High school graduation rates up – – Not so fast!

February 25th, 2023 by Ken

Local school districts, the Superintendent of Public Instruction’s office and even the Governor are touting the increase in graduation rates among state high schools.  Recently data released on graduation rates show that school district’s graduation rates had increased by six points in the last decade.

Ten years ago, the graduation rate in state schools, including right here in Thurston County hovered around 74 to 76 percent graduating in four years.  Which meant that fully one-quarter of all high school students didn’t graduate on time.  It was shocking for parents and for those who continue to support more funding for education.

Now, the higher graduation rates are bringing smiles back to administrators faces and making them feel free to ask for more funding for education by pointing to those increased graduates.

But wait – – as they say.  There’s more.

How was this increase in graduation rates accomplished.  An additional five percentage points were added when the state started counting those that graduated in five years, six years and even longer.  The state counts high school graduation rates until age 21.   If the student graduates by that age, they are counted as graduates.  Fair enough.  But schools try to make parents and the general public, think those rates were obtained in normal four years.

School districts have also allowed students to graduate without fulfilling the requirements and without getting enough credits.  Districts have also dumbed down the curriculum making it easier to pass classes.

And, to top it off, the recent graduation rates of 82 percent also counted the Covid years of 2020 and 2021, when all students automatically passed.

Efforts to increase graduation rates shouldn’t come through the use of smoke and mirrors.  And they shouldn’t be used to cover up the poor state of our educational system.  Shame

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Who represents your interests?

February 20th, 2023 by Ken

The recent disagreement on the Lacey City Council is over the revision of an interlocal agreement with the Regional Housing Council over the use of government funds to address homeless issues in the community, brings up a greater issue than just the expenditure of money or the administration of that money.

This disagreement is over community representation.  Who do elected officials represent?  Do they represent those who elected them, or do they represent a larger constituency.  In the 4-2 vote of the Lacey Council,  Councilmemer Lacey Greenstein argued that the agreement gave too much control over the money to the City of Olympia.  Councilmember Carolyn Cox argued that most of the homeless issues are in Olympia and that is why Olympia should have greater representation.

OK – I simplified the issue.  But the bottom line is clear.  Who do members of the Lacey City Council represent?  Do they represent the citizens of Lacey or do they also represent the greater community which lives adjacent to the city of Lacey?

In the mid-1970’s,  the three cities of Olympia, Lacey and Tumwater formed the Regional Planning Commission to do planning that is outside the boundaries of the three cities.  That was the first of the more than 20 regional boards and commissions that now represent the greater interest.  Some of those regional bodies include 911 Communications, Medic One, Animal Control, Intercity Transit, LOTT, and the Regional Housing Council – – just to name a few.

Each of these regional bodies have a different governing board, but they all contain a representative of the signing government agency such as the cities, the port and in some case even other government groups.   I have been opposed to these regional groups because there is no way a citizen can change the direction of that body by non-elected board members.  (They are appointed by their respective cities, but those of us outside that particular city, cannot vote to dismiss them.)  For example, Carolyn Cox has been Lacey’s housing rep for eight years.  She was particularly attached to this issue when she was first elected to the Lacey City Council.  Voters in Olympia or Tumwater cannot remove her from her regional position.

This holds true for all the regional boards.  They answer to no particular citizen’s election opportunity.  These regional boards operate semi-independently with no reason to answer to the public.

I’ve been opposed from the very beginning and still opposed – – but – it seems to work.  For the most part, the citizens of Thurston County and the greater urban area seem to favor such bodies.

But – the homeless issue, which has been with us for more than a decade, has brought a regional problem that is different in each community.   The homeless issue affects all three cities to some extent, but since 99 percent of the services for the homeless are located in Olympia, the problem seems to be more Olympia-centric.

Lenny Greenstein was just representing the views of many of his Lacey constituents when he pointed out that Lacey has been doing a good job of taking care of the homeless in the confines of the Lacey City Limits.  And the dichotomy between Lacey and Olympia’s way of dealing with the homeless, is spelled out very clearly at the corner of Sleater-Kinney and I-5.  Lacey’s side is clean of homeless encampments.  Olympia’s side is a shameful mess and is a clear example of how the two communities view the solution to the homeless issue.

Does Carolyn Cox’s view of the homeless – or Lenny Greestein’s view, echo the feelings of the Lacey community.   By a 4-2 vote the Lacey Council sided with Cox.  By the way – where was our mayor during this controversial vote?

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Public school names have meaning

February 18th, 2023 by Ken

What’s in a name.  If it has to do with our public school system, then a name of a school can signal many interesting observations.

Time was, when the naming of a school was a significant  activity.  It was a time that a name on a school reflected long time feelings of community, of patriotism, of dedication to the education of children.  Time was, when a name on a school reflected more than just a location.  It stood for something significant.

Recently, around our country, efforts have been made by some groups, to erase names on school buildings.  For various reasons, names of important and significant figures had not stood the test of time.  And those names no longer belong on a school.  Other groups fought back, taking a stand on the history and implication of those names.

How has our greater community school system fared.  We have 30 elementary schools in Olympia, Lacey and Tumwater school districts.  A review of the names reflect, in many ways, the history and values of those school districts.

The Olympia school district is the oldest in our area.  Some of those names reflect the history of the district and are named after presidents – – Garfield, Lincoln, Madison and Roosevelt.  It also has two middle schools – Jefferson and Washington named after presidents.

But, Olympia has gone even further in naming schools after individuals.  Hansen elementary I believe was named after Julia Butler Hansen, the first female congresswoman from our district.  McKenney was named after Margaret McKenney a longtime environmental activist.  L.P. Brown, I think, is named after a state school superintendent.

Olympia has also named a middle school after Thurgood Marshall, a civil rights activist and the first black justice on the United States Supreme Court.

The Tumwater School District has named its two of its elementary schools after pioneering families in the area.  Michael T. Simmons and Peter G. Schmidt.  One the leader of the first pioneers to settle in Tumwater and one the founder of the Olympia brewing company.  It has also named one of its middle schools after George Bush, a black member of the first pioneering family and a renown supporter of the community.

Now we get to the Lacey schools. North Thurston Public School District (Its official name) has had an unwritten policy for decades in not naming schools after individuals.  One of the early schools in the district was named for Lydia Jane Hawk whose family donated the land on which the school sits.  All the rest of the names of its 13 elementary schools are named after locations such as Lakes, Mt. View, Evergreen Forest and on and on.  South Bay Elementary was an original school added into the district when the South Bay School District and the Lacey School District merged in 1953.  All of its middle schools are named after native American tribes or locations.

Schools mean a great deal to a community.  Names on school buildings should mean more than where the school is located.  Names on school buildings should reflect the values and history of a community.  It’s unfortunate that the North Thurston district refuses to change its name to Lacey to reflect the community it serves.   And, its time to rid the district of its unofficial policy of not naming school buildings after people. What a waste of community involvement.

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I hate Valentines’ day

February 9th, 2023 by Ken

I hate Valentine’s day.   How could anyone in his right mind make such a statement?  How did a simple little day dedicated to love bring such anger?

It’s simple.  Love is between people.  Love is between a husband and wife, between loving couples, between two people.  It’s not meant to apply to the entire country.  And, that’s the problem with Valentine’s Day.  It’s too worldly and broadly distributed.

As men, we are expected to give our lover some type of special gift on this little love day.  It could be flowers (preferably roses), it could be candy (usually chocolate) or it could be jewelry (sometimes diamonds).  That is the ultimate expectation.  Most of us settle for something simpler.

And, while it not always men giving to women, it is usually expected to be in that form.   Woe be unto the man who forgets his lover on Valentine’s Day.  Not only does it impact the recipient, but it is known by everyone in her circle.  When the women at work gather in the break room on February 15, the conversation always turns to “what did so do for you on Valentine’s Day?”   Pity the poor woman who is unable to participate in the conversation.  “George didn’t get me anything,” is what she wants to say, but she’ll respond with “George shows his love for me everyday,” is the response she’ll give.

And, by doing that, all women present will know that George didn’t respond to the requirement of giving his lover some form of acknowledgement.

The rest of the women will tell the stories, show off the new jewelry or maybe even share the box of chocolate.

The pressure is on – – as a man with a woman I love – I am forced to bow to the commercialism of the day and buy my wife a gift to show my love.   What a stupid thing to do, but like most men, I’ll do it – and hate the holiday all the time I’m doing it.

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Sibling rivalry

February 9th, 2023 by Ken

Moxie, my five-pound Yorkie,  sensed danger around the corner.  He tugged hard at his leash.  He planted his four feet squarely on the concrete and stiffened his neck.  The growl started from a rumble deep in his throat then burst force with ferocity.  The bark followed, loud and full of deeply held anger.

One, two, three barks escaped before I tugged on the leash.  He stopped for a few brief seconds, then started up again.  I pulled on his leash stronger and even lifted his five-pound body off the ground a few inches.

The wind blew a large piece of paper along the street, making a scraping noise as it went.  That was what he heard. Moxie didn’t quite know what to think of it, but wanted to smell it anyway.  We made our way to the paper and I let him sniff.  It was fine and wasn’t harmful he decided and turned his head to look at me and see what we were going to do next.

Moxie is a Yorkie, but he’s very small.  He was the runt of the litter at five pounds.  But, he’s full of courage and will bark and growl at anything he thinks is a threat to me, to himself or to the pack.  He even took on a mother raccoon who tore open Moxie’s stomach and sent him to the pet hospital for three nights.

We’ve had  him for about five years, but really hadn’t trained him in all of the ways we thought necessary.  So, when my wife and I retired, a year later we got ourselves another Yorkie we named Minnie.  She’s a full size Yorkshire Terrier.  She is also Moxie’s half sister.  Same mother, different dad.

Having a half-sister in the house with an older male is just another word for sibling rivalry and male dominance.  Moxie is a year older, so Minnie is learning behavior from Moxie.

Minnie is twice as large as Moxie.  In the early days Minnie gave Moxie a great deal of respect and began to learn proper behavior from him.  Unfortunately, Moxie didn’t have a great deal of training.  As the weeks went by, Minnie tried to imitate Moxie, even when he was humping his favorite toy.  (Both dogs have been fixed.)  It was interesting watching Minnie try to mimic Moxie’s moves.  She often stood behind him and moved in unison with the moves he made.  But, she soon saw no reason for doing so and quickly lost interest.

Now Minnie is older and is beginning to challenge Moxie for top dog status.

Minnie is stronger and faster than Moxie and lets him know it whenever she has a chance.  When we let them outside, Minnie out runs Moxie to the back fence.  Moxie can’t out run her, but has decided to take a short cut across the yard and often beats her to the finish.

Moxie tries to keep her under control by his growling and barking.  She used to be afraid and would back off.  But, recently she has discovered that she is stronger than Moxie.  Sometimes when they’re playing, Minnie will get Moxie down and sit on him.  At other times, she will grab him by the collar and drag him around the floor.

That of course enrages Moxie and he will go into his most fierce alpha male role by growling, hissing, barking and nipping at Minnie’s ear.  Occasionally he will nip hard enough and will back off when Minnie yelps.  But it isn’t all one-sided.  Minnie will nip back when she thinks he’s gone too far.

When we take the dogs for a walk, Minnie trots right along on her leash without a care in the world. She enjoys the new smells and the new sounds  Moxie however, has to mark his territory against other dogs which slows down the walk.  He also reacts at every new sound or smell and feels obligated to take on his role as protector of the pack.  Walking Moxie is a lesson in patience.


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Don’t cry for college students

January 31st, 2023 by Ken

You’ve read the recent headlines.  “Half of all Washington college students face food or housing insecurity, a survey finds.”

I  had to read that story again.  “College kids don’t always get to eat a balanced meal” was the way the story should have read.  A third of the students faced housing insecurity at least once last year.  It really meant, “Some were kicked out of the apartment because they didn’t pay their share of the rent.”

If you were able to read towards the end of the story it said that 66 percent of black students had experienced “housing, food, child care, health care or technology insecurity” last year.

Pardon me if I don’t feel a great deal of sympathy for Washington’s college students black or white or  any shade of purple.  Going to college is hard.   Going to school is expensive.  Going to college is not for everyone (although the government thinks it is).

What happened to the poor college student, who ate a day-old doughnut for breakfast, a bag of Cheetos for lunch and Top Ramen for dinner?   That used to be a balanced diet.   What ever happened to couch surfing, stuffing six students in an apartment?  What ever happened to working the graveyard shift to make a few extra dollars to supplement a scholarship?

I have a solution to all of those problems.

Join the military.  You heard me right.  Join the military?

All branches of the US Military are looking for intelligent and  hard working recruits.  Enlist for three or four years and upon an honorable discharge, you can get four-years of college – free – on the taxpayers.  By the way, 29 percent of all military members are female and all jobs are open to them.

(In college these days, females make up 60-65 percent of all applicants and in some professions – medicine and law, they make up as much as 70-75 percent of all applicants.)

And, while we’re on the subject of jobs, lets talk about jobs that don’t require a college degree.  These exist by the millions.  Many pay far more than a college degree required job does.  Granted, some of them require additional education or training, but industry is crying for good workers.

So, before you fill out that college application, take a look at alternatives.  Unless you’re going to go to work for government, most jobs don’t require a college degree.

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What do I write about?

January 30th, 2023 by Ken

I’ve just recently published my second book in less than a year.  Books I’m proud of.

A few days ago, someone asked me what the books were about.  I had to think awhile, because they are both different in many respects.  After a few minutes of reflection I realized the answer.

I write about people.  Not just any people, but often forgotten people.  People who had a story to tell, but no one to tell their story and sometimes, no one to listen.

I write about Steve – the wounded Vietnam Vet who, everyday, wheels his wheelchair to the end of his driveway parks it under the American flag and watches the world go by.

Or Larry, another Vietnam Vet, whose memories of that time remain etched in his mind.  The horrors brought back every time he hears the band march by.

Or the German woman who walks everyday by my house, always with a dog. And, not  always  the same dog.  She uses the dog to start up conversations and perhaps ease her loneliness

I write about the lounge performer who travels from town to town, looking for a place to land, not just another one-night stand.

I write about the neighbor kids who I watched peddle their Big Wheels up and down the road.  Replace it with bicycles and now roar up and down the street their own car.

The blond-haired couple with their blond-hair kids, who left to newer pastures in modern cul-de-sacs with cement light posts.

I write about Ann, who labored in obscurity behind her well-known husband, and never got the recognition she deserved because of the blindness of people.

I write about Margie, the waitress, the breakfast wife, who serves the lonely men who come into her cafe with coffee, a smile and a listening ear.

I write about the bully who made certain everyday, that I couldn’t walk by his house without recognizing the fact that he was there.  A lonely boy who expressed his loneliness with anger.

I write about people.

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The right to bear arms

January 23rd, 2023 by Ken

I’ve always believed that it’s every American’s right to own a gun.  I believed it when I was young and impressionable and I believe it now.  I currently own a gun and have a concealed weapons permit to carry it.  But my reasons for owning a gun now are far different than when I was young.

I’ve never trusted government.  When I was a young man I always thought that we might need to take control of our own destiny to protect ourselves from our government.  (Of course that was silly and stupid, but that’s the way I felt.)

When I read that the Declaration of Independence says its our responsibility to overthrow a government when it no longer meets our needs, I wanted to have that option.  And, while I was not in favor of the armed overthrow of the government – – I never thought it was out of the realm of possibility.

All my life, I never owned a gun.  I’d spent enough time in the military to know that I really didn’t want a gun around the house.  But, I wanted the right to have one.

And, then, a decade ago, came an effort by some sections of our country to ban the legal possession of firearms – – something that continues to this day.   That got me thinking about the “right” to own a gun.  I didn’t make the move to do so until recently.  When I began to age and found my physical prowess declining I thought a gun would help me feel more secure.

Because I have 14 grandkids, I feel obligated to keep my little pistol locked up and out of sight, so it really wouldn’t be much use to me if I really needed it.  It’s just the idea that it is there.

I do own a gun.  I still think it’s every American’s right to own a gun.  And, I think the decision to do so rests  with the individual and not with the government.

Recent mass killings around this country have me wondering if maybe if one person had a gun, in that school, in that movie theater or in that supermarket, if maybe the body count would have been less.


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Disparity of wealth biggest problem for the 21st Century

January 16th, 2023 by Ken

Disparity of wealth between the rich and the poor has always been with us since the beginning of  civilization.  For various reasons, some people have more money, goods and influence than other people.

The same holds true for countries.  Some countries are richer than other countries.  Along with that richness often comes some form of democratic government and institutions that allow the poor some say.

Into the 20thCentury is was assumed that we have rich countries and poor countries.  The poor countries looked to rich countries for economic and development help, which sometimes took the form of military help.

Poor countries often saw out-migration of its populace as a means to replace economic income by those who send back money made from working in richer countries.  It was an accepted way of life.

With the beginning of the 21st Century, the number of people seeking economic improvement in their lives has increased substantially.

Previously people in poor countries knew they were poor, they just didn’t have anything to compare their poverty to.  Now, the disparity of wealth is no further away than the computer in their school room and in many cases, the cell phone in their hand.  They can now see just how poor they really are compared to what they’re seeing on the net.

And, they don’t like it.  The wealth of other countries and the poverty of their country just doesn’t seem fair.  So they leave, sometimes risking their lives for a better future in a richer country, where even the poor seem rich.

But it isn’t only poverty.  It’s war, government corruption and crime.  Adding to the woes is climate change which has caused droughts and storms and placed their former subsistence living at the very end of the life scale.

The southern border of the United States is a primary example of the problem.  Thousands of refugees have made their way to the border from more than 70 different countries at last count.  Many of them fleeing poverty, others fleeing prosecution, some fleeing crime and criminal gangs and others just trying to join their family members who have already arrived here.  They see the richness of the United States as a their salvation.

But the problem isn’t only at the United State’s border.  Refugees from Africa have flooded Europe, searching for a better life.  More than a million survivors from war in the Middle East have already settled in Germany, while millions of others are pounding on the door of Greece, France and Italy demanding to be let in.

In the 21st Century the disparity of wealth, the knowledge of that disparity, and the ability to migrate will be the major problem facing the world.  Our leaders of the 21st Century will have to come up with a solution.

(Incidentally – despite its wealth – no one is trying to get into China.)

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Democracy in action

January 7th, 2023 by Ken

Democracy is messy.  Democracy is frustrating.  Democracy grinds, whirls, hickups and causes fevers and chills.  But, its the most representative government of all times.  And, given enough time – it works.

We just had an example of it this past week.  The selection of a Speaker of the House for the United States House of Representative was a great example of Democracy in action.

With a slim majority in the House, whoever was going to be elected speaker, needed the vote of every member of his/her respective party to gain the speakership.  Republican Kevin McCarthy from California needed 218 votes to become speaker.  He had a handful of votes beyond that total available.  But  a rump group of about 20 Republicans wanted change in the power of the Speaker.    To their way of thinking, the speaker, under the Democrats, had too much power.

That’s where Democracy comes in.  Your vote is important.  To go along with the crowd is the easiest track to take.  But, it also relies on the other person listening to your concerns and under standing them.  We have to remember, that each representative was elected by a constituency group which had their own interests and concerns.  He or she represented those constituents not the party.

So, in a Democracy, you bargain, you negotiate, you explain, again and again, and you compromise to get things done.

That’s what happened this past week.  Using the power of their vote, a conservative group held out for less power for the speaker and more concern for the individual representative.  It’s messy, its frustrating and this time it was played out on national television for everyone who cares about our Democratic form of government to watch in action.

Democracy works.

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Nothing has changed in 10 years

January 3rd, 2023 by Ken

(This article was taken from the pages of Ken’s Corner & the Real News in its February 2013 edition)

I ws in New York City recently.  It was my first time and I was as awed as you would imagine.  I spent a lot of time in taxi cabs (New York City has 22,000 of them.)  As you would expect, I engaged several of the drivers in conversation.

They had come from all over the world – – Nepal, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Honduras, Russia and every county in Central America.  And they had all come to America (never the United States) to seek their fortune.  They had left everything behind to realize their American Dream.

“You don’t know how good you have it”, they all said.  “This is a great country and you can accomplish anything if you work hard.”

One told me that he had come to New York City 33 years ago and started driving a cab.  His dream was to own his own restaurant.   “And, 30 years later you’re still driving a cab,”  I asked?

“I realized my American dream,” he said.  “I owned a restaurant.  I owned two of them.  It cost me $423,000.  Then I went bankrupt.  But, I’m starting all over again,” he said.  “That’s the American way.”

Most of the drivers had become American citizens, and with a few exceptions, most of them had voted for Barack Obama.

These were hard-working Americans who believed in helping themselves through hard work.  They should have voted for Republicans.  Why had they voted for Obama, I wondered?

“Republicans don’t care about us immigrants,” was the common refrain.

Now 10 years later, nothing seems to have changed.

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It’s 2023 and politics is in the air

December 29th, 2022 by Ken

It’s 2023 and election season is in the air.  Of course, it’s always election season in Thurston County and while 2023 is an odd year election, and usually confines itself to what the government calls “minor” elections, this year may be an exception.

In odd number years local city council, school board, fire commission and other boards and commissions are up for election.  That’s certainly true this time around.  It looks like when the final ballot has been counted in November, both Olympia and Lacey will have new mayors.

Olympia mayor Cheryl Selby has already announced that she is not seeking re-election.   And, Lacey mayor Andy Ryder is making noise that he too may step down from his job.  That, as they say, has yet to be finalized.

But making 2023 a little more significant is the expansion of the Thurston County Board of Commissioners, and the Port of Olympia board of commissioners.  Each added two new positions, and those newly opened seats will be on the ballot this year.  Both are expanding from three to five members, and both will add two new commissioners.

To be eligible to run for those new seats, candidates must reside in the new districts.  To ascertain the outlines of those districts go to Thurston County elections and view the new maps.  Those new districts and the new map were approved by both the county and the port at the end of 2022.

As currently envisioned by the county elections office, one seat will be a two-year seat and one will be a four-year seat.  That has yet to be firmly approved but seems to be the option under serious consideration.

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Lacey sells water rights to Tumwater

December 15th, 2022 by Ken

This story is about water.  So don’t just skim the surface of this article without reading the whole thing.

When the Olympia Brewing Company went out of business and was sold and resold, it carried with it one major asset – it’s water rights.  More than 30 wells, pumping large amounts of water were valuable.  The three cities of Lacey, Olympia and Tumwater jointly purchased those rights to meet their resident’s need for clean water.  The three municipalities agreed to share those water rights equally.

This month, the City of Lacey has entered into an agreement to sell its one-third share of those rights to the City of  Tumwater for $3 million dollars.  Lacey says it no longer needs those rights because its use of reclaimed  water to offset water withdrawal is sufficient to meet its needs into the future.  (Full story available at The JOLT News ).

L&E bottling in Tumwater is currently the largest user of water in the City of Tumwater. It produces Pepsi and Pepsi products.

Now Swire Coca Cola is looking at building a 95 acre bottling plant on Port of Olympia property in Tumwater south of the Olympia Airport.

Opponents of the move cite environmental concerns such as loss of virgin prairie land and traffic problems generated by 600 employees.  One of the opponents major concern was availability of water to meet the needs of a bottling plant.  With the purchase of Lacey’s water rights to the brewery water, that is no longer a major concern.

Mighty clever these city development directors.

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My views on the Olympia School Board’s appointment

December 12th, 2022 by Ken

I’ve had several requests from readers of my blog to make a statement regarding the appointment of Talauna Reed to a seat on the Olympia School Board.  Most of them have asked that I take a stand against the appointment and point to various actions and statements she has made in the past.

I’ve also received a statement from the Thurston County Democrat party applauding her appointment and explaining why, in their estimation, she is the best-qualified applicant for the school board seat.

I must confess, I spend little or no time following the Olympia School Board or any action it might take.  Without looking it up, I don’t know who is on the board or not.   As most of my readers know, I am interested in the City of Lacey and whatever affects it.  This applies to actions taken by the North Thurston School Board.  To my knowledge, that board has not taken a position.

So, the only thing I know is that Talauna Reed was appointed to the vacant seat on the Olympia School Board because members of that board must of felt that she was the best person to further the goals and objectives of the district.

My advice to parents and residents of the Olympia School District is to use the next school board election to make their views known.  That may be tough to do since the Democratic Party has already endorsed her, which means the local school unions must also support her.  And, as we know, the government unions, representing teachers and school staff,  control everything that the district does.

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My Moxie Moment

December 1st, 2022 by Ken

 Moxie is a Yorkshire Terrier, a five-pound male Yorkie.  He was the runt of the litter, but he never let  his size stop him from being the Top Dog.  He would take on every squirrel, every rabbit, most cats and some dogs twice his size.

Once he took on a mother raccoon and ended up in the hospital for four days.

A year after we got Moxie, we adopted his half-sister – Minnie, who weighed nearly twice Moxie’s size.  But, because she was a female, she never challenged Moxie for Top Dog status.

Two years ago, during that 100 degree hot spell, my brother invited us to spend time at his house.  He had recently installed air conditioning and thought we could use a break from the heat.  “Bring along your dogs,” he said.

When we arrived at this house, his daughter – my niece – was also there.  And, she had brought her dog.   A Big Dog, who must have weighed 60 pounds and stood as tall as my waist.

Moxie was impressed.  So impressed that he curled up in my wife Jan’s lap and  lay there for most of the day.  Big Dog stiffed him a couple of times, and Moxie returned the favor.

After a few hours Moxie left Jan’s lap, jumped down to the floor, walked over to Big Dog laid down and exposed his belly.  Moxie was acknowledging that he was no longer the top dog.  That honor had befallen Big Dog.

I call it a Moxie Moment.

Because a few months later, I had my own Moxie Moment.

I belong to a poker group which plays monthly.  I have for more than 50 years.  While players have come and gone, a few of us old-timers have been with it since its inception.

I always considered myself the best poker player in the group.  Hell, I’ve always considered myself the best poker player in the room wherever I played.  But recently I’ve been on a losing streak.   I mentioned to the coordinator of the  poker group, who keeps the record of whose turn it is to host the game, that I had lost for the last four months.  His  -retort – -“You’ve been the loser for the last eight months.”

That was my Moxie Moment.  Age has crept up on me.  We usually play until midnight or later, but I’ve noticed that by 10:30 pm I have trouble staying awake and trouble concentrating.   I am no longer Top Dog at the poker table.



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The roots of Homelessness

November 21st, 2022 by Ken


The roots of homelessness run deep – and shallow.

The Christian Bible tells us that “the poor shall always be with you.”  That idea has held constant since the caveman forced his brother-in-law out into the cold because he was too weak to go hunting.  (OK, enough of that.)

The poor and poor housing has been prevalent in this country since the beginning.  But, there was always enough land and those without a house, could venture to the next county or the next state and build their next house.

In the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, as immigration filled city streets with people, language and customs, many of them were forced into tenements and many other forms of cover that would keep out the cold.

In the rural areas, the working poor, farmers and sharecroppers lived in whatever would keep the rain off their heads.

It wasn’t until the Great Depression of the 1930’s, that the average American began to see the rotten fruit of capitalism.  Right here in Thurston County, more than a thousand people crowded into shacks, shanties and lean-toos, around lower Budd Inlet (later Capitol Lake.)    There they stayed until the economic boom of World War Two found them work.

But, where were the mentally ill and those who engaged in criminal activities?   For the most part they were in mental institutions or in jails and prisons.

Following the war and to save capitalism, the government engaged in such social programs as the New Deal, the Fair Deal, the Square Deal and the War on Poverty. The blight of the homeless from the depression was to be wiped from the minds of the new America and the New Americans.

Any country that won a world war and had become the world’s greatest power, should not have poverty and homeless wandering the streets.  Government was going to make things right.  Echoing the calls and cries of the Baby Boomers – – government determined that no one was to be left behind.  Even the poorest among us had the right to be free of hunger and be sheltered from the cold.

Government embarked on a program to eliminate sub-standard housing  in the United States.  Local government, echoing the trend, began to use zoning as a way to rid their cities from shacks and shanties.

Gone were the old-dilapidate buildings that used to provide cheap rent for the working poor.  Shunted aside to the suburbs were the trailer parks and overnight camping areas that gave the mobile poor a place to stop.

Zoning ordinances kept out apartment complexes and duplexes.  Again shuffling them out to the suburbs and even into the rural areas.  Places where many people didn’t want to live.

Later, to make certain that all new housing construction was 100 percent safe, city ordinances determined what kind of houses could be built and what accruements they must have – – all adding cost to a basic house.  Affordability was sacrificed to make certain that every house was safe from everything but an “Act of God.”

Banking rules and regulations also helped set the price of new homes.  The value of a house must conform to the value of the land.  Bankers felt that was the only way to assure that their loan would be repaid.

Then came the Better Living through Chemistry.

Pharmaceutical  companies had come up with drugs, which would help alleviate many of the mental conditions that had confined thousands of individuals to mental hospitals.   The conditions in those hospitals had become a national disgrace and government officials wanted them emptied and closed as quickly as possible.

Besides – all patients had the right to self-determination and could make their own decisions. These new drugs would do the trick.  Take your meds and leave confinement.

And, by the 1980’s, most of the government-run mental hospitals were closed.  As long as those with mental problems took their meds, they were welcomed back into society.  But, many didn’t take their meds.

Since the beginning of the 21st Century, crime on our streets had been increasing on a regular basis.  With the prevalence of drugs on our streets, petty crime made living in an urban area an exercise in restraint.

The legalization of marijuana and the decimalization of small amounts of other drugs has forced society to make some hard decisions.  Should police arrest and charge all those engaging in illegal drug sales and those engaging in crime that just borders on being petty, in order to buy the drugs.  Doing so makes law enforcement officials into targets of those who see little harm with property crime.   No bail also makes it difficult for police to make decisions to arrest.

Not arresting the violators means that our streets are not only filled with those who are homeless, but those for whom  homeless is just a way of life.

In Thurston County, right now, there are more than three-dozen groups, non-profits and government agencies involved with the homeless situation.  For the most part, those who are temporarily homeless, through job loss or domestic abuse are being house at  a rapid pace.

But, the problem for our society is deeper and longer lasting.

Do we, as Americans, have a responsibility to care for everyone living in our community, or are there people who are unable or unwilling to be helped and just want  left alone?  Does public safety trump every thing else?

And do we have the patience and the money to solve a problem that has always been with us?

The answer lies with us – and those we elect to govern us.


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2022 Election Observations

November 11th, 2022 by Ken

Voters in Thurston County made a wise move this election year when they voted to increase the number of Thurston County Commissioners and Port of Olympia Commissioners from three members to five.

It passed by a greater majority for Thurston County, but it did pass for the Port.  I’m not certain why the port vote was less, because the cost for the county commissioner increase was far greater than for the port.  But it passed and that’s  a  gold star for voters.  By approving the increase (and with it new commissioner boundaries) they assured better representation, communications and accountability.

We also elected ourselves a 28-year old sheriff (who will be 29 before he is sworn into office.)  Derek Sanders is probably the youngest elected sheriff ever in Thurston County, and maybe in the entire State of Washington. Was the final outcome a way of voters telling the incumbent sheriff that it was time he stepped down, or was it because Sanders was so qualified that it was impossible not to vote for him.

At 29, he is the most powerful law enforcement official in the county.  That’s a tremendous responsibility. I gasped when I realized how young he was, and then I remembered I was running Lacey’s only newspaper at the age of 30.  I also remembered how many mistakes I made in learning my job.  When I made mistakes it hurt people’s feelings.  If he makes mistakes it ruins people’s lives.

We’ll know shortly, how mature he is.  He has said he will appoint an under sheriff who will be his manager.  But, some of the people he has suggested he might appoint are light-weights and incompetents.  Sanders needs to make the right decisions early on and his first appointment will tell us of his level of maturity.

Thurston County is the most liberal county in Washington State.   The recent election, as well as longtime observation, shows that Thurston County is about three percent more liberal in its voting record than any other county in the state, including those to the north.

In all of the partisan races on the ballot this year, Republican candidates took about 35 percent of the vote.  That margin has held strong for nearly two decades.    The only race that exceeded that margin was Vivian Eason who garnered more than 40 percent in her race for county commissioner against Tye Menser.  In Thurston County, that’s a  moral victory – for all  that means.


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Who’s a good boy?

October 24th, 2022 by Ken

As usual, the City of Olympia has blamed its problems on Lacey and are surprised when Lacey doesn’t agree.

In this case, the City of Olympia dedicated money for a housing project in Lacey, without getting the approval of the Lacey City Council.  We’re talking about the Olympia council’s decision to allocate $3 million of funding for low-income housing.  (Not really  low cost when we’re talking $3 million for five single-family homes.)

Olympia mayor Shelby Selby took to the media to voice her concern that Lacey wasn’t playing nice and that the two cities had agreed to work cooperatively on funding housing needs.

But Mayor Selby, forgot to tell the City of Lacey that it was going to do the projects in Lacey.  The move took Lacey officials by surprise.

Mayor Selby also criticized Lacey for possibly using some of their housing money towards construction of a new police station in  the city.

Lacey Mayor Andy Ryder was recently quoted in “The Olympian” that no Lacey officials were at the table when Olympia made the decision, but Lacey might still be willing to contribute some funds to the housing project using city reserves.

(I think the City of Olympia still hasn’t grasped the concept that it is no longer the big dog in the neighborhood and that it cannot take unilateral action on regional problems without at least talking with the leader of the pack.)

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Too much Sky

October 8th, 2022 by Ken

It’s changed, this neighborhood of mine

Gone are the tall Doug Fires which used to block out the sky.

Gone to the windstorms of November and the chain  saws of urban foresters.

In their places are the Dogwoods, the Flowering Plum, the Japanese Maple,

the people friendly trees with their splashes of spring color.

Gone as well are the two-bedroom houses with their one-car garages;

replaced by the needs of growing families.

Now asphalt driveways go nowhere.

Garages have been turned into spare rooms and cars park on the street.

Gone to0 are the blond-haired couple with their blond-haired children

who lived next door.

Gone to new neighborhoods with new houses, on cul de sacs,

with their three-bedroom homes,

whose yards are guarded at night by concrete lamp posts

and little dogs that bark and yip.

Also gone are the neighbors on the other side

who often proved that Good Fences do make Good Neighbors.

The family that lived directly across the street has moved on.

I watched their children grow from tots who rode their Big Wheels on the street

into teenagers who roared up and down the road at all hours of the night.

The man who lived across the back fence is still there,

but he has cut down the decades old apple trees that used to hang over my fence.

Now, the only thing that separates my yard from his

is the view of his camper, covered most of the year by a blue tarp.

But, just like people, neighborhoods change with time.

And just like people, change in a neighborhood isn’t all bad.

New neighbors have moved in now.

They’re of two types – young and old.

The young ones bring enthusiasm, energy and young children,

who again fill the streets with laughter and large smiles.

The older ones bring a sense of finality as though they settling in

and aren’t planning to move again.

They dig up old lawns, composed primarily of old grass and  dandelions,

and replace them with new grass, dark green and smelling sweet.

The plant rhodies and roses and roots.

They introduce themselves when they see you outside working on a project

they deem too much for one.

It’s changed this neighborhood of mine.

When I think of what’s gone, I think of what’s been added and say,

This is a pretty good neighborhood,

Even if there is too much sky.




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Government unions lose membership

October 3rd, 2022 by Ken

The four largest government unions in the United States, have lost nearly a quarter of a million members, since the Supreme Court, in its 2018 Janus decision ruled that non-members were not required to pay mandatory contributions towards political action.

The four – AFSCME, SEIU, NEA and AFT had a peak membership in 2021 of nearly 7 million members.  Since then, 218,000 union members have dropped their membership.

Private sector unions have lost far fewer members, but those representing government workers, including teachers, have seen the largest decreases in membership.

These government unions, have a major say in political matters and most often influence partisan stands taken by the Democratic Party.  In many communities, these government unions exert tremendous control over the election of local officials, who owe their election to the union’s monetary contributions and their ability to turn out workers to wave signs, doorbell and make phone calls.

Whether or not the decline in membership will result in a decline in union political activism is yet to be seen.  But, if membership continues to fall, its influence on politics will continue to decline.

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