Bob Macleod left his mark

July 20th, 2017 by Ken
(This commentary originally ran in November 2013)

The recent resignation of Bob Macleod from the Thurston County Commission should have come as no surprise to anyone who has seen Bob in the last few months.

Now in his 80’s, Bob Macleod was looking frail and sick and it was just a matter of time before he made his decision to step down as Thurston County Commissioner.

He set his retirement for December 31 and his vacancy will be filled by appointment.

Bob has been an active and involved member of this community for decades.  He moved to Thurston County in the 1970’s and went to work for KGY Radio as the news director.  He worked at KGY for 27 years and was looked upon by this community as a community asset.

It wasn’t just his news coverage that was outstanding, but it was his radio commentaries aired by KGY.  Bob Macleod always looked for a solution to any issue he talked about.  He wasn’t content to just comment on a local problem, but often offered his suggestions for a solution.

Unlike those who have come after him, Bob seldom upset anyone while voicing his opinions.  While his radio show often touched on touchy subjects, anyone listening came away convinced that they had heard both sides of the issue.

Bob Macleod was more than a newsman and more than a radio commentator, he was a community asset.  On many occasions he was asked to moderate a discussion or debate on a community concern because people knew he was fair and interested.

When Bob retired from KGY he didn’t stop his work to make his community a better place.  He went to work for State Senator Karen Fraser as kind of an aide.  He would help the senator better understand the issues and would offer her advice on how to proceed.

During his career as a newsman Bob always covered Thurston County government and the issues it faced.  So, when an opportunity to run for a Thurston County Commission seat came, he took it on and defeated the incumbent Democrat Kevin O’Sullivan, in the 2002 Primary Election.

If you didn’t know Bob Macleod you would have thought that he did very little, but you’d be wrong.  Bob didn’t seek the spotlight.  His service on the Thurston County Commission was one of quiet competence.  County government is better for having Bob Macleod on the board.

When he steps down at the end of this year his two fellow commissioners Cathy Wolfe and Sandra Romero will name someone to the vacant seat from a list prepared by Thurston County Democrats.   Whoever gets the appointment will have to run in 2010.

I’ll do other stories on the vacancy, the appointment process and the results, at a later time.

Right now I just want to thank Bob Macleod for all of his service to the community.

Thanks Bob.

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Campaigns and political signs

July 19th, 2017 by Ken

Election season came early this year.   The need to get ballots to our troops overseas resulted in moving the Primary Election date to August 1.   The ballots for the race came out last week.

In Lacey, there are seven candidates seeking election or re-election who are putting up campaign signs.   These include:  Rick Nelsen, Robert Motzer, Michael Steadman, Madeline Goodwin, Cynthia Cox, Rachel Young and yours truly Ken Balsley.

Three of those seven are not even on your Primary Election ballot.   Steadman and Motzer face off in November only –  and Rachel Young is running unopposed.   Why she wants to put up signs when she has no opposition is strange.   I suspect she had the signs made up before the filing period and just thought she needed to get some name recognition.

The four of us on the ballot – – Nelsen, Cox, Goodwin and Balsley  – are jockeying for name recognition.   That is the most important factor in a primary election.  Voters must become familiar with your name   Putting up campaign signs is the most effective way of getting name recognition.

The City of Lacey has rules regarding political signage.  For the most part, the rules are mostly ignored, particularly in city elections.  The most often violated rule says that no signs can be put up on the public right-of-way.

I put up signs only on private property with the approval of the land owner.  I also have some supporters who might put up signs that aren’t in complete compliance with the rules.

To date, I have about 300 signs out.  That’s a normal amount for a city election.   Most of my opponents have about the same amount of signs.   But, if it seems that all you see are my signs – – it’s due to one fact.  My signs stand out.   White on red is the best color for signs – and a simple name is all that can be read by drivers.

All of us complain about our signs being taken down.   To date, I have lost about 47 signs that I’m aware of.  Again, that’s normal.   Signs are knocked down by kids, blown over by wind, and taken down by people who just don’t like signs.   I don’t believe my opponents or their supporters take down my signs.   I know I instruct my supporters to keep their hands off my opponents signs and I suspect they do the same.

Once the campaign is over, all political signs must be removed in seven days.  Those who remain for the general election in November can keep their signs up.   Sometimes it does seem like its a long, long way to November.

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Lacey opts to wait on county convention center

July 7th, 2017 by Ken

“The Nisqually Tribe is important to the future of Lacey.”

With those words, Lacey mayor Andy Ryder may have effectively shut down efforts by the Thurston County Commissioners to create a cultural and convention center in Thurston County.

During a work session Thursday evening, county manager Ramiro Chavez and Commissioner Hutch Hutching, made a presentation to the Lacey council on the benefits of joining with the county in creating a special district to help fund a convention center.

But, Ryder’s words seemed to bring the discussion to an end.   Ryder said the city was still talking with the Nisqually tribe about the 240 acres of land the tribe owns in the Gateway area of Hawks Prairie and their idea of creating an entertainment center, which might include a hotel and convention center.

Ryder was joined in his remarks by Council members Lenny Greenstein and Jason Hearn who felt that a private entity should have the opportunity to build a convention facility before resorting to public money.

Ryder also told the county leaders that he has had talk with the mayors of both Tumwater and Olympia, and they all had concerns about the county’s proposal including the fast time frame the proposal seemed to be on.

Without the support of Lacey, the county’s largest city, it appears the county may have reached an end to its efforts.

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Small business closure affects community

June 30th, 2017 by Ken

It’s a shame when any small business has to close its doors.  It’s a shame that Olympia Mayor Cheryl Selby had to announce that her clothing store – Vivala – was going out of business in August.

Small businesses are the heart of any community.   Not only do they employ local people, but the money they make goes back into the local community in terms of wages and purchases, as well as in local taxes.

The average small business lasts about five years.  Mayor Selby’s business beat the averages.   She should be proud of her venture into the retail trade.  And, while she may not feel good about the decision to close her store – – she’s right.   You can’t run a business as a non-profit.   It was the right business decision.

As mayor of Olympia, she has some ability to influence the business climate of her city.  She pledges to continue to be a supporter of small business and I think her decision to close down, will give her a better understanding of what problems all small businesses face.

As an aside – – Lacey Councilmember Rachel Young has a business adjacent to Selby’s .  Young is surely looking at the Olympia mayor’s struggles and wondering how it impacts her and her business in downtown Olympia.

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America’s great divide grows wider

June 21st, 2017 by Ken

The split in America isn’t between Democrats and Republicans or even between liberals and conservatives.  The split in America is nothing new.   It’s been with us since the beginning of human habitation.   It’s a split between rich and poor.

In the last presidential election, every single one of this country’s richest counties – – some 493 of them – voted for Hillary Clinton.  The other 2623 counties – mostly rural or suburban –  voted for Donald Trump.   Those are the findings of  people more versed in political  statistics than I.

Rich and poor have always been with us.   The Bible even says that we shall always have the poor.   In some forms of government, the divide between those with money and those without money is wide.  It has always been less so in the United States.  We have accepted the theory that hard work and education is the way for the poor to enter the mainstream.  And, with a little luck and even harder work – become rich.

But, for the last quarter of a century, the gap between rich and poor has widen in the United States.   Coupled with a decline in manufacturing jobs and an education system still stuck in the 18th Century, many poor and even middle class citizens, see no way for advancement to the next level of financial stability.

And, that’s the gap.   Those with money and status voted for Clinton and the status quo.   Those with little hope voted for Trump and hoped for the best.

And, that spilled over into Thurston County.  The liberal base in Olympia voted for the status quo.  Those in the rural area voted for change.   It’s a little over simplified, but it holds true.

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Lacey chamber has new executive

June 19th, 2017 by Ken

Rick Jump is the new executive director the Lacey South Sound Chamber of Commerce.   He started in his job last week.

Jump is the former executive of the White Center Food Bank, a position he held for 19 years.   He and his wife recently moved to a house in West Olympia.    Jump is anxious to meet the members of the chamber and learn more about the business community he serves.

Sierra Roundy, the out-going director, has taken a job in Tacoma, but will stay on part time through the South Sound BBQ Festival on July 8.   “Words can’t describe the gratitude I feel,” she wrote.  “It’s been a great experience”

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Woodland Trail to be named for Karen Fraser

June 16th, 2017 by Ken

Portions of the Woodland Trail between Lacey and Olympia will soon be named for Karen Fraser.

The two cities and the two city parks boards have been working on the idea for some time and have agreed that naming the trail for Fraser is a good way of recognizing her four decade commitment to the community.   Lacey Mayor Andy Ryder said that it was an appropriate way to honor the city’s first woman mayor and her efforts to make Lacey and the greater community a better place to live.

Fraser said she was highly honored to receive the recognition.   “I’ve been a trails supporter forever,” she said.  “I’ve supported every trail project and I’ve walked most of the trails in the county.  It’s a great honor.”

The exact details are yet to be worked out.   But, Karen Fraser will soon see her name associated with the trail which ties, Lacey, Olympia together.

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It’s time to move the county seat to Lacey

June 8th, 2017 by Ken

Thurston County commissioners are looking at spending $200 million to build a new county courthouse somewhere in Olympia.   The odds on favorite place is a location in downtown Olympia – the county seat.

But, maybe it’s time to look at moving the county courthouse to Lacey.   I’m not making that suggestion lightly.   I’ve thought about it for awhile.   As long as the commissioners are going to build a new courthouse – it should be in the center of the population of the county.   It should be in Lacey.

The city is already the largest city in Thurston County – and the urban growth area of Lacey will bring the city’s population to more than 80,000 people.

Land is cheaper in Lacey.  Several locations are available and the process takes less time and money.   Lacey is the perfect location for the new Thurston County courthouse.

But, doesn’t the courthouse have to be in the county seat, you ask?    Of course it does.   But, by a simple vote of the people, the county seat can be moved to another city within the county.  It’s not an uncommon thing to do.

What about the jail?   Doesn’t it have to be in the county seat?   After all we just built a new one in Olympia/Tumwater.  Sure. It does have to be in the county seat.  But, we can give the county 25 years to transfer all of its assets to its new location in Lacey.

Lacey is a 21st Century city, with leaders who have vision.

Think about the suggestion.   It really has merit.

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Subscribers to “The Olympian” might want to read the fine print

June 6th, 2017 by Ken

I was trying to decide if I wanted to renew my subscription to The Olympian.  While looking for a place to write or call, I came across some fine print.   I decided to read it.   Here’s what I found out.

If you’re a subscriber to the paper already.  You don’t have to do anything.  According to the fine print, your subscription will be automatically renewed, unless you notify them.  The number is in the fine print. In other words, it’s an opt out instead of an opt in.   Not paying your subscription when it expires could result in a large payment for you in the future.

Then, the paper reserves the right to change subscription rates with a 30 day notice. That notice could be by mail, on-line or just in the pages of the newspaper.

You also pay a $2 fee for special publications, called Premium editions.  Some of them have already passed this year but Premium editions published on June 22, Sept. 7, October 12 and Dec 14 will include the additional fee.  A $1 fee will also be added for the Thanksgiving edition.

For those of you who are thinking about subscribing, the paper charges a $9.99 cent start-up fee.

I have just touched on some of the fine print.   You might want to read it yourself.

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Annexation – What’s in it for me?

June 5th, 2017 by Ken

The 400 or so residents living around the Capitol City Golf Course are not in the City of Lacey.   They are almost an island surrounded by Lacey and as such, are prime candidates for annexation into the city.

But residents of the area aren’t certain there is any benefit to joining with the city.   That question came up time and time again when homeowners and city staff met in a work session last week.   “What’s in it for us” was the most often asked question.

Referred to several times in the discussion was the streets in the sub-division.  Residents want the city to take over the streets if they annex.  The city says the streets are private property.  On and on it went.   What the property owners want, the city can’t give.  So residents continue to ask, “What’s in it for us?”

The city responded that under the Growth Management Act, the sub-division will eventually have to be annexed into the city since it is almost an island, surrounded by the city.

The answer didn’t convince the property owners, although they seem resigned to the eventuality that, they would soon become tax-paying, proud residents and voters in the City of Lacey.

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Purple Heart County new designation

May 30th, 2017 by Ken

Thurston County has been named a “Purple Heart County” by the Thurston County Commissioners.

They took that action this Memorial Day week to honor those who have served in the nation’s military and who have been wounded in battle.   “We wanted to honor all of our military both active and retired who live here,” said Commissioner Hutch Hutchings.  We felt this was a good way to do it.”

Signs designating Thurston County as a “Purple Heart County” will begin appearing at all major roads leading into the county

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Where’s Uncle Walter When we need him?

May 28th, 2017 by Ken

By Joe Illing

“If you once forfeit the confidence of your fellow citizens, you can never regain their respect and esteem.” Abraham Lincoln

I have a very smart Seattle friend. He graduated from Columbia with a Masters in history and cum laude from Harvard Law. A typical Seattle liberal, he’s listened to NPR religiously for the past thirty years. But he listens no longer. They’ve lost him.

“Why?” I asked.

“Well, I used to get news from NPR. Now all I get are their political opinions. Every story, regardless of its news content, seems to start with the reporter’s view as to whether the event helps or hurts the Democrats or the Republicans. The news itself is secondary, almost an afterthought.”

Thinking maybe he’d been converted from a lifelong commitment to the political left by Donald Trump, I asked him.

“Oh, hell no! NO! I can’t stand that man. I held my nose and voted for Hillary! But … I don’t know … ” and his voice faded off.

“But what?” I asked anxiously.

“It’s the bias of the media, on both sides of the political divide. It’s so transparent it’s nauseating,” he replied. “I long for the good old days of Walter Cronkite and the six o’clock news. I never knew if he was a Democrat or a Republican. He played it straight down the middle. I miss that … and I miss his honest, non-advocacy reporting. So now, in order to preserve my sanity, I listen to audio books during my commute.”

I had to wonder if NPR has lost this deeply committed liberal, how many others has it lost? I can only assume it’s a bunch and my friend is a bit like the first rock rolling in an avalanche.

And I though it all comes down to trust. We trusted Cronkite to give us the news straight, untainted by a polarizing political point of view. But no longer. The news reportage has become so tilted one way or the other that we can no longer fully trust any of it.

It’s a shame, and even a threat to our republic’s well being … but, unfortunately, as “Uncle Walter” used to say “that’s the way it is.”


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Lacey chamber seeks new executive director

May 26th, 2017 by Ken

The Lacey South Sound Chamber of Commerce is looking for a new executive director.

After three years at the helm of the chamber, executive director Sierra Burton Roundy is leaving to follow her new husband to Tacoma while he attends school.  She has taken a job as marketing director for a Tacoma firm.

Roundy’s last day is today, but she will continue to work for the Lacey chamber two days a week through the BBQ Festival in July.

While money was not a factor in her leaving, the chamber will have to pay its staff better if it wants to retain good employees, she said.

Current president Martin McElliott is starting the search for a replacement.

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Cruise ships to stop in Olympia

May 24th, 2017 by Ken

American Cruise Line has put the Port of Olympia on its 2018 schedule.

Beginning in late September of that year, a 175-passenger ship will dock at the Port of Olympia and discharge its passengers for day tours and visits to the local area.

Port Commissioner Bill McGregor said he has been working on the idea for more than three years.  Representatives of the cruise line visited the port recently and said their new ship would fit perfectly in port facilities.

The cruise line staff will work with the Visitor and Convention Bureau for on-shore trips and activities.

The visits are part on the 11-day fall cruise schedule.   If the visits work out, the cruise line may add Olympia to its seven-day Puget Sound summer cruise.

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You must be a longtime Lacey Resident

May 23rd, 2017 by Ken

If you remember 

The Patterson Lake  Roller Rink and the skating bus.

Sledding on Judd Hill in the winter snows

Trying to sneak into the Evergreen Ballroom with fake ID

Driving off from the Lacey Drive In Theater with the speaker still attached


When the Bower Learning Center was the North Thurston High School library

When Timberland High School was first opened

Swimming at Sunrise Resort on Hicks Lake

When College Street was two lanes with parking on both sides

When Jerry Farmer sold men’s clothing at The Guardsman.

The Guard House

Ludlow Bingo

Fireworks stands on all the street corners

Pietro’s Pizza which became Kenny Rogers Roasters

Dancing at Richard’s Roundhouse

Having your first legal beer at the Melody Lane Tavern

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What’s not surprising about Lacey elections

May 22nd, 2017 by Ken

Filing for elective offices brought few surprises in those who chose to run for office in Lacey, but a little surprise in those who chose not to run.

When Jeff Gadman resigned from the Lacey City Council to take over as Thurston County Treasurer, nearly a dozen people expressed in interest in being appointed to the vacant seat.  When the disputes and disagreements settled, Rachel Young was appointed.

It was anticipated by political pundits that several of those who were not selected would run for the office.   With the end of filing period last week, that was not the case.   Young didn’t draw a single opponent.   She will skate into office without being challenged.

Incumbent Mayor Andy Ryder and Deputy Mayor Cynthia Pratt also failed to draw opposition.

But, one incumbent councilmember did get a challenger.   Michael Steadman will face Robert Motzer.

The seat being vacated by retiring Virgil Clarkson drew four candidates.  Rick Nelsen, Madeline Goodwin, Carolyn Cox and myself.   Nelsen, Cox and I had sought appointment to the empty seat won by Young,.  Motzer had also sought appointment.   The other six candidates did not file for any of the five positions open on the Lacey City Council.

For the first time in my memory, all of the open seats on the North Thurston School Board have at least two candidates running.  There’s no free skating in the Lacey education realm this time.

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May 4 storm may be as bad as Columbus Day storm

May 17th, 2017 by Ken

That’s the assessment of Lacey City Manager Scott Spence.   The May 4 storm which hit Lacey hard, may be compared to the Columbus Day Storm of 1962 although in a significantly smaller area.

In a talk before the Gateway Rotary Club Wednesday, Spence said the damage and the force of the storm, could be comparable to that major storm of more than 50 years ago.

Hardest hit was the area in Lacey comprised of Yelm Highway, Ruddell Road, College Street and Rainier Road.

Spence listed off the statistics – – for the fifteen minute period of 4:15 to 4:30 pm, rain fell at the equivalent of 13 inches an hour.  Some 46 homes were hit by falling trees, at least 75 street trees were uprooted and 56,000 people were without power, some for up to three days.  He said some experts put the wind speed at nearly 100 mph.

Spence said that early response by Puget Power allowed all roads to be opened and power restored rather quickly.   “Because the area hit was so small, PSE was able to get crews to the site as early as possible,” he said.

The city manager estimated that $1 million dollars in damage was done to houses hit by trees, and the cost to the city of street damage and overtime was near $300,000.

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Filing period starts today

May 15th, 2017 by Ken

Filing period for local elective offices starts today.  I went down early and registered for a seat on the Lacey City Council – – Position Seven – – the seat currently held by Virgil Clarkson.   Virgil is not running for re-election and has endorsed me for that seat.

We will make the campaign official next Tuesday when I begin my election run.  At that event, Virgil will make the endorsement public.

The kickoff event will be held at Forrey’s Forza near the intersection of Marvin Road and Martin Way, beginning at 7 a.m., Tuesday, May 23.  All are welcome.

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Vets center $40,000 ahead

May 12th, 2017 by Ken

Lacey Mayor Andy Ryder announced recently that the Mayor’s Gala was a great success.   The event raised more than $40,000 to support the Lacey Veteran’s Services Hub

Ryder made that announcement at his recent kickoff to retain his Lacey City Council seat.

The Mayor’s Gala was part of the City of Lacey’s year-long celebration of the city’s 50th anniversary of incorporation.  Money raised at the event will go to support veteran’s services provided at the Hub, which is located on the campus of the Lacey branch of South Puget Sound Community College.

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Lacey’s infamous poker game

May 8th, 2017 by Ken

There weren’t many places to play poker in Lacey back in the 1970’s.  The only card room operating openly was on the floor atop Casey’s tavern.  They were low stakes and open to everyone.

But, the game we all wanted to play in took place every Thursday night in a meeting room above the Red Bull Restaurant.   There restaurant owner Ron McWain held a high stakes invitation only poker game.   On more than one occasion, I asked Ron to let me into the game.   “You can’t afford it,” he said.   And I never got a seat at the table.

The names of all those who did get a seat aren’t all known, but the name of some of them are.  Those names go to a story that made the rounds of local poker players for years.

It took place one Thursday night at the Red Bull.  Playing in that game were many local businessmen, but the two who took the spotlight that night were Lee Bensley and Tony Swatsky.  Lee owned Lee’s Restaurant on Martin Way, and a couple of apartment complexes.  Swatsky owned Tony’s Jewelry.

The story goes that Lee and Tony had been going at it all evening, with one taking a hand and then another.   Until that fateful moment.

The ante was $100.  Lee raised the pot.   Tony re-raised.   Lee raised back.   Tony responded in kind.   Lee put all of his money into the pot.   Some said it was close to $10,000.   Tony called  – and raised $10,000 of his own.

Lee had no more money, and no way to get access to it that evening.   So, as the story goes, he put up his restaurant.   Now Lee’s Restaurant wasn’t just any restaurant.   Lee’s had been the first restaurant in the state to have a Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise and people came from all over  just to eat this new chicken treat.

Lee put up his restaurant and signed a note giving it to Tony.  With the bet covered,  Tony turned over his hand.  Those there that night said he had three jack’s.  Lee folded and mixed his losing hand with the discards.

The next morning, after the banks opened, Lee went to Tony’s store and gave him $10,000 in cash.

Now, I don’t know if that story’s true or not.  Both Lee Bensley and Tony Swatsky have passed away.   The house man Ron McWain, sold the Red Bull and moved to Nevada.

But, it makes a good story and Lacey is filled with good stories.

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