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Sunday, September 26, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.

James Vesely / Times editorial page editor
Times endorsements for statewide elections begin


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Today, The Times' editorial page begins our recommendations for statewide elections on Nov. 2.

Those recommendations come as endorsements — of candidates, ideas and positions that will make our state something different in the next few years. The biggest of these ideas is the statewide vote to create an education trust fund for schools and colleges from your sales taxes. It's a huge commitment, raises $1 billion a year and then spreads it to school districts from King to Asotin counties. If voters approve, and there's certainly no guarantee of that, Seattle, Bellevue and every other school district will have a revenue stream that cannot be easily tampered with by the Legislature. At least not right away.

If there is a theme that jingles like a bad tune through this election cycle, it is the search for, or the rechanneling of, money. The Times editorial page endorsed Seattle's recent Families and Education Levy, and today backs the statewide education trust. That endorses a commitment to fund public education to the demands of the new standards expected of schools in the competitive millennium.

Initiative 297 on the upcoming ballot is the statewide measure dealing with nuclear waste at Hanford federal sites. It also deals with money, in a way — we believe the initiative would divert money from the primary task of addressing Hanford's real needs rather than to the needs of advocacy groups.

And if you want to gamble until the cows come home — or the milk spoils — tomorrow's editorial opinion will focus on I-892, a statewide test asking if you will approve more electronic gambling devices in exchange for a drop in real estate taxes. It's about money, too, both the money in your pocket and the money that goes into the electronic slot. Our take on that initiative is not a mystery, but the explanation why should wait until the editorial opinion runs tomorrow.

What is this election about?

Rep. Maralyn Chase, D-Edmonds, told The Times a recent primary election in Seattle was the beginning of a broader movement to turn the Democratic Party away from centrist leadership.

Bad idea.

Centrist politics have been both the savior and are the potential salvation of our state. It is true that in this age of political teeth-grinding in the night, extremes of both the left and right can secure a toehold in political islands of the state. But once elected, politicians who are not centrists cannot govern.

We believe the Hanford nuclear-waste initiative — I-297 — represents the extremes of advocacy politics, and we conclude that the statewide education trust fund initiative — I-884 — does not. The difference, for us, is who are the direct beneficiaries of the hunt for dollars.

For voters just beginning to sort this out, a good way to look at anything on the ballot that asks for money is to say, "Who the heck does this help?" Does it help me, or the kids next door? Does it help keep the bowling alley open or does it really open the door to even more gambling?

On the extremes, the battles are about ideology and passion. In reality, the gooey center of American politics is what keeps the police on the streets, the teachers in classrooms and the hospitals and clinics open.

Not everything is about the course of empire. In our positions, we try to support the things that rise to the sensible, common ground.

The Seattle Times Editorial Board will host two debates for important elections next month:

• Oct. 12, 8th Congressional District debate between Democrat Dave Ross and Republican Dave Reichert at Meydenbauer Center, Bellevue, 7 p.m.-8:30 p.m.

• Oct. 19, candidates for state attorney general, Democrat Deborah Senn and Republican Rob McKenna, at Seattle Central Library, Seattle, 7 p.m.-8:30 p.m.

Admission is free and open to the public.

James F. Vesely's column appears Sunday on editorial pages of The Times. Look for more of his thoughts on the STOP blog, our editorial online journal at www.seattletimes.com/stop. His e-mail address is: jvesely@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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