Thursday, May 30, 2013

Olympia's enclaves (not verified)

It struck me about a year ago that depending on where were socially or geographically in Olympia, you saw Olympia differently. You could see it as "the hippest town in the West," the home of progressive politics, or just a town full of boring state workers.

This made me think then think about how many different Olympias there were, almost self contained communities that each had a different perspective on Olympia when they say in a blanket statement "Olympia is so..."

 Anyway, here's my back of the napkin list. I'm prepared for people to not like this list, so be warned, I'm very open to not really fighting for the truth of this.

1. Hipster Village
In short, just google "Hippest Town in the West." K Records, LadyFest and hey, did you know Kurt Cobain lived in THAT house? Or, what people mean when they talk about the downtown arts scene. This enclave is somewhat Evergreen State College related.

2. Public Employment Neighborhood 
Broad swath of state employees. Do I really need to explain this?

3. Progressive Politics Parkway
This one is also Evergreen related. It would include OMJP, the county Democrats (the folks that aren't members of the Kiwanas) and various protests at various times.

4. Born Fere Town

The people that would attend the Spaghetti Bowl after they were 25 or so. Obviously these folks bounce around through the other enclaves, but there's something different not having shown up here as an adult. If the next two enclaves are the most exclusive, this one is the least.

5. Christian Ghetto
Very small overall, but also one of the most exclusive and worth mentioning because of politics. This one is the Church of the Living Water, Evergreen Christian Center and the explanation why a candidate like Ira Knight (city council candidate, circa 2005) thought he could win.

6. Military Fog

This is probably the most exclusive enclave, and worth mentioning because of the growth of JBLM in the recent decade. In short, probably not from here, probably not staying here. But, here for the time being.

Monday, May 27, 2013

The devil and soccer rivals (Olyblogosphere for May 27, 2013)

1. Remember the time in the mid-90s that a Thurston deputy sheriff confessed to being a devil worshiper and sexually assaulting his daughters? Then he recanted, but was found guilty anyway? The Olympia Satanist Blog points to a documentary (the entire version is pretty easy to find after a couple of links) on the somewhat forgotten episode in our town.

2. These flew over my house a few days ago too, it was pretty impressive.

3. A blog post all about the South Sound Shock, which are mostly a Tacoma team, and very little about the hometown Pioneers.

4. Ken has a pretty solid run down of the primary ballot scene.

5. Ramblings of Spring blog brings us tales of getting a building permit in Tumwater.

6. And, lastly, I've been remiss on not ever featuring Jerry Farmer's "America Ya Gotta Love It" blog. Mostly because of the name and his apparent fear of blank lines between paragraphs. That isn't to say that there aren't good posts there. This is a good one, for example.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Cascadia exists (an introduction to a theme)

If you spend a dollar in Olympia, it will only go so far. In a study of how far money travels, Cascadia is one of the most well defined regions of the country. So, if we network with only people within our region and our money only goes so far, what makes us different?

If you're half politically (or otherwise) engaged and you're half paying attention in these parts, you're probably heard about Cascadia.

On its fringe, the idea is of a regional breakaway from the United States and Canada. The idea is the create a country of Cascadia by calving off the northwest section of the United States and a connecting portion of western Canada. Like I said, this is an extreme idea.

But, in a series of posts (with maybe no end), I'm going to point out that Cascadia already exists. And, that its different from the squishy regionalism around the idea of the "Pacific Northwest."

This is the same sort of difference that my mind makes when I compare my own concepts of "the South" and Dixie. For me, while the South certainly has its own regional connotations politically and culturally, the differences become much sharper when you refer to Dixie. It is likely the racist, seceded from the Union and burning crosses stuff, but it's there.

So, in these posts, the Northwest will become Cascadia. I'll discuss what makes Cascadia special. What makes it different from Ohio and Virginia and why those differences should matter to you.

It seems to me when we talk about the Northwest (Cascaida) we talk about mountains, rain, salmon and coffee. But, we imply these are small, seemingly insignificant differences from the rest of North America. What I want to talk about is that we're a fundamentally different, the same way Ludlow, Massachusetts is different than Greenwood, South Carolina.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

My big questions about Big Mike

Just over two decades after following the same trail up from the Columbia River to Puget Sound, the body of "Big Mike" Simmons entered the county that almost bore his name. Simmons died on November 15, 1867 at the land claim farm he took after failing at being a timber man in Mason County.

Michael Troutman Simmons is certainly one of the giants of Thurston County history. Leader of the first group of Americans to settle in Puget Sound, delegate to the territorial convention, Indian agent and businessman. Yet, he died poor and almost anonymous in Lewis County.

We seem to know everything about Michael Troutman Simmons. But, for me, there are as many questions as facts about Simmons that I need answered before I get a true image of him.

First off, what is it about Clanrick Crosby?

Soon after this other founder of Thurston County and Tumwater arrived in 1851 (some would say the founder of Tumwater, since he did more to move New Market to Tumwater than Simmons) the two men filed suit against each other. Both men claimed ownership of the land around the Deschutes falls, which would prove to be the economic heart of Tumwater. According to at least one source, the first lawsuit spawned additional lawsuits that lasted beyond Simmons' death.

Why did he leave Olympia?

His first venture out of Olympia and Tumwater was a mill on Skookum Bay in Mason County he started in 1853 with Wes Gosnell. A newspaper article announcing to Simmons’ new mill, also noted that the valuable land near Tumwater was “no longer entangled in vexatious chancery.” The courts had apparently settled in Crosby’s favor by 1853 (for the moment), and Simmons had taken his enterprises north.

By 1857 he is listed as a property owner in Sawamish (before it was called Mason) County.

For a man whose legacy is tied so closely to Tumwater, he spent more of his time in Washington away from Tumwater then in it.

What about his race for congress?

Is there more to know about Simmons' failed campaign in 1854 for territorial delegate? He ran in the general election as an Independent and lost by a landslide.

The nomination of Columbia Lancaster as the Democratic candidate in 1854 was one of territorial unity over sectionalism, according to the papers. Lancaster was a resident of the Columbia portion of the new territory. The newspaper in 1854 writes about the state having two centers, one on Puget Sound, the other on the Columbia. Lancaster brings those two together. “The first blow of union and democracy of the territory has been struck”

Simmons wasn’t nominated (or possibly even present) at the Democratic convention that chose Lancaster. James Patton Anderson of Tennessee (who later served in the Confederacy) was the strong runner up in four ballots. Anderson would be elected delegate a year later and serve until Issac Stevens himself was elected in 1857.

Yet, a letter written arguing for Simmons’ independent candidacy pointed out that five of the six who had been nominated were new to the territory and all were lukewarm for the recent split from Oregon. On the other hand, Simmons had lived on Puget Sound for almost a decade by that point and was an early advocate for a split from Oregon.

There’s not a shred of irony from Simmons or his supporters when he mentioned that newcomers were taking over territorial politics.His ten years (compared to the centuries of the Indian tribes) were apparently to him, the most important ten years.

This feud with the Democrats in 1854 would eventually spill into other contests when Simmons apparently even supported the growing Republican party in the territory (as noted in "Confederacy of Ambition"). Political pressure was put to local civic leaders to force Simmons out as Indian agent because of his partisan disloyalty.

Was their economic pressure put together with political pressure to keep Simmons from finding success in the territorial capital? He apparently outlasted all that pressure though, and was only replaced when Lincoln’s administration replaced him with a loyal Republican.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

This is not a waterfall, but a dam. All about Thurston County Dams

By Waponigirl on Flickr.

Now, I'm sure you see it clearly now. But, what a lot of people call the upper waterfalls on the Deschutes in Tumwater is actually a derelict dam. It is also (according to my list) the oldest dam in Thurston County by nearly 40 years.

There are a surprising number of dams in Thurston County (35 total), now that I think of it. All but one were built in the last 100 years. The busiest decade for dam building was the 1960s (with eight built). I'm also surprised by the number built in the 1980s and 90s (five each).

The stormwater pond dam over at SPSCC has a surprisingly high risk rate, "From 7 to 30 lives at risk."

Most of the dams -- 15 out of 35 -- are both earth fill and were built to create recreational reservoirs. Three of these actually have "ski" in their names.

There are also dams in surprising places, Grass Lake for example. This is a small lake surrounded by a City of Olympia park. The dam was built in 1966 for the original purpose (I assume) of irrigation.

View Larger Map

Grass Lake dam illustrates what I take away from the list of Thurston County Dams. Most of us read the word dam and see the Elwha dams, the Grand Coulee or even our own La Grande Dam. Something big, blocking a big river. But, most of these dams are smallish, practically fading into the landscape. You don't even know a dam is there.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

May Day! (Olyblogosphere for May 15, 2013)

1. Just a little old (vintage 2008), but the insight is pretty interesting on downtown and how to make it better. Some people are happy the way downtown is now.

2. May Day report #1 (from Mr. Tom Hyde): "As the TV news crews and other journalists trailed in their wake or marched along the sidelines with phalanxes of police, I couldn’t help think it was all so … pointless, and more than a little pathetic - for the disorganized protesters with an incoherent message and seemingly absent worldview (“fuck everything” is neither a particularly brilliant nor achievable solution)..."

May Day report #2: Dumb Kid with a Skateboard.

May Day report #3: And, no Olympia event would be complete without Your Daily Hour With Me.

And, the fellow who had the run in with the anarchists at Evergreen posts his own May Day report.

3.  Ducks reclaim the west side streets a few days early.

4. Also, one of the most sad posts ever on one of the most common feelings in Olympia ever (over at r/olympia): Why People Leave Olympia.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Earl Newell Steele comes to Olympia, 1903

Doan's Cafe, Olympia, WA 1906 (UW Digital Collections)
From a longer piece I'm working on about E.N. Steele, Olympia lawyer, civic leader, oyster booster and treaty rights activist:

Earl Newell was born outside of Des Moines, Iowa in 1881. After graduating from State University of Iowa, he made a short tour of the west. Once in Olympia, he sat down for a dinner of oysters. That meal sealed Olympia for Newell.

Steele tells the story in his unpublished manuscript, "Letters to Grandpa" about a chance meeting with an old friend and an oyster lunch kept Steele in Olympia:
I again met people from Seattle who strongly advised me to locate in Seattle. Two of my classmates in college had located. But again some thing told me “No, see Olympia first.” So I listened, but I had to change at Centralia to get to Olympia. And that proved to be the most fortunate decision of all. We arrived there about noon. Not knowing where I was going I started toward what appeared to be the business district. I had not gone more than a couple of blocks till I met a young man. We took a good look at each other.

Then he stopped facing each other and he almost shouted at me “Pete Steele, where did you come from?” “Roy MacRenalds, where did you come from?” I then recognized him, for he said “Pete”, and I had not heard that since I left school in Perry, Iowa, We had been friends in school. We had both lost track of the other. After a little chatter he said he was on his way to lunch and asked me to go with him. We went to Doan's Oyster House. He ordered Doan’s oyster pan roast. As they served it he said, “Pete, after you eat this you will never want to leave Olympia.” He had spoken more than he knew. I had never eaten any thing I enjoyed so much.
So Steele stayed. He started out as a teacher in Tenino, but eventually entered the law practice in Olympia in 1903.

Steele’s love for Olympia is obvious in his writing. He was either a great salesman for Olympia or the rest of his Iowa-based family (four brothers, sister and mom and dad) had tenuous ties to Iowa. Within months of Earl settling in Puget Sound, all seven of them made the trek west to Washington State.

Sunday, May 05, 2013

The past and future are right now (Tacoma newspapers and Joint Base Lewis McCord)

A Swarner Communications arts and entertainment (and some news) publication folds back into the mothership, as noted by Mathias:
The Weekly Volcano, a alternative newspaper serving the Tacoma, WA and the greater South Sound, including my little city Olympia, folded this week.
With the growth of the JBLM military base, it’ll be interesting to watch how our area will change over the next few years.
 1. It isn't all that surprising that Swarner Communications (the owners of the Ranger and the Airlifter) folded the  Volcano back further into their main publications. They made the decision in 2009 to take what was the stand-alone Volcano and revert it back into an insert of their main publications. When the Volcano launched in 2001 as an insert, it was actually the re-branded Tacoma City Paper.

2. And, to say Joint Base Lewis McCord will grow is to be saying something true in 2000. JBLM has grown, and its influence has obviously grown (past tense) in Thurston County.

Just for reference, here's a map of the 33 minute driving distances from the JBLM main gate, which brings in much of north Thurston County.

Here's also some old stuff where I point out at least our congressional political world will probably have a lot to do with JBLM politics. Our congressman's tour of post sequester life focused unsurprisingly on the impacts of federal spending cuts on the military.

But, when it comes to actual numbers, I'm not actually sure if JBLM has made that much of an impact on Thurston County. Here's my working spreadsheet and charts.

Sure, Thurston County is in the top five of above average counties in terms of percent of military population:

Island 8.13
Kitsap 5.5
Pierce 3.48
Thurston 2.04
Spokane 1.04
Wash. 1.03

And, the Old Navy at the Capital Mall has a large sign announcing special 10 percent off for active duty military families. I'd use those facts and anecdote to say that we are already a military community, at least in part. And, the growth of the military population has been largely consistent, with no real drops since for over two decades.

But, in terms of real number, the military population in Thurston County is so small compared to that of Piece (28,000 to only 5,000). So, maybe I wouldn't be so brave as to say we're really a military county, but you'd have to recognize that JBLM's growth has been happening for a long time.

3. Extra bonus thought: yesterday I was driving through town (after I saw the Welcome Military Families sign at Old Navy) and was thinking of intersections between military folks and typical progressive Olympia folks. I could think of very few on the car ride. But here's one from Berd (who probably represents one extreme of the equation).

Berd (A story from the Peace Vigil):
I went to look at the fire that had broken out in the area of West Bay Marina, and struck up a conversation with an Army Ranger veteran who had toured Iraq and Afghanistan. 
He was initially quite aggravated and offended by the sign I was carrying, but once I explained in my own words what I thought the sign meant, he was in complete agreement.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

May 1, 2000: A look back at my first and only go as an online reporter

Thank you, Internet Archive. You Rock.

Olympia Today: May Day Marchers Head to Westside Streets 

I wrote this piece when I was running the above Olympia Time website. At the time, the site was actually owned by a small web design firm that I approached as part of an independent contact at Evergreen. Ah, the independent contract... boy, those were the days.

My idea was to add regular content to a site that was already sort of useful (with a perl weather script and a series of interesting maps) and watch what happened. I think I called the project an online community newspaper.

The run up to May Day 2000 in Olympia was stressful. It would come only five months after the WTO protests paralyzed Seattle and no one knew if these sort of things were rising to some crescendo. In the end, I think it would be remembered as a big and long, if otherwise uneventful and typical Olympia protest. Traffic was tied up, but no lasting impact.

May Day 2000 turned out to be (as I remember it) the high water mark for the site under my control. It was certainly the most interesting day for me and the highest web traffic day too.

My goal was to head over to the west side, watch May Day unfold, take notes and pictures, and then go home and put everything online. My ultimate goal was to beat the Olympian online with a final report, and I think I really did do that.

Obviously, I tried to strike a straight up newsy tone:
Celebrants and protestors marched this afternoon from the Value Village at Division and Harrison to the corner of Black Lake and Cooper Point. The marchers took the intersection in what they call an act against global capitalism.  
I was also more interested in the other people not taking part of the march (like me), but were there to watch in some official capacity:

No local politicians were recognized, but Olympia's Police Chief Gary Michel was present, standing with other senior officers north of the intersection on Black Lake.  

I love my third person reference, no politicians were recognized, instead of "I didn't see anyone I recognized."

I was also fascinated by the media response:
The march attracted much of the regional media, including Olympia bureau chief for the Seattle Times David Postman (who also brought a photographer), an AP photographer, KING 5, KOMO 4, KGY’s Doug Adamson, the Olympian, and helicopters from KIRO 7 and Fox’s Q13.

KGY was the most active among the media, interrupting their regular broadcast to bring updates. Adamson road shotgun on a specially outfitted truck in which he broadcasted updates and followed the march. The Olympian also did their first midday update on their website to cover the story.
Doug Adamnson really did do a massive job that day, I mean check him out.

And, I suppose I really didn't "beat" the Olympian, they did do a midday update. But, it is worth noting that if I read myself right, it was their first midday website update ever. That's certainly something.