Can you really believe the polls?

October 18th, 2020 by Ken

American political pollsters have been under fire every since they blew the 2016 Presidential Election and failed to predict the ascension of Donald Trump to the top elective seat in the country.  There are nearly two dozen national pollsters operating in the United States,  and all of them predicted that Hillary Clinton would win.

That national embarrassment sent them back to their process and a better understanding of the national make-up.  They did better in the 2018 election and predicted the Democrats would take control of the House and the Republicans would retain control of the Senate, but they weren’t as certain in their process as they had been in the past.

I’m not going to bore you with what they did, what they did wrong, and what they’ve changed, but it had to do with the arrogance of the educated elite.  In the past, most polling had been done in major cities without a thought to the rural areas.  Most polling had been done by educational universities which concentrated its polling to those with college educations.  Trump’s election showed that those without a college degree also vote and had often been ignored by the pollsters.

In the past, many pollsters used phone interviews because it was easier.  They could do robo calls until they reached a real live person.  By law, they cannot use robo calls on cell phones.  Now, nearly 90 percent of all Americans have a cell phone.  Those with land line are predominately older (I’m not going to use the word elderly).

Polling in 2020 is still trying to determine its future.  And, while it will be better this year, it is still unreliable as a predictor of the present.

By the way.  We have a well-known local pollster who many cities and counties hire to do survey work on controversial local matters like taxes.    In the past decade, I have been called by this firm at least half a dozen times.   I’m going to tell you a secret.  I always lie.  No matter what the question, I lie about my answer.  When you see that “margin of error” as 2- 3 or even 4 percent.  I’m that margin of error.

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What is packing the court anyway?

October 13th, 2020 by Ken

Republicans are making a mistake to refer to the efforts by Democrats to add more justices to the United States Supreme Court – as Packing the Court.  Most voters have no idea what that means.  Using that term plays into the hands of the Democrats who are now accusing the Republicans of packing the court by appointing conservative judges.

Instead, Republicans should say that Democrats want to add more justices to the United States Supreme Court so a President Biden can appoint more liberal justices.

Explain to the voters that adding more justices is rare and unusual.  That adding more justices increases costs and  results in delays in getting opinions and that the effort is a blanket threat to voters not to vote Republican.

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Boiling down the governor’s race

October 8th, 2020 by Ken

The most interesting debate Wednesday night wasn’t the Vice Presidential debate, it was the debate for Washington State Governor.  Incumbent governor Jay Inslee is running for a third-term as governor while his challenger is little known City of Republic Police Chief Loren Culp.

Only one other Washington state governor has served more than two terms and that was Republican Dan Evans, who has been slowly recognized as one of our best governors ever and who brought along several appointees with him who have gone on to be recognized public figures in their own right including Ralph Munro and Slade Gorton.

Inslee’s effort to retain his seat and get another four-years smacks of a need of his to stay in the public arena and fight his effort to combat climate change, his main issue in his run for President of the United States last year.  His concern for the citizens of the state seem secondary to his need for the limelight.

The debate between Culp and Inslee pointed out the weakness in both men.  It has boiled down to the incompetence of Inslee and the lack of competence in Culp.

Inslee has shown his incompetence time and time again.  Culp pointed out many of them.  His lack of leadership on mental health issues resulted in the closure of the state’s major mental health hospital – Western State – and the loss of $100 million dollars in federal aid.   His lack of concern for the state’s infrastructure from failing bridges to state forest management.   His unwillingness to support law enforcement and provide leadership during the Seattle riots.  He also spent a year and millions of dollars in his quixotic effort to become president.

Culp, on the other hand, has very little experience in the public sector – as his supporters like to point out.  A situation that has positive and negative qualities.  I liked the guy, but as the debate wore on, I saw how conservative he really was.  While he manifests some of the same qualities as Donald Trump, he isn’t Trump and doesn’t seem to have Trump’s ego.

So – it boils down to one simple question.  Do you want to vote for the incompetence we know.  Or do you want to vote for the competence we don’t know?

 

 

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You’re never too old to be a genius

October 5th, 2020 by Ken

When I was a young man I often thought that I should be awarded a MacArthur Fellowship Grant, more commonly known as a MacArthur Genius Grant.

Awarded annual by the John D and Katherine T MacArthur Foundation – the grant is given annually to 20-30 Americans working in many different fields of  endeavor.  Currently the grant is $625,000.  Its purpose is to free those with extreme talent from having to worry about making money and instead being able to concentrate on their work.

Since I will shortly be 78 years of age, I’ve begun to suspect that I’ve grown too old to recognized by the Foundation.

Until recently.

That’s when I read about Arthur Ashkin, who won a Noble Prize at the age of 96.  He worked at AT&T labs as a researcher for 40 years and saw many of his contemporaries win Noble Prizes in their field.   He said that he just thought he wasn’t as smart as the other guys in his research lab.  He retired in 1992 but continued his work in his basement lab.  In 2018, the Nobel committee recognized his work with photons and awarded him his Nobel Prize.

He was quoted as saying ,the Nobel Committee thought   “Oh he’s a smart guy.  Guess we’d better accept his paper before it was iffy.”  Ashkin died this year at the age of 98.

But, it gave me hope.  If he could win a Nobel Prize at 96, maybe there’s still time for me to win a MacArthur Genius Grant.

I guess the only thing standing in my way now is – – – you have to be a genius.

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Why “The Olympian” failed

September 25th, 2020 by Ken

By Danny Stusser

(Danny Stusser is the former owner and publisher of Coffee News.  He has started a new on-line newspaper called www.theJOLTnews.com.  He has written an 11 page letter to the community about his publication and why its needed.  It has been edited here for content and space.)

When I moved my family to Olympia in 1995 there were about 30 reporters and editors working at The Olympian, and the population of Thurston County was about half what it is today.  In those days, one could expect that at any public meeting there would be a reporter taking notes and maybe a photographer.  Today, (before the Pandemic) it would be a happy occasion if we saw one.

With only two reporters (as early as this past March) The Olympian can’t possibly cover everything.  Now they have four reporters, better, but still not enough.

Don’t get me wrong.  I still subscribe to The Olympian and I’m grateful it’s still in business.  I recommend that you subscribe too.

None of the problems of The Olympian are the fault of anyone who works there now or in any year since 1971 when the family owners sold the business to Gannett Company  the largest newspaper publisher in the United States.  In order to buy the paper, like other national news businesses it purchased, the company took on debt to make the acquisitions.

In 2005 Gannett traded The Olympian to Knight Ridder another national chain.  The next year Knight Ridder was sold to The McClatchy Company in another leveraged buyout and took on over $2 billion in debt to get that deal done.

The end of the McClatchy story is this.  The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in February 2020.  Millions of dollars in legal fees later, on September 4, company ownership was transferred to the company’s largest debtor for $312 million.  The new owner is Chatham Asset Management which is usually described as a hedge fund and is located in Chatham, News Jersey.

Articles in the New York Times spelled out what happened when Chatham took control of Postmedia the largest newspaper chain in Canada.   They shut down 30 newspapers in the chain and laid off 1600 employees.   According to The Times, national and political coverage is prepared at a central site and inserted in its remaining papers.

But, it isn’t just sale and resale of newspapers that has led to the decline in The Olympian.

Craiglist took away the classified advertising business which accounted for nearly 40 percent of a newspaper’s business.  Social media which printed and reprinted what passes as news stories drew away subscribers who thought they were getting actual local news.  The spiral started   When once The Olympian had 44,000 paid subscribers, it now reports around 10,000.  On-line advertising on Google and Facebook has cut into display advertising at newspapers.

We need more local news coverage.

(Editors note:  Stusser has founded www.theJOLTnews.com.  The journal of Olympia, Lacey, Tumwater news.)

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Most significant events in the county’s history

September 18th, 2020 by Ken

A couple of decades ago, I pulled out an old survey I had taken among local historians, to consolidate their accumulated wisdom and determine what happened in the last decade of the 20th Century to make Thurston County what it had become today.  I chose 1950 as the base line and as recently as 20 years ago added a few new ones.

I began reviewing it a while ago because I have been asked to be a speaker at the Lacey Historical Museum’s History Talk Series.   I have asked other local history buffs for some ideas to help me update the survey and have taken their suggestions under review.

In this post, I will mention the events with a few short comments, but will not go into detail as to why they have been put into the “Significant” category.  That will be saved for my talk which is scheduled for December.  The events have been put into some order from most significant to lesser so.

Lawsuit retaining state agencies –  A Supreme Court order  in 1953 which brought the headquarters of all state agencies back to Olympia.

Construction of the Interstate Highway – Original plans called for the freeway to bypass Olympia completely.

Creation of The Evergreen State College – For better or ill, there are now approximately 30,000 “Greeners” roaming the world and Thurston County.

Organization of the Thurston Regional Planning Council –  There are now more than 20  regional boards and commissions which control government in Thurston County.

The War on Terror –  The military buildup at Ft. Lewis following 9/11 turned the area into a military community.  (This is my newest addition to the list)

Opening of South Sound Center – Eliminated downtown Olympia as a major shopping area and created the City of Lacey.

Decline of local media – Technology eliminated many sources of information and the monopoly once claimed by “The Olympian.”

The 1984 Olympic Women’s Marathon Trials –  Put Olympia and Thurston County on the national map and demonstrated the ability of volunteers.

The 1949, 1965, and 2001 Earthquakes – remind us occasionally that we live on the  Rim of Fire

Closure of the Olympia Brewery –  Took away jobs and a community icon and created an eyesore.

Lesser events include saving the Nisqually Wildlife Refuge, building the LOTT reclaimed water facility, opening of Panorama City, and the adoption of the Optional Municipal Code by the cities of Olympia and Lacey.

Feel free to add or argue.

 

 

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Climate change had little to do with this fire season

September 10th, 2020 by Ken

It has been a summer of wildfires.  Searching for an answer our ,Governor Jay Inslee, has resorted to calling them Climate Fires, echoing his climate change campaign for the presidency.  It also further removes the state from any responsibility for allowing the fires to increase in size.

But, fire seasons like we’re experiencing now are not new or unusual.  The West Coast and Washington State have been plagued with wildfires for as long has humans have lived in the area – and probably before that.

The largest and most deadly wildfire in Washington state history happened in 1902 at the beginning of the 20th Century.  In September of that year, unusually dry winds from the east, swept over the Cascades.  The summer had not been unusually hot but as normal, the sun dried out the vegetation and grasses on the westside.

Starting in the Washougal River valley, the fire was started by logging operations.  Flames swept through Clark, Cowlitz and Skamania  counties and roared for three days before rain put an end to the destruction.   When all was done, the fire destroyed 370 square miles of Southwestern Washington killing 38 people.

It was called the Yacolt Burn and is the record for wildfires in our state.   It was so deadly and so disturbing to people, that it led to the beginning of the fire prevention efforts in our state.  As a result of the Yacolt Burn, the state legislature established a state fire warden system, and private landowners formed the Washington Fire Protection Association.  Shortly after, the US Forest service began to organize a wildfire suppression program.

Just like the Midwest has tornadoes and the Gulf Coast has hurricanes, wildfires on the West Coast are a normal part of the climate.   While global climate change may have played a small role in our current fire situation – to blame it for those fires gives the state an out from being responsible for maintaining our forests, cutting deadwood, clearing underbrush and funding more fire suppression services.

 

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CDavis is having a very bad day – week – month

September 4th, 2020 by Ken

A challenge to CDavis, the Republican candidate for Thurston County Commissioner, was upheld by Mary Hall, the Thurston County Auditor.  The challenge alleged that CDavis did not live at the location in which he was registered to vote.

Hall said that CDavis has the opportunity to register at his new location and has done so.  “He’ll still be on the ballot this fall,  He still lives in the district,” Hall said. Thurston County commissioners run by district.  The districts run north to south in Thurston County.  CDavis lives in District One.  His new address is in District One.

Hall said that all challenges to place of resident goes to the Auditor if done before 45 days of the election.   If the challenge is 45 days or less out from the election, then the Thuston County Canvasing Board would be convened and make the decision.  The canvasing board is composed of the county Auditor, the county Prosecuting Attorney and the chair of the County Commission.

CDavis has been facing some set-backs in his effort to be the first Republican on the Thurston County Commission in decades.  Allegations of improper behavior against him has resulted in his being kicked out of the Republican party.

There has been rumors that some supporters of incumbent Commissioner John Hutchings are thinking about mounting a write-in campaign.  So far – that’s just rumors and nothing more.

The other challenger for the commission seat is Carolina Mejia who won more than a third of the votes in the Primary Election in a seven candidate field.

 

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A short walk back

September 4th, 2020 by Ken

As I walked up the quiet sidewalks of College Street the Harvest Moon was setting over my right shoulder.  Here and there a car made its way down the silent street and here and there a lone light shown in the window as someone was getting up to face another day.

As I turned down through the Lakeside housing development on the shores of Chambers Lake, I remembered when this was old man Chase’s cow pasture.   As a young man, I had walked the streets of this development when the housing units were under construction and wondered if anyone would really buy the houses and live here.

Recently, the city had taken a heavily wooded area along the shores of the lake and added two major retention ponds to filter the rainwater run-off from College Street.  The wildness of the area was attractive to those who lived around it and many teens found a hidden place to participate in activities in which they shouldn’t.  Now the area had been tamed, with a paved road running through the heart and walking trails built along the shoreline  – courtesy of an Eagle Scout project.

Several bunnies joined me in my walk, standing quiet and still until I came closer and then scooting out of the way.  The area has been overrun by rabbits.  Someone had raised rabbits in a backyard cage and some of them had gotten loose and did what rabbits do – procreate.  They found the retention facility a good place to reproduce.  I thought the coming winter and the feral cats which call urban areas like this their home, would reduce the number of rabbits by this time next year.

As I neared the end of my walk, the sun was just starting to make itself known behind the treeline.  Soon this quiet area would become an active city once again and I would join in the activities of urban living.

But, for a short period of time, I was alone, lost in my thoughts and the memories of times past.

 

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What kind of country do we have?

August 28th, 2020 by Ken

Now that the nominating committees of the Republican and Democratic parties have made their choices of the old white men who will lead them to victory in the race for the president of the United States – – one thing is clear – – we ARE living in two separate Americas.

One is comprised of the disenfranchised, African Americans, Hispanics and other immigrant groups who feel they have been left out of the American Dream.  This party is composed of young people who are burdened with financial debt as they try to swim the stream which will take them to the top.  Women, who have had the vote for 100 years, and still seem to be held back by an invisible force.  And, the power elite who have held sway in Washington DC for decades and see it threaten by a “mad man” seeking dictatorial powers.  They are propped up by the government unions which make their living from the status quo and see cracks beginning to form in their absolute power.

The other group sees the American Dream as reachable with time and effort.  Many have already scaled the wall and joined the middle class.  Others are certain, they too will be able to achieve their dreams of a better future, if government will just get out of the way.  They have faith in the ideals which history says makes America the greatest country in the world.  Propping them up are the First and Second Amendments to the Constitution of the United States and those who want to protect those written words and legal precedence from being further shattered by the mobs with pitchforks marching in the streets and through their neighborhoods.

Two different ideas of America.  One for those who have made it, and one for those who feel left on the other side of the wall.

Neither is the America I know and yet, both are part of the America in which I live.

Many have already staked out their positions and will not be budged.  A few, a precious few, understand the implications of their actions and wish they had better choices.  Some, like me, think that once the rhetoric dies down, once the polls close, and once adults again emerge from the smoke, we’ll have a country that history told me was made – for you and me.

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Is Trump the worse president ever?

August 19th, 2020 by Ken

Is Donald Trump the worse president ever?  In 2019, CBS News commissioned a poll of 91 noted historians who determined that yes – he is.

While many may agree with the assessment – it is filled with personal biases and dislikes.

How can 91 noted historians rightly and accurately judge a president’s total work when they all have lived through the president’s first three years and have been personally impacted by some of his actions.  It is suspected that many of them did not vote for the president and instead voted for someone whom they felt was a better choice.

A noted local historian said recently, that any survey of contemporaries is a problem since they have their own personal biases and that should be taken into context when quoting the 2019 survey.

Another problem with the 2019 survey of presidents concerns social changes since the last survey.  Another similar survey taken in 2000 by C-Span shows how the current culture wars have a major impact on presidential surveys by historians.

In the 2000 survey, Washington was named the greatest president followed by Lincoln.  In the 2019 survey, Lincoln was named the greatest and slave-holder Washington was knocked down to second place.  Where Jefferson was named fourth in the 2000 survey, he was relegated to seventh place in the 2019 poll.  The biggest fall from grace based on the two surveys concerned Andrew Jackson.  Jackson was named sixth on the 2000 poll and fell out of the top ten into the middle of the pack in the 2019 survey.

Another observation of both polls show how significant it was to have been president in the last half of the 20th Century.    Truman, Reagan and Ike made the top 10 in the 2000 survey.  Truman, Ike, Reagan, JFK  and LBJ all made the 2019 Top 10.  Fifty percent of the greatest American presidents of all time served as president in a 50 year period of the 20th Century.  That seems to me to be a generational bias.  In other words, those 91 Historians voted for presidents they knew rather than take the time and compare 19th Century presidents and the country they lived in.  At best, this is a biased group and at worse, it’s a lazy group.

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Hopefully we’ll get through it

August 14th, 2020 by Ken

We’ve been shocked by how quickly our society has been changing.  In the last decade or so, we’ve seen four major social change movements – – the Tea Party – –  #Me Too – –  Black Lives Matter – –  and the Cancel Culture.

Social movements are not new to the United States.  Almost from the very beginning of our country, the United States has faced major social changes, brought about by those in opposition to their society.   In the first term of President George Washington  he faced the Whiskey Rebellion, an anti-tax movement of “western” farmers.  The social movement continued.  The great Religious Revival sought to change the wicked ways of society.  The anti-immigrant movement was in response to millions of immigrants taking “American” jobs.  The anti Slavery movement pointed out the falsehoods in this country’s founding documents and led to the Civil War and the freeing of millions of enslaved people.

The Temperance movement and the resultant Prohibition.  The Suffragette movement which led to the political freedom of women.  Anti-nuclear after World War II,  the Environmental movement, the women’s movement, the Civil Rights movement – – the list is long.  Most change in this country is brought about by grassroots movements from those often felt over-looked or left out.

The difference today, is that those movements are coming more quickly.  What used to take decades or lifetimes, now occur in just years.  Modern communications and a compliant media make these changes feel like the country is falling apart.   Add a worldwide Pandemic and the inability to socially engage while we’re trapped in our homes, and the whole damn things seems overwhelming.

But its just the way our country is.  When a portion of our society feels our country is out of touch, the grassroots rise up and slaps those in power back into some sense of reality.

The difference this time is the speed of change.  We just haven’t had the time to process it all and it seems too much to take.  But, we’ll get through it, and hopefully we’ll have a better country in the end.  The word here is “hopefully.”

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Election Observations

August 6th, 2020 by Ken

Republicans in Thurston County can count on getting around 30 percent of the vote in any partisan election.  Very few Republicans can get much beyond that thresh hold .But, Kim Wyman is an anomaly among local Republicans.  While votes are still being counted, Wyman has received nearly 58 percent of the vote locally, while creeping along statewide at just over 50 percent.  Kim is well-liked in Thurston County and has won the support of many Democratic voters by her sense of fair play and lack of partisanship in her job as the state’s election officer.  Taking on the hated Donald Trump over his opposition to “Vote By Mail” hasn’t hurt.  Besides, it gives many local Democrats the ability to say they vote for some Republicans.

In the race to fill Denny Heck’s vacant seat in the 10th Congressional District, the General Election ballot will contain the names of two Democratic women.  Beth Doglio, with her base of support in Thurston County and Marilyn Strickland with her base in Pierce County will face each other in the finals.  Doglio has left the state legislature to try for the up town seat, while Strickland has come from the private sector, even if it was from King County.  Doglio  has depended on the traditional base of Democratic support, teacher unions and women.  Strickland has garnered the support of two former Democratic Governors and her base from serving as Mayor of Tacoma.  Since both of these women will get Democratic support in the General election it will boil down to which one of them can get independents and Republican support.

In the 22nd District race to fill Doglio’s legislative seat, former Olympia City Councilmember Jessica Bateman and former Lacey Police Chief Dusty Pierpoint are neck and neck.  Both appear headed for the General Election ballot.  Bateman is a Democrat, Pierpoint is a Republican.  Pierpoint has a tough challenge.  Three other Democrats were in that race including Mary Ellen Biggerstaff and Glenda Breiler.  Chances are pretty good that most of their votes will go to Bateman.  Pierpoint is going to have to find some well to shake the Republican label and convince voters that all politics is local.

A couple of local items of interest.  The race for Thurston County Commission in District one, was always the most interesting contest on our Primary ballot.  Former County Commission Bud Blake had moved into the district to run against current commissioner Hutch Hutchings.  Wisdom held that those two would battle it out for a place on the General Election ballot.  But, at the most recent counting, both Blake and Hutchings were third and fourth in the standings.  Both of them were running as independents.  As of this date (August 6) Democrat Carolina Mejia is leading the pack with Republican C. Davis holding a slim lead over Blake.  Looks like party labels may actually mean something.  (More on this race at a later date.)

And finally is the race for Thurston County Superior Court. Sharonda Amamilo is holding a major lead over second place Scott Ahlf.  With four people running for the job, three are white males.  Only Amamilo is not.  Looks like there is some validity to the effort to get people of color (and women) into elective office.  (Not taking anything away from Sharonda).

We’ll take a deeper look at some of these races later.

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Vote by mail is safe but unwise for the first time

August 3rd, 2020 by Ken

I am not a fan of “Vote By Mail”.  I think it makes voting too easy.  Something as important and significant as picking our leaders, shouldn’t be the same as paying the power bill or the credit card bill.  It should take some effort and some study.  The worse thing for a democracy is an ignorant voter.

Having said all that, I have accepted “Vote By Mail” and participate in the election as I have for every election for the last 50 years.

For the most part, voting by mail has become a standard in voting safety.  Very few fraudulent ballots make their way to the counting table.  The last statistic I heard was that 0.01 percent of all ballots in Washington State were found to be illegal.

When Washington started “Vote By Mail” nearly a decade ago, it was a new idea and as such it had growing pains.  Most of those are in the past.  That last impediment to voting by mail was the need to put a stamp on your ballot.  In my view that was a poll tax.  The need to use a stamp was recently done away with.

States which are attempting “Vote By Mail” for the first time will have a number of problems.  Signature checking, which use to occur at the ballot box, will now have to be done at a collection station.  Voters will need to have a place they can drop the ballot off and be assured they are safe.  That takes to time to do and time for voters to have confidence their ballots are safe.  And, voters need to be assured that who they vote for is kept confidential.  That takes time as well.

So, states voting all by mail for the first time will encounter a great deal of troubles, concerns and questions.

The biggest problem comes at the end, when the collection center is over-whelmed with thousands of ballots arriving after election day.   Not only does this spread out the counting of the ballots, but it leaves close races blowing in the wind with no answer for weeks.  There is no ending day when the counting has to stop.  The election is usually over when it has to be certified – and even then there still may be uncounted ballots.

My solution to this problem is that all ballots must be received at the election office by the end of business on election day.

Any state attempting all “Vote By Mail” for the first time will have to be aware that you can’t make the baby walk until it has developed enough to take the first step.  And, taking the first step because you have little recourse is a poor way to learn to run.

 

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Raise the voting age

July 31st, 2020 by Ken

There’s a move underfoot to repeal the 26th Amendment to the US Constitution.  For those not constitutional scholars, that’s the amendment that lowered the federal voting age to 18.  Passed in 1971 in response to the Vietnam War, it has been the standard for 40 years.  It only applies to federal elections, but all states have adopted it for local and state elections.

That move has changed the face of our elected officials and has lead to the passage of a number of bills which has led to a softening of our laws.  Many of them not in the best interests of privacy, free speech and curtailment of individual liberties.

Aging Baby Boomers, who were the recipient of the law, are now Senior Citizens.  They have seen the troubles letting teenagers vote.  Remember, humans don’t have all of their brain cells fully working until around 23 years of age. That the part of the brain that truly understands the ramifications of actions.  (We didn’t know that at the time.)   But, to me, its not the lack of brain cells in teenagers, its the fact that they already know everything.   That leads to votes appealing to nirvana without understand the negative fallout of actions necessary to achieve that state.

It’s time us seniors utilize our voting power for something important – the future.  Lets stop this insanity of teenage voting and put the country back on a track that utilizes the full brain power of its voters.

 

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Covid slows search for new Lacey Police Chief

July 30th, 2020 by Ken

Covid 19 has slowed the search for a new Lacey Police Chief.  According to Lacey City Manager Scott Spence, a traditional search for a new police chief is out of the question while Covid 19 continues its reign.

“We can’t do a  search using the old methods,” he said.  We wouldn’t be able to have public interviews or opportunities for the public to meet the candidates.

Lacey Police Chief Ken Semko retired in April because of health concerns.  Deputy Police Chief Robert Almada stepped in as acting chief.  “We’re fortunate to have an acting chief of his caliber,” Spence said.  “Because of his capabilities, we’ll wait until the threat of Covid has disappeared before we begin a search.”

Spence had no time line.  “Right now the Covid 19 seems to be getting worse,” he said.

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Lacey Fire District asks for more money

July 29th, 2020 by Ken

Voters in the Lacey Fire District will be asked to approved a new property tax measure to help fund the fire department next year.

Lets qualify that.  Lacey Fire District Chief Steve Brooks wouldn’t call it a tax increase.  Brooks said its just a replacement levy – – a levy lid lift – that would restore the district’s taxing authority to its constitutional limit.

Whatever you call it, the property owners of Lacey and its urban growth areas will be asked to fund a tax which will bring in around $1 million dollars of additional funds for the district.

Junior taxing districts are limited to collecting $1.50 per thousand of assessed valuation to fund their operations.  The Lacey Fire District has been  collecting at that top rate, but over the last several years the dollar amount they can collect has dropped to $1.43 per thousand thanks to an increase in property tax values.  They want to move the amount back up to $1.50.   That will results in additional revenue of around $1.3 million, some of which is still due to increases in the districts assessed value.

Anyway you cut it, voters in November will be asked to give the fire district more money.

If approved by the voters, the money will be used to fund a new aid unit at Station 34,  currently under reconstruction right now on Steilacoom Road, by the Regional Athletic Complex.  Brooks said the district has grown by more than 35 percent in that area, including several senior citizen complexes.

The vote to place the measure on the November ballot wasn’t unanimous.  New Fire Commissioner Robert Motzer  argued against it claiming now was not the right time to raise property taxes and that the addition of a new aid car could wait two years until the economic conditions of Lacey improved.

Lacey Fire District is the largest fire district in the county with a budget over $24 million,

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Ode to my dog

July 17th, 2020 by Ken

 It was a sunny Sunday afternoon.  Jan was sitting in her chair on the patio working with her laptop.  The dogs – Moxie and Minnie were laying by her feet.

Minnie let out a soft growl, Moxie looked up and saw, through the cyclone fence. a raccoon in the neighbor’s yard.  He ran to the fence and began barking, Minnie following along.

Jan glanced up and saw the raccoon scaling the fence and then jump full out on to Moxie. At five pounds he was out weighed ten to one.  The raccoon made quick work, biting Moxie several times in the neck and on the back.  Then turned him over and went to work on his underside.

Jan ran, screaming a high pitched scream right towards the raccoon, who looked up at this sight coming towards him.  He left Moxie laying mutilated on the ground and headed towards Jan, who was continuing screaming.  As the raccoon got closer, Jan took a step back, tripped and fell.   The raccoon grabbed her leg, bit her twice on the calf muscle, turned and in a flash was gone up a tree.

Moxie, had gotten up, ran quickly to the patio and collapsed.    Jan went back, picked him up and came into the house.  By that time I had come out of my office.  Jan told me the story.  I took Moxie to the vet hospital while Jan made her way to the emergency room of the people hospital.

After three-hours, the vet came out and told me Moxie was in critical condition and could die any minute.  She was doing the best she could to stabilize him but he needed to stay for tests, X-rays and Ultra Sounds to see if he had internal bleeding as well as his visible signs.

I’ve had dogs all my life – more than half-a-dozen.  But, they were just dogs.  While they may have been members of the pack, they had not become members of the family.  Moxie was the first one.

When Jan was nearing retirement, we decided to get a dog.  We had a cat for more than a dozen years before she died.  We thought a dog would be something who would love us in our old age.  I went along.  A dog is a dog is a dog.  While nothing special, a dog could add a new dimension to our lives.

We decided on a small dog, a lap dog, and one who wouldn’t  affect my allergies too much.  Jan found just the right one.   We settled on a Yorkie, a Yorkshire Terrier.  Jan found an ad for a breeder who had them for sale near Yakima, Washington.

We made the appointment and one September afternoon arrived at the breeders house who led us to a playpen full of six-week old pups.  I immediately saw one who was smaller than the rest, but was just as feisty.  He was the “runt”.  While Jan was worried that a runt might have problems, she went along with me, and we purchased the runt and headed for home.  We had taken our granddaughter along with us who sat in the backseat and held the dog the whole way home.

It needed a name.  We talked about it in the car, and then we passed by the town of Moxie.   That’s the name we both said, and that’s the name that stuck.

When we got home, my granddaughter handed me the dog.  Those sparkling brown eyes caught my eyes.  I didn’t think I had ever seen something that looked right into my soul.  When I put him up to my face I was entranced by his smell.  It was a new puppy smell, but it  was also intoxicating.  I wanted more.

I was hooked.  From that moment on I became a dog lover.  And, not just a Moxie lover – a dog lover.  I take quick looks at every dog I see and marvel at the look in his eyes.  I watch television shows about dogs and see in them playing, working, and just being lazy and cute.

Moxie was my first love.  A year later, we went back to the same breeder and picked Moxie’s half-sister as our next dog.  We named her Minnie, although she is twice as large as Moxie.

I still have trouble trying to explain how I became hooked on dogs.  I want to pet everyone I see, hold everyone who needs holding, and protect all of those who need protecting.

And, it was all because of Moxie, who at this writing is still in the hospital trying to recover from his wounds.

I think I hate raccoons.

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What’s in your wastewater?

July 2nd, 2020 by Ken

For eight years, the LOTT Clean Water Alliance has been undertaking a study to determine what – if anything – is in the water they pump back into the ground.  The $5 million dollar study is now about 80 percent complete and preliminary results are starting to make their way to the surface.

Some 45 residual chemicals have been identified for further study because they were found in levels above designated thresholds.  But, another 18 residual chemicals have been identified for further study in the next phase because they were found to have a potential toxicity.

Two decades ago, when Thurston County’s urban areas began rapid growth, it became obvious that a new sewage plant was a necessity.  State government wouldn’t allow the creation of a new sewage plant on Budd Inlet, so the three cities decided to go a new route.   They were going to clean and scrub the sewage, remove impurities in the waterwater, and pump that clean water back in the ground.  It was hoped that customers could be found for the water and purple pipes were laid in various areas of Lacey for use as irrigation.  That customer base didn’t develop and another way of disposing of the water needed to be found.

A reclamation plant was constructed in Northeast Lacey in the Hawks Prairie area and pipes ere extended to pump some of the water to Woodland Creek Community Park.

Concerns began to mount of just how clean the wastewater really was, and LOTT started the study in 2012.  It drilled 14 monitoring sites around the Hawks Prairie plant and began to study the water.  In addition to monitoring for chemicals the study also wanted to determine how quickly the water went through the soil and just where it flowed when it reached groundwater.

A few additional monitoring stations will be drilled as the study proceeds, and the results will be reviewed by a Science Task Force and a Peer Review Panel.  It could be a few more years before we’ll have a better understanding of how well pumping waterwater back into the ground really works.

It must be pointed out that LOTT is doing this of its accord and is not under any requirements from state of federal officials.

The complete study results so far are available on the LOTT website.

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Welcome to the new State of Washington

June 29th, 2020 by Ken

Those of us here in Washington State should say hello to the new State of Washington.

That’s right, the Democratic controlled House of Representatives has passed a bill making Washington DC the 51st state of the United States.  It’s name – – The State of Washington Douglass Commonwealth.  (In honor of Frederick Douglass).

There’s no doubt that when the Democrats gain control of the US Senate after this fall’s election, the bill will be passed in that chamber as well and we’ll have the 51st State – and the new State of Washington.

When that happens, our Democratic Senators should add an amendment to the bill that will change the name of our state to Columbia.  That was the original name when we applied for territorial status and was changed by Congress at the time to Washington.

It’s time to change it back.  After next year I expect to live in the State of Columbia.

 

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