History, politics, people of Oly WA

Month: February 2012

Olympia blogosphere links for February 27, 2012 (only three links today. But, they’re awesome)

1. I’ve been waiting for a decent link from this blog for a little while. And, now from Jamaica to Olympia, and we’re not good hosts:

Americans don’t know how to make you feel at home in their country. There are constant reminders that I am not from here and while I could care less about those who choose to hold that against me, it is still something you will never have to encounter as a Jamaican in Jamaica. I tell everyone the reason why I love Washington so much, and in particular the Seattle/Tacoma area, is that I feel less out-of-place here than I have felt in any other place in the United States – and I have been to many places in New York, D.C., Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and Maryland. Here, I feel less like a black girl married to a white man and more like Camille than I have since I left my home in Jamaica.

2. I don’t want to give Ken his own post on this, mostly because Ken didn’t write the press release that I have an issue with. No, radio was not the original “social media.” Talking to someone in front of you was the original social media. Radio was the original technological broadcast media, which is the opposite of social media.

3. “FREAKING ARTHURIAN MYTHS,” which is preceded by “but I work at Radiance, okay? I’ve lived in Olympia for decades”).

Olyblogosphere links for February 22, 2012 (more credit stolen, meta request)

2. According to Mark at Notes on the State of Olympia, the planning commission is in a hurry, but still probably won’t make their goal:

Finally, and most importantly, if we cannot meet this schedule by even one meeting because there aren’t enough Mondays and Wednesdays in March, we’ll have at least three new commissioners who will be responsible for voting on the entire package without much of a clue about what they are voting on. Ironically, while we collectively convinced ourselves of the need to hurry, except for the personal desire that the departing commissioners had to complete this during their terms, I didn’t hear another argument in favor of an expedited schedule. As we left it last night, if we cannot complete the SMP on this new timeframe, we’ll defeat the purpose of a condensed schedule anyway and will waste up to 24 hours (assuming that meetings do not exceed three hours) of meeting time and staff hours. Our collective response was: “we should try.” Thus, Fonzie sailed over the shark.

3. Mojourner Truth blog has a lot more to say about the downed wood on Legion Way:

But what really interested me was the next comment, from a resident of Legion street, where some beautiful but doomed oaks were damaged. Under normal circumstances, she said, the city crew would cut, and the neighbors would then come through and salvage the wood. But this storm hit too many trees, and a contractor was hired that proceeded to block access to locals, while allowing someone from out Delphi Road way to come in and load up with prime firewood. The commenter said she called the City, which said that no, the contractor was not entitles to the wood.

Yet again, we see how transfer of a government function to the private sector can devolve to piracy. I don’t know whether the load of firewood is destined for the market, or just heating some guy’s house. But I do know that putting up barriers and preventing the neighbors from getting a share is wrong. I also see that when all is said and done, private entities will have lined their pockets with government funds, even if they are not ripping off firewood, for work that some of the neighbors would have done for free.

4. Tobi Vail has been blogging a series of posts at Collapse Board called “Hello from Olympia, WA.” Here’s post #5, that includes this wonderful line: “We got to the Lower East Side at 4 AM. Apparently the city that never sleeps does sleep from 4-5 AM. Olympia has more stuff that’s 24 hours than the Lower East Side.”

5. I’m linking to this post from the Griffin Neighbors, not because I think the topic is interesting at all, but because it points about that the Steamboat Island/Griffin metroplex has its own print newspaper called the Register.

I propose that Olympia Views blogger pick up a copy and give us a well thought out blog post about these little local newspapers (like the KeyPen News) and how they fit into the news ecosystem. I heard a story once that the CPJ was one of these neighborhood rags before becoming a horrible student newspaper. That would be interesting to read about.

The history of the Thurston PUD as the strange center of the private vs. public electricity debate

The story behind why a Public Utility District doesn’t provide electricity in Thurston County touches on some of the most interesting episodes in the debate versus public and private power and in politics in Washington State.

This post is a follow-up to another post where I outline three historic narratives from Chris Stern’s piece about the possibility of the Thurston PUD getting into the electricity business. The uncited content from this piece is drawn from the two books:

The movement to take public the private electric utility in Thurston County has come to a head recently. Now, with the week-long blackouts in some neighborhoods and the rate increase request by Puget Sound Energy putting additional energy into the debate, its important to point out that this isn’t a new debate.

Thurston County has played a strangely central role in the public vs. private power debate in Washington State. And, all things being equal, if the October 27, 1952 vote of the board of Puget Power was the final word, today Thurston County would have been a public power county for decades.

In the early 50s Thurston County was part of a coalition of six PUDs that was making a pitch to take over some Puget Power operations. After years of lobbying to Puget shareholders and raising bond money, Puget’s board finally approved the sale in October 1952. Support from within the company for the sale wasn’t unanimous, so several strategic lawsuits were filed to slow the process.

At the same time, stockholders from Puget were entertaining an offer from Washington Water Power (now known as Avista, headquartered in Spokane) for a merger. While public power advocates had been lobbying for the sale of portions of Puget Power to the PUDs, they opposed the merger with WWP.

Their effort in the spring and summer of 1953 to raise public opposition to the merger drew out several facts about Puget not already known. For example, previous asset sales to other PUDs (such as Seattle City Light) had increased Puget’s cash reserves to the point that a merger with WWP would favor the Spokane company’s stockholders.

It was the full-tilt opposition from public power advocates that drew this fact out, and that without the pro-public opponents, the lopsided nature of the Puget WWP merger wouldn’t have come to the surface. So, after state authorities approved the merger and the case advanced to the federal level, the Puget Board staged a reversal on all fronts.

From “People, Politics and Public Power,” by Ken Billington:

…the Puget Power Board, meeting on November 12, voted not to extend acceptance of the merger beyond November 19 (killing it in effect). Simultaneously, the Board withdrew its approval for the PUD purchase of Puget Power properties. In effect, the opponents of the merger, who had fought so hard arousing public support for Puget Power to block the merger and avoid a statewide private power monopoly, had provide a new lease on life for Puget Power.

In effect public power had won the battle against the proposed merger, but was about to lose the war on securing the remaining Puget Power properties. 

The course change by Puget Power’s board ended the coalition’s charge at making several counties (including Thurston) public power counties. But, that failure didn’t end the interest in Thurston County for public power.

In 1960, the Thurston PUD board changed composition to the point that condemnation of Puget Power properties seemed likely. Puget Power’s response took the shape of a private energy interest group called “We Want to Vote on PUD.” This effort kicked off what historians call “the single most significant event” in the history of the Washington State legislature.

In response to the Thurston PUD’s move to get into the electricity business, pro-private power legislators introduced a bill that would require a public vote before a PUD took over a private utility. Public power advocates objected because of several “heads I win, tales you lose” provisions in the bill. When the bill came up for a vote, what resulted was a fiery four-day debate which included the participation of almost two-thirds of the state house, hundreds of amendments and 45 roll call votes.

From “Slade Gorton: Half a Century in Politics,” by John Hughes:

In the course of four tedious days, the members were locked in their chambers “under call,” hour after hour, as opponents resorted to every form of parliamentary jujitsu in in the book and some holds no one ever expected.

Finally on the fourth day, pro-public power legislators turned some Republicans (who as a minority party supported the bill) from public power counties against the bill. It was sent back to committee where it was holed up for good.

While the debate itself was intense and worth noting, its after effects are much more interesting. For the pro-public power speaker, John O’Brien, the injuries suffered during the debate were too much to take, and he lost the speakership two years later.

The most notable long term impact was the rise of the “Dan Evans Republican” in Washington. Again from Hughes:

The session’s real legacy was the festering resentment that led to the game-changing insurrection in 1963. Evans believes the seeds of his victory in the 1964 governor’s race were sown during the debate over HB 197. So, too, Gorton’s rise to majority leader and beyond. O’Brien’s days as speaker were numbered. His biographer would describe him as a “martyr” to the cause of public power.

So, because the public vote bill died in the 1961 legislature, it was still possible with two pro-public power PUD commissioners for Thurston County to sever ties with Puget Power. That possibility literally died when commissioner John McGuire passed away soon after the debate on HB 197 ended.

That set up a battle between the remaining two commissioners, one pro-public, one pro-private, to name a third. They sat deadlocked for almost a year until the other pro-public commissioner resigned in early 1962. That allowed the last remaining and pro-private commissioner, Vic Francis, to call a special election.

In the end, two pro-private candidates topped two pro-public candidates. Again from Billington:

Two candidates supported by Puget Power ran on a platform which said that they would not acquire Puget Power properties in the county without submitting the matter to a vote of local residents… It was once again a case where the candidates favoring the public power seemed to have substantial funds for the campaign, while their opponents more or less passed the hat.

But, Billington points out, no matter what happened, Puget could have won out:

It is possible that had McGuire lived, he and Thompson could have initiated condemnation action in 1961, but based on past experience, it is reasonable to belive that Puget Power could have delayed the suit in the courts until after the November 1962 Commissioner’s race.

Discover Thurston as a road trip through Mathias Eichler’s two best idears

In honor of Mathias Eichler’s recognition of being the best person in town (Awww-SUM), I give you Mathias’ best idears as copied by other people and as told by Discover Thurston.

And, when I say “copied” I mean borrowed without credit seemingly being given. Credit may have been given at some point, but not in these videos or anyplace else I could find.

1. First, is obviously, First Friday: “First Friday began in December of 2007 at the hands of business owners Mathias and Trixy Eichler.”

And, as told by Discover Thurston: “The first one we started was in September (2011).”

I don’t know what chocolate has to do with November.

2. Also, Table for Olympia: on Olyblog in 2009.

Then, as told by Discover Thurston: “Tonight we’re having a Table of Ooooaaah… South Sound.”

TJ, you almost blew it, you almost said Olympia.

To be honest, I don’t have any problem with people taking ideas and running with them. I do it all the time. But, it is at least polite to give credit where it is very much due.

Fine NBA you can come back (and NHL you were always welcome), but I have one big condition

Now that it seems that Seattle will make a nice big push for the return of the NBA, I might as well put out under what conditions I will support the league coming back.

But, first, where I stand now. I’m fine with the NBA never coming back, ever.

What was exposed about the league after the Oklahoma City owners came in — how massive arenas need to be and how the league will work in concert against a community — tainted the entire organization for me. I like the sport, but I can watch the Huskies.

And, the NHL, well, I’d always liked the idea of the NHL in Seattle.

Anyway, that said, I would support a new Seattle Sonics if they followed in the spirit of the MLS Sounders and created a mechanism for fan involvement. The Alliance is no Supporters Trust, FC United of Manchester or Barcelona. But, it is also no Green Bay Packers, which get all the glory for being fan owned, but whose investors have no say at all in how the team is run, but do fork over cash to the ownership.

Secondly, I would support whoever ended up owning a the new NBA franchise if they sold stock in the team. Unlike the NFL, most of the other major leagues in North America allow for some sort of stock scheme, but NBA prevents any meaningful participation in the club by stockholders. So, while granted it would be no Bundesliga model towards real community and fan ownership.

Coupled with the first mechanism, fan stockholders (and a friendly team owner) in Seattle could lobby for a liberalization of stockholder involvement in professional team sports.

The facts for this piece mostly come from the very good article from the Northern Illinois Law School Review: “Considerations for Professional Sports Teams Contemplating Going Public.

Olyblogosphere links for February 16 (not linking to Sh*t people from Olympia Say)

1. But, if you were to google “Sh*t people from Olympia Say,” you see a video that achieves a greater hilarity than the average for the meme. Damn, don’t google it, just here it is. If you haven’t see it yet, have fun.

2. One of the two times I’ve seen the Vagina Monologues was at the Midnight Sun. Now, Alec points out, they’re in trouble. Help save them.

3. Washington Our Home is a decent looking localish blog. I particularly like this post about stumbling onto the Ft. Eaton historic marker on the way out of town.

4. Speaking of history, the Olympia Historical Society is doing something pretty awesome. Even more awesome than the Olympia video.

They’re taking questions they get and answering them online.

5. By the way, the second least popular idea for a building in West Olympia is a Boys and Girls Club. Pretty steep fall from a 7-11.

6. And, a movie you haven’t watched. The Illuminated Ball, a fundraiser for Procession.

Olyblogoshere links for February 6, 2012 (late links)

Well, I did post one olyblogosphere up on Friday, but that’s not a true link post. But, people seem to be interested in the topic. And, if “Lunch Scholars” was a spoof, then they did a bad job labeling it.

1. Krista and Jess come late to the blog post about the weather party, but the pictures are well worth the click through.

2. Olyeats combines two things I like. Well, she always does the slow back in to talking about food blog post thing (which I always like). But, this week she also does the categorize Olympians thing, this time with the “OlyGrrrl au Natural.”

The mantra of the OlyGrrrl au Natural is ‘Love your mother (earth)’. A free spirit, her home (if she has a permanent one) is co-housing or a bus parked on someone’s property on the West Side. Her news source is Democracy Now! and she probably enjoys listening to Scatterlings of Africa and the Polynesian Hour on KAOS. She is most definitely a wanderer, likely hailing from somewhere else originally. The open and communal atmosphere, the beautiful natural surroundings and the great hiking drew her to feel at home in Oly more than any other place at the moment.

Red more here.

3. Over at Thurstonblog, sidrat38 has a great commentary the day after the state house’s vote on marriage.

4. For my taste, Cecelia Carpenter is one of the best historians with a local focus ever. But, One Pissed Off Vet does a decent review of a book that covers the ground Carpenter spent a life covering.

5. The legislative building with Mt. Baker from Paul T. Marsh (@PositivePauly) on flickr. This made me think of the historic possibility of Whatcom County running off with the capitol. I’m not sure they were ever really in the running, but still a great picture.

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