Mr. Ed's shabby treatment of Cougs a disgrace

THE GRASSROOTS work by WSU alums to block the UW's plan to have taxpayers finance half of the costliest stadium project in NCAA history illustrates the best and worst of our state's Legislature. It's structured in a way that keeps too many of the best and brightest from seeking office. And it explains the traction behind the idea of giving millions to the Dawgs while human services are threatened.

The work of our representatives and senators in Olympia is designed to be something regular citizens can do on the side. So, unlike states such as California, it's a part-time job.


Cost-savings aside, the philosophical underpinning of this approach is that a truly representative form of government comes from elected officials who aren't career politicians, but regular folks whose lives mirror those of the people who elected them.

While noble in intent, the practical downside is that it severely narrows the pool of prospective candidates to four basic types. There are those who work in family-run businesses, where a spouse or another relative can pick up the slack. There are the financially well-to-do.

There are also people like 43rd district representative Jamie Pedersen -- a high energy, high achieving multi-tasker fortunate to have enough flexibility in his real profession to make the stint in Olympia work.

And then there are the Ed Murrays of the world.

Those are the people who can't or won't hold down real jobs. They, in fact, are just what the early founders didn't want in the Legislature: career politicians. Murray's official biography says his only professional experience outside of 13 years in the Legislature is work as an aide to a member of the Seattle City Council in the early 90s. Now that's a varied career path. Little wonder Murray is believed to covet the U.S. House seat held by Jim McDermott.

A call to Murray's office to find out if he works now -– or has ever worked -- outside of the Legislature yielded only a pause from a staffer and then a reticent "he's a consultant."

What kind of consultant?

"Um, you'll have to ask him," the staffer said. A call to Murray's press aide seeking clarification was not returned.

Murray, like Pedersen, hails from the state's 43rd district. The Fightin' 43rd, as the region is known among its largely Democratic constituency, includes the University of Washington within its borders.

So the notion of "re-purposing" $150 million taxpayer dollars to help fund the Husky Stadium proposal puts Pedersen and Murray at center stage of the issue. Especially so with Murray, who is chairman of the Senate Democratic caucus.

How Pedersen and Murray have responded to the UW proposal -– and, more specifically, the subsequent grassroots efforts of WSU alums to block what the crimson side sees as poor public policy -– is instructive.

Mind you, neither Pederson nor Murray has a degree from UW or WSU, so there are no innate ties that bind. Murray is a University of Portland graduate and Pederson earned his undergraduate and law degrees at Yale.

On Monday, at a legislative hearing in Bellevue to collect citizen input on "re-purposing" the soon-to-expire hotel, restaurant and car rental tax in King County, Murray took the opportunity to berate Mike Bernard and Glenn Osterhout.

Mike and Glenn are two citizens who help pay Murray's salary.

They gave official testimony at an event that was thought to be aimed at gathering information from the state's citizens.

Their wrongdoing in the eyes of Murray?


They're WSU graduates who have organized a grassroots campaign built around what any reasonable-thinking person would consider two highly valid notions.

The first is that public policy and good government wouldn't be served by handing over an unprecedented amount of money to the UW for a lavish stadium remodel -- particularly at a time when the state budget situation is so dire; in other words, the UW should fund the remodel through private donations like everyone else. The second is that there are two Pac-10 football teams in this state and lawmakers have no business skewing the playing field toward one of them.

Bernard and Osterhout are two of the most level-headed, bright, professional individuals you could ever meet. Their testimony was factual and heartfelt. And in the face of Murray telling them they should be "ashamed" to be standing up against the Husky Stadium proposal, they were calm.

Remember now, we're talking about a stadium here. Not the UW's outstanding medical school. Or law school. Or the ocean sciences program. Or any other good works. No Cougar would begrudge support for those admirable pursuits.

In the face of Murray telling them they were "provincial," Bernard and Osterhout were respectful. In the face of Murray telling them they were "parochial," they were courteous. In the face of being told they were "setting off a bomb" in their challenge to the Great And Glorious Oz of Montlake, they focused purely on the issues.

Murray came across like Boss Hogg. He sounded like a spoiled dictator being crossed by the peasants. He didn't act anything like what our state's pioneers envisioned. He sounded like an out-of-touch politician. There's no denying his right to see an issue differently, but to brow beat those on the other side is downright un-American.

Contrast that with Pedersen, who has been in the state House for two years. When contacted about the UW stadium plan several months ago, and told of serious concerns raised by WSU alums, he responded immediately with an incredibly thoughtful letter. (Murray received the same inquiry and never responded.)

Pedersen said he's not a fan of public financing for sports venues but views Husky Stadium differently because it is state owned and used for amateur athletics. Fair enough.

He went on to say this: "I am open to listening to the proposal -- it does not mean that I would support it ... there are many other potential uses of that money. I think that we would all be better off if the Huskies and Seahawks shared Qwest Field."

Holy moly. There are layers of intrigue in that handful of words.

Foremost, of course, is that he berated no one for viewing the world through crimson-colored glasses. He's also saying he's keeping an open mind until learning more but sees a bigger picture of need around the state. And then he caps it off by suggesting the unthinkable in the eyes of the Husky faithful: playing their games at Qwest.

For an elected official whose district includes the UW, that is a courageous statement.


Jamie Pedersen, though, is a statesman, not a political hack. He's about governance, not business-as-usual.

Pedersen is the type of elected official this state needs more of. Murray is the type that gives politicians a bad name.

My advice to Sen. Murray: Apologize for your ridiculous behavior on Monday, and immediately start taking lessons from Pedersen on how a real citizen legislator ought to operate.

My advice to the Cougar faithful: Write to your state representatives and senators right now and let them know that Murray is off base on Husky Stadium. Let them know that you embrace good government. Let them know that cronyism is dead. If you need assistance finding and contacting your elected officials in Olympia, Click here.

And if you want to write to Sen. Murray, he can be reached at

In addition, join the growing list of more than 2,700 Cougs who have signed on to the grassroots effort opposing the UW's money grab. You can do so at the group's Facebook account.



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