Appar­ent­ly obliv­i­ous to the real­i­ty that he has as much cred­i­bil­i­ty as Tim Eyman does when it comes to talk­ing about pro­tect­ing pub­lic ser­vices, Seat­tle Times edi­to­r­i­al page edi­tor Ryan Blethen has penned yet anoth­er col­umn lament­ing the dire straits that Wash­ing­ton’s pub­lic uni­ver­si­ties are in.

The piece, which ran in today’s Sun­day edi­tion, does a good job of point­ing out the obvi­ous… and a great job of con­ve­nient­ly ignor­ing the Seat­tle Times’ role in putting law­mak­ers and uni­ver­si­ties in the grave posi­tion they’re in at this moment.

For instance, Blethen insen­si­bly writes:

What makes the pro­posed cuts to high­er ed in the House, Sen­ate and gov­er­nor’s bud­gets so egre­gious is that our state’s cam­pus­es have been neglect­ed for years and now have to take huge cuts. By now the Leg­is­la­ture should have found a way to prop­er­ly fun­nel mon­ey to the uni­ver­si­ties. They have not and now the schools face anoth­er large reduction.

If Ryan wants the Leg­is­la­ture to find “a way to prop­er­ly fun­nel mon­ey to the uni­ver­si­ties”, then why did his fam­i­ly twice endorse uncon­sti­tu­tion­al Tim Eyman ini­tia­tives to make rais­ing rev­enue more dif­fi­cult? Why did his fam­i­ly cam­paign so vig­or­ous­ly and dis­hon­est­ly against Ini­tia­tive 1098, which would have ded­i­cat­ed more than a bil­lion dol­lars annu­al­ly to edu­ca­tion funding?

Oh, that’s right… I for­got. Plat­i­tudes are the only sup­port the Blethens are will­ing to offer our pub­lic schools and colleges.

As the idiom goes, talk is cheap. Some­times it’s pointless.

Ryan’s columns on this sub­ject, and so many oth­ers, are worth­less, because when push comes to shove, he won’t put his mon­ey where his mouth is.

The Blethens have repeat­ed­ly endorsed ini­tia­tives that put the Leg­is­la­ture in a strait­jack­et, long-term, know­ing the con­se­quences. They most recent­ly did so last Novem­ber. Now, half a year lat­er, they’re lament­ing the consequences.

What gives, Ryan? Seri­ous­ly. What gives? What moti­vates you to write these dis­con­nect­ed columns? If you’re even going to go near the top­ic, at least have the courage to admit that the paper you edit has repeat­ed­ly tak­en sides against schools and uni­ver­si­ties when elec­tion time has rolled around.

In leav­ing those details out, you pre­tend that your read­ers are igno­rant, and will take what you say seri­ous­ly because your inten­tions appear noble. News­flash, Ryan: Your read­ers aren’t as stu­pid as you seem to think they are.

There is real­ly noth­ing that you can say about this top­ic that would con­tribute to the pub­lic dis­course in any mean­ing­ful way. Not after what you’ve done.

You offer no solu­tions or pre­scrip­tions in your col­umn. All you do is con­demn the Leg­is­la­ture — the demo­c­ra­t­ic law­mak­ing body your fam­i­ly urged vot­ers to make unde­mo­c­ra­t­ic — for not invest­ing in our schools and universities.

Olympia does not seem will­ing or capa­ble of prop­er­ly fund­ing high­er edu­ca­tion. The Leg­is­la­ture and the uni­ver­si­ty pres­i­dents should work togeth­er and by the next bien­ni­um bud­get come up with a sta­ble source of rev­enue for our state’s pub­lic universities.

As our read­ers know, there is no way our Leg­is­la­ture can strength­en any of our vital pub­lic ser­vices as long as I‑1053 is in place. It sim­ply isn’t going to hap­pen. I‑1053 was inten­tion­al­ly designed to make sure state leg­is­la­tors can nev­er come up with a sta­ble source of rev­enue for any­thing; all it takes is sev­en­teen state sen­a­tors out of forty-nine to veto any rev­enue idea. The Blethens sure­ly know this, too.

Yet they con­tin­ue to pub­lish mean­ing­less “pro-edu­ca­tion” boilerplate.

After this bud­get bien­ni­um there needs to be a bet­ter, more sta­ble and long-range answer. Stu­dents can­not keep absorb­ing the cost.

Because of I‑1053, I‑960 before it, and the rejec­tion of I‑1098, stu­dents are going to keep absorb­ing the cost. Well, those that can still afford to go to col­lege in the first place. Those that can’t, won’t.

They will have been denied the oppor­tu­ni­ty to get a col­lege edu­ca­tion thanks to the self-cen­tered think­ing espoused by the Seat­tle Times.

And speak­ing of afford­abil­i­ty, Ryan adds insult to injury with his claim, A pub­lic edu­ca­tion in Wash­ing­ton is rel­a­tive­ly cheap. No par­ents that I know of with sons or daugh­ters in col­lege would agree with that statement.

The truth is just the oppo­site: For all but the wealth­i­est fam­i­lies, a col­lege edu­ca­tion in Wash­ing­ton is a sig­nif­i­cant, if not an extreme, finan­cial burden.

Tuition is expen­sive. Books are expen­sive. Hous­ing is expen­sive. Yes, the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment does pro­vide finan­cial aid, but for many fam­i­lies it only mit­i­gates the costs by a fraction.

As far as the right wing is con­cerned, that’s the way it should be. Fam­i­lies that aren’t wealthy haven’t earned the priv­i­lege of send­ing their sons and daugh­ters to col­lege. They weren’t dis­ci­plined enough, and so they should be punished.

I‑1053 is a right wing plot to choke our com­mon wealth to death, so that gov­ern­ment no longer works and income inequal­i­ty reach­es unthink­able pro­por­tions. Last autumn, Seat­tle Times aid­ed and abet­ted the cor­po­rate lob­by­ists that worked with Tim Eyman to bring the plot to fruition, whilst fierce­ly denounc­ing I‑1098, a pro­gres­sive plan which would have required the already-wealthy to pay a lit­tle more in mem­ber­ship dues so that we as a state could get a lot more.

Not once have they apol­o­gized for their role in putting our state into a per­ilous posi­tion. Instead, from their offices on Fairview, they have bizarrely con­tin­ued to preach the val­ue of the very insti­tu­tions of learn­ing which they have helped stab in the back. The Blethens seem to such inflat­ed opin­ions of them­selves that they assume nobody is going to con­nect the dots.

The fastest way for them to gain good­will from the city and region they claim to rep­re­sent would be to elim­i­nate their edi­to­r­i­al page alto­geth­er and leave the edi­to­ri­al­iz­ing to the colum­nists in their busi­ness and local sec­tions, who actu­al­ly seem to care about keep­ing Wash­ing­ton a good place to live.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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2 replies on “The search for a long-term answer for coherence in Ryan Blethen’s columns”

  1. I’ve been send­ing mis­sives to the Seat­tle Times let­ters depart­ment ever since the paper began edi­to­ri­al­iz­ing about our state budget. 

    Of course, none have been accept­ed, since each one point­ed out the pecu­liar inabil­i­ty of the edi­to­ri­al­ist to see any con­nec­tion at all between the paper’s suc­cess­ful oppo­si­tion to I‑1098 and bud­getary insuf­fi­cien­cies cre­at­ed by I‑1053.

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