Virtual Conversation | 2021 Re-Wire Policy Conference, Dec 15, 2021 Register

Morning Wire: Census, Rep. Orcutt, drought, Kabul

This month, I turn 46. I left for college at Gonzaga this month 28 years ago. I started graduate school this month 24 years ago at the Johns Hopkins University. I went through college with scholarships ranging from the support from Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 290 to a scholarship endowed by former political giant Martin J. Durkan. At one point, I had four jobs during a summer break, but during the school year I got to work at the GU Athletic Dept. at the onset of their big basketball run. I worked on Capitol Hill in DC while finishing grad school at night.

And this month, after 20+ years of payments, deferments, and forbearance, at the age of 46, I finally pay off my student loans.

Sure, those were private schools. I could have gone elsewhere for cheaper. But, the delta between the cost of higher education and the income opportunities after college is the challenge. It’s not just the cost of higher ed. It’s the lack of good jobs for young people coming out of school that is the challenge — regardless of their school. Unemployment for 20-24 year olds is consistently almost double that of the average across all age demographics.

1. Census data by LD: What it means 

During last night’s re-districting commission meeting, we saw a first pass at census data by legislative district. Commission Executive Director Lisa McLean got right to the point: “The ones that need to grow are the 19th and 24th over on the Olympic Peninsula. The 14th, 15th, 16th and the 3rd in Spokane. In the Puget Sound area, we can see the 43rd, the 36th, the 28th and the 1st are … the ones that need to shrink the most.”

I go through some of the possible implications of this data here, with my guess that the 6th moves out of the swing column to Republicans, the 24th likely becomes hard for Democrats to hold, and that we may see the shift we’ve watched in the 5th (lean blue, soon to be reliably blue) take place in the 31st. That Pierce Co. district which elected Pam Roach for so many years is likely to shift significantly westward, getting much bluer in the years ahead. We’ll see how much. 

2. Q&A with Rep. Ed Orcutt

Rep. Ed Orcutt has become something of the moral authority on tax policy for the House Republican Caucus. As the Ranking Member on House Finance, his view carries extra weight in the caucus. So, in this Q&A, his outline of issues sounds something like the broader list of concerns Republican candidates will use in next year’s election.

“Are they (taxpayers) concerned about having their paychecks taxed? Are they concerned about protecting their property? Are they concerned about whether or not the police can respond and apprehend a suspect and get criminals off the street? I think if people realize some of the real dangers that are out there, as they see what the real dangers are out there, it’s my hope that they’ll be expressing those concerns to their representatives and to the governor.”

3. Economic data tell a stark but mixed story

One in five Washingtonians in select counties are drawing down SNAP food assistance. Employment numbers are up across the state, but are highest compared to Jan. 2020 in some of those same counties requiring high social supports. Meanwhile, retail sales and manufacturing are showing stark increases in business compared to a year ago, but that is an uneven experience across counties.

This all comes from the Data Dashboard at the Dept. of Commerce. You might take a look to surf through some of the data. It’s a kind of jarring experience to see how stark the recovery is right now. It’s also a good reminder that we are cementing economic divisions between eastern and western parts of the state in a process underway now for more than a generation. 

4. Drought, water, and politics

If you live in Seattle, Kent, or Tacoma, you may not know it. But, the rest of the state is in an emergency drought situation. Here are some of the jarring numbers for context. 

It has been the driest year out of the last 127 years for 12 counties. It was the second driest for another 8. In places like Ritzville, there is a less than a 1% chance that groundwater will recharge by spring, even with a projected wetter and colder winter than usual. Pastures are in the poorest condition since 2001. A dozen cities will need more water rights in the next five years in order to grow. In two decades, that number of cities is 56. 

5. The fall of Kabul and the PNW

I think many of us are still reeling from the scenes coming out of Afghanistan. It’s a shocking turn, regardless of one’s political view. It seems like it’s a long ways away, but troops from Joint Base Lewis McChord (JBLM) are and have been deeply engaged there. 

The prominent C-17 in the video is part of the 62nd Air Lift Wing, 446th, at JBLM. The 593rd Expeditionary Sustained Command has been deployed there in previous years as part of Operation Enduring Freedom, and is probably part of the operations to leave the theater. The 62nd Medical Brigade at JBLM has been deployed three times in recent years. The 2nd Battalion 75th Rangers at JBLM were some of the first boots on the ground in Afghanistan and have been there repeatedly over the years. This information isn’t public, but it wouldn’t be surprising if the 66th Theater Aviation Command or the 5th Security Force Assistance Brigade were deployed there now, as well. 

According to Commerce, “Washington is 6th in the nation in the number of active duty military, with 69,125 military personnel and another 90,246 dependents and 19,474 reservists. The military and defense sector employs another 39,000 civilians, mostly at Joint Base Lewis McChord (JBLM) and Puget Sound Naval Shipyard (PSNS).” 


Your support matters.

Public service journalism is important today as ever. If you get something from our coverage, please consider making a donation to support our work. Thanks for reading our stuff.