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Spin Control: We welcome lists when the news ship is listing

Sun., Sept. 4, 2011

OLYMPIA – Summer is a time of lists. Not just the lists of what to take on vacation or what we need for the picnic, but lists to fill newspapers on slow news days.

Of which there have been many this summer. We rejoice when there is a list that puts Washington or Spokane in contention for some honor, such as last week’s ranking of the top gubernatorial races of 2012.

One could argue that it’s a stretch to be rating gubernatorial races a year away, but because Washington’s race is on the top of a list from Politico, a reputable online political website, one shouldn’t quibble. The expected race between Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna and Democratic Congressman Jay Inslee has topped monthly rankings through the summer.

Their contest – which is to say, our contest – beat governor’s races in Montana, North Carolina, Missouri and West Virginia, which ranked 2 through 5.

In truth, there hasn’t really been that much happening in the Washington race that would interest any but the most rabid political junkie. It would make one wonder how boring the races are in those other states, if it weren’t summertime.

Other lists keep coming as well. So many that Scientific American had several days of lists of lists. Seattle was named the nation’s most tech-friendly city on one, the best for Internet access on another and the top for overall technology performance on a third. It did not make the list of greenest thinking cities – inexplicably, one might say, for the Emerald City – but did make No. 8 on the list of best transportation systems, a ranking that would no doubt astound critics of Sound Transit.

It was also ranked No. 8 in the list of fittest cities, although Seattleites were no doubt eating their hearts out that Portland was No. 4.

Speaking of eating one’s heart out, Spokane was mentioned on the list of fast-food capitals, originally compiled by the Daily Beast and repurposed by Scientific American. We are No. 9, between Cincinnati and Birmingham, Ala. And while it wasn’t otherwise mentioned on lists of healthy or green or innovative cities, neither did we show up on bad lists like worst air cities, a relief after years of struggling with particulates.

Lists like these rarely mean anything, but they do help pass the time when the governor is on vacation and the Legislature is safely parked back at home.

A Tursiops dolphin is frolicking in Budd Inlett – technically known as a common dolphin, but an uncommon sight this far north – and there are weekend fairs and festivals in cities and towns all along the Puget Sound.

The festivals rarely make news outside their community limits, but an exception might be the Loggers Playday in Hoquiam, which is causing a minor stir with its official T-shirt that shows Osama bin Laden tied to a big log and being pushed into the water ahead of a muscle-bound logger with an American flag tattoo. “Osama bin Loggin,” as the shirt is called, has some in the community worried they’ll be seen as a hick town and others lining up to buy it as a patriotic statement.

Labor Day on Monday marks the unofficial end of summer, regardless of what the calendar or Mother Nature says. It’s a three-day weekend that is usually without controversy, although last week the state director of the National Federation of Independent Business seemed eager to stir the pot by suggesting that Labor Day be recast so that it not honor organized labor but the people who do the “real labor” – the small businesses and the self-employed.

While one could argue that St. Patrick’s Day isn’t just for the Irish and people of all ethnicities drink margaritas on Cinco De Mayo, so Labor Day need not be just for unionists.

And it isn’t. Labor Day is no more just a holiday for members of a union than Veterans Day is a holiday solely for veterans. But if the NFIB wants the nation to recognize the contributions of its members, maybe it should propose a new holiday, Business Day.

Chances are, though, that many of its members would demonstrate their entrepreneurial spirit by staying open extra hours and having a big sale.

Soon the redistricting commission will announce its proposed boundaries for legislative and congressional districts. The state’s economic forecaster will deliver the bad economic news (we know it will be bad, just not how bad). Legislators will argue for a special session.

Yes, summer’s almost gone, as The Doors once said. Not a moment too soon, as far as the news biz is concerned.

Spin Control, a weekly column by Olympia bureau reporter Jim Camden, also appears online with daily items and reader comments at

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