Perhaps it all ends in a major disappointment for the historians, tribes, and simple fans of the National Archives in Seattle.
Perhaps by summer everything will be done and the 10 acre Sand Point property, which has been classified as surplus by the government, will be sold to developers as planned.
As indicated in a letter sent to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) on Wednesday and signed by congressional delegations from Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Alaska, opponents of the sale are pushing on.
It begins with U.S. District Judge John Coughenour’s decision on February 12th to issue an injunction to stop the sale.
The letter, sent on Wednesday, was addressed to Rob Fairweather, assistant director of OMB, an agency that has been called “the most powerful office in Washington you have never heard of”. It manages the federal budget, which was set at $ 4.75 trillion in fiscal 2020.
The letter asked Fairweather “to take immediate action to reverse OMB’s prior approval of the sale”.
Maria Cantwell, Patty Murray and the six senators from the other states and 17 agents called the sale “legally flawed” and “in violation” of federal policy to consult the tribes.
The only Washington State representative who did not sign the letter was Dan Newhouse, the Republican whose 4th district includes Yakima and the Tri-Cities. His office has not returned an email for comment.
On Wednesday, an OMB spokesperson emailed the Seattle Times, “Consulting the tribes is a priority for this administration and we have reached out to the affected tribes to hear from them directly.”
The archives here contain 800,000 cubic feet of archival records that tell the story of the Pacific Northwest.
It has now been more than 13 months in a campaign that included a virtual hearing with over 300 participants and a lawsuit from Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson and 29 tribes and various groups.
The federal government plans to move records from here to facilities in Kansas City, Missouri (1,840 miles away) and Riverside, California (1,200 miles away).
The history of 272 nationally recognized tribes in this region, as well as all federal records made in the Pacific Northwest, including military, land, judicial, tax, and census records, will be postponed. The collection also contains more than 50,000 original files related to the Chinese Exclusion Law of 1882.
At the trial, Coughenour said the government could have avoided a “public relations disaster” if it had shown “a degree of sensitivity” to the impact of the closure on the Northwest.
He also wondered if anyone on the five-member public building reform committee that had decided to shut down the archives here was from the Pacific Northwest.
This is the little known entity that recommended closing the Seattle archives. The board was formed in 2016 to find out what it considers excess federal assets.
When the announcement was made that the facility would be closed, board member Angela Styles, a Washington, DC-based government contract attorney, said the board was “not required by law to seek public input first.”
When asked about Wednesday’s letter from the congressional delegation, Delano Saluskin, chairman of the Yakama Nation said, “You have to cancel this little board. Dissolve the whole thing. “