History, politics, people of Oly WA

Month: December 2013

Bright lights, bad advice and things about the muck (Olyblogosphere for December 30, 2013)

1. Dig through the muck, find the history (from ArchaeOlygy):

Rip into it with heavy machinery, as happened when Mission Creek was
restored this Fall, and the stratigraphy makes the depositional history
that much clearer. The modern beach has been accumulating atop the
slumping clay fill of the road that dammed the creek a couple or three
generations ago. The yellow clay beneath the asphalt calved off and
melted away over the years after the road was built, spreading itself
thinner down the beach, taken by the very tides and waves that bring the
gift of gravel, sand, and shell from the north (including quit a few
Olympia Oyster shells, which  probably died decades ago in polluted Budd

2. The Yodelling Lama wonders about freshwater otters and shellfish. Maybe they’re freshwater shellfish.

3. Holy cats. Ask on r/olympia what you should know before moving to Olympia? Brace yourself.

You will have a tough time making friends because it’s a college town
with a transient population. Locals figure you’re going to split in a
year or two so they don’t bother trying to get to know you. #1 rule:
stay out of the drug culture. Heroin is huge here. It is everywhere. You
may out of loneliness and desperation for interaction be drawn in.
Every year some Greener freshman turns on and falls in and the army of
undead living in the woods grows. On every corner holding a piece of
cardboard is some asshole that I can say “Damn, I remember when she was
new and cute.” It’s really sad.

4. Marcus and family heads over to the Lights at Ken Lake. Hey, by the way, thank the sponsors this year (Eastside Big Tom and A+ Services). Another awesome Olympia light display is Olympialightstravaganza!

Cascadian politics and how we vote in a primary around here

What I can point to is a point when political parties in Washington
tried to force greater political allegiance and were bucked by the
voters. About 15 years ago the Republican and Democratic parties sued
and were able to get Washington’s old open primary law tossed by the
courts. In the old version, Washington voters did not register by party
and were able to vote for any candidate in a primary. The top vote
getter from each party would advance.

After the courts
threw out that version (because the parties said that by not controlling
who voted in their primaries violated their rights to association) the
state instituted a more closed primary. Each voter would get a series
ballots with only a certain party’s candidates on each. You’d turn in
one ballot, forcing you to participate in only one primary.

This was similar to Oregon’s current primary law in which parties have the ability to open their primaries to non-registered voters.

Washington voters quickly rejected the more closed primary system,
opting instead for a Top Two primary, which actually just works as a
qualifying election. Instead of the original primary system that sought
to break down the walls that guarded parties by opening up their
nomination processes to the general public, the Top Two makes that
meaningless. The Top Two passes along the top vote getters, even if both
say they’re Democrats or Republicans.

A similar
election system was rejected by more than a 10 percent margin in Oregon,
giving argument to the point that maybe Oregon and Washington aren’t
that alike in political cultures. But, an analysis after Measure 65 went down in flames said the loss had more to do with the explanation of the measure than anything else.

Oregon voters were used to their current system and Washington voters
had a new system foisted on them by the courts and the parties was
probably the best way to explain the difference in the two initiative

The most important thing to think about in
terms of the possibility of a Top Two system in Oregon is that the idea
itself in 2008 came from the political center of the state political
culture. Rather than some quixotic political dreamer, Measure 65 was
proposed by two former Oregon secretaries of state and supported by a
popular former (and now again current) governor. And, now its coming back again.

So, the idea of voting systems that ignore the institutional power of parties likely have some home in the Cascadian
political culture. Rather than a large group or band centered politics,
like religion, politics are grown from much smaller groups and from the
person themselves. It is important to participate, the civic good is
worth promoting. But, no large organization or institution is going to
tell the average Cascadian voter what to do.

Political party affiliation in Cascadia

I’m not sure what I expected to find when I was looking for some data on party affiliation broken down by state. I thought it would mirror religious affiliation. Strong groups of affiliated folks along the edges, but also a broad center of non-affiliated folks who didn’t feel like they belonged to any particular party.

In a way, I did find that. Both Washington and Oregon have strong numbers (usually a majority) of non-Democratic or Republican voters.

The surprising thing for me was that New England was even independent. New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine (for example) each have strong independent numbers above both Democrats and Republicans. Outside a few other states, this pattern is pretty unique to Cascadia and New England.

So, what I set out to see was that if Cascadia’s anti-institutional and independent streak in religion extended to politics. And, maybe that’s true. There might also be a connection between religion and politics in New England. If you look at the maps here, you see large swaths of high variety and low allegiance in regions across New England as well.

I think there’s something to the way we vote in primaries around here, the actual machinations of voting, but that’s for the next post.

Duane Moore and the Black Houses

Black houses of Olympia by Jeremy Quist (via flickr)

People are trying to create a mythology around the Olympia Black Houses that simply doesn’t exist. There’s no evidence that Duane Stephen Moore is anything but a typical small business owner (in this case a dentist and a rental owner) who has unique atheistic tastes.

So, that’s my conclusion. Yesterday I put up a map I’d been working on of all the rental houses that Moore owns throughout town. Olympia’s biggest urban legend in recent years has been that there’s something sinister about the houses, that if you mapped them, they’d make a pentagram.

I don’t know what you can see, but there’s no pentagram there for me.

Take away the black paint that seems to touch almost everything (short of the Reef Bar downtown) he owns, Moore seems like a pretty typical entrepreneur. He owns over a dozen rental houses, at least three commercial properties, owns a construction company (to hire sub-contractors to take care of the rentals?) and is an active dentist in Shelton. If the color were blue or yellow (or blue and yellow), I wouldn’t be writing this post.

Also, there’s nothing in the Olympia code to prevent anyone from painting their house black. So, if the city is fining him for having black houses, I’m not sure why.

I didn’t talk directly to Duane (or indirectly) when I was putting this post together. Neither has anyone else that’s written about the black houses either. He’s been referenced a few times in the local paper, but never directly quoted. That gave me the impression that he’s someone that values his privacy.

Also, if I stand by my “regular guy, interesting tastes” position, then I wouldn’t call him, because there’d be nothing really to discuss.

Nik Neburn made the movie I linked to above about the Black Houses. He also made an interesting documentary about the Paul Ingram case. Nik quotes Norman Cohn to make a point about the Ingram case that I think applies to the black houses too:

To understand why the stereotype of Devil-worshiping
sects emerged at all, one must look not at the beliefs or behavior of
heretics […] but into the minds of the orthodox themselves.

While Olympia hipsters are hardly religious fundamentalists, the stories surrounding the black houses do more to cast Olympia overall as a weird and interesting place than to explain anything about Duane Moore or the houses themselves. Because we want Olympia to be a certain way, we make the houses seems weirder than they actually are. And, if it wasn’t the black houses, we’d find something else out there to make up stories about.

Olympia’s first collegiate soccer team and why I don’t like PLU

This is some sort of sports team, from the Washington State Historical Society:

But, I really doubt it is a basketball team, as labelled by the WSHS. Mostly because it labelled as being taken in 1885 and James Naismith didn’t create the game until six years later. I think its much more likely that what we have here is an actual soccer team.

For one thing, the year is pretty good for the spread of the game. The first nationwide soccer association launched in 1884, the first national cup in 1885 along with the first international friendly. While all three of these events occurred inside the New York/New Jersey area, soccer obviously existed while basketball did not.

You can find some trace evidence of soccer in Washington State in the same era. This 1891 newsclip from Yakima mentions soccer being played.

Now, here’s some funny history about the Olympia Collegiate Institute. At different times, appently both the Methodists and Lutherans ran the old OCI, but merged them with Tacoma-area schools at different times. The Methodists absorbed OCI into the University of Puget Sound in the 1880s. The Lutherans restarted OCI (Later the Pacific Lutheran Seminary), absorbing it into Pacific Luthern University in the 1910s.

While Tacoma couldn’t end up stealing the capital from Olympia, they did make away with two colleges.

Why does Olympia have a low immunization rate?

A couple of years back I was shocked (shocked!) at the high rate of immunization exemptions in Thurston County and especially the Olympia School District. Back then the state had just passed a law where parent’s have to more expressly say why they’re exempting from immunization. Apparently that extra social hurdle has worked in Thurston County.

While the countywide trend has gotten back to the statewide average, it looks like Olympia still stands out like a sore thumb in the county. All of my data came from here.

County rates are coming down:

Olympia still out there:

Cascadia is known for its high rates of people who don’t like giving their kids shots (for whatever reason), but there’s been very little explanation of why. Some people pointed to that in Washington it had been easy to get out of immunization. But, that has changed, and the rates are still pretty high.

What if there is a broader social culprit? I’d say its possibly a cause of how people on the ends of either the left or right liberal slant (traditional political spectrum) don’t necessarily feel the social pressure to conform to something getting immunized. The Inlander piece I linked to earlier points out that homeschoolers and religious schools have some of the highest rates of exemptions in 2011. Possibly our social culture of living and let living allows for people to shut themselves off from guarding the public health.

A quick look into the long history of corporate distrust in Cascadia

From Cascadia PDX:

“The corporate state is not science fiction. Corporate agribusiness is
taking over what, how, and who grows food in my community. It has become
obvious that the government isn’t going to lift a finger to stop them.
It’s clear that the people, in the places where we live, must break the
chokehold of a system of law favoring corporations to one that
recognizes community rights.”

Dana Allen of Corvallis, Oregon

Dana is not expressing an unpopular sentiment around certain parts of Cascadia. Even outside what most would consider liberal urban enclaves, most people would express at least latent mistrust of big companies.

But, like a lot of things that make up modern Cascadia, this isn’t a new thing. Early settlers to Oregon and Washington brought with them a mistrust of the new corporate model. In the creation of both major American Cascadian states, delegates from Appalachia clashed with more corporate friendly New Englanders in how corporations should be handled.

In Oregon in the 1850s:

Many of the delegates entered the convention with a strong mistrust of
corporations. They had seen abuses in the Midwest and elsewhere in which
unscrupulous corporate operators had left innocent stockholders deep in
debt and workers unpaid. Other delegates saw no way for Oregon to move
forward without easy access to “the genius of our age to incorporate.”
Some of the debate would revolve around stereotypes of corporations as
large and uncaring machines of the economy that routinely chewed up
farmers and workers.

Eventually, they landed on  a sort of homegrown middle ground for corporations:

They looked to the benefits provided by corporations that would enhance
rather than threaten the rural character of the agrarian ideal. An
example could be viewed only a short walk from the convention where the
final work was being completed on the Willamette Woolen Mills the
territory’s first large factory. This corporate endeavor was home-grown
in origin, scope, and benefit. This was proof that, within the proper
framework and regulation, corporations could benefit Oregon and free it
from the need to import expensive products from far-off factories.
Otherwise, Williams warned, “We must pay tribute to Massachusetts and
New England all our lives, unless we can devise some way here for the
erection of manufacturing establishments in this state.”

When Washington got around to drafting a constitution in 1878, a lot of these same discussions went into crafting the document. Washington Territory didn’t end up getting statehood in the 1870s (an 1889 constitution was eventually approved by Congress). What was theoretical in Oregon in the 1850s was a practical discussion in Washington during their drafting.

Some of the provisions adopted by the Walla Walla Convention reflected distrust of corporations and railroad. All charter and special privileges that had not been fulfilled in good faith were to be invalidated at the time of the adoption of this constitutions. This provision was apparently directed against the Northern Pacific Railroad whose land policy was unpopular in Washington Territory because it made no real effort to build a line in accordance with its Washington charter until after 1880.

Other provisions including making stockholders individually liable for actions of their company and outlawing banks.

New, secret and undeserving (Olyblogosphere for December 2, 2013)

1. Just when I thought there were no new Olympia blogs, Mojourners launches ArchaeOlygist! Oh my! No new bloggers, but new blogs!

2. No one knows who the secret artist is in Olympia, even Alec Clayton, other than Olympia isn’t his home, just his  canvas.

3. Do the folks who got arrested down at the old WDFW shop last spring deserve the Oly 6 name? The Birmingham Six were sentenced to life in prison for something they didn’t do. Arrested for trespassing? I don’t know.

4. Ken writes about the Ports Lies. I’ve been reading a lot of environmentalists on the other side of the political spectrum from Ken this week say the same thing. This is exactly how Sue Gunn got elected in the first place.

5. Rebels By Bus is a great blog. Finally they post again.

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