Joe Copeland

Holiday poem parody: UW prof gets New York Times notice for best health care ‘doggerel’

A University of Washington professor did the best job of rewriting “The Night Before Christmas” to fit the health care reform debate for an informal New York Times contest.

Steve Harrell, a professor of anthropology, won the contest — and nothing else, a reflection we can only suppose of the sad state of newspapers these days — put on by a Times’ blog on the health care debate, Prescriptions.

His parody began: 

Twas the week before Christmas and all through the Hill

Not a solon dared say they would soon get a bill

Amendments were hung with meticulous care

In hopes that the 60 votes somehow were there

After being notified of his win, Harrell promptly penned — OK, entered on his keyboard — this witty explanation to the Times of taking the “2009 Health Care Doggerel” honors:

“I am not a poet by training or any other route but come from a long family tradition of doggerelists. I love Gilbert and Sullivan, whose songs I have frequently used for parodies of anthropology, academic pretense, and other easy targets. Maybe when I retire and have more time I can start doing this regularly on a bloggerel.”

Harrell’s biography on the UW web site says that he has taught there since 1974 and has focused on China and Taiwan. In recent years, he has taken a particular interest in environmental sustainability and educational exchanges, heading the university’s UW Worldwide Program. It offers an exchange program with Sichuan University in the city of Chengdu.

The Times has Harrell’s full parody and excerpts from a few other entries here.

To Perugia. From Seattle, with love. (P.S. Let’s forget the Amanda Knox case)

The parks department announced Wednesday that Superintendent Tim Gallagher has named a new park on Capitol Hill park “Perugia,” in honor of Seattle’s sister-city relationship with the Italian city.

As our partner Capitol Hill Seattle Blog notes , Perugia is the Umbrian city that was the site of the murder of Meredith Kercher. Former University of Washington student Amanda Knox was recently sentenced to 26 years imprisonment in the case, which is being appealed.

The parks department’s press release makes no mention of the case and notes that six other city parks are already named for other sister cities. So, the Perugia Park will mean that one-third of what the department says are 21 sister-city relationships have led to such recognition.

Gallagher is one of the top officials from the Nickels administration who will continue under incoming Mayor Mike McGinn.

Here’s the city’s explanation of Perugia Park:

“The Park Naming Committee unanimously recommended to the Superintendent that the park be named in honor of our longstanding relationship Perugia. Centrally located in the middle of Italy’s “boot” and north of Rome, Perugia became a Sister City to Seattle in 1991. It is the capital of the region of Umbria, and its major exports are chocolate and other food products. Perugia has a Seattle Sister City park named Orca Park, which features “Sister Orca,” a sculpture created by Seattle artist Marvin Oliver and dedicated in July 2008.

Perugia Park is located at the northeast corner of E John Street and Summit Avenue E. The .22-acre park was acquired in 2007 with funding from the 2000 Pro Parks Levy and a matching grant from the King County Conservation Futures Tax. This space on the western slope of Capitol Hill will be developed into a neighborhood park and P-Patch. Construction is projected to begin in the spring. Development funds will come from both the Pro Parks Levy and the P-Patch Program.


There are six other parks that bear the name of Seattle’s Sister Cities. They are: Beer Sheva Park (Israel), Bergen Place (Norway), Kobe Terrace (Japan), Nantes Park (France), Daejeon Park (Korea) and Tashkent Park (Uzbekistan). Seattle has Sister City relationships with 21 cities. For more information about the Sister City program, visit:

The Park Naming Committee is comprised of one representative of the Board of Park Commissioners, one representative of the Seattle City Councilmember who chairs the committee dealing with parks issues, and one representative of the Superintendent of Parks and Recreation.

Report warns that state is relying too heavily on cutting services at time of rising needs

A new report says that the cumulative cuts in state spending are shortchanging opportunity, education and social services in Washington state. The report from the Washington State Budget & Policy Center looks at the cuts made last year and proposed by Gov. Chris Gregoire for the coming year.

(Disclosure: Seattle PostGlobe founder Kery Murakami now works for the Budget and Policy Center. He remains an officer with the PostGlobe; he played no role in the decision to write this posting.)

The report examines the all-cuts budget proposed by Gregoire and says a more balanced approach is needed to protect public services in health, education, economic security and communities. Even if the Legislature approves some $700 million in revenue increases Gregoire plans to seek to prevent some of the cuts, the center says that the state’s budget-balancing would have disproportionate reliance on reducing services.

Combined with reductions made last year, the all-cuts proposal would represent a 14 percent reduction in the state’s main budget categories, according to the center. As the center noted, the cuts are taking place at a time of rising needs for services.

The group cited these direct losses for individuals in the governor’s recent proposal:

• Over 65,000 people will lose access to affordable health insurance;

• Over 16,000 children will lose health insurance coverage;

• Over 20,000 people who are unable to work due to disability will lose financial and medical assistance;

•12,300 students from lower income families will lose an important source of financial aid;

• 10,000 working families per month will lose child care assistance;

• 1,500 three-year-olds will lose access to early learning opportunities.

The full report is here.

Solid waste collection on Saturday for some Seattle customers; free greenery pickup

There’s no solid waste collection on New Years Day in Seattle, but there is a little twist for those who have pickups on Friday. The collection will take place on Saturday, instead.

Seattle Public Utilities advised customers to have containers available for pickup by 7 a.m. on Saturday.

Both of the city’s recycling and disposal stations will be closed on Friday but open again as usual on Saturday. Customers who subscribe to curbside pickup of yard and food waste can put their holiday greenery and trees out for free collection at normal times. The city said trees should be cut into sections of 6 feet or shorter, with branches trimmed to less than 4 feet. Sections should be bundled with string or twine.

Details on leaving greenery at the disposal stations for free through Jan. 10 are available here.

Protecting orcas’ feeding area in San Juans appears key to their survival, scientists say

A story out of Canada could have an important bearing on the efforts here to save Puget Sound’s orcas. Scientists believe that establishing a small conservation zone off San Juan Island could be critical to protecting the killer whales, according to the Canwest News Service report in the Vancouver Sun.

The scientists suggest that prohibiting boats from an area of water off San Juan Island, a popular summer tourist destination, could help assure their access to chinook salmon, their preferred meal. says the zone would overlap a half-mile-wide area near the island where NOAA has proposed prohibiting most boat traffic from May 1 to the end of September. The zone suggested by scientists would be about one mile by seven miles, according to Canwest.

People for Puget Sound distributed a link to the Vancouver Sun article today.

A year later: The Storm that Blew Away Greg Nickels

Our partner Capitol Hill Seattle Blog has a nice retrospective of photos (including this one originally upload by yelahneb) from the snowstorm that struck Seattle a year ago.

The storm’s aftereffects will enter a new era when Mike McGinn takes office as mayor, in large part on the strength of how the snow-induced city paralysis (except for a certain part of West Seattle) crystallized the feelings that eight years was enough, even for a good mayor like Greg Nickels.

When Nickels lost out with a third-place primary finish, a lot of voters cursed the low turnout and the storm anew for leaving them with a choice between McGinn and business executive Joe Mallahan. Political observers were predicting a one-term mayor even before the general election ballots were counted.

There’s talk that Mallahan would be interested in making sure that happens, by running against McGinn again in four years. Mallahan apparently recognized that people thought he was a pretty good guy.

But it seems implausible that the loser in a contest cursed as a not-very-good choice would be welcomed if McGinn should prove a flop. Mallahan would have to overcome the inevitable link with unpleasant memories and, perhaps worse, an implicit blaming of voters for making the wrong choice in a race they weren’t happy with anyway. He might be a whole lot better off getting as active as possible in public service pursuits in ways that suggest a political run, if it occurs, will be for any office other than mayor.

Even if Mallahan used the time to sharpen his speaking and debating skills, a replay of the 2009 election would induce unpleasant memories.

Gregoire to Copenhagen: Dubious rumors swirl about a larger mission

As we just posted, Gov. Chris Gregoire is busy at the Copenhagen U.N. climate change talks, telling InvestigateWest that she is negotiating with two foreign companies to bring clean-energy ventures to the state. It also makes sense for Gregoire, as a leader in Western states’ efforts to control their global-warming emissions, to be there to push for realistic international commitments.

Yet, she could hardly get on the plane to head to Europe before rumors in state offices began to suggest that she is on the verge of leaving for an Obama administration appointment. According to one version, she is headed to the Environmental Protection Administration.

We were told in the course of some soundings that, if there is anything up, not a soul in the governor’s office knows about it. That makes the likelihood of Gregoire departure somewhere around zero. Plus, about a year ago at this time, with the incoming administration being formed, Gregoire faced pretty much the same phenomenon: “Look, she’s on a plane trip that will fly over Illinois — at the very hour the president-elect has a break in his schedule to play basketball with some Chicago friends.”

So, assuming there is no big surprise, what gives? It’s easy enough to imagine a governor wanting to get away from the tough budget discussions confronting the state when the Legislature convenes next month. Trouble is, Gregoire would be the last governor to walk away from an issue she cares about — and she certainly cares enough about the budget to be willing to fight for some revenue increases. Heck, she went up to the Seattle Times editorial board and wound up talking Ryan Blethen into writing about how some additional revenue might have a role — a little one — in fixing the deficit. A miracle or maybe just one small step for grudging moderation by the pro-Dino Rossi, pro-Susan Hutchison family running the only paper in a progressive city? Consider, too, that a Gregoire departure would bring into her office the state’s lieutenant governor, Brad Owen, an alleged Democrat with a 13-year record of well-deserved obscurity who recently and vainly endorsed Hutchison for King County executive.


Now, there could be a theoretical possibility that President Obama could convince Gregoire that climate change was a bigger fight — saving the planet — and she had to run EPA or take on some other global warming role. Otherwise, expect the governor back soon, perhaps carrying some good news for a state hungry for jobs. Even if she returns empty-handed, it’s a victory for good government in Olympia.

Former Seattle fave Howard Dean tries to derail health care reform

In such a liberal, Democratic city as Seattle, some of the many 2004 supporters of Howard Dean for president must want to scream. In Thursday’s Washington Post, the one-time Democratic National Committee chairman wrote against the health care bill being put together by his party.

While admitting to a rather long list of gains in the bill, Dean backstabbed his party with this ending, “I know health reform when I see it, and there isn’t much left in the Senate bill. I reluctantly conclude that, as it stands, this bill would do more harm than good to the future of America.”

If this were some advanced country like maybe Taiwan, with near-universal care, it might be easier to get into worrying about the moral and policy calculus of undoing the good in the current system to add coverage for perhaps 30 million more Americans. It would be so much fun to tell Joe Lieberman and the Connecticut-based insurance companies to take a hike. But, this is America where the talk about joining the rest of the advanced world in universal coverage dates back decades — in some ways, to ’01 to ’08 — 1901 to 1908, when President Teddy Roosevelt had come to believe the nation’s strength required a healthy populace. By the middle of the next decade, as The New Yorker recently documented, many prominent people thought we were about to follow the course pioneered by Germany with an 1883 launch of health insurance.

Besides having been a party leader and a governor (of Vermont), Dean was a physician. Maybe being a doctor should earn him some extra right to shortsighted passion on the issue. Seattle Democratic Congressman Jim McDermott is also a physician and a longtime supporter (rightly so, I think) of universal, single-payer coverage. In October, McDermott wrote on the Huffington Post about the need for President Obama to create consensus.


Dean complains about the compromises being made in the Senate, something McDermott presumably was smart enough to anticipate. McDermott wrote well about the importance of getting started on universal coverage rather than worrying over every detail before beginning.

During the 2004 caucuses, Dean picked up 30 percent of the Democratic support in the state. I heard that in my Ballard neighborhood caucus (caucuses aren’t something most journalists would take part in), a lot of support went to the even-more-liberal Dennis Kucinich, who gathered about 8 percent statewide.

Perhaps it will turn out that Dean still speaks for some of the most liberal sectors of the Democrat Party, here and elsewhere. If so, there will be a lot of screaming from those still left out of regular health care — the ones George W. Bush liked to say had health care because they could go to an ER in the middle of the night for a possible yank back from death’s door. But the loudest cheering will come from the elated right, catching the scent of political blood in the water.

Joe Copeland is a former editorial writer for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Police on lookout for a man who allegedly opened fire on Rainier Ave. S.


Seattle Police are looking for a man who allegedly opened fire on his ex-girlfriend while she was waiting at a bus stop in the 5200 block of Rainier Avenue S earlier this afternoon.

more on this from SeattleCrime, which reports no injuries.

Joe Copeland: Governor’s all-cuts budget underlines the need to save public services

Gov. Chris Gregoire fulfilled her responsibility in releasing a budget filled with atrocious cuts to health and education. But she’s ready to fight to protect some of the vital services for the public.

Under state law, she had to base the budget proposal on current revenues. Gregoire, however, rightly promises to be back with a second budget that limits the suffering and damage to individuals and the state’s future by balancing cuts with some tax and revenue increases. That will create the kind of political fight that she and the Legislature ducked earlier this year with a budget that relied on savings.

Now, faced with still-declining revenues after making the easier cuts this spring, she’s taking the kind of action that one-time Republican Gov. John Spellman gently urged earlier. She’s recognizing that Washington cannot make the kinds of cuts required to save $2.6 billion without abandoning its efforts over the past two decades to build a better future for its people and provide a certain amount of decency in health care services even while the nation limps along without the kind of protections enjoyed throughout the rest of the developed world.

As the governor has been saying, the state could eliminate whole departments and programs (the entire higher education and corrections systems, for instance) and still not balance the budget.  So, the all-cuts budget released Wednesday is a legitimate document, not something hoked up to scare people. Among other things, it eliminates the state’s Basic Health Plan, which provides coverage to 65,000 people; Apple Health for children, which covers 16,000 low-income children; state help for school districts with low local property tax capabilities for supporting education; and state help for holding down class sizes in kindergarten through fourth grade statewide. The budget would reduce opportunity by cutting 12,300 higher education students from need-grant aid and taking $89 million from community colleges and universities.


Gregoire talked about raising revenues by about $700 million. She laid out some priorities for restoration in her promised second budget, expected in January: the Basic Health and Apple Health plans; general assistance for unemployable adults; higher education financial aid; early childhood education; the property tax equalization money for poorer school districts; adult dental, vision and hospice program; and developmental-disability and long-term care provider funds.

While Gregoire worries about hurting economic recovery with too much in new taxes or revenues, she ought to look for every opportunity to preserve services that help people survive now and educate themselves for good jobs. But she has laid out sensible priorities and opened a needed discussion with citizens. (A letter she wrote to citizens about the budget is here.)

Gregoire said the all-cuts budget “does not reflect the Washington I know and love or the Washington I want for our future and the future of our children and grandchildren. I am convinced it is not the plan for the future that Washingtonians would choose, either.” 
That’s a smart assessment, by a governor who is once again proving her willingness to stand up for values of opportunity, watching out for one another and thinking about the future of the state.