappy...

Even being kept on a short leash by Commissioner Chris Endresen, some of Commissioner Josh Brown's public statements have left no doubt about his qualifications — or his lack of true political savvy. Congressman Norm Dicks’ phone lines have been burning up with unhappy constituents and longtime supporters demanding he rein in Brown over his comments and actions about NASCAR.

Dicks can’t be happy — especially since he supports NASCAR and endorsed Brown, who is quickly becoming an embarrassment to him.

Will The Josh Brown spectacle ever end?

It was Will Rogers who said, “There's no trick to being a humorist when you have the whole government working for you.” That kind of sums up my feelings about a lot of what’s happened around here lately.

At the local level, the whole Josh Brown residency circus was finally settled in court. Our democracy worked the way it’s supposed to. Whether you agreed with the outcome or not, it’s time to move on.

While it seems to me to be a moot point now, Bainbridge Island resident James Olson, challenged Brown’s residency to the county Canvassing Board claiming he had “clear and convincing evidence” that would prove Brown didn’t live at the address he claimed.

The Canvassing Board is made up of Auditor Karen Flynn, Prosecutor Russ Hauge, and Commissioner Chris Endresen. All are Democrats and all donated money to Brown’s campaign. Endresen was quoted as saying she believes Olson’s challenge is “harassment by sore losers,” yet said she has no problem being impartial.

Olson understandably asked for a change of venue — which Flynn denied — and the hearing was set for Feb. 15. At the last minute, Olson withdrew the complaint, citing a “conflict of interest” on the part of the Canvassing Board. He then filed a felony complaint against Brown. In his trial testimony, Brown admitted under oath to what could be interpreted as a Class C felony.

After Olson withdrew the Canvassing Board complaint, Brown’s attorney said he would file a counterclaim for perjury. Olson dismissed it as “lawyerly bluster.” Stay tuned.

Will Hauge actually pursue the felony charge? Probably not — unless he is compelled to.

In my view, no matter what he does from this point forward, Brown will always be damaged goods politically. The outcome of the trial won’t really matter because most people understand he won on what amounts to a legal technicality. The question of his basic honesty will always dog him. Meanwhile, threats and attempts to intimidate citizens into silence who criticize his actions will only do him more harm than good with voters in the long run. Is it just me, or does Brown not realize he is continuing to dig himself into a deeper and deeper hole?

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Trial Postscript...

There is one event that took place during Josh Brown's trial that I feel very strongly I absolutely have to address...

The plaintiff's private investigator, responding to a question asked by Josh's attorney John Morgan, about a statement he made for the original lawsuit story broken by the Business Journal, stated he had been misquoted.

Specifically, the quote was, “I found him at his parent's house on more than one occasion and know for a fact he spent the night there.” When Morgan asked him to cite the specific facts he had to back that statement up, the investigator knew he had a problem. He took the easy way out by saying he was misquoted.

Knowing at the time we were breaking a highly explosive story, I wrote down exactly what he said — verbatim — and I stand by my story and that quote. I have my notes from the conversation to back it up.

I confronted the investigator immediately afterwards, and he said, "Don't you remember, I called you back and clarified that remark." He did call me back, but he wanted to be certain I understood certain OTHER statements he made — concerning a completely DIFFERENT aspect of his investigation — were off the record, and he wouldn't be quoted on any of those, which he wasn't. However, we did NOT discuss the specific quote in question during that subsequent conversation.

Why is this such a big deal? Because except for Commissioner Chris Endresen, every single Democratic elected county official was in that courtroom at the time (Shouldn't they have been in their offices, not spending two days watching the trial on our dime?). I pride myself on making certain I always get the words right. And I'm not about to let my integrity be questioned — especially when breaking the biggest political story in this county in years.

After spending most of my professional career in this industry, I know the critical importance of getting quotes exactly right. That's why it's important to me that those elected officials sitting in that courtroom know the investigator was quoted accurately — just as they will be in the future.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

"Yeah, and O.J. was innocent too..."

That was the parting shot from Robert Ross, whose residency case against Josh Brown has been dismissed. On the evening before the verdict was scheduled to be rendered, one prominant Democrat offered me 10-to-1 odds it would go in Josh's favor. Hmmm... you say.

After sitting through most of the two-day trial, I have to say I really wasn't surprised at the outcome. I thought the plaintiff's made a pretty good case for the fact Josh didn't actually live in the apartment he claims as his residence, but as John Morgan, Brown's attorney, correctly pointed out, the case was entirely circumstanial.

We did learn a lot about Josh personally though...
If the apartment — and his testimony — is any indicator, he sleeps with the windows open, the heat off, and takes lukewarm showers, which is why his electric bill is only a little over $10 a month. He must not wear underwear because the investigator didn't find any upon inspection of the apartment, and Josh admitted under oath he isn't above pirating a wayward, late-night wi-fi signal to get his laptop online.

There are numerous ways to poke fun at Josh over these — and the many other — revelations, but frankly, is there any point in doing that?

In spite of the ruling, Brown’s troubles may not yet be over. He still faces another residency challenge filed by James Olsen of Bainbridge Island. Olsen is scheduled to present his case to the Kitsap County Canvassing Board — Commissioner Chris Endresen, Kitsap County Prosecutor Russ Hague, and Auditor Karen Flynn — at 2 p.m. Feb. 15 in the Commissioners’ Chambers in Port Orchard. Like Brown, all three are Democrats and according to PDC reports, all three also contributed money to Brown’s election campaign — with Flynn contributing twice.

Olson has requested a change of venue, which Flynn has denied.

The ink wasn't dry on the verdict before a small group unhappy with the outcome began discussing trying to file criminal charges against Brown. “He admitted to a felony on the stand,” stated one person who would only speak on the condition of anonymity. “He also admitted to stealing a wi-fi signal. Isn’t there anything this guy won’t do?”

The felony accusation stems from testimony at the trial that Brown and a former teacher, Arna Souza of Bremerton, had discussed Brown house-sitting for her. Souza testified she had that discussion with Brown in May — not January as Brown stated — but that no agreement was reached. Brown, in the meantime registered to vote using Souza’s address. Souza said she never gave Brown permission to do so, and had only heard about Brown’s action after a visit from Ross’ investigator two weeks ago.

The group said they will send a representative to meet with Prosecutor Russ Hauge shortly, but don’t expect him to do anything. Then they intend to approach Attorney General Rob McKenna’s office.

Did Josh commit a felony? Will he be prosecuted? Who knows?

But on this particular day, our system of democracy worked the way it was supposed to and it found Josh Brown to be an innocent man. And whether you agree with that outcome or not, our judicial system is still something we should all take pride in and be grateful for.

To Josh, I say hopefully, this experience will have given you some maturity and perspective — and reined in at least a little of your youthful arrogance. Personally, I wish I knew as much now, as I knew at your age. And when you get to be my age, you'll probably understand that statement a whole lot better. I also hope you will be as frugal with our tax dollars as the trial seemed to indicate you are with your own.

To all those unhappy about the outcome, I say, it's time to let it go and move on. There's no question that Josh won the election by a substainal majority and was the clear choice of the voters. Also, he clearly won this case. If you're unhappy with the way he governs, you have the opportunity four years from now to work for a change.

Either way, it's time for this to be behind us. For me at least, it is.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Josh Brown Trial

I've had numerous people contact me wanting to know what I thought of today's action on Day One of Josh's residency trial, and asking me to predict an outcome.

Due to one particular comment made by the plaintiff's investigator, I am going to withold all my own comments until the trial is over and a ruling is made by Judge Verser. Until then, I'll have nothing to say.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Whose Side Is Our Supreme Court On, Anyway?

This week's decision by the Washington Supreme Court allowing local governments to take private property with little or no notice to a property owner is yet another example of why we needed a change on the court. Justice Susan Owens, who defeated property rights attorney John Grohn this past November voted with the majority, saying that in essence, the government doesn’t have to officially notify you it wants your property. The ruling says all that’s required is that the government post it on a Web site — no matter how obscure — to constitute “Official Notice.”

This is the third major decision by the court in recent years that erodes private property rights and expands the government’s power to basically steal your property. If there was ever an illustration of why Owens should have been given the boot this past November, this is it.

The Supreme Court’s decision comes as even both Queen Christine and our decidedly ultra-liberal Legislature have come to grips with the fact that eminent domain has taken on a life of its own ever since the Kelo vs. New London decision. For once, Legislators from both sides of the aisle are supporting a bill requiring government to notify property owners of a proposed taking via certified letter.

In a press release that finds the generally conservative Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW) in the unusual position of being on the same side of an issue as the Governor and Legislature, BIAW Executive Vice President Tom McCabe hit the nail squarely on the head when he said, “Apparently the Justices who voted in the majority in this case are the only ones who think government should have to do less, not more, to inform property owners that their land might be seized by government. Property owners have no recourse but to check government agency websites and meeting agendas on a daily basis to see if government is thinking about taking their land.”

He added, “There is no question that we now live in a state governed by the Kelo decision. Our state constitution ostensibly provides greater property rights protection than the federal constitution, but our Supreme Court has turned its back on those protections.”

We couldn’t agree more.