Midday Scan: Monday's top stories around the region

Killing higher education and the economic future of Washington state; heavy regulation; money flow is unequal in Snohomish County race; there goes another dam; and President Obama's forgetfulness in Seattle.

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Shoreline Community College's campus in fall.

Killing higher education and the economic future of Washington state; heavy regulation; money flow is unequal in Snohomish County race; there goes another dam; and President Obama's forgetfulness in Seattle.

If K-12 education is the state's paramount duty, where does higher education register on the legislative-priority scale? As the Seattle Times writes, "Since 2008, state support for community and technical colleges has been reduced by 22 percent and state funding for universities shrunk by nearly 50 percent." Lawmakers seem to confuse "paramount" and its antonym, "least." 

As part of its "Just Fix it" editorial series, the Times throws down the mortar board (or what's left of the mortar board): "The erosion cannot continue. This state's economic recovery depends on education investments that produce more degrees and workplace skills. Our educational institutions are being forced to cut into those efforts. Community colleges currently are producing only half the number of workers needed by Boeing." In conjuring fix-it solutions, however, the Times sidesteps the "t" word and instead concentrates on conventional targets such as excessive regulation and contracting. It's a constructive conversation starter with serious homework still to do.

Concerning possibly excessive regulations: Serving a comic alcohol violates state liquor laws (take my beer — please). As the The News Tribune's Peter Callaghan writes, certain picayune liquor rules either illustrate an outdated regulatory structure or a system with enough latitude to adapt quickly. "The owners of Atomic Bowl asked the liquor board to reconsider the rule. After meeting with folks from the entertainment industry, board staff members suggested a change," Callaghan notes. 

Callaghan's example is propitious given I-1183, the latest campaign to de-regulate alcohol sales. One takeaway is to view this as a profile in red-tape. However, how quickly would rules have changed to align with common sense absent the exisiting regulatory structure? For a useful primer on the legacy of the blue laws, tune in to Ken Burns's and Lyn Novick's three-part PBS documentary Prohibition. (Part One was classic Burns: original and slightly preachy).

Snohomish County is breathing life into the "Jesse Unruh rule." Big Daddy Unruh, the late California state treasurer, is best known for his 1966 maxim, "Money is the mother's milk of politics." In the race for Snohomish County Executive, Republican Rep. Mike Hope is scrambling to up his lactose."Hope knows he needs a fill-up," writes the Herald's Jerry Cornfield. "He's got $28,000 to spend compared to Reardon's nearly $160,000 with five weeks left in the campaign."     

The curious aspect of Hope's dilemma is that he is a genuine contender, having barely lost to Reardon in the August primary. Nevertheless, his campaign coffers will soon be exhausted. "Hope said he asked caucus leaders for help to no avail. Part of the reason is a contest for an open House seat in southwest Washington is a higher priority for them. And some individual members simply don't have any money to spare in this economy," Cornfield reports. A final Cornfield observation: Reardon clearly benefits from a pro-business, mostly bipartisan record. 

Lynda Mapes at the Seattle Times delivers an excellent capsule on the latest dam-removal project, the aging Condit on the White Salmon River. "First Elwha and Glines Canyon, now Condit: the Northwest is a dam-busting epicenter, as three of the largest dams ever taken out in the U.S. tumble here," Mapes writes. It's a powerful, if counter-intuitive narrative: Shouldn't massive public works projects involve building something? (Midday Scan is having a tough time absorbing this storyline while also reading Michael Hiltzik's The New Deal). The mission of dam breaching is qualitatively different, Mapes observes, and centers on salmon restoration: "Once the dam is breached at river mile 3.3 from its confluence with the Columbia, it will open main-stem and tributary habitats, including about 33 miles of new habitat for steelhead, 21 miles for coho, 13 miles for spring chinook and 8 miles for fall chinook."  

Lastly, the New York Times provides a hilarious take on President Obama's $35,800-a-couple fundraisers, including one here in the Northwest. Helene Cooper writes, "Sometimes you get Forgetful Obama, who showed up at a fund-raiser in Seattle on Sept. 25 at the home of Jon A. Shirley, a former Microsoft executive. Just because Mr. Shirley hosted the lavish event to raise campaign funds did not mean the president remembered his name. “What a spectacular setting,” Mr. Obama said. “I was saying to Mark that I wish I had time to just roam around, because this is as beautiful a collection as I’ve ever seen. And I want to thank you, Mark, for the extraordinary ...” Alas, the Shirleys were not offered a refund.   

Link summary

Seattle Times"Higher education: Budget should not be balanced on the backs of state's colleges and university students"  

The News Tribune (Tacoma), " 'I'll drink to that,' not a legal punchline"

Everett Herald, "Reardon's cash lead has Hope frustrated by lukeworm GOP help"

Seattle Times, "Condit dam next to tumble in restoration plan"

New York Times, "For $35,800, Obama is the only constant"


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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