By Morf Morford
Tacoma Daily Index
April is always a volatile month. Winter slowly retreats, spring unfolds and summer approaches.
Here in the Pacific Northwest we have become accustomed to near constant rain in April.
April 2021, in many ways, was an exception. With long stretches of warmer and drier weather, summer, or at least teaser versions of it, came early.
Last month was, in almost every corner of the Northwest, the driest April on record. We saw grass fires and even a few small forest fires already this year.
Deaths in April
The single death that dominated April was the death of Prince Philip, husband of Queen Elizabeth the longest reigning monarch of the United Kingdom.
Perhaps like me, you may have assumed that the husband of the queen would be the king.
For whatever reason, Philip stayed prince. (He was born Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark).
As has his son, Prince Charles. (The current Prince of Wales).
Philip’s grandson, William, will certainly be king one day.
As will Philip’s great grandson.
When he married Queen Elizabeth, Philip became her “consort” – not king.
His funeral was a televised, socially distanced, simple affair.
He was 99 years old and died on the 99th day of 2021. Conspiracy theories abounded on the coincidence.
Other deaths in April included former vice-president Walter Mondale (age 93) and pyramid-scheme huckster Bernie Madoff.
The trial that dominated April of 2021 was, of course, the trial of police officer Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd.
The guilty verdict on every charge seems, in hindsight, inevitable, but we as a nation stood anxiously as we waited both for the verdict and any repercussions.
As a backdrop to that trial, multiple other police-involved shootings occurred – as did far too many mass-shootings in a variety of settings on a near daily basis.
Within our state, the Washington Supreme Court struck down the law criminalizing drug possession as unconstitutional.
This is far above my pay grade, but the simplified version of this situation is that it is a mess with counties, cities, police departments and judicial systems juggling responsibilities, blame and budgets.
Don’t expect a clear answer any time soon.
COVID in April
Many areas around the world experienced a fourth wave of COVID infections.
Infection numbers grew dramatically in Brazil and India, and even across the USA.
Controversy about COVID and vaccines also increased.
Vaccines became available around the world, and in the USA, for everyone over age 16.
Long lines formed around vaccination sites.
Protests against masking and vaccinations also attracted crowds.
The worldwide death toll from COVID passed 3 million. The US death rate surpassed 570,000.
Many nations have restricted, if not eliminated, cross border travel. The US advises against travel to 80% of nations world wide.
The US borders with Canada and Mexico have been closed to all but the most essential travel.
Our border with Canada has been closed for over a year – the longest border closure with Canada in US history.
Cruise lines are also on hold, in most cases, for another year.
Under normal conditions, the Port of Seattle is host to over 200 ship calls annually, involving over a million passengers – most of whom stay over and spend money in the city. This adds up to almost $900 million and supports about 5,500 jobs. And that’s just Seattle.
Alaska, the intended goal of many of Seattle’s cruise lines, is suffering. Alaska had 2.2 million visitors in 2019. More than half were by ship. Thanks to the decline in travel, Alaska reported over 22,000 lost jobs.
In what could only be described as the mayfly version of a global news story, the soccer world was shaken by the story of a coalition of the best teams forming their own Super League. Within 48 hours the story came and went from proclamation to denial to total collapse. If you missed this story, you can check out the details here – https://www.sbnation.com/soccer/2021/4/21/22394919/super-league-soccer-fall-explained-juventus-manchester-city
In National Politics
President Biden addressed Congress in a COVID socially distanced, masked, sparsely attended event. No special guests and only one member of the Supreme Court were on site.
“Madam Vice President” were among the historic words spoken that evening.
Earlier in the month, the House of Representatives voted (along party lines) to grant statehood to Washington, D.C.
The potential new state, though far smaller geographically than Rhode Island, has a greater population than Vermont or Wyoming.
I wonder what the name will be. Washington is, ahem, already taken.
The change requires (unlikely) Senate approval.
In Washington State News
Washington’s State Legislature passed a two-year $59 billion budget that invests in child care and the state’s public health system. They also approved new police accountability bills, made major changes to the state’s tax code and responded to a recent court ruling that legalized drug possession.
They also passed a 7% tax on capital gains that exceed $250,000 per year. Profits from selling real estate and cashing out retirement accounts are exempt.
As each year seems to give us a longer and more severe fire season, $125 million was dedicated over the next two years toward fire response and prevention.
You can track the progress of these, and other bills here – https://crosscut.com/politics/2021/03/bills-were-tracking-2021-washington-state-legislature.
And in Gardening news
Home gardeners across the United Kingdom were horrified to learn that the blockage of the Suez Canal has led to a severe shortage (no pun intended) of garden gnomes. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-gloucestershire-56748561?. A related limited supply of similar garden furniture is expected as well.
Meanwhile, on Mars….
With all the news and distractions on our own terrestrial ball, many of us barely registered an event that is truly historic; the first flight of an earth-created vehicle on another planet. You can see the details direct from NASA here – https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-s-ingenuity-mars-helicopter-succeeds-in-historic-first-flight.
From the NASA website: “NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter became the first aircraft in history to make a powered, controlled flight on another planet”.
Everything about the short flights of Ingenuity is a tribute to human determination, creativity and problem-solving.
If we can operate a vehicle on another planet, certainly we should be able solve our problems here on earth.
And, in Tacoma
In what would have to be an ultimate Tacoma story, on an otherwise normal Sunday afternoon at Tacoma’s Target store, a woman speeding through the parking lot went up on the sidewalk and knocked one of the large concrete balls off its base into a crowd, injuring a woman and damaging a pillar at the store’s entrance. The driver admitted to using meth before the incident.