Regional parks meeting cancelled – -lack of interest cited

June 30th, 2015 by Ken

A regional parks meeting, called by the Thurston County Commissioners, has been cancelled due to lack of attendance by local elected officials.

County Commissioners had called a meeting, Tuesday evening,  of all city council members in Olympia, Lacey, Tumwater as well as Yelm and Tenino, for the purpose of assessing interest in creating a Metropolitan Parks District.

The parks district as suggested by the commissioners would encompass all of Thurston County.   The law establishing parks districts allows the collection of additional property taxes to fund aquisition, development and maintenance and operations of parks.

Commissioners said the money could be used for regional parks such as the Isthmus and LBA Woods Park as examples of the money’s use.

When commissioners were informed that many of the city council members would be unable to attend, they cancelled the meeting.

While lack of interest may have been the reason stated – - I suspect that those elected officials outside of Olympia, weren’t full of trust that the commissioners would allocate the funds in the best way.

The City of Olympia is currently looking at creating its own Metropolitan Parks District and is having trouble convincing the public that it will spend the money wisely.  I suspect that same feeling holds true on the larger scale.

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Lacey History Month – Festivals

June 30th, 2015 by Ken

In February 1999, the Lacey Thurston County Chamber of Commerce voted to cut all ties with the Lacey Spring Fun Fair, which had been supported by the chamber for 12 years.   The chamber board said staff time and effort could be put to better use.   Later, the City of Lacey took up the festival banner and continues to be the prime sponsor of the event.

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Ryder was right to wait

June 30th, 2015 by Ken

Lacey mayor Andy Ryder has been an effective mayor.  He’s usually scripted and ready for just about anything.   But recently the mayor was caught off guard.

Case in point is the recent flap over a plastic bag ban in Lacey.   Last month, the Lacey City Council voted to uphold the plastic bag ban by a 4-3 vote, with the mayor voting in favor.   The swing vote on the council was Michael Steadman.

Steadman had said on more than one occasion that he wanted to find out the feelings of the public on the issue, but didn’t want to put a measure on the November ballot because it cost too much money – some $2500.

At its last council meeting, a group of individuals offered to give the city $2500 to pay the cost of the election.

Mayor Ryder said such an action was highly unusual and opted to wait until the full council could have another discussion on the matter.

The city attorney said that he didn’t think accepting the money was wrong – but perhaps there needed to be a policy put in place before the city took the money.

Ryder isn’t often caught unaware.   Lacey City Manager Scott Spence usually does a good job of keeping him informed.

But a citizen group providing money for an election is highly unusual.

Ryder was right to wait.   The city needs to know all of the ramifications of its action.  But accepting the money for the cost of the election seems to be a way to satisfy the council’s desire to know what the public thinks about the plastic bag ban.

The council shouldn’t wait too long to take action on the offer.  The deadline for getting the measure on the fall ballot is approaching.

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Gay marriage revolution

June 29th, 2015 by Ken

Two decades ago, less than 20 percent of all Americans believed that gays and lesbians should be able to marry.

Today, more than two-thirds of all Americans believe that marriage for gays and lesbians is a right, and this past week the Supreme Court of the United States agreed and made gay marriage legal in all  50 states.

Why the change?   Why did Americans change their collective opinions in less than 20 years?

The answer really isn’t complicated.


Over the past decade, in television show after television show, gay and lesbian characters have been present in dozens of comedy and drama series.   Writers of these shows have been able to depict gay and lesbian characters as real, as human and as full of love and folly as the rest of us.

Minds are molded by common culture.   As gay and lesbian characters are presented in a matter-of-fact way, it becomes acceptable to those who get their entertainment and education from the entertainment media.

Support for gay rights followed.   Support for full rights will also follow.

Never underestimate the impact that the media and common culture holds.

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Lacey History Month – Gangs

June 26th, 2015 by Ken

November 11, 1993 – More than a thousand people jammed the St. Martin’s Pavilion to protest the killing of a 13-year old Lacey boy in an apparent gang killing.   Police, school, city and social leaders were on hand to listen and respond.   From that meeting came the creation of  TOGETHER as an anti-gang, anti-violence organization.   As the gang threat declined over the years, Together morphed into other forms of community action and is still active today.

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Lacey History Month – business mistake

June 26th, 2015 by Ken

1996 – In its hurry to approve changes in the Growth Management Act, the Lacey City Council zoned 29 businesses along Martin Way – out of business.  As approved by the council, all automotive oriented businesses were declared non-conforming.   Realizing its mistake, the council saw the errors of its way and reversed its action.

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Metro parks district subject of county meeting

June 26th, 2015 by Ken

While the City of Olympia debates the merit of creating a city-wide Metropolitan Parks District, Thurston County Commissioners have called for a county-wide parks district.

To that end, they have invited elected officials from around the county to a meeting on Tuesday, June 30 to discuss the idea.

Changes in state law have made it easier to form metro parks districts and several dozen cities and counties have done so in the last few years.   A parks district allows it to collect additional property taxes for the purpose of supporting parks, buying new park land, improving parks and maintenance and operations of parks.

Thurston County Commissioners are considering action to place a Metropolitan Parks District on the fall ballot.   The money to be used for regional parks such as purchase and restoration of the old Olympia Brewhouse, development of the isthmus park in downtown Olympia or buying the LBA Woods for a park  – - among other regional park ideas.

Local elected officials are invited to a conversation on the issue beginning at 5:30 p.m. in Bldg 1 Rm 280 of the Thurston County Courthouse on Tuesday.

I suspect that private citizens can also attend.

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Lacey History Month – Hawks Prairie name

June 24th, 2015 by Ken

July 1997 – The Lacey City Council, concerned about how to connect the newly annexed property of Hawks Prairie into Lacey – - determined that the name  Hawks Prairie would be eliminated from all maps and all conversation.   Instead of Hawks Prairie,  the name would become – - North East Lacey. – -   Tell that to all the businesses now located in Hawks Prairie.

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Frare starts campaign for Lacey council seat

June 24th, 2015 by Ken

Before a small group of family and friends, Wednesday at the Lacey Conference Center, Bill Frare started his campaign for the city council seat currently held by Jeff Gadman.

This civil engineer and president of the Schilter Farm Homeowners Association said his priorities on the council would be – -accountable government – economic development -  improved transportation – and environmental stewardship.

Frare talked about two of those priorities.    He said the council disregarded the public’s viewpoint when it re-approved a plastic bag ban, despite a survey which showed a majority of Lacey residents opposed to the ban.   The failure of the city to put the issue on the ballot because of the cost, drew his ire.  “$2500 is a small price to pay for democracy,” he said.

On the transportation front, Frare was disappointed that the city hasn’t begun construction of the College Street project and talked about the danger that children have walking along College Street on the small sidewalks.

He also took the council to task for delaying the city’s street overlay project.  “It’s inexcusable that they couldn’t find the money for that project,” Frare said.  “In the long run it saves the city money.”

This is Frare’s first run at any elective office.

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Lacey History Month – Belltowers

June 23rd, 2015 by Ken

In 1998 the Lacey 2000 Committee was looking at creating a sense of community by tying the various parts of the city together.   Belltowers were determined to be the best idea for that concept.   Belltowers would sprout up at various locations around Lacey.   The city would build the first one at Sleater-Kinney and Sixth Avenue.   It was never constructed because the city couldn’t get the property it needed to construct the tower – but Belltown Plaza on Sixth Avenue is named for it.   The only tower that was constructed is at College Street and Lacey Boulevard.

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Lacey History Month – Chlorine

June 22nd, 2015 by Ken

In June 2004, the City of Lacey added chlorine to its water supply for the first time.  Four months earlier routine tests had detected coliform bacteria in the water supply.    While Olympia had added chlorine to its water for years, Lacey residents prided themselves on their sweet tasting city water.   The addition of chlorine resulted in safe drinking water but an up-surge in the  purchase of  bottled water by Lacey residents.

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Lacey History Month – Richard’s Roundhouse

June 19th, 2015 by Ken

Opened in 1974, one of the most unique buildings in Lacey went up  in Market Square – - Richard’s Roundhouse.   Built of bricks and in the round, the building echoed the roundhouses used by trains.   Included in the building was the dining car from President Harry Truman’s 1948 Whistlestop tour around the country – which resulted in his upset presidential election.  In its early years it was the “in” place for party goers.  Financial setbacks led to the eventual closing.   Several different owners tried to make a go of the nightclub – - including Vi Childs, Jim Manning and Johnny Lewis.  In 1992, new owner Bob Blume had the building torn down and replaced with a modular bank building – which still sits in the Fred Meyer complex.    Part of the dinning car currently rests  in Oakville.

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Water mitigation efforts nears end

June 19th, 2015 by Ken

In 2005 the City of Lacey was running out of water.   New construction was impossible without water.   The city issued an order – - no water to developments outside the city limits.   Even though Lacey had always supplied water to housing in its Urban Growth Area (UGA) – - it now said – no more.

By 2008, the water issue had become so critical, that even developments within the city limits were having trouble getting water.

For a decade, Lacey had asked the Department of Ecology (DOE)  for permission to pump more water from the ground and allow it to build new wells.  Ecology didn’t really answer, but it delayed granting any permits saying it didn’t have the staff to handle the request.   Lacey was so desperate to get the permits that it even offered to pay Ecology for staff to process the permits.

Then an opportunity presented itself.   The City of Olympia received its water from an open source at McAllister Springs.   Ecology ordered Olympia to find another source of water saying the open springs was too close to railroad tracks and was susceptable to possible oil spills.

Then, an opportunity presented itself.   LOTT was looking for sources to use its reclaimed water.    An agreement was reached with the Nisqually and Squaxin tribes  and with the cities of Lacey, Olympia and Yelm for a mitigation agreement.

Nearly $5 million dollars would be spent to mitigate the impact on the DesChutes River and Woodland Creek watershed from the drilling of new wells.   It was a complicated agreement.

Money would be spent for habitat mitigation in the area.   Lacey would purchase land on the DesChutes and on Woodland Creek, that would remain free of development.

Lacey would take the reclaimed water generated from the LOTT plant on Martin Way and pump it to a site in the Woodland Creek Park.   The city spent nearly a million dollars laying purple pipe along Carpenter Road to a reclaimed water discharge facility at the park.

After spending nearly $3.4 million dollars, the four-acre   water reclaimed site south of Woodland Creek Park and just north of the Woodland Trail, opened to fanfare and dignitaries.   The Department of Ecology was pleased and touted the entire effort as an example of teamwork between multiple partners to a complex water resource challenge.

With the  initial signing of the agreement, the City of Lacey drilled new wells and began issuing building permits.  Olympia drilled new wells and severed its relationship with surface water sources.   Yelm got the opportunity to get new water right permits.

With the opening of the reclaimed water discharge area this week, the mitigation of impact on Woodland Creek and the DesChutes river watershed  is almost finished.


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More time with students is key to learning

June 17th, 2015 by Ken

North Thurston school superintendent Raj Manhas has been following the legislative debate about lower class size and has his own ideas on education.

“Class size is significant,” Manhas said during a Coffee With Ken interview Wednesday, “but spending more time with teachers in the classroom is most important.”

If he had his way, Manhas said that schools would extend the school year and maybe look seriously at year-round schools.

To hear the entire interview with Manhas, click on the Coffee With Ken button above, after Thursday.

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Lacey History Month – signs

June 17th, 2015 by Ken

In 1992 the City of Lacey adopted the most restrictive sign ordinance in the state – - and maybe in the entire country.   Led by Mayor Bill Bush, the ordinance forbid almost every type of pole sign, restricted the size of signs on buildings and made flags, banners and other types of on-street advertising illegal.  Over the decades some minor changes were made to the ordinance despite efforts from the business community for greater changes.   This year – - thanks to the election of four pro-business council members – - including mayor Andy Ryder, many significant changes were made in the ordinance.   The sign ordinance is still restrictive but does allow some flexibility.

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Lacey History Month – streets

June 16th, 2015 by Ken

While most streets in Lacey are numbered, there are some unique street names.   In the Midway addition by North Thurston High School, all the streets are named after ships which fought in the Battle of Midway in 1942.   In the Belair subdivision off College, many of the streets are named for types of Chevy cars.   In Tanglewilde the streets are named after football teams.  And, in Clearbrook, the streets are named after horse-racing terms or tracks.

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Farmer kicks off Port race

June 16th, 2015 by Ken

An impressive list of public officials took the podium Tuesday morning to help kickoff  Jerry Farmer’s race for the Olympia Port Commission.

Among those taking the stand were Secretary of State Kim Wyman, Thurston County Commissioner Bud Blake and former Lacey Mayor Graeme Sackrison.  (Note: a Republican, an Independent and a Democrat.)

Speaking before a group of about 50 supporters, Farmer said his entry into politics and the port race was just a continuation of his community involvement.

His primary emphasis will be on jobs, Farmer said, which is a key role for the port.    He also took  a shot at those who want to stop the port’s operations saying they represented just a small portion of the community.


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Lacey History Month – Kite Girl

June 15th, 2015 by Ken

Nancy the Kite Girl – which was installed on Pacific Avenue in December 1999 – had been a problem for drivers.   Since it was put in place  – in the middle of the street at ground level – it has been hit more than a dozen times and has caused other drivers to think it was a little girl running in the streets.   Three months later, the city moved Nancy on top of a pedestal where she still sits today.

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Lacey History Month – Wal-Mart

June 15th, 2015 by Ken

June is Lacey History Month.   In keeping with that theme we’re going to point out significant events in the city’s history.

In December 2002, the Lacey Planning Commission voted 4-3 to allow construction of a Wal-Mart store on the Yelm Highway.   In April 2003, the Lacey City Council voted 5-2 against the store’s construction.

(Later the council voted to approve the store’s construction as part of a larger development and this year the new Wal-Mart opened it’s doors to customers.)

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New port commissioner selected

June 11th, 2015 by Ken

Wednesday evening Olympia Port commissioners Bill McGregor and George Barner  selected Michelle Morris to fill the vacant port commission seat.   She was selected from eight applicants and will hold the seat until the General Election is certified in November.

McGregor originally nominated Fred Finn for the seat   “He was the best person for the job,” McGregor said.   Unable to get a second for the nomination, Barner nominated Morris.  McGregor seconded her nomination.

“George was adamant that he wanted Morris and wasn’t going to budge from that selection,” McGregor said.   “If I hadn’t seconded the nomination and voted for her, I’m certain the county commissioners would have had to make the selection, and that’s the last thing I wanted,” he said.

Since Morris had not filed for election to that seat in the General Election, she will be replaced by whomever wins the election in November.

Those in the race for the seat are:  Bob Jones, Larry Goodman, Jerry Farmer and E.J. Zita.   That list of four will be narrowed down to two in the August Primary Election.

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