Wednesday, March 23, 2005
If eastern Washington were to secede?
If eastern Washington were to secede would WSU and Bryan Clock be left high and dry?
Splitting Washington State in half?
Written March 2005
What would happen to the higher education system?
Some West side "Blue Stators" will smugly point out that the state spends more, per capita, for roads in "tax cut" eastern Washington country than it does west of the Cascades.
More road miles to maintain per person in the wide open spaces of the east side.
It's true, if one ponders the duties of state government, the west side, with the economic engine of its urban areas, has a point.
This can certainly be seen in higher education; a major function of state government.
Splitting Washington would devastate both sides of the divide. More universities are on the east side while most of the students come from the west side.
Heavily populated Western Washington only has two universities while the east side enjoys three. Of course, University Of Washington, in Seattle (west side), has the largest enrollment, but the only other university is Western Washington University, here in Bellingham.
Evergreen State College, in Olympia (west side), is much smaller and not called a University.
With less population, eastern Washington has Eastern Washington University, in Cheney, Central Washington University, in Ellensburg and Washington State University, in Pullman. The latter often reports that King County, where Seattle is located, is the top "county of origin" for WSU Students.
Would those students come to WSU if they had to pay out of state tuition?
This situation could devastate the economy of Pullman, Washington which can be seen as an island of "blue state" in "red state" eastern Washington.
That college town, where I happen to be from (born and raised), is sometimes referred to as the "Athens of the Palouse."
If the west and the east were to divide, both sides would suffer higher education blues. College town economies of the east would be hurt by lack of students and the accompaniment of state funding. The west side would suffer from too many students with lack of classroom space. Enrollment ceilings, on the west side, are bad enough already.
Outside the business of state government, west side folks might have to swallow some of their smugness also. Much of the power that runs west side cities comes from dams on the Columbia River, in eastern Washington.
Some of western Washington's garbage goes east for disposal. Much of it goes all the way to eastern Oregon, to waste repositories around Arlington, Oregon.
Western Washington "blue state" people often boast about buying local, rather than supporting Walmart style corporate monsters.
Farmer's markets with local produce and musicians flourish on the west side, but where would the dairy farmers be with out hay from east of the mountains?
I once had a conversation with a truck driver who described what goes into milk, supposedly produced by Whatcom County (west side) dairy farms. Some grass is grown locally, but lots of hay is trucked in from eastern Washington. Feed corn comes from far afield. It is grown in places like southern Idaho and even the Dakotas. Dairy feed is even sweetened, sometimes, with cotton seed from places as far as Australia.
Yes, "local feel gooders," we live in a global economy. Global at least as long as people insist on living the way we do.
If eastern Washingtonians really wanted to play hardball and cut off some of the private commerce, this entire state would be devastated. However, that could not happen as long as both sides remain in USA where commerce crosses state lines easier than do local tax dollars or college students.