A PUBLICATION OF THE EVERGREEN FREEDOM FOUNDATION
n Tuesday, September 26, the U.S. Supreme Court announced it will review Washington v. Washington Education Association and Davenport v. Washington Education Association in its upcoming session, giving hope to millions of teachers across the country that they may no longer be forced to pay union dues that fund political causes with which they disagree. This is an incredible victory and brings us one step closer toward securing the First Amendment free speech rights of teachers and other employees across the country. As you know, Washington state law requires unions to obtain the “affirmative authorization” of non-member workers prior to spending their mandatory dues on politics. The Washington Education Association (WEA) blatantly violated the law and spent non-member teachers’ dues for political purposes. Then-Attorney General Christine Gregoire won a $590,000 judgment against the union for its violations in 2001. Amazingly, the Washington State Supreme Court held that this law “burdened” the union’s free speech rights. As dissenting Justice Richard Sanders said, the state Supreme Court’s ruling “turns the First Amendment on its head,” by putting the union’s free speech rights ahead of teachers’. The ruling essentially claims that an association’s rights trump an individual’s rights, and gives an association the power to force individuals to support its political views. Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna and a group of concerned teachers asked the U.S. Supreme Court to take the case. The Court accepts fewer than 10 percent of the thousands of cases appealed. For this reason, we launched an aggressive public relations effort to raise the profile of the case.
First, we filed our amicus curiae (or friend of the court) brief on August 14 in support of the case. Eleven other public policy organizations signed on to our brief, along with the nation’s largest voluntary association of state legislators. Several other organizations filed their own amicus briefs, including Institute for Justice, Pacific Legal Foundation, and Campaign Legal Center. We then began educating the public about the ramifications of these cases. The Washington Times ran an editorial by Bob Williams: “Reading, Writing, and Rip-off.” Human Events also ran a column by our communications director: Big Labor Doesn’t Know the Meaning of ‘No’. Our efforts have included many radio appearances, including several key nationally syndicated ones like Focus on the Family and the USA Radio Network, and several local and regional shows in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Maine, Missouri, North Carolina, Oregon, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin, and West Virginia. People all over the country were shocked to learn about the plight of teachers.
In order to publicize how difficult it is for teachers to resign from the union, we produced “The Greatest Scam on Earth.” This interactive online game challenges players to “try their luck at opting out of the union.” Like many teachers, gamers found this was easier said than done and most (all) were forced to “give up and pay.” The game so impressed Chris Mulik of the TriCity Herald that he wrote of it: “You’ve got to hand it to the people at the Evergreen Freedom Foundation. When they devise a gimmick to make a point, they go all out.” Continued on page 6
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Voters face choice to kill death tax by Jason Mercier
t has been said that two things in life are certain: death and taxes. Thanks to the actions of the 2005 Legislature, Washingtonians face an added wrinkle: taxes for dying. Tired of death being a taxable event, in 1981 Washington’s voters overwhelmingly approved Initiative 402, which eliminated the state’s death (estate) tax by establishing a “pick up” tax tied to the federal rate. I-402 passed with 67 percent of the vote (610,507 to 297,445). This allowed the state to collect death taxes, but only for those dollars that could be credited against the federal tax. When the federal government began to phase out the death tax in 2002, the state of Washington continued to collect the tax, in violation of I-402. The Washington Supreme Court invalidated the state’s actions in 2005 by upholding I-402. To keep this tax in place, majority Democrats in 2005 passed a new death tax, separate from
“Quote” “Liberty is meaningless where the right to utter one’s thoughts and opinions has ceased to exist. There can be no right of speech where any man is compelled to suppress his honest sentiments.” – Frederick Douglass
VOLUME 16, Issue 10 EFF’s mission is to advance individual liberty, free enterprise and limited, accountable government.
Publisher: Booker Stallworth Editors: Lynn Harsh Marsha Michaelis Layout: Joel Sorrell
Evergreen Freedom Foundation PO Box 552 Olympia, WA 98507 (360) 956-3482 Fax (360) 352-1874 firstname.lastname@example.org • www.effwa.org
“...majority Democrats in 2005 passed a new death tax, separate from the federal rate. They did this while adding an emergency clause to their changes that denied the public the right of referendum.”
the federal rate. They did this while adding an emergency clause to their changes that denied the public the right of referendum. Thanks to the qualification of Initiative 920 for the November Election, the people will have the final say on this issue. Should I-920 be approved by the voters, the death tax created in 2005 would be repealed, making it once again safe to die in Washington without threat of the taxman being the first to “console” one’s family. Many business groups are actively supporting I-920 while, predictably, unions are rallying to help retain Washington’s tax on death. Additional details about I-920 can be found at these links: Yes on I-920 - http://www.yeson920.com/ No on I-920 - http://www.noon920.org/
This Issue 3
3 LETTER FROM LYNN OKAY, IT’S TIME TO VOTE
SURVEY OF AUDITOR CANDIDATES COMING SOON
4 5 7 8 9
4 GETTING INTO THE SPIRIT OF POST-PROHIBITION SEATTLE TAXPAYERS FIGHT SONICS SUBSIDIES SKAGIT COUNTY SELLS $7,846 COPIER FOR $250 5 EFF HELPS TO HONOR CHAMPION OF OPEN GOVERNMENT EFF SENDS CANDIDATES FISCAL ACCOUNTABILITY SURVEY 7 MAIL BALLOTS AND WASHINGTON’S PICK-A-PARTY PRIMARY DON’T MIX STATE-COMMISSIONED PEER REVIEWS BLAST WASHINGTON LEARNS STUDY 8 WASHINGTON LEARNS: THERE THEY GO AGAIN... SOME GOOD NEWS IN EDUCATION 9 2006 STATE OF LABOR REPORT PUBLIC SECTOR UNIONS ARE ON THE RISE
LEFT WING GROUP TARGETS ELECTION SECURITY IN WASHINGTON STATE
10 11 12
10 601: YOUR HELP IS NEEDED 11 DESPITE DISAPPEARANCE OF POLL SITES, ELECTION OBSERVERS STILL NEEDED 12 NAVY ADVENTURES AN UPDATE FROM MATT COLE
This is an incredible victory and brings us one step closer toward securing the First Amendment free speech rights of teachers and other employees across the country.
A PUBLICATION OF THE EVERGREEN FREEDOM FOUNDATION
LetterLET fromTER Lynn FROM LY NN by Lynn Harsh
Okay, it’s time to vote
ou are standing in front of five doors, and behind one of them will be your preferred candidate for governor. To help you choose, the candidates have been asked to answer this question: “Tell me what you think the most important issues are for this state, and why are you qualified to address them?”
Candidate #5: “My primary goal as Governor would be to reduce the cost of government by reducing the size of government. At the same time, I would take steps to return as many state activities as possible to private hands and to consolidate or abolish the remainder.” Okay, it’s time to vote.
Candidate #1: “Without a doubt the major issues of the day are unemployment and inflation…. Capitalism has developed technology to the place where a super abundance is produced. We must now bring our society and government in line with this modern mode of production by establishing a government in which the industries and services are owned collectively and operated democratically by those who work in them: A government based on industrial rather than geographical representation, a society in which production is carried on for use instead of profit, for the benefit of all instead of for a few. In a society of this kind the major crises of unemployment and inflation would automatically disappear.” Candidate #2: “The economy must be the No. 1 priority of both the Governor and Legislature…. All other considerations stem from a healthy state economy—jobs, better schools, fair treatment of our elderly and the sick, improved working conditions and income for our labor force, higher quality institutions. There is no better solution to state problems than prosperity…. We must determine how taxes can be reduced and made more equitable, not search constantly to find new items to tax.” Candidate #3: “Because of the energy crisis and potential oil spill non-issues, we have been asked to think tanker. What I propose is the importation of Irish tinkers to fix leaking tankers. In this way, instead of thinking tankers we can thank tinkers thereby solving two problems with the single stroke of a ball-peen hammer. a) We reduce oil spills; b) we help wind down the war in Ireland. It is imperative that the other candidates grasp the bull by the tail and face the situation squarely on this issue.” Candidate #4: “Jobs for All: Rechannel the $3-billion Washington receives in military contracts to provide more jobs, building hospitals, low-income housing, mass rapid transit, and child care centers. The first hired and trained for these jobs would be Blacks, other oppressed minorities, and women. Cut the 40 hour work week to 30 hours with no reduction in pay to spread available work around….Restructure the Tax System: No tax on incomes less than $15,000 annually and a 100% tax on all income over $30,000.”
o you feel frustrated when you look at the county offices on your ballot, and don’t even recognize the names? All of us wish we had more information about the candidates we vote for, especially in low-profile races. County auditor races often lack sufficient publicity, especially as many of them are non-partisan offices. Yet we’ve discovered during our fight for election integrity that county auditors are vitally important “gatekeepers” for the security and accuracy of our elections. As such, we need to carefully select the
Now be honest. You’d vote for #5 to be the Governor, even though you’d want to select #3. If, after selecting your gubernatorial candidate, you could wave a wand and put the rest of the hopefuls into another position, you would pick #2 to be Lt. Governor or Speaker of the House. Number 3’s gotta’ be the Governor’s Press Secretary. You’d make #1 the Ambassador to N. Korea and send him there with a one-way ticket. With a second one-way ticket, you’d ship #4 to France as a gift to President Jacques Chirac. Am I close?
“Some people make important economic, personal, and political decisions from a pool of false principles. Far more do not even know the principles with which to begin thinking.” Actually, #2 won that year. It was 1976, and it was Democrat Dixy Lee Ray’s turn to steer ship of state. (All of the above quotes are excerpts from the 1976 Voter Pamphlet. John Spellman ran that year as well.) I recently asked seven college students to read the candidates’ narratives and select their favorites. Six of seven said their hearts chose candidate #3, but five said their heads chose #4. I begged to differ with them on what part of their anatomy made that selection. It became clear that they had little information with which to make honest comparisons between the consequences of socialism and capitalism. They felt a lot of things, but knew very little, including what a 100% tax on an inflation-adjusted $30,000 annual income would mean to them and their families. (The good news is, within five minutes of conversation, I did manage to get them to question their assumptions and their selection.) But I lost a little sleep that night thinking about what it means for our country to have so many disenchanted,
mal-educated young people. We have a big job ahead of us. We must educate our citizens to understand the clear principles that shape American morals, governing patterns, and economic convictions. We Americans are not monolithic, but our Founders did give us a common bond when they made us sovereigns of a Constitutional Republic. Russell Kirk, one of the most important writers and historians of the 20th Century, argues that there are three bodies of principle that shape any civilization. Built up over centuries, they are 1) a society’s beliefs about the relationship between God and man, 2) its set of political convictions, and 3) its set of economic convictions. I think he’s right. When a person has studied the origins and outcomes of a society’s moral, political, and religious ideals, he or she is equipped to compare it to another set of ideals. Only then can the claim be made that a personal choice is based on reason and conviction. Some people make important economic, personal, and political decisions from a pool of false principles. Far more do not even know the principles with which to begin thinking. Regardless of whether the locus of decision-making is falsehood or ignorance, the result is the same—destruction. We cannot sit by passively, wringing our hands, and watching this happen to our beloved country. We must engage people in the essential ideas that form our country’s foundation. The first people we should engage are our friends and family. I think we should also be far more careful about who gets our precious votes. Some of the individuals we have elected have a firm understanding of our form of government, its necessarily limited powers, and the marvels of the free market. Others are absolutely clueless. Some have purposely rejected America’s founding ideals, like a few of the candidates above. There was another candidate in 1976, Jack T. Percival, who reasoned voters should select him for State Treasurer “Because I am descended from a long line of carpet baggers, my credentials for this office are impeccable.” Well, he wouldn’t have gotten my vote, but at least I found his “ignorance” amusing instead of dangerous.
Notes on the 1976 Candidates #1: Henry Killman, Socialist Labor Party #2 Dixy Lee Ray, Democrat #3 Red Kelly, OWL Party #4 Patricia A. Bethard, Socialist WorkerParty #5 Maurice W. Willey, Jr., Libertarian Party
people who control our ballot boxes, most of whom are up for election on November 7. To help you cast an informed vote, this summer we conducted a survey of auditors and their challengers, asking questions designed to reveal their perspectives on the security of elections. Many of them responded, allowing us to create a side-by-side comparison of their views on major election issues. These survey results should arrive in your email within the next week, and will also be posted on our website at www.effwa.org/vip.
Getting in the spirit of post-prohibition by Victor Joecks
ive minors walk into a liquor store controlled by the Liquor Control Board. What happens next? In Washington, the odds are one will be allowed to purchase alcohol. Records obtained from the Liquor Control Board (LCB) showed that from January 2005 to June 2006 Washington State stores sold liquor to minors in 35 of 178 compliance tests, or 20 percent of the time. Although state-run liquor stores were more likely to pass compliance tests (83 percent passed), than contract stores—privately-owned stores that the LCB allows to sell hard liquor in rural areas (74 percent passed), both sold too often to underage customers. Some stores are particularly problematic. Since 2004, six state-run stores have been cited for multiple violations, including one store in Lynnwood that has been cited four times. This is particularly concerning (or if you are under 21, exciting), because only state stores can sell hard liquor. This restriction stems from the aftermath of Prohibition, when Washington State created a Liquor Control Board (LCB) and gave it a monopoly on the sale of spirits. As a strong temperance supporter among the states, Washington wanted to limit access to alcohol.
As time passed and attitudes toward alcohol changed, the LCB began to license private businesses to sell beer and wine. Yet the LCB justified its monopoly on the sale and distribution of hard liquor by claiming it is necessary to protect “our citizens from the problems associated with over-consumption.” So while the LCB was charged with stopping overconsumption, it began to make hundreds of millions of dollars from its liquor monopoly. Currently, one of its goals is to “maximize financial return to the state by running an efficient business operation with strategically located state and contract stores.” It even produced a business plan that recommends increasing store and agency staffing, relocating existing stores, and building new stores. There is no reason, though, for a government agency to produce a business plan to maximize revenue. Businesses are supposed to make revenue; governments are supposed to provide the core functions of government. Ironically, after other government bodies eliminated their liquor monopolies, tax revenues from alcohol sales increased. Following the privatization of liquor sales in Alberta, politicians had to lower taxes on alcohol four times to keep revenues constant. In Washington
State, a private business would pay the business and occupation tax and property taxes were it authorized to sell hard liquor; the LCB stores pay neither. Saddling the Liquor Control Board with two contradictory goals has produced lower tax revenues than a private system, hypocritical educational efforts, and state stores that sell to minors. Washington should eliminate its liquor monopoly. The LCB should begin licensing businesses that want to sell or distribute hard liquor and retain its education and enforcement duties. Enforcing the law is a proper function of government and something it does quite well, at least when it is not suppose to regulate itself. If the LCB focuses solely on enforcement, all types of stores will be able to sell alcohol to minors. Except for those who are under 21 and heading out to party with friends, privatizing the state’s liquor monopoly is a win-win situation.
Seattle taxpayers fight Sonics tax subsidies by Jason Mercier
lthough Shaquille O’Neal of the NBA champion Miami Heat is an imposing force and can be nearly unstoppable, he does have one fatal weakness: free-throw shooting. In fact, this weakness is so renowned that teams now employ what is called “Hacka-Shaq,” or purposely fouling Shaq to send him to the free-throw line in critical game situations. Much like Shaq driving to the basket for a slam dunk, government officials often instill the same sense of fear and inevitability in taxpayers when it comes to subsidies for professional sports teams. Thanks to the efforts of Citizens for More Important Things, however, Seattle taxpayers may get to employ the “Hack-a-Shaq” strategy on government officials this November with the qualification of Initiative 91. I-91 would require the city to receive a return “at or above fair market value” for any taxpayer investment in KeyArena or another facility leased to “for-profit professional sports organizations,” according to the Seattle Times. “Fair value” is defined by I-91 as “no less than the rate of return on a 30-year U.S. Treasury Bond.” Prior to the Sonics being sold this past July, thenowner Howard Schultz (the Starbucks chairman), was seeking approximately $200 million in taxpayer subsidies to renovate KeyArena. KeyArena was previously renovated in 1994 to accommodate the
Sonics, at a price tag of more than $100 million (the majority of which was public funds). Schultz sold the Sonics for $350 million to Oklahoma businessman Clay Bennett. Bennett is no longer seeking renovations to KeyArena, but is instead planning a brand new “world-class multi-use arena.” With the threat of the team moving to Oklahoma if a new stadium isn’t subsidized, Seattle taxpayers are fighting back. Citizens for More Important Things, founded in 1995 to fight the Mariners stadium subsidy, makes no attempt to hide its disdain for public resources being used on private sports teams. According to its website, supporters have a “single agenda—focus on what matters most, on more important things, and leave sports entertainment to the private sector . . . We simply question the reasonableness of any government that would subsidize private entities whose average player salaries are in the millions of dollars per year.” If approved by Seattle voters, I-91 would effectively kill the current subsidy proposals being pushed by the Sonics and area politicians. Responding to news that I-91 had qualified for the November 7 ballot, Seattle Deputy Mayor Tim Ceis told the Seattle Times the measure was “not helpful” in the city’s efforts to keep the Sonics in Seattle and went on to say, “All this is a political statement against
professional sports franchises. That’s their right and privilege, but let’s not kid ourselves this is some legitimate mechanism to establish fair-market rent for KeyArena.” Chris Van Dyk of Citizens for More Important Things is unconcerned about attempts by politicians to end run the initiative, should it be successful in November: “If we come in with a decent vote total it will be really tough for the city, county or state to overturn this.” Sensing an attitude of resignation across the nation amongst taxpayers facing public subsidies for sports teams, Van Dyk offered the following encouragement, “The problem with this fight is that it’s a national fight that gets battled at the local level. Some will say ‘we can’t fight subsidies, this is the way the game is played.’ That’s nonsense. I-91 is proof that taxpayers can fight back.” Win or lose, taxpayers can take heart with the fact I-91 is even being considered. If more taxpayers start using the I-91 “Hack-a-Shaq” strategy to fight subsidies, elected officials may start to think twice about wasting time and resources on non-core functions of government.
Skagit County sells $7,846 copier for $250 by Victor Joecks
magine you bought a new computer from Costco. After you have had it for a month, a representative from Costco comes to your door and asks to buy your computer back. After you refuse, Costco takes you to court and sues you for the computer’s return. While no private business could do that, that is exactly what officials in Skagit County are trying to do to Jeff Brown. It began in September 2005 when Skagit County’s Department of Emergency Management (DEM) used federal Homeland Security funds to buy a $7,846 copier.
When the copier was delivered, county officials stored it in the same facility as surplussed county assets that were going to auction. The copier, still in its original packaging, was sold at the surplus auction for $250 to Jeff Brown. After realizing its mistake, a month later the DEM asked Brown if he would sell it back. When he chose not to, the county’s lawyers sued him. Put off by the county’s bully tactics, Brown chose to fight back, and at a personal cost of $4,000 (so far) has defended himself. “It’s not about the copier,” he said.
“It’s about the fact that they would try a tactic like this against a private citizen.” The only thing worse than an incompetent, bureaucratic government agency is one that tries to fix its mistakes by harming one of the citizens it is supposed to protect. Instead of suing a private citizen to try to get the copier back, Skagit County officials should hold themselves accountable for losing the copier in the first place.
A PUBLICATION OF THE EVERGREEN FREEDOM FOUNDATION
EFF helps to honor champion of open government by Jonathan Bechtle
very year the Washington Coalition for Open Government—of which EFF is a member—hosts an event to honor someone with the James Madison Award for diligently working to advance the transparency of government. EFF helped sponsor the 2006 ceremony, which took place on September 12 in the Washington Athletic Club. This year’s award recipient was Rowland Thompson, the executive director of Allied Newspapers and a tireless advocate of the right of citizens to view public records and meetings. During past legislative sessions Rowland has played a key role in advancing bills that increase government transparency, and has often been an ally to EFF in the fight to make the Public Records Act a useful tool for citizens. In his acceptance speech Rowland took his cue from President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, adapting pieces of the famous speech to the current fight for open government. Here are some excerpts from Rowland’s speech: Three decades and four years ago our fathers… and mothers…. brought forth, upon this state government, a new notion, conceived in liberty, created by
Initiative 276, and dedicated to the proposition that all citizens are created equal to their civil servants. Often quoted, it states, “The people of this state do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies that serve them. The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may maintain control over the instruments that they have created… As James Madison stated nearly 200 years ago, “A popular government, without popular information, or without the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or perhaps both.” Because of the recent explosive rise of this easily acquired technology and the resulting popular pressure on the government, Madison’s statement has never been so severely tested. Therefore, we have come this morning to rededicate our commitment to Open Government, and to honor those who have struggled and continue to struggle both here and across our great state and country, that that notion stated in Initiative 276 might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this…
In our state, we cannot allow the financial shenanigans of the monorail, the Seattle professional sports stadiums, and countless convention centers to go undiscovered and unchecked because of the misapplied cloak of attorney/client privilege or unrepentant foot dragging by the bureaucracy. We cannot allow property to be condemned and taken without adequate notice and accountability to all citizens, not just those who are the victims of these high handed actions by elected public boards and commissions. It is…for us to be here dedicated to the unfinished work which they who fought have thus far nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us…that we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave their devotion to the Republic and the Constitution-that we here highly resolve that they shall not have labored in vain, that this state and nation shall have a new birth of freedom, born of a fully informed populace, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.”
by Jason Mercier
s we approach the November Election, it is important that voters know where candidates stand on issues facing the state. Perhaps the most important issue for taxpayers to know is potential legislators’ perspectives concerning the state budget. To help answer this question, last month EFF mailed all candidates and incumbent legislators a Fiscal Accountability Survey, which asked seven budget-related questions. Offering a choice of “yes, no, or depends,” the survey questions are as follows: 1) Should the state’s budget be balanced within the adopted revenue forecast and projected spending limit (prior to legislative “adjustments”)? 2) Should a budget resolution be adopted at the beginning of the legislative session identifying how much the state plans to spend to frame the budget debate? 3) Should the legislature formally adopt official priorities of government and reorganize legislative committees around these areas?
Respondents have been given until October 13 to return their answers to EFF. The results will be made available to the public and press in late October. To help ensure that candidates and legislators take the survey seriously and return their answers, it is important that they hear from you that you expect them to respond.
4) Should major performance measures be placed directly into the budget? 5) Should a protected five percent biennial emergency reserve account be created, with appropriations from that account requiring a two-thirds legislative vote? 6) Should legislative hearings be held on all agencies receiving a repeat audit finding? 7) Should there be a 72-hour waiting period after an appropriation bill’s introduction before a public hearing or vote is held?
One step closer continued from page 1 . . . We followed up the game with a new online video portraying how education union bosses see themselves verses the view from teachers. The web video was based on a quote by NEA President Reg Weaver, where he said that the NEA is the “guardian of the hopes, dreams and aspirations of this nation.” While union bosses try to describe themselves as heroes, many teachers see union bosses as little more than godfathers they have must pay tribute to just to keep their jobs. The video was made available through YouTube, IFilm, MySpace.com, and Google video, and quickly spread across the internet. EFF also published a case summary booklet and two websites to inform the public. At www.teachers-vsunion.org, users view all of the essential information about the case and interested parties. Citizens also may view a teacher testimonial site. This site features flash and video of teachers discussing why these two cases are of such importance to teachers.
On September 14 we hosted a national press conference telephone call, briefing various media sources on the status of the case. Evergreen Freedom Foundation CEO Lynn Harsh, Davenport attorney Steve O’Ban, and former teacher and executive director of the Northwest Professional Educators Cindy Omlin participated. That week a well-respected web log on U.S. Supreme court issues gave our case a “reasonable chance of being granted,” which the writers equated to a 33 percent chance. On September 19, we hosted a press briefing at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. Ryan Ellis of the Americans for Tax Reform moderated, and the panel included EFF’s Labor Policy Center Director Mike Reitz, Matt Warner of the American Legislative Exchange Council, and 1993 Teacher of the Year Tracey Bailey representing the Association of American Educators.
Among the attendees at the event were a FOX News TV crew and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer’s Washington D.C. correspondent. The next day, we ran an ad in USA Today carrying an open letter by teachers explaining why the Supreme Court should hear the case. All of this work has paid off! The day the Court announced it was accepting the two cases, articles ran in most major newspapers in the country, including the Washington Post, USA Today and the New York Times. The New York Times even referred to the case as the “most prominent among the nine cases, which will be argued in December and January….” Thank you for your support during this crucial time. None of this would have been possible without your prayers, hard work and fi nancial support. For continuing updates on the case, please visit www. teachers-vs-union.org.
A PUBLICATION OF THE EVERGREEN FREEDOM FOUNDATION Mail Ballots and Washington’s Pick-a-Party Primary Don’t Mix
by Victor Joecks
hat is more confusing: understanding string theory, appreciating how people listen to Al Gore without falling asleep, or voting in Washington’s primary system? Judging by the past month, Washington’s primary system is the winner. Washington’s relatively new primary system is called pick-a-party and requires voters to choose their political party before casting partisan votes. This primary system has caused many problems for mail voters. Since Washington does not register parties, mail voters received three ballots, a Democrat, a Republican, and a non-partisan one, with instructions to vote only one. Some counties sent three separate ballots to voters; others sent the three options on one combined ballot. Consequently, hundreds of well-intentioned but confused voters returned an extra ballot or voted for both the Democrat and Republican candidates. In counties using the consolidated ballot, five to fourteen percent of voters failed to mark their party selection at the beginning of the ballot. As a result, their partisan votes did not count. In Snohomish County (which uses one consolidated ballot), ballots were too heavy too be returned with a single first class postage stamp. Although the post office delivered
LYMPIA – Two independent peer reviews commissioned by Governor Christine Gregoire’s office have sharply criticized the work completed by the consultant for Washington Learns. Both reviewers concluded that the $800,000 study is based on insufficient and poor quality evidence, that its recommendations are not likely to improve student achievement, and that it lacks accountability mechanisms to ensure effective and efficient spending. Eric A. Hanushek of Stanford University and James R. Smith of Management Analysis & Planning, Inc., were asked by the governor’s office to review the study drafted by Lawrence O. Picus and Associates (Picus). The study was part of the legislation (E2SSB 5441) that created the Washington Learns initiative and it forms the basis for many of the Washington Learns K-12 policy recommendations. Among Hanushek’s and Smith’s findings: 1. “The evidence presented by [Picus] is simply not sufficient to guide policy. The research relied on by [Picus] is on average of low quality. It is also very selectively chosen from available work, apparently to make the expected outcomes look large.” [Hanushek] 2. “The consultants set no priorities for which interventions may offer the highest payoff or the most ‘bangfor-the-buck.’ They appear to assume that any intervention associated with potentially improved outcomes should be implemented regardless of cost.” [Smith] 3. “Unfortunately, were Washington to implement these recommendations, there is little reason to expect student achievement to improve measurably. The only outcome that could be expected with any certainty is that expenditures would dramatically increase.” [Hanushek]
ballots that were mailed, the county will have to pay an estimated $21,000 to cover the extra postage, not including what voters who put the extra stamp on themselves will shell out. Additionally, sending ballots in triplicate presents new opportunities for processing errors and fraud. How do you determine voter intent on two ballots? Imagine the uproar that would ensue if Washington experienced a close primary election, like the 2004 gubernatorial race, with five to fourteen percent of the consolidated ballots disqualified. Also, in counties that use three separate ballots, hundreds of ballots have been disqualified because voters returned two ballots. In Cowlitz County alone, over 200 people returned multiple ballots. While these difficulties with the pick-a-party primary have received plenty of attention, few acknowledged the root problem—voting by mail. These problems are avoided when people vote in person. Poll voters go to the polls, select a party, receive their party’s ballot, and vote. A voter does not have to deal with three ballots. After a vote is cast the ballot is run through the voting machine to identify any mistakes. If a mistake has been made, the voter can correct it. The pick-a-party primary raises too many problems with mail voting. The controlled environment of a polling place is best at handling unforeseen circumstances. If voters were able to choose a polling place, perhaps some of the conflicts that in the past have led voters to choose mail-in voting would be resolved.
"WE’VE BEEN PROMISED A WORLD-CLASS SOLUTION TO OUR BROKEN PUBLIC SCHOOL SYSTEM AND IT LOOKS LIKE ALL WE’RE GETTING FOR OUR KIDS IS MORE OF THE SAME AT A HIGHER COST..."
In a written response, Lawrence O. Picus and Allen Odden defended their report, in part, with the statement: “We were not asked to identify an accountability system. Had we been asked to do so, we would have recommended very strong accountability structures. This strategy would have included incentives for schools that increased student performance and consequences for schools and teachers that did not. We also would have proposed more school choice as part of trying to create a more competitive environment.” Prominent members of the Washington Learns initiative, including Governor Gregoire, have made accountability a key talking point. The original bill passed by the legislature requires the Washington Learns study to include a comprehensive review of “specific issues facing schools,” including “assuring program accountability.” In a letter to the Washington Learns Advisory Committee Chairs dated July 14, 2006 Governor Gregoire specifically asked the committee to identify the highest priorities for current education dollars and “the key elements of an effective accountability system that can track results.”
A review by staff of the Evergreen Freedom Foundation did not find any discussion of these issues in the Washington Learns meeting minutes that followed, nor does the state contract with Picus and Associates require any development of accountability measures to ensure that current and new education policies and spending result in improved student achievement. The total cost to taxpayers for the 18-month Washington Learns review, that culminates in November, is $1.7 million. “The fact that this process seems to be a waste of two million dollars is unsettling, but the real tragedy is the cost to students,” said Marsha Michaelis, Director of EFF’s Education Reform Center. “We’ve been promised a world-class solution to our broken public school system and it looks like all we’re getting for our kids is more of the same at a higher cost. We’ve had enough commissions. It’s time to do what we know works.” The Evergreen Freedom Foundation believes parents and students should be empowered to choose the schools that best meet their individual needs and abilities (public, private, or other), and that public dollars should follow students into those diverse schools.
Washington Learns: There they go again... by Marsha Michaelis
ay back in 1905, George Santayana wrote: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Today, we’re at risk of condemning another generation of students to failed education policies if we don’t remember the past and put the “eight bold reforms” of the Washington Learns proposal into historical context. It was 1966 when James R. Coleman published the now-famous “Coleman Report.” In it, he introduced the commonsense idea of developing education policy around outcomes (student learning) instead of inputs (spending levels, programs, etc.). Forty years have passed and our state’s education establishment is still talking about this idea as if it were a new invention which it is still promising to put into action. In 1983 the “Nation at Risk” report proclaimed: “If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose upon America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have considered it an act of war.” The two-year study called for longer school days and school year, more rigorous and measurable standards, higher expectations for academic achievement, more exacting requirements for teacher preparation, and higher pay for teachers. Twenty-three years later, student achievement remains flat even though spending has increased dramatically, and the “bold reforms” of Washington Learns include all the same things that had been suggested before. In 1985, a comprehensive review of education by the Washington State Temporary Committee on Educational Policies, Structure and Management presented a report to the state legislature called “The Paramount Duty.” The committee called for “a substantial program of educational change, ranging from goal setting, core competencies, graduation requirements, and achievement testing” encompassing early learning to higher education.
Sound familiar? In 1989, Washington Governor Booth Gardner helped develop the National Education Goals (Goals 2000), which promised that by the year 2000 “all children will start school ready to learn; the high school graduation rate will increase to at least 90 percent; students will leave grades 4, 8 and 12 having demonstrated competency in challenging subject matter; and American students will be the first in the world in science and math achievement.” In 1993, Washington State adopted sweeping reforms to ensure these goals were met, which led to the creation of the Essential Academic Learning Requirements (EALRs) and the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL). At the time, Governor Mike Lowry boasted: “With careful implementation of these dramatic new laws, our state will be in a strong position by the year 2000 to provide all our children with the high quality and effective education they need and deserve.” Need we point out that the promises have been broken? Today the once high rate of school graduation remains stagnant at around 70 percent; half or more of all students tested in grades 4, 7, and 10 continue to fail at least one core subject; half of all high school graduates who enter community college still must take remedial courses in basic subjects. Washington Learns repeats the old promises. It promises that in ten years (that would be 2016) “all children will enter kindergarten ready to succeed in school and life,” and all students will transition from the 3rd, 8th, and 12th grades competent in core academic subjects and “with skills to live, learn and work in a global society.” How does Washington Learns propose to accomplish what Goals 2000 did not? It essentially repackages and spends more on the same failed policies. But wait, we’re promised more “transparency” this time around, like when Governor Booth Gardner
contended in 1991 that “we have to get answers as to where the money is going” and created the Governor’s Council on Education Reform. The council promised “to address the efficient use of existing funds” and “the prioritization of those funds.” Oh, but this time we’ll have true “accountability.” Washington Learns proposes to create a council to “hold ourselves and our educational institutions collectively accountable for improving student outcomes.” The council would be charged with “identifying problems” and “recommending improvement strategies when progress is not adequate.” Their claims sound a lot like the Commission on Student Learning, which convened a task force in 1997 to “study issues related to accountability” and make recommendations, including “an assistance program for schools and districts experiencing difficulty in meeting the standards.” Meanwhile, Superintendent of Public Schools Terry Bergeson has been at the helm of education policy in our state for a couple of decades. Prior to being elected to her current position nearly ten years ago, she served as executive director of the Commission on Student Learning for several years, and prior to that served as president of the Washington Education Association (WEA). Sadly, Washington’s education leadership has failed. It is time for new leadership to implement proven solutions right now, not in ten years. It is time to hold that leadership accountable for results. They should lose their jobs if they are not able to deliver. Does that sound unreasonable? What’s unreasonable is having lost a generation of students to failed education policy. What’s unreasonable is repeating the same mistake with the next generation of students. It’s time to stop promising and start doing.
Some good news in education by Marsha Michaelis
he evidence of our state’s education crisis is impossible to ignore and tragic in its scope, but there are rays of light as well. Two trends in particular are bringing hope and opportunity to children around the state, online learning opportunities and improvements in the math curriculum. Online Learning We have been talking about the opportunities and potential for online learning for years. In a state and world as high-tech as ours, students no longer have to be bound by the brick and mortar walls of traditional school buildings, or even by the pace of their classmates. Learning can happen anywhere in the state and world, at a pace suited to each student, as long as there are caring adults available to offer assistance and access to computers. Thanks to hard work by State Representative Gigi Talcott and others, students in our state now have access to several online learning options. Legislation championed by Talcott last year expanded the opportunities by allowing schools to offer quality online programs to students without the requirement of face-to-face contact with teachers. The schools can now reach out to a scattered student population with regular communications through a variety of venues, such as telephone, email, video-conferencing, instant messaging, and online discussion rooms. Thousands of students are now taking advantage of at least three virtual schools in our state, offered tuitionfree by public school districts: The Washington Virtual Academy (WAVA) offers a K-8 curriculum developed by K12, Inc., an education
company spearheaded by former Education Secretary and well-known author William Bennett. WAVA is administered by the Steilacoom School District, but enrollment is open to students from anywhere in the state.
“Thousands of students are now taking advantage of at least three virtual schools in our state, offered tuition-free by public school districts...” Insight School of Washington is an online high school that opened this year, administered by the Quillayute Valley School District through a partnership with a private company in Portland. Its executive director is State Senator Bill Finkbeiner, who is retiring from his work in the legislature to run the school. Students can also take classes through the Federal Way School District’s Internet Academy, which has been operating for ten years in Washington. These three opportunities differ from one another in significant ways. Administration, course-offerings,
rigor, and purpose differ in each and parents need to take the time to be wise consumers in any decisions made about their children’s education. But on the new frontier of online learning, the possibilities are limitless. Improvements in the Math Curriculum Good news for students in the Tacoma School District: New Superintendent Charlie Milligan is taking an aggressive approach to address abysmal math performance in the district by making a new supplemental curriculum, Saxon Math, available to teachers this year. The curriculum is known for its strong focus on core math skills (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division), which students learn through commonsense methods like memorization, practice, and review. The new supplemental curriculum stands in stark contrast to the “integrated” math curriculum widely used around the state now, which places a heavy emphasis on nebulous and ill-defined ideas like “helping students discover the importance of math concepts.” The experiment with integrated math in Tacoma has been “a dismal failure,” in the words of one of the district’s current school board members. It will be fascinating to see how the curriculum change is implemented (individual teachers are free to decide whether or not to use the new supplemental curriculum) and what it will do for math performance and learning in Tacoma’s schools. Hopefully these two offerings within the educational system will be instrumental in alleviating the educational crisis that our state has encountered.
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2006 State of Labor Report: Public Sector Unions are on the Rise by Ryan Bedford
very Labor Day the Evergreen Freedom Foundation releases its State of Labor report, which examines the labor trends of the past year. Titled “The Rise of Public Sector Unions,” the 2006 State of Labor report focuses on efforts to organize unions among government employees. The Labor Movement’s 20 year decline continued this past year. Union organizers have trouble maintaining a positive growth rate and cannot keep pace with the increase in jobs nationwide. Union organizing was particularly poor in the private sector, where unions accounted for only 50,000 (2.6 percent) of 1,924,000 new jobs. In the public sector, however, the trend was drastically reversed and the union monopolized 163,000 of 411,000 new jobs—40 percent. Union control over the public sector is well established. Public sector union members outnumber those in the private sector in 24 states and the District of Columbia. If the trend continues, in just a few short years a majority of union members will work in the public sector. Private sector union growth is stagnating because unions must operate within the profit margin of most businesses. Some established unions have even had to compromise to keep businesses afloat and employees paid. Public sector unions, however, do not worry about bottom lines or profit margins because their employers will never go out of business. Public sector unions are almost immune to accountability from politicians and taxpayers, and are able increase their influence by driving up the scope, cost, and size of government. Realizing that these attributes have the potential to restore their power and influence, union officials continue to solidify their grip on public employment. Union officials insisted that union security clauses be included in the first collective bargaining agreements covering Washington State public employees in 2004. The clauses require employees to pay for union negotiation services, even if unwanted. Many of the state’s 94,000 general government, higher education, and home care workers were unaware of the new provision, but were given no recourse. As a result, some unions doubled their membership and dues revenue. Union officials have also tried to expand the range of employees who can be forced to accept union representation. Now, not only are public employees at risk of being forced to pay union dues, but every person or business receiving money or doing business with the state is at risk. Every contractor who wins a state construction bid must have union dues-paying apprentices complete 15 percent of the work. Even childcare workers employed by state programs face union representation and forced dues. The main focus for union officials, however, has been lobbying politicians and spending member dues on
politics. This process can be described as a merry-go-round of coercion to amass power. The ride begins when unions dump dues money into lobbying politicians and financing political campaigns. Politicians elected with union money then implement prounion laws and policies. They also appoint the negotiators who bargain with the union on state employee contracts. Unsurprisingly, these negotiators grant lucrative concessions to unions. Union officials then turn new revenues back into the campaigns of pro-union politicians. In this way, union officials redirect government tax revenue into union coffers and restore their power and influence. When union officials are unable to obtain political favors or achieve their agenda through negotiations, they turn to job actions, such as strikes. In the private sector, strikes are intended to hurt businesses and make it more economical to capitulate to union demands than hold out. In the public sector, though, this leverage is ineffective because governments never go out of business. Their income is tied to taxpayers, not consumers. The Achilles’ heel of governments, though, is the ambitions of politicians. Politicians must garner the favor of voters to sustain their careers. Since strikes stop public services and inconvenience voters, there is enormous pressure on public officials to capitulate to union demands. Regardless, when public employees threaten to abandon their responsibilities and stop public services, they also shake public confidence and betray those they are pledged to serve. The State of Labor Report concludes with policy solutions to counter damaging union influences within the public sector. One solution is to ban monopoly bargaining clauses and allow workers to bargain freely with employers individually, collectively, or with multiple unions. Policy makers should also give workers the tools to hold unions accountable by passing financial transparency regulations and banning state-sponsored payroll deductions. Write to request your own State of Labor report, or view it at www.effwa.org.
Also found in the 2006 State of Labor report:
• A year has passed since the break-up of the AFL-CIO, when several major unions, representing a third of the federation’s members, formed their own coalition. Yet the dissident “Change to Win” coalition has changed little and leans even further left. • Federal LM-2 financial disclosure regulations will apply not just to national unions, but to state and local unions as well. • Unions were heavily involved in the May Day Immigration rallies and continue to try to bolster membership rolls with legal and illegal immigrants. • Unions continue to oppose “paycheck protection” measures that protect workers’ free speech rights. Unions have attempted to eviscerate paycheck protection laws through aggressive litigation in Idaho, Utah, and Washington State. Organized labor even spent more than $150 million to defeat California’s paycheck protection initiative, Proposition 75. • Case studies have been compiled from Washington State, British Columbia (by the Canadian Taxpayers Foundation), New York (by the Manhattan Institute), New Hampshire, and Maine.
Left wing group targets election security in Washington State by Troy Beardslee
man walks into a polling place in Federal Way on a cool, drizzly Tuesday morning in early November, and announces that he’d like to vote. “Well, you’re certainly in the right place for that!” says a kindly poll worker as she reaches for her list of registered voters. “Which precinct are you in?” “I don’t know,” says the man, “I actually live up in Everett, so you probably don’t have me on your list there. In fact, I’m sure you don’t, since I’m not registered at all. I was just down this way for breakfast with a friend, and saw the ‘Vote Here’ sign outside, and thought, ‘You know, why not?’ I mean, I always felt a little left out around election time, when most of the other guys in my cell block were filling out their ballots, discussing who to vote for. The judge races
were easy, but… water commissioner? Who knows anything about that?” “Outstanding,” says the smiling poll worker. “Why don’t we have you fill out a registration form here, and we’ll get you all set up.” After filling out most of the form, the man stops and scowls. “They want my driver’s license number? I don’t remember that offhand, and I don’t have my wallet with me.” “Not to worry,” says the poll worker cheerfully. “Just fill it in as close as you can remember. If it’s wrong, they’ll probably call you, but it won’t affect your vote today.” “Cool,” says the newly registered voter, filling in the first three letters and handing the form back.
“So what were you in for?” asks the poll worker, making idle conversation while filing away the registration. “Oh, forgery… identity theft… the usual,” says the man, grinning sheepishly. “I can’t believe they’re going to make me pay all of that back! I mean, I’ve got my own expenses, you know?” “It’s a real drag!” says the smiling poll worker. “Okay, here’s your ballot. Just feed it into that machine over there when you’re done.” “Thanks!” says the new voter. “That was easy!” “That’s our goal,” says the poll worker. “Have a nice day!”
Continued on next page
Election security continued from page 9 . . . The scenario above may sound like an election security nightmare. But the nightmares of some are the dreams of others. People who dream of extraordinarily lax election security can be found at the Brennan Center for Justice, a liberal activist legal center based in New York. In lawsuit after lawsuit, they have consistently attacked sensible measures intended to prevent vote fraud. Each element of security risk in the scenario above represents a legal fight taken on by the Brennan Center in its war on election security. Funded by left-wing billionaire George Soros, among others, and with veteran (and partisan) political strategists in key positions, the Brennan Center gives all indications of having a partisan intent to open the door legally for others to illegally commit voting fraud. The Brennan Center has now targeted Washington, joined by a group called American Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), a radicalleft activist group implicated in voter registration fraud in ten different states over the past two years. In the crosshairs is our new voter registration law which can be summarized as, “If you seem not to exist, we’re not just going to add you to the voter registration database; we’re going to contact you and sort it out first.” If this law is overturned, there will be no barriers to fraudulent registration, and only nominal barriers to voting fraud. For the past three months EFF researchers have been digging into the facts of the case, the relationship between the Brennan Center and ACORN, and their motives for attacking election security. Our full report will be available later this month.
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Despite disappearance of poll sites, election observers still needed by Jonathan Bechtle
lection observers are the unsung heroes of the battle to restore integrity to Washington’s ballot boxes. They take time away from their busy schedules to spend many (often boring) hours watching ballots stream by with one goal in mind: making sure that your ballot gets counted. If it weren’t for the sharp eyes and inquiring minds of observers and poll workers during 2004, many of our election problems would never have come to light. As we move into the first post-2004 federal race, the need for strict scrutiny of election processes is greater than ever. Unfortunately, it is also harder then ever. Many counties have made a switch to vote-by-mail, citing the “simplicity” of only having one system. What that means for observers is that, instead of watching a reasonably understandable process at their neighborhood poll site, they have to travel to the county auditor’s office
to watch a confusing mass production process. But it nonetheless needs to be done. Without poll sites, the security check of a voter personally inserting a ballot into a poll machine is gone, replaced by machines and “professionals” casting our ballots behind closed doors. The mail ballot counting process happens over a much longer period of time than just Election Day, as received ballots are opened and partially processed in the week or two before the election, and up until the certification date afterwards. Observers are needed during this entire period, giving people more scheduling options to take part. Because ballot processing is complex, observers who don’t have a history of observing should seek training from a political party or county auditor to ensure intelligent observations. Merely having warm bodies present is nice, but not very effective.
Just as our system of government depends on checks and balances to keep it operating and accountable, so does our election system. We, the people, are a primary check on election transparency, and if we don’t step up, no one will.
If you wo uld like to observe in general ele the ction, call th e county offi your politic c e al party or of your county to voluntee auditor r. Names a nd phone n for each c umbers ounty are available o effwa.org/v n www. ip.
From: Matt Cole Sent: Monday, August 14 Hello All:
he long road to Afghanistan is underway. We are beginning our third week at Camp Shelby and our training is more intense as time progresses. Since this is my first update to you all I will start from the beginning. Three weeks ago, six other reservists from Washington and I boarded a plane to Norfolk, Virginia where we would spend a week in mobilization processing. There we updated all of our information to ‘Active Duty’ status, went over our pay and allowances, and received our requisite vaccinations. (Let me add that smallpox and Anthrax is never a fun combination!) The real fun began on our military airlift to Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Navy pilots are always more fun to fly with than commercial pilots, even if your plane is just a C9 (that’s a DC-9 to you civilians). The flight was full of sharp pitches and rolls and we could descend from 30,000 feet in seconds rather than minutes. From Hattiesburg, a rickety old ex-school bus was used to transport us to Camp Shelby. It was hot (93 degrees at 51 percent humidity) and the roads were bumpy. I guess that old bus couldn’t take it because en route, with the advent of a loud “clunk!” followed by sudden mechanical silence, the bus died. So alongside a busy interstate, in the hot southern sun, our greeting from our new home was rigid. Two hours later we finally arrived at Camp Shelby in a backup bus. Camp Shelby is a National Guard base that has been converted to a military mobilization center. Actually, the base was first owned by the Army during World War II for the same purpose – to train and get soldiers ready for in-theatre operations. After the war, the Army sold the base to the state of Mississippi for use by the Mississippi National Guard. When U.S. forces began deploying en masse to support Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Army leased the base from the state to again use it as a mobilization site. So here we are. Sailors living in Army barracks. Our Navy blue was greeted with mixed looks from the soldiers already here. Many were intrigued to see that the Navy would be joining them for ground combat training while others exercised longtime differences between services. We have since been issued our full “battle rattle” as we call it. We shipped home our Navy uniforms and each of us donned our new desert camouflage uniform (DCU) along with a Kevlar helmet, body armor and two seabags full of other Army gear. Additionally, and much to our excitement, we have each been issued an M4 carbine rifle and M9 Berretta pistol. Our body armor is heavy, weighing about 30-40 pounds when we’re fully dressed. To get used to it we have been suiting up on our own and going out for hikes to get acquainted with the heat and the weight. The Navy group here is part of what is called an Embedded Training Team (ETT). Our primary function will be to train the Afghan National Army (ANA) to be autonomous and ready to defend its fledgling democracy. This also means we’ll likely be assisting them with theatre operations. There is more to it than
that, and the specifics have yet to be given to us, but due to operational security (OPSEC) I cannot say over email. Our barracks are, well, barracks—old cement and cinderblock structures full of racks. We have about 50 guys per barracks, totaling about 200 sailors here for the adventure, all sharing a common head…I mean latrine… or to you all, bathroom. A major difference between services is our jargon. “Heads” are latrines, “galleys” are mess halls, “racks” are bunks, “bulkheads” are just walls, and “decks” are any floors. But using Navy terms when speaking to the Army leaves our counterparts with puzzled looks and vice versa. Our three squares a day consist of breakfast and dinner at the mess hall and lunch is a Meal Ready to Eat (MRE). While these are generally not bad in quality, we have still adopted our own nicknames for them. I have begun calling them ‘MR. E’s’ since you often don’t know what you are getting other than your entrée. So far my favorite has been the Jambalaya and Chicken with Salsa meal, and we all try to stay away from the (fake) Pork Chop and Cheese Omelet. The training itself has been interesting. Some of the more interesting training courses have been communications training, where we learned about the different radios and satellite communications devices used in-theatre. As a part of this class, we were each required to make a phone call using a satellite phone. So naturally, we all called home to tell our loved ones of the novelty of our current communiqué with them. We have also attended foreign weapons training and spent a day at the range shooting the AK 47. And lastly, we each gave short briefs to an audience using an Iraqi interpreter to get used to having someone talk over you in a different tongue. My new unit is small, only 21 people made up mostly of officers and senior enlisted. However, they are a good group and our commander is approachable and enthusiastic about our mission. I am one of two reservists in the unit (the other being a shipmate from my reserve unit back home). Reservists in general here are scarce, but we fit in well. While we still have far to go before we are ready to forward deploy, we are all ready and willing to get our job done. One of the greatest adventures so far has been the relationships we are all forced into. I am getting more and more acquainted with all the folks I am with and we are learning to be “our family away from family.” Most people here are likeable and all of us hail from different corners of life. I will try to introduce you to some of the personalities here in future updates. Thank you all for your continued prayers and support. I hope each of you is well and know that I miss your company. But life and God are good and I look forward to sharing more of my experiences with you. Petty Officer Matt Cole Camp Shelby, MS
Matt Cole is EFF’s Deputy Communications Director. He is also an intelligence specialist in the United States Navy Reserve. Matt joined the Navy Reserve shortly after September 11, 2001, and is currently on his first tour of duty. He departed from Olympia on July 21 to spend two months in combat training at Camp Shelby in Mississippi and will be flying to Afghanistan this month.