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Affirmative-action measure: Are Washingtonians voting on Referendum 88, Initiative 1000, or both?

OLYMPIA — Over the next few days, Washington voters will mark their ballots to approve or reject Referendum 88. Or is it Initiative 1000?

Actually, it’s both.

The question over whether to reinstate affirmative action in public contracting, employment and education could be one of the most convoluted for voters to untangle this fall.

And unlike many statewide ballot measures, the campaigns on either side of the affirmative-action debate haven’t raised gobs of money. So voters aren’t necessarily seeing the usual deluge of ads.

Voters don’t have much time left to figure it all out. Ballots for the general election are due Nov. 5.

So, here’s a quick primer on the affirmative-action debate.

In 1998, Washington voters approved a ballot measure (Initiative 200) that banned preferential treatment in public employment, contracting and education.

Now skip ahead a generation, to earlier this year. Democratic state lawmakers this spring used their majorities in the House and Senate to pass Initiative 1000 and bring back affirmative action.

I-1000 is geared toward boosting diversity in public education, employment and contracting, without the use of preferential treatment or quotas. Supported by Gov. Jay Inslee, the new law defines preferential treatment as selecting a less-qualified candidate based on a single characteristic, such as race or gender.

But opponents of the new law say it effectively adds up to a quota system by creating goals and timetables to increase diversity. The initiative also establishes a commission to oversee those efforts at state agencies, which some critics have derided as an unelected bureaucracy.

Those opponents quickly mobilized, gathering roughly 213,000 signatures to put I-1000 up for a public vote. It qualified and appears as Referendum 88 on the ballot.

Here’s where it gets tricky.

Even though the opposition campaign gathered signatures for the referendum, a vote in favor of R-88 actually approves I-1000, the new affirmative-action law.

A vote to reject R-88 nullifies the new law and reinstates the ban on affirmative action.

The nuance is not lost on the WA Fairness Coalition, the pro-affirmative-action campaign urging voters to support the referendum.

At least one election mailer sent by the group shows a sample ballot, with the “approved” option marked under Referendum 88.

“I have had people come up to me anecdotally saying, ‘If I want to approve I-1000, how do I vote on it?’” said Hyeok Kim, a former Seattle deputy mayor and co-chair of the coalition.

“For me, my biggest worry is the confusion,” she added.

Kim and other affirmative-action supporters call the affirmative-action measures necessary to make up for longstanding discrimination against women and people of color.

As of Wednesday, the coalition raised about $1.16 million, according to state campaign-finance records. Of that, it has reported spending about $944,000.

Among other things, that money has funded election mailers, TV advertising on multiple cable channels and radio advertising, according to state records.

The campaign opposing affirmative action, known as Let People Vote, has been doing its own outreach to potential voters.

That campaign has raised nearly $1.3 million — but spent much of that money getting the signatures necessary to put the referendum on the ballot.

In recent weeks, Let People Vote has spent more than $150,000 on phone banks and advertising, including newspaper and radio ads, campaign-finance reports show.

“We worked very hard to let people know how Referendum 88 discriminates and makes different rules for different races,” Linda Yang of the Let People Vote campaign wrote in an email. “And we also have seen many occasions when individuals have told us they’ve seen through this measure from the start.”

For affirmative-action supporters, the potential confusion is a fraught link back to the 1998 election where Washington voters banned the practice.

That year, voters decisively sided with the shoestring campaign that put I-200 on the ballot. Its official title was the Washington State Civil Rights Act.

The measure banned Washington state from discriminating against — or giving preferential treatment to — any group or individual or based on color, race, ethnicity, national origin or sex in public employment, public contracting or public education.

The victory caught affirmative-action supporters — who had their own well-organized campaign — by surprise, said Deirdre Bowen, a professor at Seattle University’s School of Law.

“The belief is that the way the referendum was framed and the way the discussion was framed” voters didn’t know exactly what they were voting for, said Bowen, who is an expert on affirmative action.

Kim, of the WA Fairness Coalition, says people have relayed that theory to her, too: “I know I heard people tell me a lot of folks were confused in 1998.”

But on the eve of that election, voters surveyed in a Seattle Times poll said they did understand the measure. “The evidence is that the voters knew what they were doing on I-200,” pollster Stuart Elway said at the time.

Regardless, there hasn’t been much of a public debate over affirmative action in Washington since then.

Younger voters may not remember I-200, said Kim. And even the phrase “affirmative action” may not be as familiar, she said, since discussions about equity nowadays instead often use terms like diversity and inclusion.

“It’s been 20 years,” she said. “It’s not like five years ago that I-200 passed and it’s a little more fresh on people’s minds.”

Five inmates accused of attacking corrections officers, using stun gun during fight at Yakima County jail
 Donald Meyers  / 

Five inmates at the Yakima County jail are accused of attacking two corrections officers and using an officer’s stun gun to attack other personnel who came to break up the Thursday melee.

Yakima County Superior Court Judge David Elofson ordered the five — including one who was awaiting trial on first-degree assault in a Sunnyside shooting — held on bail ranging from $25,000 to $150,000. Elofson also approved orders for the five to have their hands and ankles shackled as the least-restrictive means of maintaining safety in the courtroom.

The incident began around 7:20 p.m. Thursday as a Yakima County corrections officer conducted a head count in a fourth-floor housing unit at the North Front Street jail, according to a probable cause affidavit filed by sheriff’s detectives. The fourth floor is the jail’s high-security housing unit, and detectives were able to review security camera footage of the incident.

As the officer was making his rounds, Hector Manuel Hernandez refused to allow the officer into the room he shared with Josue Cohetzaltitla, the affidavit said, and punched the officer in the head. The blow caused the officer to reel back into a corner of the unit’s day room, where Hernandez, Cohetzaltitla, Jovanni Collazo-Moreno, Guadalupe Gutierres and Jesus Sanchez-Hernandez attacked the officer, the affidavit said.

During the fight, the officer’s Taser stun gun fell out of its holster onto the floor, the affidavit said. Another officer arrived in the unit, and two of the five inmates attacked him, according to the affidavit.

When other officers arrived, one of the inmates grabbed the stun gun and fired it at the officers, but the darts did not hit anybody, the affidavit said.

Officers were able to subdue the five, the affidavit said, and the two officers did not suffer serious injuries in the fight. The five were placed in the jail’s Intensive Management Unit on suspicion of custodial assault and disarming a law enforcement officer.

Elofson set Cohetzaltitla’s bail at $150,000. Cohetzaltitla, 22, is awaiting trial on first-degree assault in connection with a 2018 shooting in Sunnyside that left two people injured.

Collazo-Moreno, 21, is being held in lieu of $75,000 bail. He had pleaded guilty Wednesday to violating a protective order.

Gutierrez, 33, was awaiting trial on charges of eluding, possessing a stolen motor vehicle, unlawful firearms possession and possessing a stolen firearm at the time of the incident. Elofson set his bail at $50,000.

Hernandez, 27, is being held in lieu of $100,000 bail. He is awaiting trial on two separate first-degree robbery cases, according to court records.

Sanchez-Hernandez, 19, was sentenced in July to nine months in jail for providing criminal assistance. His bail was set at $25,000.

During the hearing, defense attorney Beth Wehrkamp said Cohetzaltitla, Collazo-Moreno and Sanchez-Hernandez objected to being shackled, arguing that it would prejudice their right to a fair trial. Elofson said the fact that they were shackled had no bearing on his rulings.

Seniors: Your higher-dose flu vaccine is coming to pharmacies later than usual. Here’s why, and what to do.

People 65 and older are typically advised to get a higher-dose flu vaccine. But this year, seniors across the country have to wait longer to get it.

Partial shipments have been delivered to clinics and pharmacies, but the higher-dose vaccine won’t arrive in large quantities until mid- to late November. Vaccines typically start showing up at clinics and pharmacies between July and September.

The vaccine’s manufacturer, Sanofi Pasteur — the only company that makes the higher-dose flu shot — opted to wait to see which strains of flu are circulating this year in order to better match the vaccine to those strains.

Seniors who prefer not to wait can still get the standard flu shot, and should do so if the higher-dose vaccine isn’t available near them, said Dr. John Dunn, medical director of preventive care for Kaiser Permanente Washington.

“The most important thing is to get vaccinated,” he said. “Everything on top of that is just gravy.”

Spokespeople for Bartell Drugs and Walgreens said their pharmacies will be getting full shipments beginning mid-November.

This year’s flu season, to this point, has been mellower than prior years, according to tracking data from Public Health — Seattle & King County. As of Oct. 26, no new influenza outbreaks or deaths were reported. Since the end of September, one person has died of the flu at a long-term care facility.

The stronger flu vaccine, which is made with four times the antigens of other vaccines on the market, is a relatively new option. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration approved it at the end of 2009, and it was first available for the 2010 flu season.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that almost everyone older than 6 months should get vaccinated every flu season.

Winter wish list: Perry Tech staff help colleague diagnosed with cancer
 Lex Talamo  / 

Lori Benoit, a teacher at Eisenhower High School, talks a lot with her students about what she calls “relationship deposits.”

She likens them to savings deposits at a bank: You put money into an account, you might not need or use it right away, but it’s there for when you do need to withdraw it. She tells her students to always be kind to others, to help where they can, to invest in people because they might not need the positive connections at the time, but they’ll be there for “withdrawals” in the future.

This fall, the blessing for the Benoits started with a text — a message that ended with “Please let us help.”

Lori would tell you that she is a strong, independent woman. So is her wife, Jeanine. The couple live on a 2-acre property out toward Naches and are used to doing things for themselves, including heavy-duty yard work. But when Jeanine was diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer in June, keeping up appearances was the least of Lori’s concerns.

“With treatment and travel, we have been unable to care for anything but the necessities,” Lori said. “As we live in a huge old farmhouse, it is a lot of work for two women.”

Leaves started piling up in the yard and in the house’s gutters, while the Benoits drove to chemotherapy appointments. The lawn, which needed to be mowed, had to wait. So did needed farmhouse repairs and the winterizing measures Lori normally started in the summer.

Christine Cote, the president of Perry Technical Institute, heard about the Benoits’ situation. Jeanine retired from teaching information technology at Perry Tech this year, and Cote said she was a good employee and a good friend.

She decided to reach out.

“A bunch of Perry peeps want to do something,” Cote texted Lori. “Anything. I thought we could winterize your yard, sprinklers, etc, or anything you need. Please let us help.”

Lori said the last line of that text — Please let us help — broke down any reservations she might have had. The Benoits said yes.

Both were visibly emotional on Oct. 25, when a crew of about 25 Perry Tech staff and faculty members showed up at the farmhouse, toting lawn mowers and weed wackers, rakes and heavy-duty gloves, a dumpster and even a string of white Christmas lights to hang from the porch, to make the Benoits’ world a little brighter.

Jeanine Benoit, sitting inside a warm room in the farmhouse with the couple’s two dogs, said she has felt overwhelmed and humbled by the unexpected kindness.

“To see people keep getting out of their cars and grabbing tools to help … who does that happen to?” She paused, her green eyes misty under a lily-colored knit cap. “Apparently it happens to me.”

For Carol Helms, Perry Tech’s human resources director who was helping that Friday, the blessing was the chance to give back.

“Jeanine is so down to earth, caring, and welcoming to all. She would have been the first person to volunteer for something like this,” Helms said. “We all wanted to do something to help, and it feels good to be able to give back in a way that’s meaningful to her.”

Care and commitment

By 9:30 a.m., Jason Lamiquiz, Perry Tech’s associate dean of education, was on the roof of the farmhouse, unclogging the gutters of leaf litter and debris. He climbed down for his interview, saying with a smile that Jeanine was one of the first people he met when he started working at the institute about 10 years ago.

Lamiquiz, like several other Perry Tech faculty, first acknowledged Jeanine’s “wicked” sense of humor, followed by her care and commitment to the institute’s students. Lamiquiz recalled that Jeanine owned a Pontiac Firebird during her teaching days and she would let the students in the automotive program restore it.

“Those students loved working on that classic car,” he said. “That really shows you the kind of person she is.”

Jeanine first came to Perry Tech as a student, when she was 42. She had spent more than 20 years working at her father’s grocery store and, upon his retirement, decided she wanted a change. She toured Perry Tech and decided the information technology program was perfect for her.

“I wanted something that would keep me learning and growing for the rest of my life,” she said. “It was the direction the world was going, and I was intrigued that it was a male-dominated field. It inspired me and made me want to get some women out in the field.”

After graduating from the two-year program, Jeanine worked at Yakima Valley College, then in the Yakima School District as a computer repair teacher at Davis and Eisenhower high schools. She then rejoined Perry Tech, first as a network administrator and then as an IT instructor.

Her appreciation of the institute that had let her pursue new dreams, while in her 40s, grew with her experiences as a faculty member there.

“It’s a great place,” Jeanine said. “The certificate you get out of Perry Tech will give you a career path for the rest of your life, if you choose to use it. You follow your heart and your path, and you can’t go wrong.”

Giving back

Jeanine retired in January. In February, she told Lori something was wrong. Lori remembered, “She was sitting in her chair, and she said, ‘Lori, something is wrong with me. I have everything I want, and I can’t get out of this chair.”

Trips to the hospital, an ultrasound and a CT scan later, doctors informed the couple, on June 14, of the mass they had found and the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. Jeanine has since completed four rounds of chemotherapy. She’ll go in for another CT scan in November.

“It was a hard conversation coming home,” Lori said of the initial diagnosis. “We had read about it and we knew the odds were against us. It’s still something we’re processing.”

The women are also still processing the unexpected help from Perry Tech staff, who by the end of the afternoon had removed leaf litter and debris, mowed the lawn, painted the steps and railings leading to the farmhouse’s front and back porches, pruned and trimmed trees, and repaired a fence and patio cover with wind damage.

Cote said the number of Perry Tech faculty who wanted to help one of their own through a hard time made her proud of the institute’s faculty for reasons beyond their commitment to students. When she reached out to see if anyone wanted to help with yard work for the Benoits, she said the response was tremendous.

“It’s hard to know what to do, but when Lori gave me a list, I realized these projects were doable, and there were so many who wanted to help,” she said. “It helped all of us to be able to help them.”

Lamiquiz noted Yakima-based Helliesen Lumber and Supply Co. also was touched by Jeanine’s situation and volunteered to donate lumber for the fence repairs.

“It’s really neat to see others step up and help when people in the community have needs,” he said. “That’s what makes and keeps our communities strong, and it’s important because so many people are afraid to ask for help.”

Lori Benoit said that Perry Tech’s help has served as a key reminder of the power of building positive relationships.

“It’s never been so clear to me as now, since Jeanine has been sick, that she clearly has made some great deposits in her time,” Lori said. “We’ve spent a lot of our time looking for silver linings, and this is one.”

Cote said she heard from several Perry Tech staff members following the first cleanup, who told her, “If you decide to do this again, count me in.” The team plans to return to the farmhouse as needed, given that leaves are still falling and the desire to help someone who gave so much remains strong, she said.

“The road ahead is not going to be easy for them, and we want them to know we care,” she said. “We will be there for them. The road doesn’t end here.”