Midday Scan: Taking stands: RFK on coal, Methodists on gays

A Seattle Methodist pastor turned a cold shoulder to the United Methodist Church's reaffirmed disdain for gays. Meanwhile McGinn is fudging numbers on car ownership and Robert F. Kennedy is taking to the streets in opposition of coal ports.
Crosscut archive image.

Mike McGinn addressing a Town Hall meeting at Nathan Hale High School in 2011

A Seattle Methodist pastor turned a cold shoulder to the United Methodist Church's reaffirmed disdain for gays. Meanwhile McGinn is fudging numbers on car ownership and Robert F. Kennedy is taking to the streets in opposition of coal ports.

Hats off to a local Methodist minister (and to think that in A River Runs Through It, author Norman Maclean's Presbyterian father called Methodists, "Baptists who could read.") Political courage is one thing. Religious courage is the ultimate crucible. 

"The pastor of Seattle First United Methodist Church, the city’s oldest congregation, has condemned as 'wrong, stupid, and evil' the continued position against homosexuality taken by the 8 million member parent church," the Seattlepi.com's Joel Connelly writes. "The General Conference of the United Methodist Church, meeting last week in Tampa, reaffirmed its longstanding prohibition that 'homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.' The church’s position drew an immediate, powerful rejoinder from Seattle pastor Dr. Sanford 'Sandy' Brown, who estimates that 30 percent of newcomers to his growing congregation are gays and lesbians."  

A little celebrity, now and then, is a good thing. As Billy Frank, Jr. learned during the Indian fishing wars of the 1960s and 70s, corralling a star like Marlon Brando to participate enhances media exposure. In the battle over Northwest coal exports — a debate expertly covered by Crosscut's Floyd McKay and Bob Simmons — a celebrity or two could be a political boon. So why not import a Kennedy to speak truth to power (and add a bit of glam)? 

"Several hundred activists gathered in Pioneer Courthouse Square today [May 1] to rally against exporting Montana and Wyoming coal from Northwest ports, an effort to signal the industry that it's in for a no-holds-barred fight," the Oregonian's Scott Learn writes. "Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.,  chief prosecuting attorney for Hudson Riverkeeper and president of the Waterkeeper Alliance, took top billing. Based on his experience fighting coal mining in Appalachia, Kennedy told the crowd, coal would corrupt politicians, damage health and the environment and 'turn government agencies into the sock puppets of the industries they're supposed to regulate.'"  

"It isn't what we don't know that gives us trouble," Will Rogers said. "It's what we know that ain't so." The Rogers's axiom should be a touchstone for Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn. Knowing what ain't so does not good public policy make. As Lynn Thompson reports in the "Truth Needle" column of this morning's Seattle Times, McGinn's figures on car-less households and younger drivers are inaccurate.   

"The percentage of Seattle households that have no vehicle available is actually about 16 percent — a number that hasn't budged in 10 years — according to the 2010 Census American Community Survey. When we contacted the mayor's office, his staff acknowledged: 'The mayor misspoke when he said 19 percent.' That is a difference of about 6,300 households," Thompson writes. "What's more, the same census data for Seattle shows that 39 percent of households have two vehicles and 17 percent have three or more."  

McGinn's observation that younger people are opting to drive less is correct on a national scale but, "that trend not only isn't true in King County, it's reversed," Thompson writes. The broader issue is more relevant than a quibble over fuzzy stats (although, by definition, stats are not fuzzy.) McGinn is brandishing the data to justify his proposal that new buildings not be forced to offer parking when constructed within a quarter mile of good transit. Data, it seems, should not get in the way.  

The reactionary, anti-government militia movement appeared to reach its peak with Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. Alas, there are still redoubts of militia agitators around the country and in the American West, in particular. An Alaska court case involving three militia members charged with plotting to murder law-enforcement personnel and judges provides a sobering reminder.  

The Anchorage Daily News' Richard Mauer writes, "Substantial pretrial publicity in the case and concern that Alaskans' fondness for weapons and dislike of federal authority could confound the search for an impartial jury led court officials to start with an exceptionally large panel — 88 people. Most were from Anchorage, but the Mat-Su Valley was well represented, as was the Kenai Peninsula. Others came from Valdez and Sand Point."

Lastly, kudos to Seattle's Tom Douglas who just received a major accolade. As the Seattle Times' Tan Vinh writes, "In the biggest achievement of his career, Tom Douglas was named 'Outstanding Restaurateur' by the James Beard Foundation on Monday night in New York. The awards are considered the Oscars of the food world."  

Read more here: http://www.adn.com/2012/05/07/2456209/militia-members-trial-set-to-begi…

Link Summary

Seattle Times, "Mayor's claim about cars found to be half true" 

Oregonian, "Activists rally in Portland against exporting coal from Northwest ports"

Anchorage Daily News, "Militia members' trial set to begin Tuesday"

Seattlepi.com, "Pastor: Anti-gay stand is 'wrong, stupid, and evil'"

Seattle Times, "Beard Foundation names Douglas "outstanding restaurateur"



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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