Midday Scan: Monday's top stories around the region

Do Westlakers protest too much? Oregon's new growth industry, communications specialists; what's killing killer whales in Alaska? Initiative 1163 stirs up the budget wars in Olympia; and a Snohomish politician pens a good local novel.

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A slumber-party sit-in prepares to meet the law.

Do Westlakers protest too much? Oregon's new growth industry, communications specialists; what's killing killer whales in Alaska? Initiative 1163 stirs up the budget wars in Olympia; and a Snohomish politician pens a good local novel.

Might there be a there there to Occupy Seattle? Westlake protesters swelled to 3,000 over the weekend, creating a sea of Northwesterners who looked as if they were pulled from a 1930s Diego Rivera mural. Perhaps the we-ain't-gonna-take-it political groundswell has evolved into a cultural movement (even Amanda Knox soaked in the Westlake crowd, the Seattlepi.com reports). As Emily Heffter and Brian Rosenthal of the Seattle Times write, "Some called themselves anarchists. Others, socialists. Some carried all their belongings on their backs. Others carried babies on their fronts. Protesters came from labor movements, teachers unions and religious groups. They were there to protest war, or Middle East policy, or to fight for the right of protesters to camp in Westlake Park."

The scene, played out in Seattle, New York, and throughout the world, was juxtaposed with Sunday's dedication of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington, DC. and newsreel clips of civil rights protesters in Birmingham (read: African-American teens hammered by water cannons). The contrast is instructive: Is there sufficient coherence with Occupy Westlake to give the movement moral clarity and political muscle? As Heffter and Rosenthal note, "The first Occupy Seattle protesters arrived at Westlake Park two weeks ago with a whiteboard, a megaphone, and a distaste for corporations. Their movement has since grown by thousands to include seemingly anyone who has ever protested anything in Seattle." 

If Occupy Seattle and Occupy Portland long for an effective communications strategy, they should look no further than the state government of Oregon which has been hiring "communicators" by the ferry load despite a cratering economy. As the Oregonian's Michelle Cole and Ryan Kost write, "Oregon is cutting programs that serve poor families, threatening to close highway rest stops, and laying off teachers, yet state government spent millions of dollars last year on public relations, advertising, outreach, and marketing campaigns." Public affairs specialists have grown a staggering 32 percent since 2006 (and most earn an average of $60,000 a year). Cole and Kost note, "The state may well have a responsibility to tell people about bridge closures or what to do to avoid a flu pandemic. But state communication goes beyond information, sometimes deliberately spinning the message to promote state policy. State agencies carefully calibrate their messages through polling, outside communications consultants, and multimillion-dollar media campaigns."  

Sad news from Alaska as NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service confirmed the death of a third orca in the Nushagak River. As the Anchorage Daily News reports, "Necropsies last week on the other two whales provided no obvious reasons for why they died." Biologists were perplexed, unsure why orcas would venture so far into freshwater. A previous Anchorage Daily News article quoted whale expert Craig Matkin that " whales of this type — so-called transient killer whales, which feed on other marine mammals as opposed to fish — are likely suffering from starvation. Matkin said he's not sure what they could be feeding on that far up the river." One politically correct question: When did "killer whale" come back into common usage?

Andrew Garber of the Seattle Times offers an excellent capsule on Initiative 1163, the effort to boost training and ensure background checks for Washington's long-term-care workers. "The state already requires criminal-background checks, as well as 34 hours of training for most new long-term-care workers." Garber writes. "I-1163 would boost the requirement to 75 hours and include more rigorous background checks. Training would include safety and the fundamentals of care." All the while, what seems like a no-brainer (who could be opposed to higher-quality care?) has been reduced to a revenue question: How will it square with an attenuated state budget? "The Governor's Office projects that, if I-1163 is approved, state costs will increase an additional $32 million over the next two years for background checks, training and certification. That's expected to be partially offset by roughly $14 million in federal matching dollars and new state fees," Garber reports. Maybe if the state pink slips more "communicators" it will all pencil out. 

Lastly, creative writers such as Al Franken have gravitated to political life, but what of former elected officials who gravitate to creative writing? (Jimmy Carter's A Hornet's Nest: A Novel of the Revolutionary War, for example, was a hornet without a stinger.) In the case of former Snohomish County Councilmember Ross Kane, the transition was easy (thankfully Kane was a talented writer before getting elected). In a Sunday, Everett Herald profile, columnist Julie Muhlstein highlights Kane's first novel, And Wasn't It Grand, a story of a fisherman-turned-bootlegger that is set in Everett and Victoria. Midday Scan just began reading it, and believes it lives up to its title (and that's not simply because of Kane's heroic Norwegian-Lutheran characters).    

Link summary

Seattle Times, "Protest swells at Westlake Park on Saturday"

Oregonian, "Whatever Oregon's trying to communicate, it's costing you millions"

Anchorage Daily News, "Third killer whale found dead near Dillingham" 

Seattle Times, "Caregiver initiative's hurdle: state's budget hole" 

Everett Herald, "Retired official sets novel in Prohibition-era Everett"


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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