A Few Positives
Take Solace Where We Find It
The U.S. national scene remains worrisome as Senator Manchin (D?-WV) digs in his heels on the filibuster, Republicans erect hurdles to suppress voting groups they don’t like, and Trump signals to his armed followers that he’d happily accept their nomination as Biden’s replacement this August 4th, a placement for which there exists no legal path.
As threatening as all that feels on a national level there are glimmers of hope and humanity on the local and regional scene. Take, for example, this Saturday’s Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Day to be celebrated from 11 am to 4 pm at Centerplace in Spokane Valley. If you haven’t been to Centerplace here’s a good excuse to visit.
The new ice age-themed playground at Riverfront Park is another worthy destination. I take it as a recent symbol of what can happen when a community works through government to make worthwhile things happen. Check out Ted S. McGregor Jr.’s Inlander article from May 27, “The raging waters of the Spokane River Falls and its ancient gorge bring past, present and future together at the new Riverfront Park.” It is encouraging that we can come together in this town and honestly present geological science in our park system.
While contemplating Spokane’s great outdoors it is also worth remembering that it was the community and the political process in Spokane more than a century ago that gave us a municipal park worthy of national note, designed by the Olmsted Brothers. We in the U.S. can thank the Olmsted family, Frederick Law Olmsted (1822–1903) and his sons, John Charles Olmsted (1852–1920) and Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. (1870–1957), for the design and preservation of countless public spaces all over the country, including Central Park on Manhattan and much of the public park system of Boston as well as Manito Park in Spokane. These locations for community gathering and enjoyment don’t happen by accident.
And there is a glimmer of hope to be had in one tiny electoral scene: Last month in Bonner County, Idaho, far-right ideologues vied to replace several East Bonner County Library District and Pend Oreille Hospital District trustees. The challengers for the Library District positions were apparently motivated by the extremists who had agitated against a mask requirement to enter the library. In addition they voiced interest in censoring the book offerings available at the library and could demonstrate no expertise in library science or related fields.
All of the challengers lost with vote totals in the neighborhood of 2,300 to 3,750. The telling (and encouraging) number is the increase in the voter turnout percentage in this relatively obscure election. In the similar election for these positions in 2017 only 14.82% of the registered voters bothered to vote. This year 26.05% of registered voters turned out. Not only did the participation percentage nearly double, but the number of voters registered to vote in these contests increased in those four years from 19,774 to 25,150, a 27% increase (the population in Bonner County [a somewhat wider area] increased only 9.5% in the same time period). In absolute numbers more than twice the votes were cast in the election this year than in 2017 (6552 compared to 2930). That’s a lot of numbers, but both percentages and raw numbers can be informative. In this electoral microcosm, more people registered to vote, more people participated, and reasonable people, not the ideologues, won.
What happened? Reasonable people mobilized. Groups formed. Phone banks were activated. Letters to the editor in the local papers strongly favored the incumbent candidates candidates over those advocating for the ideologues both in numbers of letters and in content.
Maybe, just maybe, this is the beginning of a growing trend…
Keep to the high ground,
P.S. The Spokesman carried a front page article last Monday, June 7, from the same electoral microcosm, Bonner County GOP seeks removal of Woodward. This is the land of far right ID State Reps Heather Scott and Sage Dixon. First term State Senator Jim Woodward is under attack by the extremists who run the local Republican Party Central Committee in part because he voted against an attempted override of Idaho Governor Little’s veto of a bill limiting the governor’s emergency powers. The last two paragraphs of the Spokesman article bring us back to recent election results discussed above:
Almost 22,000 people voted him into office, and a request by 30 people to resign will not make him do so, Woodward said.
“I think it’s more appropriate that I serve in office,” he said.