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Opinion >  Guest Opinion

Chris Cargill: The fight for facts and truth – be careful who you believe

By Chris Cargill Washington Policy Center

One of the biggest challenges we face as a society is the lack of faith citizens have in media, government institutions and those who are quick to claim a sacred public trust, but sometimes struggle to live up to it.

If you had the choice to believe friends, family, neighbors and co-workers, or a mysterious activist hundreds of miles away, who would you choose?

In an opinion-editorial in last week’s Spokesman-Review, this column, my organization and the citizens of Spokane were insulted by a Portland activist named Peter Starzynski. This attack didn’t advance positive ideas, empower minorities or help working families. It only sought to further divide.

Mr. Starzynski works for Accountable Northwest, which just changed its name from “Northwest Accountability Project.” Whatever the name, it is a one-person operation based in Portland that tax records show is funded by fewer than 10 organizations – all of them unions. In reality, the organization isn’t accountable to anyone.

Based on its past actions, it seems Accountable Northwest is only interested in attacking those who have different political opinions.

In 2018, Starzysnki was caught on camera raiding the office of the Olympia-based Freedom Foundation and quickly confiscating a stack of flyers before fleeing.

Months later, he sent threatening letters to the neighbors of workers at the nonprofit research organization, asking them “do you realize who lives down the street?”

In his latest salvo, Starzysnki and Accountable Northwest attacked Washington Policy Center with what is now a reflexive accusation – everyone who disagrees with them is a racist.

Chances are, you know some of the many Spokane citizens who are involved in Washington Policy Center. They might be your neighbor or co-worker.

In addition to our supporters, we have an Eastern Washington advisory board that directs the organization’s efforts here. All of our research, recommendations, staff and board supporters are clearly listed on our website, because WPC believes in transparency.

Oftentimes, insecure people will accuse others of the very thing of which they are guilty. That is true in this case as well.

Starzysnki and Accountable Northwest have harmed minority and low-income workers, immigrants and the poor by protecting themselves and the power they hold.

State-required occupational licenses are a perfect example of this tendency. Legislation to reduce discriminatory licensing barriers was killed after union officials at the State Labor Council opposed them, despite the bills’ bipartisan support.

If you are seeking employment in one of several dozen job categories in Washington state, you need special government permission.

It is widely acknowledged that occupational license requirements have discriminatory outcomes. In 2015, the Obama Administration released a report on the negative impact of occupational licenses. The report noted, “Lower-income workers are less likely to be able to afford the tuition and lost wages associated with licensing’s educational requirements, closing the door to many licensed jobs for them.” Earlier this year, President Joe Biden issued an executive order specifically calling on federal agencies to reduce these discriminatory barriers.

“Immigrants must often complete duplicative and costly requirements in order to acquire a U.S. license in their chosen career,” the report went on to say. “In many cases, the training or experience that these immigrants acquired overseas does not count toward fulfilling the relevant licensing requirements.”

In other words, the restrictions are inherently discriminatory. This is not debatable – the data are clear. That’s why WPC led efforts to reduce these unfair barriers for those with criminal convictions, for immigrants, and military spouses, earning support for our efforts from both political parties and even Washington State Black Lives Matter.

Starzysnki and Accountable Northwest also want to trap minority children in failing schools – opposing any effort to give these children in our state a chance at a better educational outcome and, therefore, an opportunity for success. What’s more important, they believe, is the power of union bosses.

Sometimes people opt to insult people they disagree with so that they can avoid debating the issues at hand. It’s a cowardly way of pretending to debate while actually avoiding it.

Racism and bigotry still exist, and in fact, it is government and special interest groups like Accountable Northwest that are leading the charge.

Peter Starzysnki ended his July 30 article by lamenting “malicious disinformation,” which is ironic.

If The Spokesman-Review is going to publish divisive commentary from an organization like Accountable Northwest, it’s important for readers to understand more about its true agenda.

Washington Policy Center believes lives are improved when solutions, not insults, are respectfully debated.

Chris Cargill is the Eastern Washington director for Washington Policy Center, an independent research organization with offices in Spokane, Tri-Cities, Seattle and Olympia.

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