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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Balsley’s Rules of home repair

December 4th, 2019 by Ken

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.  A roll of duct tape and some WD40 can keep most things working.

If you’re going to fix it, make sure you have the right tools.  A wrench, pliers and a Phillip’s screwdriver are essential to all household repairs.

Don’t break it.

Know the number of a good handyman.

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What’s on your bucket list?

November 30th, 2019 by Ken

That’s a question I get asked often, now that I had another birthday and found out that I’m older than 90 percent of the people in the United States.  What’s on your bucket list?

I’ve already done all the traveling I’ve wanted to do.  I’ve been in more than a dozen foreign countries and visited 48 of the 50 states.  (For some reason, I’ve missed Vermont and New Mexico).  I’ve spoken before crowds of people, performed and played before adoring crowds.  (Well, maybe adoring is too strong.)  Jumped from airplanes, skied across large portions of Alaska and run white water river rapids.

My Bucket List has almost been exhausted.

A few years ago, I had three things left on my Bucket List.  I wanted to grow a pony tail and I wanted to learn to whistle.  (Never had been able to do that since I was a kid.)  I grew a pony tail and cut it off for charity.  And recently I learned how to whistle.  (You just put your lips together and blow).

I have one thing left on my Bucket List.

I want to get a speeding ticket when I’m 90.

That will mean I’ve lived that long – that I’m still driving – and that I’m still a rebel.  What more could you want out of life?

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Celebrate the myths of Thanksgiving

November 26th, 2019 by Ken

I like the myths of America.  I particularly love the myths of Thanksgiving.

A band of men, women and children, fleeing religious persecution in England, journeyed across a stormy winter sea to land in the new world.  They suffered and they died, but with the help of native tribes managed to survive and eventually flourish.  To celebrate their survival, they held a big feast and invited those same tribes to share a meal.

We know the reality is somewhat different.  We know the darker side to that myth.  But what can be wrong with celebrating the idea, the myth of Thanksgiving?

What can be wrong with inviting family, friends and even strangers to have a meal with us?  What can be wrong with giving thanks for the things we have and the willingness to share that with people we love and people we want to love?  What can be wrong with that?

That’s what I celebrate on Thanksgiving – – the idea.

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Good Bones

November 17th, 2019 by Ken

This city has good bones.

It was built by visionaries and entrepreneurs, scoundrels and hucksters, and sometimes it was difficult to tell the differences.

It was built on a strong foundation.  The future existed, not in land, although there was land.  But the future existed in ideas and concepts, rejected by the comfortable and satisfied elite next door.  All it took to reach the future was a willingness to take a chance and the ability to get others to come along.

Like all good bodies it is comprised of major bones, auxiliary bones and new bones.  One of those major bones was Bob Blume.  He settled in Lacey because it was next to Ft. Lewis, where he had been stationed.  His ability to see potential is well-documented in my “Personal History of Lacey” book.  What did it take to move from selling sporting goods from a small store on Pacific Avenue, to selling real estate, building housing developments and creating the shopping center which would define Lacey for decades?

It took vision, but it also took drive.  It took the ability to slough off criticism and laughter and see the future.  It took concentration, with the eyes firmly planted on the goal.  In Bob’s case, the short term goal often took precedence over the long term goal.  And what his long term goal was – – is still unknown, a decade after his death.

While Bob Blume was a visionary and an entrepreneur  Harvey Mayse had  visionary bones  but  lacked the ability to bring ideas to fruition. He could see the future but lacked the skills necessary to take advantage of what was to come.  Like Blume, Harvey came to Lacey by way of Ft. Lewis, where he had been the deputy post commander.  Harvey saw what Lacey could become, and knew that the center of the city would be Woodland Square.  He bought the property from Panorama City.  But, it took someone else to develop it.   Harvey also knew that Lacey needed its own community bank and was the major impetus in the founding of Lacey Bank.  It took someone else to make the bank successful.  Harvey also understood technology and started the first television cable franchise in Lacey.  He later sold to someone who could make it pay.  Cities with good bones often need visionaries to show them where the bones are located.  That was Harvey.

If education and knowledge are key components of a good city, then John Gott had the greatest visionary bones of them all when it came to those components.  John served as superintendent of the North Thurston School District for two decades.  During that time he foresaw the 24-hour work day, the need for vocational education and establishing new teaching styles for different types of learning.  His background wasn’t in education.  He had medicine, engineering and politics in his past.  Those paths helped in his ability to understand education from different viewpoints.  He started an alternative high school, required his administrators to become involved in the community, and took the lead working with several other school districts in creating a Vocational Skills Center to teach students an alternative educational path. He was the spine which held up all of the other school districts in the community, many of whom eventually adopted his vision.

In the arena of local government, Greg Cuoio had the bones to envision the future of the city.  For more than one-third of the city’s lifetime, Greg was at the helm of leadership.  Through several mayors, Greg showed his leadership skills.  And while it is often said, that no one should become more famous than his boss, it was Greg Cuoio who often represented the city to residents and others alike.

Using his skills, the city was able to build several city facilities including a new city hall and a new library building, without having to raise taxes.  It was also under his leadership that Lacey annexed the Hawks Prairie area and set the future course of the city.

While the major bones were in place, those auxiliary bones which flesh out the skeleton were also busy.   Earlyse Swift was a power behind the women’s movement in Thurston County.  She served as deputy mayor, but it was her leadership in and organizing skills which brought more women into city government and allowed several women mayors – – Kay Boyd, Gene Liddell and Nancy Peterson – – to emerge.

Joe DiSanto was another of those side bones who received little attention but was instrumental in making Panorama City a major player in city affairs.  When he arrived at that retirement community, it’s reputation was lagging.  While people recognized the advantages of living in at Panorama, its reputation locally was still recovering from previous ownership.  DiSanto came from a hotel background, realized that you only had one chance to make a first impression and began to organize Panorama as a welcoming and attractive place in which to retire.  He also mended fences with other community leaders.

We also have New Bones just starting to bear the force of the frame.  Andy Ryder has been mayor for eight years, and has endeavored to put his mark on the city of his birth.  His support of history and its significance to a city in creating a sense of community identification has given this new bones some strength.  It will take time before it can be determined if he becomes an old bone.

There are others who deserve recognition for creating the city we call home, but like blood vessels, nerves and sinew, they often labor to do their job without a second thought of the full body.


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Anti Lacey bias still exists

November 15th, 2019 by Ken

It was hard for me to comprehend, but it was brought back to me in a way that set me back on my heels.   An anti-Lacey bias still exists in this greater community of ours.

I’m a member of the Thurston County Historical Commission.  We are appointed by the county commissioners to represent their districts.  I was appointed to my job by Thurston County Commissioner Gary Edwards to represent the Second Commissioner District composed primarily of the eastern section of the county, generally Lacey and Yelm.

I’ve only been on the job about two years.  Before I was appointed, the commission created, helped write, and published a history of Thurston County.  Many local historians and writers contributed to the book.

For the last six months, the book has sat in a secure location somewhere in the county courthouse.  Some questions existed as to who should be allowed to sell the book and how that would come about.

I saw a copy of the book one time for about three minutes.  It’s a beautiful hard-covered, well-produced and colorful history of Thurston County.  With just a quick thumb-through, I think it covers all of the communities of the county.   As I understand it, some 500 copies were printed.  Some 30-40 copies have been distributed to various individuals, primarily to those who had a hand in writing and producing the book.

The commission finally decided to ask for applications from those wishing to sell the book.  Certain criteria had to be met, which restricted the sale and distribution to local government agencies and non-profit historical groups with a tax ID number.

There were only two applicants – – the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum – – and the City of Lacey and the Lacey Museum.

Of course I argued strongly that the Lacey museum should get the books and pointed out the history of the museum, its professional and paid staff and the fact that only Lacey had a museum and a secure place to store the books.

The only argument against Lacey was just that.  It was Lacey.  One of the commission members said, “This is a county history book”  That of course implied to me, that Lacey was still seen as an insignificant player in Thurston County.  And, further, that Lacey had no history.

I was the only representative for Lacey and the eastern part of the county.  The other commission members present were from Districts 1 and 3, which both encompass Olympia.  I couldn’t get enough support to give the books to the Lacey museum.  They also weren’t comfortable awarding the books to the Olympia applicant.

As of this writing, the books still sit somewhere in the county courthouse, while members of the Thurston County Historical Commission determine if Lacey is really a part of Thurston County.

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My personal take on local elections

November 13th, 2019 by Ken


Elections are personal for me.  I interviewed most of the candidates running for elective office in Lacey and several running for city council seats in Olympia and for the Port of Olympia.

These are some of my observations.

Lacey City Council candidate Ed Kunkel appears to have pulled off a very slim win over Lynda Zeman.  At the last count, Ed was holding a slim 79 vote lead.  There are a number of reasons for this win.  Ed out-worked Lynda.  He door belled every house in Lacey at least once and in some areas more than once. Lynda door belled far fewer homes.  Ed has his campaign signs out early.  Lynda didn’t get most of her signs up until later in the campaign.

There was also some animosity left over from the previous selection process, when the Lacey City Council showed its favoritism and appointed Lynda to an open seat so she could run as an incumbent.  Several other qualified candidates were available but the council selected Lynda to give her that small advantage.

The closeness of the race was due in part to the fact that 250 more people voted in the race than in the other city council seats up for election this year.   I suspect that most of them went to Lynda, although I have no way of knowing that for certain.

If Ed hangs on to his slim lead, and it looks like he will, he will be the fourth person to hold that seat on the Lacey Council in the last four years.  Jeff Gadman resigned to become county treasurer.     Rachel Young was appointed to fill the seat.  She resigned after a year because of her work load.  Lynda was then appointed.  Her term may have ended with Ed’s victory.

Lenny Greenstein won re-election to his third term on the Lacey Council, despite a strong showing from his opponent Harald Jones.  Lenny had 53 percent of the vote.   The largest vote getter in all of the Lacey races was Malcolm Miller who took 59 percent of the vote in his contest with Sarah Jean Morris.  Malcolm did several mailings and put up many signs.  Sarah did one mailing and put up only four campaign signs.  She said she didn’t like the clutter that campaign signs brought to the community.

All three incumbent North Thurston School Board candidates running this year were re-elected.  Graeme Sackrison had no opponent, while Dave Newkirk had only token opposition.   The biggest race came for the seat held by Gretchen Maliska.  The incumbent was challenged by Jason Noahr, a candidate put up by the teacher’s union.  In his campaign brochure Jason primarily pointed out his endorsements by the various government unions and didn’t talk at all about his views and what he wanted to accomplish.  Gretchen won by 53 percent of the vote.

Olympia mayor Cheryl Selby was re-elected and eliminated one of her biggest critics, when she defeated Nathaniel Jones by an easy margin of 53 percent.

And, in the Port of Olympia race, which signals the county’s viewpoint on economic development and the environment incumbent Port Commission Joe Downing beat his challenger Helen Wheatly with a slim 51 percent of the vote.  Incidentally Helen was the only candidate of all those mentioned above that refused to come on my radio show on the advice of her campaign supporters.  Her appearance on the show might have made the difference – – but we’ll never know.

Did this election signal any significant changes in future local elections?  The answer is still illusive. Women candidates always fare better in Thurston County elections.  This time around Lynda Zeman wasn’t able to hold on to her appointed seat, and Helen Wheatly was unsuccessful in her challenge for a port seat.

We did find out that what wins election is a strong campaign and hard work.  Reflecting the views of your constituency also helps.

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Elections show the future

November 7th, 2019 by Ken

You’ve heard it said that elections have consequences  – – and they do.  But, elections can also signify a change in society.  The recent local election is one of those times.

In 1986, I wrote my master’s thesis at Evergreen on “Power and Influence in Thurston County.”  Among other things, it found that local politics was controlled by a lose federation of which I called the “Liberal, Feminist Coalition.”  This group wasn’t involved in every election, but when it was, it often won.  Early examples include Karen Fraser and Holly Gadbaw.

Over the years, this coalition expanded to include environmentalists and government unions such as the firefighters and local and state employees.  For the last three decades, this group has been active and successful.  Politics in the urban areas of Thurston County – – Olympia primarily – and Lacey to some extent – have been under its control.

It reached its apex at the turn of the 21st Century, when three of its members – all women – comprised the Thurston County Commission.

But like all groups, as it gained power, it wanted more, and it over-reached.  Within six years, the county commission members had been replaced by three more-conservative men.

The coalition was on its way out.

It had a couple of last gasps.  EJ Zita on the Port of Olympia, and Tye Mesner slipping into the Thurston County Commission  by just a few hundred votes.

It tried again this year running candidates for the Lacey City Council, the Olympia City Council and the Port of Olympia.  All of them lost.

I think the decline of the coalition is due to several factors.  Original members of the group have died and the new ones who have taken over have been too radical for the average voter.  The”Homeless” issue had shown that liberal policies don’t work.  And, the makeup of voters in Thurston County has become “just a little more” conservative.  Helped by the military, and those Californians who have left their state and moved here looking for something different than what they left behind.

Elections have consequences.  They also show the future.

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Simple thoughts on complex subjects #1

November 3rd, 2019 by Ken

California wildfires are nothing new.  American sailors traveling along the coast of California in the 1820’s told of seeing miles and miles of burned forests.  They noted in their journals and diaries about the devastation and questioned how anyone could live there again.

There are reasons, many of which have been articulated by people more knowledgeable than me.  California often undergoes droughts and just recently finished one that lasted eight years.  The world climate is changing and droughts are becoming more frequent and more long-lasting.  The state also suffers from a lack of water.  In the last several decades, California has embarked on “environmental” policies which make wildfires more and more probable.  And, more and more people are building homes in areas that had never been “urbanized” before.

The impact of those events on California, have a profound impact on those of us who live in the Pacific Northwest and Washington in particular.  More and more Californians are fleeing their state and moving here.  We know that at least 10,000 a month are calling Washington home, by looking at the number of driver license applications as they turn in their California licenses.  Many are moving to the Seattle metro area.  But some are calling Thurston County – home.

Climate scientists have said many times, that the only part of the United States to benefit from global warming, is the Pacific Northwest.  Our climate will eventually become like Northern California and our major cities such as Seattle, Vancouver and Spokane, will become like Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego.  Along with the people, come the same problems facing California.  Perhaps the most important one is  – – a single political party controls what happens.  Does that sound familiar?

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Special moments

November 1st, 2019 by Ken

Waking up from a good night’s sleep in a warm bed and realizing that you don’t have to get up if you don’t want to.

The squeal of pure delight as your one-year old granddaughter recognizes a picture of her favorite cartoon character in a book the two of you are reading.

A gentle touch on your shoulder as your wife passes your chair.

An unexpected phone call from an old-friend wanting to get together for lunch and you have the time.

Being late for an appointment and realizing that all of the traffic signals are turning green as you approach the intersection.

Watching a doe and her fawn along side the road and being thankful they aren’t in your yard.

The look of pure joy on the face of your dog when you come through the door.

The realization that your favorite TV show has been renewed for another season.

And, the recognition that these special moments are just part of one day.



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Don’t Vote

October 25th, 2019 by Ken

If you’ve attended candidate forums, met with the candidates one-on-one, or if you have listen to the interviews I’ve recorded on my Coffee With Ken show, then this article isn’t for you and you don’t need to read any further.

However, if you have read your Voter’s Guide, read the political brochures you’ve received in the mail, or talked with your friends about how to vote – – then this article is for you.

Don’t Vote.  You’re an ignorant voter and you should tear up your ballot, put it in the recycle bin and let those of us “educated” voters cast our ballots and make the decisions for you.

Democracy is a great political system, providing the person voting is educated.  Too often however, most people vote out of ignorance – or laziness.  It’s fairly easy to read the voters guide, glance at the political mailings you’ve received and ask your friend Alice how you should vote.  That’s the reason we’ve received the kind of government we currently have.

It’s not enough just to vote, as some people insist.  You must be educated.  You must take the time to find out who you’re voting for, what she stands for, how she plans to solve the problems most important to you.  You shouldn’t vote for someone because of her gender, or what political party she belongs to.  (If I use the feminine pronoun it’s by choice. Women and Democrats dominate the political system in Olympia, Lacey and Tumwater.)

Don’t depend on the Voters Guide.  It is not unbiased.  It is a product of the candidates and nothing the candidates say in the guide can be declared the truth.  You must  attend candidate forums.  Buttonhole candidates when you encounter them.  Ask them the hard questions.  Read, or listen to unbiased interviews.  Talk with people who think different from you and get their opinion.  Make up your mind to be an educated voter.

If you can’t do that, then tear up your ballot and let me decide.  I consider myself an educated voter.

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Trump’s foreign policy agenda

October 18th, 2019 by Ken

President Donald Trump has announced his foreign policy agenda.  Bring the troops home. The president pointed out, that many of the trouble spots around the world have been trouble spots for centuries.  “We are not the world’s policeman,” he said.

The United States has military stationed in dozens of countries around the world, most  are remnants  of World War Two and the Cold War.  These “policemen” cost the United States billions of dollars every year.  Trump, ever the businessman, looks at the bottom line and says – we don’t need to spend this money.  Let other countries contribute and we’ll back off of our commitments.

Our country has gone through periods of Isolationism before.  No foreign entanglements has often been the watchword.   And, most Americans supported keeping out of Europe and the world’s affairs.  Before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, the majority of Americans favored remaining neutral in World War Two.

America assumed its role as the world’s policeman after that war, when we were the only country in the world, not significantly touched by conflict on its soil.  We were the dominate power, with the exception of the Soviet Union.  The burden was thrust upon us to protect the rest of the world from the evils of totalitarianism   and we took it as a crusade.

We fought hot wars – Korea and Vietnam; and we fought hundreds of smaller wars in many forms, often with others doing the fighting and us providing the money and logistical support.

With the decline of the Soviet Union, the call came to withdraw from some of our policing charges.  Then came 9-11 and the War on Terror – and the rise of China as a challenge to our world dominance.

We’ve been fighting the war of terror for 18 years.  We have, for the most part, avoided another 9-11, but we haven’t stopped the religious overtones of additional conflicts.

The Turks and the Kurds have been at war with each other for more than a century.   The Hindus and Muslims have been fighting for longer than that in India.  Religious extermination  has reared its head in Myanmar, China and all across the African continent.

Trumps call for retrenchment and “America First” has a nice ring to it.

But, history has shown us, that isolationism is often seen as weakness.  And, those who wish to dominate, see weakness as an opportunity.

President Trump has been successful in his efforts to bring attention to the problem of stolen intellectual property and has gone to a trade war with the guilty parties.

As a businessman, he sees the world in terms of dollars, and the wars he wages are fought in the  worldwide economic battlefield.   He doesn’t seem to understand the need for human policemen to protect that economic battlefield.

Trump is right.  We can’t go on fighting the war on terror the way we are currently fighting it.  But, he’s wrong.  We can’t just pull out from of Cold War commitments, without something to take its place.

That’s where the discussion needs to head.  How do we fight religious intolerance, economic blackmail. civil wars and terrorism in the 21st Century.

If he hasn’t done anything else, President Trump has forced us to face the reality of America’s place in the new world order.

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Sometimes right does triumph

October 14th, 2019 by Ken

Every once in awhile, the ant does move the rubber tree plant, the ram does punch a hole in the dam, and Lenny Greenstein wins a battle in the Lacey City Council.

Last week the Lacey council decided not to adopt a resolution opposed to Initiative 976, Tim Eyman’s latest move to limit car tab taxes to $30.  City council after city council, around the entire western portion of Washington, had been coming out in opposition to the initiative.  Even the Olympia City Council opted to join the fray and oppose the state measure.

Lacey was all set to follow suit.  It had been adopting resolutions in favor or opposed to state initiatives for decades.  Former councilmember Ann Burgman, had opposed the city doing such a thing.  “We shouldn’t be telling the residents of Lacey how to vote, on a measure they will be voting on,” Burgman had said.  She went on to say that individually councilmembers could support or oppose a state initiative, but they shouldn’t speak for all residents of Lacey.  That’s up to the voters to decide.  Burgman always voted no.

When Lenny Greenstein joined the city council about eight years ago.  He took up the battle.  He too was opposed to the city endorsing or opposing state initiatives. And he has held that position, even on initiatives he supported.  He was always on the losing side. So, when the Lacey council put the item on its agenda, Greenstein held out little hope.  Andy Ryder, the city’s mayor, had four votes in his pocket and could push through any item he wanted.  Ryder wanted to oppose Eyman’s initiative.

After public testimony, (which is required if the council is to take a vote), the mayor called for the question.   Greenstein abstained, so did Jason Hearn, who usually agreed that the council shouldn’t take a position.  But, joining them this time was Lynda Zeman, the newest member of the council and who is seeking her first elective office.

Ryder slammed down his gavel, said the motion passed and started to move on.  Greenstein called his attention to the fact that only three votes were in favor.  It takes four.  One of Ryder’s votes, was not in attendance.  Michael Steadman was not present for the meeting.

The motion failed.  The City of Lacey would not be in opposition to Initiative 976.

Greenstein’s actions were so unusual that he was interviewed on KIRO radio.

Sometimes it pays to keep beating your head on the wall until someone listens.

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Has Tim Eyman gone too far this time?

October 11th, 2019 by Ken

Has Tim Eyman  and his initiative 976 gone too far this time?   Three of the largest tech companies in Seattle are funding the anti-campaign and the Washington State Patrol and the Washington State Department of Transportation seem to be providing staff and information to defeat “Tim Eymans 976”.

So, has Tim Eyman gone too far this time?   Nah

Eyman sees the inequities of the current taxing system.   He sees how bureaucrats can twist and fold obscure regulations to garner more taxes from Washington residents.  He hears the anger of the people as transportation projects double and triple from the estimated costs and knows those running the project knew it before the projects  even started.

The measure is simple.  It would repeal, reduce and remove authority to impose certain vehicle fees and limits motor vehicle license to $30 and base other vehicle taxes on Kelley Blue Book value.

It’s impact is significant.   In its first year it would cost state and local transportation agencies about $176 million in revenue.  That would increase to about $300 million for the next six years.  Eyman has directed his anger at Sound Transit which has walked over the taxpayers, spent billions of dollars and still has billions of dollars more of transit projects to go.  Its funding mechanism isn’t fair and King and Snohomish taxpayers know it.  But the transit system has refused to budge in its efforts to garner more taxpayer money.

The three largest tech companies in Seattle are funding television commercials touting the impact on bridges across the state and using scare tactics with real state patrol and state transportation officials.  That’s walking a fine line of using state funds to oppose a taxpayer initiative.

This may be Tim Eyman last gasp.  His string has almost run out.  Using his name in the anti-commercials seems like a good idea, since Eyman’s reputation is shot following his shoplifting charge in Lacey.

But, don’t shoot the messenger.  Somehow this use and misuse of taxpayer money needs to stop.  So far, Eyman is the only one who shines a light on the amount of money being spent and the illegal way the government gets it.  Vote for or against the initiative because of its merits, not because its being funded by Tim Eyman and his supporters.


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