Thursday, November 26, 2015

In 1891 when someone stood up against Thankgiving

C.B. Reynolds of the Washington Secular Union in 1891:
We no objection to pumpkin pie, but we do protest against its being seasoned with theology.
That is about the best quote ever.

And, the quote really puts a light on how far back our churched vs. unchurched tradition goes back up here. Although I doubt the WSU had a long tradition (hard to find any evidence of them beyond the early 1890s), it was already being pointed out that our region is pretty ungodly 25 years later:
The great problem, to my mind, in the Pacific Northwest is lack of religious life. Many causes contribute to this. The newness of the country, its people coming here from all parts of the world, strangers to each other, without the family and home connections; the population is cosmopolitan, with nearly every nationality represented, with a large proportion of Southern Europeans and Orientals, who have no religious life nor Sunday observance.
It didn't matter in the end what Reynold's and the WSU wanted, Gov. Ferry did his part and issued a proclamation and honored the almighty anyway. I mean, who else are you going to be thanking?

Friday, November 20, 2015

Not really the best of the last four months (Olyblogosphere for Friday, November 20, 2015)

First Olyblogosphere since "the break?" You think I'd go back and find all the best blog posts from the last few months. Nope. Not really.

But enjoy!

1. Olysketcher is so good. I mean, good good good.

2. Olympia, WA may well be a dead blog. Which totally sucks. That blog was pretty damn good.

3. But, on the bright side of things, Olympia Pop Rocks (not technically a blog) is still going strong. Go Jemmy! Go Guire! Especially this episode, which is probably the most non-representative. So much to unpack!

4. Ken reminds us back in the day when Republicans made a big effort to welcome refugees in Washington State.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Notes on the impact of alcohol, prohibition and Thurston County

I was supposed to give a short talk in front of a History Happy Hour earlier this year. At the very last moment I had to beg off, but I really appreciate Len Balli and the folks at the Washington State Historical Society thinking of me. Just to be invited was pretty cool. You guys do good work.

Seriously, just an aside: organizations like the Washington State Historical Society (and libraries, local historical societies, history magazines and museums) are so vital. So vital. If you aren't doing much to take advantage of what they have to give and provide them with love and support, I wish you would.

So, without further discussion, here is what I was going to talk about:

At two o’clock on a Thursday morning in early April 1913 in Bucoda Murvil Lancaster was home, alone, with her baby when Charles James came crashing into the house. She was probably asleep, finding a few hours of rest between keeping her baby happy and running the household.

Or, maybe she was already awake, walking her child, feeding her child.

But, James smashed the early morning peace, smashing furniture and other (as the newspapers said) household goods.

Charles James was looking for his wife.

Mrs. James had already abandoned the family home in south Thurston County, and Charles had come looking for her. He was obviously already well down the road of intoxication, well lubricated as we might say, with enough drunken enthusiasm to invade a neighbor's house.

Similar to the Thursday morning when he smashed up the Lancaster House, Charles had already beaten his wife. He'd taken his fists to her at their own house to the point that she “quit the household” with the help of neighbors

The common thread here was that Charles James drank too much. And, when he drank too much, be became violent.

What Mr. James did was not considered a discrete family affair. Domestic violence, fueled by alcohol (like today) was an important public conversation.

But, in a lot of ways, to a lot of people, it was THE public policy discussion of the day. Charles James might be violent. But, should the government allow the sale of the fuel for Charles James violence?

Let's pull the focus out of Bucoda
Washington has always had alcohol. The Union Brewery was established well before statehood and was the origin-point of Northwest Hops in sat right in the heart of downtown Olympia.

But, almost as soon, we have had the battle between wet and dry politicians. It was one aspect of the urban/rural split. Urban areas were wet, rural areas (in general) dry.

In the early 1890s a dry meeting in Olympia became so crowded so fast that the intended segregation of men and women could not be accomplished. The energetic talks of national prohibitionist speakers was slightly marred by men and women sitting together in the crowd. The organizers promised that future events would be better organized and men and women would be separated.

By the time Charles James began beating his wife and tearing apart neighbors’ homes, the forces of dry had already begun turning the tide in Washington.

A local dry option law was passed, and Thurston County had opted to go dry. This left many unincorporated places like Bucoda effectively out of the bar business, despite having a few bars themselves. The Bucoda bar owners only option was incorporation, which (after a few starts and stops) happened in 1911. It was illegal for Charles James to find his fuel in Thurston County, but the city fathers of Bucoda provided.

In 1914, the prohibition and sale of alcohol was banned in Washington. Not the consumption though. In 1918, Washington went “Bone Dry,” which ended any loopholes left open in 1914.

And, in 1919, Prohibition started nationwide.

But, you could still find a drink in Olympia if you knew where and who
Liquor is mostly water, so it found a way.

What is now a fairly anonymous corner of Olympia, 8th and Chestnut, between Plum and the library,  the back end of a handful of state office buildings, was known during prohibition as a “notorious liquor drive.”

And, of course, Olympia was the state capitol. And, the Hotel Olympian was were all the action was, across the street from the then state capitol. Built in 1918 for the expressed purpose of providing housing for state legislators while they were in town.

Rep. Maude Sweetman was the only woman in the legislature by the late 1920s, and lived in the Hotel Olympian. She provides a clear contrast of what remained of the dry coalition in those later prohibition years and the actual state of things in the hotel Olympian and otherwise.

Liquor laws were not, and in fact, could not be strongly enforced:
Anyone who lives at the Olympian Hotel through a legislative session must more than once be filled with anger and disgust and the nightly revelry a, the noises from which vibrate the hotel court...

...their drunken voices gave to the early morning air the confusion of their tongues, night after night through a whole session.
Let's wind this up
By 1932, Washington was again ahead of the game when an initiative passed by 60 percent, repealing most of the dry laws.

In 1933, the United States matched pace with the repeal of the 18th Amendment.

And, in early 1934, former Olympia Mayor and state Senator E.N. Steele led the cause to write the rules that got Washington wet again. The Steele Act (which stayed intact until very recently) was defended from over 150 amendments on the floor of the Senate. In one of those rare moments when Olympia really did lead the state, George F. Yantis (another Olympia legislator) guided the Steele Act through the house as the speaker.

You can find a lot of explanations about why prohibition ended. It had become, in over a decade, too hard to prevent people from drinking. It was a joke, an openly mocked public policy against what people were going to do anyway. People with money found liquor and it was unfair for the rest of us not to enjoy.

And today, especially in Washington as we liberalize our other substance control laws, it seems quaint that we once outlawed something as innocent as a bottle of wine

Zoom back into Bucoda
Charles James in fact did not spend much time in jail. Found guilty in May, he was sentenced to three months in the county jail. 

But only after a few weeks, Mrs. James reached out to the governor. In front of the governor himself, the prisoner of Thurston County (Charles James was literally the only prisoner in the jail at that moment) promised he wouldn’t drink anymore. He admitted alcohol got him into trouble and that he would become dry himself.

And, the governor let him go.

Just one more note: I really liked the idea of reading this outloud, so I may at some point, turn it into a podcast sort of thing.

Friday, November 13, 2015

If you can walk to your park in Olympia, you like it. Drive? Hate it

Because OlyJeff asked in the comment thread, I did a similar precinct map on the park vote in Olympia.

I did it measuring where the vote did the worst. So, in the map, the darker the marker, the more no votes there were. The highest no vote was just over 50 percent, so really, almost everywhere in Olympia wanted their parks to get more money.

But, it is still fun to make maps.

This seems like I'd pretty much expect it.

Generally, the closer you are to Budd Inlet, the more you want parks. Or, rather, the more you want to raise taxes for parks. This follows the typical pattern for voting in Olympia. Progressive (because you can't just say liberal in Olympia to mean people further left) voters are thought to be in the older neighborhoods around downtown and the nearby Eastside and Westside.

When Olympia Pop Rocks asks "Westside or Eastside" they don't mean down off Boulevard Road or out past Kaiser.

There's another thing about those neighborhoods that I think might be more telling than just the way people vote on a progressive to liberal (to maybe conservative) scale. The inner neighborhoods are also generally walkable. They're older, and since people can get out and use the parks near them without getting in a car, maybe they have a more everyday experience with them.

I'm just spitballing here. But, maybe a more personal "that's my park right down there" experience means you're more likely to vote for parks in general.

But, this measure passed nearly everywhere, so it's almost meaningless to quibble.

Lastly, you see three precincts in the far South Eastside that have lighter reds than the ones immediately around them. These are standouts on that side of town in support of the park levy.

This I would say is NIMBYism at work. These are the precincts that are nearest LBA park, which has been the center of the most vocal pro-park, anti-house/neighborhood development debates in recent years.

The passage of the park levy made it more likely LBA would expand, so they voted yes.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Did E.J. Zita repeat Sue Gunn? No, she did not

Go right to the map.

A couple of years ago, I drew a map showing how former port commissioner Sue Gunn did an amazing job connecting anti-establishment voters in the rural and urban neighborhoods.

She had the ability to run as a non-partisan, showing then how you could connect the bottom ends of the so-called (by me) Cascadian Political Spectrum. Typically, partisan elections in Thurston County roll out with the more liberal (Democratic) candidate winning the north county, with the more conservative candidate (typically Republican) winning in the south.

The likely victor is decided by how many voters in the connecting suburban districts turn their heads toward them.

Sue Gunn flipped this equation by winning both the urban area and the rural south, with the connecting suburbs going to her opponent, Jeff Davis.

Unfortunately, Sue had to retire because of health concerns. She'll likely be replaced by E.J. Zita, an Evergreen State College professor and south county resident. At least on the surface, it seemed likely that Zita might be able to repeat Sue's run.

But, when you look at the map of the (very very close) results, Zita will have won by the more traditional liberal's route in Olympia, through urban Thurston County.

Zita did win a handful of precincts in the south county, and Jerry Farmer (her opponent) seemingly owned the suburban neighborhoods. But, Zita's high margins in Olympia seemingly put her over the top.

It is worth noting that liberals (Democrats) usually win in Thurston County, so it isn't that exciting to note that the liberal won again. The notable thing in 2013 was that Gunn (a former Democratic Progressive Independent candidate for congress) beat a fellow Democrat (Davis) by being more liberal. Or, she was at least more anti-establishment.

Monday, July 06, 2015

July 6, 1889: the last Independence Day as a territory and Olympia is on show

As the last July with Washington at just a territory (statehood would come in November), the people of Olympia greeted the soon to be state's constitution writers.

Let it be shown that the people of Olympia are on a par in social amenities with he acknowledged beauty of their city. 
…The tide has come to Olympia and if now taken at its flood will surely lead on to fortune if not to tame. 
In their daily contact with the members of this constitutional convention, the people of this city will be living epistles, “known and read of all men.” The conclusion, then, of the whole matter appears to be that Olympia has a rare opportunity of establishing and confirming its own fair name in the hearts and minds of the territory’s representative citizens.
This is an early and interesting notation as Olympia's supplication to the rest of the state with its role as state capital.  I feel like we still feel this way from time to time, trying to justify our existence to the rest of the state, as if Yakima or Tacoma could rank the capital from us at any point. This is probably how we get wrapped around the axle on the Deschutes Estuary.

I'd hope by now that we just accept that Olympia is good, from a dozen or so angles. Yes, we benefit from state jobs. But, we're also a good town because of Evergreen (which probably wouldn't be here without the state government).

Eh, forget it. I'm an epistle too I suppose.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Olyblog10: What's on the city council this week (not not this week) and my first blush of Olyblog

I can tell you how exactly I came across Olyblog, and I also can tell you I at least marked it with a post at this very blog. I apparently came across Olyblog on the old tescrier (Evergreen State College) email list that at one point had been public.

And, here is my very first post over at Olyblog, which for some reason disappeared from the Olyblog itself. It was about a dumb topic, so I'm not sure I miss it being there.

Perusing my early posts, I seemed to focus a lot on civic affairs, politics, community wireless, that kind of thing. Mostly the same stuff I write about here. But, I did talk more specifically about certain candidates and people, something I try to stay away from nowadays.

But, eventually (about after six months of Olyblog) I started doing a weekly "What's on the council" rundown. This was a pretty fun exercise. I got into the habit of waiting for the city webmaster to upload the council's packet for the week, and quickly read through it. This reminded me a lot of what being a reporter was like.

It wasn't enough for me to just beat the Olympian reporter doing the same thing, but I usually tried to find some nuance or angle I assumed the Olympian wouldn't cover.

Like anything at Olyblog, I eventually quit writing the updates. Thad Curtz kept up on it for awhile, but seems to have lost energy for it as well.

Which is sad. But, that didn't make me as sad as the idea never really spreading. I hoped that people would pick up other local governments (port, Tumwater, county) and do similar rundowns. But, that never picked up.

It didn't take much skill, just poking through the staff reports and summarizing what was going on.

I can understand why people never did though, it was also pretty tedious doing it week after week. I even now serve on the regional library board and I've tried to keep up with doing just monthly updates. I quit that eventually too.

Ah, well. Blogging is hard, amiright?