The Gristle

Continental Divide

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

CONTINENTAL DIVIDE: A New Year invites reflection and prediction—and reposition, as the past and future are studied and aligned. In November, the Gristle predicted 2017 and out-years might begin to see a new chapter of Federalism—an old story where national directives chafe up against states’ rights and regional values that resist those directives, and through time and experimentation the two (hopefully) become a harmonious whole. This old story has been written for more than a century in the Southern portion of our nation; and perhaps it’s time for the West to begin its own chapter, for clearly the West is having its own conversations about social and environmental justice, about the roles of science and technology in public affairs, and indeed even the health and future of political parties and political directions that are markedly different from those in other parts of the country.

This is most obviously reflected in recent election outcomes, where the western states preferred the Democrat over the Republican by 10+-point margins (translating in California to more than 4.2 million votes) and retained and strengthened their state Democratic legislative and executive branches.

Mostly “it’s the economy, stupid,” which while imperfect in distribution is roaring on the Left coast; but there are other factors—the kinds of conversations we’re having about race, about religion, about the rights of the indigenous and the disadvantaged, about international trade and relations across the Pacific Rim, about the regulatory authority and technocratic role of government in everyday life are different as well. We’re angry, sure; but we’re angry about other things than what appears to trigger outrage in other parts of the country.

Every successful revolution is predicated not just on organized resistance, but alternative—a different plan and vision moving forward. And we’ve been gratified to see Governor Jay Inslee and his agencies step up and present a plan that both resists and helps reshape federal directives moving forward.

Shortly after the election, the governor came forward with his counterparts in Oregon, California, and provincial British Columbia to renew their united resolve and commitment to action to address climate change—it’s not a “myth” in this part of the country, at least.

Inslee quickly followed that with a bold budget that fully funds K-12 education and launches an overhaul of the state’s mental health system, both in response to court directives that the state was not doing enough in either area. It strengthens law enforcement and social service options to deal with individuals suffering a behavioral health crisis. The mental health proposal, based on recommendations from outside experts, also provides more mobile crisis response teams; walk-in centers that allow 23-hour stays for people in crisis; and 100 additional mental health beds for people with a criminal history, or substance use disorder, to keep them out of jails.

Inslee’s comprehensive program also addresses economic security in which all Washingtonians can meet their basic needs and creates opportunities for stability during a personal financial crisis or economic downturn, and improves child-care access for working parents. It freezes tuition costs and improves student access to financial aid. His plan also includes a community development component to improve public infrastructure and public places.

The governor proposes to pay for these much-needed investments in schools and communities across Washington state with forward-thinking, equitable changes to the state’s tax code, like a state capital gains tax and a carbon pricing initiative, reducing reliance on consumption and property taxes. Ultimately, the revenue plan would generate $4.4 billion in new revenue in the coming two-year budget cycle.

Undoubtedly the governor’s efforts will be supported by state Senator Kevin Ranker, who steps in as the lead Democrat in the Senate responsible for Washington state’s $42 billion operating budget. And the governor’s efforts will be challenged by a Legislature in the balance, with hairsbreadth control in each house and neither party ascendant.

The state Attorney General’s Office has also moved quickly to launch initiatives that might otherwise stall in a new administration intent on changing the direction of courts—with lawsuits filed against corporate giants like Monsanto and Comcast for the protection of the rights of citizens.

Agencies, too, have stepped up, pushing back against congressional initiatives to weaken health care through the repeal or roll back of the Affordable Care Act; and others’ve begun to bulwark against threatened changes to environmental policy and the regulatory framework, writing new rules to reinforce initiatives already underway.

Moving quickly under threat of new federal directions, a draft of an action plan to protect and restore Puget Sound is scheduled for completion before Donald Trump takes office on Jan. 20, according to officials involved in developing the plan.

The plan will align Washington state with nine federal agencies in their efforts to recover one of the nation’s most important waterways. The Puget Sound Task Force was created by President Obama, who elevated Puget Sound to a high-priority ecosystem. The package will provide a powerful model moving forward—so that while new people will move into Washington, D.C., offices next year, most of the folks in the regional offices will remain.

The nonprofits, too, have stepped up their organization and coordination, finding strength united in principle, firing off letters to federal departments in transition, reminding them of their duty to the state and its citizens.

In short, a revolution is already underway in Washington, and it features a great deal of the sentiments expressed by progressives throughout the 2016 election cycle. They were listened to—here, at least; and we’re thankful for that in the New Year.

The history of the West was written by wanderers and iconoclasts striking out for new territories, and through the absence of “rootedness” respecting and adapting to what they discovered and what was here before them. The journey continues.

Cash Spell
Past Columns
Napkin Plan

November 15, 2017

Less Wave Than Slosh

November 8, 2017

Statistics of Shame

November 1, 2017

Cashing Out, Cashing In

October 25, 2017

A Creeping Paralysis

October 18, 2017

Fire and Water

October 11, 2017


September 27, 2017

Ounce of Prevention

September 20, 2017

Dwelling On It

September 13, 2017

Keeping the Dream Alive

September 6, 2017

A Bridge Too Far?

August 23, 2017

The Missing Middle

August 16, 2017

The Last, Best Solution

August 9, 2017

Fire and Water III

August 2, 2017

Fire and Water II

July 26, 2017

Fire and Water

July 19, 2017

Some Assembly Required

July 12, 2017

Good, Bad, Ugly

July 5, 2017

Zero Hour

June 28, 2017


June 21, 2017

Home for the Holidays

5:00pm|Ferndale Events Center

The 39 Steps

7:00pm|Sehome High School Little Theatre

Little Women

7:00pm|Ferndale High School

Peter and the Star Catcher

7:00pm|Squalicum High School

Romeo, You Idiot!

7:30pm|Heiner Theater


7:30pm|Mount Baker High School

Craft Bazaar

9:00am|American Legion Post #43

Holiday Festival of the Arts

10:00am|Meridian Street

Hot Cider & Cool Art

10:00am|Morgan Block Studios

Used Book Sale

10:00am|Everson Library

Red Barn Handpicked Holiday Market

12:00pm|Northwest Washington Fairgrounds

Holiday Gifts from the Kitchen

3:00pm|Lynden Library, Ferndale Library

It's Where the Sidewalk Ends

6:00pm|Bellingham Arts Academy for Youth

New Music, New Dance

7:30pm|Performing Arts Center Concert Hall

The Big Short One-Act Festival

7:30pm|McIntyre Hall

Bellingham Repertory Dance's Emerge

7:30pm|Firehouse Performing Arts Center

Backyard Brawl

8:00pm|Upfront Theatre

VFW Breakfast

8:00am|VFW Hall

Pancake Breakfast

8:00am|Ferndale Senior Center

Pancake Feed

8:00am|VFW Post 1585

Holiday Bazaar

9:00am|Hillcrest Chapel

Christmas in the Woods

9:00am|Garden Spot Nursery

NSEA Work Party

9:00am|Acme Elementary School

Turkey Trot

9:00am|Squalicum Creek Park

Climate Reality

10:00am|Bellingham Public Library

South Fork Winterfest

10:00am|Van Zandt Community Hall

Fall Gardening

10:00am|Lynden Library

Cheese Fest

10:00am|Everybody's Store

Bellingham Farmers Market

10:00am|Depot Market Square

Rexville Grange Holiday Art Show

10:00am|Rexville Grange

Holiday Farmers Market

10:00am|Port of Anacortes Transit Shed Event Center

Lynden Book Club

10:30am|Everson Library

Salmon Sighting

12:00pm|Haynie Creek

Conquering Writer's Block

2:00pm|South Whatcom Library

Fishboy Holiday Show

2:00pm|FishBoy Gallery

NaNoWriMo and Indie Publishing

3:00pm|Everson Library

Skagit Wine & Beer Festival


Homeless Summit and Cold Weather Giveaway

3:00pm|Maritime Heritage Park

i.e. artists talk

3:30pm|i.e. gallery

Small Works Opening

4:00pm|Matzke Fine Art Gallery and Sculpture Park

Smith & Vallee Artist Talk

4:00pm| Smith & Vallee Gallery

WA 129 Poetry Reading

6:00pm|Maple Hall

Giving from the Heart

7:00pm|Depot Art Center

A Light in the Darkness

7:00pm|Church of the Assumption

Welcome Home Celebration

7:00pm|Village Books

Ruach Consort

7:00pm|St. Paul's Episcopal Church

Contra Dance

7:00pm|Eagles Hall

Michael Kaeshammer

7:30pm|Mount Baker Theatre

Legends of the Blues V

7:30pm|Byrnes Performing Arts Center

Bellingham Farmer’s Market
Peter and the Star Catcher

7:00pm|Squalicum High School


7:30pm|Mount Baker High School

Holiday Festival of the Arts

10:00am|Meridian Street

Bellingham Repertory Dance's Emerge

7:30pm|Firehouse Performing Arts Center

Rexville Grange Holiday Art Show

10:00am|Rexville Grange

Cheese Fest

10:00am|Everybody's Store

Holiday Farmers Market

10:00am|Port of Anacortes Transit Shed Event Center

Rabbit Ride

8:00am|Fairhaven Bicycle

Community Breakfast

8:00am|American Legion Post #43

Rabbit Ride

8:30am|Fairhaven Bicycle

Getting in on the act


Sound of Music Singalong

1:00pm|Lincoln Theatre

A Musical Thanksgiving

2:00pm|McIntyre Hall

Harmony from Discord with Whatcom Symphony Orchestra

3:00pm|Mount Baker Theatre

The 25th Hour

4:00pm|Village Books

Southside Community Meal

5:00pm|Our Saviour's Lutheran Church

Way North Comedy Showcase

7:00pm|Farmstrong Brewing Co.

Rutie Dornfeld, John Miller

7:00pm|YWCA Ballroom

Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1 Village Books
Holiday Festival of the Arts

10:00am|Meridian Street

Wander + Camber Beer Dinner

6:30pm|Camber Cafe

Rocks & Gems

7:00pm|Bloedel Donovan Community Building


9:30pm|Green Frog

see our complete calendar »

Village Books Bellingham Farmer’s Market Trove Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1