Our writers offer updates on some of the interesting people, places and issues they covered in the pages of Pacific NW magazine in 2017.
Catching up on some of the best tales we told in 2017:
IN JANUARY, as President Donald Trump prepared to take office, college administrators around the country worried that international students would be deterred from coming here to study. And here in Washington, students from foreign countries wondered whether they’d still be welcome in America.
But this fall, at least at the University of Washington’s main campus in Seattle, the number of students who came from abroad actually increased. Although slightly fewer students from other countries applied for admission, more said “yes” when they got an acceptance letter. The final count: 1,153 freshman international students enrolled at UW Seattle, about 28 percent more than last year, when there were 901. They make up about 17 percent of the freshman class.
Nationwide, however, many colleges did see a drop in the number of international students accepting an admissions offer from a U.S. university. Still, some experts say it’s too early to say whether there’s been a “Trump effect” on international enrollment.
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SOON AFTER graciously sharing humorous stories about the first year of Pearl Jam’s history, Louie Raffloer and Mary Gioia got the boot.
Raffloer and Gioia had been creating ironworks art at Black Dog Forge and Studio Gioia in a Second Avenue building in Belltown for more than 25 years. When they started there, a new band, called Mookie Blaylock at the time, was practicing in the basement under their shop.
“They were working on a record that was going to make them world-famous, and we didn’t even know it,” Raffloer said earlier this year, shortly before Pearl Jam was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
In May, Raffloer and Gioia were told their studio — and its famous basement — was for sale, and they had to be out in two months. Raffloer posted a thank-you note on Facebook to the family that had owned the building all those years and rented the space to them at a “ridiculously excellent” price. He encouraged fans of their work, and fans of Pearl Jam, to be really angry if they wanted — then to let it go.
“We could not be happier,” Gioia said after moving to the new location (6555 Fifth Ave. S., No. 109). “It is both an honor and an inspiration to be surrounded every day by artists and craftspeople of all kinds.”
Speaking of artists and craftspeople … after the April 7 induction ceremony, Pearl Jam got back to the business of being Seattle’s greatest band.
THE FORMER Northern State Hospital casts shadows much longer than any of the unique buildings on its historic Sedro-Woolley campus. An April piece exploring the former mental institution’s interesting past — and promising future as a tech campus/manufacturing facility — sparked a new wave of interest among readers near and far who were related to former Northern State workers, or patients. The story also provoked interest among history buffs and others interested in touring buildings on the campus, now known as the Swift Center and managed by the Port of Skagit.
Short answer: Be patient for another year or two. Formal transfer of the 225-acre property from the State of Washington to the Port could be complete as early as next June. In the interim, work continues on a cleanup of any toxic substances on the campus (which once ran a full-fledged dairy and still has its own boiler plant and other industrial equipment) and improvements to the access road leading to the campus from Highway 20, just east of Sedro-Woolley.
The next phase for the campus will be a plan to remake some old buildings, and add four new structures said to be designed to match the distinctive, red-roofed Spanish Colonial Revival architectural style, by the primary tenant, Janicki Industries. Janicki, owned by a Skagit family that pioneered large-scale carbon-fiber manufacturing, last year announced plans to move its development for a potentially revolutionary “Omni Processor,” a contraption that turns human waste into both potable drinking water and electrical power, to the new campus. Janicki officials say their desire is to keep manufacturing of the device local.
Once those plans are solidified, property managers say they will develop and release details for public use of portions of the campus. A broad swath of valley land once home to the institution’s dairy farm already is accessible via a trail network at Skagit County-operated Northern State Recreation Area.
In the meantime, volunteer friends of the campus continue to chip away, literally, at the daunting task of saving hundreds of small, numbered grave markers in the Northern State cemetery, where thousands of former patients were laid to rest over the decades the mental hospital was in operation. A work party in August removed more sod that was slowly covering diminutive markers that serve as the only legacy of the many patients moved through the facility between 1912 and 1973.
IN THE SEVEN months since the launch of “Portraits of Homelessness,” which invited people living in Seattle’s homeless camps to chronicle their struggles in their own handwriting, the city has cleared all of the makeshift settlements where photographer Erika Schultz and I met our subjects.
Most were forced to find new vacant spaces to set up camp. A few found more-stable accommodations, including the man named Charles who appeared on the cover of the May 7 edition of Pacific NW magazine. He says he secured long-term housing in a facility in downtown Seattle and hopes to secure a Section 8 voucher through the King County Housing Authority that would allow him to rent low-income housing at a reduced rate in the private market.
The number of people living on King County’s streets, in tents and in vehicles reached 5,485 this year, up from 4,505 in 2016, according to the latest annual point-in-time count, which used improved tallying methods. This year’s count also found that another 6,115 people were staying in shelters and transitional housing units.
LAST SPRING, six women contemplated their decisions to have, or to not have, children.
One of them, 35-year-old Sarah Haas, was torn. She loves kids, but she didn’t feel her life was in an ideal place to have any, and that hit-you-in-the-gut biological urge some women feel hadn’t hit her.
Now, Haas is no longer torn: She wants to be a mom, and she wants to become one by adopting a child.
Part of her decision was made for her, she says, when her gynecologist ran tests in August and told her the time was pretty much now or never if she wanted to give birth.
At first, Haas cried. It wasn’t at all the news she had been expecting. But then, she began to see things differently. She wasn’t ready to get pregnant right away.
“It was like, ‘This is what the universe has given. Pick your path,’ ” she says. “I didn’t mourn for that baby I would never have. Instead, it just felt like a new chapter; a new way of looking at things was presenting itself.”
With the thought, the pressure, of making a decision about carrying a child out of the way, she saw the decision in a new light. Haas has helped care for children her entire life, and she wants to care for her own.
Her life and her romantic relationship feel stable now, she says, and she could foresee raising a child in the next few years. She has started the early stages of exploring adoption, including checking with her company’s insurance plan.
It might take a while, and it might never happen, but Haas feels at peace with her decision.