Hey Greeners. Have I got a new school for your kids

March 6th, 2020 by Ken

Hey Greeners.

Yeah, you, some of the 30,000 Evergreen graduates who call Thurston County home.   Have I got a school for you – actually for your kids and grandkids.

North Thurston Public Schools has started a new high school that echoes the Evergreen learning style.  Except, instead of teaching left-wing politics, it teaches science and technology using some of the teaching principles that once made the Mud Bay college the envy of teachers and professors everywhere.

It’s called the Envision Career Academy and its replacing South Sound High School.

As currently designed, students at the Academy will major in math and the social sciences while also completing the other high school requirements of the state.  While concentrating on the sciences is new, its the teaching styles the school embraces.

Playbooks, right out of the Evergreen experiment.

For example:  Students will be taught by team-teaching teachers every school day, all school day, for six weeks, focusing on a particular course.  At the end of that period, students will move on to another course which will also run for six weeks.

Here are some more particulars that make this a copy of Evergreen’s learning style.  As spelled out in the informational brochure “Instead of traditional classrooms, each learning space is designed for a purpose:  design lab, discussion den, quiet learning nooks, computer lab, greenhouse, school garden and CTE-focused spaces for manufacturing, biomedical science, business and marketing.”

Want still more.  Direct from the informational brochure -” There are limited bells.  Teachers and staff will go by their first names.  Students are not 9th graders or freshman.  They are 101s.  Students in their second year of high school are 201s.”

As a Greener myself, I enjoyed and appreciated Evergreen’s unique (at that time) learning style.   If this Lacey school can pull it off it may also set itself as an example of how to teach in the 21st Century.

 

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Do you need empathy to be a leader?

February 29th, 2020 by Ken

I recently attended a retreat by the Lacey City Council and senior city staff.  As a relationship building exercise, the attendees were asked to list the traits they saw, or desired in their fellow members of the council.  They were to rank those qualities on a board where several types of qualities were listed.

Traits on the board included: integrity, innovative, professional, leadership, collaboration, diversity, productivity, accountability, stewardship and empathy.

When the final accounting was done, integrity, collaboration and accountability were ranked the highest.   The lowest – – empathy.

The dictionary defines empathy as the ability to project oneself into another persons personality in order to share in another’s emotions or feelings.   In other words, the ability to understand the feelings of another person. (My reading of the word.)

I want those in leadership positions to understand my feelings, but more importantly I want them to FEEL what I feel.  By so doing, they can better grasp how the actions they take impact me.

So my question – – Is empathy necessary to be a good leader?

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Electric vehicles dangerous to pedestrians

February 27th, 2020 by Ken

Pedestrian deaths in the United States reached a 30-year high in 2019. As many as 6500 pedestrians have died after being hit by a vehicle. Many factors have contributed to the increase.  The biggest culprit seems to be smartphone use by both pedestrians and drivers.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration see other reasons such as poorly designed walkways at intersections.  Large SUV’s which have a difficult time seeing out of.  And alcohol use.

I’d like to suggest another culprit – – Electric Cars.  These vehicles run quietly and can’t be heard, even in a quiet situation.  Hearing them on a city street is even more difficult.  I had a run-in with a Tesla in a supermarket parking lot recently and was almost hit.

I suggest that some type of noise should be generated by electric cars to warn pedestrians, bicyclists and others.  I don’t want to become a statistic.

(I know – What was a Tesla doing in a supermarket parking lot?)

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Buyer Beware

February 23rd, 2020 by Ken

By John Drebick

When we vote for additional taxes we are buying something of value as determined by our elected officials.  The current issue is for a “New Courthouse”.  We voters need to be aware of the very expensive plan to relocate the Courthouse to the outskirts of downtown Olympia in an area that has soggy soil conditions which need to be mitigated by expensive procedures and the site having the potential of flooding with sea level rising.  Or such other place the commissioners decide.

The needs of Thurston County residents have been met in the existing buildings over the years since it was built in approximately 1978.  Some space challenges have occurred with lack of courtrooms.  This needs to be fixed but not a brand new courthouse.

The argument being used is that the existing buildings are in bad shape, therefor replace them.

It is better to proceed with a plan to repair and upgrade.

It is suspected we will be asked to pay for a new facility for 25 years with a construction cost of approximately $250 million.  Payable at $0.47 per thousand of assessed valuation ($141) per year.  This includes debt service on the bonds to be issued so the $250 million courthouse is really $428 million.

The cost of upgrading the existing courthouse along with the cost of a new high rise structure at the current site would be substantially less than what is being proposed.  Courtrooms would be built as a part of a parking structure along with support staff and facilities. Perhaps it could have additional floors for leasing out until the county would need them.

The regulatory and administrative staff would remain in the existing building.

The county already owns adjoining real estate appropriately zoned that it can be built on.  They should stop planning and start building,

We do not need a fancy courthouse, just one that provides a safe and healthy environment for county workers to provide the services that the county residents need and are entitled to.

(Editors note:  The above letter has some merit.  I posted it to begin discussion on a new tax prior to the election)

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A modest proposal on housing

February 14th, 2020 by Ken

The City of Lacey’s efforts to build more affordable housing by streamlining Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) in the city is a good start.  The problem, has been spelled out on my Facebook Page – – the affordable housing is too expensive to build.

City staff estimate that a 400 sq ft unit can run from $70,000 to $100,000 to construct.  Larger units of 600 sq ft are even more expensive.

I think I have a solution that may have some merit.

The City of Lacey should give a grant of $30,000 to every property owner willing to build a city-approved ADU.  In exchange, the property owner would be limited in the amount of rent they could charge for a period of time.  Affordable housing is too expensive.  Only by subsidizing housing can we build more affordable units.

Many cities already subsidize new housing apartments through various grants.  Why can’t the City of Lacey do the same?  A private-public endeavor.  Start out small – – maybe 10 units at a cost of $300,000.  See how it works out.  There will be other costs such as administration, and they will be unexpected setbacks.  But it’s worth an effort to explore.

The city already subsidizes some property owners.  They just gave residents of Capitol City Golf Club Estates new sewer hookups for free under the justification as in the public interest.  Subsidizing more affordable housing is also in the public interest.

This is just an idea.  City staff could come up with more concrete proposals.  We just have to continue the start the city has already begun.

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Lacey advances a plan for affordable housing

February 9th, 2020 by Ken

An overflow crowd of more than 200 Lacey property owners filled the city hall chambers Saturday morning to hear the city’s newest proposal for building affordable housing – – Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs).  These small houses can be built in backyards around the city if they meet city standards.

What made this meeting unique is a concept the City of Lacey is proposing.  It has developed plans and blueprints for housing units of 400 and 600 square feet.  If a property owner adopts one of these plans, it will automatically be approved for construction if it meets other requirements.  The cost of a building permit is about half of a normal building permit.

While the city currently allows ADUs it only gets a handful of permit applications each year.  The city hopes to increase the amount of affordable housing in the city under this proposal.  The idea is getting a look from the cities of Olympia and Tumwater, but Lacey is the first in the county to advance the idea to the project stage.

To further advance the plan, the city held the Saturday morning meeting and had builders and financial institutions on hand to help property owners determine in the concept was something they could do.

Interest from the group waned when a representative of Homes First spent 15 minutes telling property owners they should rent their ADU to low-income individuals.

If you’re interested in pursuing the idea of building an ADU in your backyard contact the City of Lacey’s building department.

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Observations

February 8th, 2020 by Ken

I’ve watched the sun set many time probably none more spectacular than while sitting on a beach in Maui, waiting for the sizzle as it spread its orange colors across the Western ocean.  Sunsets are beautiful but are fairly common.

Many of us have also seen the rising of the full moon.  My most memorable was an early evening in October while driving my car east down Martin Way.  The moon was coming up beside Mt. Rainier and lined up directly with the road, filling it fully from both sides.

But, less common and just as spectacular is the setting of the full moon in the early morning.  The size of a nickel in  the western sky its beam bounced off the lake and increased its intensity.  It played hide and seek behind the Doug Firs and shared its beauty with the bare limbs of the Maple and Alders.  It sat gently on the morning clouds as it slipped behind the Black Hills, still casting its glow in the early light.

 

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You too can help select a president – – lucky you

February 4th, 2020 by Ken

Concerned that you don’t have a say in picking the next president?   Disappointed that a little pip squeak state like Iowa is doing it for you?   Worried that the selection process will pass you by?  Confused about the caucus system used by the Democrats?

Well, worry no more.  In less than a month, the presidential primary ballot will be in your mailbox – – and you too will have a say over who you want to run for president on your party’s ticket.

The ballots will be mailed out on February 29.  The election is March 11.  Every registered voter in Washington state will receive a ballot.  The ballot will contain two columns.  In one will be all of the candidates qualified for the ballot in Washington on the Democratic side.  On the other column, the Republican column, will be the name of Donald J. Trump.

You mark your choice (only one) and put the ballot back in its security envelope.  Slip it into the mailing envelope.  Then, on the front, you will be asked to sign a statement saying you are a Democrat – – or you are a Republican.  That has to be done or your ballot won’t be counted.

Still confused because we don’t register by parties in this state?  You should be.  But remember, this isn’t an election.  This is a primary selection process.   The first time in the state’s history that both political parties have agree to a vote by mail process.

If you don’t want to declare your party preference, or if you feel it is an infringement on your right to privacy – – too bad.  You don’t have to select anyone.  Just throw your ballot in the trash.

Welcome to exciting world of partisan politics.

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Voters are reluctant to pass school levies

January 27th, 2020 by Ken

For the first time in several years, I’m starting to feel a backlash on funding our local schools.  I don’t have a “spidey sense” but in talking with many people, I’m beginning to get the feeling that passing local school levies this time around won’t be a slam dunk.

The schools and their organized supporters will pull out a victory at the polls this time around, they almost always do, but it won’t be over-whelming, just enough to get the funding measures passed.

Some of those questioning the school levies thought that the state had “fully-funded basic education.”  Yet, they ask me, where is the levy money going?  If it isn’t going for basic education, then why are we being asked to pay extra for it?

Some thought the state had done away with, or lowered the amount of money school districts can ask for.  Yet the amount of money property owners are be asked to spend for schools continues to increase.

There are many questions floating around in the school-sphere, but very little answers.

School districts are lucky that it only requires a bare 50 percent plus one to pass levies.  The same doesn’t hold true for bonds.  A 60 percent threshold will be hard to overcome.

Our community supports good education.  But they continue to ask me “When is it enough?”

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Help – My Daughter’s a slave

January 21st, 2020 by Ken

By Dale Cooper
A couple of centuries ago when Britain’s American colonies needed workers … and when there were plenty of people who needed to get out of Britain … someone came up with a great idea. Immigrants would agree to repay those who paid for their passage by working in a menial capacity for their benefactors, day and night, for a period of years. It was called ‘Indentured Servitude’ and there was no relief from this indenture by means of bankruptcy or other appeals to a court of law. You simply had to pay your debt … period.

Indentured servitude had many odious, calamitous consequences, which led to its universal condemnation as a form of slavery. But like an undying virus that emerges from a primordial soup after centuries of hibernation, indentured servitude has made a comeback with a vengeance.

These days it’s called Student Loan Debt, a subtle mutation of Indentured Servitude. It’s a debt that takes years of hard work to repay without any hope of relief though a court of law. However, in a tragic way, it outdoes its  predecessor.

In the colonial days when an individual’s tenure of indenture concluded, that individual was free to start a new life in a ‘New World.’ But when far too many of today’s students complete their years of repaying their debts, they’ll be free to start paying the other obligations they incurred to cover living expenses while paying for their student debts.

What a merry-go-round! What a profound wrong! And who profits? None other than sanctimonious politically correct educators, greedy lenders and complacent fat-cat legislators, that’s who!

Like someone once said, history doesn’t repeat itself, but it sure does rhyme

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How to celebrate Martin Luther King Day

January 20th, 2020 by Ken

Today is Martin Luther King Day. We’ve been celebrating Dr. King for more than 30 years and we’re still struggling to find the perfect way to do so.

Most holidays have traditions and rituals associated with them.  That’s not the case with this holiday.  We’re still trying to figure out the purpose of the holiday and to find a way to celebrate the life of this civil rights leader.  Some use the day to remember Dr. King and the purpose for which he laid down his life   Others use it as a time to celebrate black culture and the contributions made to this country by African-Americans.

Some use the opportunity to participate in a Day of Service, finding a need in the local community and helping make this a better country in which to live.

But for most of us, Martin Luther King Day is just a day off.  Dr. King’s name may flash through our minds for a second but then we go about our normal routine.

Thankfully, so far, after three decades, the holiday has not deteriorated into a commercial farce like Presidents Day and the Presidents Day Sale.  Maybe that alone is a testament to the significance of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the day we celebrate his contribution to our country.

 

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Intercity Transit makes national news

January 16th, 2020 by Ken

Intercity Transit has made the pages of The Wall Street Journal because of its decision to eliminate fares for all transit riders.  But, its in good company.  It joins the like of Boston and Kansas City which have also decided that all transit riders should ride free.

In an effort to boost ridership, transit systems across the country are looking seriously at eliminating fares.  All transit systems in the United States (with the exception of Seattle) saw a significant drop in ridership.  Last statistics available for 2018 show that transit systems in the United States lost 34,000,000 riders that year.  Our own Intercity Transit also lost riders.

Intercity Transit General Manager told The Wall Street Journal that a recent ballot measure approved by the voters allow the system to start offering free service.  Manzanares said that fares from paying passengers amounted to $2.7 million dollars in annual revenue.  Much of that was offset by the costs to manage fare collections.

The decline in recent ridership is due to competition in the marketplace ranging from electric scooters to ride-hailing services like Uber, The Journal said.

Generational changes from Millennials who use digital forms of communications instead of physical movement, also contributed to the decline.  Intercity Transit depended on ridership from The Evergreen State College which showed a significant drop from previous years.

Editors note:  Voters were kind to Intercity Transit system and gave it a big tax boost.  Instead of embracing new technology and new methods of transportation, it threw a hail Mary pass in hopes of stopping its ridership decline.  Throwing money at the problem, won’t solve the problem.  Intercity Transit needs board members who can see the future.  And the future is not more buses on fixed routes going round and round all day.  And it surely isn’t offering free rides.  It just takes some leadership and some future thinking.

 

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Lacey Moose Lodge has “dark” past

January 6th, 2020 by Ken

They’ve torn down the old Lacey Moose Lodge from its location on Pacific Avenue in Lacey.  For decades the lodge served as a private club for local residents and involved itself in community affairs when it deemed it appropriate.

You would think that some kind of historical plaque should be attached to the location to mark the historical significance of the facility.  But, the removal of the Moose Lodge brings to the fore front the controversy concerning historical events, property and people.

What is appropriate to be publicly remembered?

Currently the Thurston County Historical Commission is working on a plaque recognizing the significance of the Evergreen Ballroom, primarily in its attraction of black performing groups to “white” Thurston County.

The Lacey Moose Lodge has just the opposite role.  The Lodge was involved in a controversy over race that made negative news around the nation.

In the mid 1960’s, a black family had moved into Lacey.  John Finley had been hired by Governor Dan Evans to be the state director of the Office of Economic Opportunity.  His wife Sylvia was a librarian.  When Sylvia found out there was no library in Lacey, she started a effort to create a volunteer library.  She was so successful, that the Lacey Moose Lodge wanted to honor her for her work.

When she arrived at the Moose Lodge to receive her award, she was turned away because the Lodge didn’t allow blacks in the building.   Mike Layton, a reporter, worked for the Seattle PI.  He wrote a story about the incident that was picked up by other papers.

Governor Evans was furious at the incident and ordered that all executive staff refrain from membership in private clubs.  It must be noted that at that time many private clubs had discrimination rules.

The action of the Moose Lodge brought forth to the public that such discrimination existed and eventually led to laws which made such actions illegal.

So, the question.  Should the Lacey Moose Lodge’s location be recognized for the role in played in furthering the cause of Civil Rights despite its intention.  Or, should the whole incident be forgotten?

 

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Gun ownership is under assault

January 3rd, 2020 by Ken

Recent efforts to control gun violence by placing restrictions on gun ownership, is rapidly creating significant rifts between those who see the need to stop mass shootings, and those who see the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution as under assault.

Lets review what the Second Amendment really says.  “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”  Just 27 words

From my way of reading, it appears, that the “Founders” saw arming of the people an acknowledged right and just didn’t sense the need to spend much time debating it.  At the time of the drafting of the constitution and later the Bill of Rights, which the Second Amendment is part of, the country was newly formed and had just fought a battle for its independence.

In that fight with the British, the colonists also faced attacks from Native tribes, armed and encouraged by the British, to attack colonial settlements.  It was often the local militia which responded to those Indian and British attacks.   So, a well-regulated militia was necessary.  The militia was formed by people with guns.  So, the rights to have those guns was necessary.

For decades, that amendment was taken for granted.   It was assumed that all people had a right to keep and bear arms as a means of self-protection as well as being necessary for the security of the free State.

It was only in the last half of the 20th Century that the Second Amendment began to be questioned.  The need for people to have guns and other armament seemed to some as no longer needed.

In the last half of the century, deaths by guns started to increase.  it reached its peak in 1974 when the death rate in the United States stood at 7.7 per 100,000 residents.  The death rate has continued to decline since with small variations until it stood at 4.6 per 100,000 in 2017.

In 2018, we had 37,000 deaths by guns in the United States.  Suicides account for 60 percent of those gun deaths, around 23,000.  Mass shootings, (not completely defined but as good as can be determined) accounted for 373 deaths.

(All of the above stats are from the Pew Research Center)

Mass shootings in the United States make news because they are rare and the victims are usually unarmed and vulnerable.

The first mass shooting I remember was in 1966 when Charles Whitman took several rifles, climbed the clock tower at the University of Texas at Austin, and began shooting.  He killed 17 and wounded more than 50.  What was significant about the shooting was it was carried live on television.

The Columbine school shootings had extensive video prepared by the shooters themselves.  Those videos were shown dozens of time by the national media.  I believe it was those shootings that set the trend for additional school shootings.   Those committing the murders have significant mental problems and want to make a statement.  Killing as many people as possible and dying with them, either by his own hand or by law enforcement, makes his death memorable to the victims family and friends.  He’ll always be remembered as long as the national media continues to replay the event.

In 2008, the United States Supreme Court ruled that individuals have the right to own guns.  Since that time, local and state legislative bodies have attempted to temper that ruling but placing restrictions on gun ownership.

Two years ago, voters in our state passed I-1639 which places severe restrictions on buying and selling firearms, by requiring those owning guns to keep them locked up, and by limiting certain attachments to those weapons.  It passed in the urban counties of the state and failed in most of the rural areas.  Following the vote certification, 31 or the state’s 39 county sheriffs said they would not enforce the measure or had major problems with the initiative.  Today, gun rights advocates are challenging the measure in court with the intent of seeing that it makes its way to the United States Supreme Court.

Recently, Pierce and King counties began placing a tax on bullets.  It’s an effort to make gun use so expensive that no one will want to pay the financial price.  (There’s no limit to how much tax they can charge.)

What happened in our state is now starting to make itself felt in other states.  The Virginia State Legislature is completely controlled by Democrats.  They are seriously considering a law similar to Washington state.  In response, 86 of Virginia’s 95 counties have or are in the process of becoming “Sanctuary” counties, where the right of the people to keep and bear arms will not be infringed.

Lets place this debate in context.  Urban areas want to stop the ownership of guns.  Rural areas want to have the right to own and use guns.   Most gun deaths in the United States is by suicide.  Mass shootings are rare and often the result of mental illness.   Mass shooting have become more common because of media coverage.  The courts have ruled owning a gun is a right.  Does that mean that no restrictions can be placed on gun ownership?  Who will make these decisions?  A decision by the United States Supreme Court spelling out just what the Second Amendment means and what kind of restrictions can be place on gun ownership is necessary.  When will that happen?

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2010-2019 – What kind of a decade was it

December 23rd, 2019 by Ken

There are two kinds of history – – personal and everything else.

To acknowledge the passing of history, humans set signposts along the road.  For personal history, those signposts are birthdays, anniversaries, births and deaths.  For everything else, those signposts are the calendar, highlighted by centuries and decades.  Next year marks the beginning of a new decade, and the end of this year marks the end of a decade.

Historians often use the ending of a decade to look back 10 years and see what transpired in relationship to the world.  Individuals don’t often see the ending or beginning of a decade as any significance, but they had been impacted by the trends.

Three major themes permeated the decade from 2010 to 2019 – – social change, economics and war.

Every individual has been impacted by those three events.  I personally have been impacted by social change.  For the first time in my life I realize that I am an old white male.  The old was a given.  The realization that I was a white man was never truly in my mind.   I just accepted it and thought little about it.  However, the social change sweeping our country has forced me into a tribe.  I would prefer to fit into the tribe of “human” but I’ve been pushed into a sub-group.   All of us have.

Economic change also fostered itself on me.  I’ve been semi-retired for nearly two decades.  The Great Recession of 2008 and 2009 had little impact on me.  But, it affected my family.  The great recovery, starting in 2010 and running to this very day has positively impacted me.  For the first time, all of my children and all of my older grandchildren,who aren’t in school, are employed.  My 401k and other retirement investments have continued to pay dividends.  That significantly affects me.

And War.  I have no family member currently serving in any military capacity.  I’m not alone.  It’s estimated that less than 3 percent of the families in the United States are personally affected by our two-decade war on terror.  Yet, I feel personally impacted.  Living in a community in which more than a quarter of the population is involved in the military, I feel their presence every day.  In many ways, those families who wear the uniform feel like my family.

So, where is politics.  Our decade has been covered in politics for the whole ten years.  You should have been personally impact by politics my friends say.   Not really, I reply.   Politics is just the water that we swim in.  Sometimes its warm, sometimes its cool, but its always wet.  It’s just there.

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What’s a hero?

December 18th, 2019 by Ken

Most of us have an idea of what we consider a hero.

Those New York City fire fighters who ran into the Twin Towers to save others during 9-11.   Maybe the police officer who goes out in the middle of the night to answer a 911 call for help.   How about the soldier in Afghanistan who puts his body in front of a downed, wounded buddy to shield him from enemy fire.

The dictionary definition of a hero (yes, I still use a dictionary) is “Any (man) regarded as an ideal or model.”  A secondary definition is “The central figure in an important event or period honored for outstanding qualities.”

Those definitions don’t actually define what we’re looking for so we have go to the dictionary again and find the definition of heroic.  Webster defines heroic as “A (man) of godlike strength and courage.”  Or, secondarily  “Daring and risky action, used as a last resort.”

Those last definitions probably more accurately define what we’re looking for in our modern definition of a hero.  Someone who puts their life on the line for risky or daring action.

We’ve broaden the definition of a hero in the last two decades.  We now use it to define those who teach, go to war, patrol our streets and answer our call for help.   We also use it to define those who work with disadvantaged groups or spend a lifetime as foster parents or other similar activities.

I think we use the term hero – now –  to define those who do the work we would never do.

I’d like to extend the word “hero” to include those who go against the grain.  Those who point out the fallacies of the “common wisdom.”  We could use the word to define those who question the “group think” too often common in modern society.  The people who point out the fact that the leader has no clothes  or the herd is going to run over the cliff.

Of course I’m talking about my occupation and the journalists, the blogger, the commentator, who bucks the society in which he functions and points out that the current path leads to humiliation or disaster.

When thinking of a hero, ask yourself this question:  “Would those New York City fire fighters have run into the Twin Towers if they knew they wouldn’t come out alive?”

Now, that’s a question that not everyone would ask?

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Who’s inside the tent?

December 17th, 2019 by Ken

President Lyndon Johnson was famous for appointing critics of his policies onto to boards and commissions that oversaw those same policies.  When asked why he replied “I’d rather have the son-of-a-bitch inside the tent pissing out than outside the tent pissing in.”

Many government agencies, including local jurisdictions have adopted that concept.  Make critics part of the process and they’ll have no recourse but to support those policies.  One of those who was well-known for doing that was Dr. John Gott, who for 20 years was superintendent of the North Thurston School District.  Critics of his actions were soon appointed to some newly formed committee, which had no authority but lots of exposure.

I point this out because it happened to me.  Everyone who knows me knows I’m a big supporter of Lacey.  I’ve been a fan of my city for decades, but I haven’t always been a fan of Lacey city government or those who represent it.  I operated under the assumption that no one is perfect, that no organization is free from mistakes, and that no one should operate without someone keeping an eye on him.  In many cases in Lacey, I felt that I was the person keeping an eye on it.

Despite all of that, I found myself serving on the Lacey Historical Commission.  Hell, I pushed for the creation of the historical commission and was appointed its first chair.  I served on the body for 13 years.  I began to think that the City of Lacey was way ahead of all other local jurisdictions when it came to preserving its history, and I still believe that to this day.  From that standpoint, I was inside the tent.

When the City of Lacey was beginning the celebration of its 50th birthday, I was appointed to the birthday committee.  For more than a year, I worked with city staff and representatives of other boards and commissions to make certain that local residents had an opportunity to be a part of the celebration, to learn more about the city’s history and to be proud to live in the best city in Thurston County.  I found that I liked the city staff, that they did have the best interests of the city at heart and that they were also human and had all of the attributes and assets that we all have.

I was now living inside the tent.

I tell this story, because recently some of my friends claim that “I’ve sold out.”  The want to see the old Ken Balsley raise hell and hold the elected officials feet to the fire.

OK, I’ll still do that.  I won’t do it very often, and I will make sure the fire isn’t too hot. And, I’ll do it all from inside the tent.  It’s nice and warm in here.

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Fair and balance is bleeding in the ditch

December 14th, 2019 by Ken

When the reporting of Woodward and Bernstein brought down the president of the United States – –  the way newspapers and the media approached their roles changed – significantly.

I was a working journalist at that time.  The exploits of these two Washington Post reporters in forcing Richard Nixon to resign from his office echoed around and through newsrooms around the United States and around the world.

Prior to that time, newspapers distributed the news differently.  Reporters reported the news.  They went to the car wrecks, the fires, the city council meetings, even the boring school board meetings and reported what happened.  They left their personal biases and opinions on the layout room floor.  Editors read every piece of copy and they  edited out irrelevant and unnecessary parts.  What the reporter saw, not what he thought, was the story.

Newspapers were always biased.  There were Republican newspapers and there were Democratic newspapers.  Everyone knew what the views of the newspaper owners were and subscribed to those publications.  But, sometime in the 1950’s, newspapers changed.  The blatant bias was confined to the editorial pages.  Newspapers tried to be neutral and fair.

Fairness was taught in journalism schools.  Owners preached fairness at board meetings.  Fairness was the way to expand the subscriber base.   Fair and balanced was the key to success and financial viability.

There were biases and personal opinions, but these were confined to the editorial page of the newspaper.

Then in pursuit of a greater good and to save the country from itself, a few reporters began to find a different and better role for themselves.  That’s when the investigative reporter reared his head.  For the most part, they were a novelty and not taken very seriously, although they had their readership.

But Woodward and Bernstein’s great success echoed throughout the business.  Here’s the way to achieve fame. Editors like the excitement, publishers like the bottom line and subscribers felt like they were on top of the news.

The media changed significantly since that time.  Bias is once again at the top of the newscast or just under the headline.  Subscribers and viewers have picked their outlet, and truth and fairness has been trampled under foot in the search to be the next paper, reporter, television network or scandal sheet to bring down a president.  The rewards are numerous and profitable.

But truth, justice and fairness is left in the ditch, bloody and bleeding, waiting for the ambulance that never comes.

 

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Transportation woes hit public schools

December 11th, 2019 by Ken

Lacey schools are so short of bus drivers, that sometimes six-figure supervisors are forced to fill in for absent drivers.  Efforts to train and hire new drivers are exacerbated by full employment and Intercity Transit with a pocket full of money and full time employment.

The problem isn’t just confined to Lacey, similar problems exist in Olympia and Tumwater schools as well.

Currently, North Thurston schools are short about 10 to a dozen drivers and sickness or family emergencies make it imperative that administrators step in to fill the routes.  Efforts to get more drivers are facing the headwinds of a strong economy, and Intercity Transit which is rolling in money thanks to county taxpayers, and also offers more hours of work.

North Thurston is offering up to $26 an hour. The district says it is competitive with Intercity Transit, but can’t offer full time work.  School bus drivers work morning and afternoon shifts, as well as special trips as well.  But, the district only needs drivers 180 days a year.  Intercity Transit needs drivers 365 days a year.  Thus, a driver for the county transit system can make more money.

North Thurston offers a six-week drivers training program and pays up to $15 an hour while students are learning to drive buses.  School bus drivers must pass an extensive background check since they’re working with children.  That is a problem for some who may have or currently use marijuana.  Once hired, new drivers also face actually working with children, some of whom may have emotional or mental problems.  Personal liability issues are a concern and recently, several drivers have expressed that concern to the district.

As a child, I remember that many of our school bus drivers were teachers, or janitors or retired teachers, who wanted to stay in touch with school children and wanted to make a little money on the side.   Those days are gone and a problem is looking for a solution.

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Intercity Transit has an embarrassment of riches

December 6th, 2019 by Ken

That’s a correct statement.  Thanks to the generosity of the voters, Intercity Transit has more money than it knows what to do with it.

A couple of years back, the transit agency went to the polls and asked the voters for a 2/10th increase in the state sales tax to fund transit operations.  Thanks to a strong economy the coffers are full.  So, to reward those who take transit, the agency has decided to make all rides – – Free.

Starting on January 1, 2020, no one will have to pay to ride the bus.  It’s free to everyone, the regular transit rider, the college student, the homeless, the young, everyone, will be able to ride Intercity Transit without a look back.

I see nothing wrong with this.  Fare box revenue makes up a very small percentage of the transit system’s budget.   What I object to is the ignorance of the voters who approved more money for the system in the first place.

Two years ago, when the measure was on the ballot, I argued against the tax increase.  I even wrote the voter’s statement in opposition in the Voters Pamphlet.    I pointed out that transit ridership was down, all across the United States.  Some 30 million people had stopped riding transit.  Even ridership at Intercity Transit was down.

I argued that sending large buses on set routes on a regular basis was 20th Century thinking.  We’re now two decades into the 21st Century and our local transit system still operates like it’s 1992.  It has yet to fully adopt the new technology.

I’m no transit expert, but I do know when government agencies are operating without any idea of where they’re going, how they’re going there, and even if they really want to go there.

So they give a handout to transit riders, cast their eyes downward when they pass non-transit riders, snicker at the gullibility of the voters, and keep trying to find ways to spend the money.

 

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