The strange Everett school board

Lots of ink has been spilled over the fighting (literal) amongst school board members, with member Jessica Olson playing the instigator—or so it seems. Last night the board took a bizarre step toward further inanity: limiting the review of the district’s superintendent to a committee of three; the board has five members. We may presume that Ms. Olson will not be invited to participate. She said that the 3-1 vote cemented the board’s “laughingstock” reputation, according to the Everett Herald.

For whatever reasons, she has given black marks to Superintendent Gary Cohn. But her review has been in the form of a minority report, which evidently didn’t become part of the record.

Now I don’t know any of the school board members. Nor am I in a position to finger one or more as the cause of the bitter animus between them, although readers of the Herald would likely infer that Olson is chiefly responsible.

But she has a point.

Olson contended the parameters for Cohn’s review should take place in a public meeting.

Having been through such processes as a member of the Snohomish County PUD board, I am quite familiar with the state’s Open Public Meetings Act, which gives deference to the people’s right to know what their public bodies are up to. The act allows for executive-session exemptions (pdf)—evaluating the performance of a public employee being one.

However, and this is where I think Olson has it right, the evaluation criteria are a matter of public record. Only the discussion of whether or not the employee satisfied the criteria belongs in executive session.

I’ve been on contentious boards, for which I was largely responsible. It’s not much fun, certainly. I’m relieved that we PUD commissioners managed to work through our problems—with the help of a professional facilitator. We’re now actually governing. Fancy that.

It seems that I’m not alone

Regarding the potential for a new Seattle basketball team I conjured up this scenario:

Say that you’re Commissioner David Stern, or that you own the Kings, or that you’re Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson, a former NBA star. You want a new stadium, preferably in downtown Sacramento, rather than miles out of town in a former rice field. Let’s pull a Navy. We’ll generate some Seattle buzz, which will surely anger the Kings’ faithful. Why they’ll be so mad at the league and would-be poacher Seattle that they’ll agree to fund a brand new stadium, just as the owners, the mayor, and David Stern desire.

Today, writing for Crosscut, Art Thiel:

Seattle has just been used by the NBA to get a deal for Sacramento.


What a difference Bush made

Paul Krugman, citing data from the bi-partisan Congressional Office and a conservative think tank (really), produced this graph showing what effect the presidential candidates’ budget proposals would have on federal debt.

As you might expect, Obama’s proposal eschews the others’ spending cuts. So how does Obama keep the debt as low as slasher Paul’s? Unlike his would-be opponents Obama would allow the Bush tax cuts to expire.

Krugman gets a bit exercised by the Republicans.

I see, however, that some commenters are declaring that it’s all OK because of the voodoo “dynamic” effects of tax cuts for the wealthy. I guess my question is, what on earth would make anyone believe in that old nonsense at this point?

I mean, we’ve had two fairly clear-cut tests in recent decades: the Clinton tax hike, which all the usual suspects said would produce disaster, and the Bush cuts, which would supposedly produce a wonderful boom. How did those turn out?

In the end he calls the Republicans’ supply-side fairy tales “a fraud.”

Amen, Brother Paul.

Sure, it’s the workers’ fault

Stockton, California, faces imminent bankruptcy. Should that likely event occur, the city’s default will be the nation’s largest. Located 80 miles east of San Francisco, it is home to 300,000 residents.

As the housing bubble expanded people flocked to this Central Valley city to snatch up homes far cheaper than those in the Bay Area. Property tax revenue flowed into the city’s coffers then spent as if housing prices would rise forever.

But when the bubble burst, property values plummeted, leaving the city with increasing liabilities and fewer means to pay for them.

City Manager Bob Deis blamed previous administrations for the city’s troubles, saying that in his 32 years of municipal management he had “never seen such poor fiscal management practices.”

So, who gets the blame? That’s right, the city workers and their “generous retiree health benefits.”

Give me a break.

Pyrrhic victories

It used to be a foregone conclusion that Mitt Romney would face Obama in November. But he has stumbled and flubbed along a way spiked by the creepily weird Santorum, who would righteously impose his rigid Catholic beliefs on the Rest of Us.

Fortunately for him, Romney has been likened to a greased weather vane, able to contradict himself with alacrity and shamelessness. His victories yesterday may be sufficient to regain the lead against his competitors and position him for his bout with Obama. But at what cost?.

This is not his father’s Republican Party, not by a long shot. The GOP has become a fetid swamp of heartless whackos who cheer the death and suffering of those who are different. And Romney has had to appeal to these loons.

Will his notorious shiftlessness be sufficient to gain the support of more sensible voters? Are people’s memories that short?

Even conservative writer Ross Douthat believes that Romney has lost though he has won:

This is not where Romney expected to find himself at this point in the campaign, with months and months of careful positioning undone by several weeks of gaffes and defensive political maneuverings. But between his verbal miscues and his clumsy attempts to defend his right flank on policy, the likely Republican nominee is suddenly headed for the kind of political and ideological cul-de-sac that losing presidential candidates often end up occupying.

Thanks to the voters of Michigan, Romney’s path to the nomination is as wide open as ever. But his path to the White House has narrowed considerably.

Speaking of technology

On the eve of another “insanely great” product, or products, from Cupertino, I checked with Apple aficionado John Gruber, who writes Daring Fireball. He’s also a big fan of Stanley Kubrick and Ridley Scott, the latter fashioning the best television commercial of all time, which introduced the first Macintosh.

Scott’s latest movie, due to be released later this year, is Prometheus. Scott, in my opinion, gave us the best science fiction movie of them all—Alien. So, I’m very much looking forward to his latest creation, a prequel of sorts to Alien.

Via Gruber, we are given one view of the future. The year is 2023. The venue is TED.


No Sacramento. Now what?

Whether or not Seattle builds a new arena depends on the city’s acquiring existing basketball and hockey teams. All the hubbub about a long-time Sonics fan ponying up considerable cash to make all this happen must have rattled a few cages in California’s state capital, whose mayor is former Cal Bear and NBA star Kevin Johnson. The Kings, it seems, will stay in Sacramento and play in a brand new venue.

What other NBA franchises might Seattle land? Several teams are in deep financial do-do, including New Orleans, which is now “owned” by the league. Here’s a list of 2012 attendance figures from ESPN:

A few observations are in order:

  • the Pistons are dead last in attendance, playing to just over 60-percent capacity; they do better on the road
  • the Clippers are more popular than the Lakers
  • the average attendance for all home games is 17,113
  • half the teams draw that much or better
  • the average home-game attendance factor (attendees ÷ capacity) is 89 percent, with 17 of the 30 teams under that figure
  • nine teams sell out every game, including the Thunder, formerly known as the Supersonics

Commissioner David Stern has said repeatedly that there would be no new franchises. If Seattle is to get a team, it has to be an existing one.

I haven’t bothered to investigate the financial health of the poorly-attended franchises. I don’t know if they have long-term leases that would prevent them from moving, except for a healthy buyout premium. But surely several teams must be hurting, given their low attendance numbers.

Let’s take a look at those clubs whose capacity factor is below the league average.

Could one or more of these teams be a candidate for Seattle? I can only answer “maybe.” However, almost all of these teams have been established for years, and most of them are in re-building mode.

The Nets, a horrible franchise, is owned by a Russian, Mikhail Prokhorov, who is challenging Putin for president. He just bought the team, and there’s chatter about Dwight Howard joining them, although there’s also chatter about their point guard, Deron Williams, transferring to Dallas, his home town.

Would Michael Jordan want to sell his Bobcats to Seattle? His team has won only four games this year, boasting the worst performance in the league. Still, attendance is almost 90 percent.

Actually, there doesn’t seem to be much of a correlation between team performance and attendance, at least among the low-attendance teams.

Indiana, run by former NBA hall-of-famer Larry Bird, is doing quite well on the floor. Yet its arena is only three-quarters full on average. I should think that if the young team continues its success on the court, the fans will follow.

Well, I’m just killing time here. I have no idea which owners would be willing to sell to the Seattle folks. Besides, no matter how poorly a team is doing in performance or attendance, their communities don’t like poachers. Seattle fans have a strong grudge against the Oklahoma City owners and David Stern, which is probably reciprocated.

If it happens, it happens.