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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