Wednesday, August 09, 2006

RIP Bernie Friedman, one of my all time favorite Olympians

Seattle PI:

Bernard Friedman spent part of his career as a risk manager for the Department of Social and Health Services, trying to improve one of the most controversial state agencies. Those who knew him say he was tough, straightforward, got the job done and was not afraid to take unpopular positions.

But Friedman was also a big man with a big heart, the liveliest man at stuffy law functions and a proud Duke Blue Devil.

He died from a heart attack Aug. 3 in Olympia. He was 63.

My best memory of Bernie Friedman was back in 2000 when he was the first person to use the Washington News Council to challenge a newspaper. He had run for Olympia City Council the year before against Mark Foutch, and the Olympian wrote a misleading (even according to Foutch) editorial endorsing Foutch. In it they said that Friedman had been distruptive during a city council meeting, even to the point that a police officer had to be called.

The actual exchange was more like:

Bernie: I would like to talk about this.

Council person: Oh, we're going to talk about that later.

Bernie: Can I still say what I want to say now?

Council person: Maybe later?

Bernie: How later?

Council person: Uhmm... half hour or so?

Bernie: Okie Dokie.

And, there just happened to be a police officer in the room. Or, as Bernie described it:
In the fall of 1999, I was a candidate for Olympia City Council. During the campaign, The Olympian published an editorial about me that was factually inaccurate and woefully misleading concerning an incident involving me that had happened two months prior to the editorial at an Olympia City Council meeting. That incident was so insignificant the reporter for The Olympian, who was at the meeting, and her editor, did not see fit to print a news story about it. Yet the subsequent editorial purported to describe the incident, described it inaccurately, and concluded from it I lacked the "civic deportment" to qualify me for office. As the election transpired, a swing of 700 votes would have won it for me. It seems likely the unfair editorial could have accounted for that many votes.

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