The Gristle


Wednesday, March 25, 2020

SIDESHOW: Continuing his fatuous and frightening campaign to be Washington’s governor, carnival barker Tim Eyman brought his sideshow to Bellingham this week to mock and tip over legislative adjustments to an emergency service ordinance that has been on the books since 1977. The current code allows City Council to meet every 48 hours to determine the effectiveness of city actions in an emergency. The proposed changes reduce that time to 24 hours in response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

“No new authority or power is being added to city government, and no new authority or power is being executed by this ordinance,” City Attorney Peter Ruffato explained. “This ordinance is intended to align emergency functions with the City Charter and with modern emergency response.”

Whatever the particulars and peculiars of the city’s 1977 emergency powers code, Council’s action this week was intended to be responsive to the current fast-moving pandemic that endangers people gathering together in large groups. Eyman’s response? Try to whip up an angry mob and send them in droves to Bellingham City Hall.

He did not succeed. A smattering of gun-rights misanthropes arrived, and after an emotional delay the meeting concluded.

The 1977 law establishes limits on the brandishing of firearms, among other restrictions—and frankly the controversy speaks more to the sad decay of the conservative mind than of any restrictions contemplated by city government. Serious-minded Republicans like Gerald Ford and Dan Evans and Ralph Munro still had influence on rightwing thought, and the National Rifle Association was content to support hunters, firearms safety and responsible gun ownership. It was an era when the idea of armed vigilantes combing the streets in a moment of panic or emergency raised thoughts of concern, not giddy cries of patriotism.

Eyman delivered a screed about “God-given” rights, declaring “there is absolutely no justification for these blatantly unconstitutional provisions.”

Perhaps, and perhaps at a more circumspect moment the matter should be revisited; but city government in the midst of a pandemic crisis surely has more important matters to attend to than tedious, controversial revisions to code that has lurked on the books, unenforced, for 43 years. Eyman’s complaint is with AD 1977, not anything relevant or unfolding in the modern day.

The 1977 ordinance was in fact drafted prior to any Supreme Court declaration of the unbridled primacy of gun rights in the United States; and it is obviously—like all laws in the United States—constrained by more recent findings by the Court.

Eyman pulled an earlier stunt against the advice of Island County health officials, encouraging supporters to “stick a finger in the eye of Jay Inslee” and gather in large groups in political rallies in Coupeville and Oak Harbor—against the governor’s caution to avoid such gatherings.

“I’m bringing a six-pack of Corona!” cried this applicant to protect the health and welfare of the citizens of Washington.

In perhaps the saddest commentary on the wretched state of conservative thought in the United States, this office chair thief and serial campaign finance scofflaw leads the field of Republicans seeking residence in the governor’s mansion. Given our terrible and turbulent times, he may succeed.

PREPARING FOR THE END: With great uncertainty and difficulty, Cascadia Weekly and other newspaper publications in the region got their physical products on the street this week. It was uncertain if the governor’s order to close nonessential businesses might at any moment extend to the printing industry, and to our delivery network. Already, the number of locations where we can distribute our publication has been cut by two-thirds.

The business model newspapers operate under has been fading for some time in the competition of the digital marketplace, and the very legitimate public heath response to the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, may have broken it entirely. Advertising has melted away, distribution points have vanished.

Across the country, papers are announcing salary cuts, layoffs or anything they can imagine to keep the lights on.

As Editor & Publisher magazine recently noted, “Local newsrooms have been struggling for years to secure new revenue streams as Google and Facebook gobbled up much-needed ad dollars. The last thing they needed was a pandemic. The bitter irony of it is that the hit to revenue and jobs is coming at a time when readers urgently need these papers for reliable information about coronavirus in their own communities.”

Cascadia Weekly has published in its current form for 15 years. Our financial backers have generously supported us over the years, as have our advertisers and readers. We’ve grown with the community, and are one of the largest circulating newspapers in the three-county region. We’re proud of our place. But our financial backers are in a difficult reorganization in the midst of COVID-19 impacts, and it is uncertain at this moment what may emerge on the other side of that reorganization—likely a hiatus, a halt to a street presence, and perhaps more.

I have been in the news reporting and newspaper publishing business for more than 25 years, and this is the best job I’ve ever had. It has been an honor and a pleasure to serve the community, and produce a product readers enjoy. I can’t say for certain what the future holds, but I certainly can say that.

Be well.

—Tim Johnson, Editor and Publisher, Cascadia Weekly

Past Columns
Napoleons In Exile

May 27, 2020

Alcoa Unmade

April 29, 2020

Protecting the Vulnerable

March 18, 2020

An Evolving Crisis

March 18, 2020

Pandemic Pandemonium

March 11, 2020

A New Hope

March 4, 2020

Managing Expectations

February 26, 2020

A Mad Triad

February 19, 2020

Another Jail Fail?

February 12, 2020

Wacko Whatcom

February 5, 2020

Shelter From the Storm

January 29, 2020


January 22, 2020

‘I Have A Dream’

January 15, 2020

Olympia Olympics

January 8, 2020

What Dreams May Come

January 1, 2020


December 25, 2019

Missing Middle

December 18, 2019