Monday, June 30, 2014

Lost things (Olyblogosphere for June 30, 2014)

1. Maria shows us why she shops at the farmers market.

2. Though Vi titles the shot as falls, she correctly identifies the subject in the cutline as the Deschutes River dam at the falls park. Honest, its an old dam.

3. I could link to a lot of what Mojourner writes. This piece is awesome though:
Entire towns that thrived into the 1940s have been swallowed by our temperate jungle. You might realize you are approaching one when you find yourself on a causeway, smaller trees in your path and a slit of sky above, as in the first photo. This path used to be a road, or if flat and not so curvey, a railroad. Rails and ties are gone, because like the towns, timber railroads flowed and ebbed; when the trees were cut, the rails were lifted and sent elsewhere to haul out another forest.

4. Speaking of lost places, Washington Our Home writes about the Sunset Beach Hotel:
However – being a nineteenth-century sailor – I probably would have been quickly distracted by the sounds of laughter and gaiety spilling out of the hotel’s saloon. Weekend revelers from Seattle, Tacoma and Olympia must have been imbibing their spirits for several hours by the time I strolled into the parlor, and I’d immediately feel underdressed. Piano music and cigar and cigarette smoke would fill my senses as I self-consciously approached the bar for a nightcap.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

What Southeast Olympia needs is fewer cars, not another park

The fight to expand LBA park is on. I'm not against parks, I'm a big fan of parks near where people live. But, I'm also a fan of libraries, stores and services near where people live. Its probably the biggest reason I moved where I did, because of the promise that I'd be a part of an urban village with commercial and multi-densisity housing.

But, what would have been built where people now want to expand a park would have included the most commercial development anywhere in Southeast Olympia. And, it wasn't much. It could have used a lot more.


All that pink and blue is residential. There is only one small zoned parcel of commercial at 18th and Boulevard.

In turn, this makes Southeast Oly a very unwalkable part of town. 

Meaning, if you live in Southeast Olympia, and you need anything more than to get to a school, go to a park or walk your dog, you need to get in your car and drive. This car dependency makes it that much more unfriendly to the few pedestrians who do make it out.

Keeping open space open and building more parks is an easy thing to get around. But, to really make a place livable is to accept that some development will happen. But to make sure that development gives us what we actually need as a community.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Why I eat steelhead

When I see steelhead on the menu, I order it. Always.

My May 2 steelhead burger in Portland.

It is a thing in Cascadia that people refuse to eat steelhead. Not because they don't like fish. They love fish. Specifically, they love steelhead.

They fish for steelhead and sometimes they'll kill and keep their catch. Many of them hook and land steelhead, but more than a few kill them for their own food.

Where they draw the line is steelhead being sold as food.

So, maybe this post should be titled: why I buy steelhead to eat.

Because the dividing line seems to be that selling the fish is a sin. And, this is the notion I don't buy.

The movement to make steelhead a game fish began after World War I in Cascadia. The decommercialization (aside from a few tribal fishermen) was complete by the 1930s. There's a lot of history in those years leading up to today, but today only tribal fishermen are allowed to catch steelhead for commercial sale.

So, the steelhead burger I enjoyed in Portland about a month ago was more than likely tribally-caught.

This line drawing between commercial fish and game fish, fish you can buy and eat and fish that only sportsmen can catch is actually as old as sports fishing.

Treatyse of Fysshynge wyth an Angle, printed in 1496 is the first record of sport fishing. And, it also marks the economic and political division of game fish. In England, the game fish (salmon and trout) were reserved to nobles. While course fish (pike, carp, perch, etc) were available to common people.

This concept of game fishing, marking off species from commercial fishing, found new blood in the United States in the last 100 years. Especially since the founding of the Coastal Conservation Association in the 1970s, the game-fishication of certain species hit high speed.

I believe that people should be able to live from fishing. And, I believe that steelhead are no different than any other salmon.

This isn't an argument about salmon management or catching the last fish. Obviously, if there aren't enough fish to sustain a fishery, we shouldn't fish. What I'm arguing against is choosing only one group to have access to a certain species.

If you reached back down to the first decade of the 1900s and looked for steelhead references in newspapers, you'd see a commodity price listing for "steelhead salmon." This fish was usually less expensive than chinook salmon, it was a middle of the road and less plentiful option to larger salmon.

There's nothing special to report about its taste either. In the handful of times I've eaten steelhead, I've noted nothing particularly good about it. But, I always order it.

Because steelhead is food, which means commercial fishermen should be able to fish on healthy runs and sell their catch.

Like the nobles and game fish of England, game fish designations create separate classes of people who can and can't access fish. I don't fish. It isn't an economic choice for me, I could certainly afford to if it called to me and I had time. But, I don't fish. Which means I'm mostly cut out of eating steelhead, unless I can track it down.

But, steelhead belong to all of us. That there are some steelhead runs in Washington that are healthy enough is the result of our collective political will to hold off annihilating them, paving them under, replacing their habitat with ours, the way we've done it since Treatyse of Fysshynge wyth an Angle days.

David Montgomery traces this destructive history in King of Fish. He points out that from England to Cascadia, we've followed the same pattern. Fishing, weak laws, habitat destruction, and fish disappear from England, New England then Cascadia.  While he doesn't point directly to it, I draw another comparison to us repeating our fish history, that only a few are connected to the fish because they're game fished.

I eat steelhead because they're our state fish and I am as responsible for their fate as anyone else.

UPDATE (6/23/14 7:40 p.m.): Boy, this post sure did get around today!

So, I thought about how best to respond to the comments that have been coming in all day, and instead of taking them inline, I'll try to do a FAQ here as a post update.

1. Yes, I work at the NWIFC as an information officer. Which would help explain my interest in this topic, but not show some sort of shill-factor. I have no problem doing my job at work. The perspective I wanted to bring here was from me as a citizen and a consumer. Obviously I'm informed by my work, but that is obviously something I should have disclosed originally.

2. Steelhead are not in danger of being extinct across their entire range.

3. A good point was made that the steelhead I end up buying could be farmed rainbows. Excellent point. I just assume they're commercially caught, I have no actual evidence though.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

How much economic sense does the U.S. Open make?

From the Puyallup Herald:

When an estimated 200,000 visitors come to the region the week of June 15-17 2015, the economic impact is estimated to be $144 million, according to a United States Golf Association report.
It's odd that an organization  whose purpose it is to promote golf would say a golf tournament is a net benefit, right?

The US Open golf tournament on the Puget Sound is just less than a year away, and I noticed a little rash of economic benefit coverage for the event. Big bucks coming our way because of golfers, golf fans and media.

But, how large will the economic benefit of the golf tournament really be?

There seems to be a cottage industry of promoters and detractors along this argument. From promoters of stadiums, to the Olympics and the World Cup, there are arguments for and against. Oddly, promoters and sponsors tend to find benefits and more hard hearted economists tend to find costs.

Taking at least a look at large tournaments like the Olympics, you'd be hard pressed to find benefits in the modern era. But, it is hard to compare the Olympics to (even a major) golf tournament:
(A golf tournament) typically requires little new construction—the golf course is already there, and no golf tournament attracts Olympic-sized crowds, so it probably does not require new hotels. Also, while some people will no doubt reschedule visits to London to coincide with the Olympics, this seems less likely for Cromwell, Connecticut. It's a nice place, (named after the Englishman who had King Charles I's head cut off), but not a must-see destination.
Where the Chambers Bay U.S. Open will likely be different is that it wasn't already there. From what I can tell, it was built almost specifically for the 2015 U.S. Open. And, since it was first built, the course has been an economic drain:
Chambers Bay broke even in 2008, fueled by the initial interest of the course’s opening in June 2007. But it landed in the red each of the next four years, requiring a loan from the county’s equipment rental and revolving fund to make debt payments.

The annual deficit peaked in 2010 at $1.8 million, despite attracting national exposure that year by hosting the U.S. Amateur Golf Championship.
But, even $20 million in original construction cost and $2 million a year of operating loss, it would take some time to catch up with the $144 estimated economic benefit. But, not all that benefit would be going to the taxpayers broadly, who payed for the course. It would be going to the businesses (hotels and restaurants) that are set up to benefit from a large tourist event that benefit from the event.

Read more here:

Monday, June 16, 2014

Almost an hour of viewing on Olympia (Olyblogosphere for June 16, 2014)

1. This is a local blog, but not a local topic. Actually, its a pretty universal topic, but one that specifically refers to the D-Day anniversary. Mathias writes about history, and how we grow from it. Wonderful stuff.

2. Didn't you want to watch a 22 minute mini-documentary about SPSCC Basketball? You sure did. Its actually not too bad.

3. And, if that wasn't enough, a 30-minute web video on this season in Watershed Park.

4. Via Thad at Olyblog, the Olympia Food Co-op opens up about the entire not buying stuff from Israel topic. Which is like all of one product? Olive oil, right? 

Part 1: Overview
Part 2: Boycott FAQ
Part 3: Lawsuit FAQ

5.  And, from the Olympia flickr pool: Historic Alleyway.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Framing my own personal candidate questionnaire on internet access and court records

I like it when organizations send questions to candidates. Its a nice way to get them down on paper taking positions that they aren't likely bringing up on their own.I've though for awhile about putting together my own questionnaire, and two big areas seemed to pop out at me, PUDs and the internet and court records.

So, what I'm going to do is send these questions off to candidates and then, when I get some responses back, I'll post those.

Here's the question (or something similar) that I'm going to send to Public Utility District and legislative candidates. It is framed around the ideas I wrote about here.

1. PUDs are allowed by law to become wholesale internet service providers. With the already limited number of private companies providing internet access abandoning net nuetrality, we have the opportunity through our PUDs to help provide inexpensive and fair access.

Do you think the Thurston PUD should enter the broadband market? Also, do you think the state legislature should lift the ban of PUDs selling internet access direct to customers?

Here's the question that I'm going to send to legislative candidates and the two candidates for county clerk. I've written more on this topic here.

2. Court records are understood by common law to be public records. While they aren't specifically considered under Washington State's public records act, they are as important as any public document. 

Despite this, the cost to citizens to obtain copies of court records is prohibitive. For example, it costs nearly $30 for an electronic copy of a 16 page document. This is well above what would be considered reasonable for a similar document from any other part of government.

Should the legislature allow counties to charge the same amount for any public document, including court records?

Monday, June 09, 2014

Knute Berger, it isn't hypocrisy, it's a competition of political visions

Knute Berger is usually right.


But, not on this one:
Our current self-image is wrapped around the idea that we're better than other people, that we're more idealistic, more humane, more fair. Some of that is pure snobbery.

Some of it is idealism, a genuine desire to do good and do better. Mayor Ed Murray has said that he wants Seattle to be a role model for progressivism in the world, and the mayors before him, Mike McGinn and Greg Nickels, were largely on board with a similar agenda. But to accomplish that, we’d have to get a whole lot better at looking at the real costs and true values of all those economic engines we embrace. It’s time to reconsider our corporate heroes in a fresh light.
Berger is trying to point out that Seattle (or I think more accurately, urban Puget Sound... Pugetopolis, maybe...) says one thing but does another. While we fight for a $15 minimum wage, fight gravel mines in our back yard (and mines in Alaska), we roll over for Amazon and Boeing. We talk a nice game, but when it comes down to it, we're a bunch of corporate whores.

Sure, people are hypocrites. No one really lives in truth all the time. That's like saying the sun rises. But, pointing out hypocrisy hardly makes a good column.

In this case, Berger is being overly simplistic. Seattle (Pugetopolis and even Cascadia) is more diverse than he gives us credit for.

And, one of the deepest caverns of political difference in Pugetopolis (if you don't mind) is how we approach corporations. Back to the founding of our greater region of Cascadia, the issue of corporate power has divided us. It shaped the very founding document of Oregon, played a large part in early drafts of the Washington constitution and drove the history of entire cities. The early battles between Seattle and Tacoma often took the shape of battles between railroad companies.

At the founding of our region, there were two competing mindsets on corporate power and society. One from New England was very pro-industry and pro-corporation. The other, from the upper Ohio Valley and Appalachia was very nervous about the power of companies over communities.

These competing visions were the reasons they debated corporations during the Oregon constitutional convention. Its also why Berger can see hypocrisy in Puget Sound, when really what he's seeing is a century plus old political debate.

And, with any political debate, where the support is nearly evenly split, each side takes turns winning the day. When we raise the minimum wage its our anti-corporate (and anti-slave and anti-slavery) Appalachian history winning. When we give Boeing massive tax breaks, its our New England capitalistic history taking over.

And, these New England/Appalachian divides don't often follow modern political divisions, you can have Democrats acting like corporatists and you can have Republicans taking shots at Boeing.

When it looks like we're talking two different games, it is just our single regional identity working through one its largest issues, how we treaty corporations.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Working draft of "Cascadia Exists," the book I'll hopefully finish on our region next fall

I've been blogging on the Cascadia exists label for the past year or so. The point of the blogging was to examine Cascadia as it exists right now. Also, to point out like other well-defined American regions, how this regions really does stand out now.

I've taken a look at our politics, if we have a regional mood (we do, Cascadia Calm) and the unique way we approach religion.

These aren't a ton of posts, but they're beginning to form around four general ideas: religion, politics, personality and culture. So, what I'm going to try to do over the next few months is stitch together these pieces into a short ebook.

I've posted an editable version of the book online, so if you feel like it, give me a hand. Or, just give me your thoughts. I'll try to include as many thoughts as possible in the finished product.

Monday, June 02, 2014

Shores, truth, passion and cans of all sizes (Olyblogosphere for June 2, 2014)

1. Along the Shores of Puget Sound by "Bees, Birds and Butterflies." I have a different opinion about the SEAA, but overall, good post right here.

2. This isn't a very interesting blog post, but this is a very interesting blog. Or, it could be, if it grew beyond the one post. Homelessness is a big deal here in Olympia. It is nice to see someone putting the effort in to cover like this.

3. A local teacher tells us not everyone needs a four year degree. That's a very true thing. Not everyone needs a cup of coffee, but everyone does need to wake up. Everyone needs to find something true for their lives, it just isn't always with a mortarboard.

4. I'll admit, Shipwreck Beads and crafting in general is something I don't get. But, Jill of All Trades gets both things, so in recognition of her passion and skill, here's a link to a mystery to me.

5. My god. I never knew this. One of the garbage cans down at the falls park is a mother-loving Olympia can.  When did this happen?