Midday Scan: Everett's pulpy heartache; Larsen's Twitter debacle; Liquor takes a legal hit

The fight behind Everett's Kimberly-Clark shuttering; Larsen's boozing, irreverent aides get the boot; legal challenges to Washington's new liquor initiative. 

Crosscut archive image.

Polls show Democratic Congressman Rick Larsen now leading Republican challenger John Koster

The fight behind Everett's Kimberly-Clark shuttering; Larsen's boozing, irreverent aides get the boot; legal challenges to Washington's new liquor initiative. 

Everett, the Northwest's working-class redoubt celebrated in Norman H. Clark's social history, Mill Town, is losing part of its soul.

"The last big smokestack in the City of Smokestacks will be idled soon after talks to sell the Kimberly-Clark Corp. paper plant failed over environmental issues," The Herald's Mike Benbow and Kurt Batdorf write. "Most of the 700 or so employees will soon be out of a job after negotiations with Atlas Holdings Inc. broke down, officials announced Thursday."  

The stickler revolved around the clean-up associated with Everett's East Waterway. "The waterway is part of the governor’s Puget Sound Initiative to clean up pollutants. Scientists are studying the area’s pollution and who should be responsible to clean it up. The waterway has been identified to have dioxin, a cancer-causing toxin produced in chlorine-based pulp making," Benbow and Batdorf write.

The Kimberly-Clark narrative (and before that Scott and before that Soundview and before that Puget Sound Pulp and Timber) is more complicated and rich than it first seems. Everett is a town elevated and bound together by working people, with Kimberly-Clark the last, best mill on a waterfront once hemmed by mills. So the shuttering signifies something more, a watershed that only heightens the sense of anxiety. 

The Herald's editorial board nevertheless strikes a hopeful note, "Many of the hundreds of employees affected by Thursday's announcement that the plant will close early next year are skilled manufacturing workers. Those skills are very much in demand locally, said Sue Ambler, president and CEO of the Workforce Development Council Snohomish County."   

On Thursday, Kimberly-Clark's member of Congress, Rep. Rick Larsen, was more focused on tweets than pulp (although the tweets in question sound a bit pulpy). The Seattle Times' Kyung M. Song writes (in a pitch-perfect sentence Daily Scan's author wish he had scribbled): "Note to self: Don't drink on the job, don't swap insults about the 'idiot boss' (aka the congressman) and, oh, don't tweet about it."

As Song reports, three aides to Rep. Larsen were promptly canned yesterday for broadcasting in-office debauchery. (They seemed to be under the illusion that they were editors at Crosscut, not Congressional staff.) "Larsen, a Democrat from Lake Stevens, fired the three staffers Thursday, just an hour after being alerted to a stream of indiscreet tweets dating back to July. The Twitter feeds were filled with comments about watching Nirvana videos on taxpayers' dime, swigging 'Jack' behind desks, and other depictions of congressional staffers behaving badly," Song writes. 

The upside to the Larsen-twitter imbroglio? Thanks to I-1183, vanquished staff members will now be able to purchase their Jack at Costco. Or not. On Tuesday, the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 21 and the Joint Council of Teamsters 28 filed suit in King County Superior Court to put the kibosh on the liquor-privatization Initiative.

Now, as the Olympian's Brad Shannon reports, a second lawsuit has been filed. "It was filed on behalf of: Longview resident Jeff Grumbois, who leases commercial space to the Washington State Liquor Control Board for a store that will close up shop in May; a second businessman who runs two Red Apple groceries; and the Washington Association of Substance Abuse and Violence Prevention," Shannon writes. "The lawsuit follows the same legal arguments as a similar complaint filed Tuesday by two unions that represent most of the 1,000 state employees who will lose jobs next year when the Costco-backed measure takes full effect. Costco put a record $22.5 million into the I-1183 campaign."  

In both lawsuits the legal reasoning is the same: The state constitution does not allow two subjects to be covered in a single piece of legislation. It sounds narrow and picayune, but who knows if it has legs?     

Charles Royer and Kevin Daniels offer a cogent defense of the $490,000 Viaduct-replacement museum. "Empty storefronts don't help neighborhoods. Neither do dust, noise, traffic congestion, lost parking, or any of the other inconveniences associated with major construction, Royer and Daniels write in this morning's Seattle Times. "The Pioneer Square neighborhood — registered as both a national and local historic district — will be exposed to plenty of construction-related nuisances over the next several years as crews replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct."  

The crux of their argument, price tag notwithstanding, is to ensure that the deep-bore-tunnel project is consonant with federal law. "Milepost 31's development was not an act of whimsy by the Washington State Department of Transportation. It was a fulfillment of the state's federally required obligation. Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act requires agencies to take into account the effects of their projects on historic properties, such as those in the Pioneer Square Historic District. To comply with Section 106, the state was required to enter into negotiations with Pioneer Square advocates and preservation organizations, and agree on ways to offset the impacts of construction in the neighborhood." 

Lastly, as energy production once again becomes a wedge issue in the West, ProPublica's article on the effects of "fracking" is especially timely. "In a first, federal environment officials today scientifically linked underground water pollution with hydraulic fracturing, concluding that contaminants found in central Wyoming were likely caused by the gas drilling process," ProPublica reports. Polluted drinking water in exchange for energy independence? Let the emotive debate begin.   

Link Summary

The Herald, "Kimberly-Clark's Everett mill to close after talks fail"

Seattle Times "Rep. Larsen fires 3 aides for indiscreet tweets"

The Olympian, "2nd lawsuit filed vs. Costco's liquor plan"

Seattle Times, "Viaduct replacement museum fulfills state's obligation to protect Pioneer Square"

ProPublica, "Feds link Water Contamination to Fracking for the first time"


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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