LIBERTY CAUCUS ENDORSES WALSH FOR WA STATE HOUSE: Group cites GOP candidate’s “understanding” and “service to this state”

January 8, 2016 — the Republican Liberty Caucus of Washington has formally endorsed Jim Walsh for State Representative (Position 1) from the 19th Legislative District.

Announcing the endorsement, RLC/WA Chairman Tony Stephens said of Walsh:

We have searched your positions, recalled your past statements, looked into your political alliances and your service to this state in various capacities. We have determined you possess a maturity in the understanding of the philosophy of liberty and have demonstrated your ability to defend individual rights and have done so as an exemplary member of the Republican Party.

Walsh—who serves a Vice Chairman of the Washington State Republican Party and Chairman of the Grays Harbor GOP—accepted the endorsement, adding that the RLC/WA’s commitment to principled limited government and personal liberty matches the attitudes of the 19th District well. Recent polls show that voters in the 19th have grown tired of the empty promises of Big Government politicians. From both major Parties.

“We want Olympia to provide basic services, like safe neighborhoods, good roads and solid K-12 education,” says Walsh. “Beyond that, we mostly want to be left alone.”

RLC/WA Chairman Tony Stephens agrees:

We encourage those who value the first article of our State Constitution, which declares all political power is inherent in the people and governments exist to protect individual rights, to vote for Jim Wash if eligible, to work with Walsh’s campaign if able, and to promote Walsh to everyone around them.

Walsh believes a few, simple changes in public policy can ignite major economic development in the 19th District: “We’ve sort of sleepwalked through the past few decades, letting other parts of the state tell us what to do. The time has come to change that.” He plans to develop the District’s strengths—and expand its influence—by improving its use of ports, transportation infrastructure and natural resources.

The RLC/WA’s endorsement concludes:

We look forward to you becoming a member of the Washington House of Representatives, to your votes in that House which expand liberty and limit government, and to your influence among other members of the House to help them protect the rights of individuals in the great State of Washington.

Jim Walsh – The secret to growth on the harbor

The Daily World –

The City of Aberdeen has begun changing the lanes on several major streets in its downtown area. This process has caused some controversy. The streets are being repainted so that they have fewer lanes for moving cars and more room for parking and riding bikes. Some local merchants like the changes because they believe they’ll make stopping and shopping easier. Other citizens argue that the changes will make traffic congestion worse.

Decades ago, when two-way streets through Aberdeen and Hoquiam were changed into a couplet of one-way arteries that’s part of US Highway 101, Aberdeen’s downtown became something that drivers pass through quickly on their way to other places. In urban-planning terms, the city gave up its “local focus.”

The recent lane changes might help restore some local focus. They also might make peak-hour traffic worse. Both results are merely symptoms of a bigger issue: population change.

If we’re going to rebuild the economy of Grays Harbor County and coastal Washington, we need to think about our population — where it’s headed, generally, and how it’s distributed within our region.

Here are some quick historical markers on the population of Grays Harbor County and its population as a percentage of Washington state’s total:

• In 1900, the county had 15,124 people, which was 2.9 percent of the state’s 518,103.

• In 1930, the county had 59,982 people, 3.8 percent of the state’s 1.6 million.

• In 1950, the county had 53,644 people, 2.3 percent of the state’s 2.4 million

• In 1980, the county had 66,314 people, 1.6 percent of the state’s 4.1 million.

• In 2010, the county had 72,797 people, 1.1 percent of the state’s 6.7 million.

• In 2014, the county had 70,818 people, 1.0 percent of the state’s 7.1 million.

The county’s two biggest cities — Aberdeen and Hoquiam — both peaked in population in 1930 (at about 22,000 and 13,000 residents, respectively). Today, they’re just over 16,000 and 8,000 — and shrinking. While they’ve shrunk, other parts of the county have grown. For the past 25 years, Elma has been treading water at around 3,000 people; McCleary has been treading, too, at a little more than half Elma’s size. But those numbers don’t do justice to the growth in the non-incorporated parts of eastern GH County — which have grown steadily, serving as far suburbs of Olympia.

During the same period, Westport has been holding steady at just over 2,000 permanent residents (Grayland adds about another 1,000), but Ocean Shores has been growing — from about 2,300 permanent residents in 1990 to over 5,600 now.

As a part of the state’s population, Grays Harbor County peaked right before World War II. Recently, we’ve been staying fairly steady at just over 70,000 people — but shrinking, as part of the state.

Over the last 100 years, the county has averaged 2.2 percent of the state’s population, but if you look at just the post-WWII period, it’s averaged 1.6 percent. And, today, it’s right around 1.0 percent. If Grays Harbor County were to keep pace with those 100- or 60-year averages, its population would range between 112,000 and 156,000 people.

We can split the difference — and round down a little — and make a target population of 125,000 people for Grays Harbor County. This would bring our region closer into line with its historical size, relative to the state.

Could this area support another 50,000-plus people? And, if so, how?

The recent population trend has been people moving out of the core cities and different people moving into other parts of the county. To grow, we need to stop the exodus and encourage the in-flux — retirees to the coast and commuters into East County.

Retirees come to our coastal area for its beauty and low cost of living. Most live on fixed incomes so raising costs like property tax rates, utilities, etc., discourage them. We need to avoid those increases. To encourage East County’s continued growth as a suburb of Olympia, we need to make it easier and more attractive for developers to build houses.

By aggressively promoting these two areas of growth, we might be able to add another 10,000 — maybe 15,000 or even 20,000 — residents to the area. But that’s not enough to bring us back in line with our historical averages. What will attract the other 35,000 new residents?

Private-sector jobs.

Recently, the State of Washington’s Employment Security Department noted about the Harbor: “Adding nonfarm jobs in the county has been inconsistent … the last three years have seen nonfarm jobs vary in a 22,830 to 21,200 range.”

The Harbor’s current population of about 70,000 is supported by about 22,000 nonfarm jobs. So, using that ratio, we need about 10,000 new jobs to support 35,000 more residents. Now, “10,000 new jobs” might sound like a lot — but it’s not. It’s one big amazon warehouse. One Telsa battery plant. A couple of smaller manufacturing facilities. Twenty-five or 30 promising start-ups.

If those jobs are based in or near the Port, people wouldn’t just be driving through the county’s main urban corridor on the way to somewhere else. They would be stopping in Aberdeen or Hoquiam. And we’d need to redo the streets again. Entirely.

Jim Walsh lives in Aberdeen, in an old house that he and his wife are gradually fixing up, and owns a technical-book publishingcompany. He’s also Vice Chairman of the Washington State Republican Party.

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Jim Walsh – We can’t say “no” to everything; it’s too risky

The Daily World –

Grays Harbor County’s unemployment rate was back up over 11 percent in the most recent monthly report (from January). Not the worst in the state, but near it. These stubborn high unemployment numbers raise questions about how we do business. And politics.

The business environment and conditions of a place are defined more by local elected officials — mayors, city councils, county commissioners and administrators — than by state or federal officials. Local officials control zoning and land use, many licenses and permits, most fees and the main face-to-face interactions with business and industry. They can make life easy … or difficult … for business.

But, here on the Harbor, we seem to think that governors, state legislators and members of Congress are the ones who deliver economic solutions and jobs.

They can’t.

One clear illustration of their ineptitude was a picture that appeared in The Daily World a few years ago. In 2012, at the opening of the final iteration of Harbor Paper, a herd of politicians (then-Gov. Gregoire, current Gov. Inslee, then-Rep. Dicks, current State Sen. Hargrove … and others) grinned and clapped while Gregoire talked about “investment” and “family” and the great financing package she’d helped put together for the project. Inslee added this bit of fluff: “It doesn’t matter what the weather is, the brightest place today in the state of Washington is right here at Harbor Paper, that’s for sure.”

Within months, the mill was closed. The owners claimed that the state-arranged financing package never materialized; the lender claimed the owners weren’t straightforward about their plans. More than a hundred Harborites lost their jobs. The PUD was stuck with half a million dollars in unpaid bills. The City of Hoquiam lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in expected tax revenues.

And Inslee was elected governor.

Economic development works best when it’s led by local officials, who assemble their own plans — industries they want to attract, businesses with whom they’ll work and specific goals they intend to achieve — and use those plans to direct local policy and negotiate for state or federal support. This is how cities and counties do it in Texas, Florida and other booming states.

It’s even how they do it in King County. The Transportation Package currently working its way through the state Legislature is based on a well-thought-out plan whereby all of Washington will pay higher gasoline taxes in order to ease Seattle’s traffic-congestion problems.

The Harbor hasn’t had such well-thought-out plans. We stumble from crisis to crisis, hoping that when trouble comes we can “sit down with people” in Olympia or D.C. and ask them to give us money.

This approach isn’t working.

According to the most recent numbers from the Washington Regional Economic Analysis Project (based on data provided by the U.S. Department of Commerce) these are the top three industry sectors — in terms of jobs provided — in Grays Harbor County:

Local government, 4,789

Health care &social assistance, 3,535

Retail sales, 3,411

So, the largest non-government employer on Grays Harbor is retail sales. And it’s dwarfed by government employment. That’s not a good sign. As a friend of mine says: “A job is something that generates tax revenues. Something that consumes tax revenues is a benefits program.”

Basically, we’ve swapped an economic model based on one single industry (timber products) for one based on another (government services). But an economic model based on government services generates constant budget deficits, which require constant begging. And the people providing those government services — teachers, road crews, hospital employees, cops and firefighters — hang in the balance. If the begging doesn’t work, they face layoffs and pay cuts and vanishing pensions.

We can fix this. We can get away from the constant crises. But, to do it, we need to have a well-thought-out plan for building a more diversified employment base. True economic development. And we need more than just the Port of Grays Harbor, which has been our main economic-development engine for the past decade or so. We need to revive old industries — logging, commercial fishing, transportation/shipping, real estate development. And add new ones — oil, alternative energy, industrial hemp, legal marijuana.

We need an “all of the above” strategy.

And we have to stop surrendering to the heckler’s veto every time a new industry is interested in locating here. Lately, there’s been some hysterical screeching about transporting crude oil through the Port. These screechers should look up the term “zero-risk bias.” But they probably won’t. I’ve noticed that the people most hysterical about crude oil are the same ones who also object to: commercial fishing, timber harvesting, legal marijuana, golf courses, trucking, manufacturing, dredging the Port channel, real estate development, Wal-Mart, etc., etc., etc.

You can’t say “no” to everything. Or businesses will continue to avoid Grays Harbor and there will no tax base to support your government benefits.

Opening the Harbor to more private-sector business doesn’t mean every resident will agree with every venture. There will always be protesters. But everyone needs to understand the importance of having a diversified local private-sector economy. It’s how you generate good jobs and improve the quality of people’s lives.

Jim Walsh lives in Aberdeen, in an old house that he and his wife are gradually fixing up, and owns a technical-book publishing company. He’s also Vice Chairman of the Washington State Republican Party.

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Jim Walsh – What’s paramount is a fresh way to look at funding and conducting education

The Daily World –

Article 9 of the Washington State Constitution describes our obligations to public education. Here’s an excerpt:

“It is the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders. … The legislature shall provide for a general and uniform system of public schools. The public school system shall include common schools, and such high schools, normal schools, and technical schools as may hereafter be established.”

We make that ample provision for the education of all children. The problem is that it isn’t managed very well.

In Grays Harbor County, we spend more than four times as much each year on K-12 education than we do on the county’s general fund. (The annual operating budget for the Aberdeen School District — about $40 million — is larger than the County’s annual general operating fund — about $31 million.) There are 15 school districts in the county, with an aggregate operating budget of over $130 million a year.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in Grays Harbor County there are fewer than 15,000 people younger than age 18. That means we spend about $8,700 per child each year on education. That’s more than the annual in-state tuition at Central Washington University.

Why do so few people understand how much we spend on K-12 education? Because school funding is a complicated mess. We pay property taxes to the county and local tax districts, sales taxes to the state and income taxes to the federal government. The state keeps part of the taxes we pay and sends some back to local school districts. The Feds keep part of the taxes we pay and send some back to the state, which keeps some again and sends what’s left to the school districts.

The money that comes back to school districts from the state and Feds has various conditions for how it can be used. This is more than the “uniform system” the state constitution requires. It’s control over reading lists and curriculums. It’s No Child Left Behind. And Common Core. All enforced by bureaucrats who don’t answer to voters.

Yielding control to bureaucrats is a bad idea. They make lots of mistakes. The Feds gutted this state’s timber industry, damaging a key source of money for K-12 education. Washington schools are supposed to be funded, in part, by proceeds from logging on state-owned land. This arrangement worked well for decades. But restrictions on logging backed by extremists in Seattle and D.C. mean less money for our schools.

Instead, we’re supposed to ask the federal government to make up the difference with grants. That makes our schools beggars, dependent on hand-outs. It’s not a sustainable solution.

Rather than doing something to avoid this begging and dependency, our state government engages in political theater that generates much sound and fury but signifies nothing.

McCleary v. State of Washington was a test case backed by a lobbying organization affiliated with several teachers’ unions. It asked state courts to order the legislature to fund certain new expenses (totaling about $2 billion) that included raising teachers’ salaries, capping the size of some classes and providing more school-related transportation. The state Supreme Court agreed. The Court made some valid points in the McCleary decision — ruling the state has to “fund education first,” even if that means cuts to other programs — but it also took several cheap rhetorical swipes at the state legislature. And the decision may have violated the constitutional separation of powers. So, implementation goes slowly.

Initiative 1351, passed by voters in November 2014, was another project backed by union-affiliated front groups. It demanded various “improvements,” related primarily to reducing class sizes even more than McCleary did. But the initiative provided no mechanism for funding any of its demands. It was a “feel-good” measure — which is one reason that the state legislature has largely ignored it.

Just last week, word circulated around the state Capitol that the legislature will send a “corrected” version of I-1351, which will include some funding mechanism (that means a several-billion-dollar tax increase) back to voters to reconsider.

The McCleary decision and I-1351 do very little to improve the education of any child. They just add inefficiency to a K-12 education system that some interest groups see primarily as a jobs program.

The state constitution doesn’t describe it like that.

Finally, we need to recognize the changes going on around us. If you have children or grandchildren, you’ve seen how plugged in they are to the Internet and electronic media. Technology is changing how children learn, read and think. And it’s changing education, making it massively decentralized and customizable to every child’s needs. Most school districts know this and are trying to change their methods to include more Internet- and computer-based learning. They need to do more.

Decentralized learning is a good thing. It’s efficient and cost-effective. It can blur old distinctions between conventional classroom learning and home schooling. Most importantly, it provides families and local school districts the autonomy to teach their children in ways that suit each child’s skills and needs — as long as they meet the uniform standards set by the legislature.

Keeping that local control is more important than begging for more hand-outs.

Jim Walsh lives in Aberdeen, in an old house that he and his wife are gradually fixing up, and owns a technical-book publishing company. He’s also Vice Chairman of the Washington State Republican Party.

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