Inside Opinion

What's on the minds of Tacoma News Tribune editorial writers

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Tag: recall

Nov.
19th

The right of recall wins – too late to remove Washam

This editorial will run in Tuesday’s print edition.

Lost in the din on election day was a sweet little moral victory for the people who tried unsuccessfully to recall Dale Washam last year.

One of the many mini-dramas in the recall attempt was the way the Public Disclosure Commission stomped on the signature-gathering campaign before it even got started.

Robin Farris, who led the effort to unseat Pierce County’s extravagantly inept assessor-treasurer, had been getting pro bono legal assistance from two public-spirited Tacoma attorneys, Tom Oldfield and Jeff Helsdon.

Washington law allow recalls only on very narrow grounds; Oldfield and Helsdon helped Farris steer the petition through all the legal obstacles – Washam fighting all the way – until it finally won approval from the Washington Supreme Court.

The PDC, however, held that recall petitions were the legal equivalent of political campaigns rather than initiatives. Individual contributions to candidates are capped at $800 – a limit that doesn’t apply to ballot measures as constitutionally protected political expression.
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Nov.
17th

It’s official: PDC was wrong, Washam recallers were right

Lost in the din on election day was a sweet little moral victory for the people who tried to recall Dale Washam last year.

One of the many mini-dramas in the recall attempt was the way the Public Disclosure Commission stomped on the signature-gathering campaign before it even got started.

Robin Farris, who led the effort to unseat Pierce County’s flamboyantly incompetent assessor-treasurer, had been getting pro bono legal assistance from two public-spirited Tacoma attorneys, Tom Oldfield and Jeff Helsdon. They helped her negotiate the recall petition through a legal obstacle course that finally ended with its approval by the Washington Supreme Court.

In the process, the PDC decided that Farris had violated the state’s campaign finance laws – which then capped individual contributions to candidates at $800 – by accepting an estimated $20,000 worth of donated help from Oldman and Helsdon. The commission insisted on equating a recall effort to a candidate’s election campaign, and it continued to do so; as a result, Farris’ efforts were hobbled financially for months.

Finally, a libertarian outfit based in Virginia, the Institute for Justice, fought the PDC on behalf of Farris’ campaign and won an injunction that let her raise more money. The PDC challenged the ruling and the case bounced around the federal judiciary.
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July
16th

A key victory for Washingtonians’ right to recall

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

The First Amendment and common sense prevailed Friday when the campaign to recall Dale Washam was freed from an arbitrary and crippling funding limit.

Washam has proven himself unfit for the office of Pierce County assessor-treasurer since he was elected in 2008. He has persecuted subordinates – incurring enormous legal claims against the county – and has used his position to pursue an obsessive vendetta against his predecessor.

His behavior has triggered four independent investigations, all of which found misconduct on his part. Washam must be removed before he causes more harm to the taxpayers and the department he supposedly runs.

But until Friday, the recall campaign led by Robin Farris of Puyallup had been hampered by an $800 state limit on individual donations that applies not only to cash contributions but also to volunteer professional services.

The state Public Disclosure Commission has fined Farris for accepting $20,000 worth of donated legal help from two public-spirited lawyers. The $800 ceiling on donations has also prevented her campaign from deploying enough petition-gatherers to cover the geographic immensity of Pierce County.
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June
9th

Right of recall shouldn’t be limited to the wealthy

This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.

When retired Navy officer Robin Farris launched a recall campaign against Pierce County Assessor-Treasurer Dale Washam last October, little did the political neophyte realize that state law essentially handcuffs someone like her.

She’s not allowed to accept donations of more than $800 per person. And there’s no such thing as pro bono legal work; any legal help she might get is considered an in-kind contribution and subject to the $800 limit.

Farris found that out after a Tacoma law firm, Oldfield & Helsdon, volunteered many hours to help her. The state Public Disclosure Commission punished Farris with a $250 fine but did not force her to repay the law firm more than $21,000 worth of donated time.
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March
3rd

Open the throttle on the Washam recall campaign

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Thanks to the Washington Supreme Court, Pierce County is now only 65,500 signatures and one election away from recalling its disastrously incompetent assessor-treasurer, Dale Washam.

The court on Thursday unanimously approved the recall petition filed by Robin Farris of Puyallup, which Washam had attempted to tie up in a court challenge characteristically obsessed with minutiae.

The right to recall elected officials is embedded in the state constitution; it would be a meaningless right if targeted officeholders were permitted to delay and obstruct legitimate efforts to unseat them. The speed with which the justices rendered their judgment shows they understand that a recall delayed can quickly turn into a recall denied.

The petition against Washam is as well-grounded and necessary as the state has seen in decades. He’s been a one-man wrecking ball since the day he took office and began pursuing an obsessive, vindictive and foolish campaign to put his predecessor, Ken Madsen, in prison.
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Jan.
5th

2.3 million new reasons to hasten Washam’s recall

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Two new budding lawsuits seeking $2.3 million in damages are yet more evidence that Dale Washam will bleed the taxpayers of Pierce County until the day he leaves office. The Washington Supreme Court should let them hasten that blessed day.

The citizens pushing to recall Washam are itching to start circulating their petitions, and many more are itching to sign them. The Pierce County Superior Court has found sufficient grounds to launch the recall campaign, but Washam has appealed to the high court – which could effectively sabotage the effort by taking

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Nov.
20th

A recall that targets the right official: Dale Washam

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Dale Washam, Pierce County’s embarrassment of an assessor-treasurer, apparently thinks of one thing night and day: getting someone – anyone – to prosecute his predecessor, Ken Madsen.

At this point, it’s abundantly clear that Washam is not capable of dropping this poisonous obsession, which long ago spilled over into the abusive treatment of his staff and illegal retaliation against employees who complained.

It’s also abundantly clear he is one very expensive public official. His abuses of office have already run up a six-figure tab for taxpayers, and employees he has mistreated will likely be collecting settlements mounting well into the seven figures.

The man simply must be stopped before he does more damage, because – bank on it – he will do more damage.

A resignation would be the honorable course, but Washam appears utterly incapable of finding any culpability in himself. The rolling disaster his administration has become is all the fault of others – especially the vast conspiracy frustrating his crusade to destroy Madsen.
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Feb.
17th

Trust an issue for Toyota and regulators

This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.

In a recent Washington Post op-ed piece, Toyota president Akio Toyoda wrote that his company “has always put the needs of our customers first.”

That claim sounds a little hollow in light of new revelations by Bloomberg News. It found that Toyota employees hired away from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration were able to help quash four investigations by the federal agency into possible safety issues involving unintended acceleration. That’s the very problem cited in at least 19 deaths between 2004 and 2009 and is at the heart of Toyota’s recall of 8.5 million vehicles. Read more »