Friday, December 30, 2005

My civic library idea

A few months back I emailed this idea to the Olympia City Council. I haven't heard much feeback, other than they're thinking along these lines during their council retreat next month. I'm wondering if anyone out there has any feedback.

Civic Olympia Library Project


The purpose of this proposal is to outline why the Olympia Library Board should be reestablished to:

1. Build on the already existing “town hall” meetings to create
dialog within the city;
2. broaden our community's civic discourse;
3. and, establish the Olympia Library as a center of non-partisan
civic involvement.

Despite being the largest city in the Timberland Library system, Olympia does not have an active Library Board. Other similar-sized cities, (Lacey and Tumwater, for example) have active boards that act as intermediaries between their city councils' and the system-wide Timberland Library Board.

In addition to fulfilling the roll of ambassador between the city and library system, the Olympia Library Board should be established as a “working board” to plan and carry out regular town meetings and topic-based public forums.

The Olympia Library Board civic dialog effort would build on the success of city's existing and successful town meetings. These efforts can be expanded on through the library by hosting topic based discussions, public forums and lectures.

There has been recent discussion on how libraries, as welcoming institutions in the civic tapestry, can fill the void of civic dialog and engagement. American public libraries were originally established to provide for general education to help citizens become well-informed. The Olympia Library can start broadening civic dialog by hosting non-partisan, educational forums. The attached readings speak for themselves, but here are two examples of ongoing library-based civic projects:

Johnson County (KS) Library "Community Issues 101"

Lawrence (KS) Public Library Forums:

To Inform Democracy, by John N. Berry III, Editor-in-Chief
From "Library Journal," November 15, 2004

Can Libraries Save Democracy? by Michael Baldwin
From “Library Journal,” October 15, 2002

Good sign: Healthy online discussion on new state chair

Last year when Paul Berendt was running successfully for an umpteenth terms as state chair, there wasn't much talk about it online. Not that there wasn't anyone running against Paul, he had healthy competition. But there was a sense that given the lawsuit fight over the governor's race, it would be a bad idea to change horses in mid-stream, to borrow a bad cliche.

This year has been different, which is a really good thing. Democrats across Washington have used Paul's retirement as an opportunity to talk about not only who they want to see guiding the party, but where they want the party to go. I've been guilty myself of some personal axe-grinding on the topic of the party being almost totally absent in the building netroots arena. My concerns though, have been somewhat assuaged by the discussion going on right now in several places.

Washblog has been near the center of discussion, with former candidate for chair Greg Rodriguez posting several times on his candidacy and his withdrawl. While he pointed out that his taking his name out of the ring has nothing to do with blog comments, he has been active (along with several other active Dems) in public online forums. Interviews with Jean Brooks and Bill Harrington, also in the running for state chair, have been posted on DailyKos.

Having discussions in online and public places is good for the party and good for whoever ends up becoming chair next month. I feel more part of the process being able to discuss maturely in public who should lead us for the next few years. We are a more open party, more open to newcomers and folks that don't feel empowered if we stay on this course and keep things out in the open.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Holy cow, we are lame (Chile is better than us)

While we're nominating a presidential candidate that can't learn from the internet experiment, all of Chile's presidential candidates took part in online dialog:
...the Digital Nation Foundation was born with the mission of developing a digital culture in Chile that joins the government, business world, civil sector, and education system together in order to promote greater information, communication, and development for everyone. And it is that foundation which today, has helped make Chile the first country in the world to have each of its presidential candidates blogging their platforms, promises, and news items on what has turned into a always-running, weblog-based, presidential debate open to whoever would like to participate.
Here is a badly translated post from one of the successful candidates, Michelle Bachelet, who is facing a run-off vote in January:
I have impelled from the beginning of my campaign spaces of citizen dialog in which all can be expressed to construct diverse, pluralista and democratic a proposal, and is for that reason that I have supported with pleasure the initiative of this forum-blog of the Foundation Digital Country, as complement to the one of my Web site, blogeando . Although I think that the direct bonding with people is irreplaceable, Internet finishes and the geographic distances with time.
The point is that good dialog can exist online. It can be good for the political process, it can drive civic engagement. But, there has to be buy-off from the current top of the pile so that folks at the bottom can be heard. I'm specifically thinking of the political parties right now, but this is a good criticism for state and local governments too. You can develop and moderate web products that engage people in politics and their communities.

I'm a citizen, that is what I do

David over at Horsesass.org has a good point about the next Washington State Dems chair that gets started with this:

..I finally got a chance to confront a top Dem communications staffer, and used the opportunity to plead with them to find some money to spend on radio ads and direct mail to combat the GOP misinformation campaign. The response? The staffer turned towards the surrounding throng and incredulously asked, “Is he telling me how to do my job?”

Yes I was. I’m a blogger. That’s what we do.

I'd change it up just a bit: I'm a citizen, that is what I do.

He continues:

What I want from the new chair is the understanding that the party’s success depends at least as much on communications as it does on money and lawyers, and that the media doesn’t quite work the same way it used to. I want a chair who embraces innovation, and who is able to see beyond the next election towards the media and political landscape of a decade from now. I want a chair who will support the efforts by the current communications staff as they explore new media ventures.

But mostly, I want a party chair who is willing to at least listen to bloggers like me tell him how to do his job, without incredulously dismissing us out of hand.

Basically, listen to us, we're out here, we're smart, we want to help. I would change the word blogger in David's analysis to something more general. Something to reflect those folks that aren't now involved in politics. But he's going in the right direction. The next party chair needs to listen to people and give folks not already involved in the party open avenues to be engaged.

No PDX MLB illustrated

A little while back I got into a discussion down south on whether Major League Baseball should be allowed to come into the Portland market. My argument is two-fold. No, because it would split the Mariners' tv market and create two bad teams rather than one OK one. No, because no one it talking about expanding MLB to Mexico or Latin America, which is the next logical move for the sport.

Here are a couple of maps from the CommonCensus Map project that illustrate my first point.

This version of CommonCensus tracks your zip code and then your preference for sports teams. What we see with the baseball map is preference for the Mariners in the Puget Sound region, Yakima and the Tri-cities, the Inland Empire and Portland/Willamette Valley.

For the Sonics, that preference is cut-off at about the Clark County line, and the metro Portland area and the rest of Oregon prefer the Trailblazers.

In addition to that obvious observation, you also see smaller basketball blobs in eastern Washington than you see baseball blobs. The existence of a competitive team in a region seems to drives down the preference for either team. That said, preference for the Blazers seems more widespread and uniform in Oregon than support for the Mariners.

So, I'm still going to go with the "a baseball team in Oregon would hurt the Mariners" argument. Totally selfish, but I'm convinced that Portland is well served rooting for a team in Seattle.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Go outside KingCo for state chair

A comment I just posted at betterdonkey.org, but I think it should be repeated, just for kicks:
I don't have anything against Peltz or Rodriguez at all, but I was just thinking that it might be a good idea to look outside King County and maybe even the Puget Sound for a party chair.

Maybe someone like Tom Keefe, former Spokane County chair, former Bumblebee and spearhead of the recall West campaign, would make a good, outside of Seattle choice. I'm not advocating Keefe specifically, but I think it would have a leader of the state Democrats that could help us build the party statewide, not just between Federal Way and Shoreline.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Chambers Lake Association meeting notes

Notes from the Chambers Lake Association meeting on December 6. It took me awhile to get these up, but hey, they're just notes:

What is the smell north of Morse-Merriman and Boulevard? It's holding tanks for a “step system” type sewage system that holds septic effluent until it is pumped out. Those tanks breath.

13 folks where there.

The main purpose of the group, according to Keith Johnson, are habitat preservation (maybe restoration) and roads. More directly they are flooding, ground water contamination, surface water contamination and traffic.

Most folks live off of Wiggins Road, immediately around the lake(s), southeast side, which would make sense since that is where the developments are. What does 3,500 square feet translate into acres? Less than a tenth of an acre it turns out.

They're putting together a new members' handout so people can get up to speed, which is a good idea.

What is the Chambers Lake Diversion? The LOTT has planned for some infrastructure development in the the basin.

Lou attended the Neighborhoods Presidents' Coalition meeting. Whatever happened to those guys? I remember Jeff Jasich getting that together back in the 90s, seemed to be an important group in city-wide issues.

Should people that want to give public testimony to the Olympia city council clear their testimony with the group?

Get some GIS data on the basin. What sort of data is there in terms of habitat info for the Chambers Drainage?

How to we get Chambers Ditch changed to North Fork Chambers Creek?

Next meeting: Thursday, January 12, 6:30-8:30, Grace Community, Room J.

Less government engagement, less civic engagement

Interesting:
Our political leaders may aim to spread democracy abroad, but the lessening role of government in the lives of Americans - as manifested by recent cuts to the federal budget - does little to nurture the democratic process here at home. ...the budget emerging from Congress reduces spending on social and educational programs while extending tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans.

These budget cuts continue a quarter century of governance guided largely by the idea that, in Ronald Reagan's words, "Government is not the solution ... government is the problem." But an assessment of these decades reveals that as government's role in citizens' lives diminishes, so, too, does active civic engagement.
While I agree that trust in government is linked to civic engagement, I never thought of government engagement as being linked directly to greater civic engagement. I've thought that private industry, government and the civic sectors as being seperate spheres competing for attention. But, I can see how good government, not necessarily bigger government, can lead to more civic engagement.

Whether people believe that they trust each other enough to develop a government that serves the needs of everyone in society would have a lot to do with whether they want to engage in that society.

It's a good read overall
:

For these citizens, to whom government seems at best irrelevant, political participation makes little sense. In return, they are easily forgotten by political leaders paying attention to the needs of the affluent and organized.

Until liberals realize that government exists not only to extend rights and social services but also to foster active citizenship, and until conservatives learn that market institutions alone fail to engender that outcome, democracy at home will continue to diminish.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Olympian covers wifi

What are all these people doing downtown with laptops? Craziness:
“It creates a third place,” Olson said. “You've got your office and your home. Sometimes you need to get away from the distractions and escape.”

Wi-Fi hot spots aren't widely publicized — though Zhonka publishes a list online — but people have found a way to locate them. Banner said she looks for the distinctive “Zhonka” sticker in shop windows or looks for other laptop users. Word has spread through word of mouth for Caffe Vita, Fink said.

Two years ago, the city of Olympia studied the idea of a fiber optic network and Internet access, but officials aren't actively pursu-ing it now, said Subir Mukerjee, assistant city manager. A new technology known as Wi-Max is surfacing that would have an extended range at a lower cost. Because the technology is advancing so fast, the city is taking a wait-and-see stance, he said.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Wireless Libraries Yeah!

One half of my humble proposal came true on Monday when the Tumwater, Olympia and Lacey libraries all launched wireless networks:
Timberland Regional Library (TRL) is pleased to offer free wireless Internet access to patrons in 24 TRL libraries in Grays Harbor, Lewis, Mason, Pacific and Thurston counties. Service began Monday, December 12. Access is available during each library’s regular open hours.

Wireless networking in the library offers patrons numerous benefits:

It allows patrons to bring their own laptop computers to the library where they can access the Internet and the library’s research databases, catalog, and other TRL Web page resources.

Patrons do not need to wait for an available library Internet computer.

It allows the public more computer and Internet access in the library, while saving the library the cost of buying additional computers.

Patrons can use their wireless computers in most areas of the library; they are not restricted to the designated library computer areas.

There is no charge for the service and it is not necessary to schedule time in advance.
This also an important step in making libraries greater centers of civic culture here, that libraries become functional in a real way for citizens. Libraries shouldn't just become repositories for books and agencies established to aid in recreational reading. They should be active agents in encouraging civic dialogue.

I know my train of logic from wireless network all the way to civic libraries isn't all together obvious. But, having wireless in our libraries increases their viablilty as Third Places.

Wireless Internet Access - General Setup Information

Wireless Internet Access – Frequently Asked Questions

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

William Raspberry is looking for community

I think I'll write him an email:

"The Great Good Place" argues that third places build community, social capital and civic solidarity. Perhaps, but my immediate worry is that they won't be there for me when I need them.

I suppose a case could be made for the gym as a latter-day third place. Likewise, the beauty salon or the sports bar. But listen to Oldenburg:

"The lure of a third place depends only secondarily upon seating capacity, variety of beverages served ... or other features. What attracts the regular visitor to a third place is supplied not by management but by fellow customers. ... It is the regulars who give the place its character and who assure that on any given visit some of the gang will be there."

And that describes perfectly the newsroom of The Washington Post, except that it was — and is — a job site. I need a new third place.



Update: My email to him:
Third places are created, not just pursued

Mr. Raspberry:

I enjoyed reading your column this morning, but I'm afraid you skipped over a concept that is vital to the existence of third places. The idea of citizenship, that people are active participants in their communities, is vital to creating so-called third places. In a sense, third places are populated by citizens, not worker bees or consumers, but rather people engaged in their environment and who feel a sense common purpose. I've been reading recently about how some places, like libraries, are well suited to become such centers of civic culture.

I also wanted to say that I'm saddened that your leaving the Post. I began college at Delaware State University's print journalism program, and the dean there held you up as an example of what a journalist could be. Even though I didn't end up pursuing reporting, I continue to respect your work.

Thanks and good luck,
Emmett

Monday, December 12, 2005

Talking about community (why I'm a Democrat basically)

I've been reading, thinking about community a lot lately. Its not talked about much, but the decline in what Robert Putnam called "social capital" is one of the most damaging cultural trends in the United States. Basically, neighbors don't trust each other, communities don't have the connections that bridge gaps between rich and poor.

Now, Democrats are looking this is the eye:

Democratic Party chairman Howard Dean has commissioned confidential polling and analysis that suggest candidates in 2006 and 2008 should frame their policies — and attacks on Republicans — around the context of community.

It seems to be the emerging message from a party that has been bereft of one.

...“When we work together, when rely on one another, when we care about one another, we remove the fear of sharing,” Vilsack said. “I believe the current administration and its polices is eroding the sense of community . This country’s two great things — the self-reliant individual supported by community — is what made the American dream … possible.”

...Equating the GOP agenda for Social Security, public-school vouchers and Medicare with “social Darwinism,” Obama said the key to the nation’s success is striking a balance between individual and collective responsibility .

“It has to do with individuals,” he said, “but it also has to do with community.”

It seems we already have a head start on talking to voters who retain a sense of community. After the election last year, a lot was made of the Republicans winning the "fastest growing communities." While these place where indeed growing very fast and yes, did go for Bush, there wasn't much discussion on whether it was because they were growing so fast they would probably end up voting for any Republican over any Democrat.

Eric at the Cascadia Scorecard points to a general relation between lack of social capital and voting for bush. But basically, fast growing and sprawling communities, because a good portion of the people living there just moved there, lack the community ties that older, more established communities have.

While we're reaching people that already have ties to their community, we need to reach out to places where community is not so strong. We need to talk about filling the need.

(On a side note, I've felt for a few years a sense of unfulfilled promise after 9/11, that we didn't do something as a nation that we should have. I've had a hard time putting my finger on it until I started reading about social capital, community, etc. We missed a chance to reinforce what a lot of people were feeling, that we really are all in this together. Not just winning "a war on terror," but everything. George W. Bush squandered a chance to call on Americans to have a greater responsibility for their communities.)

Why I am a Democrat

Talking about community.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Change already happening at wa-democrats.org?

Earlier this morning I wrote (here and here) about how I hoped the WA Dems took this oppurtunity in leadership change to move down the social software road. Maybe a Growohio.org for Washington (well GrowOhio before Sherrod Brown started running for Senate). Looks like our guys are already moving that way (from Democrats.org):

As part of the "50 State Strategy," the organizers from individual states hired by the DNC make the journey to D.C. for a series of training sessions. They normally come in groups of three or four--last month, it was Utah, Indiana, Alaska, and New Hampshire. The sessions are distributed over the course of two very long days, and include an opportunity for the Internet team (normally Josh or Joe) to head down and talk about using their own website, email, and blogs as an organizational tool.

The organizers from Washington arrived last night, and they asked to spend a bit of time talking with the Internet team, apart from the standard class, about the use of blogs--both internally on their own website, and externally on blogs both in their own state and nationally. Naturally, we agreed to spend the time with them.

Unfortunately, this kind of comes off like "tell me about these internets that the kids are talking about these days" or "we want it bloggy, but not too bloggy." But, at least we know that good old broadcast style wa-democrats.org is on the way out. I'm tired of being behind the Kansas Democrats and their fun civicspace based website.

Berendt gone, chance for change 2

Lynn Allen at Evergreen Politics:
...the top down, "you're either with me or against me" skills of this last era are the wrong ones for what is coming now. Now we need a Party Chairman/Chairwoman who can rally the base for the grassroots and technologically savvy campaign we desperately need to stay blue and extend that blueness into the red and purple areas.

Paul was one of the first Democrats in this state to support Howard Dean, first as President then as DNC Chair. He sees and understands the future but he hasn't seemed to want to change the way he plays the game. So, even though he's been a Dean supporter, the state Party has not been in alignment with the changes the national Party is working through.
What I want the next chair to talk about: social software, community, and grassroots.

What is the Grange's next move?

Big political ideas, sometimes translated into initiatives, often bounce back and forth between Oregon and Washington. Next fall we'll like vote on a Washington edition of Oregon's gutting of their land use laws. But, both states might also vote to change how they vote in the first place, possibly changing both systems to nonpartisan statewide.

Oregon already has a One Ballot group that is making some serious headway in earned media. From the Eugene Register-Guard:

Every voter, regardless of party registration, would receive the same ballot. The top two vote-getters, regardless of party, would move on to the general election in November. The only exception would be presidential primaries, in which voters technically choose delegates to national nominating conventions.

Increasing numbers of Oregon voters choose not to register as members of any political party. Among voters under the age of 25, a plurality are neither Democrats nor Republicans. These voters are excluded from participating in primary elections, except for nonpartisan races and ballot measures.

I'm not sure if this is a copy of our failed Top Two primary, or if its an actual nonpartisan system, but it shows that there is interest in Oregon to go down the road we're already on. One Ballot mirrors what the Washington State Grange, which sponsored the Top Two Primary system a year ago, is doing now in penning a totally nonpartisan election system initiative. After losing in court over the summer, the Grange seems to be going to the "nuclear option" by running an initiative declaring all elected offices nonpartisan.

The parties, at this point, would probably fight this new initiative harder than they fought I-872. I would argue that the Democratic Party not join such a fight, but let the Republicans take it alone. If the GOP wins, well the Democratic party leadership still gets what it wants. If they lose, then the Republican Party looks like the election closing jerks they already are.

Plus, it gives the Democratic Party a chance to change itself into an more open, grassroots party. This would be the kind of party that people who would be attracted to a nonpartisan election system would want to be part of. This sort of change is already happening.

In Thurston County we're holding a series of open public forums in the weeks before our county caucuses. The purpose of these forums is to engage people that aren't part of the Democratic Party already, but who would be interested in getting more involved. We're also considering using online forums to engage folks prior to the actual forums and to continue the conversation afterwards.

The ideas from the forums will be passed along to the caucuses in early March, which can vote to pass them along to the county convention.

Political participation has decreased regularly over time. Deeper participation like running for office and being involved in parties has decreased even more. What voters are telling the parties by passing I-872 is that they want to be involved in the process, but not by following parties.

We need to make a better effort to get people, who otherwise vote and engage politically, back involved in the parties. The onus is on us to become more open and offer more ways to engage.

Berendt gone, chance for change

Paul Berendt will resign, and I'll miss him. Mostly miss watching both the governor and state Democratic Party chair walk into mass after me, but for other reasons too.

I won't miss him picking a talk-show host over an already established candidate for Congress though.

What this does give us is a chance to open up the party a bit more. Not that I think Paul was against that, but changes in leadership do offer chances for change. The one thing I'd like to see is a change in purpose with our state website, or maybe a new stand alone website for state Democrats along the same lines as Grow Ohio (or at least what it used to be before Sherrod Brown started running for Senate).

A statewide grassroots community website for Democrats, liberals and progressives to come together, dialog, and organize. All paid for by the state Democratic Party.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

What happened to community networks?

When I was at Evergreen, one of the best classes I was in was taught by Doug Schuler. It was about a concept called "Community Networks," which where efforts to expand social capital online using open and civic minded networking.

I've been reading about the concept of using libraries as "third places" in communities and how libraries can use their public education mandate to get into the business of pushing for civic dialogue, and I ran into a reference to the civic/community network movement. That led me to do a quick read-up on community networks, and I discovered that the steam pretty much died down on the movement around the late 1990s. If you take a look at the Seattle Community Network homepage, you will see a somewhat retro looking design.

What seems to have happened is that community networks rose early on in the internet world as BBSs, a free network than anyone could dial into. This was during the time when not every dial-up led to the internet, and providing a free network, accessible to anyone, was of great civic importance. But, when the walls between these networks broke down, access became more easily available and the internet world moved into HTML, the community networks followed. They built lists of civic organizations, gave free web space to worthy groups, and tried to be as open as possible.

But, they didn't become widespread enough to counter to increasingly commercial side of the internet. And now, in the case of the SCN at least, they seemed to have gotten stuck in that first generation of the HTML world. While social software has taken off, community networks have either died or not moved into this new world. Community is being built on the internet, but not in the directly local fashion intended by the community network movement.

In Doug's class is some of us tried to start a community network in Olympia. I can't remember what would have been so hard about that, but we never really got it off the ground. Now, the makings of a community network is starting to be built in Olympia. The most exciting part of the new Olympia Community Network is that it holds most important something that was lacking in those HTML community networks: dialogue.

It's ironic that because of the limitations of software in the 90s that one of the main ingredients in actual community (talking to people) couldn't happen easily in community networks. Anyway, at Olyblog.net, the best thing is the back and forth between the folks there. More on that later.

With new, free software now available and a new interest in building community online in the progressive community, would now be a good time to revive the community network movement?

As a side note, Doug's class did inspire me to do OlympiaToday.com, a community newsite that, for a few months at least, got me some college credit and taught me a lot about community, Olympia, building websites and tons of other stuff. You can still see the remnents of that site here.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Chambers Lake Basin Neighborhood Association

I have a neighborhood association. I'm going to their meeting next Tuesday. More on that later.

I'm a BetterDonkey blogger (a good idea for Oly)

I'm blogging over at BetterDonkey here. This is going to be fun.

My first post is about Tacoma's idea to reform their taxing system, repealing much of their existing taxes including B&O, and insituting a wide ranging user fee system. While I don't mind Tacoma leading the way, I think this kind of system would work in a city with a lot of state government offices that don't pay a lot in city taxes.

Beat back Eyman, reform municipal funding

Why Tim Eyman has been able to run roughshod over Washington politics was that people have an inherent distrust in government. They don't see where there money goes, they don't trust that its being spent well. Eyman's I-900, he would say, would help reform government and give people more reason to trust that they taxes their contributing to the state coffers.

I-900, of course, doesn't actually help local governments who since the first Eyman initiative and I-601 (which predated Eyman), have seen decreased funding and decreased services.

The City of Tacoma is looking to lead the charge in changing how local governments are funded:

In a special budget meeting last night, the Tacoma city council agreed to explore a singular remedy for its projected revenue shortfalls. The idea... would connect key city services to a new tax at levels explicitly determined by the voters...

The scheme is basically a monthly city property tax dedicated to police, fire and library services -- the core of city government. Current B&O, utility and other taxes would be eliminated -- including the city's portion of the existing property tax. In Anderson's initial outline, the tax would extend to all property holders other than houses of worship, which would include private schools and universities, nonprofit hospitals, charities, and others. A base level would be set by a city-wide vote, and any subsequent increase would also go to a referendum.

The plan, though, needs more than just inovation on the local level. The legislature needs to clear a path in state law to allow Tacoma to overhaul their system. Once the legislature acts, and they should, it woud allow other local governments to follow suit.

While I'm not totally wild about not exempting anyone except for "places of worship" under the plan, it does do one very important thing: create transparency. From the News Tribune:

Anderson’s rationale for the fee concept – which he acknowledges is radical – is intriguing.

It would, for the first time, tell citizens exactly what public safety and libraries are costing them, he contends. Under the existing system of taxation, most citizens have very little idea where their property taxes go, since the dollars are divvied up among the state, city, school district and county government, plus special taxing districts like the Metropolitan Park District of Tacoma.

City taxpayers thus have little basis for judging whether they’re getting a reasonable value for their money. A specific amount for a specific service – such as police protection – would bring that into focus, allowing citizens to make informed judgments about how their monthly assessments are being spent.

Eyman and other anti-tax zealots succeed because citizens don't trust government. More transparency in government is a good thing, creating more trust in government and creating a better case for better, more active, local government.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Jesus is all about the money and the deals at Walmart

Bill O'Reilly, theologian:
Every company in America should be on its knees thanking Jesus for being born. Without Christmas, most American businesses would be far less profitable...
Or they could, if they were of that persuasion, thank Jesus for being born because he died to redeem us. But, forget that, because Christmas is all about the head door buster deals at Walmart.

Beaumont, Texas:
Beaumont Police spent much of Monday answering questions about the incident Friday that sent Walmart shoppers scurrying for open air. Black Friday became big trouble at the Beaumont Walmart after scores of bargain seekers say they were pepper sprayed by an off duty Beaumont Police officer working security.

Officer Aive Ownby says he warned the crowds several times to get back and stop pushing. Ownby said after his warnings were ignored he was forced to use his pepper spray, an action police say was justifiable.
Grand Rapids:
Police think five people were involved in an assault at a West Michigan WalMart. The same place where several people were trampled when the store opened.

It happened at the WalMart in Cascade Township Friday morning.
Orlando:
In Orlando, a man cutting the line in a Walmart was attacked by a group of angry shoppers. Walmart staff had to be called in to quell the situation.
Thanks Jesus.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Garbage funny

For someone who wakes up early enough to watch the garbage guys, this is funny:
We have these cool new trucks in Olympia where there's an articulated arm like on the Space Shuttle and it grabs the cans and hoists it overhead and dumps the contents into the truck. So, the first can gets emptied, the arm goes halfway down, then back up and waits at the top, and I'm thinking some of the linoleum is stuck in the can.

The guy gets out of the truck, climbs up on top of the truck and starts putting stuff back into the can and I'm thinking, "Oh no, what did I do now? No debris allowed? Is it filled with lead or asbestos? Did the metal strips jam the compactor?" -- not likely, I know.

I run upstairs and get on some pants (I've already had a cup of coffee, so I'm thinking ahead) and go out and ask the guy as sweet as I can, "Is there a problem?"

The guy smiles at me and says, "No. No problem, unless you count me forgetting to open the top of the truck as a problem."
I wish Olympia Report had comments, I would comment there.

John G. Bell blogs

And I didn't notice it. Before he quit his race for city council, there was tons of writing from John G. and even a resume. Oh well. From what I can tell, he only blogged about the Olympia City Council once, and not even directly.

I like caucuses

Over at Western Democrat I implied that I didn't agree with David Sirota's post about the shifting schedule of the Democratic primaries. Shifting primaries good, caucuses not so good he said:
...we need to be on the lookout for those who are trying to use the current primary process negotiations and the desire to shift the primary process to actually make the process more insular, and less conducive to insurgent forces. What am I talking about? Well, just look at the states the DNC is considering moving up ahead of New Hampshire – they are Nevada and Colorado.

Those are great states that would offer a lot if they became more important in the nominating process. However, they are caucus states, not direct election primary states. And most who have worked on campaigns will tell you, the caucus process is far more under the thumb of the party establishment than direct election primaries. In other words, frontloading the Democratic Party primary process exclusively with caucus states (regardless of the virtues of any of those particular states) could actually make the primary process even more impossible for candidates outside the establishment to compete.

Look, I'm not saying having Iowa and New Hampshire as the two major primary states is perfect. But I am saying that if we are going to shift around the map, mess with how presidential nominations are awarded, and further frontload the process, we should be looking to states with direct election primaries. At the very least, we should make sure there is an even split at the beginning of the process between caucus and direct election primary states.

The Democratic Party establishment is insulated enough as it is. We need reforms that aren't going to further empower the party big wigs to anoint a nominee – we need reforms that are going to open up the process to populist insurgents that will kick the establishment into gear and finally start winning elections again.

Last year, the caucuses in Washington state were a real, grassroots events. There was some advertising (I think), but most of the politicing was personal. I went to Dean meetups for months leading up to the caucuses, but at the last minute I was convinced to stand undecided. I was actually part of a group that got one vote out of our precinct for uncommitted. It was a real, political civic experience that went way beyond the typical air war type of campaigning with an impersonal (mail in sometimes) vote at the end.

I don't have a problem with voting in general elections, but in terms of party primaries, I'm convinced that local, grassroots caucuses are better than direct primaries. They may result in some strong armed candidates by entrenched powers, but they also reward engagement. The winners show up and fight.

(very) limited wi-fi proposal for the city

I'm reading and learning about muni wi-fi lately. Been talking over email, considering impact... all that fun stuff. If you're really all that interested, here are my posts so far on it:

Two ways to look at muni wi-fi
Oly Muni Wi-fi update
Muni Wi-fi (in Oly)?

If a city-wide system (with its dual streamlined gov't plus free wifi) just isn't in the cards, and a downtown central network would be too hard, too costly or people just wouldn't like it, what why not establish wi-fi networks at the Olympia Library and the Olympia Center?

Damn, crap, poop... MLB PDX is back

The Florida Marlins get permission to move and now Portland is all aflutter with the possibility that major league baseball might move to the Rose City. This is a bad idea, for several reasons, but mostly because it would be bad for the Mariners, and for the Portland team as well.

Here are my two main reasons, which I'll expand on when I have the time:

1. Television market. Right now, Seattle has a decent chance at being succesful over the long term because they have a monopoly over a mid to larger sized television market. If you split that market with Portland, the Mariners would be left with a much smaller tv market, lessening their revenues drastically, and putting both the Mariners and the Portland MLB team in Milwaukee land.

2. No one seems to want to argue for a Mexican based MLB team. There have been two teams founded in Canada, and there have been some MLB road games played in Latin America. From a strickly economic point of view, putting a team in say Monterrey, Mexico makes sense. Three million people, highest quality of life of any major Mexican City, and close to other MLB markets.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Christmas Culture War that nobody actually wants

I'll get to Jerry Falwell's "With us or against Us" Christmas farther down, but first I want to explain something:

Christmas is two distinct holidays. One is secular, commercial and begins the day after tomorrow with Black Friday and ends Christmas morning. It is the center of our consumer culture, the reason for our season and such. If you don't go overboard, I guess, there isn't really anything wrong with secular Christmas, I just don't like getting it confused with the other Christmas.

Religious sacred Christmas, some would argue, starts on St. Lucy's Day. Others, myself included, say it starts on Christmas Day and ends on St. Stephen's Day (ah the St. Stephen's Day Murders). This Christmas is very different that the other secular one in that its a religious holiday. And, in an officially secular, not sectarian country, I understand some people don't like to celebrate this one. Far be it for me to force anyone to celebrate this one instead of the other. I like to celebrate it, its the second most important day on the Catholic calendar.

What does piss me off are people (like Falwell) that bemoan the secularism of Christmas, and those that are trying to put Christ back into something that has become a secular, consumer season. They don't bemoan the crassness of the season, the craziness of Black Friday, people running over each other at 5 in the morning running for DVD players. No, they sue Target who (this isn't actually true) ban "Merry Christmas" from their stores.

So says David Batstone at Sjourners:
The American Family Association... announced a boycott on all Target stores, because, according to the group, the retailer has chosen not to use "Merry Christmas" on advertising and in-store promotions. Disputing that charge, Target spokeswoman Carolyn Brookter told the San Francisco Chronicle, "I don't know where they're coming from. We have no such policy on Christmas. You can see it in our stores."

Her denial is unnecessary anyway, in my mind. If a store chooses to honor the holiday traditions of all its diverse shoppers, why should I punish their embrace?

I know that I am not the only American - Christian, Jewish, Muslim or other - who can't be troubled to join these cultural wars. Share the joy of Christmas and Hanukkah - which begin on the same day this year - with each other. And express it in the way that delivers your best wishes. Those who are looking for offense will find their cause. Look instead for ways to celebrate the gifts of the season together.

I want to celebrate a religious holiday, and I don't want to get it confused with a secular one. By pushing for more religious behavior in the secular Christmas (shopping malls, Target Stores, government in general) it ruins the sacred nature of Christmas. It cheapens it.

If they want to attack the crass, commercial Christmas, then do that. Go after the nature of our retail economy that literally depends on our spending habits during December to stay in business. Attack the consumer nature of our culture, that somehow if we don't have the newest or shiniest things, we are lesser. Their point isn't to attack consumerism, just to throw a Jesus blanket over a consumer holiday and call it good.

By setting up false choices like a "secular consumer Christmas" vs. "secular consumer Christmas (+Jesus)," the right announces a culture war that doesn't really exist. People should be able to participate in an American consumer tradition (no matter how shallow), while still being able to follow their own particular religious tradition. Mine, for example, doesn't include "He's the reason for the season" buttons in Wal-mart.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Two down, five to go

A couple of days ago TJ Johnson became the second Olympia City Councilmember to register and participate at Olyblog. Good on TJ for making the effort. TJ is the second city councilmember (well, kind of) to get in on the action at Olyblog. Sorry, Jeff you're only a city councilmember "elect" right now.

And, it was a hell of an effort. He really hung in there in a discussion on the downtown Business Improvement District that covered online anonymity, the political make-up of the council, the Nuclear Free Ordinance, among other things.

Hopefully, other city councilmembers will feel empowered by Jeff and TJ.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Just got back from the Walmart Movie

There are four more screenings of Walmart: The High Price of Low Cost this week. Worth seeing.

A couple things stuck me about the movie. There's a story in the end of the movie about Inglewood, CA and how they kept Walmart out of town. I remember the story of how Walmart paid for an voter's initiative to except them from local zoning, and that it failed. This part of the movie reminded me of the difference between professional politics and amateur politics.

There's also subtle points in the movie, a picture of George W. Bush on an Arizona anti-Walmart activist's wall and a former hardware store owner in Ohio saying that he's "a conservative," where you realize that this isn't a partisan issue. Or at least, we haven't made it a partisan issue. It's not like the Democratic Party is beholden to the Waltons:

Republican candidates are the big winners in this year's election. They received about 85% of the company's (Walmart's) contributions, including those of its political action committee, employees and children of founder Sam Walton.

Wal-Mart's rise is significant because of the impact it might have on congressional debates about health care, labor and other hot-button regulatory issues, says Larry Noble, the center's executive director. "They're clearly making a move," he says.

The company has more than $250 billion in annual revenue. (No. 2 is General Motors, with $187 billion in annual revenue.) Wal-Mart is also the USA's biggest private employer, with 1.2 million workers.

We always say that Democrats win on home-front issues, economics, healthcare and the environment. Using Walmart as a wedge and forcing Republicans to defend them... I don't know, why wouldn't it work?

Sign of success: Olyblog's first open thread

You know you have a good blog going on when folks get so carried away on the comment threads that you have let some steam off with an open thread. You'll notice I've never done that here (sniff, sniff). Anway, let some stream off yourself.

What I really hope this means is that the "blog-oh-sphere" in Olympia is turning a corner, that the online discussion actually means something here other than just people like me yelling into the wind. One city council member elect has gotten into the mix on Olyblog. I hope this grows.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Two ways to look at muni wi-fi

Ok, from my reading so far, there are two ways to look at municipal wireless systems: "good for Emmett" and "good for Olympia."

Good for Emmett would include being able to go downtown and not worry about being able to find an access point, it would just be there. That example is just on the surfaces, so sit and think for awhile about the various personal use applications that you would have if you could carry around an internet device and always have access. Buy tickets on the way to the movies, carry on a real time conversation on Olyblog.

Good for Olympia would be the sort of applications that a city government would get out of a wireless network. This would include applications that would aid the day-to-day operation of government, such as checking parking meters, emergency response, etc...

Or, as the Dayton, OH IT director puts it:
You go back, I give you the work ticket, you go out and do it. Well, if I can do that while you were rolling and while you're fixing that pothole, I can send you via the system -- via the Web -- "Oh, by the way, your next job is right around the corner."

From the city standpoint, ... we could do things like automated meter reading for all of our water meters so that eventually, we don't have a whole fleet of people just running out reading meters every day, 20 working days a month, just to get all those 77,000 meters read every month to bill somebody. Well, if you take 30 people off the city's payroll, think of how much money that saves in taxes.
The way these could tie together financially in a muni wi-fi system would be that while most residents would get the benefit of a free system (well, not really free the city would pay for it), big users (the city, county, the port and private companies) that would really see a benefit would pay subscriptions for broader access.

Holy crap Steve Klein, what happened?

Most of the folks I supported won, all except Phyllis. Which I feel bad about, I think I'll always look back at her campaign as being something I could have worked harder on.

So, no big surprises, except (holy cow) Steve Klein getting destroyed in Yelm. Even though he spent apparently $50,000 on the race, he was beaten 4-1 by Ron Harding (I should note that us TCYD's endorsed Harding Klein, mostly because he showed up to our forum).

Anyway, I didn't assume that Klein would win, but I thought that his spending so much, even going to the point of burning campaign movie DVDs as handouts, would get him above 45 percent. I really assumed it would be a tight race. As far as I can tell, maybe spending $50,000 in Yelm isn't the best idea. Maybe that was the thing that really hurt him, that he thought he could buy the seat.

Although even in Olympia being out-spent by your opponent isn't the kiss of death, especially if you have some sort of incumbency (Harding was already on city council). Two years ago, Laura Ware was outspent 3-1 by Sandra Miller and still won a decisive victory. Ware won because she had the big issue of the day on her side (she opposed the convention center) and she raised enough to get her message out there.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Oly Muni Wi-fi update

Just about a year ago, there was a seemingly short discussion within the City of Olympia on wi-fi, with the conclusion to sit by and wait for the technology to come to them.

In Tumwater, there apparently been a larger discussion on setting up a few city owned wi-fi hotspots, with the cost at around $8,000 (scroll down to page 26).

I went down to the Olympia Library and the Community Center yesterday with my PDA, assuming that it would have been pretty easy for the city to set up small, private, wireless networks in either place. Nope, no signal as far as I could tell.

Also, apperantly, someone is setting up a cooperative wireless system (Cirgo):
Objectives of the wireless group are to create and maintain a low cost citywide wireless network for providing access to Internet services. Currently, no citywide network exists. Initially, the project will be piloted in downtown Olympia and if successful, will be expanded to the greater Olympia area and to other rural towns and counties in Western Washington.

Friday, November 04, 2005

My Oly Film Festival Plans

For all the folks that were bashing downtown during the campaign season (Will someone please do something about DOWNTOWN?!?!??), I want to point out that among other things, downtown Oly has a world class film festival starting tonight.

My film plans for this coming week include, but are not necessarily limited to:
Interstate 5, 107 Miles South and
Fishermen's Terminal

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Muni Wi-fi (in Oly)?

I've been interested in Municipal wi-fi for awhile, but it wasn't until just recently when Keri and I stayed in downtown Spokane and enjoyed their free wireless access, that I really began thinking about it. Thinking about it in a "We in Olympia should do something like this."

I'm going to be reading more about this. Here's my first reading list:
Wired: Wi-Fi Cloud Covers Rural Oregon
Joho the Blog: Is free municipal wifi good?
Muniwireless (I know it's not an article... I'm going to peruse their offerings)

City of Tumwater polls and calendar

Speaking of getting engaged online to foster civic engagement (see below), the City of Tumwater currently has two online polls running. One asks how everyone likes the new website, another asks for input on John Dodge's idea from a few weeks ago about moving the old brewery whistle to the FishBowl brewery (the community's last working brewery).

In addition to the polls, the city's website also has a calendar with an RSS feed. Sweet.

Jeff Kingsbury Speaks! uhmm... I mean posts

Awhile back I posted on the benefits of elected officials and candidates engaging in conversations that are happening online. If there are conversations going on anywhere in our community that regards why your running or the business of the city, it pays to be engaged.

One mayor from back East actually considered such conversations as a normal part of being a mayor:
"“On the street, it's just like "‘Oh, I saw you on the cable station."’ Now I get "‘Oh, I saw you on the blog."” Ed points out that an appearance on a blog'’s comment threads can humanize an elected offical, and that a note directly from the mayor can temper the conversation, too. "“If I go on directly and respond, if I personify the discussion" he says, "“people are more careful about what they say."”
A few days ago, I started a thread over at Olyblog about Ira Knight's interview on KGY. Like most posts on olyblog.net, it started a vibrant discussion, and now, Ira's opponent, Jeff Kingsbury is getting into the mix. He's not bashing Ira by any means, but simply discussing the merits of a downtown parking garage.

Good on ya, Jeff. I hope this encourages more council candidates and future and current city council members to embrace the growing blog community in Olympia.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Ira Knight Speaks!

Pulling out of the garage this morning, I heard Dick Pust on KGY preview his morning interview, saying something like "It's a man who's running for local office, but I'm not going to tell you who yet." And, I thought sarcastically, "Yeah, I bet its Ira Knight."

It was! Ira Knight Speaks! (this deserves exclamation points because up until this point, Mr. Knight hasn't been to any public forums).

Dick went right into the source of the recent controversy regarding Knight's candidacy, whether he supports same sex partner benefits for city employees. Obviously Knight doesn't, but he wanted to stay on the mantra that "everyone has the right to pursue happiness in their own way," but he also pointed out that gay marriage, for now, is not legal and that he would stick to the law. He went on to say that if the law pertaining to the nature of marriage changed, he would respect that.

Dick also repeatedly said that Knight "opened his mouth" on the topic of gay rights/marriage/benefits, which Knight never refuted.

Other topics that Dick and Ira covered included solving the downtown "problem," sidewalks and traffic.

On downtown, Ira suggested the creation of a space where local residents could come by and hire for a day someone who was out of work. His central theme on downtown being that the problem was a lack of responsibility, and that giving handouts would not solve the problem. The problem being homeless people I guess.

On sidewalks, Ira said that he would be his number one issue when he was elected to the city council. If you're wondering why Ira wasn't involved in the Walk Olympia campaign last year (that brought in the first significant sidewalks investment in years), it was because he hadn't walked around Olympia that much before. Ira discovered the deplorable state of our sidewalks while doorbelling for city council. I guess when you live out on Lilly Road, you don't notice a lack of sidewalks driving downtown.

It was nice that Ira mentioned that when he was doorbelling a lot of people said they didn't get to see elected officials all that much.

Ira said on traffic problems that the city government should plan ahead. I wonder why they didn't think of that before, it sounds so easy.

At the end of in the interview, Dick asked him if there was anything that he wished he had been asked, and Ira told him about his time serving in the 89th Air Wing, the unit that maintained and flew Air Force One. I think this is a direct quote, but Ira said, "If you aren't doing your job, they'll get rid of you in a heartbeat." That he served in that unit for 11 years speaks to his makeup as a person.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Air war emails vs. getting people involved

Scott Chacon, who is running in the CA-11 against Richard Pombo, makes a good point about recent emails he's received from both Democrats and Republicans. The Dem emails are overly long, and when you get down to it, ask simply for you to send more money. The GOP emails he received where shorter and asked for action:

(The GOP email) rather than smearing the other side as evil devils in a 600 word rant then asking for money, they ask you to adopt 25 voters, give them personal attention, ask them to vote and talk about the issues. It is easy to help, easy to read, inclusive and respectful – all in about 200 words.

There have been some good examples of using internet tools (email, websites, yadda, yadda) to pull people into the process, to engage them. Asking for money and votes are the two least important ways to engage people. Votes are of course the nut of any campaign, but not democracy; engagement is.

Money, on the other hand, while it fuels the campaign has also help develop a professional political class that seems to say "anything worth while on a campaign or in politics needs to be done by a professional." Politics shouldn't be a business. There should be smart people involved, but it should also be open.

As a party, we shouldn't be asking people to cut us checks and then going off and spending it as we see fit. We should be urging them to get involved in the party, campaigns and politics in general.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

UPDATE: Don't Vote for Ira Knight

You know, if Ira Knight had just kept his mouth shut, mumbled something about not liking the Nuclear Free Ordinance and didn't say anything about not liking gay people, he might have won. But, he goes and shoots himself in the foot.

Its one thing for the local Christian Coalition to put out a "pastors pick" (pdf file) for the entire county, but they also put out this gem (pdf file), pointing out the differences between Ira and Jeff Kingsbury.

Here's a list of the differences:
  • Ira supports "Voluntary display of the Ten Commandments on public property."
  • Ira opposes "Benefits for same-sex partners of city employees"
  • Ira opposes "Protected minority status for homosexuals, bisexuals, transsexuals, transgender, etc."
  • Ira supports"Funding for faith-based charitable organizations"
  • Ira supports "Diversified energy sources including nuclear power"
Not that any of these issues actually came up in the election, because Ira Knight never brought anything up. Big old thanks to the Christian Coalition for pointing all of this out!

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Two Oly screanings of "WAL-MART: The High Cost of Low Price"

Invite your Tumwater city councilmember, because it looks good. Here's the trailer (QT) and here's some funny promo movies.

Speaking of Walmart, something is happening over there:

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. chief executive H. Lee Scott Jr. called on Congress to raise the country's minimum wage from $5.15 an hour, saying the company's customers are "struggling to get by."

Scott, head of the world's largest retailer, which has been criticized for paying low wages, providing few health care benefits and causing the demise of small businesses across the country, ticked off a list of changes he said the company plans to make and called for a higher minimum wage in a speech to directors and executives Monday.

"We have seen an increase in spending on the 1st and 15th of each month and less spending at the end of the month, letting us know that our customers simply don't have the money to buy basic necessities between paychecks," Scott said in his speech, a transcript of which was released yesterday. Scott also said the company wants to reduce energy use by its stores by 30 percent.

DON'T Vote for Normoyle, Knight

Even though I haven't been posting here all that much lately, tons of people (oh, I'd say 35 a day) are still coming by to see what there is to see here. Mostly it seems they're coming off google searches for "Michael Normoyle" olympia city council and "Ira Knight" Olympia City Council.

Yeah, if I were you, I'd be googling these guys too, because no one knows who the hell they are.

Which brings me to my point, don't vote for these two guys. Even if you hate the Nuclear Free Zone ordinance, Normoyle and Knight haven't made themselves available during the campaign, haven't answered our questions, and don't deserve your vote.

Plus Ira Knight can't spell.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Jeff's "The Place I Live Now"

Strange to find this post on USS Mariner, but it is a credit to my collegue a the fish commision, Jeff Shaw. Gifted writer he is, puts me to shame.

But, Jeff is writing about the good old concept of "home" and that sense of place we hear about from time to time. I recently picked up Scott Russell Sander's Staying Put: Making a Home in a Restless World (in my Bowling Alone series of reading), so Jeff's post in especially meaningfull to me.

Enjoy (and I really mean that, enjoy):

...

I inform our throng, since I’ve got a long drive home to Bellingham. This brings an unexpected query.

“Bellingham? Why,” Curto asks with furrowed brow, “do you live in Bellingham?

He doesn’t say it with scorn, just bewilderment, the tone of voice you’d use to ask why a guy collects antique Palauan toothpicks. Something you figure people do, but have never considered doing yourself.

I think for a second. “Because I love it there,” I say. It’s an honest answer, if facile and incomplete, and for a moment it’s all I’ve got.

...

When I came to Bellingham, it was because my wife got a job. In journalism, you move roughly every two years until you get where you really want to go. The ‘Ham wasn’t supposed to be home, not really; the lovely and talented Ms. Shaw was always going to get a gig in the greater Seattle area. So it went.

This is the natural order. Waterfalls don’t flow uphill, rivers don’t run backwards to the headwaters. These patterns have all, in my experience, held true to form.

...

The unruly facial hair wouldn’t be conspicious in my town, with its complement of campsite monks, snowboard priests and kayak devotees whose faith is the mountain or threshing white rapids. The place’s apt nickname is City of Subdued Excitement, and the laconic pace and lack of pretense are appealing. I like pulling out my dress flannel and good ballcap for important meetings.

When you come, you’re issued a Subaru wagon so you can take your dogs (always plural) to Baker or the coast in rain, shine or snow. My basset hounds always roll with me into a friend’s office — the nerve center of a multi-million dollar foundation. Friends came to my scotch-and-cards birthday party with their rambunctious German shepherd and Rhodesian ridgeback in tow.

Neither of us asked first. Because in Bellingham, it’s expected.

But I’ve lived in low-key, outdoorsy places before. So what has me internally quoting poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s simple but elegant lines “I like it here / and I won’t go back / where I came from”? Is it that university towns are great, with their magical blend of intellectual stimulation and affordable beer? Or is it something else entirely?

...

Change is constant in all things. Bellingham isn’t exempt. Like I said, rivers never run backwards, and you can’t stop the onrush. You can sell your studio in San Diego, buy a place on Lake Whatcom, and have enough left to buy an entire herd of purebred poodles.

So these days, patches of new buildings that all look the same spring up by the dozens. They stand out next to the funky old Painted Lady Victorians done up in wild pastels, or the Craftsman style homes where hippies let their kids decide the colors, with a flurry of resulting purples and reds. The old places fit in here as pastiche homes for a pastiche town, a city formed by fusing three smaller burgs into a nonsensical conundrum of navigation.

One recently transplanted colleague, a wealthy sort and the proud new owner of a fresh-from-the-oven cookie cutter, drove by our house last year. The reasonably understated place got a telling outburst. “That’s so old Bellingham,” she said.

It was in no way meant as a compliment. Which is precisely why I took it as one.

...

When finishing a book I love, I manifest an odd habit. I tend to place the final section of pages between my thumb and forefinger to gauge how much time this particular story and I have left. As fun as the tale is, there’s always a touch of melancholy when you see it winding down.

This feeling amplifies the more stories you read, or the more places you live. Each is unique. The best, paradoxically, inspire the most regret as they pass. Colors get richer and quirks more endearing while the clock ticks.

The feelings are amplified now that I have substantial experience reading the handwriting on walls in successive temporary homes.

The ‘Ham — either as it is or as it is becoming — is certainly not all sunshine and roses. (As far north as we are, there’s precious little sun, and the soil’s iffy in places for rosebushes.) It seemed that the wife and I spent most of the first year looking for people to hike in the rain with. Tough to meet folks, friendly or no, when they’re always racing up a different hill or paddling to a San Juan island.

But you break in a new town like a fresh item of clothing. Comfort comes in stages. I live in Bellingham because, for now, it’s the shirt from the fondly-remembered concert, that pair of jeans that’s just threadbare enough.

...

Time to go home. For now.

On rereading it just now, I came back over Jeff's line "either as it is or as it is becoming." This thought may be above my pay-rate, but isn't any place, town or community always "as it is becoming?"

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Salmon recovery through civic involvement

Amen brother:
So, what can you do?

Contact your local government public works/planning department and the state Ecology or Fish and Wildlife departments. Find out what watershed you live in, which fish live in your home stream, and the quality of your home stream's biology and water quality. Ask if future land-use plans will not only accommodate new human populations, but also protect your stream's salmon at the same time. Learn about any local stream-protection initiatives and how you and your children can get involved.

...

By the way, not only do salmon return to your watershed in the fall, candidates for city, town and county councils are also there seeking your support. Find out their views on your watershed's ecology. Then cast a well-thought-out vote. That action is a critically important step that you can take to make your local creek safe for kids and fish once again.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

My sinceslicedbread.com idea: Civic Societies throughout America

Submitted to the SEIU's sinceslicedbread.com:

To adress two problems -- the decline of communities and the polorazation -- I propose the creation local civic societies throughout the county. The societies, local non-profits, would be forums to discuss local issues and propose solutions, through polite discourse.

Their role wouldn't be to make decisions, but to advocate open communication between the government and citizens and between citizens. Civic societies are common in England (such as the Manchester Civic Society: www.manchestercivic.org.uk), or just Google "civic society."

The goals of civic societies can be summed up in two of Manchester's bullet points:

"To keep watch over the city as it changes, identifying and praising what is good, challenging and seeking to improve what is not good enough"

"To promote, through publications and public debate, a greater interest in Manchester, its neighbours, the challenges faced and the opportunities to be grasped"

The socieites would governed by a board of a few elected officials, but mostly private citizens. They would be funded through a 1 or 2 percent set aside from local government budgets.

John G. Bell out of the race

If nominated, I will not run. If elected, I will not serve. From an email exchange with John Griogaire Bell:
Greetings,

I apologize for the delay in responding to your e-mail.

For personal reasons, I have been unable to actively campaign and I would be unable to accept the position on city council if I were to win the election. Therefore, I have decided that it would be unethical to take contributions or to participate in any candidate forums.

It is not possible to remove my name from the ballot nor change the statement in the voters pamphlet, so I am contacting you with this information. I will also be placing this notice on the website provided in the statement.

Thank you,

John G. Bell

On Sep 30, 2005, at 7:29 PM, Emmett O'Connell wrote:

Hi John,

This is Emmett from Olympia Time (olywa.blogspot.com). I haven't heard much from you since you commented a couple months ago. How is the campaign going?

Monday, October 10, 2005

Normoyle for council, straight out of Lacey

There is no Michael Normoyle for City Council website (that I know of). There are some Ira Knight-like Normoyle signs up around town. But, it is interesting to point out that if you want to see the books for Mr. Normoyle's campaign, you need to go to Lacey.

Leaving town for a city council campaign's books isn't all the interesting, since skilled Treasurers sometimes live outside of Olympia, but it looks like Mike rents a conference room for his public books. Huh, an Oly conference room not good enough for you?

Sunday, October 09, 2005

The Olympia Times

The Olympia Times, not Olympia Time, is now over on the right hand side under Olympia Blogs. In addition to being another good local blog, this guy can take some serious pics. Being someone who is paid to take pictures, and fully knowledgeable of my limitations in that regard, I respect his skill.

October Democrat Discussion: I-912 and framing taxes

Thurston County Democrat Discussion Group will take on the issues brought up by I-912, which seeks to revoke the recent 9.5 cent gas tax. We will also discuss progressively framing the broader issue of taxation.

Tuesday, October 11, 7-9 p.m.
Olympia Center
222 Columbia St NW
Olympia, WA
Room 102 (first floor)

The Discussion Group is a meeting for Democrats in Thurston County who want a "low impact" informative meeting to discuss topics of the day and to get more involved in the Democratic Party.

For more information on groups fighting I-912, go to:
Washington Defense
Keep Washington Rolling

For more information on the Democrat Discussion Group, go here.

Dean's plans

Months and months into his chairmanship, Gov. Dean's plans are apparently in place:
  • Making Democrats the party of values, community and reform. Armed with extensive DNC polling, Dean is consulting with party leaders in Congress, mayors and governors to recast the public's image of Democrats with a unified message.
  • Improving the party's "micro-targeting," the tactic of merging political information about voters with their consumer habits to figure out how to appeal to them.
  • Building a 50-state grass-roots organization, using the same Internet and community-building tools that took Dean's presidential bid from obscurity to the front of the pack before Iowa
  • This is good to hear, especially the last bullet point. Since the launch of the new Democrats.org, it has been well short of my expectations in a meetup-like (or even Moveon.org like) community building system.

    Saturday, October 08, 2005

    Olyblog does it again: Blogging the USS Olympia

    This never would have happened at the Olympian, but Rick McKinnon of Olyblog tracked down Robert Schumacher, a sailor serving on the USS Olympia who not only blogs, but now blogs at Olyblog. And, if that doesn't surprise you at all describes himself as a "mainly liberal Democrat." Take that, Ira Knight.

    Obviously, the conversation with Rob at Olyblog went almost directly to the Nuclear Free Zone ordinance that the Oly Council recently passed. Rob the submariner had this to say initially:
    Interestingly enough on the submarine blog I co-contribute to, one of the topics today was Los Angeles-class sub relations with namesake cities. I wasn't really familiar with the NFZ issue until a few weeks ago when I reported to Olympia and my buddies at the sub blog let me know about it (most of them are very conservative and had...opinions...on the issue).

    ...I'm part of the engineering department, a reactor operator by rate, and I can tell you there is a night-and-day difference between nuclear weapons and nuclear power. While I'm pretty liberal myself, I think nuclear energy (for purposes like electrical power generation) is a great way to go, if managed and given the proper oversight. I can't speak to civilian nuclear power, but I can tell you the Navy has an unparalled record of safety and success with it's plants, both shipboard and land based.

    Read the entire conversation, its a great take on the entire NFZ and the entire situation surrounding the USS Oly.

    Ira Knight, no longer fighting pundants

    No, he never really fixed the spelling issue, but he just took down the page with "pundant" on it for a pointless redesign of his website. If you're wondering, yes, you can still sign waive for Ira.

    Thursday, October 06, 2005

    Open source v. Proprietary Politics

    Washblog had a great headline to a short post that really got to me. It referred a horsesass.org post about Microsoft giving more money to Republicans than Dems. Well, any money at all it turns out.

    Either way, here it is: "Linux, Apple, Open Source, Competition, Democrats." Contrasted with the text of the post: "Windows, Diebold, Proprietary, Monopoly, Republican."

    This reminded me of all the stuff I was writing about over the summer when I was all abuzz about the Top Two primary. My point back then was that there is a deep down difference between nature of the the two parties. Now I just have a different way to articulate it:

    Democrats are Firefox (or some other open source software).

    Republicans are Explorer (or some other failed proprietary software).

    In the Top Two realm, this would mean that Democrats would be ok with whomever chose to vote in their party ranks, even up to election day. Republicans would be a bit more stodgy about such an arrangement and get all bent out of shape.

    The Democratic Party should be an open source party, because when you get down to it, all politics should be so called open source.

    Good ideas are good ideas, and good candidates don't neccesarily get endorsed by the state chair.

    Being involved in politics or your community (I don't think they're exclusive at all though) is good, it means your part of the solution. Not being involved is being part of the problem.

    Open source software works because there are lots of people involved, making "whatever" work for the good of the everyone.

    Politics works when everyone gets involved and everyone is heard. Its our democracy and it should be our Democratic Party.

    Baird to retire?

    Certainly an oh crap moment:
    The word on the street is that Congressman Brian Baird of the 3rd District may be contemplating retirement in the not-so-distant future. Baird has spent 6 years in Congress, and recently welcomed twins into the family. It is not clear if this news relates to 2006 or 2008, but times they are a changing.

    We will keep you informed as more details or news emerges, but put that feather into your cap.

    For all the complaints Olympia Dems have about Brian Baird, I constantly remind myself that the WA-3 not too long ago was represented by Linda Smith.

    UPDATE:
    In response to some of the commentary about Baird's announcement regarding 2006, we wanted to share an additional tidbit that has come this way. We have heard, but not yet confirmed, that a member of the State Legislature recently hired a senior Baird campaign official, ostensibly to manage the 2006 reelection campaign for said legislator. This caused us to ask why a legislator that lives in the 3rd Congressional District would need a congressional-caliber staff member to manage a campaign for a less than competitive legislative seat. As we said before, this is pure conjecture, and merely for your amusement and discussion. But it is definitely another feather worth putting in your cap.
    Sounds like for folks in the know, they can just work backwards and fill in names of the state legislator and staffer. I'm not so inclined though.

    Friday, September 30, 2005

    Stong communities are blue communities

    Ever since I started to read Bowling Alone I've had this impression that stong community ties, strong civic values, are elements of progressive and Democratic communities. Specifically the level of trust people have with each other, I've been thinking, is a direct line to their trust of local institutions such as government.

    Since Democrats tend to like government more that Republicans... well, you get the point.

    Eric over at the Cascadia Scorecard
    points to a study by Ichiro Kawachi, a Harvard man, that shows that states with stong civic connections also vote Dem.

    While studying the connections between social capital and health I stumbled across something rather odd. States with high social capital--strong connections between people and their communities--tend to vote democratic.

    Harvard researcher, Ichiro Kawachi, one of the leading lights on social capital and health, has performed several studies that make state-by-state comparisons; and he's shown that, on average, states with higher social capital also have better health outcomes. But as I was peering over some of his charts I couldn't help but notice that states with higher social capital also tended to be "blue" states--they voted for John Kerry in the last presidential election.

    Unfortunately, Kawachi reports the results for only 36 states (the others did not have sufficient data to support his study) so my little "finding" here refers only to those states, though they do include all the big ones. That's just one of the limitations, but I still think it's interesting that 6 of the 10 states with the highest social capital voted for Kerry in the 2004 elections. Meanwhile, 8 of the 10 states with the lowest social capital voted for George Bush in '04.

    ...While Kawachi never mentions the voting comparison, in a separate study he offers a plausible explanation in the context of health outcomes. He suggests that high social capital leads to more civic engagement and, in turn, to more investment of resources, money, and concern into the community at large. For Kawachi, that investment is a partial explanation for better health outcomes--places with high social capital care more about the welfare of others.

    Democrats should talk about this in a serious way, and more than just in "Its takes a village" sort of way. Just because large government social programs have mostly failed doesn't mean that the moral obligations to our communities and neighbors aren't still there. It is still our responsibility to be good neighbors.

    Should I care if people from exurbs vote for my guy?
    It's community, stupid
    I couldn't agree more, build communities
    The future of parties

    Wednesday, September 28, 2005

    The Onion: Some Sort of Primary Just Happened

    With less than 40 percent turn out, less than public candidates and one contested race between two cities of a total of more than 50,000 souls, it just about feels that way, doesn't it?

    The Onion:
    OLYMPIA, WA—A primary election of some sort is believed to have occurred in the past week or two in cities and counties across the nation, according to a report published by a citizens advocacy group.

    Although the report stopped short of affirming the claim, the Fair Election Advocacy Council believes that local political offices as diverse as mayor, city councilman, district attorney, and perhaps a judgeship or two may have been contested.

    ....

    "Am I crazy, or was there an election or something not too long ago?" said Olympia, WA resident Rochelle Fleischman, who recalled receiving a multilingual "yellow thing" in the mail several weeks ago that may have been an election-related notice. She promptly discarded it with other junk mail.

    Wednesday, September 21, 2005

    TCYD Young Voter Forum and our endorsements

    The most telling part of the forum last night was who didn't show up. The much discussed here Michael Normoyle didn't show up, Ira Knight didn't pop his head in, and neither did John Griogair Bell.

    From past experience and recent election results, folks that only got into the city council races just before the filing deadline have a small chance of actually winning. Most of what they can expect to do is change what is being discussed during the race so that the winners can be held accountable when they're serving. But how in the hell do you change what is being discussed in the race if you don't even show up? Last night was free advertising for you!

    A few days ago I complained about civic life in Lacey and Tumwater, but at least both Dick Yates and John Darby (the only two candidates in Lacey) showed up last night.

    Here is a list of the folks we decided to endorse following the forum last night:

    Chuck Namit – North Thurston School Board, District 2
    Karen Messmer – City of Olympia, Position 4
    Jeff Kingsbury – City of Olympia, Position 5
    Doug Mah – City of Olympia, Position 6
    Joe Hyer – City of Olympia, Position 7
    Ed Stanley – Port of Olympia, District 3
    Steve Klein – City of Yelm, Mayor

    The position that we had the most discussion on was Position 6 for Olympia, which came down to a close vote. Here are my notes from the forum.

    2,500 Olympians

    Two-thousand five hundred Olympians voted for a guy that can't spell "wave" or "pundit." Returning solid leadeship, just not spelling or usage.

    Monday, September 19, 2005

    It's community, stupid

    Don't blame it all on government, however. Part of our loss of community may be explained by the simple fact that we don't put down deep roots as individuals and families because we don't stay put the way we used to. How many of your friends live in their parents' home towns?

    And if home town is such a nebulous concept, should we be surprised that serious thought is being given to rebuilding New Orleans as a city full of charming old-style houses, with railed balconies and lovely verandas -- but empty of the "blight" of poor people?

    The idea -- fortunately not yet the prevailing one -- seems to be that the poor would stay where they've been temporarily relocated. Or maybe just disappear. Where is the "community" in that?

    Strong communities typically have vibrant civic cultures, which keep government acountable to the needs of the community. The breakdown of communities drive a wedge between people, erode our trust in each other, alienates us from government and we all end up like Bill O'Reilly.