Attorney General Bob Ferguson
Attorney General Bob Ferguson speaks at a press conference announcing he's proposing legislation to abolish executions (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

Wash­ing­ton State Attor­ney Gen­er­al Bob Fer­gu­son and his out­stand­ing legal team have once again tri­umphed over bureau­crat­ic stu­pid­i­ty and shortsightedness.

Today, U.S. Dis­trict Court Judge John Coughenour ver­bal­ly signed off on a pre­lim­i­nary injunc­tion to block the fed­er­al gov­ern­men­t’s scheme to sur­plus the land and build­ings that house the Nation­al Archives’ Seat­tle cam­pus on Sand Point Way, like­ly putting an end to the fast-mov­ing effort to dis­man­tle the facility.

“Today’s legal vic­to­ry blocks the fed­er­al government’s unlaw­ful plan to sell the Archives and scat­ter the DNA of our region thou­sands of miles away,” Fer­gu­son said in a state­ment hail­ing Coughenour’s deci­sion. (A writ­ten injunc­tion will be issued next week direct­ing the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment to stop its ille­gal plans.)

“This vic­to­ry pre­serves our abil­i­ty to phys­i­cal­ly con­nect to our his­to­ry by vis­it­ing the Archives and access­ing the un-dig­i­tized records that are deeply per­son­al to so many. The fed­er­al gov­ern­ment cal­lous­ly ignored deep con­cerns raised by the deci­sion to ship these records to Cal­i­for­nia and Mis­souri, includ­ing issues relat­ed to racial equi­ty, trib­al rela­tions, con­ser­va­tion, good gov­ern­ment, and the rule of law. The judge just did what these fed­er­al agen­cies should have done – con­sid­er the facility’s impor­tance to our region and apply the law.”

“Today a fed­er­al judge grant­ed our motion for a pre­lim­i­nary injunc­tion to halt the sale of the Nation­al Archives build­ing in Seat­tle!” said Ore­gon Attor­ney Gen­er­al Ellen Rosen­blum. “The sale would cause irrepara­ble harm to Oregon’s tribes, pub­lic uni­ver­si­ties, and our com­mu­ni­ties. What a great end to the week!”

“Thank you, Attor­ney Gen­er­al Bob Fer­gu­son, for work­ing dili­gent­ly to pro­tect access to our regions’ his­to­ry and archives,” tweet­ed Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee.

U.S. Sen­a­tor Maria Cantwell also wel­comed the decision.

“This injunc­tion is good news and a vic­to­ry for those who rely on the valu­able local his­tor­i­cal records stored at the Archives,” said Cantwell.

“Despite today’s vic­to­ry, the fight is not over,” Cantwell noted.

“Tribes and oth­er mem­bers of our com­mu­ni­ty were not con­sult­ed, and I will con­tin­ue to work with the Biden admin­is­tra­tion and my col­leagues to ensure these pre­cious records stay in the Pacif­ic Northwest.”

We at NPI agree.

We thank Attor­ney Gen­er­al Bob Fer­gu­son and his out­stand­ing legal team, our tribes, U.S. Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Prami­la Jaya­pal, U.S. Sen­a­tors Maria Cantwell and Pat­ty Mur­ray, Sec­re­tary of State Kim Wyman, and Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee for all of their fine work to oppose the sale of the Nation­al Archives Seattle.

Once again, the peo­ple of the State of Wash­ing­ton, through their well pre­pared legal coun­sel, have skill­ful­ly inter­vened to stop our fed­er­al gov­ern­ment from mak­ing a bad move that would have jeop­ar­dized our region’s well being.

The Nation­al Archives’ Seat­tle cam­pus is an impor­tant, irre­place­able resource for our region. We are a wealthy nation and can eas­i­ly afford to build new facil­i­ties to safe­guard our region’s his­to­ry. The Nation­al Archives’ plan to send 800,000 cubic feet of records to Mis­souri and Cal­i­for­nia is unacceptable.

It is impor­tant to note that records that were once housed in Alas­ka had already been moved to Seat­tle in the not so dis­tant past. Seat­tle is a long plane ride from Anchor­age and Juneau; mov­ing those records again would have made them even less acces­si­ble to the peo­ple of the State of Alaska.

With Pres­i­dent Joe Biden and Vice Pres­i­dent Kamala Har­ris now in charge of our nation’s exec­u­tive branch, our team at NPI hopes legal chal­lenges like this will no longer have to be fre­quent­ly brought to pro­tect our val­ues and interests.

NPI, which was found­ed in 2003, has a strong inter­est in data preservation.

NPI main­tains its own grow­ing dig­i­tal archive of doc­u­ments, orig­i­nal pho­tographs, audio record­ings, and video record­ings doc­u­ment­ing polit­i­cal his­to­ry in the Pacif­ic North­west from 2002 until the present. The col­lec­tion includes over one mil­lion items. Among the events doc­u­ment­ed in the col­lec­tion are in the 2008, 2012, and 2016 Demo­c­ra­t­ic Nation­al Con­ven­tions, the 2009 inau­gu­ra­tion of Barack Oba­ma, sev­er­al guber­na­to­r­i­al inau­gu­ra­tions, dozens of state and coun­ty polit­i­cal par­ty con­ven­tions, and the swear­ing-in cer­e­monies of trail­blaz­ing lead­ers in Wash­ing­ton State pol­i­tics, like State Sen­a­tor Man­ka Dhin­gra, State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive My-Linh Thai, State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Debra Lekanoff, and Speak­er Lau­rie Jinkins.

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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