Election preview – Lacey Fire Commission

August 31st, 2015 by Ken

Gene Dobry, the incumbent Lacey Fire Commissioner, is being challenged by Paul Perz, the retired State Assistant Fire Marshall.

This low level campaign is interesting in that both of the candidates are well-qualified for the job and both have appealing qualities.

When Dobry first ran six-years ago it was at the peak of the conflict between the City of Lacey and the Lacey Fire District.   Three incumbent members of the Lacey City Council were defeated and Dobry beat longtime fire commissioner Frank Kirkbride.

His platform was called the “R” Plan.   Revive the volunteer force, renegotiate a partnership with the city, refuse to overspend and restore confidence in the fire district.   Dobry says every promise he made has been kept.

Perz has a long record of involvement in the Lacey community.   He served on the Lacey Planning Commission, the Thurston County Boundary Review Board and is currently a member of the Lacey Sister City Association.   In addition to being the assistant state fire marshal, Perz was a member of the State Emergency Response Commission.

He also has two sons who are fire fighters and are employed by the Lacey Fire District.

That’s the problem.

While there’s no doubt that Perz is well-qualified, he has an inherent conflict of interest.  Can a father serve on the commission that sets his son’s salaries and working conditions, and at the same time represent the taxpayers and the citizens of Lacey?

Perz says he can, but refuses to excuse himself from voting on union contracts.   Dobry says it would be hard not to let family ties have some influence.

Dobry has lived up to every one of his campaign promises from six years ago.  For that reason and for the fact that Perz has a conflict of interest – - I’m going to vote for Dobry.

(Interviews with both candidates are available by clicking on the “Coffee With Ken” button)

 

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Seattle gun tax will be overturned

August 25th, 2015 by Ken

In 2009, the City of Seattle restricted the sale of firearms within the city limits.    In 2012, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled that only the state had the power to regulate guns and firearms and unanimously overturned Seattle’s law.

But, the city tried again.   Just recently it levied  a tax and all firearm sales within the corporate city limits, but more importantly, slapped a significant tax on the sale of ammunition.

It reasoned that the city had the authority to tax.

At least three gun right groups have filed suit to stop Seattle from taxing firearms and ammunition.

Seattle officials think they’ve found a way to restrict firearms by making it more expensive – - particularly the ammunition.

However, the power of cities to tax is granted by the state.   Cities can put a fee on services, but a tax has to be approved by the state.

Seattle’s new tax will be successfully challenged once again.   The courts will rule that the city can’t tax guns without legislative approval.   But the battle will drag on for years and cost the taxpayers of the state a great deal of money.

I don’t know if the court decision will be unanimous this time, but I do know gun advocates will prevail.

In the meantime, the City of Seattle will once again make its views on gun ownership well-known at a cost for taxpayers.

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An eye-opening time travel

August 24th, 2015 by Ken

I had a dream the other night that I went back in time to 1964 to talk to a group of high school seniors.

I told them about the future.   I told them we had a black president – - his name is Barrack Obama.  They were pretty shocked.   I told them that whites were a minority in the United States.  That Hispanics were the largest minority group.   They had a blank look on their faces.   What’s a Hispanic, they asked?

I told them that Martin Luther King Jr. would win a Nobel Prize and that we had a big monument to him in Washington DC.    Really, they asked?  Yeah – and our first black president is also a Nobel Prize winner.

We’ve got telephones that take pictures and are so small you can carry them around in your back pocket.   Cars that park themselves and cruise ships which can carry 5000 people to Alaska.

You’ve got all that, they asked?  Yeah – - and more, I responded.   We’ve got electric cars, giant windmills and they finally completed the interstate highway system.   You can drive coast to coast and never have to stop at a red light.    A traffic jam, maybe – - but not a red light.

Did we go to war in Vietnam, one of them asked?  Yeah – - sure did, lost 50,000 young men.   What happened?  – - We left.

We’re at war in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, now I said.

What about Russia, they asked?  Did we have World War III?   – -  No, not really, I replied.  Russia imploded from within, lost half its territory and now its a second rate country ran by a group of thugs.

We won the cold war then, they asked?

In a sense, I replied.   Now we’re worried about China.    What about China, one asked?

They’re our biggest trading partners – - and we owe them trillions of dollars – - while they steal our greatest business and government secrets.

You think that’s something?   Wait until I tell you that marijuana is legal in some states, and gay people can legally get married.   Queers can get married, one of them asked?    – -  We don’t use that as a negative term anymore, I said.

Did we go to the moon, one asked.   Yes, I replied.  We went there four or five times.   We haven’t been back in 45 years.   There wasn’t anything there to see.

We also have universal health care, I said.   If you don’t buy it you get fined.   Guess who collects the fine?  The IRS

I’m not sure  I want to live in the 21st Century, one of them said.

It’s alright, I replied.  You get used to it.

 

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Booze 4 U

August 23rd, 2015 by Ken

Word that Amazon will soon begin liquor distribution to Seattle-area homes reminded me that some activities have a long shelf life.

More than 60 years ago, residents of Thurston County could get liquor of all kinds delivered to their home with a simple phone call.

That was the time of the “Blue Laws” which severely restricted liquor sales and consumption.   One of those was that no liquor could be sold on Sunday.   Taverns closed at midnight on Saturday and supermarkets covered all of their beer and wine shelves.

But local residents could get liquor with a simple phone call to Red Top Taxi.  For a fee – - a substantial fee – - usually double the price – - a taxi or an ambulance would deliver the wanted product to your front door.

There’s nothing new in business.  Somethings are just “rediscovered.”

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The other side of Cruising

August 17th, 2015 by Ken

I just finished a seven-day cruise to Alaska on the Star Princess.  The ship carried 3100 passengers and 1400 crew members.

It was a great trip, full of fun, food and great scenery.   I would suggest that anyone who can afford it should cruise to Alaska.

For all of its excitement however, cruising has another side.

From my observations – - and my observations alone – 75 percent of the travelers on my ship were white and from all of the European countries, Canada and Australia, as well as from the United States.

Most were older and retired.  I guess you have to be retired to take a couple of weeks off.   Many had been cruising multiple times.

Some 15 percent of the passengers on my ship were from India and another 10 percent from China.

These are all guesses.

The crew members were from many of the disadvantaged countries of the world – - Pakistan, Haiti, Philippines, Romania, Poland, Serbia and dozens of other countries.  Many of them spoke very little English – - but all were friendly and helpful.

It is the business of cruising that interested me.

The fee payed to travel covers room and board.   Everything else costs – - particularly drinks.  All alcohol and soda is extra. If you want to dine in specialty restaurants there’s an additional cost.   No cash is allowed and everything is charged to a credit card on file with the cruise line.

Each ship has a shopping hostess who explains the shopping opportunities in each city the ship visits.  She hands out discount coupons and makes arrangements to have shoppers transported to the various stores.

What she doesn’t tell you is that those stores are owned by the cruise lines who lease them out to various merchants.

In Juneau, three blocks of the downtown area are owned by Princess which leases the buildings to merchants.   The stores open when tourist season starts and closes when it ends.   The merchants then move to the Caribbean where they open up business on the various islands whose buildings are also owned by the cruise lines.

For the most part, local residents receive very little benefit from the cruise lines.

Most of the tour groups are also owned by the different cruise lines.

I suspect that many people know this – - but I didn’t.

The knowledge I gained gave me a better understanding of the business of cruising.   it didn’t however detract from my enjoyment of the cruise.

I would advise anyone who can afford the time and money to take an Alaskan cruise.  You’ll come back with a better understanding of Alaska and the natural environment.

 

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Lacey council discusses budget shortfall

August 6th, 2015 by Ken

Faced with an impending budget shortfall, the Lacey City Council used its annual council retreat to talk about money and budgets.

The City of Lacey currently has a reserve fund of $24 million dollars.  Some of that reserve is required by law, other by council action and some by common sense.

City staff identified $4.5 million dollars of reserve money that can be used for other purposes.  It included $2 million for city hall expansion and another $750,000 for police station expansion.   Lacey City Manager Scott Spence pointed out that money had been set aside in 2007-2008 when the city was growing rapidly and looked like city hall would run  out of space.

Other reserve funds were tapped to make the $4.5 million.

Spence received council approval to spend $2 million of that money to help with the budget.   “It’s just an umbrella for us to use when needed,” Spence said.  “It’s not the answer to our long term problem.”

The council directed staff to use the remaining $2.5 million for economic development.  That money will help projects in the city which bring in revenue.

The council also discussed new revenue sources such as a 3 percent tax on cable television and phone.    It also took a look at creating a Transportation Benefit District (TBD) which is authorized by state law.

Under a TBD, a city can increase car tabs by $20 (which Olympia has already done) or put a 2/10th of a percent on local sales tax on the ballot for taxpayer approval  (which Tumwater recently did) for the purpose of providing transportation improvements.

The council discussed all new tax proposals but took no action.

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Who’s going to beat Inslee?

July 29th, 2015 by Ken

Governor Jay Inslee can’t be re-elected as governor, if a poll by Stuart Elway is correct.

Only 30 percent of those who responded to the poll said they would be willing to re-elect the governor.   Yet – 25 percent of them also said they wouldn’t vote for a Republican.

Capturing a 50 percent majority from 75 percent of the electorate isn’t an easy task, and so far only one Republican has made any moves to challenge the governor when he’s up for re-election next year.  That’s Bill Bryant, Port of Seattle commissioner.

But, helping the Republicans is the fact that 26 percent of the Democrats said they would be willing to vote for “a different Democrat” next year  So far, no Democrat has decided to challenge Inslee.

The poll was taken before the governor acted like an Obama-clone and opted to use executive powers to get what he couldn’t get from the legislature.    This action might encourage a Republican or two, or even a Democrat to consider replacing him.

 

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What does conservative mean?

July 20th, 2015 by Ken

As most of my regular readers know, I have been hard on the liberal left – - the so-called progressives.  Their answer to everything is more government.

But, recently I’ve also begun to question the “conservatives” – the one’s on the far right.  What do they stand for?

I suspect they want to go back to a better time – - a time when they knew who they were and where they were going.   A time like maybe – - the 1950′s.

I was alive then.   I graduated from high school in 1960, so I have some understanding of what’s so appealing about the 1950′s.

The United States was the dominate power in the world.   Many of the other countries were still trying to recover from the devastation caused by World War II.   The United States was the only real world power – - and there were few to question that dominance.

We seldom saw anyone from another race.   We were isolated in our own safe world.   Television was just beginning to make itself felt and the news we received over our radio and in our newspaper was dominated by media giants like NBC and CBS.

We knew our place in our town by our gender.   Men were expected to work while women were expected to stay home, have babies and raise good children.   Most men could find a job that allowed them to support their families – - and while many of them had some higher education – - many others did not.

Women didn’t work outside the home unless they had too – -  and then only in secretarial positions or pink collar jobs.  And, they were expected to stop working when they got married.

We went to school as children in classrooms where we knew everyone else.   No one moved around much in the 1950′s – - so those children you knew were the children you went to school with.

Teachers worked for little pay – - some of them single women looking to eventually get married.   And, if they did, they often lost their jobs when they became pregnant.

We didn’t see many children in our classrooms who had emotional or physical problems.   There was no “mainstreaming.”  Those types of children were taught at home, in special schools, or not at all.

We didn’t worry about the plight of the migrant farm worker – - the segregated south – - the starving children of the Bible Belt or the ghettos  of the big Eastern cities.   We often didn’t know about them – - and  if we did – - it wasn’t our problem.

We were happy in the 1950′s – particularly if we were white and male.   We knew our place in the world – - and we liked it.

If – - that’s the definition of the far right’s “conservative views” – - I can see the attraction.   I am a white male after all.

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No Primary Election in Lacey

July 20th, 2015 by Ken

If you haven’t received your Primary Election ballot in Lacey yet – - don’t worry.  You never will.

There’s no Primary Election in Lacey.

Olympia has a primary election and the Port of Olympia has a primary election.   Of course Lacey residents don’t vote in Olympia and the port race is done by commissioner districts.  The port districts are not in Lacey.

But, rest assured, you will be able to vote in the General Election for a city council seat in Lacey and for all of the remaining Port of Olympia candidates.

So, the question must be asked, why did the Thurston County Auditor’s Office mail out Primary Election Voter’s Pamphlets to voters in Lacey?

 

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Lacey council rejects private money for plastic bag ban vote

July 16th, 2015 by Ken

At it’s Thursday night work seesion the Lacey City Council rejected an effort by a private group to put the issue of a plastic bag ban before the voters in November.

The issue rose its head, when Councilmember Michael Steadman said he would put the issue up to a vote of the people if someone else would fund it.    Lacey City Attorney David Schneider said it would be legal for the city to accept the money.

At Thursday Lacey council work session, Steadman voted not to accept the money along with Jeff Gadman, Cynthia Pratt and Andy Ryder.

The city accepts money from private individuals all of the time.  Private donations help to defray costs of the city’s summer hot lunch program and private donations help fund some animal control services.

In my opinion, accepting money for a political purpose – - rejecting the city’s plastic bag ban – - sets a bad precedence.  What’s to stop some other group from  raising money to set a $15 minimum wage in Lacey or another group to want a ban on the sale of firearms.

The council was right to reject the money for political purposes.  But, it needs to set a policy regarding what money it will accept and what it will not.

And Steadman needs to be more cautious in what he says.   He’s not a private citizen anymore – - he’s an elected official.

 

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School district awaits response on newspaper building purchase

July 15th, 2015 by Ken

In May, the Olympia School District made an offer to purchase The Olympian building from its owners – - McClatchy Corporation out of Florida, and is still waiting for a response to its offer.

The school district wants to use the newspaper building for its new district office.

The purchase offer has not been made public, but school officials say the offer is less than the assessed valuation of the building.   The current assessed valuation is $5.1 million.

School officials say the building is a perfect fit for the district’s needs.  It has significant room for all of the current district staff and a great deal of storage space.

While McClatchy has not responded to the offer, the district has no fall-back position.

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Seattle – not part of Washington state

July 10th, 2015 by Ken

Independent City States were the norm a few centuries ago in such countries as Greece and Italy.  These city states operated independently of any larger government and existed in their own little world.

Right now, the question of independent city states is centered around “Sanctuary Cities”, cities which have determined on their own that they will not work with the federal government on issues of immigration.

There are only a handful of city states in the United States.  Currently making the most news is San Francisco, where the city’s unwillingness to work with the federal government on immigration has made news.

But – the City of Seattle isn’t far behind when it comes to operating as a separate city state within a loose framework of state and federal government.

Seattle is a sanctuary city.   But, more than that, Seattle continues to go its own way and reluctantly drags the rest of the state with it.

It’s $15 minimum wage – while it may make sense in the City State of Seattle, hurts the rest of the state.   It’s fight with the Port of Seattle over environmental issues shows it sees itself as the “savior” of our environment.

Now, the City State of Seattle is seriously considering a bill to tax gun sales and ammunition sales – - something probably in violation of federal law.

And just to show how silly a City State can become – - Seattle has outlawed all gender specific restrooms and now require all of them to be gender neutral.

Seattle is the big elephant which creates state revenue and demands obedience from the state legislature in response.

I think from now on, we should refer to Seattle as the City State of Seattle.   It operates in its own little world.

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Progressive dogma

July 7th, 2015 by Ken

The hottest summer on record and the Department of Natural Resources has seen its fire-fighting budget cut by one-third.  Services for veterans, mental health and other programs have seen budget cuts despite the fact that Washington state has nearly $3 billion in new revenue this year.

So – where did the money go?

You know as well as I do.   The money went to the progressive wing’s  favorite cause – -  education.

That’s the dogma faced by Democrats today.    Put more money into education or face being cut off from the Washington Education Association’s tit.

But, if education is the key to everything positive – - how much money is enough?

Even State school superintendent Randy Dorn (a former leader of the WEA) estimates it could be as much as $5 billion a year more – - forever – - and even then he’s not sure.

Would somebody, somewhere, with no axe to grind or union boss to kiss, tell me what the real number is.

Kowtowing to dogma  does no one any good.

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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.

Media.

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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