Midday Scan: Seattle's weather superhero, Gregoire names 1 percenters UW Regents, The GOP initiative myth debunked

Cliff Mass burrows even further into the hearts and minds of weather-addled Washingtonians; Gregoire picks Boeing and Alaska Airlines execs to turn around the UW; The real reason Washington's GOP has been so trigger-happy on the initiative front.

Crosscut archive image.

Chinook Pass in mid-May: no lack of snow

Cliff Mass burrows even further into the hearts and minds of weather-addled Washingtonians; Gregoire picks Boeing and Alaska Airlines execs to turn around the UW; The real reason Washington's GOP has been so trigger-happy on the initiative front.

Suppose they gave a snowstorm and nobody came? Snowmaggedon it (mostly) isn't, but Cliff Mass devotees — steeped in the meteorological nuances of all-things-Doppler and dew point — were prepared for any eventuality. "The latest forecast models run suggest a snow event of two characters.  Over the mountains and over southwest Washington there will be large quantities of snow," Cliff Mass writes on his weather blog. "And substantial snow over the eastern slopes of the Cascades. But over Puget Sound and northwest Washington this will be a very modest affair."

Mass recasts wonky intel into digestible prose, a real-time weather digest that is delightfully candid. "There is some uncertainty with this forecast — my gut feeling is there is perhaps a 20 percent chance it could go wrong in a serious way," Mass writes. Talk about bracing honesty. With this storm, Mass became a touchstone. Local television news? Not so much.   

One benefit of being a member of the 1 percent? (okay, one of many benefits of being a 1 percenter): You stand a better-than-the-proletariat chance of getting appointed to the University of Washington Board of Regents. "Gov. Chris Gregoire on Tuesday named the Alaska Airlines CEO Bill Ayer and Boeing executive Pat Shanahan as new members of the University of Washington Board of Regents, and reappointed Tacoma business leader Herb Simon to the board," the Seattlepi.com reports. "Appointment as a UW Regent is considered the most prestigious post that a governor can bestow. It also comes with work. Simon served as board president during selection of new UW President Michael Young."  

"It also comes with work" is an understatement. Ayer and Shanahan will need to apply their business and problem-solving finesse to turn around a Northwest treasure and ensure it is accessible to all Washingtonians, irrespective of income. The Seattlepi.com notes, "In 1990, the state supplied an estimated 82 percent of the $17,000 a year it cost to put a student through the University of Washington. Two decades later, after a string of tuition hikes, students pay 70 percent of the bill and the state only 30 percent." 

Initiatives are used by Republicans and the wealthy to manipulate the public will, contouring public policy to the avaricious ends of the 1 percent (or so we liberals believe.) The News Tribune's Peter Callaghan offers a history lesson to disabuse readers of this false assumption. In fact, initiatives have a bipartisan heritage. "Democrats and self-described progressives who don’t like the initiative process don’t know their history," Callaghan writes.  

The Tim Eyman era and the uptick in paid signature gatherers seemed like a paradigm shift. It wasn't. Callaghan notes that the Republican upsurge in promoting initiatives, "also coincides with a period in state political history where Democrats have been pretty dominant. Not since 1982 has the party failed to hold at least one of the three power centers in the Legislature — the House, the Senate or the governor’s office. For three decades, they had a veto over legislation and often ran the whole show. So it was conservatives who used the initiative more often."

A petition campaign to reverse Seattle's plastic-bag ban is already kaput. "An effort to collect enough signatures to place a Seattle plastic-bag ban before voters has fallen short," the Seattle Times Lynn Thompson writes. "Craig Keller, a Republican activist who organized the petition drive, said he'd collected between 2,000 and 3,000 signatures, far less than the needed 16,000." 

Keller may not have had the time or financial means to pull off a successful signature drive. Similarly, Seattle-ites could be drained by more direct-democracy pushback. Was there not much of populist upwelling against the bag ban to begin with?    

Lastly, don't forget to track the inspired national campaign coverage by University of Washington students and faculty posted on the Seattle Times website. UW Election Eye 2012 is focused on South Carolina, political snapshots of the Palmetto state through a Northwest lens. Worth bookmarking.  

Link Summary

Cliff Mass Weather Blog, "A snowstorm of two characters"

Seattlepi.com"Gregoire names business bigwigs as UW regents"

The News Tribune, "History shows initiatives used often--by both political parties" 

Seattle Times, "Petition to force vote on Seattle's plastic-bag ban crumbles"

Seattle Times, "UW election eye 2012"


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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