Monday, December 29, 2014

Portland and Seattle, Uber, and the history of ambition in Cascadia

For two cities basically in the same spot on earth, Portland and Seattle do have significantly different civic personalities.

Think of Seattle's Demons of Ambition. Or, in this case, Portland's Demons of Provincialism.

The differences are real.

Take how the two cities dealt with Uber (and other ride sharing companies).

Seattle took a long road to compromise. They never cracked down, they accepted the newcomers and then crafted a legislative package to create space for innovation:
“I believe Seattle once again will lead the nation in showing how what appears to be conflicting interests can actually come together,” Murray said after announcing the agreement. “We have deregulated a highly regulated monopoly, allowing taxis and for-hires to become far more competitive than they are in the current situation. We are recognizing that a technology exists that is rapidly changing the marketplace.”
Portland cracked the whip:
"Our main concern is public health and safety, because the state invested in the cities the responsibility to do that," Portland's mayor Charlie Hales said in a statement. "Beyond that, though, is the issue of fairness. Taxi cab companies follow rules on public health and safety. So do hotels and restaurants and construction companies and scores of other service providers. Because everyone agrees: good regulations make for a safer community. Uber disagrees, so we're seeking a court injunction."
Seattle as a center of innovation, accepting newcomers with new ideas. Portland, keeping a clean house, a wary at the horizon. I tell ya, it might as well be 1893.

From (the great) historian Robert Ficken: 
(In its ability to access money from outside the region) Washington possessed important advantages of its "web-footed" friends south of the Columbia, advantages credited by any analysts to the new state's 1890 census lead. Oregonians themselves admitted that "mossbackism," defined as a tendency of long entrenched Portland interests to impede new-coming rivals, diverted outside money to more energetic points. "The laws of Washington," the bi-monthly West Shore magazine noted in reference to a more substantive difference, "favor investment of capital, while the laws of Oregon practically forbid it."
At this point, Oregon had been a state for decades, its cultural, economic and political institutions had already laid track, while Washington was just getting underway. In fact, Washington was not even made whole until just before statehood. Because of the way railroads were laid across Cascadia back then, eastern Washington Territory was an economic outpost of Portland, while Seattle and Puget Sound were in the orbit of San Francisco.

Not until railroads crossed the Cascades did Washington become something other than a name of a map.

It was a this point in time, united as a state in 1889 with railroads, Washington and Puget Sound (led by Seattle) threw open the gates to growth. This culture of open economics still shows through today.

While Washington rushed ahead, Oregon stayed behind. This mossback Oregon wasn't new, wasn't born out of decades of stability. But, rather, is the founding attitude of the Willamette Valley.

From David Johnson's "Founding of the Far West," we see how little the California Gold Rush (despite massive possible economic benefits) went to the head of Willamette farmers:
(Willamette farmers') response to the California (gold rush) market -- their enterprise -- was motivated by as much by a modest desire to improve their landholdings, assure their households' self-sufficiency, and enhance their families' material comfort as by a drive to command greater market share or increase production as an end in itself.
Given the chance to bulldoze their way to greatness, Oregonians on their founding moment decided on a "cautious and conservative" and "cash on delivery" way of doing business.

The large Willamette farms ignoring greater gains in California led to a conservative business culture in Oregon in general. Seattle was given the chance to leap ahead fifty years later, and they took it. 

Today, Uber tries to create a new way of doing business and finds a friend in Seattle and a legal challenge in Portland.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Clarence Boggie's Christmas (I'm sorry I couldn't tell it better, Boggie)

Oregon wanted Boggie back.

Instead of just opening up the prison doors for Clarence G. Boggie, the Oregon parole board wanted Washington to drive him down to the Columbia River and hand him over to Oregon authorities. Since over a decade earlier, Boggie had been serving a life sentence for a murder he didn't commit.

I'm not telling this story well. This really does deserve a better telling than I'm giving it here. I suppose this is the double edged sword of coming up with a holiday topical post. I didn't get to it until too late into the season, and now I am too distracted to really put my heart into it.

Not that Boggie wasn't the cleanest of men. He had committed crimes in Oregon, and on the day after he release from prison in 1948 (pardoned by Washington's governor after a Seattle Times investigation) Oregon wanted him back.

Washington's Warden Tom Smith:
"if they want Boggie," (Oregon officials) should have followed regular procedure and had "someone waiting for him as he walked through the gates instead of just "pooping off" on Christmas Eve."
I mean, this story is insane. He was in jail for over a decade, and he was just rotting there. It was the Seattle Times that really sprung him. Over three days they laid out an evidence of his innocence. It was so strong, the state literally threw the doors open to him.

Attorney General Smith Troy (Olympia's own):
It would be a tragedy not to give Boggie a chance now. I hope Oregon officials will straighten out the technicalities involved and give Boggie a chance to be rehabilitated.
Boggie had been caught up in the historic context of Spokane in the 1930s. Officially, the capitol of the Inland Empire was not a fun place. It was extremely corrupt. Moritz Peterson was beat to death in 1933, and two years later, based on shaky testimony from witnesses, he was convicted.

Among other angles on this story, the Seattle vs. Spokane angle, the Blethens of the Seattle Times taking on their eastern neighbors, is really interesting to me. If I had the time. 

I'll be honest. I was shopping around for a Christmas post and happened upon this. Literally I was searching "Smith Troy" and Christmas, hoping to find some episode that showed Troy (my favorite politician of all time) in some festive light. 

I even mistook the warden Smith's quote above with Smith Troy's. Boggie deserves much better than some dumb Smith Troy angle.

Oregon never got him back. At least behind bars. Boggie died in Lebanon in 1949.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Sigh. Boy. Remember when? (Olyblogosphere for December 22, 2014)

1. The Sky Like A Scallop Shell is a pretty good blog. But, this particular post of this pretty good blog is very epic. In an Olympia sort of way.
She was about 10 years his junior and kept mentioning her husband, but stayed consistently polite as he told her about his opinions on just about every restaurant in town, the important projects he’d worked on, how he liked to go dancing, and how he was single at the moment but usually had a lady friend.
Read read read. Read the entire thing. Do your job and read it.

2. Its this time of year, so here's Heather Lockman's 2012 post on Christmas Island (which was tweeted recently by the Olympia Historical Society).

3. Local writer Ryan M. Williams has a podcast. Which is totally in its 10th Episode. Listen!

4. Looking back in the memory of Olympia blogs, does anyone remember Crack Hole? Man. Talk about some meadows goodness out there.

5. Walking across mudflats: Please don't f*****g do that. You will die. It will be terrible.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Gross Happiness Index of Washington: Thurston County is only just above average happy

Happiness Indexes are pretty interesting. They try to reach back beyond sterile, single factor indices (like Gross National Product) and give you a clearer picture of the health or happiness of a place.

So, obviously, I wanted to do one for Washington State.

I took some indicators that I could find data on the county level for across the GNH scale (economics, education, health, violence and democracy) and came up with a Gross Happiness Index of Washington Counties.

Certainly, there is a massive back of the napkin warning here, I'm not an economist or a statistician, but here are the general rankings:

CountyOverall rankAverage rank
San Juan14.20
Walla Walla814.17
Pend Oreille2421.60
Grays Harbor3728.33

Digging down into the Thurston County, it is interesting to see what shapes our ranking. We do pretty well in Health (9th) and Pollution (10th) and average in Economic (17th), Education (18th) and Crime (21st).

But, our worst index is voter turnout. Out of 39 counties, we are 34th in voter turnout. Which, if you think of the symbolism of us being the home of the state capitol (totally crap symbolism) is pretty sad.

I think its also interesting that in terms of our neighborhood, we're the shining freaking star. Practically all four counties that border Thurston are in the basement of the GHI. Lewis (26th) Mason (33rd), Pierce (35th), and Grays Harbor (37th) all fall well below Thurston County in happiness.

Yeah us! We're above average!

Monday, December 15, 2014

John Rambo, John Tornow and Appalachians in Cascadia

The very first Rambo movie (First Blood) is set in Washington State, in a fake town called Hope. Filmed in the actual Hope, British Columbia, the setting is descended from a fictional town in Kentucky in the original First Blood book, which in turn is based on a Pennsylvania town.

Both the fictional Kentucky town and actual Pennsylvania town are deep in Appalachia. Which, given the deep Appalachian roots in rural western Washington, Hope fits.

It also fits in the parallel I draw between the Rambo character and John Tornow. There is so much written about Tornow (some very recently), I've always wondered what the fascination was. Tornow, at least on the surface, doesn't reveal any greater truth. Unbalanced man either murders or is accused of murder. People chase him down, a few deaths later, he gets killed.

But, if you look at Tornow through the lens of Rambo, you see something deeper. It lets you look back on the society that is turning its violence onto these men. For Rambo, he's a recently returned Vietnam veteran targeted as a vagrant by an evil small town cop.

I've heard enough from small town cops to know that giving a vagrant a ride to the county line or a bus ticket out of town is at least within the realm of reality. And, Tornow shows us that a massive manhunt against Rambo was also in the realm of reality.

For the Appalachians in Grays Harbor in the early 1900s, for the Appalachians at every step in First Blood, the wild men are too far gone from society to live. They murdered, they are outside the bounds of even the libertarian Appalachian societal rules. Every man has liberty, but there is only so much liberty.

Both Tornow and Rambo are also both experts. Rambo is a highly trained commando, the cops that come after him are hopeless against his killing skills. He seeks to come back into society, but he falls back onto his training and the war.

Tornow was an actual outdoorsman, more at home (according to biographers) than in a town or among society. He was able to live off the land while being hunted for over a year and a half, feeding himself with what he had around him in the deep woods.

And, that is what I think is the larger truth about Tornow. If the Scots-Irish, the genetic base of the Appalachian DNA had finally run out of new territory to conquer in Cascadia (also explored in Sometimes a Great Notion), then they were almost ready to run down the last Wilderness. Tornow was a representative of that wilderness.

Sure, Appalachians are much more libertarian, every-man-for-himself than other sorts of North American society. Rules don't necessarily work for them, but they are also the shock troops of a larger society against the wilderness, or agains the native inhabitants.

So, in dramatic stories about Appalachian outcasts, John Tornow and John Rambo must be hunted down.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Boy, they really scraped the heck out of old Tono

I've written a few times about Tono, here at this blog and over at Thurston Talk.

The thing that surprises me every time I run into details about that old town is how total the destruction was. The town doesn't just not exist anymore, it was decimated. The very soil that it was on was moved away.

For the uninitiated, Tono was a small coal town just south of Bucoda and Tenino. From my Thurston Talk piece:
In 1932, as the Union Pacific was shifting from coal to diesel engines, the rail line sold the mines and the town to the Bucoda Mining Company. By the 1950s, most of the old town had disappeared and the mines closed down. Some of the old buildings were moved into neighboring towns. Only one couple, residing in the old superintendent’s house, stayed on the site through the 1970s. 
In 1969 coal mining in the fields around to the Tono site was revived when the Pacific Power and Light company bought the land and built a new steam plant to produce power. It was during this era that the Tono site saw its largest change. The ground on which the town had sat was scraped up, in order to get to the coal beneath it. The coal mining terraforming was so severe that the town site is currently dominated by two massive ponds.
I've done overlays of old Tono before, using aerial photos from the USGS, but recently I ran into some coal maps that are published online by state DNR. These are just fascinating. Two hand drawn maps from the middle part of the century add a new level of detail to the Tono site that I wasn't able to see with the USGS aerials.

Take a look at this one in particular overlayed in Google Earth:

You can see that originally Tono was located in a small valley. But, in the 1960s, that valley was deepened and widened to locate the last coal deposits below the old townsite. And, if I'm correct in reading the map, the original coal field serviced by Tono was located south and east of town.

Lastly, the single structure I've seen out there (not up close) certainly is in the wrong spot to be part of the old townsite. If it is of the same vintage, it is likely connected to the mine operation itself.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Death of a Local Biz, frozen, lizards and a stone (Olyblogosphere for December 8, 2014)

1. Things freeze here.

2. OMG. You can enjoy Olysketcher in print. All year long.

3. Birds, Bees & Butterflies: Looking for a Salamander on Thanksgiving.

4. I like this photo, but I think it should've been titled "Stone in the Midst of All."

"Not All That Shimmers," by Diablo_119 in the Olympia Pool on flickr.

5. And, finally. Over at r/olympia: Dino's Dinner, death of a local business.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Just because Bud Blake won a county commission seat doesn't mean an independent can win in the 22nd LD

When you think about politics in Thurston County, the 22nd legislative district is the Democratic liberal juicy middle in what is a pretty typical rural or suburban western Washington county. This is where the urban communities are, this is where the liberals are.

This is a district that hasn't elected a Republican since 1980 when W.H Garson of Tenino went to the legislative building. This is also when the 22nd LD was big enough geographically to send someone from Tenino to the legislative building.

Just a side note: since Thurston County population shot through the roof in the 1970s, I'd assume that redistricting was particularly unkind to Republicans in the 22nd in the 1980s. What probably happened was the district shrank geographically given the boost of urban population, giving it its liberal contour today.


Bud Blake was the first conservative to win a county commissioner seat in Thurston County for a long time, most likely because he ran as an independent against a Democratic. And, he won in a convincing fashion.

I was wondering if a county-wide election for a Republican in independent clothing meant the same sort of strategy could equal the same result in the smaller, liberal 22nd LD. Well, it does not.

But, man, it would be close. If you isolate the 22nd LD precincts (the way I did in that link above), you see a pretty tight race. Democrat Karen Valenzuela would have won with just over 51 percent, or 2,000 votes out of over 40,000.

But, a win is still a win.

That said, I think a legislative race would have been even harder for an independent (especially a conservative one) to win over a Democrat. I suspect that strictly partisan issues (like abortion, environmental protection, taxes) could be isolated in a way that they couldn't be on a local general government election.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Ebenezer Howard, 3 Magnets and the bad bad City Beautiful

Just below the surface of the best new place in Olympia, the 3 Magnets Brewpub, is a fascinating way to look at cities and communities.

One of the 3 Magnets owners vaguely references the ideas of Howard here:
“Three Magnets is based on a 115-year-old book called Garden Cities of To-morrow by Ebenezer Howard,” explains Sara. ”Basically, Ebenezer considered himself an inventor of the perfect community. He thought he could take the best of both rural and urban living and blend them into a perfect town-country. When reading this, everything called out to us as Olympia, either what we are or what we strive to be.”
So, to delve more specifically into the imagery, the three magnets are "Town," "Country," and "Town Country."

It proposed the creation of new suburban towns of limited size, planned in advance, and surrounded by a permanent belt of agricultural land. These Garden cities were used as the model for many suburbs. Howard believed that such Garden Cities were the perfect blend of city and nature.Howard believed that a new civilisation could be found by marrying the town and the country.The towns would be largely independent, managed by the citizens who had an economic interest in them, and financed by ground rents on the Georgist model. The land on which they were to be built was to be owned by a group of trustees and leased to the citizens.
So, in at least not in an intentional way, this sounds a lot like what people in Olympia would like Olympia to be, post Growth Management Act. Lots of rural space around us for small scale agriculture, vibrant urban community on a human scale.

So, if you're following me so far, this sounds pretty typical. Nothing special here, just a reference back to a nice idea that we might draw from.

But, then there's the City Beautiful Movement. If you've listened for more than five minutes about any discussion about Capitol Lake or the so-called isthmus, you're familiar with this term. I think its a bunch of bunk myself. It was a short lived, classist and based on importing old world esthetics and pasting them onto North American cities. Just dumb.

Both the Garden City (Howards') and the City Beautiful movement came along at the same point in history, when people were facing the pressures of dealing with industrialization and urbanization:

While the Garden City movement shaped a design aesthetic and pattern for satellite towns, the City Beautiful movement was aimed at restructuring American downtowns around a coordinated ideology and strategy. Just prior to the 20th century, America was becoming an international economic power, and its cities were in need of an urban form indicative of the new national identity. America's cities were fraught with problems, and the City Beautiful movement helped provide a physical form for the previously established Public Health Movement. The City Beautiful movement envisioned the city as an entire work of architecture; its practitioners insisted that all construction conform to a singular vision. They believed that cities had failed and that a new expression of values would inspire good government and public stewardship.

He envisioned Garden Cities as compact, transit-oriented communities surrounded by greenbelts of natural landscape; they were to contain all the pieces of a town, integrating residential, commercial, industrial, landscape and agricultural uses. Howard authored the first radial city plan, which is a useful diagram for city planning even today. Garden City architectural styles were diverse but inspired by expressive, picturesque and romantic designs appropriate to natural settings.
We're not facing the same pressures that urban leaders in the 1890s faced. Instead of trying to make urban areas livable because of pressure from industrialization and population growth, we're trying to make them vibrant to fight against suburbanization. Thurston County is already one of the most sprawled counties in the country. We want people to be in downtown Olympia because it is a nice place to be.

And, it seems like the diversity offered in the Garden City ideal, rather than the monolith of the City Beautiful Movement, offers a much better answer. It speaks to making the country productive while also making our city livable.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving, Olympia 1852

A far as my lazy bones are concerned, 1852 is the earliest point you can really go and see what Olympia was all about. The Columbian (between 1852-53) is available online via a searchable database.

And, from that source, we can see what Thanksgiving was like in that early Olympia fall:

Olympia existed, but it was still a part of Oregon itself, the Columbia or Washington Territory was still yet to be born the following spring. A convention had just been held advocating for secession from Oregon. And, yet, even still, the governor of Oregon couldn't bother to let Northern Oregon know when Thanksgiving was going to be.

The late date of 1852's Thanksgiving in the unified Oregon is a nod towards the squishiness of our most American holiday. Only six years before had a Thanksgiving campaign been started and it wasn't until the 1860s that Lincoln got around to the national holiday.

If you then scroll back to near where we celebrate Thanksgiving now (the Saturday, November 27, 1852 edition), the Columbian features a letter to the editor that marks a much more important celebration for Olympians. The Monday before had been the first day of school in the city.

Set aside the "idleness of Indians" (because Indians weren't and aren't idle), the letter spells out a pretty interesting vision of America, education and civic life.

To a point Thanksgiving has now retreated back into the family. Like that, education is often seen as a benefit to family (if I don't have kids, why should I pay for schools?) and not the community. This letter seems to point out that there was always that sort of short-minded counter argument to public education:
Think of it ye calculating men on this side of the continent, who let a few dollars (perhaps a single day's work), stand in the way of educating your children. Do you say there is less need of education now than two hundred years ago? Will there be no need in the future of intelligent men and women?
The letter writer harkens back to the educational standard set by the most New England of New Englanders, the Pilgrims. And, of course, Olympia in 1852 was at the moment being settled by communitarian New Englanders and individualistic Appalachians. This debate on education was part of the friction between the two groups that eventually made us the way we are today around here.

And, yet, we still have the debate. Enshrined in the 1889 state constitution is the paramount duty of education, carried forward by the Pilgrim tradition written about in 1852. Hardly anyone argues that we shouldn't have schools at all, but we're working hard to avert our eyes from the promise our state made. And, the pressures that keep us away from that promise certainly are the same ones that talk about low taxes, smaller government and the power of the individual over the community.

So, happy Thanksgiving. Be thankful some New Englanders opened a school in late November 1852. Otherwise we'd wouldn't be "a people too enlightened to be enslaved, too virtuous to be bought."

Monday, November 24, 2014

Shrine of forgotten blog posts (Olyblogosphere for November 24, 2014)

1. Northern closed.

2. Some actual good advice (if not spurious descriptions) of how to buy stolen goods stolen from Oly.

3. One of Olympia's best artists has two new books out. And, is releasing even more soon. Damn.

4. One more LBA update from Olympia's best blog.

5. Shrine of Forgotten Objects in TESC Woods.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Look at how Smith Troy is smiling

Note: (April 20, 2015) I got a load of details wrong writing this post. I've corrected them in this updated post. But, I'll leave them here for you to read and enjoy. Just not facts though, just an Emmett story.

He literally snuck back into town to take the oath of office.

He looks like he just ate the bird.

Or, he's just really super happy to be home after years at war. So, there should be some of that. But, I think there's a healthy dose of having gotten one over on room full of befuddled old men who would have like to replace him while he was gone.

From the AG's official history:
From 1943 to 1945, General Troy served in the Army in Europe as Lieutenant Colonel Troy and earned five battle stars. During this time, Troy's deputy served as acting Attorney General.
This apparently was quit the coup for Troy. If normal process had been followed, Troy would have resigned and the governor would have appointed a replacement. But, Troy was able to write an opinion that his deputy serve for him and run for office in 1944 while serving.

The other people in the room look kind of surprised to be at a swearing in ceremony:

 Seems like Troy was actually in town for a month or so before he was sworn in at the end of August. He didn't end up taking charge of the office again until the middle of September.

But, in the end, he was able to pull of nearly two years, AG in the war theatre, and settle back in to his seat of power, befuddled old guys on his shoulders.

Monday, November 17, 2014

What do you see in this chart? Mason County changing?

This is a chart tracking partisan returns in the 35th legislative district between 1992 and 2014. The lines track the two house seats and the dark dots, the senate. What I'm tracking here is how successful Democratic branded candidates have done over the past 20 years.

An important note before you look any further. For 2014, I switched Sen. Tim Sheldon for his challenger Irene Bowling. In you own consideration, feel free to totally ignore that, but for the sake of argument, and to make an interesting chart, I did that.

So, here's what I see: Throwing out two uncontested years, the Democratic brand in the 35th (greater Mason County) has been eroding.

Mason County always struck me as an interesting place, the furthest inland outpost of the "Coastal Caucus" political type. I sort of wrote about this, the most non-partisan of Washington's political regions, here.

I've also been thinking a lot about two other rural western Washington counties, Lewis and Grays Harbor. These two places share a river (the Chehalis), but party speaking, one is very Democratic, the other is very Republican. I've been wondering (baring very few other differences) why Lewis votes almost always Republican and Grays Harbor even more often Democratic.

And, I think we might be seeing that difference in action in Mason County. In the past, it seems that Shelton was very much like Grays Harbor. But now, as we move through several elections, Mason County is becoming more dependably Republican. This is the first time since at least 1992 that the 35th have returned three state legislators that won't caucus with the Democrats.

But, what are the factors behind this label change? You can argue that the Democrats Mason County sent to the legislator were always more conservative. Sure, I can take that. Other coastal Democrats were always different than King County Democrats. At least in the modern sense.

But, why the label change? Here's on theory: one other thing has happened in the last 10 years, urban Democrats have been focussing energy on Mason County and Tim Sheldon.

Sheldon's break with urban Dems has been at least ten years in the making, since he chaired Democrats for Bush in 2004. He also led a rebellion against a Democratic budged in a few years ago and then famously caucused with Republicans during the last two legislative sessions. And, since then, Democrats in other parts of Puget Sound have been taking a harder and harder aim at him. The high point was this year when a traditionally funded Democrat faced off with Sheldon in the general, and lost.

So, maybe this really isn't an act of Mason County voters changing their stripes, but a slow-motion erosion of the old-style coastal Dem with a modern conservative Republican.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Low voter turnout and why aren't we celebrating Washington's 135th anniversary?

Two big surprises this week. Well, they aren't big surprises at all. Washington State turned 125. Also, voter turnout during this off year election in the second term of a Democratic president was really low in the same state.

These two things are actually connected in a very interesting way. The reason we're not celebrating the 135th anniversary of Washington is the same reason voter turnout is down to historic levels this year in Washington.

It was political division and apathy that kept Washington out of the union in the late 1870s, ten years before their successful 1889 effort.

Robert Fricken in Washington Territory:
Washington Territory was divided, rather than united, upon the question of statehood. Longtime, often bitter, points of contention remained paramount, setting westerners against easterners, Republicans against Democrats, and Portland influence against the challenge of Puget Sound.
Fricken is the bomb, by the way. Everyone should read every one of his books.

Washington remained a state in uretero for so long, because it wasn't a single cogent state. As Fricken points out, the Puget Sound was an economic colony of San Francisco and Eastern Washington was controlled by the Willamette. Also, decades and decades of rule by the east compounded on themselves, and the political culture that would grow with the promise of self rule never flourished.

Voter participation also dropped off significantly from areas that supported statehood at the time (Puget Sound) to places where it wasn't supported (east of the mountains). In places where there was little engagement for the goal, voters overall failed to answer the question.

It wasn't until the 1880s when Washington's population went from 75,000 to over 300,000 did the question come up again. Also, because of a rail connection through Washington to the rest of the country, the territory was at last united.

That 1870s apathy towards statehood, driven by disunion and apathy, is the same sort of thing we face today.

While we lacked a railroad to throw off the shackles of Portland and San Francisco, today we shackle ourselves away from each other. Our redisticting process, at both the legislative and Congressional level, has shifted partisans into seperate districts. If we ask voters to vote in races that don't matter, they won't vote.

Jim Bruner in the Seattle Times back in 2012:

In an interview, Milem said the commission's priority of protecting incumbents was evident in the new maps, as incumbents of both parties got safer seats.
Milem is correct on that point.

Just look U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert's 8th Congressional District. Previously a suburban swing district, the 8th was redrawn by the commission to become solidly Republican. The new district lost its Bellevue and Mercer Island portions and now crosses the Cascades to pick up Wenatchee and Ellensburg.
Similarly, the 2nd and 9th Districts were redrawn to be safer for their Democratic incumbents, Rick Larsen and Adam Smith.

"We've lost electoral competition in those districts as a result of the plan," said Milem.

That holds true for many state legislative districts too. Milem says partisan considerations trumped the goal of drawing logical district boundaries, leading to some strange contortions.

For example, Milem describes the shape of the 18th legislative district near Vancouver as "one arm short of a swastika."
Sure, we're also sorting ourselves out in a larger sesnse. But, in the least, creating as interesting and compelling political boundaries in the first place would help.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Well. Hello to you too (Olyblogosphere for November 10, 2014)

1. Only one of the best things ever I've watched.

2. rebotco is the bomb. Here's the Second Part of Olympia Now and Then. Even better than the first.

3. Thurston Talk keeps us up to date on what Aunt Alicia is up to. OMG. I just realized. Maybe she'll buy the LBA woods for us!

4. The man who brought us Motherhood on Percival Landing and the World War II Memorial (wheat stalks) has students. Go see their art. You'll forgive me for not mentioning the horrible Parkland institution that houses that art.

5. I have nothing else. Except this awesome Olympia music that you can own for a price that you name.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

How Bud Blake won in Thurston County

By basically beating the Grand Old Party in every precinct in the county. Basically.

Republicans tend to lose in this county. Up until now we had a all-Democratic commission and every other elected official was Democratic, save an Independent sheriff.  I assumed going into this race that Blake would do better than Republicans in general, and it turns out he did well enough to win.

Here's the data I've been playing with. I took the three Republican results from 2012 (Senate, governor and President) and averaged them. Then I compared Bud Blake's performance.

Here's a chart to illustrate my point:

Basically, what you're seeing here is Blake beating the GOP turnout everywhere. Even in places where Republicans do horribly, Blake kept a consistent advantage over the GOP performance.

I'm not sure what to chalk this up to. Whether Blake really did perform better as a candidate, so his party label meant little. Or, that the Republican brand in Thurston County that you could take a standard business friendly candidate, strip him of his party label, and he'd win.

But, where exactly was he strongest?

The deeper the red dot, the more votes Blake got against the Republican average.

Basically, again, Blake did better than the average Republican candidate in Thurston County literally everywhere. But, if you were to pick out hot spots, it would be in the outer reaches of Lacey, out towards Fort Lewis.  This would fit the story line that Blake is a veteran. While somewhat new to Thurston County, this is something understood my military families who live close to Fort Lewis.

He didn't do as well as I would have thought in the northern Hawks Prairie area (assuming military and retired people) but did much better around older southern Hawks Prairie and deeper Lacey. He also did well against the average Republican vote in west and eastern Olympia. Not many actual votes there, but still picking up against the conservative average.

Monday, November 03, 2014

Washington Poll, "rest of Washington" and their lack of Partyism

In the most recent episode of the Slate Political Gabfest, the hosts discussed the recent phenomena of Partyism.

This would be a sort of prejudice or bigotry based on the political affiliation of someone. I assume this has been around for awhile (seeing how people didn't like Socialists or Communists going back 100 years or so), but apparently this has recently crept into mainstream politics. Republicans being partyist towards Democrats and vice versa.

David Plotz (at some point I think it was David) wondered where exactly this phenomena hasn't taken hold in American communities. Where the parties and partisanship hasn't warped politics and public discourse. Taking a look at the recent "Washington Poll," I think I have a local example.

The Washington Poll divided the state into three parts: Eastern Washington (beyond the Cascades), Puget Sound (self explanatory) and the rest of Washington. It is this "rest of Washington) category that I found fascinating. In most cases, Eastern Washington presented itself as the furtherest right wing, while Puget Sound served as its liberal foil. You'd assume "rest of Washington" would be somewhere stuck in the middle. And, you'd be right, for the most part.

While the poll isn't very clear, it seems like the "rest of state" category includes the counties on the west side that don't border Puget Sound. Basically the Olympic Peninsula and the Lower Columbia. Except for a few traditionally conservative and Republican counties towards the Oregon border on I-5, most of these counties are old-style Democrat timber communities.

They have voted Democratic since the Depression, while at the same time aren't pulled into the gravitational pull of liberal Seattle. They are Democratic on their own.

So, to start, these "rest of state" counties have a higher voter participation and seemingly deeper culture of civic engagement.

For just voter registration, we see better than average for the rest of state: 92.2 ROS compared to  88.0 for Puget Sound and   87.2  for Eastern Washington.

The same pattern holds for turning in your ballot this year: 20 percent compared to 17.7 or 16.5 for Puget Sound and Eastern Washington.

And, in terms of health of the community, rest of state was the only group over 50 percent on the question of right track/wrong track. Even though many of these places have unemployment higher than Puget Sound,  voters here still have faith in the future.

Also, they also have more faith in the process. Compared to Puget Sound and Eastern Washington, which neither could get above 38 percent favourably rating for the state legislature, rest of Washington rated their locally elected legislators at almost 50 percent very or somewhat favourable.

In terms of partisan ID, these communities are almost evenly split. While Democrats dominate Republicans by 20 percent in Puget Sound, and Republicans by 10 points in Eastern Washington, Republicans lead Dems by only about 3 percent in these other counties. And, the highest number of voters describe themselves as moderates in rest of Washington (a plurality).

And, lastly, even more than conservative Eastern Washington, rest of Washington is rooted in its present. It doesn't face the future, it faces the now. Question 34 "The America that you know and love isn’t changing too fast, and will never change" (as badly phrased as that is) illustrates this. Eastern Washington and Puget Sound both strongly or somewhat disagreed with this statement 65 percent of the time, while "rest of Washington" got over 70 percent.

While you'd assume "rest of Washington" would fall somewhere along the same lines as the other two, it actually showed itself to be more conservative. Or, at least, more rooted in what is going on their now.

"Rest of Washington" falls outside the right/left dualism that Puget Sound and Eastern Washington represent. It has higher civic participation, more faith in the process and thinks of itself as more moderate. It also isn't looking to the future for either doom or success. Right now, the way things are and the people who are here now as neighbours will have the answers.

There are a few reasons why this is the way things are out there:

1. These areas (except the Republican/conservative counties like Lewis and Clark along I-5) are out of the way counties. Counties like Pacific, Grays Harbor and Wahkiakum counties are literally geographically split off from anywhere else in Washington.

2. They represent a "way it used to be." While the decline of the logging industry overall has hit these counties hard, there is still a core element here that depend on resource extraction (anything like logging or fishing). And, this is the way it used to be in all of Washington. But, times have changed in places like Puget Sound, and the regional culture that you can still see in Aberdeen or Raymond is hard to find in Seattle or Everett.

3. We call them Democrats, but they're much more conservative than that. That label is pretty flexible. Take Tim Sheldon, a Democrat from Shelton in Mason County. He even went as far as caucusing with Republicans, but it isn't that uncommon for Democrats from the coast to vote against their Puget Sound party-mates. That still said, Democrats still dominate politics out there, it is hard for a Republican to get elected in any local office.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Thurston County Democratic Central Committee, Answer These Questions (in 1938)

This is a more things change, more they say the same sort of thing for the week coming into election day.

This is an a full page ad that the Thurston County Republican party ran in the Olympian in the weeks leading up to the 1938 election. It is full of amazing statements (amazing!), mostly either rehashing parochial battles or drastically weird statements about socialism and communism.

They really get going in the middle of a list of questions:

Is is not true that many of your leaders were also sponsors of the dictatorial scheme for Zoning Thurston County.

Is it not true that your program is fundamentally socialistic to take over private business? With more taxes?

Is is not true that some of your politicians aspire to offices under a socialistic dictatorship?

The first question in that list seems to echo to our current debates (at least over the last 20 years in the era of growth management and endangered species) over land use. I don't know enough about what was going on in Thurston County in 1938 over zoning. But, it smacks of a rural control by urban interest sort of thing.

And, after all this huffing and puffing, the Republicans were smacked down in Thurston County in 1938. Only winning a close race for clerk, the Republicans failed to capitalize on what was a fairly good year for Republicans nationwide. Not in Washington though. Or in Thurston County.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Go directly to 5 and take the survey! Then reverse and review your blog links! (Olyblogosphere for October 27, 2014)

1.Over at MT, more reading as the days get shorter.

2. I'm a young pup. I'm involved, but I didn't show. Mostly because young pups have young families.

3. "Recent donation stirs up controversy over bookstore Jelly Belly machine" is such a perfect college newpaper headline. But, the issue at stake here is actually worth reading the article for.

4. Apparently, the city council has been skating around the edges with money raised specifically for sidewalks and parks (here and here).

5. Did I tell you to take the LBA survey? Take the LBA Survey from Olympia's Best Damn Blog!!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

More crime in Thurston county between 1990 and 2011 results in even more prison sentences

I'm sure my dad is going to have something to say about this post, but I found some interesting statistics while looking for something else this week. I was poking around, looking for county level statistics to create a Washington level "general happiness index." I wasn't planning on tracking it across time, just finding some quick list of the happiest of the counties.

So, crime rates in Thurston County, take a look:

What's going on here is while reported crimes grew at a slow rate between the early 1990 to a few years ago, the total number of criminal sentences by our county courts went way up. What explains this?

Stiffer mandatory sentences? This phenomena may have led to courts imposing stiffer criminal penalties over the last 20 years.

Monday, October 20, 2014

"We've now got TONS of houses and nowhere to walk"

Read the results of the new survey. It is fascinating to read people chatting about what kind of things they like to see in a "community center" in their neighborhood.

Hopefully, the new comprehensive plan moves our neighborhoods into creating more of these vibrant areas. Think of the Wildwood building on Captiol Way, the Co-op on the west side or the San Francisco Bakery on the Northeast.

Or the desert of any sort of walkable community on the Southeast side.

At least on my side of town, there has been some serious real politics dealing bad news to this sort of thing. In my neighborhood, Briggs Village, the developer seriously dialed back what on paper was supposed to be a pretty impressive urban village. Some apartments over commercial. Some multistory commercial. Maybe even parking basements. But, now we're likely going to get a shiny strip mall sort of thing.

Hopefully, it turns out okay. But, in the long term at least, it was supposed to be a move to develop the area quicker. For now, we have no movement on those lots yet.

A few miles away, the LBA area was supposed to see a similar development with a nice walkable commercial/community area. But, neighbors to the proposed development rose up and stopped it.

Ironically, those very neighbors live a massive wasteland of walkable community areas. Between the Pit Stop Market (on 18th) and the Chevron on Yelm Highway, there is literally no place to buy a gallon of milk on foot for thousands of Olympians.

We want community. We want places to walk. We want to have tight neighborhoods that are forward facing and nice. We want character.

But, developers dial back grand plans and suburban car house dwellers defend trees in the face of new diverse neighborhoods.

However we advocate for neighborhood centers needs to realize the real politics that have created acres and acres of houses with nowhere to walk.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

A massive explosion in 1934 (mostly because I'm out of blogging topics) and some cool watermarked video

I'm literally posting this because I am lacking something for this week's second post. I was hoping to find a tsunami map for Budd Inlet or some reflection on homeless students, but came up short.

I had nothing prepared, nothing inspirational for you. So, this is just a smidge of some Smith Troy out of context and some interesting video.

From Historylink:
On Wednesday afternoon, June 27, 1934, 10 people are killed and seven are injured when two explosions demolish the J. A. Denn Powder Company plant on Hawk’s Prairie, eight miles east of Olympia.  An 11th victim, the company chemist, will die from his injuries the following day.  Thurston County authorities investigate the accident, but so little of the plant remains that the official cause will remain a mystery.


Smith Troy, the Thurston County coroner as well as a deputy county prosecutor, began an immediate investigation of the disaster.  He was assisted in the inquest by Claude Havens, Thurston County Sheriff; William A. Sullivan, Washington State Insurance Commissioner, acting as ex-officio state fire marshal; and E. Patrick Kelly, Washington State Director of Labor and Industries.

During an interview, Troy told reporters: “So little remains of the plant and surrounding buildings, about all we can hope to do is question survivors.  It will be difficult to determine the causes, but we may discover who, if anybody, was responsible for the blast” (The Seattle Times).

Monday, October 13, 2014

Aunt Alicia (Olyblogosphere for October 13, 2014)

1. Alicia Elliott will save Olympia.

New investment opportunity. Threaten development of something, raise the hackles of your neighbors, Alicia Elliott will buy you out. Its the modern Olympia Aunt Sally.

2. Support Zinefest!

3. The best Olympia blog ever reads my mind. What if! What IF!!!!!

4. Yeah, big surprise here. Every place in the world is more nuanced than it seems at first.

If you came here from New York, Austin and then Portland and moved to Olympia "because you liked its look" and then were disappointed.

You deserve that disappointment. It isn't our fault. Grow up.

5. I don't mind the debate on the LBA Woods. Let's debate parks! I'm against spending money on it now. And, I actually like the proposal for development (because it was better than the straight up burbs that had been built in that area).

But, this is annoying:
LBA Woods are a true gem--an old-fashioned Commons of sorts in that the property is privately owned, though it is neither gated nor posted with no-trespassing signs or welcome signs.
Because it isn't even true:
...the developer (D.R. Horton, a nationwide company headquartered in Delaware) has chosen to fence users of LBA Park out of the trails.
We can debate whether it should become a park, but the owner wants you to stay off their property. That's their right man.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

3 reasons why I wish I could tell you to vote for none of the above in the Clerk race, but I won't

1. For the love of Pete, would someone return a damn email?

I know I'm not anyone that important, it isn't like I contribute money to that many (if any campaigns). But, I emailed both campaigns months ago about what I consider to be a pretty big issue. And nothing. Not even an "I got your email, I'll get back to you later" or a "No, this isn't that big of a deal."

Just silence.

2. Could you make the race any less relevant to voters?

This race is so damn insular, the one time (one time!) I ever received any communication about this race from anyone connected to the campaigns, it highlighted an issue so low and degrading, that I would never repeat it here. Suffice to say, this race has been issue free.

Even the one difference that the campaigns bring up publicly is about an internal court system. Really? An internal office data management system? Wow. Killer stuff.

Here's a better issue to chew over.

3. I feel like I shouldn't even be voting in this election.

This post is starting to become a trip around my own favorite issue, but be patient with me. Yes, I feel that public access to court records should be easier than it is and that county clerks should serve the public in this regard.

And, when I poked around, the Whatcom County clerk provided the best answer to why he makes court records free and searchable online:

We wouldn't charge for someone to come into the office to look at a file. If they chose to make copies, there would be a cost and staff time. I believe it actually saves money by freeing up staff time to do more important tasks. We have had significant reductions in force over the past several years. Further, it provides equal access regardless of financial resources.
The difference here is that the clerk in Whatcom county is appointed, while the clerks here are elected. I'm not sure it makes sense, but that means an appointed clerk is more willing to provide for the public than an elected one.

The only reason this makes sense to me is that an appointed clerk would possibly see their role as providing services to the public and the county as a whole. While, an independent, elected clerk would be interested in protecting their own budget and the structural power of their office. So, a creaking and old document management system that doesn't serve the public, but rather charges them for public documents, possibly makes sense.

So, I suggest you vote in this election and vote for Linda Enlow. At the very least, she seems like she's willing to change the office.

But, what we really need is a clerk that is willing to go out on a limb like the Whatcom County Clerk. And, we need to change the law that allows clerks to charge crazy fees for public documents.

But, in the end, support a Home Rule effort for Thurston County. This would allow us to rewrite how Thurston County government operates. And, if we decided to change the clerk position to an appointed one, we could do that.

Monday, October 06, 2014

Smith Troy once arrested the man that was running against him for county prosecutor

Smith Troy, the 1930s era Thurston County prosecutor, is one of the most fascinating historic figures, must have had brass balls. Seriously, he could not have lacked for guts.

I'd  certainly not argue that he was always on the angel side of things. But, when he acted, he seemed to act with no consideration of alternatives. Full forward.

Like the time in fall of 1938 he arrested the person who was running against him for prosecutor for campaign against him:

Sure, Gruhlke might have stretched the truth. But, it is hardly a lie to say the prosecutor should have arrested more prostitutes. And, no matter how he phrased it, that is pretty much all that Gruhlke said.

And, even if Gruhlke said "I know for a fact that Troy decided not to arrest women of the night!" it is a strange image of a prosecutor running for office arresting his opponent.

Gruhlke quickly and phased Troy down:


But, then months later, after Smith won another term, the parties kissed and made up. Smith was only just over a year away from being appointed state Attorney General. He had just prosecuted a high profile attempted murder case and he had empanelled a grand jury looking into misuse of state funds. And, he arrested someone for campaigning against him.

And, in the end, he got an apology from the man he arrested.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Thomas Brents and Cascadia

Its a fairly old trope in Washington State history and civic life that the name Washington State is pretty horrible. Our own state and territorial founders wanted Columbia as a state name, but eastern politicians hung the name Washington around our neck as a way to avoid confusion with the other Columbia.

I hope I don't have to tell you how well that lack of confusion thing worked out.

But, along the way, there were a handful of other suggestions for names, including (you guessed it) Cascadia. Our territorial representative, Thomas Brents, suggested in 1885 that a new name accompany the territory when it gained statehood:

Cascadia, in allusion to its many grand waterfalls and to the name of its principal range of mountains, the cascades (sic).
Brents was a bit early in his urging for statehood, and he also suggested that we bring in the northern part of Idaho along with the rest of the state. This was an obvious suggestion by the Walla Wallan Brents, as it would have tipped the balance of power in the new State of Cascadia to the east (given Idaho's mining industry and eastern Washington's agriculture).