Recent Local Blog Posts

All a place (Olympia in my case) needs to be is No. 1 in your own heart

Olympia Time - Thu, 09/18/2014 - 5:22am
Olympia is Americ'a's #3 Friendliest Small City!

Olympia is America's #55 Most Liveable City, and #3 in allllll of Washington!

Ugh.

Olympia is the town I love best, but seeing these lists being spread around always leaves me empty.

The problem with these rankings, is that they're subjective in the mix. Sure, they're usually pretty clear about what criteria they use to make up their rankings. But, the conclusions to me seem a stretch.

At least a stretch in that they should matter to any particular person. That friendly list up there especially. What makes a person friendly in Olympia is totally different that Grapevine, TX. We have a different history, different social structure and different culture. So, how can you really determine if we're any more of less friendly?

You really can't. People come up here from the deep South and find us off putting and cold. We go down there and find people overbearing and rude. But, both are considered friendly in their own context.

Or exciting. Someone considered Olympia exciting.

Its interesting to look back at this cottage industry of place rankings. David Savageau and Richard Boyer wrote the first "Places Rated Almanac" in 1983. The Almanac marked nearly the 20 year anniversary of the beginning of the Big Sort, a large demographic change.

According to the great book, Big Sort, Americans began unhinging themselves from diverse and deep rooted communities in the 1960s. They would find new homes in politically and socially homogenous communities.

It makes sense that book suggesting The Best Places, creating an idea that divergent communities could be objectivity ranked (and ranked and ranked) is a centerpiece of the idea of demographic sort. People who began shifting back and forth across the country began looking for rational reasons to pick one place over another. But, this rational sorting of communities lacks a coherence of place.

Toronto found itself on this lists regularly, and a local committee there decided to take a close look at what it takes to put these lists together. The committee (which focused on economic development) wrote a report that poked holes in how these reports are written.

Are they comparing apples to apples?

Is the data old? Has it been massaged?

Is the ranking consistent? Meaning, is #1 really one spot away from #2. Or is #2 really #432?

The lists really try to make what is a series of complicated and human topics clean and easy. We should never do that. It is too subjective.

So, as long as we're talking subjective, we might as well go all the way. What determines what is the best place should be inside of you. You might as well rank cities in America by "Top Cities Where My Friends Live" or "Top Cities Where My Kids Are Growing Up."

Doc "Moonlight" Graham in Field of Dreams put it best:
"This is my favorite place in the whole world," Doc says quietly. "I don't think I have to tell you what that means. You look like the kind of fellow who has a favorite place. Once the land touches you, the wind never blows so cold again. You feel the land like it was your child. When that happens to you, you can't be bought."A place may be a good place based on a series of what look like objective criteria, but these can all end up being baloney if a place doesn't mean anything to you.

Your regular fortnightly blog links. At least something is fortnightly anymore. Wink. (Olyblogosphere for September 15, 2014)

Olympia Time - Mon, 09/15/2014 - 5:06am
1. Best blog at Olyblog in a long time: Olympia Then & Now. Awesome.

2. They're working to put Old Main on the list of national places of historic importance. I would've assumed it was on that list already, but there you go.

3. Sort of a meta post from the Plum Palate. But, it is important to keep up with your local bloggers.

4. Big News for the People's House. Which isn't a new proposed location to fight about, by the way.

5. I think the Percival just realized the Weekly Volcano died.

Why I'm really excited about the Oly Town FC Artesians. Even if I don't like indoor soccer

Olympia Time - Thu, 09/11/2014 - 6:05am
Sure, I'm not the biggest fan of indoor soccer. Sure, its fun. Its no futsal.

That said, I couldn't be more excited for the Oly Town FC Artesians this year.



First off, Brandon Sparks is pretty awesome. He's the hard worker behind Olysports, a very worth your time local sports blog that does all of the little things right.

So, secondly, if you remember the Tumwater Pioneers, then (in my opinion) everything good associated with that team had something to do with Brandon. He didn't run that team the way he's been put in charge of the Artesians, so we can expect to see more of the good with this new effort.

But, yes. Brandon is a good thing.

Otherwise, its great to see organized semi-pro soccer of any sort back in Olympia or Tumwater or Lacey. Especially, this sort of league. I love that we're coming into the Western Indoor Soccer League, and mostly because it has a home-brew feel to it. The league was formed by a group of owners that were upset by the politics involved in a more national league.

A lot of these same owners just got done with their first season in a sister outdoor league called the Evergreen Premier League. This is another home-brew league born out of frustration with national systems. And, for me, this is the real target: a semi-pro outdoor soccer team in northern Thurston County (hopefully Olympia).

I'm not too picky about where an Olympia soccer team should land, but if its a bunch of local Cascadian soccer entrepreneurs going their own way. Then that's the way for me too.

There are of course some other considerations too. The Artesians indoor have their own very nice facility. But, an outdoor team would have to play in a high school stadium for the time being. Or, a recreational soccer field. We don't have a soccer specific facility in Thurston County that could support crowds of more than a few dozen.

We should address that (possibly build stands next too one of the fields out at the Thurston RAC), but in the short term the Oly Town FC Artesians sound like a great idea. I can't wait.

Mars Hill, Cascadian religion and the Seahawks

Olympia Time - Mon, 09/08/2014 - 5:06am
This quote told me a lot about how the Seahawks phenomena (and sports fandom in Cascadia in general) is informed by how we approach faith. Or, how I know that being a Seahawks fan is nothing like being a person of church:
“Pray that the watching non-Christian world would not be given the opportunity to discredit not only our church but the very gospel of Jesus."
Cascadia is the largest of the few places in the United States that this is true. That the majority and mainstream is unchurched. Or, more importantly, don't consider faith, specifically often Jesus, to be an important cultural touchstone.

So, up here, if you are religious, if you attend church every week and consider it to be an important part of your social and cultural life, you are separating yourself from the pack.

Most importantly isn't just that Cascadia is unchurched, but that those that are churched, are separated from each other because our corresponding high level of religious diversity. Even if you lumped together all of the particular evangelical protestant sects, you would only come up with 25 percent of the 42 percent that consider themselves anything at all.

So, the Mars Hill leaders really are right, the big wide world out there in Cascadia is non-Christian and also non-church.

But, even thought it is pretty unique to here that we don't use religion as a cultural touchstone, we are not without important and almost universal cultural references. Generally speaking, these have often come up when a sports team is good.

In the mid-90s, we were all Mariners fans. Before that, it was the Huskies. These phenomena reach across Cascadia, seemingly uniting a disparate population. But, uniting behind what? That a team is good, the team is from here, we should root for them.

Matthew Kaemingk writing at Christ and Cascadia I think answers it best:The Pacific Northwest has not “grown out” of religion, Cascadians have simply transferred their religiosity to what the sociologist Meerten Ter Borg calls “disembedded religion” or  “secular spirituality.” Broken free from religious institutions, structures, rules, and creeds this “disembedded religion” is an anti-institutional form of spirituality that seeks powerful aesthetic experiences.Matt's right, Cascadia didn't grow out of religion, it was in fact never religious ever in its non-native history. And, he hits the nail on the head when he lists "structures, rules and creeds." This is exactly why the Seahawks (when they're good and attractive) are an overwhelming universal force, because literally anyone can like them.

There is nothing special you need to do. You don't need to change your political beliefs, the books you read or take an oath. You don't need to get new friends, dress differently (in large part) or change your life at all. You just need to care whether a team wins. Deeper social, political or cultural values never come up.

A pro-choice, atheist, progressive, Seattle resident can sit next to a pro-life, Christian, conservative Duval resident at a Seahawks game and nothing much in the descriptions of each other would matter.

But, that is not how church is in Cascadia. It has a much more deeper meaning. And, because religion is so fractured here, very specific things like creed, political belief and possibly what you wear really does come to mattering. And, if you are religious, it absolutely should matter.

Why is Joyce McDonald being hung out to dry in the WA10?

Olympia Time - Thu, 09/04/2014 - 6:11am
When WA10 was first rolled out to the public two and a half years ago, it was supposedly a competitive district. Dino Ross had done fairly well (47 to 53 percent against an incumbent Dem) in the precincts that would make up the new congressional district that now stretches from Fort Lewis through Thurston County to Shelton.

But, since then, one election has indicated that Democrats may well consider this a safe district. Denny Heck beat up on challenger Dick Muri with 58 percent of the vote in the first election for the new CD in 2012. He also out-raised both Republican challengers with over $2 million to their combined $500,000.

Which leads me to my next point. So far this cycle (FEC info here), Heck has out-raised Joyce McDonald $500k to just $33k. She's not even in the money race right now. It seems that even contributors have written off either McDonald or the WA 10 as a GOP district all-together.

Which is odd, because during the last mid-term race, a Republican did fairly well in the WA-10. Now, in a year with a significant GOP tide, the party seems to have not even entered the race.

A recently leaked state GOP memo on the state of the current races offers even fewer clues. While the memo makes strong arguments to try to attract women voters, it singles out a female Democratic congressional candidate as the party's single focus for the cycle. Obviously leaving out a female Republican candidate facing a male Democrat.

WA 10 seems like it could be a competitive Republican district, but I can't tell why they don't make more of an effort here. Not that I really want them to, I like Denny Heck.

Roundups, Rambles, etc. (Olyblogosphere for September 1, 2014)

Olympia Time - Mon, 09/01/2014 - 5:27am

1. Alec Clayton does a critic's choice, but its more just him pointing out what he liked. Because he really did miss a lot this year.

2. A nice end of summer ramble by Maria Mudd.

3. People sure do like those Mima Mounds. Boy. Or seem they're weird. They're not weird. They just are. Glacial erratics, those are cool.

4. My new favorite Olympia blog is running a poll. Take it!

Here we are now in Olympia (Charles Cross left something out of Kurt Cobain's cities)

Olympia Time - Thu, 08/28/2014 - 5:33am
Here We Are Now by Charles Cross is a fascinating book. Twenty years after Kurt Cobain's suicide, Cross takes a look at how Nirvana and Cobain changed the world, from music to our own region to how we talk about suicide.

For me, the most fascinating chapter was where Cross took a look at the towns most associated with Cobain, his birthplace in Aberdeen and the city he's most associated with, Seattle. Of course, Olympia is in that mix too. Cross' own biography of Cobain includes five chapters set in Olympia, spanning arguably Cobain's most formative years between 1987 and 1991.

Screen shot of Nirvana - Live in OlympiaBut, in this trio, Olympia has always been the silent partner. Olympia isn't like Aberdeen, it isn't the town that he was born in, isn't the town that is the source of Cobain's legendary youthful angst. It also isn't Seattle, a town with a profile large enough to envelope Cobain's legend as soon as it was ready.

Cross seems to acknowledge this silent partnership when he mentions Olympia only in passing in his chapter on how Seattle and Aberdeen have been impacted by Cobain twenty years on. In this chapter, Olympia is a bridge between Cobain's Aberdeen roots and his false association with Seattle. At least using Cross' logic, if Aberdeen spit Cobain out and Seattle sucked him up (once he was good and famous), Olympia was the only place Cobain was truly at home as an artist.

But, that is a pretty over-wrought statement.

Cross in Here We Are Now wasn't making a point about what city impacted Cobain the most. He covered that in Heavier Than Heaven. In this most recent book, the equation is the opposite, what city was most impacted by Cobain?

And, it is worth asking that question about Olympia.

So, if Aberdeen has finally come to terms with their troubled product and have embraced him as a part of their own culture. And, Seattle has become one and the same with a certain type of everyman do it yourself music culture. What is Olympia's Cobain impacted legacy? How did 1987 through 1991 and Kurt Cobain impact Olympia?

Olympia and Thurston should follow Poulsbo and Kitsap's lead (at the very least) and what your PUD candidates think about that

Olympia Time - Mon, 08/25/2014 - 6:39am
Internet connectivity should be a basic utility, like sewer, water and garbage. Directly speaking, that isn't possible in Washington State. Some local governments can, but PUDs cannot directly connect their customers. They can provide service to businesses that sell retail connections to customers.

So, in Kitsap County, the PUD up there is wiring up the cities of Poulsbo and Bainbridge Island, which then are turning on municipal wifi:
There were four antennas placed in downtown Poulsbo.
“Which was not enough,” Jones said.

An upgraded system will likely equate to more antennas throughout a coverage area.

“I’m willing to put a tower on my house,” joked Poulsbo Port Commissioner Jim Rut-ledge, who attended the May 28 meeting.

“I’m willing to wear one,” quipped Councilman Ed Stern.Improving the system may require KPUD to further expand its fiberoptic system to accommodate additional antennas.A few weeks ago, I asked various PUD candidates what they thought about the Thurston PUD rolling out not only internet service, but reaching out to customers.

Here is my question:

PUDs are allowed by law to become wholesale internet service  providers. With the already limited number of private companies providing internet access abandoning net neutrality, we have the opportunity through our PUDs to help provide inexpensive and fair access.

Do you think the Thurston PUD should enter the broadband market? Here are their responses.

Chris Sterns:
I would say yes, if we could do it with a successful business plan. Each county PUD has entered the Telecom/Fiber Optic wholesale marketplace under their own different business model. This reflected whether or not they were already an electric utility, how big they are and whether or not their model was successful. Noanet is the consortium of PUD's that provides the main conduit of the internet fiber-optic system that everyone already uses including the private telecoms and the cell phone towers which are now hooked up to it! It passes through our county along side of the federal BPA transmission lines. Electric utilities utilize fiber to run their electric utilizes more efficiently (connecting up all their electric substations) that a water utility cannot do. Both electric and water utilities have cut back on Noanet participation due to revenue losses that their electric customers made up. Some had more secure private sector participation, others dropped out since customer density was low in rural counties. I will not enter this business to become a loss leader (lose money just to get into the market). Some other counties had residents who felt this was a good idea, I don't and their commissioners rejected the federal grants to start up services because they felt they couldn't make it work profitably. I have attended along with Commissioner Russ Olsen Washington PUD Association meetings on how each PUD runs their fiber optic system. We are looking closely at what would work best here. The first place to go would be the densest areas in the north county cities. These cities have already laid down dark fiber when they dig up their streets for water line replacement. All it needs is to be connected and lit up. Other areas can be added from a profitable core area. C.S.

P.S. The federal regulators (FCC) are considering overriding our state law that limits us to only wholesale service, we are the only state with those direct restrictions and yet cable remains unregulated. They have better lobbyists! The only other proposed systems are government to government services. Brian Hess:
I am still researching this issue and have found some things that I think the PUD can do to assist with the challenge.  One way to assist is being the repository of information not only about telecommunications, but also water and power.  The PUD should have available data for all within the county to look at and research and then be able to make educated decisions about their choices.  The PUD currently puts out a newsletter, but only to those that receive services from it.  I believe that the newsletter should go out to all residents within the county.  While campaigning it has occurred to me that not many know that there is a PUD and what it does.  This is wrong since each property owner within the county pays taxes to the PUD.


One of the challenges we face with telecommunications, or any other utility, is the infrastructure of such utilities.  I have read a story about how cities are being challenged by the telecommunication companies when the city wishes to install fiber optics within their limits.  I am still researching this issue, but my first response is that it is not right that a city cannot provide infrastructure for its residents.  I am still researching this issue and will hope to have a better response soon.

I have also read about a city in Washington that set-up free WiFi for all within the city limits.  I am trying to find that article again to share with you.  I am also wanting to follow-up on it to see how successful it has been.  This is another way that telecommunications can be provided to all.Hess went on for a lot longer than that, but didn't end up coming back to the internet issue at all.
Basically, Sterns seems more versed on the topic, and makes a great point towards the end. The urban part of the county seems better suited for connectivity soon. Fiber has already been laid and it would just take the PUD to light it up. Since the PUD right now is a somewhat disconnected water utility, it doesn't have the built infrastructure to just add on internet.

But, why did the Indian Shirt Story change?

Olympia Time - Thu, 08/21/2014 - 6:21am
Heather Lockman does a great job sketching out the Indian Shirt Story in Olympia (the actual story) and how it changed over the years.


If you don't end up watching the video (but you should), the gist of it is that the details in the story get more sinister and anti-Indian as the years go on. So, why over time, did people telling the story of an Indian who wants a shirt change details to make them more scary?

It probably has to do with how we related to Indians when the story actually took place (1850s) and when the final details of the Indian Shirt story were finally added (in the early 1900s).

In those initial years, the relationship with Indians and non-Indians was certainly and violently one sided. Most of the murder victims between 1854 and 1857 were Indians being killed by white people. Yes, we now have stories of farmers abandoning their homesteads for towns and blockhouses, but when you look at the details of the Puget Sound War, you find the Mashel Massacre, Quiemuth and Leschi. You also have the internment of hundreds of other non-combatant Indians during the war.

There were certainly victims of the war on the non-Indian side, but in those years, you could hardly imagine the majority of whites (especially pre-Puget Sound War) being afraid of an Indian asking for a shirt.

The rest of this post will be a long log roll for my own book "Oyster Light," (here or here) so I apologize. I do suggest you buy Heather's book. Its a good one.

Even after the war, roving bands of whites walked into Indian reservations and murdered people, seemingly without punishment. From Oyster Light's "All the Bunting Trails":
George McCallister (the late James’ 21 year old son) headed the group to bring in Too-a-pi-ti. The young McAllister, between the murder of Quiemuth and going out to track down Too-a-pi-ti, had also reportedly killed another Nisqually Indian on the tribe’s reservation, who had bore some guilt for his father’s death. The era of the original telling of the Indian Shirt Story was a violent time, mostly for Indians. But, as the years go along, the relationship changes. Mostly to an attitude of glorifying the past and bringing to light actual fears whites had of being murdered themselves, and ignoring their own violence.

In her talk, Heather points out the phenomena locally in the early 1900s of beginning to worry about the imminent deaths of that original pioneer generation. Many of our first historical monuments date from the first two decades of the last century.

Looking at those years deeper, it also shows how the Indian/non-Indian relationship had changed. Mostly, the concern was "why didn't these Indians just go away?"

From Oyster Light's "E.N. Steele":
The local anti-Indian sentiment surrounding the cases is encapsulated in an editorial in the Olympia Recorder that ran the same day as the Kennedy v. Becker news.

Coverage of Peters’ and James’ case was typically sprinkled with terms like "squaw," "pow wow," and "Papooses." While Steele himself wasn't immune to language like this, the Recorder editorial shows that defending Indians for fishing and hunting was not a popular task:

The Indian thinks his ancient treaty rights give him the authority to shoot a deer or spear a salmon at any time he contends that the game laws do not affect him. He declares that the white man is trying to go back on his bargain... Of course the supreme court, in holding that the game laws abrogate the treaty, is ruling that the laws were passed to govern all the people, white, red, black and yellow, and that the treaty is superseded just as all former laws that conflict with new ones are repealed.If it is non-Indian history, it is a vital cultural heritage to be preserved. If its a treaty with Indians, it is "ancient" or in contrast to modern living.

Non-tribal society at this point had moved on. It remembered the blockhouses and their own telling of the Puget Sound War, so naturally, the Indians in the shirt story would be violent and scary, approaching at night, threatening a young mother. The implied context in the early 1900s is that the non-Indians in the 1850s heroically defeated the violent Indians. They forget about George McCallister and others like Josepth Bunting and Jim Riley.

Hoo boy. You should read about Jim Riley. He's a piece of work.

Statues, bees, food and punks (Olyblogosphere for August 18, 2014)

Olympia Time - Mon, 08/18/2014 - 5:43am
1. The Olympia's Plinth Project from OlySketcher.

2. Bees from that Amicus blog.

3. Our best local food blogger was out. Back in now? I dunno, she showed us a pi pie though. That was cute:
Besides, we’ve all dropped out of life at some point during the course of it, but no one likes to admit to that. I could brag about finishing my Master’s degree; I could tell you stories about the US healthcare systems and a crazy neurologist that would make you want to emigrate to a cold, dark Scandinavian country; I could say that I was running out of recipes, which would be entirely true; I could just pretend it didn’t happen like I do with some of the jobs I leave off my resume, but I think I’m just going to admit to it. I dropped out. I gave out. I burned out. 4. A small piece of Olympia music scene, RVIVR playing Party Queen at the Flophouse from Campfire Island.

There's no paywall to public records in Whatcom County

Olympia Time - Thu, 08/14/2014 - 6:36am
So, there shouldn't be one anywhere else.

If you're looking for public documents from the Thurston County Clerk (or from practically any other county clerk in Washington State) you need to pay exorbitant fees. Like almost $30 for downloading a 16 page document from a public database.

But, not in Whatcom County. The Whatcom County superior court maintains a public database that offers direct access to court filings with no charge. As it should be.

Here is a link to the Whatcom County Superior Court database. Before searching for court documents, you need a case number, which you can search by individual name or business name here.

Once you plug in a case number you're interested in, you are given direct access to the entire court record.

 
What in most counties is an unnecessarily arduous and expensive process, is simple and free in Whatcom County. 
I emailed the Whatcom clerk, Dave Reynolds, about his county's choice not to charge, and he responded:This system was in place before my time, but I fully support it. We feel it saves on both staff time and foot traffic into the court house to obtain documents. We wouldn't charge for someone to come into the office to look at a file. If they chose to make copies, there would be a cost and staff time. I believe it actually saves money by freeing up staff time to do more important tasks. We have had significant reductions in force over the past several years. Further, it provides equal access regardless of financial resources.Providing for free what should already be free not only makes it easier on the clerk but provides equal access. That sounds great.
This county shows that we don't really need to charge $4 transaction fees plus $.25 per page for public documents. Even though state law allows clerks to collect expensive fees for public documents (much more than what you'd pay for a document from any other part of government), Whatcom County doesn't.
An interesting wrinkle is that what also makes Whatcom County different is that it doesn't have an elected clerk watching over court records. Whatcom County rewrote its county charter in the late 1970s and rolled the function of the clerks office into the superior court. I might be reading into that fact a bit too much, but having to support an entire other office aside from just the courts probably justifies keeping open as many revenue streams as possible.
I emailed both candidates for Thurston County Clerk about what they thought of the public records paywall, neither of whom have written back yet.
What Whatcom County shows is that there is really no reason (other than just bringing more money into a specific county office) to charge so much for public records.
These aren't private documents, there is no reason the clerks' offices should be charging so much for them. From RECAP the Law:We are a nation of laws. Our law is created not only via legislation, but also through the adjudicative process of the courts. Whereas we generally have open and free access to the statutes that bind us, case law has had a more mixed history. Earlier experiments in secret proceedings did not go well. Western law subsequently developed strong precedents for access to judicial proceedings — citing the importance of transparency in promoting court legitimacy, accountability, fairness, and democratic due process. When the law is accessible, “ignorance of the law is no excuse."The public interest is not served when only those who can afford it can have access to what goes on in our courts.

Why does the Olympia Oyster House mean so much to us?

Olympia Time - Mon, 08/11/2014 - 6:09am
 James Tallman on flickr.
The Oyster House will open back up tomorrow after more than a year closure because of a fire.

After a false start of an announced opening near Lakefair weekend, the Oyster House posted up last week August 12. And, Olympia caught fire.

I don't think it would be a stretch to expect a line out the door when they reopen.

But, why does the Oyster House, seemingly more than any other restaurant (short of maybe the Spar) hold such a high place in Olympia?

It certainly isn't the food. I'd agree with most that the food there is good, decent, but generally unexciting. I suppose that works because it remains accessible to most people. It is a pretty standard, fairly priced, Cascadian seafood place. But, certainly below the standard of the other shoreline seafood places even in Olympia.

You have to admit, the Oyster House has a pretty nice location. Practically all the traffic crossing Olympia is funneled right in front of the Oyster House. And, no other business on that stretch (sorry green Vietnamese place) has the sense of the Oyster House looming over that corridor, sitting crisp and smartly on the southern edge of Puget Sound. Everyone who lives here passes by the Oyster House often enough to get it stuck in their head.

Unlike a lot of place, the Oyster House has grown up with Olympia. Other places that compete with the Oyster House's stature in Olympia either stayed stale for too long (the Spar, only recently updating under new ownership, aren't that old (Darby's) or appeal to a broad enough group (Ben Moore's).

The Oyster House has evolved, is widely acceptable and has a long history.

A history so long, I'd say it is effectively been the restaraunt that grew up with Olympia.

My unified field theory of Cascadian history holds that (come on now, stay with me) that we either turned a major corner or that our history really started in the 1940s. While the foundation of the region was set in the first 100 years, my theory is that we didn't really start building the house until World War II crossed off all the failed efforts in our start and stop history after statehood.

Since the 1940s, our history (even locally here in Olympia) has been a straight shot in one general direction. We've left behind the resource extractive industries, and grew in at a regular pace into a generally professional, quasi-government and college town.

And, the Oyster House has been there since our growth started. It left its own resource extractive history behind, switching fully from an oyster plant to a restaurant. Three since then, the restaurant was destroyed by fire. Each time, it came back, updating itself as it went along.

The most recent update in the early 1990s, when the now ubiquitous floor to ceiling windows and clean floor plan were added, were reactions to the closure of the Oyster House that I remember as a kid. I only went in there only once or twice, mostly because it wasn't a place for families.

Tall backed chairs, hardly any windows and dark. It seemed like a place where men and women would come together outside of a family setting and speak as men and women do. It was a cigarette era place and by the 1980s, that sort of place was not the centerpiece of our town.

This was the Olympia that in the 80s had won the Olympia marathon trial, had build the Washington Center and shelved their old form of city government. Finally, the added benefit of Evergreen was growing shoots in town, and we'd moved past the Oyster House being a smokey dark gathering place.

And, after this most recent fire, the Oyster House is coming back again. It looks like the same general layout is still being used, the large windows are still there as well. Which makes sense. I feel like Olympia is so much more of the family centered place that killed the old cigarette Oyster House in the 80s.

I understand that the Oyster House isn't accessible to everyone. For a town that isn't very diverse, it is diverse enough in taste for people not to like the Oyster House in the same way they don't like Lakefair. In exactly the same way. But, Lakefair is crowded and so will the Oyster House tomorrow.

My less than meaningful Top Two primary (Imagining a better WA10 candidate)

Olympia Time - Thu, 08/07/2014 - 5:57am
On my primary ballot, there was only one race that really mattered. Even technically mattered. I live in the central portion of the county, so neither PUD race that actually had a primary was on my ballot. I also don't live in Lacey, so a very important fire levy was also not on my ballot.

The only race that had more than two candidates was the congressional race, incumbent Denny Heck versus a Republican (Pierce County councilmember) and two independents.

I was going to write this post to criticize those two independents, but I really only think one actually deserves criticism. Sam Wright is a typical crank sort of candidate. Not putting much of any effort into campaigning, shooting for a high profile position with no real effort behind his campaign. Enough about him.

On the other hand, Jennifer Ferguson is fascinating. She only ended up getting just about 5 percent of the vote, but I hope this doesn't end up being her last race. Like Sue Gunn two years ago, I think Ferguson should aim lower next time, and get her foot in elected office somewhere else.

In some pretty interesting ways, Ferguson really does represent the WA10. I wrote awhile back how WA10 really is a military base community district, and in a lot of ways she speaks to that community.

From her website:

Do you want someone to serve you that values people and quality of life?  Would you want someone to represent you that has a community track record of service and commitment such as volunteering 2500 hours in less than 13 months at Madigan with soldiers in acute distress and other mental health disorders to include PTSD?  Would you like someone to serve you and represent you that believes in standing up for what is right and has shown it over and again such as going to congress when the PTSD program at Madigan was shut down causing a congressional investigation? Would you want someone to serve and represent you on a large scale that has served and represented their entire life as a volunteer in the military community and in University Place PTA, President of UP Soccer Association, University Place Sheriffs Academy, and the list goes on?

In her work as a mental health provider, Gigi has worked with youth on drugs, youth in gangs, women as domestic violence victims, and families who have lost their children to the state for many reasons. Jennifer is a hard worker and committed to making this a better place than she found it.  Jennifer is committed to her faith which causes her to touch hearts, minds and lives where she goes.  Don't get me wrong, I really like Denny Heck. I voted for him this week and I'll vote again for him in November. He does a great job on JBLM and other WA10 issues and is a polished and intelligent politician.

But, there is something about Ferguson that strikes me as very authentically WA10. We're a very new congressional district, so our political identity is still being developed. But, she seems to speak much more clearly to the concerns of base communities.

So, not this time around, but I think she should take a crack at another local office. Like, who is taking on Doug Richardson next year?

Bridges, woods, and waxwings (Olyblogosphere for August 4, 2014)

Olympia Time - Mon, 08/04/2014 - 6:56am
1. From Olympia WA (via olynews), the Rainbow Bridge. I wish I knew where this was. I can't place it.

2. Also from Olympia WA, a blog post about LBA Woods, and balanced:
So yes, Olympia could purchase the properties, but we wouldn’t even have a park. We’d have another project on add to our ever increasing to do list. I’m not outright saying Olympia shouldn’t try to purchase the properties, but Olympia already has a lot of unfinished projects. It’s important to consider what else we could do with that money. And before die-hard park fanatics demand my head on a plate for suggesting that Olympia shouldn’t save the LBA Woods, in the future I’ll write a piece about potential compromises and other reason why I’m torn on the subject.This is the Olympia blog I've been waiting for.

3. "It's like they put an amusement park in the middle of downtown." YDHWM covers LakeFair and other parks of fun. The only thing you'll need to help you remember LakeFair.

4. Cedar Waxwings is a pretty cool name for a bird:
That is why I was surprised once again to notice something intriguing happening there: a whole flock of birds flitting on and off the wood pile. What was going on? From far away, these birds looked rosy in color, so I thought at first they might be finches. But in checking them out through binoculars, I discovered they were cedar waxwings, and they were "hawking" - catching food on the wing.

Summer archive post: Soccer history, two stories about Puget Sound

Olympia Time - Thu, 07/31/2014 - 5:51am
First, you might not have known, but soccer has a deep and rich history in Cascadia (from a submission I put into GoalWa):
This isn’t a thorough history of high level Puget Sound area soccer, but rather a quick overview of what I could find in a few places about the earliest soccer in the area. I drew solely from articles I could find at Chronicling America and the Internet Archive. I put my emphasis on adult intercity soccer, ignoring mentions of international soccer (there seemed to be some friendlies played in Seattle) and school soccer.

The years I was able to find resources were basically from 1906 through the early 1920′s. That said, these years seem to represent a high water mark for local soccer.

The Seattle Wanderers traveled to Bainbridge Island to play the Port Blakely team at Pleasant Beach in 1906. This game, and the Wanderers themselves, are the earliest reference to Seattle soccer I could find. Below this article is an interesting reminder of how old some issues in soccer really are. The article is about why the game itself is called “soccer,” reminding more mainstream fans of the full name of the sport of association football.But, did you know its also true that Olympia itself (tiny little Oly!) has its own rich history of club soccer. This includes a trip into what I think is the best sporting tournament in America, the U.S. Open Cup:
The 1973 campaign by the Olympia Olys in the Challenge Cup turned out a little better. They won their first round game on February 11 against the Rainier Brewers 4-1, but a couple of weeks later, they dropped 4-2 against the San Jose Portuguese. That team would end up losing to eventual champions Maccabi Los Angeles.

Club soccer in western Washington was different back in the 70s. Most semi-pro teams played in the state soccer league, which kicked off in the early 1950s and at its peak was a three division system. Olympia's first entry into the league was in 1965. That team played at Stevens Field, the old high school stadium just south of the Lincoln School.Remember history is deep. Its varied. The history you know is often there because someone wrote it down. The saying "history is written by the winners" is so true, that its not even funny. But, we can look beyond that first telling of history, digitize way more stuff than we ever had before, and go back and relearn what we know about ourselves.
 

Summer archive post: Aunt Sally and the Sounders naming contest

Olympia Time - Mon, 07/28/2014 - 5:42am
This piece ran in GoalWa just about two years ago now. I really like it. People disagreed with me, but I think the name was going to be Sounders all along. It worked better if we owned it.

My main takeaway from the recent Forbes blog series on the Sounders (E Pluribus Sounders) was how well-considered the move from the minors to MLS was. At every point, it seemed like the current Sounders ownership group made the right decisions, from marketing, to branding to player personnel.

Forgive me if I’m off base, but the blog series rang true to me. I really do remember things going pretty smoothly from the USL to kick-off in the MLS. Which, made me think hard about the one time it seemed like the Sounders owners were about to make a mistake: when they were deciding on the team.

In spring 2008, the club announced a web-based vote on the name of team, and that “Sounders” would not be among the choices. But, when the actual vote took place, there was a chance for fans to write in a vote. Most people wrote in “Sounders” or something close, and the rest is history.

But, why does it seem strange to me that an ownership group that seems to have done practically everything else right, might have gotten something so basic so so so wrong? I mean, Seattle Republic? Really?
Is it possible that the Sounders proposed purposefully bad names like Alliance and Republic to raise the interest (and ire) of the fan base to force the issue on the Sounders name?

This sort of proposal has some relations in the real business and real estate planning world. This sort of thing is called a straw man proposal (not straw man argument) or an Aunt Sally.

A straw man proposal is used in business settings as a rough document to kick off a discussion. Everyone is in the loop, so no one thinks the original proposal is a possible end to the discussion.

On the other hand, an Aunt Sally is disguised as a serious proposal (we want to Build a 20 story building!) when a much more reasonable goal (no really, just a 10 story building) is desired. So, you’re able to walk back the large building for a not so quite large building. A 10 story building may have been equally opposed as a 20, but its much easier to swallow than a 20.

So, in our case, the ownership really didn’t try to pull a straw man proposal (since we obviously weren’t in on it) or an Aunt Sally (since we would’ve gone for the Sounders in the first place.)

So, the real end of the false dilemma was probably to further engage and connect the fan-base in the name and the overall brand. It worked on me, I certainly remember feeling a sense of massive relief and pride when the result of the vote was announced.

The original context of the naming process seems particularly out of sync:
“The three naming options will be announced Tuesday, March 25, and were chosen through fan focus groups, internal committees and fan suggestions, but will not include Sounders.”

“I have great respect for the Sounders and the club’s history,” said MLS Commissioner Don Garber. “While we should celebrate the past, we believe the MLS Seattle team should be about where we are headed tomorrow and help position the club globally.”
For one, I’m not sure how they could have conducted real focus groups on naming the team and avoided finding Sounders at the top of the heap. The end result of the process was 49 percent of all voters writing in “Sounders.”

Also, while the MLS has a bad reputation for respecting its NASL roots, it had been ten years since the San Jose club had first rebranded to its NASL-original Earthquakes. Also, by the time the Sounders started ramping up in 2008, the MLS Earthquakes 2.0 had already hit the field.

Also, since the Quakes and Sounders, both the Whitecaps and Timbers have come back with their NASL names with no discussion.

Lastly, two of the proposed names — Alliance and Republic — seem to indicate that it was more about the voting process and the fans actually choosing than anything else.

Any serious person would know that Sounders was a powerful name locally, it was unlikely to carry any bad feelings from the NASL days because the Sounders had been so well supported in those days. To me, the point of the vote was to give the fans the chance to put their own stamp on the team when the first game was still over a year away.

Wed, 12/31/1969 - 5:00pm
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