History, politics, people of Oly WA

Month: June 2009 (Page 1 of 2)

Karen Veldheer, orthodox Presbyterian church, and domestic partner benefits

I don’t think there is a huge connection between religion and local politics or partisan politics and local politics (two lenses you could view this post through), but I think there are a few things worth discussing.

Karen Veldheer has twice now sought a seat on the Olympia City Council. Her reason for candidacy has been the hard fought battle against somewhat notorious developer Tri Vo. Her activism in that realm has garnered her support from some pretty important local Democrats.

In her application for now Mayor Doug Mah’s council seat last year, she also cited here membership and work with the Reformed Orthodox Presbyterian church, a more conservative version of the church in America founded by John Calvin. In the same application she lists her involvement in the local Christian homeschool organization and her pastor as a reference.

All of these are fine things. Until a few weeks ago I attended church regularly and even volunteered, so I’m not looking down my nose at Karen culturally. I think involvement in a community of faith is an admirable thing.

That said, where does one’s faith life leave off and one’s civic life begin? Her campaign is built upon her experience with her battle with a developer: environmental protection, consumer protection and responsive government. If you poke around the website of her church, these aren’t issues they speak directly to at all.

What they do address are social issues like the rights homosexuals. Which, as you might imagine, they aren’t big fans of (here and here).

Pretty direct stuff on that topic:

You see: no special treatment for the homosexual, no concession to any type of sin, but a gospel with such power that members of the early church who had been enslaved to all of these types of sin were delivered from them. Some of them were homosexuals before. But they were no longer such after they were liberated by the Lord Jesus. It is our conviction that this is still true today.

I understand how people in political circles can disagree about some things and come together on other issues. This could be what is going on here with Democrats like Brendan Williams, Karen Fraser, and Sandra Romero among her supporters.

Or, it could be that Karen attends her local church, but firmly disagrees with them on social issues. I can tell you first hand that a lot of Catholics like me disagree pretty firmly with the mother church on social issues.

Either way, there is also a local issue to address here. Where does Veldeer stand on the Equal Benefits Ordinance, which requires city contractors over a certain dollar amount to provide domestic partner benefits? Would she consider it special treatment or a concession to sin?

Olympia has a long tradition or supporting domestic partnerships, being one of the first cities in Washington (over ten years ago now) to start a domestic partner registry. So, while this particular issue may not be front and center right now, mostly because it is so uncontroversial within the city, it is worth asking Veldheer where she stands.

The secret key to why city council members are told not to blog

I’m one of those annoying people who will always tell elected officials I run into “man, you should blog.” Sometimes they shrug me off, but I’ve had at least two long back and forth conversations with local electeds that got down to specific reasons why they don’t blog. Basically, they got advice from their staff lawyer that they shouldn’t.

The logic goes that if you blog about what you do as a city councilmember, the computer you blog on and all of the data that touched that blog post is now public. Or, could be public.

Walter Neary, a city council member from Lakewood, who gives a lot of advice like I do (and blogs about it) came across lawyers who gave their chilling advice during a conference:

I spoke to a standing-room-only crowd at the Association of Washington Cities annual meeting about the use of Twitter, Facebook and blogging to reach our citizens. … The overall feedback I got afterward is that a lot of people were thankful …

What got very odd is that four people… warned that these methods could bankrupt a city because of a court ruling involving them. Needless to say, their comments had quite a chilling effect on the discussion. I had to acknowledge their concerns without being familiar with the case.

The case is O’Neil v. Shoreline (here and here), and it involved an email from a city councilmember from a private account that was part of a public records request. They (now) former council member changed parts of the email, and the court ended up ruling that the city was resposible to make sure the email was available in its original form, even if it orginated from a non-city server.

So, lawyers working for cities across Washington State are a conservative bunch, and they don’t want to end up costing their boss’s any more money than necessary. If a city councilmember is going to start blogging about city business on some outside account, they’re likely going to tell that city councilmember that its up to them to defend themselves in court when someone comes making metadata public records requests for their blogging.

I’m going to read the decision later this weekend, so hopefully I can figure out more. But, its ironic that a case that was meant to open the doors of local government is causing legal staff to offer the advice that its best to shut them right back up.

Don’t blog, we don’t want to get stuck with the legal bill and bancrupt the city when someone comes looking for your home laptop.

Best histories of Olympia, Part 2 (the ones you can read online)

Where the Potholes Are on scribd. This is a personal history Mary Ann Bigelow, and a great one at that. The best part about this book is that it covers in personal detail the portion between about 1920 through 1960s.

There are a lot of well written passages, this is the one that most attracted me:

How does the strangeness wear away and turn into a kind of pride?

Although Bigelow was talking about a much different Olympia, I think this is how newcomers who become long-time residents end up feeling. That Olympia is weird to them at first, but the weird things end up becoming what they’re most proud of, in part, because they start to understand the weird things.

Another thing worth noting here is that within a few pages Bigelow talks about how important the train station was in Olympia, and then a few pages later, that Olympia has always needed (and still did need) a railway.

I’ll take credit (or blame) for putting this one online. I know you can buy it at the Bigelow house as a fundraiser, but since it isn’t in copyright, never was copyrighted and was paid for partly by the city, I felt o.k. scanning and posting it.

Plus, if you want to support the Bigelow house, please, please, please donate.

“The Life of Isaac Stevens (Part 1 and Part 2)” on Google Books. This isn’t so much about Olympia, but it includes much of the most researched portions of Olympia’s history, the early years around the Indian Wars.

I include it here mostly because if you try to find an original version, good luck. Either you’ll pay through the nose or you just won’t find one. These online editions are invaluable.

Early History of Thurston County on Google Books. I can’t say I’ve actually read this one, butit appears to be in the same vein as “Where the Potholes Are,” a regional history with personal bent.

What I can certainly say about it, is that it provided with me an extremly valuable piece of historic information, the exact location of Gov. Issac Stevens’ original office, where he worked in the first year or so after arriving in Olympia.

“What is up with Steve Buxbaum?”

EDIT October 10, 2011: I just realized that this blog post I put up is being used in an anonymous lit drop campaign in Olympia. I don’t endorse its use and while I find photo-bombing funny and sort of rude, its no reason not to vote for Stephen Buxbaum. If you found this post through a flier left on your door step by someone you don’t know, well, consider the source.

In a completely innocent context that question was asked of me this morning. In answering I said “seems like a good candidate on paper” (I’m supporting JK btw), but, wow.

Stop being weird Steve Buxbaum (from jusbytheclown.com):


Your opponent should be allowed a photo-op with a clown without you jumping into the picture with your sign and half smile.

Or, is this a case of un-equal time with clowns? The Olympia Clown Guild will take this one up at their next meeting.

Olympia as “an arm pit,” Olympia as a “Best City”

You can’t please everyone and generally speaking you can’t please Andy at Thurston Pundits. The same week Olympia celebrates being number 6 on some national list (yawn, I’m so tired of being honored so), Andy rips out with this one:

I avoid Olympia proper as much as I possibly can. I don’t shop there and I try to avoid dining there if I can think of an alternative. Why? The place is an arm pit and has become more so in line with the volume of the “We hate America” crowd that infests downtown and nearby areas.

Generally speaking, the reason Olympia gets on certain national lists as being a good place is that its relatively cheap to live here, because of government our employment levels are stable (generally), there is a lot of culture here for the size of the city (thanks to the state government and Evergreen), temperate weather and pretty geography.

The reason Andy hates downtown Olympia is because a lot of liberals hang out down there and there is graffiti. Makes sense to me, people oftentimes make decisions where to be based on politics and how their politics inform their culture.

Far be it from Andy to shop at Einmaleins, that anti-American shop owned by a German! (By the way, that’s a joke. In my mind there is no more pro-American shop than Mathias’ place.)

Anyway, it makes sense because so many people make the same decisions. Read a great series by the Austin American-Statesmen on the Great Divide phenomena here. Generally speaking, it says people choose where they live by Andy’s standards: do you agree with me, do you like the stuff I like.

So, for the very reason Andy hates downtown Olympia, a lot of people simply love it. They love the liberal to radical politics of our geography, they love things like graffiti art (a portion of it is art) and Procession.

The Kiplinger’s rating has nothing to do with taste, but rather other, less subjective standards. Other than, I guess, the presence or absence of culture.

All that said, Andy is right. Olympia is a total hole. Crap hole filled with dung heaped with bad food and smelly people. Don’t move here. Just send envelopes of cash. Thanks!

Best histories of Olympia, Part 1 (the ones I already wrote about)

This is the first part of a series of undermined length about the best written histories of Olympia. This part deals with two books that I’ve already blogged, so will be really easy for me.

The best, the most complete (up to the 1960s or so) is “Rogues, Buffoons and Statesmen” by Gordon Newell. This is a seriously thick book that covers almost every moment of Olympia’s history (from the state government and local perspective) from pioneer days to the 1960s. Of course its incomplete now because its so old now, but still very complete.

The second best book would of course be something that updates RB&S to the current day.

Here’s what I wrote about it earlier:

Generally speaking, the books tells the story of Olympia from main street and the Capitol. Gordon was an old time newspaper guy in Olympia, so he had great background for both Olympia scenes. He also lived early enough in Olympia’s history that the really old stuff really wasn’t that old to him. It is oft-referred to, but seldom seen. There are only six copies in the Timberland system, a few of which don’t circulate.

The lack of local library (or even digital editions) is made up by there being a lot of affordable copies online. Right now, Amazon has several copies under $20.

The second is “Confederacy of Ambition.” Certainly less of a total history than RB&S, but also deeper (if that’s possible). My earlier review.

This book is great because it takes on the glossiness that people put on local history when they’re being lazy. Like this:

Washington began as a state founded by optimistic settlers with utopian dreams, and to some degree that sentiment continues resonating.

Uh, no. If William Winlock Miller was the typical settler (and I think he was), he may have been optimistic, but he certainly wasn’t utopian. He was a driven, realistic, politically savvy and business focused sort of guy.

Or, more simply, it fills in with personal history the gaps that are left when you do a local history that just names names and takes down dates.

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