Weekend Reading 9/4/15

Urban design—dramatized, pathologized, music-video-fied.
Original illustration by Nina Montenegro of ghosttide.com.


In case you have (somehow!) missed all of the internet hubbub around HBO’s recent miniseries Show Me a Hero, which brings to life the late-1980’s low-income housing debate in Yonkers, NY, here are two articles that delve into this moving and nuanced production. All six episodes are online (though you must have the HBO streaming service—bah) and are ripe to be watched over the long weekend ahead. For those unfamiliar, I should add that “debate” is a very  …  read more »

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Countywide Voting is Better than District-Only Voting

What Whatcom can teach us about representative democracy.
Original Sightline Institute graphic, available under our free use policy.

Original Sightline Institute graphic, available under our free use policy.

Whatcom County, Washington, is exploring voting options that are instructive for voters throughout Cascadia. In my last article, I described the deficiencies of Whatcom’s district-only proposal. Now I describe how the competing five-district charter amendment measures up relative to five possible voter expectations about representative democracy. Next time, I will analyze proportional representation.

The county-council-sponsored five-district proposal would retain Whatcom’s system of district-only primary elections and county-wide general elections, but would replace the current three districts with five smaller districts. Currently, all county voters select two councilors from each district and one at-large. If the five-district amendment passes, voters would select one councilor from each district and two at-large.

By preserving county-wide voting in general elections, the five-district option maintains better representation and council cooperation. By drawing districts around more-contiguous communities instead of slicing and dicing Bellingham, five districts would give urban and rural voters a better shot at electing like-minded councilors. (The map below roughly approximates where the new district boundaries might fall). Read more »

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Why Northwest Doctors Oppose Oil-by-Rail Development

Physicians for Social Responsibility examines the medical research.

“An unacceptable threat to human health and safety.” That’s how more than 300 medical professionals are describing plans to build out crude oil-by-rail facilities in the Northwest.

Responding to concerns about unprecedented oil industry expansion plans in the region—the same schemes that Sightline has been documenting—the Oregon and Washington chapters of Physicians for Social Responsibility analyzed 125 peer-reviewed medical journal articles and other reliable medical sources. They summarized the findings in a February 2015 report, “Position Statement  …  read more »

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How Money Gets into Our Politicians’ Pockets

Stopping the flow of special interest campaign dollars starts with understanding how it gets there.

Political donations are a tangled web. Convoluted with layers of cryptic reporting categories and disclosure requirements, the public’s understanding of money in politics is often limited at best. Sightline is working to unveil this aspect of modern American politics with an eye toward illuminating how moneyed interests muddle our path to a sustainable future.

In that spirit, we’ve created a sort of field guide for understanding how political money can be legally distributed and how that money can be spent  …  read more »

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District-Only Voting is Bad for Voters, Councilors, and Communities

Representative democracy hangs in the balance in Whatcom County.

Weekend Reading 8/28/15

Our future climate war, the 10 year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, and overrated salad greens.

Video: The Art of Talking Climate Science

Four messaging tips for climate scientists.

Event: Washington’s Fight Against Coal & Oil

Learn more about Washington's frontline fossil fuel fight.

Five Things Northwest States Should Know about the Federal Clean Power Plan

Obama puts states on a path to pricing pollution.

What Montana’s Tongue River Railroad Means for Coal Export

A coal market analysis riddled with factual errors boosts the industry’s export schemes.