Midday Scan: UW losing faculty; Cantwell's cash; Republicans for pot

What happens when the Legislature and governor keep cutting higher ed? Surprise (or not): Other states notice and start looking to raid the faculty. 

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The University of Washington

What happens when the Legislature and governor keep cutting higher ed? Surprise (or not): Other states notice and start looking to raid the faculty. 

The University of Washington may require a ten-plagues' scenario to catch the attention of Olympia lawmakers. Locusts. Unhealable boils. Lice. (The winter-quarter Plague of Darkness descended a few weeks ago.) Draconian budget cuts (since 2009, a 44 percent slash to higher ed statewide) now imperil faculty retention. As King5.com reports, "Budget cuts mean UW is ripe for raids by other institutions. And there's less and less the school can do to stop it."       

King5.com presents a sobering anecdotal narrative. Chemistry chair Paul Hopkins reports that he lost three faculty in one year. "Hard to recruit, hard to retain, under circumstances where resources are this tight," he says. Olympia may need to eyeball a department-by-department matrix of lost faculty, axed classes, and vanishing current and future revenue. In a couple years it could be plasma-selling students and the UW hawking Denny Hall to Amazon. As King5.com reports, "The University of Washington has long relied on its reputation for excellence in education and research. But that reputation could soon be at risk." 

U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell's re-election bid against Republican Michael Baumgartner is turning into a David-and-Goliath fundraising battle (although Democrats shouldn't forget that Goliath got walloped in the end). As the Seattle Times' D.C.-based Kyung M. Song writes, "U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell widened her significant financial lead over Republican Michael Baumgartner, taking in 10 times the money in the final three months of 2011 for her re-election than her challenger has raised." 

Cantwell refuses to accept money from political-action committees, a laudable policy. She also benefits from the power of incumbency and thousands of first-time donors. Nevertheless, Baumgartner, however young and largely unknown, sports an impressive resume.      

One news nugget is Rep. Dave Reichert's potential Senate bid. It's been widely assumed that, post-redistricting, Reichert would stay put in his now-safe congressional perch. "Reichert, whose 8th Congressional District will become more Republican leaning because of redistricting, has said he expects to make up his mind soon," Song writes.

The murk of so much political money makes transparency a near-impossible mission. This is especially true with state initiatives, underwritten by big donors but often masquerading as populist campaigns with titles such as "The Drivers' Protection Act" (Tim Eyman's anti-tolling initiative underwritten by Kemper Freeman). There are efforts underway to mitigate the charade, at least slightly. As the Olympian's Brad Shannon reports, "House Bill 2499 requires the listing of names of the top five contributors for ads either for or against initiatives. The limit applies to ads costing more than $1,000 and with donors of at least $700 each in the past year. The House State Government passed it on a 7-to-4 partisan vote." 

Shannon notes that two other initiative-reform bills are set to die. One limiting contribution and the other "to require initiatives to identify new taxes to cover their costs." The latter was too sensible sounding to gain traction.

Seven Republicans have joined (or jointed?) with three dozen other lawmakers to call on the Obama Administration to revise the classification for marijuana to ensure that the state's medical pot-law aligns with the feds. As the News Tribune's Jordan Schrader writes, "The goal is to downgrade Schedule I marijuana to Schedule II, a group that includes cocaine and methamphetamine but does acknowledge drugs’ medical uses." Meth and cocaine are Schedule II drugs?

The effort is adminstrative housekeeping and not necessarily a harbinger of bipartisan comity for the pot-legalization initiative likely to appear on the fall ballot. Nevertheless, it's clear that Washington legislators have mellowed (cue the drums.)

Lastly, for head-scratching purposes. The Anchorage Daily News reports on a state lawmaker who, tongue in cheek, wants to see the federal govenment take over New York City's Central Park. It's classic Alaska get-off-my-land gadflyness in the tradition of Wally "You can't just let nature run wild" Hickel. Nevertheless, the state representative's effort has spurred action and attention.  As Austin Baird writes, "When Alaska state Rep. Kyle Johansen drafted a resolution to urge the federal government to take over New York's Central Park, he may not have expected a hearing on the issue, let alone a mention in The New York Times. But he got both."  

Link Summary

King5.com, "Higher education cuts hurt faculty retention at UW"

Seattle Times, "Cantwell's financial lead over GOP challenger widens"

The Olympian, "One of three initiative-reform bills stays alive"

The News Tribune, "Bipartisan group of lawmakers joins Gregoire in calling for marijuna downgrade"

Anchorage Daily News, "Alaska lawmaker urges federal takeover of Central Park"


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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