If there’s one thing we’ve learned during the Corvid-19 pandemic, it is that life is fleeting. Those who were very much with us one day have suddenly left this life for the next.
Just this week I heard about the loss of a man who the Seattle Times once called the “the hound of local government.” That one-of-a-kind character, lost at 94 to covid-19 related pneumonia, was Paul W. (for William) Locke.
Throughout my 12 years at City Hall, Mr. Locke was a constant. He was a fierce political activist and a living legend who haunted meetings and hearings of the Seattle City Council, King County Council, Sound Transit and Puget Sound Council of Governments.
At Seattle City Hall, you could see Mr. Locke seated in a favored seat, usually in the front row of the council chamber, 10 seats from the right side. He habitually signed up to speak at committee meetings. In time, councilmembers could have written his speeches. He would tell us to “stop wasting so dang much money.”
He always wore the same uniform: a spotlessly clean plaid shirt and khaki trousers. In later years he sported a white beard and his forehead kept growing at the expense of his sparse white hair. He was a slight, wiry figure with a pinkish complexion and piercing black eyes that seemed to see all and damn whatever he saw.
So much a fixture was he that King County Councilmember Peter von Reichbauer once offered him his own nameplate, saying that he “had better attendance than some of the council members.”
It was enlightening to read about Mr. Locke’s back story in his obituary. He grew up on a berry farm in Yelm during the Great Depression and served his country, retiring as a U. S. Army mail clerk in 1968. A lifelong bachelor, he lived frugally — without a phone — in his cooperative apartment on Capitol Hill.
He had a long second career — 50 year fighting government spending. He explained that it gave him “something to do.” His self-assigned role as village scold lasted until 2018 when he moved to Crossland Adult Family Home to spend his last months at the dining room table retelling his Army stories.
The halls of our local governments will not be the same without his watchful presence. Maybe he’ll have younger surrogates. But, to tell the truth, they’re more apt to favor “tax and spend” than to admonish officeholders telling them “to stop wasting every penny.”
In other news:
- For the Birds: Have you noticed how many locals have turned to bird watching during the pandemic? Take experienced birders like Jim Diers, founder of Seattle Department of Neighborhoods. Jim posts shots of resident birds like pileated woodpeckers and belted kingfishers and unusual sightings like his telephoto peek into a nest crowded with three baby killdeer chicks and parents. For the homebound, soaring with birds may be the ultimate fantasy.
- Yo-Ho No: With most Seafair events cancelled, the Seattle Seafair Pirates have scratched their colorful ritual landing at Alki Beach. Fans will miss the pirates’ signature event. There will be no pretend sword fights, no give-and-take with small tots, no high fives and no pictures taken with one’s favorite pirate. Davy Jones and his motley crew promise they’ll be coming back “bigger and better” in 2021.
- What ifs multiply: Denny Heck, Washington’s 10th District Congressperson, raised nearly half a million dollars in his first month on the campaign trail. He has an early lead in the race to replace Cyrus Habib who is leaving politics to join a Jesuit religious order (Heck himself decided to leave Congress). Going into the August primary, Heck faces three Democrats including state legislator Marko Liias. Heck has said that, if elected, he would be prepared to assume the duties of governor, if that office becomes vacant but would not file for any subsequent race. That’s significant because many believe Gov. Inslee would be a shoo-in for a cabinet position in a Biden administration.
- What price fame? Sales have been brisk for Dr. Anthony Fauci bobblehead dolls. The bobbleheads sell for $25, with $5 going to buy medical masks. The Fauci-heads already have netted $100,000 for the cause. Not into bobbleheads? There’s also a stuffed doll-like version of Dr. Fauci, the nation’s chief voice of caution.