Tumwater history renewed

June 21st, 2018 by Ken

The City of Tumwater has entered into a contract with the Olympia Tumwater Foundation to manage city-owned historical properties along DesChutes Parkway.

As determined, the Foundation – which currently manages the Schmidt House and Tumwater Falls Park, will manage the Henderson House, the Crosby House and Tumwater Historical Park.

Discussions are underway as to just when the Henderson House will re-open and in what context.  While the Daughters of the Pioneers manage the Crosby House, it’s actually owned by the City of Tumwater.  The Foundation will use its expertise in property management to assist when necessary.

It’s possible the Henderson House and its photo exhibits may re-open by September, but things are not static and dates of opening could change.

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Who’s watching the mayor?

June 14th, 2018 by Ken

That’s what members of the Olympia City Council are saying today.   Who’s watching the mayor?

Seems Mayor Cheryl Selby is too “conservative” for the current city council makeup and some members of that body are concerned that she is talking “off script.”  At its recent retreat, several members of the group have decided that the mayor should never be alone when she is in public at an official event.

They have decided that one of them will accompany the mayor anytime she’s out in an official capacity.

I haven’t learned who keeps the calendar and the work list, but word has it that one of her possible opponents in the next city council election may be the one in charge.

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A solution to Olympia’s problem?

June 11th, 2018 by Ken

A recent editorial in The Olympian again expressed the opinion that homelessness was a regional problem, and that Lacey and Tumwater should do more to help the City of Olympia out of its current situation of being overrun by those seeking a place to live and help with their respective problems.

I recently received this letter addressing the problem Olympia has created for itself.

“We have all been raised to look for the big sale, the discount, the something for free – or as cheap as you can get it.   The best example is the sale at the grocery store.   People bring in their coupons to get the best price.  The same goes for every income level.   The only difference is in what the items are.

“When you offer housing at a discount, people will swarm to it.  When it becomes known that it will be free – – the lines start early, even months ahead.  Word gets out.   In the meantime the growing lines of the poor dot the area with tarps and tents waiting to hear where and when the line starts to get those discounts – or even better,  free stuff.  At the same time, when you say there is an expectation, a trade a barter for the service item, people will do that too.  We have always lived our lives bartering for things.

“Maybe we should put the word out that his free housing requires some type of self-improvement activity.  School, work, rehab, counseling, volunteering  – – just do something.   Giving away housing isn’t cheap or effective in helping those who find themselves homeless for whatever reason.  Bartering to do things that can improve their lives, makes a lot of sense.”


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Lacey council actions

June 8th, 2018 by Ken

The Lacey City Council has a new designation beginning in July – – an Urban City.  Now, with more than 50,000 residents, the City of Lacey will be able to deal with various federal agencies for funds, without going through the Thurston County Commission.   However, the city did agree to continue its current relationship with  the county.

At the urging of Councilmember  Carolyn Cox, the council agreed to fly the Pride Flag this week and continue to fly the flag every June.  There was some resistance by Councilmember Jason Hearn who wanted the city to adopt a policy as it relates to requests from other groups and organizations.  The council agreed to start working on a policy.

A recent survey of voter’s views on city parks was discussed.  Some 67 percent of those surveyed thought Lacey was doing a good or excellent job with its parks.   The survey was taken to ascertain voter opinion of a possible tax increase in the future.

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You can tell the seasons by the local produce

June 3rd, 2018 by Ken

It’s strawberry season in the great Pacific Northwest.  I’m not talking about those large tasteless California strawberries which have been in local supermarkets for weeks, I’m talking about the small, red sweet berries that only grow in the Northwest.

Strawberry season to me signals the real beginning of summer like nothing else.  When I was a kid, strawberry picking was what you did immediately upon the close of school.  So when the strawberries came ripe it was the beginning of summer.

You can read the whole flow of summer by what fruits and vegetables are on the market.

Right now it’s strawberries, but cherries will be out for a week or two and the wild mountain huckleberries are also  nearly ripe and ready for picking.

Soon the raspberries will be turning red followed in a week or two by the blackberries; the Rocky Mountain Blackberries, those small berries which grow on the vines lying close to the ground.  Of course the large Himalayans will be ready shortly as well, but they are too seedy and too difficult to prepare..

Most of the beans and peas and common variety backyard vegetable garden crops will be ready about mid-August and so will some of the local apples.  The Yellow Transparent will be ready before then, but followed soon by the Jonathon’s and the Winesaps; all of those other apples which grow on the wet side of the mountains.

By September, the Eastern Washington apples will be offered in our local markets and so will the large ears of corn, super sweet and all grown right here in Thurston County.

Local cucumbers for making pickles, cabbage for making sauerkraut and squashes and gourds of all kinds come ready by September.

By the time the local corn hits the market though, summer will be over.  The fruits and vegetables which marked the flow of the summer days will have come and gone.  Their beginnings marked with anticipation, their endings by sorrow that the season is over.

They don’t stay around very long.  Strawberry season will be over in two to three weeks.  If you haven’t got your local berries by then, it’s too late.  The same is true of the raspberries, two to three weeks and that’s it.  Then they’re gone.

That’s just like all good things.  They don’t stick around very long.  But that’s the beauty of local fruits and vegetables.  We know that they’ll be back again next season, and it’s that anticipation which makes them worthwhile.

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My family’s last war

May 26th, 2018 by Ken

The Balsley’s came to America in 1763 from Switzerland, by way of England, where they had been on the losing end of a religious war.  Balsley’s have fought in every war the colonies and later the United States have had.

It was always assumed that we would join the military and upon high school graduation my two brothers and myself joined up.   My brother Ronny to the Air Force, my brother Roger in the Navy  and myself in the Army.  I don’t remember any great discussion about the merits, it was just what you did.

But, that chain of Balsley’s fighting in every American war, has come to an end.  Not one of my current family members has joined the military in the last two decades.   Vietnam was our family’s last battle.

This Memorial Day weekend I’ve been thinking about our veterans and how a whole generation of Americans have never been forced to take up arms in defense of this country.   The all-volunteer army has taken away the democratization of the military.

While hundreds of thousands of men and woman have fought in the war on terrorism, millions more have had no involvement  with the struggle.  It’s estimated that only three percent of the American public has had any contact with the war. That leaves the new veterans without a major support group.  The World War II vets are almost all gone, as are the Korean War veterans.  The Vietnam vets are the only one left to give their understanding and support to today’s vets.

On this Memorial Day weekend, I think of my brother who is buried in Centralia and wonder who will mind his grave a generation from now.

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Northeast Lacey to get new bus routes

May 24th, 2018 by Ken

Intercity Transit Commission is considering a proposal to bring bus service to Northeast Lacey.

As currently proposed, the transit system would extend bus routes to the north of I-5, using Meridian Road.  The route would go to Willamette Drive, to the new businesses along Marvin Road and back across the freeway with stops at Walmart before getting back on Martin Way.

To do this, the transit system is eliminating eight bus stops on Martin Way and adding ten new stops some north of I-5.

Transit officials say this change will not result in an increase in costs but will be made up by making changes in existing routes.

Extending bus service north of I-5 was a campaign issue in the recent  Lacey city council election.  Carolyn Cox won that election and was appointed as Lacey’s representative to the transit commission.  She should receive some recognition for the new bus service.  With the population and business growth in the Gateway area, more service will be needed in the near future.  But, to gain the recognition of the transit commission that Lacey needed more bus service is an accomplishment.

The Transit Commission has  held a public hearing on these changes of service and others.  There will be a public meeting on those changes on May 30 at the Lacey library.  The commission hopes to approve the new changes and route schedules at its July 18 meeting and make them effective on September 23.

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Same old stuff for Depot sub-area plan

May 22nd, 2018 by Ken

The City of Lacey released its sub area plan for the Depot District Tuesday evening and I came away disappointed in the lack of new ideas.

I’ve been to dozens of planning meetings over the last 40 years.   They all have the same things in common.

They all want to reduce the size of traffic lanes, build larger sidewalks, plant more street trees, make the area more pedestrian and bicycle friendly, adopt new building standards establish building frontage requirements, reduce parking availability – – and the list goes on and on.  Forty years and all the planners can come up with are the same old suggestions we’ve been getting since the 1970’s.

For this plan, I was hoping for some new ideas, some new concepts, something to make the area stand out along with its new museum.  Perhaps widen the Karen Fraser Woodland Trail along Pacific Avenue.  Separate walkers and bikers.  Give space to new transportation possibilities along the trail.  Put in more benches, better landscaping, create an attractive environment along the trail that people will want to visit – – and linger.   Add lemonade stands, umbrella pots and maybe a covered area to hold a picnic.  That’s the type of development I was hoping would come from this plan. Something to attract people and something they could be proud of.

All we got was the same old stuff.  The planners should be ashamed of themselves for their off-the-rack thinking.

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Government to blame for lack of affordable housing

May 22nd, 2018 by Ken

There are several reasons that housing in Thurston County is scarce and costly and many of them are the direct result of government rules and regulations.

It’s estimated by many, that government rules add $35,000 to the cost of every new home built.

Start with zoning.   When government zones property it determines what can go where.  In the process it raises the cost of land available for housing.Restricting housing in the rural areas and forcing it to go into urban areas makes the price of urban property more costly.  And, when urban residents fight the building of new homes in their neighborhoods, the delay raises the price of the property even more.

Government delay in approving building permits also raises the price of housing as builders have to pay banks and financial institutions interest while they wait to gain approval.

Government requirements for construction also adds to the cost.  Recently a friend of mine converted a free-standing garage on his property to a one-bedroom apartment.  The City of Olympia required the installation of a sprinkler system.  This added nearly $5000 to the cost.

But, it’s not only new housing or renovations that are costly.

Over the past 20 years, government has systematically destroyed sub-standard housing that was used by the poor.  Housing that didn’t meet new city codes has been torn down.  Some sold to developers to build new houses that the poor can’t afford.  Government has also restricted and removed trailer parks, traditionally a source of housing for the poor.

There are a many at fault for the lack of affordable housing, but the main villain is government.

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Isolation adds to Evergreen’s problems

May 18th, 2018 by Ken

As The Evergreen State College prepares to celebrate its 45th commencement exercise shortly, those who love the college are concerned about its future.

Recent cutbacks of 10 percent or more have resulted in several programs being cancelled and less options for students.  Enrollment at Evergreen has declined every year for the past 10 years and administrators are struggling to bring some control to a  minority of the student population bent on demonstrations and destruction.

One of the reasons for the college’s struggle is its isolation.  The school is located miles from the City of Olympia’s downtown core and students on campus have no access to stores providing normal living requirements.

Isolation from the community was recognized as a problem from the first time the location of the campus was announced  back in 1967.  State Representative Hal Wolf said he was “disappointed” at the site.  His seatmate Mary Lux  said she was “stunned” by the location selected.  Other community leaders were disappointed or concerned about the isolation of the students from the community.

While isolation is not the only cause for declining enrollment at Evergreen, it can be seen as a reason the number of students who return for the second year is significantly lower than for other state colleges.

Isolation on campus gives students  little or no understanding of real world problems.  It’s to late to move the college to a more urban location, but it’s not to late to begin a dialogue with the college administration about bringing the community to the college.


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Inflation peeks over the horizon

May 15th, 2018 by Ken

I’m no economist, but I do know a little about how our economy works.

I think inflation is about to raise its head and sneak into our lives once again.   I base that statement on observation and not by any calculations by those in the know.

For the last decade, we’ve been around right around an annual inflation rate of about two percent.  Actually, just a little below two percent.   The federal government would like us to be around three percent – a level they think we need in order to keep job growth high and and the economy growing

So far this year , we’re running just over two percent, but I see signs that the rate will soon rise.

Locally, we can see inflation in three different areas – – housing, meat and gasoline.  There are independent reasons for the increase in price for all three of those areas, but added together I see troubling times ahead for those on a fixed income.

And, most of us on a fixed income can remember the 1970’s and the 13 percent inflation rate which hit this country so hard.  We don’t want to go back to those days, but many of our elected officials weren’t around then and many people have never seen high interest rates brought on by inflation, or the cost of living so expensive that we didn’t know how we would survive.

I’m just calling attention to the future.  The signs are there.

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My advice to new graduates

May 13th, 2018 by Ken

Nobody has ever asked me to be the speaker at a graduation ceremony – – not college, not high school, not even kindergarten.  But, I know what I would tell them – – avoid commitments.

It’s a simple piece of advice – – avoid taking on commitments until you know exactly what you want to do and where you want to do it.

Most graduates, diploma in hand – venture into the real world looking for work.  After all, they have student loans to pay off and parents who have expectations that their investment in higher  education will pay dividends.  The sooner the better.

But, that’s not the way to go. Young people need to avoid taking jobs they don’t want to get money they need, to buy things they think they need.

Commitments do one thing — they tie you down.   They make it impossible to venture into activities which will foster your additional education and perhaps put you on a path that you really want to tread.

Buying a house is a long term commitment.  Marriage is a long term commitment.  Children are a long term commitment.  Paying work is a long term commitment because it often leads to the things I just mentioned.

Once you make commitments, you’re tied down.  You don’t have the flexibility to take advantage of other opportunities that might come your way.   You have to pay your bills.  You have to consider your spouse or partner.  You have to consider the impact on any children you may have.   All of these commitments stand in the way of being able to move in other directions.

So, here’s my advice.   Rent don’t buy.  Try not to get too serious with a partner until you’ve had a few years of experience to fall back on.   Never have children until you’re stable.   And, never, ever, take a job that you don’t like just to pay the bills.   Not even in good jobs with promotional possibilities.

Most of you will ignore my advice until it’s too late and you’re stuck.  By that time you have a partner you love, children that love you and friendships developed on the job that you don’t want to lose.

Be honest, be straight forward with people, keep your eyes open for opportunities and above all – – find out what you really want to do with your life – before you take on major commitments.


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Karen Fraser to he honored

May 10th, 2018 by Ken

The Woodland Trail, which runs between Olympia and Lacey will soon get a new name.

Starting on June 2, the trail will be re-named as the Karen Fraser Woodland Trail, to honor the woman who spent 44 years of her life in public service to the community.

Karen was the first woman to serve on the Lacey Planning Commission, the first woman to serve on the Lacey City Council, and the first woman to serve as mayor of the City of Lacey.  When she retired recently, the city looked for ways to honor her for her dedication to Lacey and the community.  The idea was advanced to name a city park after her.  Lacey already has three parks named after city mayors.

But, the City of Olympia was also looking at ways of honoring her.  Working together, both Lacey and Olympia decided that naming the Woodland Trail after her was the most appropriate way of doing so.   After all, the trail runs from Lacey and ends at the State Capitol campus; where Fraser spent two decades working as a state representative and later a state senator.  Between her time as Lacey mayor and the state legislature, she also served as Thurston County Commissioner.

June 2, was selected because it’s also National Trails Day.

The dedication will be held at the HUB.  That’s where the Chehalis Western Trail and the Woodland Trail meet.  Ceremonies will start at 10 a.m.  Those wishing to do so can also help with a work party following the event to help clean and restore parts of the trail.

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Military community likes Lacey

May 4th, 2018 by Ken

More military members live in Lacey, than in any place in the South Sound region outside of Joint Base Lewis McChord.

A survey of military living off-base found that 45 percent of all military live in Lacey.   The City of Lacey itself estimates that 27 percent of all city residents have some connection to the military – -active duty, retirees or civilian employees.

Schools in Lacey recognize this fact.  Graeme Sackrison, North Thurston School Board Chair, said that he recently attended a school meeting at Horizon Elementary School with K-3 students.  When asked how many of them have a connection to the military, Sackrison said about 60 percent raised their hand.

How did this small community on the edge of Olympia, become one of the largest military communities in the state?

Location helps.  Just six miles from the base, Lacey has always been attractive to military retirees.   Many senior officers made Lacey home upon retirement.   They were soon followed by senior NCOs who found the nearness to military services on base attractive, while typical military activities – – bars, pawn shops, sauna parlors – – were missing.

The ramp up of military activities following 9-11 and base closures in California, combined with the military focus on Asia, resulted in an increased military component at Ft. Lewis.

Enlisted personnel, with families found Lacey a good place to live.  Reasons that military families found Lacey attractive was availability of housing, safety and good schools.   Acceptance by the community was also a key.

While, JBLM will always experience increases and decreases in its population, one thing is now sure.  Lacey will always have a large military presence within its community.

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An all-American cruise

April 29th, 2018 by Ken

Thirteen years ago, the Norwegian Cruise Line started its Hawaiian Island cruise – a seven-day tour around the islands which make up the Hawaiian chain.

The ship they chose to make the journey was called “The Pride of America” and its crew was to be all Americans, from the top to the bottom of the employment scale.

“It’ll never work”  the cruise critics cried.  Americans won’t work that hard.  They won’t do the menial services required of a cruise ship crew.   Most cruise lines hired staff from third world countries, who were happy to do the hard work of serving those with money and ability to pay for a cruise.

Now, more than a decade later, the cruise continues to be a big hit with tourists and the crew is still composed primarily of Americans.

The ship “The Pride of America” is all-American.  It’s restaurants and rooms are named after American icons.  It’s walls are graced with typical American sights – New England woods, Las Vegas lights, New Orleans jazz, Hollywood glamour – -and for the most part, its food service is all-American fare as well, encompassing the many ethnic cuisines which now have an American flavor.

Coming away with a greater pride in being American isn’t the reason to take the Hawaiian island tour, but it does help to create a feeling that there’s still something special about being an American.

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Intercity Transit needs to change

April 18th, 2018 by Ken

Recent efforts by Intercity Transit to bring bus service to the 20,000 Lacey (or soon to be Lacey) residents living in Northeast Lacey area is nothing more than adding a few carrots to the stew in order to feed the multitudes.

If Intercity Transit is really going to do more than give the system a bath – it needs two things – – more money – – or a complete change in its mission.

When the three cities negotiated an agreement in the late 70’s to form Intercity Transit, it’s goal was to provide transit service to those who needed it.   But, sometime in the 80’s, led by the City of Olympia, the system began to think its objective was to stop people from driving single-family cars.

Olympia had been engaged in a pitched battle against the car.  They wanted to make driving more difficult and more expensive. City official waged war against the automobile in any way it could.  It narrowed the city’s main streets from three to two lanes, forcing more traffic into smaller areas.  It took away free parking all over the city in an effort to make driving more expensive – – and to add to the city’s coffers.

And, it enlisted Intercity Transit in that battle against the car.   The system began to think its primary goal was to get everyone out of their cars and onto buses.   Intercity Transit now runs a car pool program.  While it supposedly pays for itself, it needs transit staff to manage and monitor it.   Olympia has convinced Intercity Transit to continue the Dash Shuttle.  That’s the program which runs buses from the Farmer’s Market to the State Capitol.   A free service to everyone except the taxpayers of the transit system.

Representatives on the transit system board have been complicent  in this battle, and have allowed Olympia’s vision of the future  to crowd out the purpose of Intercity Transit – – to provide transit service to those who need it.

If Northeast Lacey is to get transit service anytime in the near future, it needs a strong voice on the transit board and it needs a change in the system’s mission.   Neither of those seem to be the case right now,


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Community festivals come and go

April 16th, 2018 by Ken

The demise of the Pacific Northwest Mushroom Festival is a normal process of community festivals.

Most communities have community festivals.  It’s part of the process of creating a sense of community and community pride.  And most community festivals eventually fall by the wayside.  Locally we’ve lost such festivals as the Lacey Music, Arts and Dance Festival, the Tumwater Bluegrass Festival, the Tenino Labor Day Festival and many others.

Community festivals disappear for many reasons.  Some are unable to raise the money necessary to continue.  Some fall victim to a lack of community support or a lack of volunteers – the key for most festivals.  Some of them fail to adapt to modern times and fall by the wayside.

But, most are eventually replaced by new and different activities.  Lacey has its Lacey Spring Fun Fair and it’s Barbeque  Festival.  Tumwater has it’s Fourth of July celebration.

Olympia continues with Capital Lakefair but support for the event is slowly slipping away.  Several community groups have withdrawn from providing food and volunteers are difficult to find.   But, it still seems to meet a need.  Lakefair’s carnival and parade still have community support.

But, it has already been replaced as Olympia’s premier festival by the Procession of Species and Olympia’s biannual Arts Walk.

So, while we’ll miss the Pacific Northwest Mushroom Festival, it’s just another step in the process of a developing community.

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The bookmobile and me

April 10th, 2018 by Ken

April is National Library Month, and Wednesday, April 11, is National Bookmobile Day.

No one is certain when the bookmobile started, but it’s safe to say that it wasn’t to far behind the Model T.

Bookmobiles are still active around the United States, and particularly in rural areas, although some urban areas are finding other ways to bring books to kids.

My experience with the bookmobile started in the 1950’s when I was a kid growing up in rural Tumwater on the Prine Road – an area then not much different from today.   We lived in an old logging camp surrounded by piles of sawdust and acres of slabs (pieces cut off the trunk of the tree to make them square.)

It was a long walk to the main road, if you could call it that.   The road was gravel, as most rural roads in Thurston County were then, and any car traveling along the route threw up large clouds of dust – although there seldom were any cars at all.

I attended Tumwater Grade School, and the bus picked us up on the main road.    I enjoyed school, but like all kids, I looked forward to summer.  But, there was one thing missing – mental stimulation.   We had no television and no radio.  Books were my only means of relaxation.

It was OK during the school year, but when summer came, I had to depend on the bookmobile which came twice a month and stopped on the main road.

After finishing all the books I had, I began to count the days until the bookmobile arrived.

I waited out on the road worried that I may have picked the wrong day, or that something may have happened, or that the bookmobile had decided not to stop here, because I was the only one waiting for it.  But, it always came.   The librarian greeted me by name as she opened the door.

I looked over every book in the bookmobile, spending more time in the sections that I loved – history and biography.  Each one I picked up seemed to be the one I wanted and I began piling them in the aisle.  When I got as many as I could carry, I checked them out.  Sometimes the librarian would make a comment, but usually she just let me wander and look.  One time I remember she said, “Leave some for the other kids.”

It was nearly a quarter a mile from my house to the main road and I was loaded down with books.  It was quite a chore carrying them all back to the house – but I couldn’t wait to start reading.

I never gave much thought to the bookmobile.  It was just something that came, and gave me something to do during the summer, when I wasn’t working in the berry fields or splitting wood or doing other yard work.

So, I’m a testimonial to the bookmobile, and thankful for  the women that drove the buses and the library patrons who supported bringing books to rural kids.

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For the Kids

April 9th, 2018 by Ken

By Dale Cooper

Washington State property taxes are set to skyrocket … and you can thank a teacher for it.

Recently I heard a “Teacher of the Year” defending “public schools.” It’s become a tired, over-used trope and a predictable political talking point.

“Who could be against public schools?” I wondered … and I honestly couldn’t think of anyone. Of course this prize-winning teacher was railing against educational innovation, such as “charter schools” and “vouchers,” that introduce that most salutary of commodities into the school marketplace … competition.

This thought spurred me to continue with my musing, “Hmmm, isn’t the real issue the delivery of public education?” which led me to wonder, “Why is it school teachers always talk about this issue? Shouldn’t they be focused on education, not politics? Seems like they used to be. I wonder when things changed?

“Was it when their union taught teachers how to speak with a shrill voice to level political accusations and threats at all who opposed them? Was it when they discovered if they filled the campaign coffers of their union’s political friends, union friendly legislation would inevitably follow? Or was it when they realized they could control school boards by simply electing three or 4 of its board members.

“Or was it when they discovered how well sympathy sells, especially when it comes to kids? After all, using kids as props can hide any number of outrageous demands by telling us it’s – for the kids.”

And that’s when the teachers started feasting on the public purse. That’s when schools became union shops, closed to non-union teachers. That’s why they’ll fight any threat to their union’s monopoly with insults, character assassinations and smears. They call charter school and voucher proposals predatory and dangerous while they crow how they’re the noble, selfless defenders of “public schools” … which is to say “union schools.”

I think it’s time we stopped talking about “public schools” and started to talk about “public education” instead. Maybe we could look past the union’s deflections, politicking and name-calling, and started to look at educational outcomes. And if we find those outcomes deficient perhaps we should try something new, something that will offer students a better chance for a quality education.

Shouldn’t that be our goal? If so, we need the political will and moral courage to remind teachers that they work for parents … not for their union. We need to put the “public” back in charge of “Public Education” by giving parents real choices, not feel-good banal clichés, political corruption and educational mediocrity.

Now that would be something truly worthwhile “for the Kids!”

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Recollections of John Gott

April 6th, 2018 by Ken

Dr. John Gott, former superintendent of the North Thurston School District died this week at his home in Panorama.  Obituaries and other recollections will soon be forthcoming.   This is my recollections as spelled out in my book “Personal History of Lacey.”

Many important people have secrets, but John Gott, the superintendent of the North Thurston School District for 20 years,  was the biggest enigma I’ve ever encountered.  He was gregarious and out-going, loved parties and was well-respected by everyone, yet he held his secrets close to his body and seldom let anyone in.

I learned a few things about him and I suspect that he’s revealed his personal secrets to others in dibs and drabs.  He was a Missouri farm boy, but too intelligent to stay on the farm very long.  He was drafted during World War II and was sent to college to be trained as a doctor.  The war ended before he graduated and he couldn’t afford college on his own, so he burned all of his medical books in the college’s plaza and left.

He worked for Sears for a while collecting bad debts. Somehow, and I’m not certain just how, he managed to get a degree in civil engineering and somehow, I’m not certain just how, he ended up in New Mexico working in a capacity where he was in charge of funding for all of the New Mexico schools.

He was on his way to political office.  It was said he was next in line to run for governor of New Mexico.  Something happened.  John always said that he had a heart attack and when he recovered a career in politics had passed him by.   Others tell me that it was something different.  Whatever the reason he ended up at Washington State University pursuing his doctorate in education.

When the North Thurston School District was looking for a superintendent John Gott was their choice.  That’s when I first met him.

He relished his name – Gott.  Many people in the school district referred to him as the “Gott Father.”  Whatever his personal demons, and John wrestled with his personal demons all of the time, he was well-liked and well-respected.  And, he had the ability to see the future and adapt to trends not even on the horizon.

He foresaw the 24-hour work day and created a school to teach students 24-hours a day.  It was New Century, a high school which started in the late afternoon and ran into the evening.  John told me one time that he thought students who used New Century were students who had to work during the day, maybe by taking care of younger siblings.

He also understood that more than one-quarter of the high school student never graduated from high school, and so he started South Sound High School, designed to offer an alternative education.   Bear in mind that he was doing these projects in the 1980’s before most educators understood the need.

John also knew that not all students would go on to college, and invested district money in vocational programs.  During his time as superintendent, vocational education was a significant part of the district’s budget.   To that end, John wanted a high school devoted strictly to vocational education.

He worked with the adjacent school districts to form such a school program.  He wanted the school so badly that he even allowed it to go into the Tumwater School District, which would get the state funding and the bragging rights to vocational education.  The New Market Vocational Skills Center was formed.  And, while Tumwater officials reaped the public relations, the school was the brain-child of John Gott.

Over the years his programs have been shunted aside in the search for more money and accountability.   He asked me once, when he was in one of his blue moods, what he thought his legacy would be.  His programs were ruined and he thought that was his main contributions to the district.

I told him that those who he hired and trained would be his legacy.  Two of his protégés – – Dave Steele and Jim Koval – – have gone on to serve as superintendents of the North Thurston School District (now the North Thurston Public Schools.)

John liked to compete, whether it was  in poker or golf, or in the professional arena.  He also invested himself into the community through his involvement with business.

John was one of the founders of Lacey Bank (later Venture Bank and then First Community Bank) and served as the first Chairman of the Board.  His firm hand in the early years of the bank, made it a success.

When John retired, he disappeared, throwing away many friendships made through his work.  I heard about him one time.  He had taken over the job of superintendent of the Port Townsend school district  for a short period of time, and turned it around.  The Port Townsend newspaper said that the people of the school district would never know or understand the significance of John’s involvement.

I ran across him once, at SeaTac airport.  He had just come back from a fishing trip to Alaska.  The meeting was short and cordial but nothing more.

That’s just the way John liked it.

(Upon the death of his wife, Coeta, John Gott moved to Panorama.  At the time of this writing (2016) he still resides there.)

Finale – John Gott died April 1, 2018.  He was 94.

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