The land of equality?

February 4th, 2018 by Ken

Recent efforts to draw attention to the inequities in American life are just a continuation of centuries of effort.

America has never been a country of equals.

We’ve had rich and we’ve had poor; and we have had since the country was first settled.

When our founding fathers said “All men are created equal” they really meant all men are created equal under the law.  Not that everyone is equal in standing or financial status.

Sometime in the last 50 years or so, someone has gotten the idea that everyone in American should be equal.  That no one should stand out above anyone else when it comes to financial standing.

And further, that it is government’s responsibility to see that everyone is equal – particularly when it comes to money.  The concept of a minimum wage is a perfect example.  It’s gotten even stronger since the failure of Communism has been forgotten.

The one percent has claimed a majority of wealth in this country and always has.  You can look at names like Rockefeller, Carnegie, Ford and a handful of others as an example.  Recent wealth is now in hands of others with common names as well.

So – what is causing this latest outburst over wealth inequity?

Middle class wages are slowly disappearing as good paying jobs have migrated overseas.   Large multi-national corporations are making money and moving that wealth overseas to take advantage of tax shelters.   Recent efforts by the Trump administration has helped in bringing some of that money back home – but there’s a long way to go.

And, finally, the climate of this country has changed.  When once government was seen as a necessary evil – it’s now looked to as being the solution to inequitable distribution of wealth.   In other words – take from the rich and give to the poor. – the tenants of socialism.

The United States has never been a country where wealth was equally distributed – and it’s never been the land of financial equality.  The more government tries to redistribute wealth – the more it will face retribution from the voters.  Just ask Trump supporters.

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Free speech isn’t free

January 27th, 2018 by Ken

There is a cost to free speech.   Just ask the City of Olympia.

Following a protest at the Port of Olympia, the city racked up more than $43,000 in costs to clear protesters from port property.  Now the city is looking at the port to help pay some of those costs.

It has been accepted as a fact of life in the United States that people are free to peaceably assemble.  To petition the  government for a redress of grievances,.  To make their views known to the people in power.

However, it was always assumed that such protest would not harm others.  One persons protest is another persons right.

I’ll leave the city and the port to work out that part.

The port was engaged in legal business.   The protesters were gathered to stop that legal business.  It was the port’s right to do business and it was the duty of the policing powers of the city to remove the protesters.

The City of Olympia had the police powers and the duty to keep legal business moving and operating.

Therefore it seems to me, that the cost of providing police service should be born by the taxpayers of Olympia.

The cost of free speech in this case is a little more than $43,000.

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Government is the real problem in dealing with housing issues

January 21st, 2018 by Ken

At last count there were 32 non-profit organizations in Thurston County that deal with homeless issues in some way or another.

Now, the City of Olympia wants to increase its sales tax to raise an estimated $2.3 million dollars a year to add to the monies already being spent to help solve the homelessness problem.   That will tie the city as the highest sales tax in the county, along with the City of Lacey.

With so many organizations working on the issue of homelessness it would seem we should know what the problem is.  Why do we have so many homeless in the county?

Half of the homeless have drug or alcohol issues.  Until we can get a handle on those individual problems, we’ll never be able to find them permanent housing.  They will always need temporary shelter.

The other half of the homeless population are what are call “temporary” homeless.   These are people who are unable to afford the cost of housing through job loss, domestic abuse, family problems and a host of other personal issues.

The question becomes – why is the cost of housing so high?  The answer is government rules and regulations.

Land use regulations have restricted the amount of land available for housing.  Regulations on what the house must contain adds to the cost.   It’s estimated that every new house constructed in Thurston County has an additional cost added to it by government rules and regulations of nearly $40,000.

In addition,  over the past several decades, government has seen the destruction of sub-standard housing units which once housed those with low incomes.

As government rules and regulations impact the employment market with high minimum wage, guaranteed health care and dozens of other workplace requirement, businesses are turning to technology to help lower costs of labor.  This reduces the number of jobs available.

If you want to know the real culprits in our current homeless problem, just point the finger at government.

 

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Lacey will always be automobile centered

January 9th, 2018 by Ken

I’ve been a strong advocate for years of keeping bicycles and cars off the same streets.

Recently I was stopped at a red light waiting to make a right turn.   Just as I started to make the turn, two bicyclists came up beside me on the right hand side and went straight ahead when the light changed.

They were in a designated bike lane, but they had come up beside me with no warning and went straight ahead even as my turn signal was blinking.   I almost turned into them and if I had, they would have been seriously hurt.  It was only through luck – – their luck – – that I caught a glimpse of them and was able to stop.

I’m not sure who was right.  They were to the right of me, but I was at the light first.

The problem is that cars and bicycles don’t belong together on the same streets.

In Seattle they are solving the problem by removing cars from city streets.   In Olympia the answer seems to be to build more bike lanes.   The city has invested millions of dollars to make the streets more bicycle friendly – – but even avid bike riders still say that Olympia has a long way to go to make the streets safe for them to ride.

Lacey has often been called the worse city in the county in which to walk or bike.   They say that Lacey’s high speeds on city streets are dangerous to bikers and walkers.  They bemoan the lack of separated bike lanes, lack of sidewalks in many neighborhoods and an indifference to pedestrians and bike riders.

They’re right.  Lacey was built as an automobile city.   I happen to think the speed limits are too low.  Many streets in the city had 40 mph limits, but the speed has been reduced to 35 mph.   City streets were not made for bike riders, but for drivers of automobiles.

As far as indifference to bike riders go – – I think the problem is lack of education on the part of both bikers and drivers.  Drivers should know the rules of the road regarding bicycles and bike riders should obey all of the rules of the road.

Lacey is not, and probably never will be a pedestrian city.

But, as the city grows and matures, sections of the city will become more people friendly, more walkable and more gentle.  However, the main thoroughfares will continue to be automobile oriented.

Seattle can ban cars; Olympia can make it more difficult and more expensive to drive cars; but Lacey is – and will always be – an automobile centered community.

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Feminist coalition alive and winning

January 5th, 2018 by Ken

If a bomb had fallen on the Lacey City Council chambers Thursday evening, the liberal feminist movement in Thurston County would have been set back five years.

Many of the major players in the movement were on hand to see the installation of one of their own to the Lacey City Council.   Carolyn Cox was taking her seat as the newest member of the Lacey council and several of the top leaders of the feminist movement were on hand to cheer her victory.

It was one of the smaller victories for the liberal feminist coalition in its 30 year history – but one with major significance to the future of many local elected officials facing the voters later this fall.

In 1986, I wrote my master thesis for the The Evergreen State College’s masters in public administration program.  It was entitled “Power and Influence in Thurston County.”  One of its major findings was the creation of a coalition made up of local feminists and male liberal community leaders.

I wrote at the time, that the coalition wasn’t active in all elections, but when it was, it was effective at getting like-minded people (mainly) women elected to local office.

We need only look at our state representatives for the 22nd district, the three women who ran Thurston County government for nearly a decade, and the current make-up of the Olympia City Commission to see its power.

One area which had escaped the coalition’s power was Lacey City government.  So, the election of Carolyn Cox was an indication that the liberal feminist coalition can reach down anywhere in the urban area of Thurston County, including the more moderate City of Lacey.

If they can win a seat in Lacey, they can win a seat anywhere in the county.   That’s why they were all gathered Thursday evening to celebrate their latest victory and what it means for the future.

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Society’s forgotten minority – – boys

January 1st, 2018 by Ken

With school starting again after the Winter vacation – I find myself back on one of my favorite subjects – the mistreatment of boys in our educational system.

Through a number of recent social changes, our boys are left behind by the current educational system.  Our schools are run by women for the benefit of girls.  Boys are forced to conform to a system that rewards traditional female behavior and punishes boys for traditional male behavior.

Boys get lower grades in school than do girl.   Boys drop out of high school in greater numbers than do girls.   And girls go on to higher education in greater numbers than do boys.  More than 65 percent of all college students are girls and in some career paths such as medicine and law, girls far out-number boys.

More than 20 percent of boys, with only a high school diploma, have no full time employment.

Our national media concentrates its attention on the number of girls now taking science and math, but the plight of our boys is diminished or down-played for the sake of some national movement.

Our schools need to become more boy friendly.   They need to give boys more space and time to be boys.   They need to understand that drugging boys to behave in class is detrimental to those boys in the long term. (Nearly 90 percent of children on behavior changing drugs are boys.)

Our educational system must do a better job of encouraging men to teach in the elementary schools.  Some 45 percent of all boys in school have no father in the home.  Male role models for boys is very important at the elementary level.

And, our national media can start presenting fathers in more positive roles on TV and movies – – instead of making dad the fool or the foil for aggressive domineering women.

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What’s ahead in 2018

December 27th, 2017 by Ken

Democrats will continue efforts to impeach President Donald Trump this coming year, knowing that an impeachment effort fits well with their constituencies.  Trump will continue to rail against the media and rattle swords in the international arena.  This is all set in stone.

Meanwhile, the Dow Jones is at RECORD highs; unemployment is at RECORD lows; the number of people working is at RECORD highs; housing starts are at a RECORD height not seen since the beginning of the century; people have more disposable income than in the last 20 years – – and all the media can talk about is the fact that Big Business gets a tax break  that brought it down from RECORD highs in the world economy, which stifled business expansion and forced many to flee to countries with lower tax rates.

After the closure of I-5 because of the Amtrak derailment, the state will begin to pay more attention to traffic problems.   It won’t do much good, since most of the money will go to mass transit in its various forms.  Whether or not the freeway closes down completely in the future is not in my hands, but any legislator that doesn’t begin to address the issue, will face growing anger.  A three-day closure was bearable.  A week or more – – and I pity the fool.

Lacey officials will begin to take a serious look at annexation.   Pressure is mounting from several sources for the city to begin annexing areas within its Urban Growth Area. A council retreat is scheduled to address the issue.  In the meantime, the Lacey City Council has become more liberal and will continue to become more Olympia centric, particularly in the area of homeless issues.   Annexation and homelessness are matched in the minds of some.

Thurston County commissioner Bud Blake has a tough re-election battle on his hands.  His more practical view of county issues rankles the radical left community.  Blake will face a well-financed, well- supported candidate from the far left.  First termers are always in danger, but Blake faces very stiff competition.

Those are my views so far on 2018.  They probably aren’t any better than yours.

 

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Washington leads the way to Republican losses in 2018

December 22nd, 2017 by Ken

The National Democratic party’s efforts to retake the Congressional House of Representative is on solid footing if Washington State is an example.

All 10 House seats in our state are up for election as usual this year and at least two of them will turn from Republican to Democrat when the election is certified in November 2018.

Currently, Washington’s delegation to Congress breaks down as 6 Democrats and 4 Republicans.  Currently it looks like two of those Republican seats will switch to Democrat.

The Eighth  Congressional District was represented by Republican Dave Reichert, a loved and respected former sheriff.   He is stepping down and his position will be open.  Democrats fought hard to take that seat but Reichert’s popularity always thwarted those efforts.  Dino Rossi has announced that he will seek that seat as a Republican, but he doesn’t have support in this purple district rapidly turning blue.  Democrats will take that seat in 2018.

The Third Congressional District is represented by  Republican Jamie Herrera Beutler.  Her gender and Hispanic background has always come through for her in previous contests.  But her district, adjacent to Portland, has become bluer and bluer.  The campaign against her has already started and radio spots are tying her to Donald Trump.  She will have a difficult time hanging on to this Republican seat.

Nationally Democrats need only pick up 23 seats nationwide to take control of the House of Representatives.  They should pick up two of those needed seats in Washington state.  Picking up 21 more across the country shouldn’t be that hard.

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Nisqually a sticking point for the state

December 19th, 2017 by Ken

The Amtrak derailment is the perfect example of how vulnerable to disruption the economy of Washington has become.

The death and injuries is a tragedy, but it signals to state officials  how delicate the transportation system of our state has become.   Yesterday I drove over the Marvin Road bridge and took a look at the freeway below.   There wasn’t a single vehicle on the freeway going south and very few traveling north.   I wanted to walk down and stand in the middle of the road and contemplate the whole idea.

For years I’ve been talking about the vulnerability of Interstate Five.   If something were to happen to the Nisqually River bridges, the economy of the Seattle metro area would be severely impacted.   No where else on the entire I-5 system is there such a concern.   For most of its length, Old 99 runs parallel to I-5 – providing an alternative.   The exception is at the Nisqually River basin.   There, I-5 and 99 meet.

It happens in other areas of the state, but alternative means exist.  At the Nisqually River there is no  significant alternative.

The original plans for the Interstate Highway system through Western Washington, called for I-5 to branch off at Yelm and cross the Nisqually River near Puyallup.  Powers in the state house forced I-5 to go through Olympia – thus creating the situation we have today.

Terrorists need only blow up the bridges and the economy of the state would suffer.   The Amtrak derailment and the chaos it created in our transportation system was just a warning.   A better alternative method of crossing the river should be under consideration before the whole mess comes down.

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20 or more shades of Gray

December 9th, 2017 by Ken

They say it’s a land without shadows – a place of perpetual gray.  Where the oceans and trees, the mountains and seas – merge in a monochrome haze.

But it’s not a land without color, as those who live here will say.  It’s full of spectacular auras, and 20 or more shades of Gray.

There’s the color that comes in the morning, when the sun peaks under the gray.  That turns the mountain tops yellow and puts a pink tint on the bay.

There’s the light that comes in the evening, as the sun dies slowly away.  That illuminates all of the colors, of the 20 or more shades of Gray.

There’s the gray mist that nests at the tree top that hides the green tips of the firs.  And transforms the gray that surrounds them into a green misty gray blur.

Or the black clouds that hit in the winter, when the storms come in off the waves.  Whose twisting cauldron of colors, merge the 20 or more shades of Gray.

There’s the blue grays that softens in daytime, as the sun burns down through the clouds.  Creating a few rays of sunshine  – to nourish the welcoming crowds.

It may be a land without shadows as many who live here will say.  But its truly a place filled with colors and 20 or more shades of Gray.

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A museum for Olympia?

December 5th, 2017 by Ken

That’s a question that has many Olympia historians wishing for a solution.

Where to build a new Olympia city museum.   I have a suggestion.   Bear with me for a while.

KGY Radio has a lease with the Port of Olympia for property on the sound.  The owners of the station own the building.  The Port owns the property.   The station’s lease with the port expires in 2019.  The station has an option for five additional years and another five years after that.

But, the station, which was built in 1960, no longer meets the need of the station owners.  It has none of the infrastructure that a modern radio station needs.

The Port of Olympia should buy the building.  It stands over the salt water of Budd Inlet and is grandfathered in.   The state will not allow any more construction over salt water.   Whoever owns the radio station building will be able to renovate or remodeled the existing structure.

The building which houses the radio station is located on one of the most beautiful views of Budd Inlet.  It would be the perfect location for a museum.   It could house a nautical theme, a radio theme and/or a downtown Olympia theme.   The Port of Olympia could partner with the City of Olympia, buy the building and create a museum which would become a tourist attraction.

Cruise ships will begin calling at the Port of Olympia next year.   A museum as close as the station would be a walkable advantage with a built in clientele.

And, it will extend out over the water – – a major asset in itself.

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Like the cat

December 4th, 2017 by Ken

We got a cat

An indoors cat

Her world is confined to the house

to those rooms which we let her enter.

It’s a small world

but she makes the most of it.

Snooping in the corners,

climbing on top of everything

Anything new in the house is met with her attention.

Around it, on top of it, inside it – when she can

She notes when anything is different in her world.

I guess I’m kind of like the cat

Except my world is a little larger.

I note when something is different in my world.

Then, like the cat, I climb on top of it, go around it and climb inside of it.

Except I do it with my mind, with my attention to detail, with my sense of curiosity – just like the cat

Except my world’s a little bigger.

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Who’s next

November 29th, 2017 by Ken

As of this posting, November 29, 2017, at 11:30 am – – Garrison Keillor joins Matt Lauer and Charlie Rose as the latest man to fall to the national mania sweeping the country.

Every powerful man in the country should be looking over his shoulder and examining his history – – going back 40 years – – to see if there is something that can qualify for “sexual harassment” in his back ground.

The game now is to see who will be the next powerful man to fall.

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On the horns of a dilemma

November 28th, 2017 by Ken

I’m on the horns of a dilemma (whatever that means).

I spent 10 months running for a seat on the Lacey City Council because I believed that Lacey residents and Lacey taxpayers were being ill-served by the dozen of regional boards and commissions serving the city.  I believed that current members of the Lacey council either didn’t know or didn’t care about the “Olympia-centric” bent of these boards and how Olympia is more important than Lacey.

I was also concerned that in the drive towards regionalization of local issues – –  Lacey is being left out in the cold.  Remember that three sitting members of the Lacey council have businesses in Olympia.

So – here’s my dilemma.

How can I continue to criticize the current Lacey council and their apparent lack of concern for Lacey – – without looking vindictive or petty?

If you have an answer, email me at balsley@cco.net or call me at 360-456-8964.  I need your advice.

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I was investigated for President Kennedy’s assassination

November 22nd, 2017 by Ken

It was November 22, 1963.  I was at my mom’s house in Tumwater.  It was my 21st birthday, and I was on leave from the US Army, where I was stationed at Ft. Lewis, Washington.

I always tried to take leave on my birthday – and the 21st birthday seemed to be something special.

Like everyone else, I was watching the television news in Dallas about the assassination of President Kennedy when a car pulled up in the driveway and two men in suits came to the door.  I answered the door, and one of them said, “Are you PFC Balsley.”  I answered yes and then he said, “We heard you have made threats against the president’s life, and we just wanted to check on where your were.”

Lets digress back a year, back to October 1962.  At that time I was a paratrooper in the 101st Airborne division and we had just been sent to Homestead Air Force Base in Florida to be ready to invade Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis.  Now, I had no ill-feelings towards the Cubans or to Fidel Castro – – but many young men in my unit did.   My company had several young Cubans, who had been involved in the Bay of Pigs fiasco.  They had been captured by Castro and later ransomed by the United States government.  They had joined the 101st because they wanted to get back to Cuba and kill Fidel.

It seemed the time had come.   We were preparing for the jump and the invasion of that island nation.

Then, President Kennedy called the invasion off.  They were disappointed and so was I.  As a gung ho, brash 19-year old, I wanted to see action.

Fast forward now to November 21, 1963.  I was now stationed at Ft. Lewis.  My birthday was the next day and I was going on leave to celebrated it with the family.  At that time, you could go on leave at midnight.   I was sitting around the barracks with several of the guys and we got to talking politics.  When the subject of President Kennedy came up, I made an off-handed remark – – something to the effect that “Kennedy ought to be shot” for calling off the invasion.

I went on leave at midnight, and that day, November 22, my 21st birthday, he was shot.

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Christmas is missing

November 20th, 2017 by Ken

Oh – you can tell it’s Christmas.  The signs are everywhere.  Stores are decked out in all their Christmas finery and Christmas carols are omnipresent.

But, if you look at the North Thurston school district calendar, you can’t find Christmas listed  anywhere.  You can find Thanksgiving, Memorial Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and dozens of other holidays, but you won’t find Christmas.  The district says it doesn’t list any religious holidays on its school calendar.

In this era of political correctness and the all inclusive embrace, it would seem odd not to find a holiday on the school calendar that is celebrated by 80 percent of Americans, by a similar percentage of European immigrants and even in Asian countries such as Korea and Japan.

I understand the need of the school district to be cognizant of the feelings of all of the people it serves – – but to leave Christmas off the school calendar just seems one step too far.

While Christmas does have religious roots, it has become so non-secular, that Santa, Rudolf, and the Grinch, have become more representative of the day, than does Jesus and his birth.

The district is not getting much negative feedback on leaving Christmas off its calendar – but it’s just another example of how close we are to falling off the cliff of irrelevancy as a unified country.

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Where’s my Train Depot replica

November 16th, 2017 by Ken

Several years  before the City of Lacey’s 50th Birthday Celebration in 2016, the city was looking for a project that would reflect the city’s history.

A new museum for Lacey was the main subject of conversation and the decision was made to begin the process.  A planning team was gathered and the final determination was to build a replica of the Lacey Train Depot which would house the museum..   The depot connected Lacey to the world and helped give Lacey a sense of community.

The city manager and the mayor were on board and planning began for the building and its interior.   Funding would be a major issue, but plans were proposed to start a fund-raising campaign.   The kickoff for the fund raiser could be a “Mayor’s Gala”.  The event would be part of the city’s 50th birthday celebration.  Money raised at the event would begin the drive to get the money and get the project started.

The city spent nearly a million dollars to buy the old carpet warehouse on Lacey Blvd as the site of a new city museum and community center.   Then, money raised at the Mayor’s Gala was decided to fund operation of the new Lacey Veteran Service Hub, a major priority for the city.

The museum within the Train Deport was determined to be non-workable and was placed down the list of priorities.  When the estimated cost of the project came out significantly higher than thought, the city took a look at how to lower the cost..

One suggestion was to build  only the exterior of the building. with a public restroom.  Since its location is on the Woodland Trail, the building is now considered a “trail amenity”.

The city is going out to bid in a few weeks.   If the bids come back at a price the city can afford, then construction will start next summer.  Maybe the Lacey Train Depot replica can be dedicated on December 5, the 52nd birthday of the city.

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Politics isn’t local anymore

November 10th, 2017 by Ken

The old saying, that all politics is local, is not true anymore.

What determines elections at the local, state and national election these days is “The Trump Effect.”

Republicans lost statewide seats for governor and state seats for congress, in many elections around the country that pundits say they should have won.  But its not just state and national elections, the “Trump Effect” also affected county and local elections this year.

In Olympia, at last count two-term councilmember Jannine Roe lost her seat to a more radical opponent.  Moderate Allen Miller lost his race to a similar opponent.

In the Port of Olympia race, longtime incumbent Bill McGregor barely squeaked by to re-election, while EJ Zita trounced her moderate opponent Gigi McClure.

And, of course, in my race for the Lacey City Council , I  lost to Carolyn Cox by a significant margin.

I should have seen it coming.  I doorbelled more than 1200 homes in Lacey.  Not many people asked questions, but those that did had one question they almost always asked – – “Are you a Republican or Democrat” and “Did you vote for Trump?”

Politics isn’t local anymore.

 

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Lacey Fire District needs better advice

November 8th, 2017 by Ken

(Editor’s note:  Last minute counts show that the  Fire District validated its needed 40 percent by 136 votes)

This is for Jim)

So, the Lacey Fire District decided to put its nearly $20 million dollar bond issue on the recent General Election ballot knowing that voters in the district almost always support more money for the heroes that save their lives on a daily basis.

However, they either forgot, nor had no concern over the fact, that bond issues, other than with schools, require a voter turnout percentage of more than 40 percent. to validate the bonds.    They got around 30 percent turnout.  The bond issue failed to be ratified.

Who were their political strategists?   They would have told the district that you don’t put up a bond issue that needs a 40 percent turnout from the last general election, when that general election is a presidential election.  Presidential elections always have the largest turnout of voters, making the 40 percent thresh hold difficult to overcome.

I suspect district leaders wanted to save a little money by running the bond issue with other local jurisdictions.  They saved a few thousand dollars in cost.   But, they failed.  And now they have to run the ballot measure again – – next year.  But, this time they only have to get 40 percent of the average 30 percent turnout of this general election.

It’s sure to pass next year, but now they have to pay all of the cost of the election themselves.   Lacey fire commissioners need better advisors – or need to listen to them.

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Our brush with the Las Vegas infamy

October 2nd, 2017 by Ken

Jan and I were in Las Vegas, Sunday night – the ending of a long weekend.  We were staying at Caesar’s Palace and took a taxi to the Rio to see Penn & Teller – our last show before heading home early Monday morning.

After leaving the performance we were waiting outside in the Taxi line along with dozens of others.  The taxis seemed to be coming very slowly.  One stopped and said that the police had shut down Las Vegas Boulevard.   He wasn’t sure that he could get us to Caesars but would try the back way.

It was while getting into the taxi that I heard the sound.   The sound of sirens, hundreds of them.   Police vehicles of all sorts, fire department equipment, medic vans, ambulances – – all were filling the area with sirens.   It was the only sound you could hear.

The driver took the back roads and got us to our hotel.  We noticed that the lot was filled with taxis and none of them moving.  They had no place to go.  the roads were blocked.   Entering our hotel, we saw people apparently going about their own business, only slightly aware of the actions outside.

We went to our room and turned on the television.   Local Las Vegas stations were reporting on the slaughter.  Two were killed and a dozen wounded.  Then 20 were dead and a hundred wounded,   Ambulances and medic vans were full and the hospitals were over-flowing with wounded.  Some were being transported  in private cars.

Then came the news that there may have been two or more shooters and no one was certain where they were.   Swat teams were searching all of the hotels for the other suspects.

Caesar’s is several blocks from Mandalay Bay and the site of the massacre, but police agencies weren’t certain that all of the killers had been caught.

Then came the news that McCarran Airport was closed and no planes were taking off or landing.  McCarran is right across from the site of the shootings.   Many people, fleeing the carnage entered the airport and took shelter behind some of the buildings on the property.

We were scheduled to fly back home Monday at 6 a.m.   We weren’t certain that we could even make it to the airport if they re-opened.  We talked about staying at our hotel another night.   Jan called down to registration and after 10 minutes on hold determined to go back downstairs.

At the bottom level, hundreds of casino customers and hotel guest were milling around, unable to understand what was happening.  We walked into the main registration area – – and there was no one around.  No hotel or casino staff.   No clerks, no waiters, even no janitors.   They were all missing.  What had taken their place was dozens of armed police and security agents.   They had blocked all the doors to Caesar’s and weren’t letting anyone in or out.

Soon, someone who looked as it he were in charge began ordering all guests and customers to the back of the hotel, in an area where “they would be safe”.   We found out later that all staff had been trained to go to a shelter in the hotel in the event of an active shooter.  Jan and I went back to our room and watched the events unfolding live on local television.   We called and texted family members to let them know where we were and that we were safe.

We still hoped to make it to our flight on Monday.  We packed, got about two hours of sleep and woke up at 3:30 am ready to leave for the airport.   We didn’t know if it was open.   We didn’t know if we could get a taxi.   We didn’t know if all of the shooters had been found – – but we learned the death toll was significantly higher.

We carried our bags down and got in the taxi line at the hotel.   All we saw were about a half dozen police vehicles and some private cars (we assumed were Lyft or Uber.)   The taxi line was short but taxis were in short supply.   Eventually some came by and we managed to get a ride to the airport at 4:30 am.  We shared the taxi with a man from New York who told us his story.  He had been in one of the casinos playing blackjack.   He said he was about a thousand dollars ahead, when everyone started running.   He picked up his chips and joined them – – running.   He didn’t know why and he didn’t know where – – but everyone was running and he did too.

We made it to the airport, checked in and got through security all in about 20 minutes.   There weren’t many people flying out and there weren’t many people working the check in or the security line.

As I sat at the airport waiting for our plane to fly us back to SeaTac, I began to relax.  Then I felt great sorrow.   I think it was what the people in the air during 9-11 thought when they were grounded and safe on land.   The event was so massive that the problems we faced were insignificant.  I began to think about the people actually killed or wounded.  I thought about their families and I thought about the great sadness that was just beginning to sweep our country.

We heard many first hand stories from some of the people who were at the concert and now at the airport.  One young man had very little clothing and was covered up with blood.   He told his girl friend from his phone (we all over-heard) of his ordeal.   A young woman was shoeless.  She had lost them running away at the concert.   An older woman gave her the shoes she was wearing, then put on another pair from her carry-on.

Sometimes, we get so over-whelmed by our own problems associated with great disasters, that it’s only when we feel safe and secure that our minds let us focus on others.   Maybe not.   Maybe it’s just the way I cope.

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