Jury-Rigging Democracy

Better information to limit Big Money’s initiative power.

“The best argument against democracy,” Winston Churchill reportedly said, “is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.” Watching native-born Americans belly flop on a citizenship test suggests Churchill wasn’t far wrong.

But what about a week-long conversation? Worse? Actually, no.

An intriguing model of citizen participation in Oregon suggests that prolonged conversations with voters—or, conversations among voters—can dramatically improve democracy. The model is based on the jury: the panel of disinterested voters, operating under strict rules of procedure, presented with  …  read more »

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Washington State Traffic Forecast Finally Recognizes Reality

Does Washington's new road forecast spell the end of "build now, pay later"?

This is the single most responsible official traffic forecast I’ve seen from any government agency, ever:

It’s from a new transportation revenue forecast (pdf link, see p. 27) recently published by the Washington State Office of Financial Management. Their previous forecast, in pink, assumed that traffic would grow endlessly, much as it did during the 1950s through 1990s. But the new forecast, in blue, assumes that the modest traffic growth of the past decade will continue, and will then be followed by a modest decline.

There are two reasons why this forecast is the most responsible one I’ve seen to date. First, it reflects the growing evidence that three’s been a long-term slowdown in the growth vehicle travel—a slowdown that has been evident on major roads in Washington, for Washington State roads as a whole, for the US, and for much of the industrialized world. Second, even if the forecast is wrong, a conservative revenue forecast far and away the most fiscally prudent way to plan a transportation budget. Read more »

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Birth Control? There’s an App for That

Planned Parenthood pioneers a new program to improve contraceptive access.

Given that 82 percent of teen pregnancies are unintended, it should come as no surprise that sexual health advocates are eager to make information and services even easier to access and more appealing to emerging adults. Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, which serves Western Washington, Alaska, and Southern Idaho, recently rolled out a telemedicine pilot project that may help to do just that.

The new plan offers virtual office visits via video conference with a trained reproductive health professional.  …  read more »

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Weekend Reading 10/17/14

Portland's awesome Street Books program, best bots, and more.
Original illustration by Nina Montenegro of ghosttide.com.

Editor’s Note: Recently, we invited board members to contribute to weekend reading when they like. Chris Troth took us up on the offer this week! And our fall communications intern, Keiko Budech, also added a couple pieces to this weeks picks—enjoy!

Alan

This article, which filled my heart with happy, is about librarians on cargo bikes in Portland who deliver customized reading piles to people who live outdoors. “Street Books has no return policy at all, except a  …  read more »

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Prediction: Cloud Peak’s Coal Export Division Will Start Losing Money in 2015

There's only so long a coal company can make money betting that coal prices will fall.

Ebola versus Cars

How we systematically misunderstand risk.

Cap and Trade—In 3 Pictures

Three mental shortcuts for talking about smart climate and energy policy.

Can We Depend on the Money?

What Washington’s carbon revenue stream could look like through 2050.

Weekend Reading 10/10/14

If we cared about climate like we do about sports; oil train backers' desperate moves; and more.

A Fair Share of Streets (Part 2)

What can we learn from Europe's experiences with shared streets?