|Above: Population Growth of WA counties: 1990 - 2013. Click to Enlarge.|
Below: Top ten cities for total growth (diff) 2010 - 2014. Sources: ofm.wa.gov
Before I start with a statistical piece on the growing population of WA, I want to tell a story; a violent story. In fact, this was the last violent episode we had to endure/know/witness as my wife and I were leaving Oakland for Bellingham. Although it was hardly the most violent memory or story I can tell, it was a story that meant something to me years later. We were packing that day. Preparing for a huge move and change in our lives that would eventually take us to where we are now: proud but exhausted Bellingham parents and homeowners. In Oakland, CA there is a considerable amount of gun violence and death. Generally, Oakland's population of 400K compares in yearly homicides with those murdered in WA state which currently has a population of about 7M. That level of crime has widespread socioeconomic effects and changes the nature of law and justice in your city and county.
Police and CommunityMy wife had just arrived home, having taken the 35th ave exit off highway 580. She told me there was a cop car parked on the side of the highway and some confusion at the off ramp. I turned on the news to listen and read the papers the next day. Something tragic had happened: an officer in his cruiser had been shot. In this crime, a young eighteen year old had procured for himself a high powered rifle, stationed himself in a room next to the 35th Ave off ramp, and shot the first police officer he saw exiting the highway. As I recall the story, this young man did not have any serious criminal record and was not wanted on any outstanding warrants. The source of his anger was simply his perception of how the Oakland Police Department had mistreated his older brother. He let them know this after they arrested him and proceeded to stop talking. When I read this printed recollection to my wife, she asked me to remember that Oakland was not always a homicide capital. Both my wife and I are multi-generation Oaklanders whose parents chose to live and raise families here because they thought it was fine town. For our generation however, narcotics trafficking, increasing density and 'crack cocaine' changed the livability equation, especially for those of us from east Oakland.
To a stranger from Bellingham, WA, my story might just seem like another tragic episode from the big city. But if you were raised in Oakland, you can't help but reflect on the social relevance of such an incident. When crime (especially narcotics trafficking) has taken over a city for some length of human generations, when your police force has been characterized as 'militarized' long before that characterization became common, a terrible relationship develops between those designated to keep the peace and your community. That relationship becomes tenuous, overwrought, overcharged, and sometimes violent. By the time you've got to the point where random, bitter, aggrieved 18 year old males are shooting cops in their cruisers, you have essentially lost the war; no many how many daily battles your heroic, expensive, well trained law enforcement sometimes win.
This outcome is not the community relationship we need to grow strong and prosperous cities in WA. In the dynamics of a city like Oakland, law enforcement is not necessarily seen by all the community as keeping the peace or solving for crime. They become seen as a police state chasing the effects of poverty, amid a charged political environment that alleges racist and classist brutality. The resulting social relations from that outcome create a tough place to live. In the 1960s, Huey Newton reputedly handed out shotguns in Oakland as a response to police brutality. "Arm yourself or harm yourself, brother", was Newton's reputed catch phrase. Reading about Oakland today, I have to wonder if the relationship between the police and the public is any better now than 40 years ago. How do we avoid such an outcome as our cities and state grow in WA? Here is my answer: At all costs, reproduce an environment of economic prosperity for your citizens. I will talk more about how this can be done in another post. But first, let us examine just how fast WA state is growing.
Looking at Growth in WAI am going to break up WA state's 39 counties in three groups of net growth (slow, medium, fast)
The table below is the top ten for net growth between 1990 and 2013 ranked in descent by the difference in county populations between those years (e.g. column 'diff'). The column 'rate' is '1 - (pop1990/pop2013)'. The top five counties added nearly 1.3M in those 24 years. The second five, approximately 370K.
county 1990 2013 diff rate
1 KING 1507319 1981900 474581 0.2394575912
2 SNOHOMISH 465642 730500 264858 0.3625708419
3 PIERCE 586203 814500 228297 0.2802909761
4 CLARK 238053 435500 197447 0.4533800230
5 SPOKANE 361364 480000 118636 0.2471583333
6 THURSTON 161238 260100 98862 0.3800922722
7 WHATCOM 127780 205800 78020 0.3791059281
8 BENTON 112560 183400 70840 0.3862595420
9 KITSAP 189731 254000 64269 0.2530275591
10 YAKIMA 188823 247250 58427 0.2363073812
Now let us look at the bottom twenty counties in total population growth for those same 24 years. Some of these counties may appear to have growth rates matching the above table. But in fact, most of these counties are still quite sparsely populated. These twenty counties have added a combined total of only 119K to WA population over those 24 years. This result means that the bottom twenty counties for net growth in WA have accounted for only 7% of the growth of the top ten counties in WA in the last 24 years.
20 KITTITAS 26725 41900 15175 0.3621718377
21 DOUGLAS 26205 39280 13075 0.3328665988
22 STEVENS 30948 43800 12852 0.2934246575
23 WALLA WALLA 48439 59500 11061 0.1858991597
24 JEFFERSON 20406 30275 9869 0.3259785301
25 GRAYS HARBOR 64175 73200 9025 0.1232923497
26 OKANOGAN 33350 41500 8150 0.1963855422
27 WHITMAN 38775 46000 7225 0.1570652174
28 SAN JUAN 10035 16000 5965 0.3728125000
29 ADAMS 13603 19200 5597 0.2915104167
30 PEND OREILLE 8915 13150 4235 0.3220532319
31 ASOTIN 17605 21800 4195 0.1924311927
32 KLICKITAT 16616 20700 4084 0.1972946860
33 SKAMANIA 8289 11300 3011 0.2664601770
34 PACIFIC 18882 21000 2118 0.1008571429
35 LINCOLN 8864 10675 1811 0.1696487119
36 FERRY 6295 7650 1355 0.1771241830
37 WAHKIAKUM 3327 4020 693 0.1723880597
38 COLUMBIA 4024 4100 76 0.0185365854
39 GARFIELD 2248 2250 2 0.0008888889
Even San Juan County's attraction and growth as a retirement destination has only meant a growth of 6K over those 24 years or (on average) 250 new additional residents for each year. In truth, the bottom twenty counties in WA for net growth will probably continue to gain population slowly and retain very rural characteristics. Let us check out the middle nine counties for net growth located between the top ten and the bottom twenty:
11 FRANKLIN 37473 84800 47327 0.5581014151
12 SKAGIT 79555 118600 39045 0.3292158516
13 GRANT 54758 91800 37042 0.4035076253
14 MASON 38341 61800 23459 0.3795954693
15 CHELAN 52250 73600 21350 0.2900815217
16 COWLITZ 82119 103300 21181 0.2050435624
17 ISLAND 60195 79700 19505 0.2447302384
18 LEWIS 59358 76200 16842 0.2210236220
19 CLALLAM 56204 72350 16146 0.2231651693
This middle group is a mixed bag. These are essentially rural counties with small but significant populations that are continuing to show high growth rates. However, dense urban meccas are not quite part of the profile for these counties yet. Counties like Franklin or Skagit may well be attracting retirees. To help us visualize population distribution through WA counties, let us look at some charts. These charts break up WA counties into subsets that show more of the smaller populations as the Y axis scale diminishes. The far left graph is composed of all 39 counties with population curves from 1990 to 2013. The middle graph removes the top five most populous counties. The graph on the far right removes top nine most populous (greater than 200K population) counties. Click to enlarge:
How fast will these medium sized counties grow and how will the prosperity of their citizens grow? These are critical questions that need to be answered in order to develop economic and law enforcement policy in a growing rural WA.
More Recent Data: 2010 - 2014
More recent data is available from OFM covering the years 2010 - 2014. Although the more recent data confirms growth in all parts of WA, my biggest takeaway is the continued growth of King County. The top image in red is top 30 county growth by volume between 2010 - 2014. Left side is inclusive of King County. The image in blue below is top 30 county growth by volume between 2010 - 2014. Left side is inclusive of King County. Click to enlarge these panoramas.
OFM (Office of Financial Management for WA) links
http://www.ofm.wa.gov/sac/dnld/cjdb90_13.xls (Data for this post.)
http://www.ofm.wa.gov/pop/april1/ (Data for this post.)