This week: John Stockton, green energy at odds with tribal sovereignty, the nursing crisis that preceded covid, and pickles.
Additional context is back, baby! And hoooo-boy, what a week to be on deadline. Sorry to drop us all right in the deep end, but there’s really only one place to start:
Will I live long enough to have a non-notorious celeb call Spokane home? Even one?
If you’re a basketball fan, you might have seen this coming. You might even be surprised it took so long. Until last Thursday’s game against San Francisco, almost every home broadcast of Gonzaga’s season so far has included a shot or two of John Stockton and his wife, Nada, maskless in the stands. (Yes Nada is her real, if ironic for this story, name.)
It was always a bad look in an arena that requires vaccines or a negative test, at a University that has gone to great lengths to achieve a 94% vaccination rate – including being very stingy with religious exemptions.
It only got more conspicuous as omicron hit and the school tightened its masking policy – going so far as to shut down concession stands for everything but water, taking away the excuse of “My mask is off because I’ve been eating this hotdog … for two hours.”
Many of those games have been broadcast nationally, on both ESPN and CBS Sports Network. And of course Stockton is a noted vaccine and mask skeptic, appearing in last year’s conspiracy doc “Covid and the Vaccine.” That one made a minor blip in June of last year, as did his vocal support of NBA star Kyrie Irving last month. Irving hasn’t played this season over his refusal to get the vaccine. Any one of those images or quotes could have taken off, but didn’t.
And then one did.
That one shot off like a rocket, and suddenly we had that familiar feeling. The sickening tingle of the spotlight turning toward the Inland Northwest for extremely embarrassing reasons.
The takes came fast, from the restrained New York Times:
The Daily Beast took body blows at Stockton’s blandness:
Steven Colbert wrote a whole skit.
And the GOAT, Kareem Abdul-Jabarr … What to even say? The Dream seemed shocked and genuinely concerned that Stockton’s antics would make people think athletes are even dumber than they are stereotypically portrayed to be. It was a breathtaking ride. A ride we might have enjoyed if it had happened to someone from Boise, or maybe Tacoma.
It’s only fitting that the Onion’s take would be the most ruthless:
Gotta respect the choice to just go scorched earth: burning to a crisp not just Stockton, but all long-suffering Utah Jazz fans, who rooted for he and Karl Malone – two of the best players to ever play the game – for 18 seasons without ever bringing home a championship.
There’s no cure in the world for that.
And so perhaps it’s fitting — despite the too familiar sting for us Spokies — that we should give those fans down in Salt Lake, who stood by him for so long, through so much disappointment, the last word:
The New York Times published a short opinion video this month by Lucy King and Jonah M. Kessel titled: “We Know the Real Cause of the Crisis in Our Hospitals. It’s Greed: Nurses would like to set the record straight on the hospital staffing crisis.”
The video shows stressed hospital staff and interviews nurses who want to peel back a curtain to reveal the true reasons hospitals aren’t hiring enough nurses.
“To maximize profits, American hospitals have been intentionally understaffing nurses for decades, long before the pandemic,” the video asserts.
Obviously Covid-19 and the great resignation have exacerbated the problem for frontline hospital workers. Yet the Times video argues that “focusing on pandemic burnout lets hospitals off the hook. We should be talking about better nurse-to-patient ratios, which would save lives.”
As Nurse Marci Keating puts bluntly in the video: “If you don’t have enough nurses, patients will die.” Nurse Kimberly Wills O’Connell calls for “a systemic change,” at a legislative level. That’s exactly what Washington State legislators are now aiming for.
Last week, The Inlander’s Samantha Wohlfeil reported on a bipartisan effort (you read that right) to pass House Bill 1868 and Senate Bill 5751, state legislation meant to prevent high patient workloads, close meal-and-break loopholes, and halt the overuse of mandatory overtime, according to three WA health care worker unions.
Those unions reported 71% of healthcare workers intending to leave the profession in the next few years cited “short staffing” among their primary reasons for quitting.
The house bill’s co-sponsor, Spokane Representative Marcus Riccelli (Democrat), says “executives have spent millions of dollars in bonuses for themselves during the pandemic alone.”
Nurses had been making that argument even before the pandemic. When The Spokesman-Review published a story in 2019 — claiming Providence Sacred Heart had been operating in the red for years — Washington’s nurses union (WSNA) fired back the following day, calling the piece “misleading” “corporate spin.” They pointed to big raises and bonuses for hospital executives (locally and nationally) while nurse staffing was “cut to the bone.”
NEW ENERGY, SAME DISRESPECT
Just because it’s the energy of the future doesn’t mean it isn’t playing by the exclusionary rules of the past.
On New Year’s Day, High Country News published a piece by climate justice reporter Sarah Sax titled: “Cultural resources are not a renewable thing for us: The West’s largest green energy storage project would destroy a Yakama sacred site. Now, the nation is fighting back.”
The clean energy company Rye Development is proposing a multi-billion-dollar hydropower storage project to be built south of Goldendale. It would use water from the Columbia River Basin and gravity to create a kind of battery large enough to store 1.2 gigawatts of carbon-free energy (the average coal plant is .6 gigawatts).
But it would also disrupt — if not destroy — a massive ridge area overlooking the John Day Dam called Pushpum, also known as Juniper Point.
Pushpum is a place of great cultural significance for the Yakama Nation. Not only does the area contain important archeological sites, ceremonial locations and fishing areas, but also traditional foods, plants, roots, and medicines that tribes have gathered for millennia. A 1855 treaty guarantees Tribal access to treaty-territory lands for such purposes.
“We do want to see green energy projects because we’re salmon people, and we know that climate change is real. But we don’t want them on the backs of the resources we depend upon.”
What’s more, Rye Development and Governor Inslee asked for Tribal input on the project — framing approval as necessary to move forward — but then disregarded their decision.
“Without meaningful consultation and consent,” writes Sax, Yakama Tribal Council Member Jeremy Takala “worries that the outcome of the clean energy revolution will be no different than previous waves of energy development.”
GOOD NEWS, AS A TREAT
The Northwest’s pickleball is finally getting the recognition it deserves, thank the pickle gods. It’s been declared the fastest growing sport in America because of its fairly pandemic-safe nature and is even being picked up abroad. The tennis-meets-ping-pong sport has been around since the ‘60s when it was invented by a few dads on Bainbridge Island. These days there’s elite pickleball leagues and sports betting in pickleball — it’s even got a shot to be recognized as an Olympic sport.
Now it’s being considered to become Washington state’s OFFICIAL state sport with Senate Bill 5615.
- Read about it here: Pickleball community rallies to make the game WA’s state sport | Crosscut
- PS: If Parks & Rec creates a media division for their Pickleball offerings, RANGE will field a team. Your move.
ACTION ITEM OF THE WEEK
To help frame continuing education requirements for health care providers, the Department of Health is asking anyone who may have experienced health inequities or racism in the health care system to participate in listening sessions. The sessions are virtual and there is an option for written comments.
- More information and sign up here.