It’s Time for the West Coast to Unite

We all know that the West Coast is different from the rest of the country. We’re now in a position to make that obvious. If we could pick up our dirt and move it, which direction would we go? The long answer would be, “Farther west, because the Pacific Ocean defines us.” (The short answer is, “Duh.”)

Oregon, Washington and California now share a unique political unanimity. Thanks to Democrat Manka Dhingra’s recent election to the Washington state Senate, Democrats now control all three governorships and a majority in each state legislature.

Substantial issues are already being addressed that Democrats care about. Governors Kate Brown, Jerry Brown, and Jay Inslee each have signed on to the U.S. Climate Alliance, pledging to uphold the Paris Accord on climate change. All three states are at the vanguard for higher minimum wages.

Those pledges and policies are substantial and important, but they won’t attract much attention from the rest of the country. Here’s one that would.

All three states should stop observing Daylight Saving Time. Nevada could join our non-movement, completing a Pacific Standard Time sweep, but that would require cooperation from Nevada’s Republican Governor Brian Sandoval.

From March until November each year, our clocks would be four hours behind the East Coast instead of three. We would be aligned for those months with Alaska’s mainland, and we’d be one hour closer to Hawaii, where they have always refused the clock-setting charade.

A unified front against Daylight Saving Time would expose the silliness for what it is. The time change was first proposed as a way to help farmers. Then it was sold as a way to save energy. Most recently, it was something we did for the sake of the children, as if morning school busses and evening Halloween festivities cannot function in the dark.

Each of these so-called solutions has failed to find a problem. Farmers have headlights on tractors when they need them, and farm animals don’t “spring forward” or “fall back” very well. Experts have studied the energy savings and it’s never more than a rounding error. Children are kept safe by parents and other adults, not by the sun.

In fact, science has lately lined up against the random clock turning tradition. Traffic hazards and heart attacks spike each spring. There must be an abundance of sleep-deprived drivers who adapt about as well as farm animals.

Think of the move as secession-lite. We’re not leaving the rest of the country behind. Instead, we’d be the ones being left behind, every spring: “You go right on springing ahead. We’ll be here when you fall back.”

Washington and California have already broached the subject in their state houses. Rep. Elizabeth Scott filed a Washington House bill to end DST in Washington, but a companion bill languished in the Republican-controlled state Senate in 2015. Last February, California Assembly member Kansen Chu introduced a bill to eliminate DST in that state.

Nevada has recently moved in the opposite direction. In 2015, the state petitioned the U.S. Congress to allow them to remain on DST throughout the year. Changing time zones or extending DST year round requires federal approval, but choosing whether or not to observe Daylight Saving Time is made at the state level.

Unlike the states’ minimum wages or climate response strategies, this is the sort of change that regular people around the country would be forced to recognize at the only time when most of them are paying attention — when they are watching television.

Network television is no longer the dominant and unifying force it once was, but wouldn’t it be worthwhile for our start times to be noted on every fall premiere promo? The biggest burden would be borne by summer sports teams and their fans.

If you had a choice between following your favorite baseball team when they are playing a prime-time night game on the opposite coast from where you live, would you rather tune in the game at 4 PM or midnight? I think the answer is obvious. Or, to offer the short answer, “Duh.”

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at www.dksez.com.