Guest Opinions

Laws should affect those who vote for them

This file photo shows a gray wolf at the Wildlife Science Center in Forest Lake, Minn.
This file photo shows a gray wolf at the Wildlife Science Center in Forest Lake, Minn. AP

Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf? Well, it seems we have a chance to find out.

Recently state Rep. Sherry Appleton, D-Bainbridge Island, introduced legislation to prohibit killing wolves in eastern Washington. For those who don’t have a state map in their heads, her district is decidedly not part of the area affected by this legislation, either geographically or culturally.

In response, our own Rep. Tom Dent and two other rural lawmakers introduced a bill of their own, establishing Bainbridge Island as a refuge for wolves. As the bill describes it, “Bainbridge Island, known for its beauty and biological diversity, is an ideal location for the first state gray wolf sanctuary. The geographic isolation of Bainbridge Island creates a natural border to keep the wolves isolated to an area where they can be protected, studied, and, most importantly, admired by the region’s animal lovers.” A wolf may be killed, the bill allows, provided all other measures have been taken and it has killed either four pets or two children.

Clearly, Dent et. al. are being facetious, or “trolling” in the parlance of the Internet Age. But equally clearly, they are kidding on the square.

One of the pitfalls of a state like Washington, where the population is largely concentrated in a single urban area, is that a fairly large area is governed by a majority that doesn’t actually live there. This shows itself in a number of ways: land use laws, water rights, taxes, minimum wage. One glaring example can be seen following every senatorial or presidential election. The counties east of the Cascades and a fair number of west side counties vote one way, and King, Pierce and Snohomish Counties vote the other way. Guess who wins.

In principle this is perfectly reasonable. One person, one vote. But in practice, what works for Seattle doesn’t always work for Moses Lake or Coulee City or Othello.

We saw this in the election last November. A ballot initiative was narrowly defeated that would have levied heavy taxes on fuel, heavily favored by people who live close to electric public transportation. A gun control measure was passed that was very popular with folks who live where law enforcement is always nearby and who may not rely on hunting to fill their freezer through the winter. That one has been so divisive that several east side sheriffs have announced that they won’t enforce the law and once again eastern Washington lawmakers are floating the idea of seceding from Washington altogether.

Which brings us back to the wolves. In farm and ranch country, wolves are a menace to livestock and people. In the urban centers and the suburban enclaves of the west side, they are viewed as majestic, noble creatures, because people there aren’t affected by them.

Which is why we applaud Dent’s bill and wish it could pass. While we bear Bainbridge Island no malice, we do feel that it is manifestly unfair for people who are safe to vote others into danger and to inflict on rural people problems which they themselves do not share.

If the wolf must be at the door, let it be at the door of those who insisted on inviting it.