By The Herald Editorial Board
As much as we may have wanted a breather, no one will dismiss 2021 as a slow-news year; not nationally, not in Washington state and not in Snohomish County.
Here’s a look back at the past year through the lens of The Herald Editorial Board’s opinions, with some updates as well.
Jan. 7: “Trump and his mob have disgraced the nation” : Regarding the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol that interrupted Congress’ certification of the November election. “Trump and his supporters — those who aren’t now silently backing away from him — will claim that the storming of the Capitol and the danger placed upon police, officials and staffers were not the fault of Trump but the acts of overzealous supporters. Yet, Trump and those members of Congress who were interrupted in the middle of their political theater, are responsible. … The reputations of Trump and those who voiced support for the illicit challenge will now bear the stain of having suborned this riot.”
Update: Prosecutions of those arrested during the attack continue, as does an investigation by a bipartisan congressional committee.
Jan. 29: “Leave firearms out of protests, public spaces”: Noting the volatile mix of public demonstrations and firearms, state legislation, Senate Bill 5038, sough to prohibit the open carry of firearms at large public gatherings and at the grounds of the state Capitol. “Some firearm owners will – and did so during the hearing — profess only good intentions, insisting they are no threat to others. In nearly all instances that is the case; gun owners are law-abiding and careful. But that intent can be difficult to discern when someone is holding a weapon that was designed for military use and has been abused in many mass shootings.”
Update: Senate Bill 5028 was adopted by the Legislature and signed into law.
March 7: “Everett should wait on ‘no-sit, no-lie’ ordinance”: Responding to complaints of homeless people sitting beneath an I-5 overpass near the Everett Gospel Mission, the Everett City Council considered an ordinance to bar people from sitting on lying on sidewalks in certain areas of the city. “On the surface, the proposed ordinance would seem to be a departure from the recent realization among local governments that they ‘can’t arrest their way out’ of issues of homelessness and its associated problems. Everett, as an example, has been a leader in efforts such as that to embed social workers with police patrols to connect those with homelessness, addiction and mental health treatment needs with services that better address those ills. That’s a far better option than the costly and unproductive cycle of arrest, jail and release back to the streets.”
Update: The ordinance was adopted but its effective date was delayed to allow the opening on the city’s pallet shelter program to increase the opportunity for shelter. The placement of additional pallet shelters in Everett is in development.
March 17: “Purdue, family should see no profit from OxyContin”: Regarding a settlement offer in a lawsuit against the pharmaceutical company and its owners over the highly addictive opioid, plaintiffs were split between those who said they would accept a $10 billion settlement and those, such as Washington state’s attorney general, who rejected the agreement. “Digging deeper into the terms should further sour anyone on the deal. Purdue would pay only $500 million up front of a $750 million sum to settle hundreds of thousands of personal injury claims, with most receiving an average of about $5,600, money that can’t be considered fair compensation for families and individuals. The bulk of the $10 billion would dribble out over a decade, and about $4 billion of the figure wouldn’t be in cash — sent to local governments to fund opioid response and rehabilitation efforts — but would be in distribution of reduced-cost supplies of medications used in response to overdoses and in opioid recovery.”
Update: State attorneys generals, including Washington’s AG Bob Ferguson, and other plaintiffs appealed in September, and a U.S. District Court judge this month overturned the settlement that would have shielded Purdue’s Sackler family from future lawsuits.
March 31: “Vigilance, masks still needed in covid marathon”: At the end of March, only about 16 percent of the population was fully vaccinated, yet a new variant, delta, had arrived in the U.S. “Our shared covid fatigue and the good news that comes in dribs and drabs may be conspiring against us, lulling us to let down our guard and creating an opening for a feared fourth wave of infections. Having hit the wall, we now have to find the resolve to finish the marathon.”
Update: Nearly 62 percent of those eligible for covid vaccination in the U.S. are fully vaccinated’ 67 percent in Washington state; but a new variant, omicron, has overtaken delta. The marathon continues.
May 6: “Seeking justice after the murder of George Floyd”: A guilty verdict against the Minneapolis police officer in the death of George Floyd coincides with the passage of a slate of legislation regarding law enforcement reforms. Some of the reforms were opposed by police departments and law enforcement groups, but then State Rep. John Lovick, D-Mill Creek, a former state patrol trooper and Snohomish sheriff, defended the legislation. “Lovick said he knows that many in law enforcement might chafe at the additional scrutiny that will result from the legislation, ‘but 99.9 percent know that they do their job well, and that this is for the ones who don’t,’ he said. ‘But every single police chief that I talked to, they want accountability,’ he said.”
Update: Lovick, recently appointed to a Senate vacancy, and other lawmakers have committed to considering changes to the legislation during the coming session.
July 5: “Record heat stark reminder of climate action need”: Record temperatures in Washington state — including 109 degrees in Lynnwood — and the Northwest showed we are not insulated from the impacts of climate change. “As blessedly brief as the heat wave appears to have been — at least for Western Washington — that blast-furnace heat should now prompt us to reconsider our regional complacency about climate change and the belief that — other than a gradual creep in sea level — we in the Northwest are removed from its worst consequences.”
Sept. 1: “Mob’s actions at school board meeting unacceptable”: Protests by those opposed to state mandates for masks and vaccinations in public schools disrupted a Marysville School Board meeting, including the rushing of the dais and profane shouts directed at board members and district officials. “Peaceful protests and even pointed criticism are among the things for which statewide elected officials are paid to deal with; school board members for most districts are unpaid and serve voluntarily. While most school board members expect little thanks for their public service, they shouldn’t have to endure verbal abuse and threats of violence.”
Sept. 26: “Getting to the truth of Tulalip boarding school”: A call by Deb Haaland, U.S. Secretary of the Interior, to address the impact of the history of removal of children from Native American families to Indian boarding schools between the Civil War era and the mid-20th century, renewed conversations among U.S. tribal communities, including the Tulalip Tribes. Among those assisting in unearthing stories from that history is Deborah Parker. “Students were forbidden to speak their tribal language or sing tribal songs they had learned or practice tribal beliefs. The punishment was often brutal. ‘The thought of it is explosive in the mind. Incomprehensible,’ Parker said. ‘It makes this work incredible difficult, it makes this work necessary, it makes it heartfelt; working on behalf of children who were beaten, slapped and strangled.’”
Nov. 4: “Honor Wyman; make secretary of state nonpartisan”: The announcement that respected Republican Secretary of State Kim Wyman had been hired by the Biden administration to serve in a federal election security post, left Gov. Jay Inlsee to fill the seat until an election is held in 2022. It’s also an opportunity to aid voter confidence. “Although suggested by state Republicans that he (should appoint a Republican) to carry on the tradition of Republicans who had held the office since 1965, Inslee is not obligated to appoint another Republican to succeed Wyman. The governor is correct that the office — and no state office — belongs to any particular party. But moving forward, the state Legislature should remove all partisan pretense for the secretary of state by making the office a nonpartisan position.”
Update: State Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, was appointed to the post in late November. Hobbs intends to run in 2022. Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson also has announced her run for the post and will run as nonpartisan.
Nov. 15: “County jumpstarts its switch to electric vehicles”: The Snohomish County Council adopted a bipartisan measure — proposal by Republican Nate Nehring and Democrat Jared Mead — to use $2.2 million in proceeds from a sale of county land to make an investment in electric vehicles for the county’s fleet. “Nehring and Mead are expecting the transition to generate significant savings for the county in reduced costs for fuel and for vehicle maintenance, while helping the county meet its goals for reducing its carbon footprint. That Snohomish County would be one of the leaders in the state in terms of such an effort, was an added bonus, both said.”
Dec. 13: “Put county tax for affordable housing to voters”: A proposal to increase the sales tax in Snohomish County by 01. percentage point — 1 cent on a $10 purchase — to fund projects to address affordable housing, homelessness and related social services was considered by the county council. An estimated $116 million would be raised over the coming five years and would be used to leverage additional state and federal funds for projects, greatly increasing the availability of supportive housing and housing for those who pay more than 30 percent of their income for rent or mortgages. The council’s Republicans sought an amendment to put the issue to a public vote. “The case is easily made to move with due speed to approve the sales tax increase and begin work to fund construction of housing and provision of needed services … But that case should be made (to voters) to ensure the public support of this and future requests for program funding through tax dollars.”
Update: The County Council approved the measure to increase the sales tax but voted down the amendment to put its approval on the ballot.