Winds of Change
It’s not every year that the recreational boating industry loses two opponents in the legislature and replaces one with a bona fide champion and the other with a new member of the state senate that has an open door to divergent viewpoints. That’s exactly what happened this year, and it is a relief to offer some candor and honest-to-gosh truth about this now-hopeful situation.
First, let’s start with a simple question: how can someone be anti-boating? This question comes up from time to time and it’s a good one. What’s not to love about seeing the world from the water on a recreational boat? For one, if you are a lawmaker that loves the outdoors but disdains motorized fun, then a fork in
the road begins. Second, if you see boating exclusively as toys for the rich, then little room exists to see the world from the small businesses that comprise the working waterfront.
Another viewpoint that flies in the face of recreational boating and fishing (remember that over half of the state’s 240,000 recreational boats are used for fishing sometimes or all the time) is biased support for our friends in the commercial fishing industry. In my experience, recreational salmon fishing and commercial salmon fishing are, unfortunately, a zero sum.
The more wild salmon caught in commercial gillnets on the Columbia River mean less fishing opportunity for recreational salmon anglers throughout the state of Washington. There are real winners and losers and some in the legislature have put their stake in the ground to support commercial gillnets at the expense of the thousands of recreational anglers.
This scenario described Sen. Marilyn Chase (Democrat – Shoreline). I’ve seen her go out of her way to (metaphorically) poke her finger in the recreational fishing eye whenever she could. She would try to antagonize recreational fishing testimony during committee hearings. Her background was probably part of the equation, as her family came from the commercial fishing industry and that bias colored her view on any fishing issues, as common-sense as they appeared.
However, those were the old days. The conflict is over because Chase lost last Election Day. The voters brought another fellow Democrat (Senator Jesse Salomon) on board. Not only is he a young rising star, but when he’s not thinking about boating and recreational fishing, he is on the water nabbing all sorts of Puget Sound fish. It is remarkable that he actively sought out the fishing committee and in his first couple of weeks as a senator-elect, he was elected vice-chair of the Natural Resources Committee by his peers. That’s our committee! Does it get any better?
As the legislature kicked into gear this year, more news about an opponent of recreational boating policy broke. Senator Kevin Ranker resigned after it was found that he violated Senate workplace policies.
While Senator Ranker spoke about being pro-boating, I think it was merely a soundbite for him when convenient. When he was in front of boaters, he loved to boast about his locally made Bullfrog Boat. However, when given the chance he threw recreational anglers under the bus during the recently concluded Southern Resident Killer Whale Task Force. My analysis was that he would often seek policy based on convenience and anecdote, always looking for the headline and chance to shine a spotlight on himself.
Like I said, he’s gone and a new era has begun. The new lawmaker, Senator Liz Lovelett, is no stranger to the Anacortes maritime community. She previously served on the Anacortes City Council. According to my contacts there, she may not always agree with employers and business, but you can always have a conversation with her and she will consider your viewpoint. Already, that’s more than you can say about her predecessor.
As they say, March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb (or is it the other way around?). The tumult of these two wholesale changes exemplify how lions that can roar at us can change into lions that roar for us in the legislature. That the will of the voters and our community is actually represented should give hope to all the cynics who wonder what good can come from voting. Be the change, boaters!