2 R 7 59423 32000 3 SUN © 2019 Seattle Times Co. Ournewsprintcontainsrecycled fiber,andinksarereused. WINNER OF 10 PULITZER PRIZES PARTLY CLOUDY High, 71. Low, 53. > B8 MAY 12, 2019 $3.OO By EVAN BUSH Seattle Times staff reporter HAMILTON, Skagit County — M ayor Joan Cromley crossed over a backwater slough, chat- ting with a Seattle conserva- tionist on a tour of her town, when a noise blared, shrill as a car alarm. Cromley pulled out her cellphone. It’s an orca call, she explained, silencing its shriek and continuing to showcase the flood-prone town of Hamilton, population 300. Startling as it was, the ringtone is a re- minder of her town’s connection to the be- leaguered southern-resident killer whales. The Skagit River carves past the town, and chinook salmon, local orcas’ favorite food, swim by Hamilton each year as youngsters, before spilling into Puget Sound. Chinook numbers have dwindled, and scientists fear the southern-resident killer whales are on the brink. Now, Hamilton—proud and tight-knit even after the mines shut down, the logging jobs largely disappeared and the sawmill shuttered— is at a crossroads also. Cromley and conservationists want to take an extraordinary step: Move her rural town. Seattle-based nonprofit Forterra, which specializes in environmental conser- vation and sustainable community develop- ment, recently purchased 45 acres adjacent to the town’s boundary. Forterra is pitching a heady vision: Devel- op andmove residents to a new, low-carbon, low-waste village with a slew of eco-friendly amenities not typically found even in large cities. Perhaps most attractive, the site is above the reach of Skagit River floodwaters that have left Hamilton, at times, submerged up to its street signs. Moving people out from the river’s flood plain would allow the restoration of crucial salmon habitat, conservationists say. Can the mayor, and Forterra, convince people that leaving their homes will save the town, and also help salmon and orcas?Will flooding —projected to worsen with climate change — force the issue? But scrappy Hamilton has persisted through disasters, economic recessions and decades of politicians saying they would move it. Many homes are raised on cinder See > HAMILTON, A14 Will town pick up and move? L A U R E N F R OHN E / T H E S E A T T L E T I ME S The oft-flooded town of Hamilton, nestled next to the Skagit River, center, is now home to about 300 residents. The nonprofit organization Forterra has purchased nearby land in hopes of moving the flood-prone and economically distressed town to higher ground. E L L E N M . B A NN E R / T H E S E A T T L E T I ME S Hamilton Mayor Joan Cromley and conservationists want to take an extraordinary step: Move her rural town farther away from the important, unpredictable Skagit River. tion names, it was clear the cham- ber’s political action committee, Civic Alliance for a Sound Economy (CASE), wanted to unseat progres- sives on the City Council who had supported the head tax —notably, Kshama Sawant, Mike O’Brien and Lisa Herbold. “They were incredibly eager to find quality candidates and put staff behind them,” says AdamBartz, who runs the state Senate Democratic campaign and saw one of the inqui- ries. “They were just scouring for any See > UNSEAT, A12 Business lobby sees opportunity to unseat Seattle City Council’s progressive majority By PAUL ROBERTS Seattle Times business reporter Last May, just weeks before the Seattle City Council was forced to rescind its own “head” tax, political insiders across the state began get- ting unusual inquiries from a heavy hitter in Seattle politics. The political arm of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Com- merce, a key opponent of the head tax, was quietly preparing for anoth- er, even bolder fight: a campaign to flip the Seattle City Council in 2019. Although the inquiries didn’t men- ELECTION 2019 M I K E S I E G E L / T H E S E A T T L E T I ME S , F I L E Supporters and opponents of Seattle’s controversial head tax gath- ered last June at City Hall as the City Council abruptly voted to repeal the tax measure it had passed just a few weeks earlier. Our changing politics This is the first in a series of stories examining how homelessness, affordability, crime and other flashpoints are reshaping the region in the run-up to the 2019 elections. Find special Mother’s Day celebrations with flowers and fun at MORE ON SEATTLETIMES.COM By DANIEL BEEKMAN AND NINA SHAPIRO Seattle Times staff reporters Family and friends stood vigil Sat- urday night where a 19-year-old was fatally shot Friday afternoon in Seat- tle’s Central District. Royale Lexing was killed and two other men were wounded when, according to the Seattle Police De- partment, at least one person opened fire at a group of people on East Union Street near 21st Avenue. Bouquets of roses, daisies and tulips were laid next to the sidewalk Saturday. Red, white, pink and green balloons were tied to signposts at the corner. Posters taped to a wall read, “We love and miss you, Royale,” and “One Love,” alongside a framed photo of Lexing beaming in a sharp three- piece suit. See > SHOOTING, A11 Family and friends of slain teen hold vigil By ANNE BARNARD The New York Times GAZIANTEP, Turkey —Syrian security officers hungMuhannad Ghabbash fromhis wrists for hours, beat himbloody, shocked himwith electricity and stuck a gun in his mouth. Ghabbash, a law student from Aleppo, repeatedly confessed his actual offense: organizing peaceful anti-government protests. But the torture continued for 12 days, until he wrote a fictional confession to plan- ning a bombing. That, he said, was just the begin- ning. Hewas flown to a crammed prison at Mezze air base inDamascus, the Syrian capital, where he said guards See > SYRIA, A10 As Syria’s war winds down, forces step up torture, killings Agony and ivory A UW researcher’s mission: stop poachers PACIFIC NW > INSIDE ‘Stuck until the end of time’ How a story of a ghost Jaguar just keeps getting weirder DANNY WESTNEAT > B1 YOUR GUIDE TO SUMMER Outdoor performances, festivals, bike trips, dining out and more THE MIX > SECTION E