Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The Top Ten Pullman News Stories of 2005, Part Two

Continuing from yesterday, #5-#1:
5. Title Town Washington
First, the Pullman High School Greyhounds won the Washington Interscholastic Athletic Association 2A Baseball State Tournament on June 4, topping Lakewood 7-3. Then the Lady Greyhounds won their first ever WIAA 2A State Volleyball Tournament on November 12 by defeating Mt. Baker 25-16, 25-14, 25-19. This triumph was followed a few weeks later by the Greyhound football team being crowned as WIAA 2A state champions on December 3 at the Tacoma Dome following a gutsy comeback 28-24 win over Archbishop Murphy. Coach Wollan and his boys knocked off several prep powerhouses, including 3A runner-up Prosser, enroute to a perfect 14-0 season.

EDIT: Thanks to April for reminding me about the baseball championship.
4. "Passion of the Musical"
Student playwright Chris Lee created a furor with his controversial satire "Passion of the Musical" in April. In addition to offending some religious groups, WSU administrators expressed their disgust with Lee's use of the N-word. A university office purchased tickets for 40 some hecklers who disrupted a performance of the play. Campus security refused to remove the hecklers and the show had to be cancelled. WSU President V. Lane Rawlins said the hecklers had just been exercising their "free speech rights". Lee, who is African-American, claimed his right of artistic expression had been violated and contacted the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a national civil liberties organization,. WSU's behavior was widely condemned, providing yet another black eye to the university's image. The flap may have prompted the resignation of Vice President for Student Affairs Charlene Jaeger. Another Lee play in the fall, "The Magina Monologues" avoided similar controversy after WSU administrators said heckling would not be tolerated.
3. Frederick Russell Apprehended in Ireland
"Pullman's Most Wanted" was arrested in October by police in Dublin after four years on the lam. Russell is facing three charges of vehicular manslaughter and four charges of vehicular assault in Whitman County arising from a 2001 auto accident in which three WSU students were killed and four other people were injured. The notoriously difficult Irish extradition process is set to begin in January 2006.
2. "Dispositions Criteria"
Conservative Christian student teacher Ed Swan got in trouble with the WSU College of Education for revealing his views on abortion, gay marriage, that "white male dominance" does not exist, etc. in a written disposition that was supposed to gauge his committment to "social jistice". Swan refused to sign a contract agreeing to go to "sensitivity training" and was about to dropped from the education program when he contacted FIRE for help just like Chris Lee had done. FIRE publicized Swan's case and he quickly became the national "poster child" for political correctness run amuck on college campuses. Dean Judy Mitchell further exacerbated the situation by telling the Moscow-Pullman Daily News in October that she did not know whether Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia could make it through WSU’s program because of his political beliefs. The AP picked up the story and WSU was berated in a column in U.S. News and World Report. The university became a nationwide laughing stock. Swan's status is still up in the air. WSU has promised not to use its "dispositions" criteria unconstitutionally as a left-wing ideological litmus test, but it remains to be seen if Swan's beliefs will prevent him from becoming a teacher. The College of Education got more bad news in November as sexual harrassment complaints and lawsuits by students against two of its faculty members were made public.
1. Big Boxes
Wal-Mart announced plans in October 2004 to construct a 223,000 sq. ft. Supercenter on Bishop Blvd. in Pullman. This story dominated the local news throughout 2005 as Wal-Mart submitted its application to the city planning department in May, receiving SEPA environmental checklist approval in September and site plan approval in October. The Pullman Alliance for Responsible Development (PARD) was formed in January to oppose the construction of the Supercenter. PARD conducted a petition drive all over the Palouse, issued a position paper, held press conferences, screened an anti-Wal-Mart movie, and most importantly, appealed both of the city's approvals of Wal-Mart. The appeals, which will be heard at the same time, are scheduled for January 2006. A grassroots group called Businesses & Residents for Economic Opportunity (BREO) was formed in October to support growth in Pullman, including Wal-Mart. The group was formed after citizens took out a full page ad in the Moscow-Pullman Daily News in August supporting Wal-Mart and economic development. Several other prominent Pullman residents have publicly endorsed the Wal-Mart project, including Ed Schweitzer. Plans for a Moscow Supercenter were announced in November, with PARD helping to organize the opposition there. About the same time, the long-envisioned Pullman-Moscow Corridor plan was approved and almost immediately rumors concerning a large shopping complex in the corridor, anchored by Lowe's, were started by plans that appeared on a developer's Web site. At year's end, anti-Wal-Mart efforts in Pullman appear to have run out of steam after their arguments were rejected by the mainstream.
On a personal level, 2005 has been life-changing for me. Early in the year, I grew increasingly frustrated over the Wal-Mart issue and the liberal elitism being demonstrated by PARD. Finally, I could no longer idly stand by and watch. "But what can one man do?", I asked myself. Quite a bit, as it turns out.

Since May, I started this blog which now gets over 100 visitors a day. I have been on interviewed by TV, radio, and newspaper reporters from Lewiston to Spokane. I helped found a grassroots group to support economic growth and development in Pullman. I assisted with collecting signatures and payment for a full-page ad in support of economic growth and development in the Daily News, I worked on political campaigns and got to know our city leaders. I have become intimately familiar with local issues. I became a Town Crier for the Daily News. I have written enough letters to the editor that my name is well-known among both Wal-Mart supporters and opponents. I have even been frequently attacked by name in the paper. It's been hard at times, but it's been worth it. The Supercenter is on the verge of beginning construction, we have a solidly pro-growth City Council, and soon Pullman residents can stay at home to shop and the city will have enough tax revenue to meet its growing needs.

None of these efforts have been for Wal-Mart, per se. It's been for this town that I love so much and the people who call it home. My greatest reward has been getting to know people like Russ and April Coggins, Ray, Sarcastic Housewife #1, Scotty Anderson, Joshua Coke, Fritz Hughes, Dale Courtney (honorary resident!) and scores of others.

4 comments:

April E. Coggins said...

Tom,
Thank you for providing this blog. It has been an outlet for me and I appreciate your excellent writing. You are gifted in communication, I wish I had half of your talent. I find no small coincidence that I have prayed for Pullman and you are here.
Thank you for stepping up to help Pullman.

Ray Lindquist said...

Well said April, what else can be said. This blog here is a breath of fresh air and I for one am VERY excited what the spring and the New Year will bring. Thanks Tom for your hard work here and in your work for the paper. It has been a very big honor to me to be a very small part in it.

Sarcastic Housewife #1 said...

Tom thank you for everything you do. If I hadn't found your blog I wouldn't have gotten as involved. You are an asset to Pullman! Thanks!!!

Scotty said...

And with any luck Tom, you can add Talk Radio Show Host to your list of things.