The Hammer

The Hammer, Vol. LXIV

'Zero energy?' You've come to the right place
May 11, 2023 at 5:05 a.m.

Executive Editor

Headline from Up on the Hill: “Western Washington University breaks ground on its first zero-energy building.”

Au Contraire: The Hammer can personally attest that old College Hall, former home to the newsroom of the (then) Western Front, was zero-energy several decades before that became cool. Even today, rumor has it that certain corners of the present CF Building also make the cut. Check your facts, people.

But Since You Asked: The new structure in question is actually Kaiser Borsari Hall, the university’s new electrical and “computer engineering, energy science and computer science building” being touted as “the first publicly funded zero-energy academic building on a university campus in Washington state.” Among other things, it is advertised as 100% solar-powered.

Building Specs: 54,000 square feet, jammed into a skinny current parking lot (nice knowing ya', 17G!) east of the Communications Facility, hard against the slopes of Sehome Arboretum, connected by a sky bridge. Price tag: $73 million, $10 million from namesake donors Fred Kaiser and Grace Borsari.

Check it Out Yourself: Dedication: 3 p.m. May 20. Parking in the C Lots. Go see the ribbon fall; it’s (mostly) your money.

Quite the Fruit-Basket Upset: With what seems to be a gathering herd of locally prominent Ds apparently elbowing their way into the Whatcom County Exec’s race, against the “nonpartisan” Democrat incumbent, Satpal Sidhu.

The Issues: They’re varied and complicated, but it creates the interesting spectacle of the local self-proclaimed progressive party breaking out multiple knives to unseat one of the region’s more-prominent nonwhite political leaders.

Should That Be the Bottom Line? Of course not. The more the merrier, challenge leads to accountability, etc. But the challenges to Sidhu by fellow D Barry Buchanan, with rumors of at least one more name about to drop, are still fascinating in terms of local political optics.

Namely: For better or worse — and this can be argued both ways — it’s a far departure from the olden days when these sorts of internal divisions would have been straightened out behind closed doors by party leaders, arguably presenting a stronger general front against conservative challengers. That's a very real present-day political issue with very long roots here in the upper left corner.

Having Said That: Is there a Northwest political party apparatus these days with less outwardly visible command and control than the Whatcom County Democrats?

Much More to Come: Next week’s filing-period window will provide some clarity, and after that, support for each candidate — with some insight into motivations — will become apparent via reporting of that good old American political currency: money. Let it at least be said that the coming Aug. 1 primary shall not be boring.

Unleashing of the Kraken: Fun to see the region awaken to big-time hockey, even though the northern parts of the region, and by that we mean British Columbia, have been awakened to same for a good century. Either way, a nice distraction from the up-to-now missing local thing, spring.

This Week’s Tongue-in-Cheek Clever Take Award: To letter writer Paul Kenna, who suggests, in lieu of finally repaving, seeking historic preservation status for the original Oregon Trail Wagon Ruts on city streets west of the Interstate 5 Exit 252 overpass near Sehome Village. We know you’re joking, Paul, about keeping this bone-jarring roadway catastrophe, decades in the making, right there at the front door to many visitors to the ‘ham, intact in perpetuity. Right? Right?

Speaking of Asking/Receiving: All that hue and cry over the state Legislature’s altered rules for police pursuits, made at the height of racial-injustice protests following the police murder of George Floyd, has resulted in at least a partial rollback. Gov.-Not-Quite-For-Life Jay Inslee signed the new law, influenced by Whatcom County pols and many others, on May 3. 

What's Changed? Cops no longer need probable cause to initiate a pursuit, the standard morphing back toward “reasonable suspicion,” as pushed locally by Rep. Alicia Rule and others.

Upshot: Decidedly unclear. Some local cops made it sound like the pursuit law was largely responsible for what seems a spike in brazen criminal activity over the past year-plus. We shall see.

From the New Pursuit Law’s Creator: Sen. John Lovick of Mill Creek: “I don't think we went overboard. It brings it back to center. It gives officers the tools to do their jobs to the best of their ability.” Well, here’s hoping. Surely police know that second-guessing sharp eyes are watching every chase. Not a bad thing in itself.

And Finally: Slowly unfolding happy signs of spring include alleged unseasonably blisteringly hot temps this weekend. And the North Cascades Highway opens, relinking Whatcom County’s cosmic link with Twisp and environs. If you have to ask, don’t ask. Just enjoy the drive. 

The Hammer swings in print on Wednesdays and in the magical interweb cloud layer on Thursdays. Stay clear of the claws.

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