The Gristle

As Above, So Below

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

AS ABOVE, SO BELOW: Election ballots are in the mail—so declare press releases from election officials around the state, including the Whatcom County Auditor’s Office—in what’s being touted as the most important midterm election in a generation. And while every election is important in its own particular way, certainly this election is a critical referendum in numerous and powerful ways.

Something is broken in our representative democracy when Democrats must win nearly everywhere nationally by 8-point majorities to have any hope of clawing back the lower U.S. House of Representatives. The U.S. Senate is virtually out of reach, according to recent electoral models. And the political left and center of this country may very soon have to seriously grapple with the reality that they’re everywhere in the majority and winning elections, but nowhere in power and losing more power with every cycle.

For Washington, the situation is less immediately dire; and we’ve noted before a deepening divide as the Western states are moving their own direction, and having their own conversations distinct from the rest of the country about evolving demographics, economics, public policy and direct democracy.

Voters across the country are about to decide whether to adopt a number of ambitious policies in perhaps the biggest test of progressive ideas before the American public this November. Three states are considering Medicaid expansion. Four are considering marijuana legalization. Voting rights expansions, anti-gerrymandering measures and restrictions on campaign spending are on the ballot in 12 states.

Washington has led the way in all of those efforts, and races ahead even further with other ambitious initiatives.

The state could be the first in the nation to enact a carbon tax. If it passes, Initiative 1631 will impose a fee of $15 per ton of carbon emitted by the state’s largest polluters. The revenue, an estimated $1 billion per year, would be spent establishing clean-energy projects and helping low-income communities affected by climate change.

Recent polling suggests support for I-1631.

Even greater public support is indicated for Washington’s gun control measure, Initiative 1639.

“Aspects of I-1639, such as enhanced background checks and raising the purchase age for semi-automatic firearms from 18 to 21, are components that would set Washington state apart from most states,” the Seattle Times noted in its reporting. “The measure would also require firearms training before a semi-automatic rifle can be purchased; a 10-day waiting period after the purchase of a semi-automatic rifle, and add a class C felony to the books for gun owners whose firearm is accessed by a person prohibited from having a firearm. The class C felony would be the most severe in the nation for a violation of storage laws.”

The greatest margin of public support appears directed at Initiative 940, which would change the legal procedure for prosecuting police officers who kill civilians.

Under Washington’s current law, prosecutors must establish that an officer acted with “evil intent”—a standard almost impossible to prove, leaving the state with some of the worst laws on police accountability in the country. Initiative 940 would raise the bar for police accountability, allowing prosecution of officers who employ deadly force without a reasonable expectation that their lives are in danger. The initiative would require an independent investigation whenever a police officer kills or seriously harms a civilian and mandate de-escalation and mental health crisis training for all officers.

Its passage seems likely, and in any event the state Legislature has already adopted laws that embrace the goals of I-940.

Of course, the race for Whatcom County Prosecuting Attorney has itself become a referendum on justice reform and reamins continued commentary on the county’s failure to address rates of incarceration in a deteriorated jail facility.

The possibility of a generational shift in the prosecutors office has electrified local politics, and has had the unintended consequence of drawing attention from other races and issues down ballot.

Among these is the race for the unexpired remainder of Whatcom County Council’s At-Large position. The position was vacated by Todd Donovan when he shifted seats as a result of redistricting, and is held by former Lummi Nation Chairman Tim Ballew II in a temporary appointment.

In a quiet campaign, mild Bellingham progressive Carol Frazey squares off against firebreather Mike Peetoom in what could represent a fundamental shift in the balance of the Council. Certainly the election of Peetoom would further polarize and perhaps paralyze County Council next year.

Council’s continued work is critical as they draft public policy and land-use requirements in response to climate change and fossil fuel export projects.

While Washington is having its own dialogue about federal imperatives, federalism is still at work on the state.

This week, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced the agency will reopen the environmental review of a proposed Longview coal-export terminal that already has been rejected by the state departments of Ecology and Natural Resources. Developers want the Trump administration to keep alive the Millennium Bulk Terminals project, which would offer a new outlet to export up to 48 million tons of western coal to Asian markets.

The administration is also considering using West Coast military installations or other federal properties to smash open the way for more U.S. fossil fuel exports to Asia in the name of national security, despite opposition from coastal states. The proposal generated a quick backlash as it seeks an end-run around West Coast permitting processes that have rejected private-sector efforts to build new coal ports in their states, a challenge to our own sovereignty.

Thus does the national impact the state and local, although we’re vitally at work to craft our own path. Vote like it is important, because it is.

Alan Doyle
Past Columns
The Raucous Caucus

April 17, 2019


April 10, 2019

Edge City

April 3, 2019

Fixing the Fix

March 27, 2019

Halfway Houses

March 20, 2019

New Directions

March 13, 2019

Fire and Ice

March 6, 2019

The Big Short

February 27, 2019

Marina Lacuna

February 20, 2019

New Bites at the Apple

February 13, 2019

Coal Folds

February 6, 2019

Refocusing the Narrative

January 29, 2019

Old Town, Old Story

January 23, 2019

Ranker Unanchored

January 16, 2019

‘Alternative Methods’

January 9, 2019

Top Stories, 2018

January 2, 2019

Et Tu, #MeToo

December 26, 2018

Turn That Corner

December 19, 2018

Skagit Valley Tulip Festival

10:00am|Skagit Valley

Essence of Bellingham Photo Competition

10:00am|Whatcom County

Unstable by Design

7:30pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

Silent Sky

7:30pm|Anacortes Community Theatre

Tulip Festival Street Fair

10:00am|Downtown Mount Vernon

Spring Book Sale

10:00am|Fire Station #1

Bellingham Beer Week

12:00pm|Throughout Bellingham

Genre Legends, Hot Dogs

7:30pm|Upfront Theatre

Buffett Beach Bash

7:30pm|Anacortes Port Transit Shed

The Coronation of Poppea

7:30pm|Performing Arts Center Mainstage

Tulip Pedal Bike Ride

7:30am|La Conner Elementary School

Pancake Breakfast

8:00am|Ferndale Senior Center

COB Earth Day Work Party

9:00am|Fairhaven Park

Fun with the Fuzz

9:00am|Bellingham Police Department

Bellingham Bay Bocce Tournament

9:30am|Bellingham Sportsplex

Wild Things

9:30am|Stimpson Family Nature Reserve

Bellingham Farmers Market

10:00am|Depot Market Square

Kiwanis Kids Egg Hunt

10:00am|Maiben Park

Cedar Dust Trail Ride and Party

10:00am|Boundary Bay Brewery

Plant Sale and Easter Events

10:00am|BelleWood Acres

Community Easter Egg Hunt

11:30am|Bellingham at Orchard

Obrigado Wines Tasting

2:00pm|Seifert & Jones Wine Merchants

Jesse Otero Art Talk

4:00pm|i.e. gallery

Splinter Ideas, Halibut on the Moon

4:00pm|Village Books

Artist Workshop

6:00pm|Bellingham Public Library

Skagit Valley College Drag Show

7:00pm|Lincoln Theatre

Problem Child and Ten Miles Wide

8:00pm|Mount Baker Theatre

Blue collar comedy in Edison


Salsa Night

9:00pm|Cafe Rumba

Trove Web
Skagit Valley Tulip Festival

10:00am|Skagit Valley

Essence of Bellingham Photo Competition

10:00am|Whatcom County

Tulip Festival Street Fair

10:00am|Downtown Mount Vernon

Bellingham Beer Week

12:00pm|Throughout Bellingham

Plant Sale and Easter Events

10:00am|BelleWood Acres

Sedro-Woolley Community Breakfast

8:00am|American Legion Post #43

Rabbit Ride

8:30am|Fairhaven Bicycle

Wild Things

9:30am|Stimpson Family Nature Reserve

Egg Hunt and Easter Brunch

10:00am|Boundary Bay Brewery

Bellingham Handmade Market

11:00am|Goods Nursery and Produce

Langar in Lynden

11:00am| Guru Nanak Gursikh Gurdwara

Barkley Village Egg Hunts

11:00am|Barkley Village

Easter Brunch

11:00am|Ciao Thyme Commons

Nina Gerber and Chris Webster

2:00pm|Nancy's Farm

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Skagit Valley Tulip Festival

10:00am|Skagit Valley

Essence of Bellingham Photo Competition

10:00am|Whatcom County

Bellingham Beer Week

12:00pm|Throughout Bellingham

Wild Things

9:30am|Stimpson Family Nature Reserve

Earth Day Sustainable Food Fair

11:00am|Viking Union 565

Plant Diagnostic Clinics

4:30pm|Bellingham Public Library

Before the Flood

5:30pm|Pickford Film Center

Women's Backpacking Round Table Discussion


Swing Dancing Classes

6:00pm|Presence Studio

Healthy Desserts

6:30pm|Community Food Co-op

Student Poetry & Art Showcase

6:30pm|Burlington Public Library


7:00pm|Alternative Library

Salish Sea Early Music Festival

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

Wild & Scenic Film Festival

7:00pm|Mount Baker Theatre


9:00pm|Firefly Lounge

see our complete calendar »

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