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Seattle City Council Chair Visits Palouse

by Hannelore Sudermann - Staff writer
Spokesman Review, June 30, 2001

Pageler discussed opposition to resolution to breach dams

COLFAX -- She came with an olive branch and left with a cookbook.

Margaret Pageler, chairwoman of the Seattle City Council, visited Whitman County on Friday in an attempt to soothe any residual bad feelings over a resolution the council passed last fall supporting breaching the Snake River dams to help endangered salmon.

The veteran politician came to make amends and explain how it happened that Seattle's council was passing resolutions on an issue hundreds of miles away.

Whitman County leaders as well as city officials from Pullman and Colfax welcomed her, eager for the opportunity to send a little bit of Eastern Washington back to the big city.

"It's your day," said Commissioner Les Wigen. "We're glad you came."

"We're not here to be mean to you or anything," said Colfax Mayor Norma Becker.

Sitting with them in the near-empty board chambers, Pageler got pins, a T-shirt, a Friends of the Whitman County Library cookbook and a crash course in Palouse perspective. Wigen told her that everyone here hopes to save both the dams and the salmon.

Explaining the Seattle council's resolution, Pageler said that she and her colleagues often hear from constituents asking for support on issues unrelated to Seattle. "One group wants us to boycott Burma," she said. "But we're not in the foreign policy business as a City Council."

Advocates of breaching the dams came to the council last summer and all the members (except Pageler, who was absent) approved a resolution of opinion that the dams should be removed.

"That got passed without our ever asking our state legislators or our counterparts in Eastern Washington for information," she said.

The council wasn't ready for the reaction it got, which included a barrage of letters from Eastern Washington city councils, county commissions, mayors and individuals -- all asking that the Seattle's leaders "take it back."

"I think it was a good learning experience for the council," she said. "If we're going to take actions as a council, we really need to know a whole lot about the issue and make sure it is in our jurisdiction."

In addition to Pageler's Whitman County visit, three other council members toured the Ice Harbor Dam in the Tri-Cities.

She said her trip here was a gesture of good will. Pageler said she is familiar with the area because she has traveled extensively throughout the state and because her sister lived in Pullman in the 1980s.

As an attorney who has covered issues relating to dams and the Columbia River and as a member of Seattle's Utilities and Environmental Management Committee, Pageler said she knows dams. Nonetheless, she agreed to take a tour of the Lower Granite Dam and attend a lunch hosted by the county commissioners at Boyer Park.

She said the drive down afforded her views of lush wheat fields, stunning vintage barns, a pheasant, some deer and -- for nearly 10 miles -- a slow-going camper with a blue and white sticker in the back window proclaiming "Save Our Dams."

Hannelore Sudermann, Staff writer
Seattle City Council Chair Visits Palouse
Spokesman Review, June 30, 2001

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