Lacey council faces possible changes

February 22nd, 2017 by Ken

With the resignation of Jeff Gadman from his Lacey City Council seat, more than two-thirds of the Lacey City Council seats will be up for grabs this year.   Gadman’s appointment as Thurston County Treasurer and the resultant resignation from his city council seat means that five of the seven council seats will be on the November General Election ballot.

The Lacey council will appoint someone to fill Gadman’s seat, but that person will have to run for election this year.   Longtime incumbent councilmember Virgil Clarkson has announced he will not seek re-election to his seat.   Whoever fills those two seats will be new to the Lacey council.

In addition, Andy Ryder, Cynthia Pratt and Michael Steadman will all be up for re-election.  Only Lenny Greenstein and Jason Hearn are safe.

With five seats out of seven on the ballot this fall, significant changes could be in the works including who will serve as mayor and deputy mayor, positions currently held by Ryder and Pratt.

Posted in Government, Local Politics, The Real News having Comments Off on Lacey council faces possible changes

Ranking our state’s business climate

February 21st, 2017 by Ken

I love statistics and nothing has more statistics than the Red Book of 2017 Competitiveness.  Funded by the Association of Washington Business and undertaken by the Washington Research Council, the publication sheds light on just where Washington stands among states.

For example – -Washington is the 13th largest state in the country based on population  With 7,170,000 people Washington is  larger than number 14 – Arizona with 6.8 million.  Helping out the state’s growth in population is in-migration of 67,000 people last year, including 28,000 from out of the country.

Accounting for the population growth is jobs.  Last year, more than 100,000 jobs were added to the economy, putting the state fifth in the country for job growth; and fourth for job growth over the past 10 years.   More jobs equal more income and Washington was 12th in personal income with an average of $51,000.   In addition, the state added 11 percent more new businesses while losing 9.5 percent   That equates in my book to a 2.5 percent growth in new businesses.

The state ranks 22nd in state and local taxes but ranks 11th in business taxes.   Washington has the second highest gas tax in the country at 49.4 cents per gallon, eclipsed only by Pennsylvania with 51.4 cents.

An additional fact – – Washington ranks 46 in the number of state and local government employees per 1000 residents, but ranks 14th in average government salary at $62,000.

Copies of the Red Book, which contains dozens of other interesting facts, can be obtained at the Association of Washington Business office in Olympia.

Posted in Business, Informational, The Real News having Comments Off on Ranking our state’s business climate

Tribal agreement good for Lacey Fire District taxpayers

February 20th, 2017 by Ken

The agreement currently being negotiated between the Lacey Fire District and the Nisqually tribe is a good deal for the taxpayers of Lacey and of the fire district.

The Lacey Fire District had been providing fire and medical services to the reservation for decades, but there was no contract.   The tribe paid what it wanted to pay, and often the amount was far below what was needed to pay for the services.   The taxpayers of the district had to pick up the additional cost.

The Red Wing Casino is the largest user of fire district services in the entire fire district – primarily medical.  In 2015 about 200 calls came from the casino.   During the first nine months of 2016 the casino generated 216 calls.   That’s more than any single location in the entire city and district.

In addition, the fire district responded to 87 calls at the Nisqually jail and 104 to the rest of the reservation in the first nine months of 2016.

Under the current contract the Nisqually Tribe will pay $1025 for each call.   The tribe’s administration will take up approval of the contract this week.   While the contract under consideration covers the jail and the reservation land, it does not cover  the casino which has a separate oversight group.   Fire district officials expect the casino operators to approve a similar contract in the near future.

Fire district officials estimate the cost will be about $500,000 a year.  The contract will be good for two years.

Posted in Government, The Real News having Comments Off on Tribal agreement good for Lacey Fire District taxpayers

The real answer to homelessness

February 17th, 2017 by Ken

Homelessness has been with us since the first Neanderthal was kicked out of the cave.  For centuries and even longer, a warm, safe place to sleep was not the norm.  For most of mankind’s history, people slept wherever they could, under a tree, in a haystack or in a hole in the ground.

With the coming of the industrial age people flocked to the cities.   Immigrants coming to this country often slept 10, 12 sometimes 20 people to a room.   During the Great Depression people lived in shacks made of cardboard and held together with rope.   Even, right here, on the shores of Budd Inlet we had hundreds of people living in wooden shacks along the shoreline of what would become Capitol Lake,  It was called Little Hollywood.

So, lets get it into our minds that homelessness is not a new problem.  Its just that now we have different point of view about those who live on the outskirts of our humanity.   Today they live in their cars or campers.   They live in tents in our greenbelts and in sleeping bags in our alleys.  They  carry their belongings on their backs or in shopping carts.

The causes of homelessness in many ways is the same as its always been – mental illness, drug or alcohol abuse and the inability to find work or hold down a job.   Modern homelessness is also accompanied by a different problem – government rules and regulations that make the cost of housing unaffordable to many who do have jobs and a society that will not allow substandard housing to exist.   Housing that used to be the norm for many people.

A community-wide property tax to fund construction of 500 units of low cost housing will not alleviate the homeless population and will do nothing to solve the problem.   The answer is a second tier of housing that is not subject to all of the rules and regulations of government.   That’s what non-profits tap to build low cost housing.   Why can’t for-profit companies also be allowed to build second tier housing to help meet the need?

All we have to do is change society’s view of homelessness.

Posted in The Real News having Comments Off on The real answer to homelessness

Troubled, sad and scared

February 15th, 2017 by Ken

Our new State Representative from the 22nd District Beth Doglio has sent a letter to her constituents  spelling out her main priority for this legislative session.   Fighting Donald Trump.

She said, “The recent actions of our current president are deeply troubling.   Almost daily news accounts of his discriminatory policies have left me scared and saddened.  But, when we are troubled and scared, and sad, we join together and fight for our rights.

“I’m proud of Governor Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson challenging the issuance of Trumps’ most egregious executive order yet, the one that restricts refugees and immigrants from certain Muslim countries.  As you are well aware, Washington has successfully battled this issue in court and WON on two occasions.

“My colleagues and I are standing together against the moral and legal injustices brought by this administration.   As a first step all 74 Democrats of the House and Senate signed on to a letter to President Trump opposing his executive order.  You can follow what’s happening with the executive lawsuit.  In the coming weeks we will continue to take action to make sure Washington remains the state that welcomes people.   I welcome your thoughts.”

Here are my thoughts.  With so many important issues facing our state and the state legislature, I’m very happy that my freshman representative in Olympia is looking out for my interests in Washington DC – even if she is troubled, scared and sad.

Posted in Local Politics, The Real News having Comments Off on Troubled, sad and scared

It’s not too late to talk with your parents

February 14th, 2017 by Ken

Family histories are interesting.   We all have them and they’re all different.

There’s often one person in each family who remembers all of the stories – all of the characters – all of the events which comprise the life of a family.  In our family, that person is my sister.

Even though she’s a few years younger than me, her memories of the events seem sharper than mine.  And, when we get together, alone or with other family members, we usually end up butting heads over which story is more accurate.

She remembers events differently than I do.  She remembers people who have long since gone,  with a child’s wonderment.   I remember the same people but with a more practical eye.   I recall events she has no knowledge of.  She fills in the gaps of my memory with activities and characters that I didn’t even know existed.   That’s the way it is.   That’s the history of our family.

We didn’t have the smarts to interview the older generation before they all passed away.   We didn’t sit at their knees and listened to the story of our family.   A long distant relative once tracked down the Balsley Family Tree and sent me a copy.   It’s interesting but it doesn’t have much relevance to me or the kids.

I wanted to know how my parents met.  What kind of attraction was it?  When did they know they were in love?  Or, were they really in love at all?

I want to know why I live in Washington.  What was it that caused my family to move from Iowa to the Northwest?  Not just my parents, but all of my relatives moved to this state.

My sister and I swap stories and tales all of the time.  Some of it is true and some is embellished. We should have talked with the previous generation when we had the chance.  Perhaps we would have more true stories.   Or, perhaps, our embellished stories are family history enough.


Posted in The Real News having Comments Off on It’s not too late to talk with your parents

Leave the crap alone

February 13th, 2017 by Ken

How are we ever going to know when something really important emanates from President Trump’s White House?

For the last three weeks, the media has spent 24-hours a day documenting every mistake, misstep and misstatement coming from the staff, flunkies, hangerons and spokesman for the president of the United States.   Every event, no matter how small, has caused the news media to break into newscasts with an “Extra” broadcast or “Important Event” occurrence.

Like most Americans, we’ve grown so used to Trump non-news that we no longer hear, understand or care about the latest news bulletin.  It’s now just white noise that echos in the background.

So, I have to ask – – when are we going to know when something really important and significant happens?   When will the national media concentrate on the stories that impact us?   This constant harping on day-to-day activities at the White House seems like a significant waste of time and the attention of the public.

Lets leave the crap stuff for the crap media and lets hope the national media knows the difference.

Posted in Government, The Real News having Comments Off on Leave the crap alone

Where is our sewage going to go?

February 10th, 2017 by Ken

(Editor’s note:  Occasionally I’ll pull out a commentary that ran several years ago as a review of where we were and how we got to where we are.   This is a re-run.)

Originally aired on October 1, 1996

It’s time to talk about sewage.   At least your local elected officials think its time to do so.   Tomorrow night, the LOTT partners will hold a public meeting to elicit your comments on a proposed course of action.  Because, we’ve just about run out of place to put our sewage.

We all produce sewage and it all has to go somewhere.   The LOTT partners have come up with several alternatives that will cost money – – as much as $80 per month

There are nine alternatives under consideration.  They’re complicated and they’re expensive.   They call for among other things – – reducing water use and consequently increasing sewer plant capacity.  Building a new sewage plant somewhere.   Cleaning it up and putting it back into the ground.  And my personal favorite – – pumping our sewage to Pierce County and letting them take care of it.

The costs run into the hundreds of millions of dollars and will be paid for by us, the sewer and water users – – and possibly by those who are on septic systems.

Our elected officials have been wrestling with the problem for years.   Now, it’s your turn.  The LOTT partners want to hear from you at the open house, tomorrow at Lacey City Hall beginning at 5:30 p.m.   Plan to attend.  Your purse, pocketbook and wallet will be affected by the outcome.

(The eventual plan was to increase plant capacity and to treat the sewage and pump it back into the ground.    A multi-million dollar study is currently underway to determine what has been pumped into the ground and just where it goes.)

Posted in Government, The Real News having Comments Off on Where is our sewage going to go?

No raw sewage from LOTT plant

February 9th, 2017 by Ken

Just a few years ago, the LOTT Plant on the Port of Olympia, would have faced the same problems facing some of the sewer facilities in King County.   They too would have been dumping untreated sewage into Puget Sound when major rain falls.

In 2007 and 2009, LOTT had to bypass the treatment plant and dump raw sewage into the bay.   In all of downtown Olympia, the storm water pipes are connected to the same system as the sanitary sewers.   When it rains, if fills up the treatment plant with storm water mixing with the sewage. This time around, they’ve been able to handle the increase rain and storm water.

In a normal day the LOTT plant handles 13 million gallons of sewage.   A normal winter’s day is 18 million.   In the last 24 hours the plant has handled 60 million gallons of storm and waste water.

According to Lisa Dennis Perez, the director of environment planning and communications,  there are several reasons the plant can handle the increased flow.  The primary sedimentation basin has been upgraded to handle up to 60 million gallons of storage, but they’ve also done a better job of planning for rainfall events.  “We have a procedure on how to prepare and we’ve identified locations within the plant where we can store the flow,” she said.  “We also have better weather forecasts so we can start planning earlier.”

But, Perez said, they’ve been fortunate.  “We haven’t had a long lasting storm.   We can store the water for a short period of time, but if we had a week long event, we might have to do something different.”

Posted in Government, The Real News having Comments Off on No raw sewage from LOTT plant

Group Health becomes Kaiser Permanente next month

February 8th, 2017 by Ken

Group Health Cooperative of Washington will be no more.   Next month, the name will be replaced and the Kaiser Permanente name will grace the buildings, the billings and even the uniforms of the employees.

In a letter to all 600,000 Group Health members, Susan Mullaney, president of the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Washington assured them that they will be able to keep their current plans, premiums and benefits through the remainder of this year.  They will also be able to keep their doctors and their identification number.

In December 2015, Kaiser Permanente acquired Group Health.

Group Health had 600,000 members and revenues of $3.5 billion.  Kaiser Permanente has 10.3 million members in in eight states and revenue of $60 billion.

In exchange for the merger, Kaiser agreed to invest $1 billion dollars over the next decade in Group Health facilities, staff and equipment.

Posted in Business, The Real News having Comments Off on Group Health becomes Kaiser Permanente next month

Newspaper to move into downtown Olympia

February 6th, 2017 by Ken

The Olympian will be moving to new facilities in downtown Olympia in the next few months, thus vacating its current building.   The newspaper will take over the GHB Building on the corner of Franklin and Legion Way, next to the YMCA, sometime in October.

The Olympia School District, which owns the current building, will begin the process of renovating the Olympian Building as soon as the paper staff vacate.   The school district is currently looking at starting some remodeling prior to October.  The building will be used as the new district office.

Most of The Olympian publishing work is done in Tacoma and the paper had no need for all of the space at its current location.

Posted in Business, The Real News having Comments Off on Newspaper to move into downtown Olympia

Depot building still in Lacey’s future

February 2nd, 2017 by Ken

At a work session Thursday evening, the Lacey City Council discussed a new building and location for a new Lacey Museum.

The building at 5700 Lacey Boulevard was purchased last year for about $970,000.  It’s a 16,000 sq ft facility which the city wants as a combined museum and civic center.  The council discussed work plans and potential design for the building.   About 10,000 sq ft will be for the new museum and 6000 sq feet for a civic center.   Exact details are still in the works.

But, councilmembers questioned, what’s to become of the original plan to build a replica of the city’s train depot near the site where it originally sat.   The members liked the idea of keeping it and discussed several ideas.  In the end they determined to keep the depot in the city plans and maybe use it as the first step.

The council talked about money sources to get started with the depot and seek donated funds from local organizations.  City funds will also be used.

Since this was a preliminary meeting, no design or costs were presented.   The council just wanted to keep the train depot in the plans.

Posted in History, Local Politics, The Real News having Comments Off on Depot building still in Lacey’s future

Changes coming to Olympia’s downtown

February 2nd, 2017 by Ken

Downtown Olympia is undergoing a renaissance, according to Renee Sunde, the economic development director for the City of Olympia.  Several new projects are underway or completed, which demonstrate that the city is on the rebound.

Sundee pointed to the 123 4th Avenue building as an example.    This four story apartment complex has 138 new units.  “The building is 70 percent occupied,” Sunde said.   She also pointed out that rates are a little higher than market rate. “They all have great amenities and great views,” she said.

Other residential properties include 321 Lofts with 36 apartments and Campus Loft with 43 units.  All of them market rate housing.   In addition, Bill Frank Jr. Place on State Street will have 43 affordable units for homeless vets and disabled customers.

Sunde pointed out that growth projections show that downtown Olympia itself will have 5000 more residents within the next few years while the City of Olympia as a whole will have 20,000 new residents.

And, while Millenniums are moving into the cities, Sunde said that Boomers are also selling their suburban homes and moving into urban areas.  “They’re tired of taking care of a house and a yard,” She said.

The complete interview with Renee Sunde can be accessed by clicking on the Coffee With Ken button at the top.   At the end of the interview you can watch a short video (below) showing some of the projects she talked about.

Posted in Business, The Real News having Comments Off on Changes coming to Olympia’s downtown

You have to spend money to make money

January 31st, 2017 by Ken

(Editors Note:  After nearly 30 years of doing commentary on local issues, I sat down and re-read some of them recently.  I found that they often address issues that we still confront today.  I have decided to occasionally re-run some of them.  This is the first.)

Originally aired on September 5, 1996

You have to spend money to make money.   That at least seems to be the motto of the Port of Olympia which has embarked on a spending spree that supporters say is necessary if the port is to provide jobs and income to investors.

That of course is us – the taxpayers, who pay the bills and reap the benefits – if any.  You have to spend money to make money.

The Port of Olympia announced recently that it will spend $4 million dollars to make the marine terminal a full service port.  If as expected, the investment pays off, new jobs will be created and taxpayers will be reimbursed.  You have to spend money to make money.

The Port of Olympia has hired a consultant to help market the new foreign trade zone recently approved by the federal government.   You have to spend money to make money.

After other government funding fell through the Port of Olympia authorized the expenditure of $500,000 to extend a new street from the soon to be Swantown boat works to the Farmer’s Market.  You have to spend money to make money.

The Port of Olympia will spend millions of taxpayer dollars in infrastructure improvements and marketing efforts to encourage private investors both at the downtown port and at the Olympia Airport.   All with the expectation that the investments will be repaid in the future through increased jobs and increased revenue.   You have to spend money to make money.

Taxpayers of Thurston County hope that’s true.  We’re spending millions of dollars with the hope that we’ll be reimbursed in the future.

Most of us aren’t against the concept of spending money to make money.  We know that investments in public infrastructure can pay dividends.  But, we hope our Thurston County port commissioners know what they’re doing.  We hope the staff at the port have the business sense to make the right decisions.

We’re making a large investment of taxpayer money and we’re doing it with great expectation.   The port better not let us down. You have to spend money to make money but you have to spend that money wisely – – particularly when it’s not your own.

Posted in History, The Real News having Comments Off on You have to spend money to make money

Preserve Lacey streets

January 30th, 2017 by Ken

Voters in the City of Lacey are being asked to help fund street and sidewalk maintenance through-out the city.  You should have received your ballot by now.

It calls for the implementation of a two-tenths of a percent increase in the local sales tax which will generate a little more than $1.5 million a year.   The money will go towards keeping the city’s street maintenance program going.

Lacey has some of the best streets in the state and that’s due to a forward thinking city government.   As far back as 1973, at the urging of then mayor Tom Huntamer, the city put aside money in the budget to maintain city streets.    The council has continued to do so until the 2009 recession, when it was forced to divert the money to maintain city services.

The city is now asking you to approve a sales tax increase to keep the road and street program going.   It will cost two cents on a $10 dollar purchase.

As many of you know, I don’t normally support tax increases, but I understand how important good streets are for the safety of those who drive on them, as I do everyday.   While the tax will NOT stop the congestion on our main thoroughfares, it will insure that our neighborhood street will be safer to drive on.  I plan to vote for approval of the increase.

Ballots have to be in the mail or put into one of the drop boxes by February 14.

Posted in Government, Local Politics, The Real News having Comments Off on Preserve Lacey streets

Safest way to travel

January 26th, 2017 by Ken

The safest way to travel in the United States is on those big yellow school buses.  Accidents are rare and deaths are even rarer.  While the death of any child is a tragedy, the chances of a dying while riding a school bus is so rare that when it happens, it makes national news.

Every day during the school year,  millions of children ride millions of miles on a school bus and seldom have any problems.   In the 63 history of the North Thurston school district no child has ever been killed on the bus or when entering or exiting a bus.   I’m certain the statistics for Tumwater and Olympia school districts are similar.

A school bus in a big cocoon of safety from physical to moral to legal.  Bus seats are padded and close together providing a measure of security.   School buses travel down the road with a bus full of legal protections.   And, most of us have ridden a school bus sometime in our lifetime and understand the precious cargo being carried.

So, efforts to put seat belts on school buses seem ill-conceived.   Only a small handful of states require seat belts on school buses and those that do have problems.  Who’s responsible for making certain the children are buckled up properly?   In the extremely rare case of an accident, what are the legal responsibilities of the school district if a child is improperly buckled up?

But, more significantly, seat belts aren’t needed.   It’s just another feel good, protect our children from everything, product of our modern era.

Those big yellow school buses are the safest way to travel in the United States.  Lets leave it at that.

Posted in The Real News having Comments Off on Safest way to travel

Who’s in power now?

January 24th, 2017 by Ken

With a new regime in power in Washington DC, I find it appropriate to review my philosophy of government.   You can read the entire concept by clicking on the “About” button above.   But, here it is in an abbreviated form.

Our country runs best when the Big Five have equal power.   Those Big Five are Big Government, Big Business, Big Labor, Big Religion and Big Media.   They balance each other out but when one or the other comes to dominance then the country is out of sync.  Lets review where we currently stand.

For the past eight years we have been dominated by Big Government which inserted itself into every aspect our life. With the election of Donald Trump we still aren’t certain if Big Government is on its way out.   We do know that Big Business is on the ascendancy.   Big Business had been losing ground to Big Government since the 2009 recession, but now, with Trump’s appointments to the various federal agencies, there’s no doubt that Big Business is now the top dog.  Whether or not it reins in Big Government – or joins with it – is yet to be seen.

For the most part Big Religion has been shunted aside.  While Trump speaks in religious tones, there’s no indication that he is truly religious.

Big Labor has had its supporters under President Barack Obama, particularly in the education field, where Big Labor controls the Democratic Party.   But its support of Hillary Clinton, and the loss, puts Big Labor as odd man out.  Some rank and file union members bolted the Democratic Party and supported Trump.  Big Labor now has to decide if jobs in the old coal mines and oil fields is something it wants to support, or will it confine its membership to government workers.   It’s a big problem for Big Labor.

The biggest loser in the presidential race was Big Media.  It’s objectivity has been called into question and the uncontrolled social media turned out millions of Trump supports and millions of those opposed.   Big Media must do something to regain the trust of the American public or it will soon be destined for the ash heap of history, along with the telegraph and the Pony Express.

Posted in The Real News having Comments Off on Who’s in power now?

Washington’s wisdom

January 23rd, 2017 by Ken

President Barack Obama delivered his final speech prior to boarding the helicopter to take him to his future.   Like many speeches given by retiring presidents, it didn’t draw much attention.

But, the most important speech given by a retiring president was that given by George Washington when he voluntarily gave up the presidency, thus setting an example for every one who came later.

In that speech, Washington urged the people to beware of partisan political rhetoric.  He said, “It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, forments occasionally riots and insurrection.   It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which finds a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passion.”

That just about sums up our current state of political affairs.

Posted in Government, History, The Real News having Comments Off on Washington’s wisdom

Social media comes of age

January 22nd, 2017 by Ken

This past weekend, two to three million, mostly women, gathered in our major cities around the country to protest the election of Donald Trump and to push for support of issues important to them and their families.    It was all arranged through social media.

Gathering at the same time, wearing the same hats, and carrying the same signs, these women demonstrated their power,  but also the power of social media.   This protest march was not started by a particular organization.   It wasn’t blasted through the mainstream media, it wasn’t organized by phone calls and letters.   This movement was organized through the use of social media.

Such a turnout of people would have taken months to pull off just a couple of decades ago.  But, the immediacy of social media and the interconnection of people allowed this march to be generated and coordinated in just a few short weeks.

However, the women’s march, wasn’t the only demonstration of social media’s power.   The election of Donald Trump also depended on the reach that his tweets could encompass.   Social media made Donald Trump and social media made the women’s protest possible.

Mainstream media is on the outside trying to figure out  how to tame this beast – or how to ride it.

Posted in The Real News having Comments Off on Social media comes of age

My views on fake news

January 20th, 2017 by Ken

President Donald Trump rails against “Fake News”.   When we hear that term, we think about news that is false, that never happened, that’s made up.  In my view, the definition of fake news exists, but is broader and more encompassing than the definition I just described.

I’ve been in the gathering, reporting and dissemination of news for more than 45 years.   I understand how it works and I understand how it can be manipulated and slanted.   An old newspaper editor told me one time, “It may be news, but it isn’t anything until I run the story.   Then, I make it important or not by where I place the story and how big of a headline I put on it.”

That about sums up my definition of fake news.  A story becomes a story in the newspaper or on a television station only if it’s run or written.   The media can make a story big, or it can make it insignificant by just writing or running the story.  If it has big headlines, people think its important.   If the news channel devotes several minutes to the story, then it becomes significant.  Every editor and every producer knows this and knows the power he or she has to slant the news.

Everyone has biases although not everyone will admit it.   The bias of a reporter comes through when he interviews someone about the story.   He or she picks who to interview and thus slants the story.   Once the story is run it’s often torn apart by a panel of “experts” who add their own views to the story.

The process goes on and on.  There are dozens of ways to slant a story and dozens of ways to make someone look good, or look bad.   And it starts with what story they cover and what clips or interviews they chose to run.

President Trump is right.   The news is slanted and biased.   He calls it “Fake News” and that’s as good a term as any.

Posted in The Real News having Comments Off on My views on fake news