Thursday, February 27, 2014

Public information should be free and why I'm watching the Thurston County clerk race

If we pay to maintain a database of public information, we should charge prohibitive fees to simply access that information.

Some background at "The paywall to public records in Thurston County" Part 1 and Part 2.

For the first time since 1990, there will be an open race for Thurston County Clerk. The clerk is the interdependently elected official who provides administrative support for our local court system. So, if you want a copy of court fillings or some other court record, you go through the clerk.

But, like I pointed out in the links above, that could run you $30 for a 16 page document. And, this is just for downloading the file.

So, the clerk's race is the one race I'm watching this year.

Right now there are two candidates filed at the Public Disclosure Commission, Yvonne Pettus and Linda Enlow. Both Pettus and Enlow have years of experience in county clerk like offices, both of whom serving as chief deputy clerk under the current clerk at different points. Actually it seems like Pettus replaced Enlow in 2012 as chief deputy clerk.

In case you were wondering, Gould made a $200 donation to Pettus, so she's apparently endorsing her current chief deputy.

Pettus' website is pretty stale and Enlow currently has no website at all. So, trying to figure out which one puts more emphasis on public access is pretty hard.

The people behind the RECAP project talk a lot about why public access to court records matters. They're of course talking about federal courts, but even in our medium size Puget Sound community, this should matter.

I'd argue that it matters more here because there are a lot more resources to create an popular tool like RECAP to open up a closed system like PACER (the federal court record database). But, here in Thurston County, I doubt we'd be able to muster that kind of support.

So, we would depend on a good county clerk to ensure public access to public documents.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Good view, love day and things open or turned on (Olyblogosphere for February 24, 2014)

1. Now, this view is surprisingly nice.

2. Happy sappy love day from the re-use folks.

3.Ken went to the Olympian, along with tons of other folks apparently. Not to knock on the Olympian doing a good thing like inviting the public in to talk to news staff, but I remember when the Olympian literally had a public newsroom. Back in the late 90s, I remember you could walk straight back into the newsroom without having to check in.

4. Janine's Little Hollywood turned her RSS feed back on this week. Which is great for someone like me. Showing how much I care, here's a great post on some Tumwater brewery planning.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Enoch Bagshaw collapsed and died in Olympia, the state and region collapsed around him

It was a strange road that led Enoch Bagshaw, the legendary Husky football coach, to Olympia in 1930. But, it was specifically and literally a road.

Bagshaw had been a young public works man in Snohomish County before his life's vocation found him taking up the position as Everett High School's gridiron football coach. His success at Everett led him to succeed the four coaches in four years that had attempted to replace UW's first great coach, Gil Dobie.

Welsh born Bagshaw was not friendly. He won games, and led the high powered Husky offense to two Rose Bowls (tying one, losing the other).

Washington as a state was flying high through the 20s. And, if Bagshaw was the symbol of Washington's sporting accent throughout the decade, Gov. Roland Hartley was the political embodiment. Laissez-faire to Hartley would be putting it mildly. Hartley wanted to cut down government to a size in which it would not interfere with timber men like himself, or any other capitalist.

And, like Baghaw's Huskies, Hartley played rough and tumble, ignoring the polite insider politics that often made things happen in the state.

Hartley would also turn out to be Bagshaw's last benefactor. Both men hailed from Everett (though both were born elsewhere). After Bagshaw finally left the Huskies, Hartley brought him down to Olympia to serve as a transportation administrator.

The Enoch Bagshaw that moved from Seattle to Olympia in the spring of 1930 was not a well man. The 1920s had been hard on his body. He probably didn't know it, but his road was a short one.

As Seattle progressed towards the Great Depression in the summer and fall of 1930, there was a lot of doubt that Cascadia couldn't keep on growing as it had in the 1920s.

Seattle Times in July:
"Seattle looks very good, said Mr. Oakes. "Your shops and stores and your industrial activity indicates that your people are not paying much attention to the toalk of business depression that is so much the topic of conversation in other centers at this time. You seem to go serenely on your way..."

And, in in November:
As in all depressions, much of this depression is psychological. People in Seattle are unduly depressed because they hear exaggerated rumors that people elsewhere are depressed. What people really ened is to know the facts. When these facts sink in, our people will realize that things are, as Mr. Coue said, "getting better and better" -- and then, they, too, will feel better and better.
 By 1931 only 62 percent of those employed in Washington two years before still had jobs. Timber exports in 1933 were half of what they were in 1929.

Neither Bagshaw nor Washington may not have realized its heart was ready to go out.

It is ironic that the building in which Bagshaw died (today where the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction is located), then called the "Old Capitol Building" was also a symbol of our own economic over exuberance here in Thurston County.

Its its first life, the Chuckanut stone building was the Thurston County Courthouse. Built in the high flying days following statehood, Thurston County soon ran out of money, and sold it to the state, which was looking for decent quarters.

And, a final note, Hartley, who lost in 1932 to Clarence Martin, was fond of tearing down portions of state government. 1932 would be a highwater year for Democrats in Washington State. Both Hartley and the U.S. Senate seat would be turned over to Democrats that year. To give you a good sense of the how much 1932 change politics in Washington State, there were 41 Republicans in the legislature to one Democrat. In 1933 there were 21 Republicans and 25 Democrats. A couple of years later there were 41 Democrats and five Republicans (the total number of seats had gone up).

Last, what is one of the agencies that Hartley went after in his high tide days in the mid 1920s? OSPI.

Monday, February 17, 2014

The mystery of the capitol gulch, a surprise stadium and what it means to be a capital city

Sometimes I think about what it means to Olympia to be a Capitol City. I'm not sure how many times in history it has happened, but I'm sure at least once a city has lost that status. Throughout the early history of Olympia, that tension, the possibility that Walla Walla or Yakima or Tacoma might snatch the seat of government seems to be overpowering.

It has been decades since anyone has thought about moving the capitol or even a good amount of state employees out of northern Thurston County. But, we still make civic decisions based on our status as the seat of government. The debates about issues like restoring Budd Inlet or downtown development are influenced by the gravitational pull of the state government.

If I haven't changed the header of this  blog by the time you read this post, you'll see the graphic is a detail of a Sanborn map of Olympia. You'll notice a gulch that no longer exists running through what is now the capitol campus.

Here's another map from 1919 that show it in much better detail (via Washington State Digital Archives):



The history of this gulch has always fascinated me. I've always wondered where it went, who decided to fill it in. It seems pretty straight forward given the context of history. In the early 1920s the campus was being developed. The gulch was in impediment to that development, so it was filled in.

But, I could never find a record of when or how it was filled.

Recently I learned the gulch had a bit more interesting of a history than just a former ditch in the way of a beautiful campus. As state leaders were gathering ideas for the layout of the modern campus in 1911, they decided a stadium would be built inside the gulch

The Olympian, April 1911:



The Stadium Bowl had just been finished in Tacoma inside a similar Puget Sound gulch, and local leaders imagined the Olympia Bowl as a smaller version.

But, as the capitol plans were slowly rolled out over the years, no stadium was ever included.

The proposed stadium was almost totally forgotten until local leaders tried to bring it back up in 1921. They not only wanted a stadium, but to save what was left of the gulch itself, which had been used as the trash bin for the capitol builders.

The Olympian, September 1921:


But, obviously the gully was filled and the stadium was never built. In 1922 30,000 yards of dirt were hauled to the gulch by the contractor who was grading the campus, finishing off the gulch for good.

Now, obviously the gulch still haunts us. All that fill is slowly working its way downhill, to the point that the beautiful greenhouse that sites right on the crest of the fill closed six years ago.

Filling the gulch to create a even lawn running up to the campus and not building a stadium is the type of choice that capitol cities make. Olympia did need a stadium. The old Athletic Park  wasn't much. And, even Stevens Field (new in the early 1920s), when compared to a possible Stadium Bowl on Budd Inlet, doesn't exactly shine in comparison.

A nice clean campus is good for state government, it just looks nice.

A utilitarian and centrally located stadium would've been good for Olympia. These are the things we give up when we decide to fight to be state capitol.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

A back of the napkins sketch of why Cascadia religion is the way it is

Cascadian religion is pretty unique. Compared to other parts of the country, religions up here are fairly diverse overall and we have the highest percentage of people that don't claim any particular religion at all.

There is some debate whether that means we're godless up here, but it is at least one of the things that makes us unique.

I've also pointed out that this isn't a recent development. At least since just before World War I we've had this tendency of not going to church.

So, where does this come from. How did Cascadians become the least churched region?

It has to do with Cascadia's joint Appalachian and New England roots. Modern Cascadian culture is the joining of New England and Appalachian cultures cooked over 150 years in the cool rain of the west coast.

Those impacts, from personal freedom to friendly business politics, had a deep impact on religion. At, least from what I can see.

In my first Cascadian religion post I pointed to two maps, one on religious diversity, the other on religious adherence. Cascadia was one region that was high in the former and low in the later. There was one other region (actually a subset of a region) that showed the same trends, the upper Ohio Valley of Appalachia:

High in diversity:

Low in adherence:


Now, this can be a bit misleading and may only relate to Cascadia from a high altitude. This region likely is much more religious than Cascadia in a going to church sense. But, because there are simply so many religions here, they can sometimes be under counted.

...the southern areas with the highest numbers of unaffiliated and uncounted people are in the Appalachian counties of West Virginia, Virginia and eastern Kentucky -- home to countless evangelical Protestant churches that are part of no denomination.
 And, here:
Appalachian religion is often associated with fiercely independent  Holiness sects and their rejection of educated clergy. This is but part of a pattern of persistent forms of rejection of the authority of educated professionals...

So, compared to other regions that were more homogenized and church going, Appalachia, in particular the upper Ohio Valley where many early Cascadians came from, was a rebellious soup of religion.

Compare that to New England, which by the 1840s (when migration to Cascadia had first begun) had just gone through a massive religious upheval. The Second Great Awakening was well into recession by this time, leaving behind its impact on other religious communities and New England in general:
Outside the evangelical churches there were also problems. In the early stages of revivals, Episcopalians, Universalists, and Unitarians were tolerant and sometimes mildly supportive. However, as passions heated, denominational bigotry and a doctrinaire attitude was manifested by many revivalists who denounced all who were not "born again." Often these were socially prominent people. This behavior alienated religious liberals as well as non-Christians who resented the self-righteous presumption of authority displayed by some revivalists. In and out of churches, it often became a question of power and control.
For the New England businessmen that moved to Cascadia, what they thought of religion was likely colored by cultural attitudes of the conflict after the Second Great Awakening. One New England founded frontier area (eastern New York) that predates Cascadia by a few decades was so impacted by the Awaking that it was eventually called "the burned-over district."

The number of new sects (from proto-Mormons, to Shakers and straight up utopians) rivals the home spun religion of Appalachia.

Cascadia wasn't founded by groups of godless settlers. But, it also wasn't founded by a monolithic group that subscribed to one religion. Rather, both the Appalachians and Yankees that settled Cascadia came from fractured religious cultures where individual freedom and personal attachment to belief was valued over discipline.

It is also no wonder that the impacts of the Second Great Awakening, which in addition to utopians also produced social activists pushing towards feminism and anti-slavery would grow into Cascadia's political liberals.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Too much capitol stuff and Lacey holds secrets (Olyblogosphere for February 10, 2014)

1. Did you know that freshwater clams are all over Capitol Lake? Now you do.

2. Did Freemasons have a hand in the landscaping of the Capitol Campus? Why should you care? Find out here in what is easily the best post over at Olyblog in a long time. And, bring a hat. Fez or tinfoil will do.

And, there's a follow up post here.

3. It must be the energy of the legislative session. But, Heather posts about something up on the hill too. This time, George Washington's face.

4. And, talk about hidden secrets: Panorama City has a thrift store. Damn.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

"The air ... seemed too rare for prayer" The long history of non-religious folks in Cascadia. We've always been godless sorts up here

It is sometimes implied that what makes Cascadia so darn Cascadian is a product of post Big Sort social impacts. Despite @ancientportland, you can often assume that the most blue and green parts of what makes us us are post World War II developments. But, certainly post 1960s.

Before that, Cascadia was a land of tree cutting, aluminum smelting Republicans bent on damming every river that could give a gigawatt, right?

Well, like the Cascadia Calm (ahem aka Seattle Freeze), how Cascadians approach religion has a much longer history, much longer than you'd assume.

In short, compared to other parts of the country, we don't go to church that much. Not that we aren't spiritual, we just as a region don't go into churches. And, we haven't for a very long time.

We've been the least churched part of the country since at least 1951, the date of the oldest survey data I could find. Both Oregon and Washington topped the list of least churched that year, with 27 and 30 percent respectively claiming membership in a church.

And, the non-pew sitting Cascadia goes further back than that even. In 1915, several church leaders put out their views on religion in the region(h/t Patricia O'Connell Killen).

Floyd Daggett:
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.
E.J. Klemme:
The people that builded this empire were compelled to push ahead or be pushed aside. They accepted the challenge and began crowding those in front with the same energy that they were being crowded by those behind. They knew no limit and recognized no master. Science was their handmaiden, and to succeed was the goal of their ambition.

This condition forced them to leave the Golden Rule beyond the Rockies, and they proceeded to do others before others could do them. In the East they were faithful church members; now they are not even church tenders. The ascent of the Great Divide seemed too steep for church letters. The air of the Northwest seemed too rare for prayer.
And, finally M.M. Higley. This fellow, instead of blaming the mountains and the air, might be hitting on something:

Another stumbling-block to a great many is the multiplicity of churches and creeds.
So, we know that the complaint of the unchurched Cascadia goes pretty far back. It would seem realistic that if it was true in 1915 and 1951 that it was also true in 1854 and won't likely change for the near future.

I have a pretty good reason (better than blaming the hills) why Cascadia doesn't go to church, but I'll save it for next time. What's your theory?

Monday, February 03, 2014

The isthmus if Wilder and White had gotten their way

This is a strange sentence to me (from the Capitol Vista Park website):
There is a continuity in the evolution of this vision from 1911, through the development of Heritage Park and the Fountain Block, to this next phase which will be the Capitol Olympic Vista Park.
What's being talked about here is the plan for a new park across the street from Heritage Park on what is common called the isthmus in downtown Olympia. Really, its one big earthen dam. But, what the writer here is referring to is a 1911 proposal for how that part of downtown should look.

Here's a representation of what those early 20th century architects (Walter Wilder and Harry White) wanted:


What you're seeing is something totally different than this:


Now, let's take another look at the Wilder and White isthmus, this time with their blocks overlaid onto modern Olympia:


Now, let's loop back to that first sentence again. Or, the phrases and emphasized: a continuity in the evolution of this vision. Evolution of this vision, which I suppose can also mean, this is something completely different.

Wilder and White did not propose a park across the isthmus, they proposed a few block of at least three or four story buildings.


This vision evolved, it evolved pretty darn far.

It is one thing to use a historic vision to argue for a change in how we lay out our city. It is something else to say the vision "evolved." But, I think we're owed a bit of honesty to how far that evolution has gone. In this case, from an urban neighborhood to parks.