Midday Scan: Friday's top stories around the region

Joel Connelly gets real with Occupy Seattle; a revenue breakdown of expenses and revenue for Washington's public universities; SHARE/WHEEL occupies . . . the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation?; an Alaskan politician gets nailed in oil bribery case; and an ode to foraging in West Seattle's Schmitz Park.

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Occupy Wall Street protesters during a demonstration

Joel Connelly gets real with Occupy Seattle; a revenue breakdown of expenses and revenue for Washington's public universities; SHARE/WHEEL occupies . . . the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation?; an Alaskan politician gets nailed in oil bribery case; and an ode to foraging in West Seattle's Schmitz Park.

The laws of physics (think inertia and entropy) also apply to political movements. For Occupy Seattle, the permanence of a City Hall encampment will likely translate into impermanent power. The Seattlepi.com's Joel Connelly writes in his column this morning, "What now? Stay put — in lower Manhattan or Westlake Park  — and the movement will wither. Left celebrities will cease making cameo appearances: Paying gigs beckon. Labor unions will stand in solidarity, but then go back to the trench warfare of defending family wage jobs."   

Connelly advances a mature, do-your-homework approach that will be inimical to (half? eighty percent?) of protesters: "Immerse yourself in a cause and show that you won't go away." Given the high stakes, it's crucial to separate the wheat from the indolent. Connelly's best advice: "Our state legislators meet for a special session late in November. They cut muscle and bone out of higher education last spring, raising the tuition charged at four-year public colleges to five figures. The options later this year: Dismantle more of state government, giving teachers walking papers and letting convicts walk from our prisons, or close corporate tax loopholes." Is "Occupy Olympia" next? 

Olympia agitators will need to steep themselves in data, and the Everett Herald's Jerry Cornfield obliges with a series of interactive charts documenting the revenues, expenses, and tuition breakdown for Washington's public universities. "Public four-year colleges are big and growing enterprises, even though their best-known investors — state taxpayers — are contributing less as state revenue shrinks," Cornfield writes. "Fiscal growth on campus is due in part to more students paying higher tuition and talented faculty members snaring more research dollars. These data give a sense of the schools' comparative wealth."

Yes, the University of Washington is a behemoth. As Cornfield notes, however, the UW's relative size flows directly from its medical center. Hopefully, activists can make a compelling case for not defunding higher education without brandishing the pie chart. UW bashers have a difficult time focusing, and anything involving "pie" will only make them hungry. 

Protesting, and camping out in particular, is not a prudent strategy for leveraging foundation funding. Usually a potential grantee begins by meeting with a program officer, reviewing mission alignment, and then brainstorming ways for measuring outcomes. The alternative is to just say 'the hell with it,' and decamp 'Occupy Seattle'-style in front of a foundation building. The is what homeless advocates from SHARE/WHEEL are doing, bivouacked in front of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

As KPLU's Tom Paulson reports, "SHARE/WHEEL has a history of shaky funding — and of dramatic protests. In 2007, 10 homeless people from the advocacy community were arrested after locking themselves in a low-income housing project slated to be torn down." Activists also appear to misunderstand the difference between a corporate foundation and a family one. As Paulson writes, "The Gates Foundation is the world’s largest philanthropy and is primarily focused on helping those living in extreme poverty overseas. But they do spend a significant amount of money on local and regional problems as well, including projects aimed at ending homelessness such as the Sound Families Initiative."

It's essential to acknowledge that Crosscut is a recipient of a Gates Foundation grant. If SHARE/WHEEL succeeds with its guerrilla tactics, Midday Scan will be ordered to live in a tent outside the Gates Foundation, which Midday Scan is too wimpy to manage.  

There is an informal and slightly patronizing rule that San Francisco is twenty years ahead of Seattle and that Seattle is a decade or so ahead of Portland. If that's even slightly true — and it also extends to the political culture — where does Anchorage fall? For example, in this morning's Anchorage Daily News, Richard Mauer reports that Former House Speaker Pete Kott plans to plead guilty to a federal charge of bribery. For older political watchers, it sounds like deja vu. In 1980, Washington House Speaker John Bagnariol and Senate Majority Leader Gordon Walgren were named in a federal racketeering indictment. The charges revolved around an undercover FBI sting that proposed to green light gambling in Washington in return for a share of the profits (a conspiracy known by its shorthand, "Gamscam").

In Alaska, the focus is oil, not gambling. "The charges relate to Kott's relationship with the defunct oil-field service company Veco and two of its executives, Bill Allen and Rick Smith," Mauer writes. "In 2006, Allen and Smith sought legislation that would lower oil taxes in hopes that the industry would construct a gas pipeline  and send billions of dollars in contracts to Veco. The Veco officials had no idea during that legislative session that their conspiracies to bribe legislators — and some of the actual payments — were being secretly recorded by a hidden camera in their Juneau hotel suite and by FBI wiretaps on their phones." The Gamscam analogy is tenuous. Gambling isn't oil and vice versa. The commonality instead is human nature, political ego, and greed.  

Finally, Emma Marris of High Country News offers a good read on Schmitz Park in West Seattle and the illusion of undisturbed wilderness. Schmitz Park, Marris writes, is "A good place to let yourself mourn a little for the Eden that never was, for the early childhood you remember only hazily through photographs. A good place to feed the kid some berries. Other people may be too scared to eat them, or too respectful to touch them, but I have given up worshiping wilderness in favor of tasting it."  

Link summary

Seattlepi.com, "A message to occupy Seattle: stay put and movement will wither" 

Everett Herald, "The big money of Washington's public universities"

KPLU, "Homeless campout at Gates Foundation, want cash"

Anchorage Daily News, "Kott to plead guilty to one count of bribery"

High Country News, "The mirage of pristine wilderness"


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About the Authors & Contributors

Peter Jackson

Peter Jackson

Peter Jackson is the former editorial-page editor of the Everett Herald. Follow him on Twitter @phardinjackson