Seeing the needle start to shift on those issues gave me hope that we as individuals can make a difference. It’s one of the aspects I love most about local journalism, the ability to be a force for positive change in small but effective ways.
I carried that spirit with me to Washington in 2020, when I began a Report for America fellowship at The Olympian, where I was tasked with covering housing and homelessness — one of the West Coast’s most pressing, and at times maddening, issues.
Despite my occasional despair, I can’t seem to stay away. And as the new investigative reporter for WA Recovery Watch, Crosscut’s new project on federal recovery spending, I’m eager to delve deeper into how decisions made by local governments affect communities.
How Washington chooses to use this unprecedented influx of money will shape the state for decades to come. Some of that story is buried in the complex, sometimes inscrutable details of budgets and other bureaucratic minutiae. With WA Recovery Watch, we’re hoping to pull back the curtain on the vague and incomplete narratives surrounding federal relief programs, dig into the details and tell you what’s actually happening.
In my first two Crosscut stories, I explored how local governments are taking divergent approaches to filling the need for reliable high-speed internet in rural areas. I traveled up the Olympic Peninsula to Jefferson County, where the public utility district plans to be the first such district in the state to build a public broadband network. Meanwhile on the coast, I revealed how counties like Grays Harbor lost out on federal money to connect unserved rural residents based on dubious objections from companies like Comcast.
Broadband is just the beginning. We plan to investigate a range of different areas where federal dollars are being invested, from housing and transportation to public safety, climate change mitigation and more.
That’s where readers like you can help us. What would you like to know about spending priorities in your community? Do you see important needs that are going unmet? Resources lavished on projects of questionable importance?