La Conner Weekly News - Your independent hometown award-winning newspaper

By Ken Stern 

Forever crises are tragedies

From the editor-


We are facing a crisis with inflation, as happened in the 1980s. Gas prices are at record levels, a different crisis from their spikes in the 1970s, when there were two Arab oil embargoes, both a result of Israeli wars. Russia’s invasion of and war with Ukraine is the precipitating factor now.

There are forest fires in New Mexico and the southwest, crises that came earlier in the season than past years. There will be soon be west coast forest fires, from California north into Canada. Thankfully the fire season has not yet begun.

Both regions, the southwest and California, are suffering their second decade of drought.

We are wrong to term the drought a crisis.

That ongoing calamity, like the increasing devastation of climate change, are ongoing disasters, in the present tense. Both are tragedies, monumental problems that persist because society does not have the will to dedicate the resources to solve them. They are actually failures, since they are solvable or can be mitigated.

But this is not an editorial on climate change or the natural environment. It is an editorial on the human caused tragedy of homelessness and the housing shortage in the United States, each man-made, each persistent for decades and each national in scope.

By definition man generated tragedies are preventable. King Lear, proud, powerful and aging, carves up his kingdom and gives it to his daughters so they will honor and care for him. Bad idea. They do not, instead turning on him and turning him out. The rejection drives him mad. But his bad judgment created the problem.

Housing stock – its quantity, quality, diversity and placement – is a national issue.

Town of La Conner, Skagit County or the state of Washington regulations and funding, no matter how many or how much, will never be sufficient to meet the scope or complexity of the problem.

Residents, as citizens, must petition and push local and state elected officials to engage in needed national planning as a start to the decades of funding and the billions of dollars that must be invested across the country – with Washington getting its fair share – to create the quantity and diversity of housing stock to meet this community and county’s ongoing needs, especially in rental units for the working class.

The City of Anacortes and Skagit County, in funding the Anacortes Arts Festival proposal for housing as part of the their performing arts center, took a small specific step to address that community’s need. Last night staff and consultants from The Port of Skagit presented their vision for developing 13 acres of La Conner Marina property. That vision will take years to realize, if it comes to pass.

Its development can be shaped in specific ways by the ongoing participation of area residents.

The Port cannot solve the county’s tragic lack of rental units and the need for starter home housing stock. It might offer hope for putting a small dent in the problem. But like drought and climate change, changing the trajectory of this tragedy will take decades of dedicated dogging of officials at all levels of government to gain a commitment from federal officials in the other Washington.

Consider President Kennedy’s vision of putting men on the moon within a decade. Our nation can solve incredibly complex problems when funding supports imagination, creativity and drive. That is what is needed if our children’s children are not to be stuck with the – yes, failures – that allow homelessness and a shortage of housing stock. And failures can be fixed.


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