NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Monday, December 3rd, 2012

King (Err… Regent) Coal

A sign that nobody likes doing the wrong thing every sin­gle time, Uni­ver­si­ty of Wash­ing­ton Regent Craig Cole (a much-ref­er­enced-to coin­ci­den­tal last name)wrote an op-ed pub­lished in the Belling­ham Her­ald advo­cat­ing for increased fund­ing of our high­er edu­ca­tion sys­tem. Craig Cole is also the Pres­i­dent of Brown & Cole, Inc. and the spokesman for SSA Marine (aka that com­pa­ny try­ing to clog up our trans­porta­tion, ruin our health, and destroy our envi­ron­ment) for the Gate­way Pacif­ic Ter­mi­nal at Cher­ry Point (oth­er­wise known as the Cher­ry Point Coal ter­mi­nal, or the project that would do ear­li­er stat­ed bad things).

I per­son­al­ly have seen Regent Cole speak in his role as con­sul­tant for the coal ter­mi­nal at West­ern Wash­ing­ton Uni­ver­si­ty. Speak­ing on a pan­el geared towards edu­cat­ing stu­dents about the coal ter­mi­nal, he implied that the let­ter signed by a coali­tion of health pro­fes­sion­als in What­com Coun­ty called What­com Docs talk­ing about the dan­ger­ous health effects posed by increased coal traf­fic was moti­vat­ed by these doc­tors’ inter­est in the val­ue of prop­er­ty they held along the rail lines, caus­ing the leader of What­com Docs to storm out in emo­tion­al protest. This impli­ca­tion brought sec­tions of the audi­ence to boo at Cole, and increased the ten­sion at an already con­tro­ver­sial event.

Iron­i­cal­ly, some of the biggest oppo­si­tion for the coal ter­mi­nal has come from stu­dents attend­ing our insti­tu­tions of high­er edu­ca­tion (those places demo­nized for being a breed­ing ground for lib­er­als and crit­i­cal thought). As the say­ing goes, though, one mustn’t look a gift horse in the mouth. As some­one who works for increased fund­ing and a real com­mit­ment from our state to pro­vid­ing access and qual­i­ty edu­ca­tion to our stu­dents, the pub­lic sup­port is much appre­ci­at­ed, but what may be laud­able on one count must be metered by the actions Regent Cole has tak­en in his oth­er work, includ­ing advo­cat­ing for a project which is anath­e­ma to a com­mu­ni­ty phi­los­o­phy of envi­ron­men­tal stew­ard­ship and pro­tec­tion.

In a way, this is very sim­i­lar to this year’s elec­tion, where rich fam­i­lies would donate to both cam­paigns to to legal­ize the free­dom to mar­ry and to begin pri­va­tiz­ing our edu­ca­tion sys­tem. While they should cer­tain­ly be laud­ed for their sup­port of Ref­er­en­dum 74, that sup­port must be viewed in con­junc­tion with their sup­port of an ini­tia­tive which reduces our strong pub­lic com­mit­ment to edu­ca­tion and only pro­vides illu­sions of improve­ment.

Cole’s state­ment must be looked in the same light. We must praise those wor­thy of it and decry those that aren’t. How­ev­er, his involve­ment with the coal ter­mi­nal taints his op-ed on high­er edu­ca­tion, con­sid­er­ing that if suc­cess­ful in build­ing the ter­mi­nal, the health effects on the com­mu­ni­ty, includ­ing stu­dents, would work against stu­dent suc­cess.

Cool Cole, we get it, you sup­port high­er edu­ca­tion. I’m not sure any­body will pub­licly say they aren’t. You’re even in sup­port of real fund­ing for our uni­ver­si­ties, which can’t be said of many deci­sion mak­ers. But you’re also in sup­port of a project which would dam­age the water, the air, and the trans­porta­tion sys­tems in our com­mu­ni­ties. And that’s a prob­lem.

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