Golf links may offer answer to UW site

Three months ago, the train carrying a University of Washington branch campus to Snohomish County derailed.

It’s still stranded right where legislators drove it off the tracks.

No one’s figured out yet how to get this politically precious cargo out of the muck of hardened rhetoric in which it landed and back en route to its destination.

The state set aside $100,000 and put the Higher Education Coordinating Board in charge of extrication.

Ann Daley, the agency’s executive director, is not supposed to solve the problem, only to give the Legislature, by Dec. 1, a process to help it find a solution.

She’s talking to lawmakers and may resort to hiring a facilitator to conduct a full-scale intervention to break their stalemate.

Thus far, she’s worked in a manner so deliberate as to make any progress invisible to the naked eye.

Daley sees plenty of time to finish, when really there is very little. There are almost six months until December, though most of the key legislative players will spend the next five of those working to get re-elected.

When they do re-­engage, they aren’t seeking more organized public involvement to reach a conclusion. They want to avoid a repeat of last year when town hall meetings became booster rallies for proposed sites.

Reality is, legislators think the questions of where to build, what to teach and when to start can only be answered by them in the course and context of the 2009 legislative session.

So while Daley does her thing, they are doing their own.

For example, two legislators whose deadlock on location — a cozy corner of downtown Everett versus a large untilled expanse in Marysville — helped doom the college this year are taking steps toward peace.

Rep. Hans Dunshee, D-Snohomish, who champions the Everett site, and Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island, who champions anywhere but there, met earlier this month, their first chat since adjournment.

They made no deals and reached no agreement.

They did discuss the potential of an entirely new site, Legion Memorial Golf Course in Everett.

The city owns it and did not offer it in last year’s site selection process. City officials are not offering it now, but are learning whether they can legally do so.

“It has been an item of chatter for the last year,” government affairs director Pat McClain said. “We’ve examined it a bit more closely.”

They want to know if the 1944 deed conveying the land from the American Legion to the city prevents a college from being built there.

McClain said it doesn’t, but the city won’t suggest the golf course become a college if doing so violates the spirit in which the gift was made 64 years ago.

Regardless, lawmakers have no means for considering a new location.

That could change when they come up with a process to get the branch campus back on track.

Political reporter Jerry Cornfield’s blog, The Petri Dish, is at www.heraldnet.com. He can be heard at 8 a.m. Mondays on the Morning Show on KSER 90.7 FM. Contact him at 360-352-8623 or jcornfield@heraldnet.com.

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