Thursday, January 30, 2014

Where is Cascadia?

Generally speaking, Cascadia is understood to be the "Pacific Northwest." I don't like that PNW term, mostly because it is inelegant, but also because it is a bad description. Seriously, northwest of what exactly. I live in the center of the universe.

But, this discussion of the geography of Cascadia, what is inside the region and what is not, is pretty vital to every other discussion about Cascadia. Where you draw the borders defines what politics, culture and social structures belong inside Cascadia.

There are three major lines of thinking in terms of defining what is Cascadia.

1. Oregon and Washington, maybe some of B.C.  


This is the simplest map and the worst of all three. Basically take the state and provincial boundaries for the three existing subdivisions and there you go.

I'm not even going to bother trying to show you this map. What, don't you know where Washington and Oregon are?

It lacks the elegance or real world common sense of both of the maps below. It ignores any similarity the Alaska or California might allow parts of them to be included. Bad map.


2. Biogregionalism


This is definition of the region bases its definition on natural features. This is a strictly accurate definition based on the original concept of Cascadia from the 1970s. The original Cascadian thinkers brought a lot of ecology into their definition, so a bioregion made absolute sense to them.

Especially when you look a map of the "Salmon Nation," it looks surprisingly similar to the Cascadian bioregion.


3. West of the mountains.

The limitations of the bioregion map is that it includes so many human communities that are different from the population core of Cascadia. In short, there is very little cultural, social or political connections between Moses Lake and Seattle. 

The best map of this region is from Colin Woodard's "American Nations," basically showing a Chile shaped country hugging the Pacific Coast.

While is may seem too small to be real, this strip of coast is densely populated with a consistent climate, culture and politics. Even going back to the formation of California, Oregon and Washington, this region has a common origin and settlement pattern.

Even when places like the interior of Washington and Oregon were attached to the Willamette Valley and Puget Sound, it didn't take long for them to want to leave. In a much larger, bioregional nation, the interior communities would constantly be at odds with the urban coastal cities. While geographically close to Seattle, Portland and Vancouver, they are culturally and politically closer to the broader interior west.
May favorite map, if you were wondering, is #3. And, I know I'm well in the minority here. Most people it seems want to include some portion east of the Cascades. While I think there is some parts of Cascadia that are leaking across the mountains (Cle Elum and Hood River), more often than not, those dry side places have more to do with Wyoming or Idaho than Edmonds.

In a recent discussion on the Cacadia subreddit, the bioregional map by default chosen as the better map (and with percentages). Though, the coastal areas scored the highest overall, much of the interior was still included in the final map. Strangely (to me at least) the Bay Area scored very low.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Four answers to what makes Olympia different (Olyblogosphere for January 27, 2013)

1. Over at Olyblog, we have the question: What is there about Olympia that makes it different than any other city?

2. Answer one: A refreshingly honest blog and a great idea (Olympia as a place to call home on vacation as you explore western Washington).

3. Answer two: Have you ever met Berd? Interesting fellow. If you don't appreciate his time lapse of lower Budd Inlet, there's something wrong with you.

4. Answer three: People make things in Olympia, and sometimes they make a Queen Bee Scarf. I can't really appreciate it, but I can see how people would.

5. Answer four: Jim Anderson is blogging again. Enough said.
Of course this site is primarily here to help drive bookings to our Olympia B&B. - See more at:
Of course this site is primarily here to help drive bookings to our Olympia B&B. - See more at:
Of course this site is primarily here to help drive bookings to our Olympia B&B. - See more at:
Of course this site is primarily here to help drive bookings to our Olympia B&B. - See more at:
Of course this site is primarily here to help drive bookings to our Olympia B&B. - See more at:
Of course this site is primarily here to help drive bookings to our Olympia B&B. - See more at:
Of course this site is primarily here to help drive bookings to our Olympia B&B. - See more at:
Of course this site is primarily here to help drive bookings to our Olympia B&B. - See more at:
Of course this site is primarily here to help drive bookings to our Olympia B&B. - See more at:
Of course this site is primarily here to help drive bookings to our Olympia B&B. - See more at:

Thursday, January 23, 2014

What I got wrong with the history of the Deschutes Estuary

When I wrote up a longish history of the Deschutes River estuary, I summarized the late 1920s like this:
In the late 20s, Wilder and White and the Olmsted firm participated in a back and forth over the landscaping plan, with the state capitol committee in the middle. In one telling, the result was that all waterfront improvements (including Capitol Lake) were written out of the landscaping plan (Johnston, 91).

According to another Capitol Campus historian, Mark Epstein, Capitol Lake was retained in the 1920s landscaping plan, but in the form of Olmsted’s modest saltwater tidal pond rather than an aggressively dammed estuary (Epstein, 67).

Also, ten years after he first proposed it, damming the Deschutes apparently was not in the front of Carlyon’s mind. As Wilder, White and the Olmsted firm debated landscaping plans that could have included a lake, Carlyon wrote an essay about the vision and construction of the capitol group. Lacking from the essay is a single mention of a lake (Carylon, 1928).

Even though it was rejected in 1916 and was an afterthought in Carlyon’s mind by 1928, the lake project did not go away.
The late 1920s was an interesting time in the creation of Capitol Lake. The central part of the current campus was coming into form. And, the final push for the lake was about five or six years away from starting.

So, in the three versions I could find at the time, the lake was either totally gone from the plans, changed into a saltwater lagoon or just an afterthought.

But, I recently came across a piece in the Seattle Times that contradicts this. There was still some discussion in 1929 of a possible lake.

From April, 1929 in the Seattle Times about the need for plants for capitol landscaping:
It will be almost impossible to get too many plants, flowers and shrubs, for when the land strictly within the Capitol grounds is improved, there will remain the long stretch of shore land and overhanging cliff that some day will be included when the proposed fresh water lake is created by damming the waters of the Des Chutes River at the head of Budd Inlet.
 To me, this is a small corner of the lake and estuary history. The idea of the lake was already rejected in 1915. Tumwater wouldn't agree to damming the river's mouth and it wasn't until 1941 that Tumwater citizens changed their minds. And, it wasn't until the Little Hollywood shantytown took over underneath the capitol that Olympia residents seriously made a push for the lake.

But, still, I was wrong about 1929, so I thought I'd correct the record.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Your "Thurston County wasn't always a liberal haven" reminder for Martin Luther King Day 2014

Update 8/22/2021: Given a few years learning more about Olympia's past in this era, I am less surprised that Olympia was pretty racist in the 1960s or that Mike Layton himself was even more racist. Thanks to Robin in the comment below for spurring this update.

I'm going to leave this post in place, but I want to add a few thoughts up on the top to sand off the edges a bit. Specifically, the word "ghetto" is used in a way that may have had more nuance for Layton that I realized. Now I have come to understand that it was meant to imply the negative economic result of segregation. That if kept separate, one race would economically suffer, creating a housing ghetto of less desirable neighborhoods. The "happy situation" he was referring to could have meant integrated neighborhoods. I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt there.  

That said, the implication that black residents would be happier if they didn't advocate for change is heavy in this piece. I'm not sure if Layton is writing for himself or pointing out the obviously wrong white point of view here. But that part still troubles me.

Read this crap (full size version here):

Let it soak over you.

Present happy situation could deteriorate into ghetto

Think about it.

...Negroes here are well educated, affluent and aware of their rights without being what whites think is "uppity" about insisting upon them.

This was published in the Seattle Argus in April 12, 1968. Martin Luther King had literally just been assassinated the week before. I have no idea about the weekly Argus' news cycle, but it seems at least in bad taste to publish something like this a week after the civil right's leaders death.

At worst, the Argus editors and Mike Layton deliberately chose the week after King's death for this. "Hey Layton! King's death sure is leading the news, let's do up a piece about how Olympia is being ruined by his sort!"

And, let's get this straight. This was main stream thinking for our community. The Argus, while not a major daily like the Times or PI, was a serious Seattle newspaper. From what I've read about it, it would be close to what we'd consider the Weekly to be. Old time and storied reporters like Shelby Scates and Mike Layton passed through the Argus at different points.

And, let's get back to Layton, who wrote this piece. When he passed away in 2011, there was a lot of good things said about him. "He bluntly spoke truth to power," "a fierce reporter" and "could spot B.S. at a hundred paces."

Well, that's a funny way to put it, because the level of bull shit in Layton's Argus piece the week after King's death is amazing.

Olympia has obviously changed. Thurston County used to vote for Republicans (and Reagan specifically) and used to put up with this kind of racist crap. I'm not saying we should go back and absolutely revise Layton's reputation, but we need to remember that this used to happen. And, we weren't always nice, friendly liberal people.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

How much does the Thurston County economy benefit from the legislative session

I suppose the best I can say is that it seems to take the edge off.

What I wanted to find out was what kind of impact the legislative session (hundreds of lawmakers, staffers and policy wonks coming to Olympia and Thurston County for at least two months every year) has on our economy. You could easily assume that it has some.

When people are in town for session, they have to eat, pay rent, entertain themselves and (I suppose) shop. Even just the work of lobbying, taking lawmakers out to eat, has to produce some economic benefit.

So, the best indicator I could find for economic activity by date was retail sales tax paid in each quarter. You can find the data I used here. Here are the spreadsheets I used.

First, I took all retail sales tax paid in the four quarters between 2005 and 2012 averaged out. I compared Olympia, Lacey and Tumwater with Bellingham. I used Bellingham as a stand in for a similar community to Olympia that doesn't have a seasonal political population.

You can see a similar curve across both communities. Economic activity rises through the year, dropping back down each first quarter.

The curve from low activity first quarter to higher activity through the fourth seems to indicate that in terms of the broader economy, the legislative session doesn't have much impact in Olympia. Despite the people visiting and temporarily living here for a few months, the economy here (which is still supported by the broader government) is too large to really for use to really see the impact of session.

But, if you take a closer look at just one aspect of the economy here, say food and lodging, you start to see some sort of impact. The chart below shows just the sales taxable activity in places like restaurants and hotels.

Again, you see a similar curve in both urban Thurston and Whatcom counties. But, the Olympia, Lacey and Tumwater curve is less pronounced, especially in terms of the first quarter. You could almost say the session (which would increase spending in the first quarter) takes the edge off lower first quarter spending on food and overnight rooms in Olympia.

Still though, even this kind of spending in the average first quarter isn't as high as the third quarter. So, while there's some benefit, it still seems smaller than what people often imply it to be.

Monday, January 13, 2014

The state of the amazing hills and the blogs in them (Olyblogosphere for January 13, 2013)

1. I've been up to this spot before. I wish I'd had thought to take a picture like this one. Amazing.

2.  Good idea:
I am planning to make my windows less reflective so other birds don't attempt to fly through them. It doesn't make sense to create an environment that enhances our bird-watching pleasure if it is fatal to the birds we are attempting to attract.
 3. There's a lot to be said about the King Tides this last week. Here's Mojourner up at Mission Creek.

4. And, here's the state of some wonderful blog up there in McCleary looking down upon us from the hills. Here's to you Steve.

Monday, January 06, 2014

Reagan won both Thurston and King counties in 1980 and 1984. Why is that?

1984 presidential results in Washington State.
The 1980 and 1984 elections in western Washington baffle me a little bit. The Reagan Revolution was strong throughout the entire Cascadian coast, except for a few counties at the mouth of the Columbia River.

Both Thurston and King counties (among other Puget Sound counties) are traditionally Democratic now. But, just about 30 years ago, they were heavily in Reagan's camp. I'm trying to figure out why this is. But, I'd appreciate anyone that has a more precise explanation.

So, working down from the things I know:

1. Dan Evans, John Spellman (and other moderate Republicans like Slade Gorton) that started their careers in the 1950s and 60s came from out of King County. Both Gorton and Spellman were elected in 1980, so (even though Spellman lost in 1984 to Booth Gardner) its likely that the "main stream" Republican mojo in Puget Sound was strong in the early 1980s. From what I've read, Spellman's loss to Gardner had more to do with Spellman being a bad manager than party identification.

2. Republicans (even Reagan) weren't attached to social politics like abortion) in 1980 and 1984. I-471, which would have prevented public funding for abortion, failed statewide in 1984, with major losses in both Thurston and King counties. Reagan won in counties that voted against an anti-abortion initiative. Not what you'd really consider possible now 30 years on.

3. The social conservative wave didn't seem to crash in Washington State until the 1988 Republican presidential caucuses. That year, conservative Christians took over the party caucuses and threw off the moderate business friendly brand, voting for Pat Robertson. Eight years later, Ellen Craswell repeated history, taking the Republican nomination for governor (but getting beat by a lot by Gary Locke).

So, to me, the two statewide elections in the early 80s seems like the lag time between the Evans revolution in the 1960s and the Christian social conservatives catching up in the late 80s. The memory of Reagan's is of a stalwart social conservative. But, at least in Washington, it seems like the momentum of more moderate Republicans carried him through two elections.

Does that make sense?

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Olympia Time in 2013, so what did you think of the new way of blogging here?

So, this time of year seems a good a time as any to ask, but what did you think of Olympia Time this year? I'm not sure how many noticed, but I started on a regular schedule of blogging about April or May this last year. Two posts a week, which turns out to be eight or nine posts a month.

I've kept to a handful of topics, mostly local history and blogs. But, I've stretched out to include Cascadia Exists too. These posts explore the political or social patterns that already exist in our region.

I also dribbled out much longer written pieces that didn't really have a home on the blog. I finally polished them up and put them together in a free (or pay what you want) book.

For the time being I'm going to keep up this pattern, two posts a week and every other Monday an Olyblogosphere. The posts under the Cascadia Exists header are getting long and numerous enough that I might try stitching them together into something more coherent (another book!) by fall.

I hope your 2013 went well, and I hope all the best for you this year. And, I know your dying to know, so here are my favorite posts I wrote since I started the new regime:

1. Better Bob Bunting

2. The long history of the Seattle Freeze

3. Thoughts about loss and oysters

4. Why won't those damn kids just obey the will of our Grecian columns?

5. The time when the King County Arts Commission complained about the cultural insensitivty of the Seahawks logo

6. Sue Gunn reconnected the ends of the Cascadian political spectrum