There isn’t anything The Legal Genealogist likes better than the chance to report good news.
And boy is there ever good news to report today.
The National Archives’ regional repository in Seattle, Washington, is staying put.
No more threat to sell the facility out from under the Archives simply because the land on which it sits is commercially valuable.
No more threat to move the records of critical significance to the Pacific Northwest and its indigenous peoples to places a thousand miles or more from those peoples.
No more threat to take documents, photographs and other archival materials heavily used for research by all of the people of the Pacific Northwest and move them to Kansas City, Missouri (1,800 miles from Seattle) or Riverside, California (1,200 miles from Seattle), where they would essentially be inaccessible to those to whom they are most significant.
No more threat.
The news came yesterday that the efforts of a small previously unknown federal agency — the Public Buildings Reform Board — to sell the Seattle Archives building because it would “make 10-acres of highly valuable land available” were brought to a permanent halt when the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) notified the Board it had withdrawn its approval of the sale of the National archives building in Seattle.
The fight started a little more than a year ago when, without a single opportunity for public input or comment, the Public Buildings Reform Board suggested the Seattle property was worth more as real estate than as a location to house archives.1 The proposal looked like it had been slowed by the pandemic and then, all of a sudden, it was fast-tracked by the Board — again without notice. It was buried in 74 pages of minutes of an agency meeting.
At that point, in December, Washington State sued, working together with a coalition of tribal leaders and governments and community organizations.2 And that led a federal judge to put the sale on hold.3
Yesterday, the OMB announced its decision not to approve the sale, a move described by Washington State Attorney General Robert Ferguson as “the federal government (having) capitulated in our litigation. They are acknowledging that they cannot go forward with the sale of the archives facility here in Seattle.”4
The Archivist of the United States, David Ferriero, sent an internal message to NARA employees yesterday afternoon — a copy of which was obtained by news media — confirming that the Seattle regional center would remain open: “We can now definitively say that NARA has a continuing need to maintain a presence in the Pacific Northwest, and we will continue to proudly serve the local community and other Federal agencies from our Seattle facility.”5
In short, the fight over the future of the National Archives in the Pacific Northwest has been won.
Whether that means in Seattle or not.
And that has to be said just that way because Ferriero’s memo to NARA staff references “longstanding concerns with the building conditions … and the safety of the records stored there” and notes a need for “a solution that provides appropriate records storage space and a safe workplace for our staff.”6
Still, with the commitment stated by the OMB to engage in “regular, meaningful, and robust consultation with Tribal officials in the development of Federal policies that have Tribal implications” and Ferriero’s acknowledgement that “NARA has a continuing need to maintain a presence in the Pacific Northwest,” this is Very Good News indeed.
We won one.
Cite/link to this post: Judy G. Russell, “We won one!,” The Legal Genealogist (https://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog : posted 9 Apr 2021).
h/t to reader Albert Gidari for the heads up on this…
- See Judy G. Russell, “2020 alphabet soup: B is for…,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 23 Jan 2020 (https://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog : accessed 8 Apr 2021). ↩
- See ibid., “Saving Seattle,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 7 Dec 2020. ↩
- See ibid., “More cautiously good news,” posted 12 Feb 2021). ↩
- Feliks Banel, “Feds reverse decision and end effort to sell Seattle National Archives,” MyNorthwest.com, posted 8 Apr 2021). ↩
- Ibid. ↩
- Ibid. ↩