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What happens when Seattle politics seep into Eastern Washington?


Washington may not be the biggest state in the country, but living in Seattle, it can be easy to forget that its politics are diverse. Speaking on that recently was Chris Cargill, the Eastern Washington Director of the Washington Policy Center.

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“For those of us in Eastern Washington trying to keep track of what’s going on in the legislative process, it’s overwhelming,” Cargill told KTTH’s Saul Spady. “It takes so much time for those of us in Eastern Washington to be involved in the legislative session, when you consider the fact that we have to jump in the car and travel four, five, or six hours to Olympia if we want to go down and testify.”

To that, Seattle’s own proximity to the state capital can often have those in the easternmost region of Washington feeling cut off from the conversation.

“It’s just the constant kind of conveyor belt of ideas that get adopted in Seattle, and then, of course, make their way on down to Olympia, and try to get adopted statewide,”  Cargill noted.

That being so, he warns, applying a policy developed in Seattle on a state level doesn’t fully weigh the concerns of the eastern region of Washington.

“Just because something may be good for Seattle, does not mean that it fits statewide,” he said.

There are steps being taken to help bring Eastern Washington into the fold, including the introduction of video conference testimony into the state Senate to save people the five-hour drive to Olympia.

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The system as it exists now has anyone interested in testifying sign up for a session, go to a local college, and video conference straight in. It’s currently only available for the state Senate, though, with the state House of Representatives yet to adopt it.

State issues through an Eastern Washington lens

One particular issue that the two sides butt heads on is tearing down the Snake River dams to aid Puget Sound’s waning orca population.

“We’re trying to bring attention to the fact that that will not help Puget Sound orcas,” Cargill said.

More than that, the economic impact on Eastern Washington’s shipping economy would be widely felt across the state.

The Snake River dams really provide an environmental benefit for us, specifically when we’re talking about trying to get trucks off the roads and get our products to port. It’s really a matter of working in concert with the state’s transportation system, with our port system in Seattle. With all of the food and products that we barge up and down the rivers in Eastern Washington, we’re not going to be able to do that if we get rid of the Snake River dams.

For Cargill, this sort of issue is about recognizing that what’s good for Seattle isn’t what works for our eastern neighbors.

“There are many pockets of the state where you cannot adopt a Seattle policy — it just does not work economically.” 

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