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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spin Control

Sunday Spin: Scenes from Week 1

OLYMPIA -- The dome above the Legislative Building at the Washington Capitol, just after sunset on Jan. 11, 2017. (Jim Camden/The Spokesman-Review)
OLYMPIA -- The dome above the Legislative Building at the Washington Capitol, just after sunset on Jan. 11, 2017. (Jim Camden/The Spokesman-Review)

The Washington legislature is expected to get down to more serious business this week, after an opening week which was marked more by ceremony and celebrations. 

Which is not to say some work wasn’t accomplished in Week 1, but if there was a highlight reel from the first five days, it would be most likely to include:

– Judy Collins, a certified rock star no matter what that museum in Cleveland might say, singing “The Star Spangled Banner” to open the Inaugural ceremony on Wednesday, and “America the Beautiful” to close it. Dressed in white, Collins proved she still has pipes with an extended note on “. . . land of the freeeeeee. . .” on her first number, and running through verses one, two and four of the closing song. 

Without the lyrics. Think that’s easy? OK, what’s the starting line from the second and fourth verses? You probably could have guessed she took a bit of artistic and political liberty with the chorus of the fourth verse when she sang “...and crown thy good with brother and sisterhood, from sea to shining sea.”

– Gov. Jay Inslee, after giving a lengthy inaugural address, keeping it mercifully short at the Inaugural Ball. After making the grand entrance down the marble steps to the Rotunda at the end of a long procession of elected officials, Inslee arrived with wife Trudi, took the flutes of sparkling wine proffered by the tiared Lakefair princess (it’s the Olympia equivalent of Lilac royalty), and said the state “needs less speeches and more dancing.” He went straight to an equally succinct toast, which he borrowed from “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure”: 

“Party on, dudes,” he exhorted before the band struck up “What a Wonderful World.” 

– Incoming Lt. Gov. Cyrus Habib, coming up with a good multi-generational analogy for taking over the gavel from outgoing Lt. Gov. Brad Owen, who held the job for 20 years: “This will be somewhat like when someone hosts ‘Jeopardy’ after Alex Trebek.”

– The tell-tale standing ovations, and lack thereof, to Inslee’s Inaugural Address to the joint legislative session held in the House chambers. The Democratic side of the chamber was quick to rise to its collective feet at any mention of party standards like securing reproductive rights for women or maintaining Obamacare. The Republican side was, to say the least, restrained on these topics, although some freshmen lawmakers might be getting schooled on not clapping for certain themes just to be polite. 

There was no applause meter hooked up in the chamber, but the best received line seemed to be “Let’s go get this job done” – which may have been boosted by the fact it was at the end of the speech.

– Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, schooling a recent Olympia journalist on the distinctions between Obamacare and health care reform in Washington state in the 1990s. When the reporter suggested during the GOP response to Inslee’s speech that the Washington health insurance market collapsed when the state removed the individual mandate, Schoesler said the state had no individual mandate. It had an employer mandate. When the reporter seemed skeptical, Schoesler explained that he knew whereof he speaks, because he was in the Legislature in the ’90s. 

He’s right. No individual mandate back then.

– The epicurean offerings in the reception tents outside the Inaugural Celebration, which included such delicacies as octopus in seaweed salad tarts and an array of oysters. So many bivalves were being shucked and slurped as to undercut Inslee’s standard warning that the state’s oyster beds are taking a beating from carbon pollution. 

At the Taylor Shellfish oyster table was an ice sculpture that’s become somewhat of a staple of these events, a giant carved geoduck

Inland Northwest residents might not be aware that a geoduck (pronounced goo-ee-duk, regardless of spelling) has a very phallic shape. So the ice carving, which was about three feet tall, attracted a fair number of people wanting a picture of, or with, the salacious sculpture.

A chunk of ice that big doesn’t melt quickly, particularly in the winter. After the reception, the cleanup crew moved the sculpture, which was mostly intact, out of the tents and across the street to the entrance to the governor’s office, setting it next to a fire hydrant on a wall above the sidewalk. This led to the posting of some photos on social media, and even a suggestion by a professed mollusk expert that the sculpture isn’t a true geoduck, but a much less desirable horse clam. (It wasn’t. The shells are different; without getting into too much detail it is verifiable from a side view.)

The sculpture and hydrant made a cute couple, and might have stay so into next week because it’s unseasonably cold in Olympia. But on Friday the sculpture was spirited away, leaving nothing but a wet spot in its place. 

Jim Camden
Jim Camden joined The Spokesman-Review in 1981 and retired in 2021. He is currently the political and state government correspondent covering Washington state.

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