Sidebar to the "41 states have charter schools" argument:
- Washington state voters have said no three times to charter schools.
- 44 states have an income tax. Washington State does not.
- 42 state legislatures have come out with some kind of statement/legislation against gay marriage. Our Legislature? Voted for gay marriage.
Whether you like or agree with ANY of those stands, it does point to one thing. Washington State voters are an independently-minded bunch. We are NOT followers and we take our time to consider an issue. Personally, I like that in a state.
Back to Bill Gates.
So the reporter, Wayne Washington, asked about funding for both sides. I explained that Bill Gates had funded the election in 2004, funded I-1240 getting on the ballot and yes, was the primary funder of I-1240. He stopped me and asked if it was okay to print anything I might say about Bill Gates.
I said, well, yes as I thought we were already speaking on the record.
He said he thought I might not want to speak out publicly about Bill Gates. I smiled and told him it was okay and we went on.
Afraid to speak out against Bill Gates? Especially in this state? Yes, I could see that.
Mr. Gates, via his company and his foundation, has done a lot for this state and the world. It is a good thing when wealthy people give back (but you really should watch the History Channel's "Men who made America" - not such a pretty picture).
But we ALL know that Gates and Allen and now Bezos and Sinegal cast a huge shadow over our region. They give and they take and they certainly expect elected officials to see things their way. Always.
I think that it takes political courage for any elected official to take a stand on a controversial issue. And, it's tough to be the first couple of people who put their hand up to be counted (and shout out to Gerry Pollet, Marcie Maxwell, and many others who did). So I can see why the Mayor and other city officials might be cautious (or even worried) about who they might offend if they put their hand up.
But does Bill Gates really rule our region? Is that where we are truly at that a reporter from another state perceives that someone might be afraid to speak openly against Gates and his stand on charter schools?
It's not like he's the Godfather and will have me rubbed out but I think for others, the loss of standing/money/communication with Gates would be a terrible outcome.
I get that but it's still wrong. We elect officials to think about ALL voters, not just the wealthy and powerful ones. Is Bill Gates a more important voter than me? Or you?
We are now seeing that our initiative process is being taken over by wealthy interests (some of them from out-of-state). The initiative process was supposed to be about citizens, grassroots citizens, binding together for a common cause. That's now in danger.
We also see huge funding from a limited number of individuals being able to dwarf any grassroots efforts in the initiative process.
And we see fear from public officials to even speak up on issues where they wealthy have taken a stand. (I've had elected officials demur from even talking about 1240).
This isn't really anything new but it continues to grow and grow. We will lose control of our democracy if we allow ourselves - and our elected officials - to be silenced by anyone.