It’s time for leaders to lead

June 27th, 2020 by Ken

It was understandable when protesters wanted to rid the country of statues to Confederate generals.  I too think they should be confined to historical museums.  Even statues celebrating confederate soldiers in dozens of town squares across the South seemed products of another time and should also be sitting in historical museums.

When the battle to erase the public history of slavery began to gather steam, I became concerned that the idea had morphed into something more.  For 80 years, slavery had been legal in the United States of America.  While it was repugnant and horrific, it only echoed legal slavery in other countries around the world, even in Europe and England which had only recently abolished the system during the time the American colonies began chaffing at being tied to England.

Many of the Founding Fathers were legal slave-holders and two of our early presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson also held slaves.

The profit of slavery wasn’t confined to Southern Planters.  Many New England merchants made fortunes as the result of items produce from the effects of slavery.

So when efforts came to tear down statues of leading Americans who had made a living from slavery, I became concerned that doing so would only lead to other Americans who could be considered racist.  President Andrew Jackson was the first who came to my mind.  Jackson hated Native Americans and led the removal of Eastern tribes along the Trail of Tears  to west of the Mississippi, so he and  his friends could take those lands for themselves.  If there ever was a racist – I think Jackson would be at the top of the list.

Then, the mob ran wild.  U.S.Grant,  Abraham Lincoln and dozens of other American leaders fell under the gaze of protesters.  It was then that I realized, this had almost nothing to do with racism.  I thought, at first, it was an anti-male protest.  Then I finally got it.

The move to remove these statues and other elements of American history, wasn’t aimed at getting rid of the dark side of America.  It was a move to eliminate the culture of the country.

The point has been made by others, that this current effort to erase American culture, echoes the French Revolution which eliminated centuries of French culture and eventually replaced a King with a Dictator.

Rule by mobs often lead to unintended consequences.  And mob rule only flourishes when leaders kowtow to the power of the mob and ignore the results of their actions.

It’s time our leaders, from local city governments, to the highest positions of the land, put an end to mob rule and began to enforce the law.

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Ode to Jim Manning

June 23rd, 2020 by Ken

(Editors note:  In the late 70’s and into the 80’s, a number of entertainers made their home – temporarily – in Lacey.  Many of them performed at the Red Bull in its lounge.  Some were involved in other projects.  One of them was Jim Manning, who opened his own facility and for a while leased Richard’s Roundhouse, renaming it The Doo Wop Diner.  This is my tribute to him and to the other traveling entertainers who appeared in Lacey)

Jimmie was a friend of mine.  Always helped me pass the time.  Wore his heart outside himself for all the lonely word to see.

Jimmy turned to song and joke with a guitar and lots of hope.  Looking for a place to land, not another one night stand.

Jimmy always did his best, tried to answer each request.  Played his song and all the rest.  Not always with success.

And when the crowd had cleared the room, Jim was left with just the tune.  Looking for a place to land, not another one night stand.

Now its better, now its worse, first a tune and then a verse.  Never knowing how it ends – or just how it began.

Jimmie left this town you know, still had a need to roam.  Looking for a place to go.  A place that he could call his own.

Jimmy was a friend of mine.  Really helped my pass the time.  Hope he found a place to land – not another one night stand.

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Intercity Transit should be concerned about the future

June 18th, 2020 by Ken

Intercity Transit is in a bind.  It’s rolling in taxpayer money, but it’s losing ridership fast.

Most transit systems in the United States were losing riders before the Pandemic, but most systems will not get back a major portion of their former ridership because of the continuing concern.

But, Intercity Transit doesn’t care.  It had so much money before the Pandemic that it granted “Free” fares to everyone.  It doesn’t need fare revenue to continue to operate.  It can run buses completely empty for a decade and not be concerned about its revenue.

What it should be concerned about is the future of mass transit in Thurston County.

For years I’ve been telling Intercity Transit leadership that the days of large buses on fixed routes are as old as horse-drawn urban trains.  No one wants to ride behind a pile of horseshit.

Private transportation companies like Uber and Lyft are responding to the Pandemic by insuring covid-clean drivers and covid-clean riders.  Granted, they don’t serve everyone, but they do meet a need and have taken away millions of former transit riders.

If I were the leadership of Intercity Transit, I would use some of that taxpayer money to experiment with new ideas and concepts.  Eliminate big buses.  Register all regular users and let them call for daily service.  Challenge the concept and errors associated with the way they used to do business.  Don’t think outside the box, think outside the bus.

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20 or more shades of gray

June 16th, 2020 by Ken

They say it’s a land without shadows

A place of perpetual gray

Where the oceans and  trees, the land and the seas

Merge in a monochrome haze

 

But it’s not a land without color

As those who live here would say

It’s full of spectacular auras

With its 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 treetop

That hides the green tips of the firs

And transforms the gray that surrounds them

Into a green misty type 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 a blue gray that softens in daytime

As the sun burns down through the clouds

Creating a few rays of sunshine

Which nourish the gathering crowds

 

It may be a land without shadows

As many who live here would say

But it’s truly a place filled with color

With its 20 or more shades of gray

 

 

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It’s a demographic revolt

June 14th, 2020 by Ken

While some are debating whether this is the worse year in contemporary American history, others are pointing to 1968 as the year that changed this country.  But others are pointing to 2020 as the year they hope will change the future of the United States.

While both 1968 and 2020 are unique to themselves, and both are change years, they do have one similarity.    The common cause is demographics.

In 1968, the Baby Boomers were entering adult hood.   Many were in their early teens and late 20’s.  They looked around and saw that the country they were growing up in, was not the country they thought it was, or should be.  The civil rights movement was encountering violence and hatred by some people in leadership positions.  The Vietnam War was being fought for reasons that many of them did not understand.  And two major political figures – Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy had been assassinated.  And, the president and political leadership was left wondering – what is happening.

It’s now 2020.  The Millennials are now in their 20’s and 30’s.  A vast Pandemic is sweeping the country and economic collapse seems just around the corner.  A two-decade war is continuing to have human and economic impacts.  Racism seems to have permeated every section of the country and the political leadership at all levels seems to be wanting.

Just as the Baby Boomers moved their parents aside and assumed control of the county.  So to are the Millennials  attempting just such a demographic coup.

Issues of injustice, war, poverty, homelessness can be solved with new, younger leadership is their cry.

The Boomers in their own way, made this a better country in which to live, work, play and raise a family.  While the major issues of their day were often blunted or shoved aside or just became less important.   This inequity and perceived lack of concern has led to this demographic revolt.  Let us lead and we will do better.

So, I say, go at it  young man and young woman.  Have a try.  It’s your turn.  Good luck.

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Lets get back to Officer Friendly

June 8th, 2020 by Ken

Defunding police departments is a catch phrase that brings joy to some, but dread to many others.  In some dream world, everyone is loving and kind and everyone looks out for each other.  That’s a dream of those who have never been the victim of a crime or who has never suffered from abuse and violence.

While we are a nation of laws, those laws are kept in force by some form of policing.

I’ve been concerned about the status of the local police forces in this country for some time.  I’ve been worried that they have lost sight of their original mission  –  to protect and serve.  While once the general public had involvement with police officers on a daily basis as they went about their patrols – we no longer have general contact with them in non-emergency matters.

I can date the change in our local police departments to one date – – September 11, 2001.  The terrorist attack on the United States changed every police force in the country from a community organization, to part of the national military searching for terrorists, both foreign and domestic.  A whole generation of police officers have grown up and joined the force since 9-11 with that in mind.

Police forces began to look more like the military and less like our next door neighbor.  They adopted new uniforms, mostly black.  They carry military type assault weapons.  Their general appearance is one of power and intimidation.   Gone is Officer Friendly.  Replaced by Darth Vader.  They are often looked on as an occupying force instead of an organization of good.

Instead of defunding police departments, we need to reallocate the money to actual “community policing.”   We need to re-educate police officers that not everyone they meet is an enemy to be feared, but more of a person to befriend.

I’ve never been a member of a police force and I can barely understand the pressures and concerns they face every day.  But, I have met many police officers as they go about their duty, and I’ve found most of them to be friendly and helpful.

But that’s not the image of many people.  I think its time to re-think what it means when we ask for community policing.  And, that doesn’t mean defunding police departments.

 

 

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I broke my addiction to television news

June 4th, 2020 by Ken

I’m a news junkie.  At my highest level I subscribed to three daily newspapers, was a subscriber to at least half a dozen magazines and looked forward to my favorite day of the week – – Sunday – where I could watch three news shows in a row – – Face The Nation. This Week, and Meet The Press.  Every evening I would watch the news on KOMO, KING and KIRO.

I ate it up.  I felt like the most informed individual I knew.

When cable stations started running their 24-hour news channels, Fox, CNN, MSNBC – I was overjoyed – and over-whelmed.

As the print media gradually began its decline I turned more and more to television to meet my need for news.  At first I was confused.  Were these really news shows – or were they the mouth organs of the political parties?  My taste for them soured, but I was addicted.  I couldn’t break away.  Even the local news channels became less and less news and more and more slanted opinions.

I began to realize that the stations I thought were news sources were actually entertainment designed to appeal to the lowest common denominator.  Actual news disappeared, replaced with fear, violence and partisan politics.  But, I hung on.

What I slowly came to realize is that  most news is generated from the East Coast.  All networks have their headquarters in New York .  The ideas expressed on my television came from isolated and insulated staff and announcers living in a major metropolitan area.  Even my only remaining major daily newspaper “The Wall Street Journal” comes from that point of view.

There is no real news on the Internet or on social media.

I think I finally broke my addiction.   I haven’t watched a single news show in the last two weeks.  That doesn’t mean I’m not aware of events.  It just means that I get my news elsewhere.  I use my social contacts.  The people I know, and the people I talk to, keep me informed.   I learned a while back, that if it is really important – I’ll find out about it.

Here’s the purpose of this article.  If you want to be happier and feel good about yourself and your place in this world – – stop watching television news.  And, don’t believe anything you hear or read on-line.  it’s not worth the effort or the anxiety.

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All we need is a plain, ordinary dose of common sense

May 20th, 2020 by Ken

It was the beginning of the 20th Century.  The farmer was riding his horse into town when suddenly he heard an unusual sound.  In a minute, appearing on the road before him was a strange vehicle, driven by a young man with a leather helmet and glasses.

The farmer looked at the machine as he tried to hold his skitterish horse.  “It’s one of those damned automobiles,” he said.  “I’d never ride in one of them.  It’s too dangerous.”

And, the farmer was right.  As more automobiles plied the trails, paths and roads of America, the death rate soared.  By the 1950’s more than 50,000 people were being killed in traffic accidents every year.  Something had to be done.   And it was.

Government stepped in and required safety equipment.  Seat belts, collapsible steering wheels, safety glass in the windshields, air bags for the driver and later for passengers.  Later, safety seats for children were made mandatory.  The government also made highways safer by designing highways with longer off-ramps, wider lanes, collapsible barriers and eventually with speed limits.

By the turn of the 21st Century automobile deaths had declined to 30,000 even though millions of cars were now on the road than in 1950.

It was a change in society, forced on the automobile manufacturers by the public’s call for help and the governments control of the money.

Such is the factor facing society today with fear of pandemics.   Just as the farmer feared the first automobile, so too are some of the public in fear of Covid 19.  Calling on government to do something, government also reacted like the farmer – with fear.

Society buttoned up as prescribed and stayed home for 90 days.  But, some brave souls ventured out and put their toe into the fear.  “It wasn’t bad,” they said.  Just show a little caution. With access to a mask, watching personal contacts with other people, and engaging in proper hygiene, you can not only live, but also thrive.

What’s needed now, is plain, ordinary common sense on the part of our elected officials.  A little understanding of human nature, less reliance of science and scientists and a few common sense rules, and the public can venture out once again and watch as the next new thing causes panic as it rolls down the roadway.

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Stop watching cable news

May 19th, 2020 by Ken

Forty years ago next week, one of the most seminal moments of the late 20th Century changed the way Americans thought about their world.

June 1 will mark the 40th anniversary of the founding of CNN, the first of the 24-hour newscasts.  That was followed a few short years later by the creation of MSNBC and then Fox News.  Americans could get their news fix anytime they turned on their television at any hour of the day or night.

Hope was that people would become better informed and then better citizens.   It didn’t turn out that way.

Networks learned early on that while there may have been enough news happening all around the world, there wasn’t enough to keep the interest of the viewer longer than an hour or so.  Something more was needed.  And what was needed was context.

So, the 24-hour news networks added commentators, experts, specialists and just plain interesting people to the mix of news.  And, the news networks became less about news and more about the opinions of those commentators, experts, specialists and interesting people.

And, to get people to watch the news longer than an hour, those opinions began to stray from the middle-of-the-road, to the fringes of public thought.  And, as cream separates from milk, the networks began to echo the extreme opinions of Americans.

While the opinions became sharper and more pronounced, the news bureaus began to cover stories and events which echoed the views of its commentators, experts, specialists and just plain interesting people.

Now the public is no longer served strictly by 24-hour news, but by biases and opinions. based on what news stories best fit with the views of the commentators, experts, specialists and just plain interesting people.

If you want to be a better informed citizen, I have some advice for you.  STOP WATCHING CABLE NEWS.

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Is Inslee looking at recovery or re-election?

May 9th, 2020 by Ken

Jay Inslee has announced his three advisory group that will help him determine when to re-open the state to business.

It appears our governor is more concerned with getting re-elected than he is in re-opening our economy

His committees are loaded with associates and supporters of the governor and his party.  His list reads like those who contribute money and workers towards Democratic candidates.  Labor unions, Tribal leaders, Farm Workers, the State Labor Council.

Not a single business representative from the hospitality industry, restaurants and farmers.  No retailers, no chamber representatives, no homebuilders, not even a representative from the AWB or the Washington Roundtable.

I’m certain the governor knew he would be criticized no matter who he appointed, so he said – What the hell – might just as well appoint our friends.  Can’t let a crisis go to waste.

A quick dip in the Inslee pool and we can readily see that he wants a third term.  And, if the economy continues to tank, he can always blame someone else who will be on the Fall ballot.

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Local economic impact of shutdown

May 6th, 2020 by Ken

According to Michael Cade from the Economic Development Council, Thurston County has been hard hit by the economic shutdown.

Cade said that households in the Thurston County have lost 30 percent of their income as of the end of April.  Some 8673 jobs have been lost – 2774 in restaurants, 871 in casinos, 800 in dental offices, 703 in medical offices, 565 in auto sales and 343 in motels/hotels.The total economic impact is more than $1.4 Billion so far.

But, Cade said, Thurston County is better off than 88 percent of all counties in the country.  Because of our reliance on state and federal employment, the county has come out in better shape than most other counties in the United States.

For additional information go to ThurstonStrongt.org.

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Ken’s Award Winning Fudge

May 4th, 2020 by Ken

I’ve been making fudge for more than 40 years.  I’ve entered many contests and won them all except one.  In that case, I used old stale walnuts.   Here is my recipe.  I’ll tell you how I make it and then give you explanations at the end.  Read the whole story before beginning.

3 cups of sugar – – 1/2 cup cocoa – – 1 cup of whole milk – – 3 tablespoons of corn syrup

Mix all those ingredients into a medium saucepan and cook on medium heat stirring constantly until mixture boils.  Let boil for 7 minutes and 20 seconds without stirring.

Place pan in sink of cold water to let it cool.  While cooling add 3 tablespoons of butter, a cap of vanilla and half a cup of chopped walnuts if you want.

When bottom of pan is cool, stir until mixture begins to harden.  Quickly pour onto butter greased plate when mixture begins to set up

Enjoy while still warm.  Cover if any fudge is left.

Additional Information – I’ve used the same pan and the same spoon for more than 40 years.  I’ve used three different stoves and have had to adjust the cooking time.  I use an old aluminum pot and a wooden spoon.  Never stir candy with a metal spoon.  There’s something about the chemical components that makes the fudge hard to set up.

I use no salt in my recipe.  There’s enough salt in the butter.

Over the years I know just how much time to cook.  If you use a candy thermometer cook until the mixture reaches a temperature of  234 degrees.

Not every batch sets up right.  Sometimes I’ll have to cook two or three batches until I get the more perfect one.    If your fudge hardens in the pan while stirring see if you can get it out on the plate.  If not, you can heat it up and pour if without stirring.  This usually results in very hard fudge.   If you stir the fudge and it doesn’t set up it means you haven’t cooked it long enough.  You can recook it to boiling for two more minutes then stir.  If it still doesn’t set up pour it out and start again.

Sometimes you have to cook two or three batches to make one good one.  That’s normal, even for me.

There are many things which impact the fudge.  There may be too much moisture in the air.  The pan may be thinner or thicker.  You may have used too little milk or too much milk.  Keep cooking until you get consistent results then write it down and do it the same way next time.

Remember, making fudge is a scientific experiment.  It takes time, tinkering and patience.

Good luck

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Secrets of a secret shopper

May 1st, 2020 by Ken

For more than 40 years, I had a secret identity.  I was a secret shopper.  I entered businesses – not to buy – – but to spy.

It started very easily.  One day I received a call from Gene Dolan, the executive director of the Lacey Chamber of Commerce.  “I got the perfect job for you Balsley,” he said.  “All you’ve got to do is drink coffee and eat doughnuts.  And, they’ll pay you for it.”  How could I refuse.  It was then I entered the world of secret shoppers.

I made a phone call.  Answered a few questions and got my first assignment.  A local doughnut chain had three stores in Southwest Washington.  Every quarter I was to visit the stores, observe the cleanliness, the courtesy of the clerks and their competence.  I was to buy a cup of coffee and a doughnut.  Eat it on the premises and then buy a dozen doughnuts to go.  When I got home, I filled out a form and mailed it in.  I had two boys living at home and they always loved doughnut days.  With proper documentation I was reimbursed for my expenses and paid for travel.  My salary was $2.50 a visit.

I had that job for years until the chain went out of business.   But I had other jobs as well.  A small local shoe chain used me to investigate its return policy.  I was to buy a pair of boots, wear them out of the store and return them the next day for a refund.  They were checking to see if the store followed its return policy.  When a small restaurant chain opened a store, I was to visit the day after the grand-opening to see if everyone working there were following company policy regrading uniforms and other requirements.

When private post offices became a fixture, I was hired to go into the store, buy some stamps and leave.  The purpose was to determine if the owner tried to up-sell me to buy other items available – even a private mailbox.

Major chains have their own in-house secret shoppers, but small franchises and small firms often contract with businesses which specialize in that service.

It’s been four years since I was last asked to be a secret shopper so I’m assuming that my ID number has been retired.   But, if you see me in your place of business looking suspicious – – don’t worry,  I’m probably just confused.

(All of the business mentioned above are no longer in business in this area.)

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Don’t piss off the fishermen

April 19th, 2020 by Ken

Around the country, particularly in the west and midwest, American citizens have become upset with the stay in place and isolation orders issued by state governors.  In Michigan, Ohio, Oregon and even here in Washington, crowds of people, protesting the draconian laws have been demonstrating and expressing their anger over their right to peaceably assembly, practice their religion and go fishing.

You heard me right.  To go fishing.  Sports fisherman have been complaining about restrictions placed on their right to fish.  Here, in our state, those complaints started on March 23, when Governor Jay Inslee closed down boat launching facilities, state parks and other state areas.  They also banned fishing in any waters in the state.

Fishing enthusiasts took to Facebook, Twitter and other social media and the protests began to erupt.   They were the first organized group to question the rules put in place to distance us from each other and to stop us from partaking in one of the world’s greatest pleasure – to feel that tug on your line.

The governor of Michigan won’t even let fisherman out of their homes with their boats.  Michigan has the largest lake in the world named after a state.  Minnesota has 10,000 lakes and also a ban on fishing.  Washington state has more boats per capita than any other state.  We also have lakes, Puget Sound, sloughs, rivers, lakes and the ocean.

Governor Inslee has said he understands the frustration of the people over the rules.  That may be so.  But he doesn’t understand the frustration of the fishermen.  It may not take a Boston Tea Party to get his attention.  Maybe it will just be a statewide Fish Day and Fry.

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Business will suffer for years

April 16th, 2020 by Ken

I’m no expert on communicable diseases and I’m not an economist.  But I have been on this planet for more than three-quarters of a century and I have been active and involved in history, politics and media for a good portion of that time.

Hindsight is always easy.  I’m the best football coach there ever was after the game is over.  But, I do have some thoughts about the future.

The economy is not going to bounce back anytime soon.  Many businesses have already thrown in the towel and will not re-open.  Those that do, will find their customers aren’t coming back in large numbers.  Here’s why.

For the last three months we have been warned that going out is a death penalty.  That being with groups of more than a handful is the same as signing your death warrant.  People are carriers of a a virus that will kill you.  For many people, that stigma will remain with them for years.  Don’t be around other people is the new normal.

Its that idea that people are dangerous which will stymie a return to normal.

How can a business operate if people are hesitant to be around other people.  It can’t.  The economy won’t bounce back anytime soon because people will remember the words of our experts – being around people can kill you.

Large group events like graduations, conventions, sporting events and weddings and funerals will be the most impacted.  But restaurants and other food establishments will also suffer.  I can’t see myself taking a airplane flight, a cruise or a vacation in the near future.

Our government officials hope the money they’re throwing at the public will help the economy.  It won’t do much.  I can see unemployment in the double digits for three or four years.   Whoever becomes president, governor or mayor in the next election cycle will be blamed for the actions taken this year.  No one is going to thank them for the high unemployment and the number of business failures they will have to address.  And, everyone will remember what they’ve been forced to believe – – being around people can kill you.

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Greater good – or granny state?

April 14th, 2020 by Ken

One of my biggest pet peeves are toasters that don’t get hot enough to toast.  I was thinking about that today when I began my third week of isolation and distancing.  When are our actions done for the greater good of humanity and when are we following grandma’s advice to “wear a jacket.  It’s cold out there?”

That followed with this question.  Did we over-react?  Did the actions taken by government to throw nearly 20 million Americans out of work and put thousands of small businesses out of business, justify saving the potential deaths of 100,000 other American?  Or did our federal and state governments decide they were our grandmothers and wanted to protect us from ourselves?

This urge to protect us for the greater good isn’t new.  It’s been around for nearly seven decades.  This urge to make us safer, to protect our children, to save us from ourselves, is found in the everyday things we do.  Like making toast.

Those of us who have been around awhile can point to hundreds of changes in our lifestyle brought about by government rules and regulations that were put in place for “the greater good.”

These rules, regulations and “guidelines” are so prevalent in today’s society that we forget they were put in place by government for the common good.  We’ve learned to accept them.These rules range from toasters that don’t get hot enough to toast bread, toilets that have to be flushed twice,  gasoline cans that are impossible to pour out of – – to safer cars, safer houses and safer schools.

Doctors operate under a code that says “Do no harm” – yet often we say, “We had to cut off the arm to save the body.”

The same holds true for our actions against the corona virus.  But, we’ll soon see.   In fighting this “pandemic” did we cut off the head and kill the patient?

 

 

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Lacey’s emergency grant money making a difference

April 11th, 2020 by Ken

The City of Lacey’s emergency monetary grants to local businesses is starting to have an impact.  To date, 162 businesses have applied for financial assistance and 28 have been awarded grants of up to $10,000.

One local business owner said that the money has been a “Godsend.”  “I’ve been able to pay my rent and keep two employees busy.  I’m just glad I have my business in Lacey where we have a city council that understands business.”

Some 24 businesses were denied help for various reasons.  Some were not within the city limits and some did not  have a city business license to operate.  Another 32 were being held up for additional information while 82 are in the process of being approved.

To further help local business, the city has complied a list of restaurants and food establishments which are still open and operating as either pickup or delivery service.  That list is posted on the city’s web page.  City staff are working to complete a list of other businesses open during the shutdown.

Lacey businesses which have not already applied for financial assistance can still do so.   Information on how to apply is available through the Thurston County Economic Development Council’s web page.  The EDC is doing the processing of all applications.

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I love my wife – 24 hours a day

April 6th, 2020 by Ken

I love my wife.  Jan and I have been married for nearly 30 years.  I also enjoy spending 24-hours a day with her.

But, some people I have been with longer than my marriage to Jan.   I have a poker group.  I’ve been playing with the group since 1974,  Some have died, and new ones have taken their place.  We play once a month and take turns hosting the event.  There’s no better way to understand a person than to take their money every month.  (OK, I don’t always take their money.  But the idea’s the same.)

I know their politics.  I know their religious leanings.  I know about their wives, their children, their jobs and their retirement activities.  I know how they hold their hands, when they bet, how they deal.  I know all of their tells, and they know all of mine.  It’s an intimate gathering of friends.  I miss them.

I have a breakfast group.  We’ve been meeting for more than 40 years.  We discuss politics, religion, money, relationships and the latest gossip.  And, except for the gossip, I know everything they’re going to say and what their solution is to the world’s problems. It’s the continuity and consistency that makes my Thursday morning breakfast comfortable and safe.  I miss it.

I belong to a writer’s group.  We meet once a week at the Dancing Goats.  We’ve only been meeting for a few years, but everyone in the group is an old friend of mine dating back decades.  We do talk writing.  We review each others work and we criticize when necessary and encourage when needed.  But, most of the time we talk politics.  I miss them.

I try to have lunch with my son Brad every Friday.  Sometimes I’m busy and sometimes he’s busy, but we get together fairly regularly.  I’ve talked with him by phone several times, but I miss the lunch we had almost every week at Dirty Daves.

I belong to the Lacey Rotary Club.  I’ve been a member for 46 years.  We meet once a week to network, learn, converse and serve.  We’ve had some ZOOM meeting, but it’s not the same.  I miss them.

I belong to the Lacey South Sound Chamber of Commerce.  While their monthly forums conflict with my Coffee With Ken radio show, I do belong to two of their committees which both meet monthly.

Is it wrong to miss your friends when you have the opportunity to spend 24 hours a day with the woman you love?

 

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Lacey’s infamous poker game

April 2nd, 2020 by Ken

There weren’t many places to play poker in Lacey back in the 1970’s.  The only card room operating openly was on the floor atop Casey’s tavern.  They were low stakes and open to everyone.

But, the game we all wanted to play in took place every Thursday night in a meeting room above the Red Bull Restaurant.   There restaurant owner Ron McWain held a high stakes invitation only poker game.   On more than one occasion, I asked Ron to let me into the game.   “You can’t afford it,” he said.   And I never got a seat at the table.

The names of all those who did get a seat aren’t all known, but the name of some of them are.  Those names go to a story that made the rounds of local poker players for years.

It took place one Thursday night at the Red Bull.  Playing in that game were many local businessmen, but the two who took the spotlight that night were Lee Bensley and Tony Swatsky.  Lee owned Lee’s Restaurant on Martin Way, and a couple of apartment complexes.  Swatsky owned Tony’s Jewelry.

The story goes that Lee and Tony had been going at it all evening, with one taking a hand and then another.   Until that fateful moment.

The ante was $100.  Lee raised the pot.   Tony re-raised.   Lee raised back.   Tony responded in kind.   Lee put all of his money into the pot.   Some said it was close to $10,000.   Tony called  – and raised $10,000 of his own.

Lee had no more money, and no way to get access to it that evening.   So, as the story goes, he put up his restaurant.   Now Lee’s Restaurant wasn’t just any restaurant.   Lee’s had been the first restaurant in the state to have a Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise and people came from all over  just to eat this new chicken treat.

Lee put up his restaurant and signed a note giving it to Tony.  With the bet covered,  Tony turned over his hand.  Those there that night said he had three jack’s.  Lee folded and mixed his losing hand with the discards.

The next morning, after the banks opened, Lee went to Tony’s store and gave him $10,000 in cash.

Now, I don’t know if that story’s true or not.  Both Lee Bensley and Tony Swatsky have passed away.   The house man Ron McWain, sold the Red Bull and moved to Nevada.

But, it makes a good story and Lacey is filled with good stories.

(Editors note:  This story is just one of many in my “Personal History of Lacey.”  If you’re interested in getting a copy, let me know.)

 

 

 

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City grant money popular request

April 1st, 2020 by Ken

More than 80 Lacey businesses have applied for monetary relief from the money provided by the City of Lacey for those impacted by the public health emergency related to Covid-19.

The city has contracted with the Economic Development Council and its Center for Business and Innovation to review those applications and award grants of $10,000 to qualifying businesses.  According to Rick Walk, the Director of Community and Economic Development, the grants will be awarded on a “First Come, First Served” basis for those who meet the qualifications.

While the city currently has $500,000 budgeted for the Small Business Grant Program, it’s anticipated that up to $500,000 additional monies may be available if the demand is there, according to Walk.

To qualify for the program, a business must have a physical presence within the city limits for at least a year, have a City of Lacey business license and have no more than 25 employees, with priority given to those with ten or fewer employees.

Grant money can be used for payment of rent or monthly loan payments, payments of essential wages, normal benefits for employees and normal operating costs.    The money cannot be used for bonuses, wages to family members unless a bona fide employee or political or charitable contributions.

Full details are available by emailing grants@thurstonedc.com.

 

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