Here we go again with another annual Palousitics tradition. This is my take on the biggest stories in Pullman and the Palouse, counting down from Number Ten to Number One. See if you can guess what they will be.
2006 will be remembered as the year of gridlock, delay and frustration. We're still waiting for Wal-Mart to be built, Fred Russell to go to trial, and free speech and academic diversity to be respected at WSU, just as we were at the end of 2005...
10. Cougin' It
Only the Republicans had a worse November than the WSU Cougars football team. Prior to the Arizona game on November 4, the Cougs were sitting pretty, ranked #25, having defeated bowl bound UCLA, Oregon State, and Oregon, and almost upsetting USC, with the team's first bowl berth since 2003 virtually guaranteed. Then the wheels came off, with the season culminating in one of the most humiliating Apple Cup losses in recent memory. Yet another year with no bowl and calls went out for Coach Bill Doba's head. The departure of defensive guru Robb Akey to Idaho in December does not bode well for a team that has lived off its defense for the last few years.
9. Water Issues
2006 seemed to be dominated by water issues, from worries over aquifer depletion and development, to water "summits", to talk of a reservoir in Moscow, and to the Washington Department of Ecology's ridiculous proposed stormwater regulations for Pullman. You can count on water being an even bigger issue in 2007, for the worse.
8. New WSU President
After WSU President V. Lane Rawlins announced that this would be his last year on the job, a search began for a new president. Controversy swirled around the process, as both students and the public felt disenfranchised from input. After seemingly in camera deliberations, the Board of Regents announced in December that Floyd Elson, President of the University of Missouri, would be the first African-American President of WSU. As the Vulcan proverb states, "Only Nixon can go to China." Perhaps it will take a minority president to rein in the out-of-control political correctness that plagues the campus and made WSU the subject of national embarrassment after national embarrassment. Hopefully, Elson can also heal the town-gown rift that has developed over the Wal-Mart issue, as a minority of faculty from the College of Liberal Arts has held up the Supercenter project for over two years despite wide support among townspeople.
7. Moscow's Left Turn
In November 2005, Mayor-Elect Nancy Chaney proclaimed that "Moscow was on a new path, and that it was a green one." Mayor Chaney and the Gang of Three (city councilmen Aaron Ament, Bob Stout, and John Dickinson) have certainly lived up to that promise in 2006, although some may think it is more red than green. Starting with getting rid of the Pledge of Allegiance at council meetings and trying to run New St. Andrews College and Christ Church out of town, Her Honor and the council have been busy. After three decades of retail dominance, Moscow's business-friendly reputation was quickly disemboweled by a big-box ordinance, a dark-store ordinance, a living wage ordinance, the rejection of various proposed developments, and a proposed retail store size cap. The coup de grace was a council vote denying the rezone of the Thompson property, prompting Wal-Mart to pull its plans for a Supercenter in Moscow in June. The residents of Pullman and Whitman County have been delighted with these developments, seeing a chance to restore the economic balance, but Moscow residents fought back, forming the Greater Moscow Alliance in May. Latah County resisted pressure to create its own big-box ordinance, but that probably will change as the new Latah County Commission will have a Democratic majority.
6. Rural Residential Zoning
At a seemingly glacial pace, the revised Whitman County rural residential zoning ordinance seems to finally be on the verge of approval. The changes will eliminate the three year moratorium on development of farmland that have (deliberately) frozen growth in the county since the mid-70s. Unfortunately, the new ordinance added many new onerous restrictions on house color, landscaping, buffer zones, hilltop development, etc. These proposed changes sparked widespread opposition from county residents and Schweitzer Engineering Labs during 2006 on the basis of restricting private property rights and lack of affordable housing. After a legal analysis over the summer, many of the conditions were found to be illegal and stricken. Sadly, some of the restrictions seem bound to go through into the final version. As proof of how much pent up need there is for housing in the county, Colfax annexed 1,200 acres of land in July. Already, 2/3 of that has been bought up by developers.