Midday Scan: A new UW model; 2011's worst political gaffes; still no cheap liquor

A new model for the University of Washington; Joel Connelly takes aim at our most error-ridden politicians; Will cheap liquor ever arrive?

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The UW Tower, nee Safeco Tower, cuts the most appalling figure in the entire Seattle skyline, and the two plazas at its base complement the architecture: cold, indifferent, inhumanely scaled. The herringbone brick pavement, nice in detail, reads as a tedious plain when spread over such an expanse. The crushing bulk of the monster overhead is inescapable; its physical weight becomes emotional. In tacit acknowledgment of the plazas’ unattractiveness, UW has planted exactly one lonely bench for seating.

A new model for the University of Washington; Joel Connelly takes aim at our most error-ridden politicians; Will cheap liquor ever arrive?

Will Washington's new 10th Congressional district resemble a harp seal in the fetal position? Will the urban 7th and the 1st (Jay Inslee's hotly contested seat) outline a crustacean? (more like a lobster than a Japanese spider crab?) Political geographers could moonlight as wildlife illustrators, and voters will finally be able to judge their, er, artistry. "The likely location of Washington’s new 10th Congressional District ceases to be a mystery Wednesday morning," the Olympian's Brad Shannon writes. 

The new 10th (harp seal or crab) could go a couple of ways. "Democratic commissioner Tim Ceis of Seattle and Republican commissioner Slade Gorton of King County reached their tentative deal on the congressional maps Tuesday. But both were refusing to say whether the new 10th lands in Olympia or ends up in south King County to create the state’s first district with a majority of racial and ethnic minorities," Shannon writes. The majority-minority district is a compelling brainstorm orginally floated by the redistricting commission's Republican members (a proposal that could hurt the prospects of Olympia's Denny Heck.) In the 1st, a half-dozen announced candidates may need to remember their great-great aunt who owns a condo in the newly drawn district. Make no mistake: That's where their heart always was.   

Legislative-district boundaries are still a question mark. "Commissioners Huff and Foster are still working on the other half of the commission’s work — a 49-district legislative plan. Unlike Ceis and Gorton, Foster said he was not ready to promise maps for public review today," Shannon writes.

Washington is not the only state de-funding higher education. The salient difference, however, is other states are sounding the alarm and fretting a wee more. "Across the nation, a historic collapse in state funding for higher education threatens to diminish the stature of premier public universities and erode their mission as engines of upward social mobility," the Washington Post's Daniel de Vise writes. 

The Post's analysis, focusing on Berkeley and other "public Ivies," illuminates the challenges facing the University of Washington: When do you push back and when do you embrace a new paradigm? "Supporters of public higher education fear that, should the cuts continue, Berkeley will lose some of its ability to compete with elite private universities and serve the public as a vehicle of opportunity," de Vise writes. "In a bold play to regain public confidence, Berkeley leaders on Dec. 14 announced an unprecedented offer of need-based aid to families earning up to $140,000. The Middle Class Access Plan caps each family’s parent contribution at 15 percent of household earnings, a pledge that rivals those of Harvard and Yale."

Washington isn't Berkeley, but the lessons nevertheless resonate. Would a new funding model at the UW diminish its overarching mission? "Berkeley became the jewel of a higher-education system that rewarded merit above wealth, access before privilege. This wasn’t mere public education but something more ambitious," de Vise writes. So, too, with Washington.   

Higher-ed decisions fall on the political class and, as the Seattlepi.com's Joel Connelly writes, politicians have a tendency to fall on themselves. Connelly dings a range of ding-able characters, including newly-elected Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler for concealing public appearances because "The wrong type of people will show up."

Costco also makes the list, for spending "more than $20 million to grease passage of an initiative taking Washington State out of the liquor distribution business, and presumably putting Costco into the liquor distribution business." As does ex-Rep. Anthony Weiner (you know why).

President Obama loses points for elitism. "Most insular visitor: President Obama came calling in September for two fundraisers, one a big-ticket $35,800-a-couple brunch in Medina. Unlike his predecessors, Obama held no public events, addressed no regional issues and answered questions only from paying guests," Connelly writes. If this time next year Connelly singles out members of the redistricting commission, Washington really will be in trouble. 

Have you strayed from the political fold but now seek meaningful answers?  The News Tribune's Peter Callaghan offers his version of a secular catechism for lay people searching for political sustenance. Here's an illustrative passage:

"Question: We passed Initiative 1183 to privatize liquor sales. When are we going to get that cheap booze those firefighters promised us?

Answer: That’s a complicated issue, making it ideal for 30-second television ads. First, the private sale of liquor in Washington state won’t kick in until June, which ought to make next Fourth of July especially explosive. Second, it might not even be cheaper unless you buy your booze in five-gallon buckets at Costco. That’s because the taxes and markups in the new private system are similar to what exists now."

Proof that inspired humor is the way, the truth and the life (at least in the City of Man.)  

Lastly, the Seattlepi.com highlights the ordeal of former PI columnist Dorothy Parvaz. "Parvaz was sent to Syria last May to report for Al-Jazeera English on mass uprisings against the Assad dictatorship, in which the regime has killed thousands and lately sent tanks against the city of Homs," the Seattlepi.com reports. "She was kept three days in a Syrian detention center, sharing cells with a young woman in designer stilettos, and a teenage girl who had not been allowed to contact her parents.  She was subjected to verbally abusive interviews and listened as male inmates were tortured at the detention center." A harrowing experience that Parvaz is still trying to absorb.  

Link Summary

The Olympian, "Commissioners to unveil congressional redistricting maps"

Washington Post, "UC-Berkeley and other 'public Ivies' in fiscal peril"

Seattlepi.com, "Joel Connelly: Lies, pratfalls, and predictions"

The News Tribune, "Booze taxes, and the new symbols of Christmas"

Seattlepi.com, "Ex-PI journalist will never forget screams of torture in Syrian prison"


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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