Monday, December 31, 2007

I'm not qualified for the Olympia City Council

A post in which the blogger attempts to clean himself of the ickiness of judging eight people who applied for an open city council seat in Olympia.

I spent the last week or so writing eight posts about people that are applying for open council seat, and I've come to a conclusion that about half of them shouldn't be on the council. I also concluded that I'm not worthy to judge and I only hope that the small amount of wisdom I have helped people think about who might be appointed to serve on the Olympia City Council.

And, that if I had applied, I wouldn't have been qualified to serve. I am pretty sure I wouldn't have even gotten through filling out the application packet. While I have some strong feelings about how Olympia can write a better budget, even thinking about the city's compressive plan would have thrown me off.

Maybe I would have written something about trying to open that process up, make it more transparent and obvious, but that would have been a lot like my budget answer too.

Anyway, reading and writing about those applicants made me think long and hard about my own civic life.

One of the standards I used to judge was whether the applicant had served on a city advisory board, which I've never done. Those closet I came as an ad-hoc committee on wi-fi downtown. I think we served the council well, but that hardly gave me a deep understanding of any aspect of city management.

So, maybe next time the city recruits for their many advisory boards, I'll be applying. Not because one day I want to apply or run for city council, but because if I'm so interesting in my city, I should try to be a bigger help.

Friday, December 28, 2007

New Header for a new year

I've been toying with this one for a few days, but yes you'll notice there is a new header at Olympia Time today.

And yes, that is the capitol building in the background, someone added it as a 3d building on Google Earth. And, yes, I added a bridge and took out the 5th Avenue Dam, so that body of water behind the bridge is an estuary.

Just in case you were wondering.

Seattle no longer most literate. I blame Jeff Shaw

Seattle fell to second place behind that city that was in about the middle of Fargo. You know, I think it was the one with the bar where the creepy guy tried to hit on Francis what's her name.

Blame can be spread widely, but I blame this fall from grace, and the rocket accent of that yet unnamed upper Midwest city on Jeff Shaw, who moved from the "Seattle area" (Bellingham) to there earlier this year.

His reading power is so... uhmm... powerful that the Twin of this city moved from 11th to third, when I have good information that Jeff's never stepped out of his car in St. Paul (there I've said it). Crap, we're surrounded!

Not that Jeff would let something like this go to his head:
Verily, I think I speak for all us learned and sagacious denizens of these dual metropolises when I say: Suck it, Seattle. I hereby challenge Seattle Weekly's talented and debonair web editor, Chris Kornelis, to a read-off. Alternative weeklies at 10 paces.
Jeff is either smart in challenging his corporate sister paper, or smart to not challenge the Stranger's Amy Kate Horn, who everyone knows is a much better reader than Chris Kornelis.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

On "The hippest town in the West"

I've been burning annual leave for the last week, so in addition to Christmas, I've been thinking longer about things that I usually spare just a bit of time for.

One if the phrase "hippest town in the West," which has cursed Olympia since it was written by Benjamin Nugent almost eight years ago.

A few facts:

1. Ben wasn't compiling a list of hip western towns, on which list Olympia came first. This wasn't like the most livable cities list or the most reading cities. This was almost a throw-away article about Sleater Kinney and the indi-rock scene in Olympia. This isn't a scene that I know much about, by the way.

2. Also, Olympia took this label seriously. So much so that God sent an earthquake seven months later, destroying many a hip thing in Olympia. That's not actually true, though God does disprove of Olympia taking itself too seriously.

But, that's the point, isn't it? We take this label too damn seriously today. And, as soon as you start taking a label of hip seriously, does it now make you unhip?

Some various links of people taking the label seriously:
I use it here.
Bad Nazis can't come to the hippest town in the West, can they?

The most extreme example I can think of this is The Sitting Duck, the local version of an alternative newspaper, which from my memory came around about the time Ben made his proclamation. They feature a tag line at the top of each paper, which today is "featuring the bubbliest writers in the West." I'm not sure if they're sinning by taking the hippest label to seriously or not seriously enough, therefore taking it seriously.

Basically, what I'm saying is that by the summer of 2010 I'd like to see Olympia forget about being the hippest town in the West. Ten years is enough and over a year and a half is enough time for us to prepare to stop using the phrase.

Also, by now, eight years after the fact, I'm sure some other town has usurped us in hipness.

Archie Binns was framed!

And given to me for Christmas. My favorite Christmas gift:

Story behind the gift. I'm a big Archie Binns fan. One of my oldest (in actual age and in terms of how long I've owned it) Binns books is The Timber Beast. Because we've rearranged our house a few times in the past two years, my book collection has been moved, boxed and rearranged. The dust cover to Beast was one of the saddest casualties.

Last September I took the dust cover (which had begun to rip along the spine) off the book and set it aside. The tattered cover was because I'm an oaf, and because I forget some stuff, I didn't realize that my wife picked it up and created a beautiful Christmas present for me. Better than the Wii.

A party of the caucus, for the caucus and because of the caucus (crap)

Noemie has a very comprehensive post up at Washblog about the upcoming precinct caucuses. She rehashes for a bit the fight last year to try for a primary instead of a caucus, and puts forward some of the arguments for the caucus.

One I find troubling:
Washington State Democratic Party Chair Dwight Pelz has said that the caucus system encourages grassroots democracy and dialogue while the primary favors candidates who spend the most money on TV ads and teaches participants that politics is a solitary process. I agree.
Prior to this, Noemie (full disclosure: I like and admire Noemie) argues that we have to look at the caucuses in the context of our fully screwed up election system. Granted, caucuses are a lot better than much of what goes on.

But, I'd argue that caucuses (while usually a good thing) are being used cynically by the Washington State Democratic Party to:

a) drive down participation, and
b) recruit volunteers for the nine months before the election.

Yes, caucuses are great because they require and encourage active participation. But, the party is using that participation for its own use. And, after the election, the scores of jazzed, encouraged people will be dropped like a wet rag by the party because the job will be done at that point.

If the party was actually all about the participatory democracy, it would hold caucuses for every election. We hold a state primary for every other less sexy election in this state because the party would much rather have the state government pay for its winnowing down election than to have to pay for a caucus no one will show up to.

Here are some old posts from Washblog of mine arguing about caucuses and such:
Republicans were trying to make a point with primary vote
More Caucuses v. Primary
Caucus v. Primary debate keeps attention off the real problem: lack of participation

Here's my favorite line:
But, the problem with caucuses is that very few people actually do turn out for them. On the other hand, the problem with primaries is that still very few people turn out for them. The Olympian editorial points out that while only two percent turn out for caucuses in a given year (certainly not in 2004), but 42 percent turn out for a primary. Two percent may be extremely small, but 42 percent is all that great either.
Wouldn't it be great if instead of having to choose between really horrible turn-out and depressing turn-out, we could find a way to get more people participating?

Monday, December 24, 2007

Conversate on the (KUOW's) Conversation

I was thinking about my post from yesterday, and I was thinking about what a KUOW's Conversation blog would look like.

It would be not at all like this, but this is as close as I could get for free in a couple of days.

The Conversation already kind of blogs because they send out an email with the day's topic and a handful of links on the topic. This takes that email and adds a comment thread.

And, of course its actually a wiki, so if I miss a day to add the email of the day, someone else can come along and add it. I'll try to keep up though.

You can also suggest and discuss show ideas, which is kind of pointless right now because no one actually reads this blog/wiki.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

KUOW's Conversation, get thee a conversation

So, Radio Open Source is back. But, all I'm saying is that it's not really back. Its a podcast with a blog, sort of like Jesse Thorn is Chris Lydon.

But, I've been thinking: what's to stop other hour long recent topic public radio shows from posting their topics and possible guests on a blog five or so hours before the show is supposed to begin?

Why can't say, KUOW's the Conversation have a blog? So, instead of asking us to email in or call to "join the conversation," we could post up and have a conversation on our own, justl like ROS 1.0?

Friday, December 21, 2007

Bergeson watch is over

A media something-or-other finally put finger to internet and saw that OSPI chief Terry B. is running again, so my vigil is over. Olympian Education Blog:
According to the Public Disclosure Commission, Bergeson's committee filed its registration paperwork a few weeks ago, as did Richard Semler, who (according to our sister paper The Tri-City Herald) is the soon-to-be retiring superintendent of the Richland School District. Donald Hansler of Spanaway filed a campaign committee registration form in 2006, but nothing else since then.
Leave it to a blogger though, in this waining days of my watch, to take a close look at a couple of roots of the race (if this race were a tree...). Ryan at I Thought a Think:
The business community loves Terry Bergeson, because the business community gains personally from the higher standards of education that the WASL represents. The WASL is a very bottom line assessment, something that business leaders understand, and I don't know that there's anything that teachers or parents could say that would turn their heads to our way of thinking.


Terry's biggest donations might come from the private sector, but her largest numbers of donors are those who work under her.


There are an awful lot of people around the state who have a personal stake in seeing Bergeson returned to office. They have history, cache, an in; however you want to put it. If a new wind blows their boat goes off course, and that's when personal self interest kicks in and gets them to reach for their wallet.

Everything I've heard and seen speaks to the idea that Richard Semler is a good man. I've heard him talk about the how the testing system in Washington has gotten far away from any educational purpose, and he's right. Living here in Eastern Washington, where we voted Tom Foley out of office when he was Speaker of the House, I should probably be more optimistic.

As things stand, though, Bergeson is racing with a Porsche while Semler hops behind on a pogo stick. And that's why she's going to be, once again, the Superintendent of Public Instruction.
My thoughts on this entire thing is that we should focus less on making employees and focus more on making citizens. But, I'm a liberal arts major, so you'd expect that.

Command and Control sports entertainment

Another reason why the NBA sucks, but not the reason you were thinking:
Last week, a fan was moved to a new seat and issued a written warning for heckling Head Coach Isiah Thomas; the card read "You are being issued a warning that the comments, gestures and/or behaviors that you have directed at players, coaches, game officials and/or other spectators constitute excessive verbal abuse." On Monday, a fan had a "Fire Isiah sign" confiscated, pursuant to a policy that prohibits signs that block the views of other patrons.


But at some point won't teams figure out this is not worth it? In exchange for removing one sign that probably was not blocking anyone's view (see above), the team gets more bad publicity and it sent the fans into the streets, literally: A "Fire Isiah" rally was held on the 7th Avenue side of the Garden today, complete with an 8-foot-tall pink slip. Maybe the Knicks are so desensitized to bad publicity at this point that it does not matter.
Not a sport likely to embrace "hey let's let the fans fire the manager every four years" model.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Terry Bergeson IS RUNNING for reelection watch, day 24

Almost a month now and no one has noticed that she's filing PDC reports, she's running for re-election. Does she need to notice a press release for anyone to really figure this one out?

Read about people getting mad about math.

She has $25K in the campaign kitty.

Guess who knows she's running? City of Olympia Mayor (for now) Mark Foutch and Paul Allen (yes, that Paul Allen) of Vulcan Capital. Because they donated to her campaign.

Sonntag, Inslee and public comments

State Auditor Brian Sonntag is going to hold a televised, teleconference with Washington State citizens. So says the first commenter at the Olympian on this:

How brave of this bureaucRAT . . . "Randomly chosen" participants. How 'bout a few town meetings across the state at your expense, Mr. Sonntag? If you have any balls to do it...

Seemingly pointing to the difference between an event where the participants choose themselves (by choosing to attend) and an event where the participants are chosen at random. Sonntag's version is more interesting to me.

Daryl over at Hominid Views had a similar experience with Jay Inslee and enjoyed it.

Gov. Gregoire recently finished a series of forums that the Olympian commenter would have approved of (which also included a random panel at another level), but when your main group of participants is self-chosen, I'm wondering if your just getting a room full of axe-grinders.

The difference with Sonntag's version is that it will be televised, apparently broadening the reach of the project. It would be interesting if they did this twice a year, just for consistency.

Interesting note is that Elway Research is behind this projects as well as the governor's recent tour.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Drinking Liberally in Olympia

From Bruce Lund:

Join us for the December Meeting of Drinking Liberally this Monday, December 10th, 7 pm at the Bar in the Urban Onion in downtown Olympia.

The address is 116 Legion Way SE, and is located right across the street from Sylvester Park, next door to Happy Teriyaki. Please enter the bar directly on Legion street--that way you won't disturb the restaurant goers.

Our discussion last week a wild round robin on a variety of issues. We didn't spend a lot of time on the topic of the evening, Presidential Leadership, and I think it still has some value, so I propose picking up again on that topic.


Here's an excerpt from the last email I sent you:

The topic, in tune with the upcoming primary season, will be presidential leadership. What are the qualities that you view are critical for a president to possess, and what are the qualities that would be "nice to have," but not a deal breaker. One site you might want to visit related to this topic is Dan Mulbern's "A conversation on Presidential Leadership" website. I'm especially impressed with a post by Robert Fritz on the site. The website is at:


Hope to see you Monday night. I hope you weren't adversely affected by this past weeks weather (as I am writing this, snow is falling).

I wish you the best during this holiday season!

Washington Dems Strawpoll: Edwards, Obama and then Kucinich

Dennis Kucinich is doing pretty well in an email straw poll to Washington State Democrats, coming in third ahead of Hillary Clinton. Edwards is leading the pack, following closely by Obama of Illinois:
John Edwards 780
Barack Obama 713
Dennis Kucinich 511
Hillary Clinton 505
Undecided 280
Bill Richardson 234
Joe Biden 112
Chris Dodd 27
Mike Gravel 6
These are "early" numbers since the voting is ongoing here. Go here before December 14 if you want to express your preference.

If you ask me, I wouldn't vote in this poll since it seems to be a way to collect your data.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Fred Finn making good time in 35th LD race

Fred Finn, who is running to replace Bill Eikmeyer in the 35th LD, has an update:
I just wanted to give you a quick update on our campaign.

After beginning my campaign on September 15th, I have received contributions from over 200 different individuals and organizations totaling over $50,000. I plan to actively begin fundraising in February.

Much of my time has been spent in attending a variety of auctions in North Mason and Kitsap Counties and service organization meetings and events including Rotary, Kiwanis and the Chambers.

Some of the events that I have attended include the openings of the Kitsap Community Resources new “green” building and the Harborside Condominiums in Bremerton. I attended the “Wild Salmon Hall of Fame Awards & Dinner” and the Kitsap League of Women Voters luncheon with Bill Gates Sr. as guest speaker. I attended both days of the first Puget Sound Partnership meetings held in Bremerton.

I have spoken at the Mason County Democrats meeting and attended the Kitsap, Thurston, Grays Harbor, and 35th Legislative District Democrats meetings. I spoke at the Kitsap Democrats meeting and the Mason County Women’s Democratic Club meeting.

Governor Gregoire and I met in Mason County at a fundraiser. I ‘ve also attended the “Maggie” Awards, the HDCC fundraiser, the League of Conservation Voters Breakfast as well as fundraisers for Congressman Norm Dicks, Kitsap County Commissioner Josh Brown and Rep. Sam Hunt.

I’ve had an article published in several of our local Democrat newsletters and attended various briefings on the S.E.E.D. Project, Belfair Bypass and various “Eggs & Issues” debates. I have spoken with a number of union and other organization representatives and will report more on this in coming months.

Thank you for your interest. This is fun.
To put his $50,000 into perspective, Tim Sheldon who ran for state senate in the same district, and who had a very competative primary race, raised $200,000 in the last cycle. His opponent raised $92,000.

Herb Baze, the former Mason County commissioner, has only raised $5,000 according to his latest filing.

Terry Bergeson is running watch, day 15

No official announcement, so I assume no one in the media is writing that Terry Bergeson is running again for head of OSPI in 2008.

On top of her 15k plus, she's raised $4,450 more (pdf file).

Also, looks like Judi Billings has decided not to run again.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Metonymy and Olympia

Jim, this one goes out to you and all the debate nerds in the room.

I was already inspired to follow up this post when I read DonWard's post from this morning:

Who's conservative in Olympia?

But, then Andrew posts this:

Olympia's Democrats have lost their way

When I read Don's headline, I thought the was talking about our discussion over at Olyblog parsing the difference between the really liberal neighborhoods in Olympia and the neighborhoods that only vote Democratic 70 percent of the time (you know, the conservative ones).

But, no Don was talking about conservatives in the state legislature. Conservatives who don't come from Olympia, but rather to it.

And, of course Andrew wasn't talking about certain Thurston County living Democrats going off the beaten path, but rather legislators:
Olympia failed the people of Washington State.
You can't imagine the emotional spasms I experience when I read sentences like that. I know it sounds juvenile when I say it, but Olympia didn't fail anyone!

Olympia was sitting there innocently drinking coffee while a bunch of folks from out of town came by (except three or maybe four) and passed a couple of laws.

They're using Olympia as a metonymy for the broader statewide political landscape, but specifically the state legislature. As I learned a few days ago, from the above mentioned nerd-king, metonymy is "is the use of a word for a concept with which the original concept behind this word is associated."

Like "press," which is literally a way to print something, also means the news media, Olympia has become a lazy-ass crutch for people when they could be saying something else.

No one else cares, but I'll care.

Repeat after me:

The state legislature is not Olympia.

The state government is not Olympia.

Archie Binns, the Roaring Land, on the internet archive

Not really sure how I missed this one, but the Roaring Land, in parts my favorite history of Washington State, is available for free on the internet archive.

Best chapters to read included (of course) Chapter 2, Steamboat Era, and Chapter 7, Center of Gravity.

Center of Gravity, which details the early history of the Kent Valley, includes this illustration of the differences between Kent (at the time) and Yakima:
Eighty or ninety years ago, many of the Oregon Trail pioneers reached the Puget Sound country starving and ragged and destitute. No one thought the less of them for that; those who had arrived earlier welcomed them and shared what they had. .... The same thing will be true again before another eighty years are passed. Meanwhile, here is an example of community attitude toward the new, destitute pioneers. The item is taken from the front page of the weekly Kent News- Journal of October 30, 1941 :


A story of destitution and suffering not paralleled since the worst days of the depression was brought to the attention of a number of people of Kent and vicinity the latter part of last week and the first part of this when a family composed of a husband, wife, and seven children ranging from 15 years down to one year, arrived from California, with no bedding to speak of, no clothes for the members of the family, practically no food, and $1.50 cash capital.

The family had tried to get work in the orchards of the Yakima country and, although capable workers, were evicted from camps because of the seven children. Kent residents fed them Friday and secured living quarters in a vacant house, partially furnished, on East Hill. Monday the place was sold and the family had to move quickly to give possession to the new owner. The father skirmished around and secured another house in the vicinity


The Princes organization yesterday investigated the case and is giving assistance. However, the need of the family is so great that other assistance must be obtained to enable the four children of school age to attend school and supply them with food stuffs to tide them over until the father can secure work. At present he has an opportunity to cut wood as a temporary employment measure.

A resident of the district requests all persons desiring to make contributions to telephone 745-R-3 and a car will call to pick up all articles contributed.

One of the technical requirements of a good news story is the name of the chief actor in the first line. This is surely a good story, yet there are no names in it, only people. There are things to think about in the story. One of them is the fact that the parents were refused work and evicted from camps in the Yakima country because they needed work to feed their seven children. Presumably, there was fear that the family might stay and become a charge on the community, and that the children would go to school on taxpayers' money. As a result of that fear, those very things happened, but in a different community. And the community where it happened accepted the family as it was, without questioning its right to be there. More positively, the Kent community assumed that children must not go hungry and naked and shelterless, and that a father should have the right to work. The News-Journal story gives almost a day-by-day account, as if every day in which people suffer is important to everyone in the community. And something happens almost every day: Friday, the family arrives and is fed by residents of the town, and a house is found ; Monday, the house is sold over their heads, and the same day another is provided; Tuesday, there is an emergency call for food to keep the family from starvation, and for clothing; Wednesday, the "Princes" investigate and go into action; and Thursday, the weekly newspaper makes the welfare of the family the concern of everyone in the community.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Olympia neighborhoods, which ones are community friendly?

Over at Olyblog, we're sort of talking about the recent election and why some neighborhoods voted one way. Former city council member Matthew Green posted up and gave a great comment. He fell apart in my mind when he said that SE Olympia lacks community because of the lack of small community businesses.

This may be a circular argument, but SE Oly lacks small businesses because it lacks the zoning for these sorts of businesses. If the city wanted small community shops down here, they could have designed them in.

Here's what I'm talking about.

Northeast Olympia

The only color to pay attention to here is green. In this map, the green colors represent the Puget Pantry (middle of the map), the San Francisco Bakery and a corner store (both towards the top).

Northwest Olympia
This area includes the Harrison commercial area, but also the west side Food Co-op is located right in the middle of a neighborhood. Also, notice the gray zoning along the water, which is mixed use commercial.

Southeast Olympia
Two maps for this side of town, so its an even more startling example of homogeneous zoning that excludes the kind of small local businesses that Matt was talking about. Up on the north side of the top map is the Pit Stop Market, and aside from the Boulevard Nursery, there isn't another local business on this side of town. Weird that the nursery is actually zoned residential.

So, here's the question, which comes first: the zoning or the business? Does the zoning come along because someone wants to open a business in a particular location? Or, does the zoning allow a business to be opened? I'd say the second one is more likely in my mind.

If the city were to allow a certain number of businesses to open in residential areas, then maybe we'd see more local businesses in SE Olympia.