Callaghan: A three-stop tour of Washington's political landscape

By Peter Callaghan, Columbian Syndicated Columnist

Published:

 
photoPeter Callaghan covers the state Legislature for The News Tribune in Tacoma. Blog: thenewstribune.com/politics; or Twitter: @CallaghanPeter. Reach him at peter.callaghan@thenewstribune.com.

Three columns, none deserving of full treatment:

With friends like this, Part 1: The American Prospect is a well-respected magazine based in Washington, D.C., that describes itself as "liberal, progressive, lefty -- call it what you want, we're proud of it." Its recent issue profiled Washington Democratic Sen. Patty Murray in a lengthy piece broken up into 19 sections (which explains the title: "Patty Murray in 19 Takes.")

This is a group of writers who would probably agree with Murray's politics, and the article is mostly flattering. But the lead might have caused the fourth-ranking Democrat and Senate Budget chair to choke on her morning coffee. "Patty Murray may be the dullest, most unremarkable member of the United States Senate," the writers begin. But then it delivers this line: "She's also the most important politician you've never heard of."

Those who knew her when she was working in Shoreline and then Olympia might not recognize the first part of the description. Murray is funny, friendly and engaging. That she has such a different persona in D.C. might, in fact, be the most interesting thing about her.

With friends like this, Part 2: Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland was the big winner Thursday when the Sound Transit board gave easy approval to her favored route for an expansion of the city's Link light rail. Strickland, also a board member of the regional transit agency, had been pushing a route through the Stadium District that would hook back up Martin Luther King, Jr. Way.

Strickland told the board MLK Way has a huge redevelopment upside and that the light rail line could spur investments that would bring it back to the glory days when it was "K" Street.

She then appeared to channel comedian Chris Rock.

"I've often said that in America, Martin Luther King Jr. Way often doesn't have a positive connotation, and we want Tacoma to be the one city in America where it has the most positive connotation," she said.

Rock says something similar (though funnier) in his stand-up routine (expletives replaced):

"You know what's so sad? Martin Luther King stood for nonviolence. Now what's Martin Luther King? A street. And I don't (care) where you are in America, if you're on Martin Luther King Boulevard, there's some violence going down."

Wrong end of the donkey: Ed Lazowska is pretty much the man in Washington state when it comes to computer engineering and high technology. The former director of the Computer Science and Engineering department at the University of Washington now holds the Bill and Melinda Gates chair at UW. Lazowska was one of the forces behind the Institute of Technology at the University of Washington Tacoma.

It's a gross understatement then to say that when Ed Lazowska has something to say about anything tech, people who care about tech listen.

Last week, in a presentation to the Seattle Tech Meetup, a monthly gathering of tech workers and innovators, he stressed the need for more engineering degrees and more middle and high school emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math.

Washington ranks 4th in the nation for tech-related companies but comes in a disappointing 46th for participation in science and engineering graduate programs, he said, according to a report on GeekWire.com. We're also the second-largest importer of tech degrees among the nation's technology states.

That echoes the March report for the Washington Roundtable that 20,000 tech jobs here go unfilled because of a shortage of qualified applicants.

"While it's great that people come here for the abundance of jobs, the state isn't exactly doing a good job of grooming homegrown talent," Lazowska said. "Our state is the ass end of the donkey in just about every aspect of education and in just about every aspect of preparing Washington kids for Washington's jobs."