Monday, March 30, 2015

After the US Open this summer, Pierce County will still be $17 million in debt over the golf course

About a year ago, I took a crack at figuring out how much economic sense the US Open at Chambers Bay this summer made.

Overall, the academic research, finds little evidence that large tournaments (like the Olympics) make economic sense to local communities. They're a loss leader. You pay to have them to bolster your reputation, not because you're going to make money.

But, golf tournaments are different apparently. This is because golf tournaments don't usually mean a community had to build a brand new golf tournament to host a major tournament.

In the case of Pierce County, Chambers Bay and the US Open, this is not what happened.

In fact, the Chambers Bay course was built specifically for the US Open:
The golfing world was stunned in 2008, when the United States Golf Association (USGA) made Chambers Bay the host of the U.S. Open. It just didn’t make sense. Only the most prestigious and hallowed courses were picked to host the national championship.

No course built in the previous 45 years had hosted an Open, yet Chambers Bay was picked after being open for about eight months.  
This was no fluke, though. It was years in the making...
This makes the Chambers Bay course more like an Olympic Stadium, leaving the county saddled with debt for the foreseeable future. It was only in the last few years that the course started paying for itself.

But, despite running in the black, the course still built up a fairly massive debt that it is yet to pay off.

The chart on page 44 of this document shows the various ways Piece County has built up debt throughout its budget.

Even after paying off more than half a million in Chambers Bay Golf Course debt this year, the county will still be in the hole $17 million on the course.

And, even from the county's own (self proclaimed conservative) model, the county budget will only see a $600,000 bump in taxes this year because of the U.S. Open. The vast majority of the additional taxes paid here because of the U.S. Open will go to other counties and the state:

  • The State of Washington: nearly $6.5 million 
  • King County: $2 million
  • City of Tacoma: more than $440,000 
  • The cities of DuPont, Lakewood, Puyallup, Fife and Gig Harbor: a combined $153,000

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Our man Joey DiJulio of Burien, the bachelor party and wedding in Philadelphia and the Cascadian Calm (among other regional personalities)

If you were paying attention last week, you saw this story:
For weeks, the man from the Seattle suburbs found himself getting emails from people he didn’t know about a bachelor party and a groom he’s never met. 
He saw names of Philadelphia landmarks like Reading Terminal Market thrown around in the emails but couldn’t put his finger on where they were located until he searched the names online. “I had no idea what any of these places are,” said DiJulio, 31, who’s never been to the Northeast. 
“After Googling them, everything was pointing to Philadelphia.” It turns out DiJulio, an information technology worker and a married father of one in Burien, Washington, had been mistaken for a friend of the groom with a similar last name. He sat as a “fly on the wall” for much of the email chain until Monday, when he broke the news after the groom’s brother wanted a headcount of people attending the party.
But it didn’t end there. Groom Jeff Minetti, 34, figured: Why not still invite him?
Well, why not indeed?

To me, the reason why not is obvious. You don't know this person. He could ruin your entire wedding. He's a stranger and you don't invite strangers to your wedding.

But, that's the Cascadian talking, and we're not talking about a Cascadian who invited DiJulio to the wedding. In fact, the Cascadian DiJulio was the one who quietly watched as strangers talked around him. He didn't chime in, he just waited.

This is the Cascadian Calm, the laid back, open and quiet regional personality that often gets described as the Seattle Freeze.

And, this is almost the polar opposite of the regional personality that DiJulio was dropped right in the middle of. In fact, Philadelphia is dead center inside a regional personality that has been described as "temperamental and uninhibited."

Here's another version of the same map, which shows the entire country in the same context.

Uninhibited makes sense here. It made total sense to the groom to invite the interloping and eavesdropping stranger.

Temperamental makes sense too. We usually think as temperamental as moody. As in "bad mood." But, in this case, it means almost unreasonably good mood. "Hey, you're a stranger that's just been listening in?? Yeah! You're invited too!"

But, it also means for that DiJulio, in contrast to the Cascadian Calm (which is very not temperamental), that there's another side of the coin. People get angry man. Just saying.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Solar, the clown and food are real. Cop humor and zombies are not (Olyblogosphere for March 23, 2015)

1.The Sky Like A Scallop Shell loves. I mean LOVES! Solarpunk. So, come as no surprise, Procession is Solarpunk.

2. Yeah sure, they were cute. But the who Zombie thing up at the campus was totally overblown. Style over substance and no, they did not take over "Olympia." Just the legislative building. And, they were lobbying for a tax cut. So boo.

3. Gale Hemmann writes up a neat post over at Thurston Talk. Seriously, the ethnic markets of Olympia and thereabouts.

4. I appreciate the effort. But, that's an embarrassing effort. I can imagine what you were going for, but not good.

5. And, this is worth linking to just because Jusby posted something. Our favorite clown!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Merging Smith Troy and Enoch Bagshaw

About exactly a year back I wrote about how Enoch Bagshaw, legendary Husky football coach, collapsed and died in my own city.

It turns out my favorite Olympia politician had his own had in forcing Bagshaw to Olympia. Smith Troy, who eventually was Thurston County prosecutor, and then state Attorney General, and savior of Olympia (in both senses), had a hand to play in Bagshaw's departure.

In the late 1920s Troy was student body president up at the University of Washington. There was apparently some sort of track team cabal that ran the student government back then, and they had it out for the football head coach.

It wasn't just a student uprising either, or at least not in the sense that it was students pressuring the school's leadership to do something. Bagshaw worked (in a sense) for the students. The student government funded the football team, and to a degree, they controlled Bagshaw's employment. It wasn't until the late 1930s when the student association reformed and the 1950s when they furthered themselves even more.

But, in the 1920s, Bagshaw was being forced out by the students, led by Smith Troy.

I don't know the subtext of the fight. Just that Troy was in the front of the student body as they fought to remove Bagshaw.

Now, while Troy conspired against Bagshaw in Seattle, Governor Roland Hartley was fighting a running battle with the Commissioner, the State Attorney General, the Thurston County Prosecutor and the various arms of his own transportation department. And, the courts. The courts got involved too.

To put thing in perspective, Hartley is our Hoover. On meth. A Republican fiddling while the state's economy comes crashing down around his ears. The last Republican in a long line of GOP dominance in our state, ushering in Democratic and centrist Republican rule for decades.

Hartley was mean, incredibly conservative and the battle between the other branches of government had turned into a turf war, each side trying to tear down the other's offices. To the point that Hartley had a hard time staffing his transportation office.

Hartley, an Everett conservative capitalist, had brought in Everett logger Fred Baker to run the show. He resigned, so Hartley went back to the Everett well and brought up Bagshaw, the former Everett High School football coach.

Bagshaw (and this is apparently not a lie) was also a civil engineer in his previous life before becoming a full time college coach.

Its likely Bagshaw would've died no matter what. He was probably already sick when he finally resigned from the U.

Smith Troy was just starting his life. He was wrapping up school about the same time Bagshaw wrapped up his gridiron career. A year after his death, Troy was getting married and starting his legal life under his brother, Thurston County prosecutor Harold Troy.

Monday, March 16, 2015

When did downtown (or rather old town) Olympia stop being a place where people lived?

We don't call downtown Olympia "old town," even though that's where the city grew from.

I'm not sure to what extent, but at a certain point in our history, the nature of downtown was much more residential than it is now. This is simply because no one in Olympia lived anywhere else. But, now downtown is the hole in Olympia's population donut.

If you take a look at historic views of the older parts of town, they sure do seem a lot more residential than they currently are. Downright suburban even. Single family homes dotting well laid out streets. But, now those blocks are mostly commercial or retails spaces, with a handful of high density housing.

I suppose now that I think about it, I'm not absolutely sure that if you compared raw numbers, there'd be more people in downtown in 1910 than right now. What residential housing we do have is high density.

But, what we did have back then in terms of residential use downtown was much closer and interwoven with commercial and even industrial uses.

I suppose that's my point: residential and commercial/industrial uses weren't terribly separated. We were still pretty far off from the point when an entire street would be dominated by just houses. Or, just stores. You couldn't drive anywhere, so if you couldn't walk, it was inconvenient.

I want to take a closer look at this. You can see from the Sanborn overlays I linked to above that this is generally true. I've emailed Brian Hovis, who put the maps together, and I want to see if I can play around with a version of his work to see if I can mark residential vs. non-residential and try to compare it to the current day.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Real estate of Kurt Cobain's life

If at least one of the houses that Kurt Cobain grew up in in Aberdeen won't sell, but is still priced above the average for the neighborhood, what do you assume the selling power of Cobain to be?

A house out on Delphi and still owned by Courtney Love, and the likely most local last resting place of Kurt Cobain,  has been off an on the market for years now. And, it still hasn't sold.

People know where Kurt Cobain lived and slept. But, it doesn't seem like we're at the point yet where that means anything extra. Other than noting that someone is trying to make a little bit more off of his name but can't.

Maybe we'll never reach that point of any historic value of the real estate.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Did Washington State politics change been 1928 and 1930?

Before the 1932 election, there was hardly a Democrat in the Washington state legislature. One Democrat in the senate in 1929, eight in the house (compared to 89 Republicans). Everything chanted in 1932 when the landslide went to the Democrats.

By 1935 (after the entire Senate has seen an election since 1932), the partisan split in the legislature was 37 to 9 Dems over Republicans in the senate and 91 to 8 in the house.

This isn't a new story in Washington State history, but one that bears investigating.

I'm mostly interested in this political flip because of my interest in Smith Troy. His political life began in the early 1930s. His brother's election as Thurston County prosecutor began with this Democratic wave.

One of the things I've read about the difference between 1928 and 1932 was voter turnout. Prior to 1932, Washington (as the story goes) was a politically ambivalent state. Its long history as a territory when leaders were appointed, not elected, led to a political culture in which most people stayed home. Our live and let live attitude extended to politics.

But, apparently, that all changed in 1932. People who did not vote in 1928 stormed the polls in 1932  in reaction to Republicans not handling the dire economic times well (both back east and at the state capitol),.

But, I'm not so sure its that, or if the vast majority of voters actually changed their votes to Democratic.

I'm not able to find some actual voter turnout data between 1928 and 1932, but I was able to figure out a raw voters per thousand number. They were 32.29 percent in 1928 and 38.81 percent in 1932. So, a bump of roughly 6.5 percent. I'd assume most of those 100,000 plus new voters went Democratic.

But, there also seems to be an erosion of traditional Republican voters between those four years. Republican votes declined by over 100,000 between the two elections, despite a modest increase in the state's population.

So, it was probably a combination of factors, including a wave a new voters. Anyway, just thinking out loud.

Monday, March 02, 2015

It isn't about a primary vs. a caucus, it really just is about what's best for the party

The proposal by Secretary of State Kim Wyman to hold a presidential nominating primary in Washington came with one interesting wrinkle. The partisan preferences of individual voters would become public. 

Now, I am leaning on my memory of previous caucus vs. primary fights, but this is the crux of the debate. Primaries are fine (according to the parties) but, they should serve the parties, not the voters. In this case, its a matter of making the primaries closed to only partisans. Or, at least partisans that will declare themselves publicly. 

In that case, the parties get nice updated lists of registered voters that will pick a side. And, those voters will get mailed to, hit up for donations and cajoled into supporting the parties and candidates.

And, unless those lists are strong (and with cross over voting allowed under the old system, they're not) its not worth it for the parties to go along (at least in large part). And, this is how we get the caucuses.

Because, if the parties can't get mailing lists, they should at least get volunteers.

This old presentation from the 2007/08 presidential season really spelled it out for me. While partisans will often talk about the grass-roots and participatory nature of the caucuses, what they're really about is foot soldier recruitment. If you find someone who is excited to attend a caucus, a good number of those folks will be good for other work.

From the presentation: 
Every four years thousands of new Democrats attend the caucuses.

Hundreds of them work on that year’s campaign for President, Governor, Congress, Legislature, and down the ticket.

After the election dozens of these new recruits come around to our monthly meetings.

By February or March or April a handful of new recruits are active in their local Democratic party.
Don't get me wrong. I'd rather have this political party than one that depends on mailings and over the air ads. It isn't bad to get people involved in politics and recruit foot soldiers. Some of my happiest and fulfilling public moments were at Democratic party meetings. Its good stuff.

But, don't also mistake that if the parties do commit to closed primaries here, that they're going to replace the excitement of the caucuses with some other sort of grass-roots event. It will not happen. They delegates will be chosen by a state-funded primary, all the energy from the caucuses will be lost.