Thursday, January 29, 2015

Does anyone have a nice drone they'd like to take out and recreate Olympia's famous bird's eye view?

Wouldn't you want an updated version of this view?

You don't need me out there with you. But, let me show you what I came up with about seven years ago:

The only real hard thing was coming up with where today you'd need to be to find this view. The change in the city's shoreline since the 1870s makes it almost impossible to spit ball it. But, if you take a look at this KMZ file in Google Earth, you can find a nearly where the perspective of the original birds eye view takes you.

Now seven years ago I poked around, trying to find a nice perch to take the same perspective from. I came up with a few good options, but ran out of time and interest to follow any of them up.

So, this is where you come in dear anonymous drone owner.

Since 2007, drones have arrived. Nice, inexpensive (somewhat) drones that people own and use. So, taking an hour or so, flying around the perspective line, I bet someone could come up with a nice recreation of the birds eye view photo.

And, when you do, would you mind emailing it to me? That would be awesome!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Paywall to Public Records update: Still nothing going on

Thurston County sent out a press release recently that seems to be pointing in the right direction. Actually nothing at all though:

"Implementation of this integrated document management system will provide easy access to court documents, the ability to store documents locally and is cost effective to maintain. This system will benefit all parties involved." said Enlow.
You know, except the public.

What Enlow is talking about here is an internal document and work management system between the various threads of the local legal system. Judges, bureaucrats and the clerk being all on the same, updated system.  But, this -- as far as I can tell -- is an inward facing system. It doesn't do anything to provide public access to records within the court system.

And (I note in a very self referential manner) is a problem in Washington State.

We have strong laws protecting public access to public records in this state. Except when it comes to records in our courts. There is a clear common law (legal tradition) in that court records are public, but we're charge exorbitant prices for court filings. In one case, I could've paid $30 for a 16 page document for a case concerning a ballot initiative.

The reason behind this paywall is a state law amended ten years ago that allow county clerks to charge a steep price for digital public records, well beyond the costs allowed by our other state public records laws.

Not every county collects these fees. Whatcom County stands out as a local government that allows free access to its citizens. According to the Whatcom County clerk, Dave Reynolds, this both lowers costs to his staff, but also provides free access (yeah!) regardless of income.

The Case Management System of Superior Courts referred in the press release above was literally the most prominent issue in the clerk race last year. The eventual winner wanted to join the statewide system now being developed. The loser wanted a home-brewed system.  Literally an entire race bent on which backroom computer system the clerks and courts should use.

I'd rather we spend our time opening up public records to the public. We should either pull back the 2005 law change or ask our clerks to be more like Whatcom.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Why is Crosscut so bad at metonymy of Olympia, but the Spokane paper so good?

I'm not going to bother really trying to prove this observation with numbers. But, here's how my headline reading brain had divided up the legislative coverage and use of the term Olympia:

  • Crosscut is horrible. Replete with Olympia this, Olympia that.
  • Most of the rest are okay. Usually "in Olympia" sort of things. The Seattle Times is the biggest example I can bring up in my memory.
  • The Spokesman Review's Spin Control blog is the best. They officially use the WAleg hashtag (minus the #) in their blog headlines instead of the classic "Olympia:" starter.

But, why is Crosscut the worst at using the term Olympia in a way that makes me mad?

For as much talk as their is about "a new model of journalism" (and I think Crosscut is doing a pretty good job at what they do), Crosscut was founded by a lot of well meaning people from a previous generation of Seattle well-doers.

And, I think that's the point. Using Olympia as a shorthand for state government, the legislature or even the governor, seems to be a practice of people who have been around Puget Sound politics for awhile. Olympia is down there, its nearby, it is where politics on a certain level happen in this state.

Olympia is close enough to know it is there, but to also misunderstand.

The Spokesman Review, on the other hand, is literally geographically removed from this. Olympia is not nearby. It might as well (and historically likely could have been) practically been in another state. Olympia is not a placemark for people outside of the Puget Sound. So, when it comes to state government, or the legislature, they are literally the state government and the legislature.

So, if you've gotten to the end of this piece and you have no idea at all what I'm talking about, follow the "metonymy of Olympia" link directly under the headline and see how far you can read.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Left undone or not done well at all (Olyblogosphere for January 19, 2015)

1. Washington, our home, talks about posts left unfinished.

2. Stuff With October brings you a mildly infuriating floor tile somewhere in Olympia

3. If you don't know Mathias Eichler and the massive impact he's had on Olympia in a short time, then getting researching. Most of that impact seemingly is in the past, but he's still around and kicking. Catch up with his 2014.

4. The best blog in Olympia is doing Olympia Visions. Awesome. Simply awesome.

5. Birds, Bees, and Butterflies and their Owls in the Ravines.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Let's bring HB 1711 back from the dead and unleash municipal broadband in Washington

A couple of days ago, the White House called out 19 state laws that inhibit local governments from tearing down barriers to internet access. Embarrassingly, one of those laws is in Washington State. Sprinkled throughout our RCWs are specific prohibitions preventing local governments (like PUDs or port districts) from selling internet access directly to consumers.

While local governments can set up internet networks, they have to find a middleman (like a local ISP) to take a cut and then sell to consumers. These are the same customers that (as taxpayers) are paying for the backbone of these networks anyway.

While a few local PUDs are getting around these prohibitions by providing free public wifi, this retail prohibition is a major stumbling block to broadband access in Washington State.

Now, President Obama wants it gone. And, it turns out that in 2011 a handful of Washington legislators wanted it gone too. HB 1711 would have erased the prohibitions to local governments to provide internet access to their citizens. The bill saw public hearings during the 2011 and 2012 legislative sessions. But, it never even received a vote out of committee.

Muninetworks wrote a nice roundup of who opposed the bill then:
The bill's opponents may be separated into two groups. The first is the usual gang of big, absentee corporations like CenturyLink, Frontier, and Comcast that typically oppose any legislation that could create competition to their services. They have a ton of lobbying power and very little desire or capacity to solve the rural broadband problem in Washington state. 
The second group is more interesting. It is a collection of local businesses that are actually rooted in the community. Many are ISPs that operate on existing wholesale-only networks owned by public utility districts. They are afraid of either being kicked off the network or having to compete against the PUD itself in provisioning services. These are certainly legitimate fears. 
Unfortunately, the small providers are also limited in the capacity to build the necessary networks needed to bring modern connections to everyone in the state. Offering service on an existing PUD network requires far less capital than building their own network. If the state wants to move toward a Washington where all residents and businesses have fast, affordable, and reliable access to the Internet, it has to risk upsetting the small ISPs. They do not have the capacity to connect rural Washington; the public utility districts and local governments have not just the capacity, but also the responsibility. It is time for the state to stop making it all but impossible for them to do so.
But, now the debate has changed. It isn't just an argument about whether areas can be served by internet providers. Even in cases where a local ISP provides access to publicly provided infrastructure (not even considered data on cell phones and satellite internet), people are getting online. Largely.

The debate now is about net neutrality. Corporate providers are throttling speeds, giving preference to the data they want to see go through. This is antithetical to the idea of the free flow of information in our country.

We have free public libraries and an open public postal service because information has to flow in a democracy. In Washington, we don't have to wait for the FCC to do the right thing. We can do it right now by bringing the ideas behind HB 1711 back.

Previous posts:
Olympia and Thurston should follow Poulsbo and Kitsap's lead (at the very least) and what your PUD candidates think about that

The Thurston County PUD, local internet, net neutrality and the next fight

Monday, January 12, 2015

Welcome to Olympia 2015

Welcome to Olympia legislators, reporters, lobbyists, staffers and other hangers-on! Here are just a few simple rules. We'll get through the next few months, just:

1. When you're talking about the state legislator, the governor's office, the governor himself or a state agency (of any sort), don't say Olympia. 

This is metonymy (press as media, etc). I know what it is. I don't like it and you shouldn't do it.

2. Its okay to say "down in Olympia" or "I went to Olympia to..." but I'd still rather you not. They're so darn close to "Olympia wants to raise our taxes" that its better just to be more specific.

Why is this a bad thing? Just to recap:

1. State legislators are elected by people all over the state. They happen to come to Olympia. Pretty simple. Lay the blame (or credit) on the feet of who deserves it. The people who vote, from all over the state.

From the Metonymy of Olympia Archives:

Welcome to Olympia 2014 graphic

The Welcome to Olympia zine

The very first Metonymy and Olympia post from 2007 (!)

Holy crap, I just realized I've been on this kick for eight years! Man, I am pretty insufferable, aren't I?

I suppose it begs the question as to why this sort of thing bugs me so much. Why does a random political headline writer going all "Olympia to Seattle: Pay Your Own Bills" bugs me so much. Probably because I don't see Olympia as a particularly political town. That we're anything special in regards to government.

Sure, obviously, I know a lot of people who work for state agencies, the legislature or something else related. But to me, that's more like everyone in town working for just the one big employer in town. Its where we work, not how we live.

Also, it isn't like the way we live here is as some cabal looking to screw the rest of the state. The people who make the actual decisions (guess what) are elected every two or four years and come from out of town.

So, welcome to Olympia. Don't say Olympia.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

How we've biked and walked around Olympia since 1990 has changed

I love the different ways you can poke around census data anymore. One of the coolest of these little tools is the commuter edition of the Census Explorer.

Take a few screen shots from the tool, and you get a clear look at how our ways of getting to work and around town has changed since 1990.

Take walking around town.




The darker the color, the more people who walk, the highest concentration being in the central part of town, where over the decades about a quarter of people walk to work. But, over time in the outlying areas, fewer people walk. This is except for a couple of neighborhoods (far Southwest and nearby Westside) where a few more are walking.

For me, walking to commute means that over time we're building walkable neighborhoods, places where people can find what they need on foot. While downtown and South Capitol seem to be a stronghold like this, the rest of town seems to be getting worse.

Now, for bikes, the story is different.

1990, starts out very slow, hardly anyone bikes (light green is less than 5 percent, tan less than 1 percent):

2000, not much better. Actually, kind of worse:

2012 shows a real marked increase. A full 10 percent of Westsiders bike commute, while 5 percent of downtown and 7 percent in the near Eastside bike.

So, while we seem to be going backwards in terms of promoting walking, biking seems to be getting a boost from public policies around bicycles.

I didn't realize this, but Olympia has a fairly short history in carving out space for bikes, the first bike lane was up East Bay Drive in 1984. Today, there are more than 30 miles of bike lanes. And, almost every single major plan developed by the city in terms of city growth and capital spending has included a bike component.

Bikes at least on the surface, seem to be a replacement for cars. At least for people who would be driving themselves. Biking can be encouraged through infrastructure changes it seems. But, walking is a different beast. You have to have someplace to walk (in addition to a nice sidewalk) somewhere near you. So, we need to encourage bigger things, like putting businesses near homes, services near where the people are. Which seems different than adding bikes lanes.

Monday, January 05, 2015

Plenty of sound (Olyblogosphere for January 5, 2015)

1. The first item isn't even an item, but an entire podcast. Rutledge Radio! If that name isn't familiar to you, just live here a few more months and it'll come to you.

2. The second item is not even an item, but (yet another) entire podcast. Out of the Fridge! Holy Crap. Two hours of podcast in one episode? Really guys?

3. All eyes on the old brewery from Janine.

4. This post from Olympia's best blog makes me feel all warm inside. Merry Christmas to me!

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Because of Sue Gunn (not Bud Blake), maybe an independent can win in the 22nd LD

When Budd Blake won a county commission seat in Thurston County after running without a party label, it got me thinking again about political labelling and political organizations. From what I can tell, Blake wasn't a true independent. He won with the backing of what really is the conservative organization in Thurston County, nominally Republican, pro-growth (building industry) and pro-property rights.

On the other hand, in a non-partisan race recently, another sort of independent won. Sue Gunn was pretty much an antiestablishment candidate. From what I found when I looked at her returns was a candidate that spanned both traditionally very liberal and very conservative voters.

Just some background reading before we get into the meat of this post:

Sue Gunn won uniting the non-establishment middle in Thurston County, traditional Republican voters who didn't like public subsidies for private business and traditional Democrats who felt the same.

This is pretty different than the type of voter that I see going for Budd Blake. Granted, there were a few traditional Democrats, but they were further in the establishment middle, the ones who were comfortable voting for a business friendly centrist against an environmentalist liberal.

But, now look at Sue Gunn's returns in 2013 when you narrow them down to the 22nd LD. Its a given that Gunn was running in a local only election in 2013, there was very little on the ballot that drove partisan leanings. But, she did eke out an 51 percent victory in the precincts that make up the 22nd LD.

And, if you assume that the current seat-holders in the 22nd are more like Jeff Davis (who lost to Gunn), you could see a roadmap of how a Gunn-like independent could win.

There's probably a lot more I could do with the data, finding out exactly how Gunn won how she did in the 22nd. Did she win over both traditional Republican and Democratic voters? Or did all of her support in the 22nd come from traditional Democrats? I'd assume if it was the latter, it would be harder to pull enough support in a partisan race.