Midday Scan: Tuesday's top stories around the region

Your signature to legalize gay marriage is now public; friends and family remember the humility of Al Rosselini; the West trumps the rest in terms of activist turnout; the final verdict comes down on Alaska's pebble coal mine; and one kayaker goes toe to toe with a blue whale.

Crosscut archive image.

A blue whale off the gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary.

Your signature to legalize gay marriage is now public; friends and family remember the humility of Al Rosselini; the West trumps the rest in terms of activist turnout; the final verdict comes down on Alaska's pebble coal mine; and one kayaker goes toe to toe with a blue whale.

Generations from now, over-caffeinated University of Washington law students will replay U.S. District Judge Benjamin Settle's seminal ruling in Doe v. Reed like a scene from The Paper Chase. Professor Kingsfield: "Mr. Hart, why exactly is that long-ago ruling so critical?" Mr. Hart: "Because it upheld the principles of transparency and disclosure enshrined in the state's Public Records Act and . . . may I look at my notes, sir?"

As Lornet Turnbull of the Seattle Times reports, after Judge Settle's Monday ruling, Secretary of State Sam Reed's office "began making public the names of 137,500 people who signed Referendum 71 petitions two years ago to bring a domestic-partnership law to a public vote." In brief, initiative-petition signatures are public information. Now, in theory at least, the light of disclosure will be permanently affixed to Washington's sometimes-inscrutable initiative and referendum process.

As Turnbull explains, "In a strongly worded, 34-page ruling, Settle said every citizen should be concerned that advocating for traditional marriage, as Protect Marriage does, engenders such hostility in this state. Yet, if Protect Marriage could get around the Public Records Act 'by simply providing a few isolated incidents of profane or indecent statements, gestures, or other examples of uncomfortable conversations, . . . disclosure would become the exception instead of the rule."

Echoing the Ninth Circuit, Anne Levinson has argued persuasively that the legislature wouldn't have passed a law telling citizens to use petition-checking to challenge ballot certification and then prohibited the release of the petitions. Isn't that correct, Professor Kingsfield?  

A distinguished 1933(!) graduate of the UW Law School, former Governor Al Rosellini, was eulogized at St. James Cathedral as a statesman who "championed those who had no champion." As the Seattlepi.com's Chris Grygiel writes, "He counted presidents as confidantes and helped shape Washington state in the boom times following World War II, but former Gov. Albert Rosellini was also the type of man who never forgot his humble beginnings, pausing to chat with janitors on his way to inaugural balls and remembering people he met from all walks of life during his long career, family and colleagues recalled during a memorial service on Monday." If only humility and character could be taught. 

As Governor Rosellini and his immigrant parents knew, the West is the best. Writer Wallace Stegner described the American West as "the geography of hope." And in this morning's New York Times, readers learn that the left coast and surrounding states are also "the geography of Occupying Wall Street." Nate Silver noodles the demographics and determines, "Over all, about 38,000 protesters — more than half of the documented total — turned out in the Western Census Bureau Region, which accounts for about 23 percent of the country’s population. On a per-capita basis, the West drew about two-and-a-half times more protesters than the Northeast, four times more than the Midwest, and five times more than the South. And it wasn’t necessarily in large cities — although places like Los Angeles and Seattle had large crowds, so did the wine-and-cheese town of Santa Rosa, Calif., and the college town of Eugene, Ore., among others."  

Silver draws a few conclusions, some of which shouldn't go unchallenged. He is an inspired writer, although his perspective is informed by his own geography (think of Saul Steinberg's famous New Yorker cover "View of the World from 9th Avenue"). Silver argues that race and the number of tech-savvy types explain some of the per-capita differences. Ultimately, Silver writes, "I suspect that more than anything, however, it reflects the politics of the protesters. Specifically, they tend to be more liberal than they are Democratic partisans. Take liberalism, subtract the Democratic Party, and the remainder might look something like Occupy Wall Street." Why not substitute "civically engaged" for "liberal?"   

Here's one nail-biter of an election: The Anchorage Daily News' Sean Cockerham reports the outcome of the special election whether or not to move forward with Alaska's huge Pebble mine project. In a word, not (by a margin of 34 votes). "The count follows a contentious election with heated disputes over the hugely controversial mine and what it would mean for the Bristol Bay region," Cockerham writes. "The initiative changes borough law to forbid the granting of permits for any big mine that would have a 'significant adverse impact on salmon streams.'"  

The Pebble case will (surprise!) be adjudicated, with the Governor and mine supporters arguing that the Alaska Constitution gives the legislature development authority. Nevertheless, Monday's returns represents a political victory for one outspoken mine opponent: Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell, who said that the Pebble project would imperil a key fishery. Cockerham concludes, "Pebble advocates say mining and healthy fisheries can co-exist in the Bristol Bay area and that the project would bring much needed jobs to the region. Opponents say the mine could destroy the lucrative salmon runs the area has relied on for generations."  

Finally, in elementary school all of us learned that the blue whale wasn't simply big, it was the largest animal ever. It sounds inconceivable, especially to children. At last, the blue whale's scale and majesty is captured in what must be one of the most compelling kayaker videos of all time. From the Los Angeles Times, here is the kayaker-blue-whale encounter (shot off Redondo Beach, no less).             

Link summary

Seattle Times, "Ruling brings release of Ref. 71 signers' names"

Seattlepi.com, "Rosselini memorial: we'll miss you, friend'"

New York Times, "The geography of Occupying Wall Street (and everyplace else)"

Anchorage Daily News, "Anti-Pebble initiative approved by 34 votes" 

Los Angeles Times, "Kayaker has close encounter with blue whale near Redondo Beach"


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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