History, politics, people of Oly WA

Month: December 2011

Olyblogosphere links (December 23, 2011)

I like that I end up doing this on Friday. Seems like a regular thing almost.

1. A little history from Accidental Initiations 2 of those days in the early part of the last decade. Olympia newly minted as “hippest in the west” and other things:

During the show’s run we sold out The Capitol Theater every night but the impact was even greater than that. Like The Spearhead Sound Hours Benefit, The Transfused involved so many people that it felt like the whole town was in on the ritual. There was talk of taking it to Broadway and I am sure if they had, it would have stood a shot at Hedwig-style success. Sadly, like so many Olympia projects, The Transfused and its creators could not contend with the dangers of commercial success, so the production went no further than the city limits, and today it lives on only in the videos from its one production, and in the memories of those who were there. Even more disheartening for me, once the production ended, that sense of inclusion I had enjoyed dissipated and I faded back into the white woodwork of Olympia with most of my former collaborators walking past me on the street without any sense of kinship between us.

There is no actual evidence of this on the internet, but I remember one of the last (or maybe THE last) performances, the cast and audience of The Transfused invaded Lake Fair on an early summer evening and goofed around. Before 9/11, before the Nisqually quake that changed downtown Olympia forever. Boy, those were the days.

2. Yodelling Lama wonders (as do the rest of us) why Fish is the only microbrewery in town. There used to be that racing place in Lacey, but I don’t think that really counted.

3. Alice (@wazzuoly) on her blog writes about the KRS-One show:

This pleasant night on the town taught me an important lesson. Every once in a while, I need to step outside my comfort zone. And I am going to do it. Too often we stay in our own little box, never taking the time to experience something different. It’s sad really. And it has driven this country so far apart.

4. Go Thurston, Sam Garst, environmental protection video:

5. Pretty picture of Grass Lake by Paul T.Marsh from the Olympia flickr pool.

Foster vs. Gorton, reliving the 60s with redistricting

Since the redistricting commission technically still has time, they might as well take it:

Having already surpassed their self-imposed deadline of finishing in November, members of the Washington State Redistricting Commission said there is still more work to do and that a final deal likely wouldn’t come before next week. The commission has an official New Year’s Day deadline, or else the duty is sent to the state Supreme Court.

I’ve tried to see if anyone has mentioned this little historic fact, but this isn’t the same time that Dean Foster and Slade Gorton have dueled over redistricting Washington State’s political boundaries. The Secretary of State’s blog pointed out Gorton’s role, but ignored Foster’s.

Gov. Dan Evans signing the eventual redistricting law in 1965.

Highlight showing Gorton and Foster looking over his shoulder.

 Both Foster and Gorton were young participants during the contentious 1963 redistricting effort. Gorton was the redistricting leader for the Republicans in the legislature while Foster worked as a vital young staffer for the Democratic leadership.

Late last night I read the portion of the new book on Gorton that covered his role in the 1963 session (a pdf of the book is available free at the Secretary of State’s website):

(Democratic senate leader Bob) Greive consigned the House bill to committee. The sorcerer had a gifted apprentice of his own. Young Dean Foster ran the numbers, tweaked the majority leader’s plan and gave him something to shop around on the
House floor. (Slade) Gorton warned that two could play that game.

A lot of people, including some members of his own party, were wary of Slade “because he could just outsmart anybody,” Don Eldridge said. But  Greive  had  way  more  detractors  and  clearly  had  met  his  match  in Gorton. “I tell you, the two of them, that was a combination,” the GOP caucus chairman said. “I’d liked to have been a little mouse in the corner at some of those sessions.” 18  Pritchard said Greive was “Machiavelli on redistricting. He was too smart for everybody . . . until he ran into Gorton,” who “knew every jot, diddle, corner — whatever it was.

Grieve himself had some observations of the 1963 during his own oral history with the Secretary of State’s office. Foster was so important that he would send state patrol cars from Olympia to Bellingham to pick up Foster from college:

Ms.  Boswell:  Dean  Foster  has  told  some humorous stories about you coming to pick him up in Bellingham and sending an escort to get him when you needed him to work.   He was still a college student right, during much of it?

Sen. Greive: As I understand it, he was.  I don’t think he was going to school while we were  in  the  session,  but  I’m  not  sure.   The other  thing  about  Foster  is  that  he  had  a tremendous capacity for work, as did Hayes. In  other  words,  he  understood  what  was important.    He  understood  the  question  of timing and everything else.

Ms. Boswell: Do you remember sending some state  patrolman  to  get  him?    Tell  me  about

Sen. Greive: In those days we had control of the state patrol’s very existence and anything that we wanted that dealt with the Legislature, they  were  “ours.”    They  were  most accommodating as long as it was something in an official capacity.  If the majority leader in the Senate, or the chairman of redistricting or whomever, had something he had to have, they would accommodate you.  They did that for a lot of other things.  I wasn’t the only one who did it.  But I did send the state patrol up to get him and take him down there to Olympia if I needed him.  Of course I’d phoned them first and cleared it with them.

I really doubt Foster is getting rides from the state patrol this time around.

Foster pictured from this 1965 article.

Its amazing now with the aid of freely available tools like this, that seemingly everyone (including me) can produce their own set of maps. The process this year even included a DIY section for the rest of us. But, almost 50 years ago, the data was so difficult to parse and the politics so divisive (the legislature itself drew the maps), you almost have to wonder why it even takes as long as it does today.

In the end, how did all that effort in the 1960s work out? Well, let’s just say that hopefully we do better this time:


It was unlikely in such a contentious political climate that legislators could come to a decision on a partisan issue like redistricting, and indeed, the regular session closed without any agreement. Governor Albert Rosellini immediately called a special session, but after 23 days, it, too, ended with no redistricting plan.


The Court demanded a speedy solution to the redistricting roadblock, but the order did not guarantee that one would be found. Weary legislators also wanted to establish a redistricting plan as quickly as possible, but knew it had to be acceptable to elected officials as well as the voters.


After forty-seven days of debate, discussion, compromise, and open hostility, the Legislature finally passed a redistricting plan. The measure called for forty-nine senatorial districts, with one member elected from each district, and fifty-six legislative districts

Why do we still call it Thurston County?

It was early 1852 and the legislature of the Oregon Territory was meeting. One of the topics being discussed was the creation of new counties. Over 50 delegates had signed a petition for the creation of a new county on Puget Sound including much of what is now the urban core of the region. There was agreement all around that the new county north of the Columbia should be created, but there was dissent from one corner.

The disagreement came from the man for whom the county was supposed to be named, Mike Simmons.

Apparently the honor was too big for Michael Troutman Simmons, or “Big Mike,” an early American settler of the Puget Sound region. And, in the early days, there was no likelier living candidate for a county to be named after. Despite being “unlettered,” he was “generally liked,” well known and influential. He led one of the early wagon trains into Puget Sound, but when it came to naming the first Puget Sound county after himself, he demurred.

With the delegates north of the Columbia set on Simmons, the rest of the Oregon legislature chose to honor recently deceased Samuel Thurston, the territory’s first delegate to Congress. Between Simmons and Thurston, you probably could not have found too more dissimilar candidates.

Here are the contrasts:

Book learning: Simmons wasn’t, Thurston was a lawyer.

Attitudes about race: Simmons helped George W. Bush find a foothold north of the Columbia, Thurston inspired and helped write Oregon’s racist exclusion laws:

In 1850 Thurston also lobbied the territorial legislature to discriminate against free blacks, of whom few had already traveled to Oregon. Playing to the racial fears aroused during the Seminole Wars in Florida, he wrote legislators that allowing free blacks into Oregon would be “a question of life or death to us.” As runaway slaves had done after seeking refuge with the Seminoles living in the Floridian swamps, free blacks migrating to Oregon would “associate with the Indians and intermarry … there would a relationship spring up between them and the different tribes, and a mixed race would ensure inimical to the whites … and long bloody wars would be the fruits of the co-mingling of the races.”

How’s that law degree working for you, Sam?

Attitudes towards the British: Simmons benefited from the the kindness of the chief factor of Fort Nisqually, while Thurston tried to cheat British settlers:

Section 11 of the Land Claim Act was a vendetta against former Hudson’s Bay agent Dr. John McLoughlin, and sought to deny him a land claim in Oregon City.  Methodists wished to build a mission and settlements on the same property and by the time Thurston arrived in Oregon, the dispute was intense. Siding with the Methodists, Thurston falsely testified to the United States Supreme Court, discrediting McLoughlin on the basis of citizenship. He further accused McLoughlin of repeatedly trying to stop territorial development and personally profiting from land sales. John McLoughlin was now an old man and Oregon had been his home for many years. He had retired from the Hudson’s Bay Company and applied for U.S. citizenship. The Donation Land Claim Act of 1850 held that McLoughlin’s claimed property at Oregon City be given to the state legislature.

By the way, while lots of places claim Thurston perjured himself in front of THE Supreme Court of the United States to hurt McLoughlin, I haven’t found any actual evidence of this. In his journal during the time he was in Washington D.C. as a delegate he never mentions appearing before or communicating with the Supreme Court or any federal court.

Also, in the years he was in Oregon, the U.S. Supreme Court didn’t hear any cases out of the Oregon Territory. Its more likely Thurston perjured himself in front of the territorial court, which is federal court and is still a bad thing.
Ironically, if north of the river delegates had held off for a year or so, we might not be saddled with Thurston County right now. The summer before the creation of Thurston County, agitation for the “Columbia Territory” began with a July 4 speech in Olympia. That eventually led to a convention at Cowlitz in the late summer of 1851, where the creation of counties north of the river was also proposed.

It took one more convention in November 1852 and an act of Congress in early 1853 before the new territory was created. A similar naming change happened at the territorial level as well, with the residents requesting Columbia, but with Congress replacing it with Washington. No word if the Columbia River itself disputed the honor.

Its important to note that in the creation of the new territory the folks from Puget Sound showed the important differences between themselves and their “Willamette masters.” They delegates of the new territory early on rejected the racist laws Thurston himself put into place. A law proposing the exclusion of  “Negroes and Indians” from voting was rejected overwhelmingly.

So, this gets back to my original point: Samuel Thurston is (in my opinion) not a worthy candidate for the name of our county. More over, we should go back to the original idea and name the county after Michael Simmons.

Three basic reasons why:

  • Thurston was a liar and a racist. Mike Simmons was not
  • Simmons is now dead too. So, like Thurston at the time, he is unable to reject the honor.
  • Also, Oregon can’t tell us what to do anymore. So there, we’ll name it whatever we want.
This renaming Thurston County thing isn’t at all new, as George Blankenship put out in 1923 that we should change the honor to McLoughlin’s. 
I’m not that sold on McLoughlin, but I would entertain other entries. For example, I like the idea of a Quiemuth County or taking Mason County’s original name of Sahewamish County.

Olyblogosphere links (December 17 blogs I miss edition)

This could also be the decrobilia edition, which I’ve already memorialized here.

1. Arbitrary and Capricious (on hiatus since June 2009). This was beyond a public defender blog (of which there are more as I come to understand). I first came across it when I was building a reading list for when I blogged over at Western Democrat. The author at the time lived in Idaho, and around 2004-05 had smart things to say about living out there. He since moved to Olympia (weird, isn’t it?) and subsequently had smart things to say about living here.

2. Scribblemark. (not officially dead, but not updated since May 2010). Great blog by Karen Patrick, reminds me of a proto Olympia Views, with its up close commentary on the Olympian. Loving Oly is a classic Olyblogosphere post and I hope it never disappears.

3. Public official blogs like Citizens for Karen Rogers. Unfortunately, many of the really good ones have been blinked off the face of the earth (lots of good blogging used to happen at rhenda.com). These blogs are a great example of why archiving local blogs is important. As we see newspapers retreating from covering nearly everything local, candidate and other civic blogs record our history and public debate.

4. If on a rainy night (gone since October 2008). Just a pretty good local blog, a great example of how links get picked up between blogs, especially as reflected in this post. He says something, someone somewhere else writes back and he writes something else that wouldn’t have been written if not for a link into his blog.

5. Damn, almost forgot What this town needs (gone since October 2007). Best blog around for awhile, and something that really Olympia needs is a blog about what Olympia needs. Maybe a feature that can be built into a blog like Olynotes?

Olyblogosphere links (December 9, 2011)

1. Everyone should love and read Mark’s Notes on the State of Olympia, especially since Mark has to attend Saturday meetings during the holidays. Okay, all together now: POOoooooor Maaaaaaark!

His two post series on local economy is especially good.

2. The local state worker’s union reaction to the proposal to lay off a bunch of parks people is buy yourself a Discover Pass.

3. krista and jess went to the Food Swap. Nice.

4. This isn’t to point out that the Olympia Food Co-op has had some recalls lately, but that they post recall notices on their blog. Classy.

5. Ten Minute Show is always awesome (Path of Surrender!), but its worth just looking at some old stuff.

Gravity Appreciation Day throughout the perspectives and years.


GRAVITY APPRECIATION from The 10-Minute Show on Vimeo.

2011 from TheSasquatchNation

2009, from when The Ten Minute Show was called The Sunday Report

6. The Sound writes up the problems SPSCC is going to have with their budget.

Olyblogosphere links (December 3, 2011)

1. Yodelling Lama: What is the proper mourning period for a tree?

The answer is 3 months.

2. krista and jess: I called Jess at work and said, “Why does anyone buy microwave popcorn?” My mind is blown.

3. 20+ people are working on ThurstonTalk now. Wow.

4. Olyghostbusters (via McCleary’s Morty), which seems to have stopped posting and is focussed on SPSCC’s Lady in White. They’re carrying both the pro and con arguments.

 Its good they’re being fair, but, their busting is certainly too journalistic for me. Proton packs please.

5. And, Dirty Laundry by David Raffin.

We never built the Capital Area Arts and Conference Center

I’m actually surprised by how similar Wenatchee and Olympia are. Wenatchee is smaller than Olympia (31k to 46k), but in metro area sizes, they’re about the same (+100k).

There is one significant difference. When Olympia decided against a supposed costly plan for a conference center back in 2003/04, Wenatchee went ahead with their events center, which now can’t pay for itself.

The situation going on now in Wenatchee is surprisingly similar to the stories of future horror and woe from 2003 when Olympia (and the rest of the area) was considering what to do with our very own Public Facilities District. Back then, Olympia was pushing for a “Capital Area Arts and Conference Center,” which eventually became the center point of that year’s city elections.

I remember making phone calls for a couple of city council candidates that fall. Most people would get off the phone with me as soon as they found out the candidates’ stand on the conference center.

Phyllis Booth from 2003:

What’s wrong with a conference/arts center? Doesn’t Olympia need meeting space? Won’t the conference/arts center bring in needed business downtown and thus more tax revenue? Yes and no. As with any project, you have to look at the costs versus the benefits. Three expensive studies done in 1998, 2000, and 2003 by the City of the Olympia concluded a conference center will be a net loss or in my words “money pit.” Furthermore, Richard Cushing, Olympia City manager, has written that the city’s revenues are not keeping pace with the city’s growth. He states that in order for the City to have a conference center that they have to determine what is a priority and to make financial decisions based on that priority. City officials have indicated that the conference/arts center will be paid for by funds that are now funding Procession of the Species, the Children’s Museum, the Bigelow House, the Olympia Film society and other worthy non-profits.

If Olympia had gone forward with a conference center in 2003, would we now be asking for a Wenatchee-like bailout (setting up a metonymic showdown)?

One of my favorite episodes from that year’s campaign was the opponents of the center standing in the back of the room during a day-time city council debate holding signs. On the signs were number like 90 or 85, indicating the percentage of each candidate’s neighbors that were against the convention center.

The Capitol Area did eventually build some projects with our public facility district, but it was the less audacious Regional Athletic Center and the Hands On Children Museum.

© 2024 Olympia Time

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑