Open Government

WPC's Center for Government Reform's mission is to partner with stakeholders and citizens to work toward a government focused on its core functions while improving its transparency, accountability, performance, and effectiveness for taxpayers.

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Book 'em Danno (but don't release the photos in Washington)

May 18, 2010 in Blog

Hawaii Five-O fans will remember most episodes ending with the phrase "Book 'em Danno." In Hawaii, police booking photos (or mug shots) are subject to public disclosure. They aren't in Washington.

The state's Sunshine Committee met today and had a very spirited discussion about this practice and whether police booking photos should be subject to public disclosure. 

A bill was introduced last year (HB 2115) to make these photos available to the public but it was not voted on.

A recommendation offered today by!
Sunshine Committee member Rowland Thompson would not only require booking photos to be posted publicly on an agency website but also:

  • Name of charging agency;
  • Any warrant information;
  • The actual amount of any booking fee assessed and collected, and the procedure for requesting a refund;
  • The bond type and dollar amount if set by the court;
  • Sentence and fines, if imposed by the court;
  • Jail visiting information; and
  • Name of the court with jurisdiction and court location, Docket or cause number, and next court hearing, if available.

Testifying against this recommendation were the strange bedfellows of the Washington chapter of the ACLU and the Pierce County Sheriff's Office.

ACLU representative Doug Klunder raised these objections:

  • Privacy interest and right of accused to get a fair trial would be impacted.
  • Release of photos can be prejudicial to defendant.
  • All release of booking photo does is “throw person out for public shame.”

He did say, however, that the ACLU may be ok with the other information besides the booking photos being publicly available.

Also testifying was Craig Adams, Legal Adviser to the Pierce County Sheriff's Office. Agreeing with the ACLU, Adams noted:

  • Three ways photos can already be released:  1) consent of inmate, 2) by court order, or 3) to help solve a crime (as was done in the Maurice Clemmons case).
  • Pierce County doesn't make it a policy to entrench on privacy concerns – not everyone booked gets charged – not everyone charged gets convicted.
  • Urged committee to consider ACLU concerns – believes current statute is working well.

Adams also said that besides the booking photos he had no "heartburn" over the other information being publicly available.

Testifying in favor of public release for booking photos was citizen and public records advocate Arthur West

The Sunshine Committee did not take action on the recommendation today but will vote on the proposal at a future meeting. 

Also discussed at today's meeting was a proposal by Frank Garred to refine the state's attorney-client privilege exemption from public disclosure.

Due to a lengthy debate between the committee members the decision was made to form a subcommittee (made up of Sen. Adam Kline, Ramsey Ramerman and Garred) to try to come up with a conse!
nsus proposal. 

Prior to forming the subcommittee, Roselyn Marcus (Office of Financial Management) reminded the members that those serving on any subcommittee would not receive travel reimbursement due to the state's financial situation.

This lead Rowland Thompson to joke that based on the severe disagreement between the committee members on the issue of attorney client privilege perhaps the Governor could declare the Sunshine Committee a disaster area (thus making it eligible for funds). 

Disaster or not, the subcommittee's discussion on attorney-client privilege will be held in public meetings with times and location to be announced.

Washington Doesn't Need An Income Tax

May 17, 2010 in Publications

This fall Washington voters will likely again be asked to pass a state income tax. Tax proponents want to impose a tax of 5 percent on people with yearly incomes over $200,000 and on couples with incomes over $400,000. The rate would rise to 9 percent at the $500,000 and $1 million levels.

Business & Occupation tax reform plan released

May 17, 2010 in In the News
Kitsap Peninsula Business Journal
Kitsap Peninsula Business Journal
Monday, May 17, 2010

Washington Policy Center attacks what it calls a $40M bus stop

May 17, 2010 in In the News
Bellingham Herald
Bellingham Herald
Monday, May 17, 2010

A $40 million bus stop?

May 17, 2010 in In the News
Monday, May 17, 2010

UW set up for touchdown with new stadium funding plan

May 14, 2010 in Blog

After several false starts, the University of Washington has positioned itself to score a touchdown with its new funding plan to renovate Husky Stadium.

As reported by the Seattle Times

"For three years, the UW has tried in vain to persuade lawmakers in Olympia to help it collect $150 million in public money to go toward a $300 million stadium remodel. Now, as early as Friday, it plans to ask developers to come up with a new plan that doesn't rely on any tax dollars . . .

Both Evans and Woodward said the new proposal doesn't mean the UW has given up altogether on the idea of securing at least some public financing.

However, the proposal may simply confirm to lawmakers what some have argued from the beginning — that the UW needs to find a way to pay for the renovations itself without turning !
to taxpayers."

To avoid subjecting this potentially winning touchdown to yet another taxpayer instant replay challenge, the school should take the idea of additional public funding for the stadium completely off the table.

This may help to keep the in-state civil war between the Huskies and Cougars focused on the playing field instead of who is paying for the fields.

Washington State University has been moving forward with plans to renovate Martin Stadium without asking for public funds.

Spokane Mayor takes out budget knife, asks union workers to accept more responsibility

May 13, 2010 in Blog

Spokane Mayor Mary Verner today announced a budget outline for the upcoming fiscal year that trims some jobs, does not raise taxes, and asks city unions to accept more responsibility for the cost of their own health care.

The Mayor's proposal seeks to cut $10 million from the city's budget. To do that, she wants to eliminate 18.5 police positions, nine firefighter positions, and reduce some city services to just four days a week. Many of the eliminated positions don't necessarily mean job cuts, as some openings will just remain vacant.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the proposal is the mayor's request that some city workers be willing to consider changing the way the city funds their health care coverage. The mayor wants to cap taxpayers’ annual exposure to health care premium increases at 4%. That means if health care premiums in subsequent years increase 10% (which has been the case in recent years), city union workers would have to pick up the remaining 6% of the tab or pick a different health benefit. Right now, various unions in the City of Spokane pay as little as 6% or as much as 25% of their benefits. Taxpayers cover the rest.

Washington Policy Center recommends state workers also open up their contracts to pay more for their own health care costs. Right now, state workers pay nothing for their dental care and far-less than their private sector counterparts for health benefits. While the workers enjoy great benefits, taxpayers are the ones left holding the bill. 

Governor puts universities on notice

May 13, 2010 in Blog

Those attending this morning's GMAP session on education performance saw the Governor repeatedly voice displeasure with the performance of the state's four-year universities. Saying that the performance agreements with the universities have resulted in zero change, Governor Gregoire served notice that she expects better results and wants to see them provide incentives to students to graduate in four years. 

The Governor used a personal example of how she was able to encourage her daughters to graduate in four years. She said she told them that after four years they had to pay their own way.

Here is the audio of the Governor's agitated comments:  

One example the Governor could consider is from Colorado. A reform enacted in 2004 created the Colorado Opportunity Fund (COF). Rather than fund the institutions, Colorado provides eligible students a credit hour stipend to apply toward tuition. The stipend is only available until a student reaches 145 credit hours. 

Another reform would be to create a highly transparent report card for the state's universities so parents and students could make informed decisions on which schools to attend.

In its report on the performance of the state's universities, the Evergreen Freedom Foundation highlighted model language sponsored by the American Legislative Exchange Council that would require universities to report to the Legislature and prominently post on their websites (page 63 of report) information on institutional profile, student and faculty engagement, student achievement, and institutional efficiency.

Noticeably absent from this morning's GMAP session were details on K-12 education performance. This was not an omission but rather a symptom of the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) being an in!
dependently elected office. To help provide the Governor more control and accountability for the billions being invested in K-12, OSPI should be restructured as a cabinet agency

During the 2008 election campaign, then candidate Randy Dorn supported this type of reform.

They didn’t fix the state’s budget, but they did put on an entertaining show

May 13, 2010 in In the News
Port Orchard Independent
Port Orchard Independent
Thursday, May 13, 2010

Governor Puts Universities On Notice

May 13, 2010 in In the News
Seattle PostGlobe
Seattle PostGlobe
Thursday, May 13, 2010