Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Elaine's take on the ENA city council candidate forum

For me (I dropped off my ballot this morning) this is an interesting read, but unfortunately came too late to help me make my decision.

This is especially interesting for the candidates I didn't vote for. Take Tony Sermonti:

Sermonti in a snazzy suit. (Note to Sermonti: I think Oly is not so much a suit kinda town.) I actually felt bad for him, because he was totally off-key on the isthmus issue, and walked right into it. I think there’s a reasonable argument to be made for developing that space (and personally I don’t give a damn about the view question), but he sure didn’t make it. He came off as classist — there’s too much subsidized housing downtown, not enough that “people like me” can buy (as an aside to the aside: what makes him think he could afford one of the proposed townhouses?) — and high-handed. That got highlighted when Mark Derricott asked him a “philosophical” question, and he responded in part by saying we don’t live in a representative democracy. I’d like to think he got that sort of backwards: we don’t live in a direct democracy, but (in theory) a representative one, in which we elect people to make decisions for us. But wow…his actual response just about set the room on fire. Thankfully, C spoke up quite loudly from off in the corner of the room, and suggested that since this was the last candidate of the evening, perhaps we should break for snacks and one-on-one conversation.

I think in a way, Sermonti is the perfect anti-Joe Hyer candidate, because if there had been a good articulation for developing the isthmus, Joe would have voted for it. But, the way it was, there was a lot of passion in the against column, a few people who really wanted it but couldn't communicate why in a way that made sense. And, people like Elaine and I that thought it might not be a bad idea, but never heard a great argument.


...but when she rattled off a list of issues she wanted to tackle, she mentioned making parking in downtown free again. Uh, no. After “listening in” on C’s urban studies classes, I think free parking is pretty much the last thing we need. (See the work of Donald Shoup for details, or Google for “high cost of free parking.”) I wasn’t entirely sure I heard her correctly, so I visited her site a couple of days later and yes, she does want to making parking free in downtown. So my somewhat eccentric reasoning leads me to support Joan Machlis — who wasn’t there, but it was the first night of her MPA classes, so I understand.

It surprised me that I never really considered voting for Roe. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I never really heard anything from her. At one point I was just getting the impression that she was hoping for her opposition to the isthmus development to carry to her over the line. Joan Machlis, on the other hand, always seemed to have clearly articulated positions (some of which I'll admit I don't agree with), but communicated to me at my level.

Its hard to say that I chose a candidate based on their website, but that's basically what I'm saying. I could agree with Joan on a lot of issues and she communicated like it mattered.

Anyway, to get back to Elaine's point about parking, it seems like Roe picked one more surface issue that actually has deep implications to push her over the line. No serious person who understood the city's approach to parking downtown would suggest free parking. By even approaching it shows that she's willing to take a cheap position to score points.

Monday, October 19, 2009

If there is no surge in shipping in Puget Sound, then what "overflow" would Olympia catch?

One of the reason's the Olympian supports Jeff Davis is his understanding that Olympia would catch some extra work from other ports:

Where Davis tops Peeler, in our estimation, is his optimistic vision for the Port of Olympia – from the shipping operation to the marina, and from the airport and to industrial property.

As a longshoreman, Davis understands the importance of port operations and how ports must have a tax subsidy to survive. There are a limited number of ports in this state and nation and the likelihood of creating a new port is very remote.

Davis understands that Washington is the most trade-dependent state in the nation and that one in every three jobs is tied to trade. The wheat farmer in the Palouse, the apple orchardist in Wenatchee and the Boeing engineer in Seattle all rely on port commerce for their livelihoods.

As Davis said, “Everyone benefits from an active marine terminal.”

With more and more of the products consumed in the United States being manufactured overseas, Davis understands that eventually the ports of Seattle and Tacoma and other West Coast locations will be overcrowded and marine shippers will be looking for alternative ports. With aggressive marketing, Davis thinks the marine terminal at the Port of Olympia can fill the void and be a thriving community asset that creates more jobs and commerce for the capital city and surrounding communities. He thinks there’s a real future in the shipment of windmill blades, pulp, paper and wood products.

His understanding of port growth is not so much (via Puget Sound Maritime):

The surge in import cargo to Puget Sound ports during much of the past decade was an anomaly that is unlikely to be repeated, a consultant told a joint meeting of the Seattle and Tacoma port commissioners this week.

The surge was a side effect of a port lockout and traffic congestion in California in 2002. Now that the effect is fading, rising competition from growing ports around the country — and from increasing use of “all-water” routes such as the newly enlarged Panama Canal —is likely to curtail cargo flows through Puget Sound in coming years.

The analysis, by port expert John Martin, surprised Tacoma and Seattle commissioners at a joint meeting Oct. 13. The analysis comes as the share of cargo handled by West Coast ports slipped below 50 percent for the first time in decades, according to data just released by Piers, a unit of the online Journal of Commerce.

Push poll out there against R-71

Literally just got a push poll against R-71 on the phone a few minutes ago from an organization called "FPIW Action" (their phone number is 888-314-9416).

Here are my quickly taken notes from the poll:

The opening statement was negatively couched description of the state law, that while technically true gave was written to prompt a negative reaction. It presented the referendum as homosexual couples receiving rights without requiring responsibilities.

The first question was whether I was aware of the referendum and the second was whether I supported it. The last three were trying to place me in the political spectrum, asking if I was pro-choice, if I would vote Democratic or Republican in the next congressional election and the last if I considered myself a conservative, liberal or moderate.

And, while they said it would take 60 seconds at the beginning of the call, it took twice that long.

In the case of Veldeer v. Rogers, it comes down to attitude

It makes total sense that most of the people who weighed in on this question did so in private. Because in the case of the two Karens up for one seat on the city council, its all about personality.

Instead of responding to the post, most people found some other way to contact me that was less public. Most likely because it isn't very polite to say "well, that one is a jerk (Rogers) and the other doesn't know very much (Veldeer)." While people I like and respect didn't want to say that in public, its still worth knowing so you can decide who you're going to vote for.

Back to the original post quickly, Thad Curtz puts up a lot of good information (some rather inside baseball), but worth reading. Darkwaterkate and Chad360 also had illustrative reasons why they support Karen Veldeer as well, which both in a way speak to my broader point below.

So, here is the collected knowledge of the larger number of people who responded in private to me:
  • The knock on Karen Veldeer is that's she's very nice, but not so well versed in city government. But, people say, she'll learn on the job and make nice with other council members and citizens.
  • The knock on Karen Rogers it that she isn't very nice at all, and while she may be better versed on the issues, may not be willing to learn on the job or get along with people.
And, on the issues, they're about the same, so when it comes down to it, its about whether you want someone who doesn't know how to treat people (Rogers) to someone who may be a way more humble, but will work to fill her role on the council (Veldeer).

In my final analysis, I'd rather see where the nice person ends up than see where the not so nice person fits themselves. So, I'm voting for Karen Veldeer.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Thurston County political campaign kiss of death

What's the best way to lose an election in Thurston County, even if you have more resources than your opponent?

Run over a dog during a parade? No.

Yell at someone when you're out doorbelling? I've actually heard about this happening, and that person didn't win, but still no.

Have an outside group spend tons of money on your campaign in what we call "independent spending." The candidate in this case isn't seeking this spending, but rather, a totally independent group, with no organization with the actual campaign, puts money into the game.

And, in the past few cycles, every candidate that has had money spent in their name without their control has lost.

Independent spending in county commissioner races first started in earnest in 2006 when about 58,000 was spent for Kevin O'Sullivan and $7,000 against him. In contrast, just about $3,000 was spent in favor of his successful opponent Bob Macleod. So, despite outspending Macleod $99,000 to $63,000 in campaign money overall, the extra independent money hung around his neck like a chain and brought him down.

We see the same thing happen in 2009 when just about $20,000 was spent in the name of Democrat Jon Halvorson, $7,000 for Republican Judy Wilson and $1,403 for Robin Edmondson. Each lost, with Halvorson with the most spent, when down first in the primary.

Also, in 2008, Cathy Wolfe (Wilson's opponent) had $6,500 spent against her in independent spending. That money ended up kicking back at Wilson.

So, with a special sort of election between Pat Beehler and Karen Valenzuela for another county commission seat this year, how will independent spending impact his race?

Well, first, it might not. The amounts of independent spending have dropped through the floor. Typically, the more conservative candidate gets more independent money spent in their name, but Beehler has only seen $1,300 go out for him.

The other part is about $260 that has been spent for Valenzuela and against Beehler and Dan Venable (who lost in the primary). I'm assuming this is the same expenditure split between its targets.

If you go by total numbers, Beehler will go down. Or, the spending will have no impact and we'll just see who wins on their own merits.

All that said, there probably isn't a direct connection between independent spending and victory, but rather a convenient coexistence. In short, its much more likely that independent spending will go to a candidate that some people (like builders) really want to win, but who doesn't really have what it takes. Or, is seen as needing to be propped up.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Thurston County chamber off track (more copied forum thoughts)

Ahem. AHHH Hem!!!

Why are candidates for the Olympia City Council, appearing at a forum in sprawling Lacey at the Worthington Center sponsored by the Thurston County Chamber of Commerce? Do they really expect Olympia residents to attend?

The Thurston County Chamber still doesn’t understand that we have three separate cities in this county - - not just one.

Those wanting to hear the Olympia City Council candidates could have attend the recent meeting of the League of Women Voters which featured all of the candidates for the Olympia City Council. It was at the Olympia Center, which happens to be in Olympia.

Additional, non-copied snark: Actually, we have five cities and two towns in Thurston County. Do we expect the residents of Yelm, Bucoda, Rainier and Tenino to drive all the way up to Lacey or Olympia in the middle of the day? Or, at night?

Seriously, I think its ok for folks from Lacey to drive a few minutes into Olympia and vice versa, but we have to stop pretending this is a Lacey/Oly fight here.

Sermonti's billboard and ugly politics in Olympia

City of Olympia by Dreamjung at flickr:

I'm technically violating the rules over at facebook by pointing this out, but someone tore down Tony Sermonti's billboard Thursday night. From what the Sermonti posted up on his account last night, the police are investigating.

This is the latest in the trail of ugly politics in Olympia. Since 2004 I've heard stories from Republican and more conservative friends of mine of blatant and repeated vandalism across town. Several times, a friend of mine has had graffiti cleaned off his truck, replaced a George W. Bush sticker and ended up having a window broken out.

And, there are the things that happened to Jeff Kingsbury last year.

I'll be blunt, I'm not going to vote for Tony Sermonti. But, the people who do this sort of thing are cowards and are the worst part of Olympia.

You Suck.

Which gets me to the point of a post that I've been meaning to write since I started noticed those "they can't govern us" posters around town last February or so. The sentiment in those posters, the same that tore down Tony's billboard this week, is the same that infects the so-called Tea Baggers.

When your government does things (moves to try to universalize health care or allow a tall building downtown), and you end up rejecting (you aren't my government anymore) the validity of that government, you're just running off into anarchy.

I'm not trying to use anarchy as a pejorative, but rather what I assume to be its true meaning, that universal government, for everyone by everyone, is not valid.

That may be a useful political point of view, and not one that I have a lot to argue about with, but when that philosophy starts to excuse violence, that's when I have a problem. And, to be blunt again, we've allowed this sort of thing in Olympia for way to long. I don't know how exactly we can go about stopping it, but we should.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Telford withdraws endorsement of Davis for Port

Via email:

I made a mistake. This is to announce that I have rescinded my endorsement of Jeff Davis for the Port of Olympia Commission.

From the beginning I was uncomfortable with how independent Jeff could be as an active member of the Longshoremen's Union.

He tried to provide assurance by promising to excuse himself from Port decisions that affected Longshoremen.

But it turns out that the bulk of his extraordinary collections of campaign donations are large contributions from outsiders and Longshore Unions. The final straw was his pompous response to this issue in a recent forum when he said, "If you were to go to the state PDC website and look up my contributors, they all have stevedore and ILWU names behind them and quite frankly, I'm fantastically proud of that. We stick together, we work together and we live and die together."

This tells me that he is both emotionally and financially beholden to his Union colleagues.

It tells me that he will not be able to critically and objectively assess decisions affecting the port's marine terminal.
His response is a reminder of the belligerence of some Union dockworkers, which is not the norm at the Port of Olympia.
It is clear that he will put their interests ahead of the citizens of Thurston County who he may be elected to serve.

Maybe I'm too idealistic but I strongly believe that it is not in our best interests to elect anyone who is both financially and emotionally beholden to outsiders or a particular special interest group. You can forget any altruism or notion of public service.

In fairness to Jeff , I have not demanded that he remove my name from his campaign materials as most have already been printed.

Given recent wake-up calls concerning stormwater management at the port, Dave Peeler's background can be an asset to the port.

Both other Commissioners are fans of spending whatever it takes to keep the marine terminal going and largely indifferent to port taxes and spending, the port needs some balance.

I'm now suggesting that my friends to vote for Dave Peeler.

Paul Telford, (outgoing) Commissioner
Port of Olympia

Friday, October 02, 2009

Ken Balsley says firemen, cops abandoned posts during an earthquake, firemen shoot back

In this post outlining what he calls a new aristocracy (apparently making sure front line government workers don't get sick during a pandemic is not a good thing) Ken makes this seemingly off-hand reference:
Government was unable to function because its employees had gone home - - fire fighters, police, emergency services, many had left their jobs to check on their families.
Wow, them's fighting words. Took them awhile, but the Lacey fire fighters are fighting back:

Recently, a local publication reported that fire fighters abandoned their posts on that crisp February morning and so did many police officers. I am here to say having worked that day as a fire fighter and remembering it vividly, that none of that crap happened and I am left wondering if the intent was really to discredit us as cops, fire fighters, or emergency workers, or just to add interesting material to the publication. Who cares, bottom line: It never happened.
So, what is the point of discrediting government workers in general, but also firemen in particular? The union that represents Lacey firemen has been particularly engaged this election cycle, but I'm more willing to think that its just Ken being Ken and that he's knocking any sort of government worker, not just firemen. In his world, its just believable that firemen would go home after an earthquake.

But, I'd also let the firemen speak for themselves:

When the Nisqually earthquake hit, our first order after we took cover and waited for the shaking to stop was to roll the apparatus out of our then aging masonry structures in case the aftershocks caused them to fail. As some areas had lost power, it took a few moments to get this done by manually opening doors at some stations. By the time the apparatus had been rolled out, the first off duty responders started coming in. Unlike many areas, many Lacey Fire District #3 employees live in their city of employment. Within 45 minutes, every single apparatus the department owned was staffed or being moved into position to offset response in areas of heavy call volume. This all went down as the City of Olympia had significant areas of road failures, elevator collapse downtown, and people stuck in elevators throughout the Capitol Campus. Lacey also had multiple gas leaks, a trailer fire in the Nisqually Valley and well over 100 calls by 3pm that day including treating sick and injured children from the local schools.

Off duty Lacey Fire District fire fighters, both volunteer and paid, came in as far away as Lewis and Pierce County to respond to calls. NO ONE abandoned their posts that day and to do so would have meant immediate termination with the union demanding it and definitely not defending it.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

The big reason why Thurston County doesn't have the website it needs

This could have been one long post, but I think three posts (here and here as well) is better.

So, the big reason for the lack of a decent (but lets not confuse that with uninformative) website is governance.

Like most Washington state counties that have not gone through the home rule process, Thurston County is a collection of independent elected officials from three county commissioners to a sheriff and an auditor and more. In the current way things work, each independent office has the job of maintaining their own website. So, what you get is a mishmash.

My understanding of how things are run right now is that a department under the commissioners, central services, provides general web support to most of the county. The independent offices, auditor, sheriff, and the rest, get some technical support, but tend to maintain their sites on their own. Most of the folks that develop and maintain the websites for the independent offices do so on a part time and ad hoc basis. And, when a person who then leaves the county who was maintaining of the sites, but didn't have that job officially part of their job title, they take that experience away with them.

So, instead of a fully funded web administrator at the middle of all the offices, you have part time web managers throughout the county, each with their own ideas and levels of experience. That they the sites look different doesn't matter to me, but the redundancy in duties and differing ways the sites are put together matters a lot.

I think the county would actually save money and be able to develop a better overall web presence if they rolled all the web functions into central services. Not saying that the folks in the independent offices who maintain the websites don't work hard, just saying they work a bit too hard.