Recent local blog posts

Six Ways to Celebrate A Holiday Office Party around Thurston County

Thurston Talk - Mon, 11/17/2014 - 6:49am



By Lisa Herrick

harold carrHoliday office parties are highly anticipated for the attendees yet can be a challenge for the party planner. The group’s size, interests, and budget will determine the type of celebration that would be suitable for the office holiday soiree. Year-end festivities are an excellent opportunity to bring co-workers together to celebrate the organization’s accomplishments as well as strengthen employee relations. Finding the ideal location or event for the holiday party can be time consuming on top of  regular daily duties. Fortunately, Thurston County offers a plethora of venues and activities fitting for a diverse array of office holiday fetes.

Dinner and Theater in Downtown Olympia

harlequin productions

The audience gives an enthusiastic standing ovation at a recent Harlequin Productions play. Harlequin plays have long been crowd-pleasers for Olympia audiences.

The holidays are an optimal time of year for a theater excursion. The cold weather beckons us indoors while local theaters offer amazing performances. Combining a social outing and an event will appeal to a broader set of people within the office. Groups of six or more are eligible for a discount making theater a more affordable gift for an organization. Plus downtown Olympia businesses will be sparkling with window decorations creating a festive atmosphere to stroll from one of the many downtown restaurants to either the Harlequinn Productions of The Stardust Christmas Commotion or Ballet Northwest’s The Nutcracker at The Washington Center.

Celebrate by Giving Back

The best of holiday office parties makes us feel good about the place we work. Celebrating with our co-workers by giving back to our community generates a positive team spirit. Charitable giving celebrations can be as simple as an in-office canned food drive or blending the holiday party around a special cause by organizing a fundraiser.  Alternatively, companies can do hands-on volunteering with many community organizations. For example, arrange a holiday party for the Olympia Union Gospel, help sort holiday food donations at the Thurston County Food Bank, or host a Toys for Tots drive at the office or provide extra hands in the local warehouse.

Enjoy Outdoor Festivities

jingle bell run lacey

Participating in the Jingle Bell Run at Saint Martin’s University can be a great way to celebrate the holidays with your work team.

Many work groups would prefer celebrating through physical activity and being outdoors rather than a traditional holiday party. Organizing a hike with a picnic may be an ideal celebration for an outdoorsy and fit group. Similarly, participating in a community race such as Saint Martin’s University Jingle Bell Run encourages friendly, fun competition as well as a silly, creative outlet by dressing up in outlandish festive attire. The holiday course is for runners or walkers who then join together upon completion to sip hot cocoa.

Revelry in the Office

Sometimes keeping the holiday office party simple and in the workplace is the best and easiest option. Throwing a party in the office can reduce the expenses of renting out a venue. It can also make it easier for people to attend by simply transitioning from the workday straight to the gathering. Adding a theme can make this transition from work to party more pronounced, festive and jolly. Keep things lighthearted and effortless with something like an ugly holiday sweater theme, which not only creates a natural ice breaker and diverts conversation from the every day work issues but is a wardrobe change. Offer nibbles from a local caterer like Budd Bay Cafe, pick up treats from Phoebe’s Cafe or schedule one of Olympia’s food trucks to be on site.

Join an Existing Event

Skip the planning and simply purchase a ticket to an existing event where the decorations, entertainment, gift bags and meal are all included. Take advantage of events such as the Providence Saint Peter Foundations Silver Bells Breakfast by celebrating with your work team over brunch and supporting a community charitable cause.

olympia tourism

Mix up the traditional office party and take your work friends on a night out on the town in Olympia.

Additionally, our area offers one of the most unique and majestic events during the holidays through the Olympia Yacht Club’s Lighted Ship Parade. Snack on appetizers from Bayview Thriftway while viewing the boats. The parade of boats sails out along the east side of Budd Bay to Boston Harbor and returns along the west shore of Budd Bay back to the Olympia Yacht Club.  Either reserve a spot at one of the local restaurants to view the parade or bundle up and watch from the Port Plaza. Then proceed to a local watering hole, like Dillingers or Three Magnets Brewing, for a cozy cocktail to warm you up.  Note that the boats are traveling on December 6 so make your plans earlier in the season.

Finding the Right Venue

The most common office holiday party involves dining, conversing and celebrating with the people we spend time with every day on the job. Celebrating with coworkers in a festive and charming setting provides the opportunity to break from the every day norm and have fun with our work friends. While there are many restaurants, event spaces and banquet halls that can be rented throughout Thurston County there are also quaint lcoations nestled just outside the Olympia downtown core such as The Albee’s Garden Parties, which accommodates small and large groups for holiday parties within their indoor and outdoor garden space decorated lovingly for the holidays.


Spend a Day in Olympia for the Holidays

Thurston Talk - Mon, 11/17/2014 - 6:19am



By Kate Scriven

VCB logoThe leaves are off the trees, festive lights are being placed in the empty branches and shops are full of gorgeous displays of gifts and specialty items.  Yes, the holidays are officially here.  To help you get in the mood, and check a few things off your list, spend a day in downtown Olympia.  Not only will you come away feeling “in the spirit” of the season, but you’ll find unique, quality gifts while supporting local small business owners.

Downtown isn’t just for shopping, though.  Take advantage of the special seasonal celebrations throughout the coming month including concerts, parades, tree lightings and of course the Nutcracker.  Make your visit to one of these events an occasion by grabbing a cup of locally roasted coffee, a warm bowl of homemade soup, or a special sweet treat at Olympia’s many eateries and cafes.

holidays olympia

Compass Rose is one stop on your downtown Olympia shopping tour.

Stroll, enjoy, and connect with those you love.  Live the true spirit of the season by spending a bit of time together in the vibrant core of our state’s capital.   Below are just a few of the highlights for a day trip to Olympia.

Shopping and Gifts

Archibald Sisters – For the wacky jokester on your list, or for the best stocking stuffers around, visit this long-standing emporium of all things fun.  Don’t miss the custom lotions and bath products bar to customize the perfect scent for those on your list.  Hit the “Oly” wear section for locally themed tees and sweatshirts showing your local-love.

Compass Rose – Imports abound alongside local treats in this treasure trove of gifts and décor.  From handmade jewelry to BPA-free baby toys, you’ll head out the door with something you didn’t expect, yet couldn’t imagine leaving without.

Hot Toddy – Visit just because the shop’s name is fantastic.  While you’re inside, browse for unique women’s clothes and accessories with a vintage vibe.  Have an urban hipster niece on your list?  This is your store.

Red Door InteriorsLara Anderson and her mother Kathy Lathrop curate this fantastic collection of new and refurbished items for your home in this corner shop on 5th and Washington.  Pick up just the right accent pillow to pull a room together or add a little bit of bling for your holiday table.  Affordable jewelry and accessories make perfect gifts and don’t miss their signature item – the RD Shady.

Captain Little Toy Store – Imagine the modern vibe of an Apple Store combined with quirky, quality toys and the best stuffed animals you’ve ever seen.  That is Captain Little.  Opened this summer in the former “Wind up Here” storefront, this newcomer is quickly becoming the go-to spot for hip, fun toys.  Go beyond a Barbie and delight the littles in your life with gifts of imagination hand selected by the store’s experienced owners.

olympia baby store

Simple Cloth, located in downtown Olympia, stocks a variety of diapers to meet customers’ differing needs and budgets.

Simple Cloth – While the tiny storefront may not scream “holiday shopping here” if you have a new mom (or mom-to-be) on your list, you can’t go wrong with the thoughtfully sourced selection in this 4th Avenue favorite.  Cloth diapering supplies are just the beginning.

Olyphant – In their new location on 5th Avenue, Olyphant offers high quality art supplies for the aspiring, or experienced, artist.  Staff can help guide your selection to something any artist can use in their case.

Buck’s 5th Avenue – For the culinary connoisseur on your list, stop into Buck’s and have the staff organize a spice sampler or tea medley.  Their selection can’t be beat and the aroma of the store alone is worth a visit.

Little General Food Shop – Another foodie haven, Little General offers up specialty eats perfectly made for hostess gifts, holiday entertaining, and stocking stuffers.  Hungry?  Ready to eat items are available to help keep your shopping stamina up.


olympia holiday parade

Downtown for the Holidays includes a popular parade at 3:00 p.m. on November 30.

Holiday Events

Downtown for the Holidays – Held on the Sunday after Thanksgiving, this annual event, centered around Sylvester Park, includes activities for kids and adults alike, music, the Holiday Parade and the Tree Lighting.   Local merchants join the fun with specials and celebrations throughout downtown.  The event begins on November 30 at 12:00 p.m. and continues until 5:00 p.m.  The downtown holiday parade steps off at 3:00 p.m.

Holiday Concerts – One of the best ways to enjoy the spirit of the season is through song.  Our thriving local arts community showcases its talent at a number of shows throughout December.  Here are just a few classics.

  • Olympia Choral Society – Holiday Classics will delight with three shows on December 12, 13, 14 at the Koval Center.
  • SOGO Ho Ho – Student Orchestras of Greater Olympia’s annual Victorian Holiday concert will be held December 14 at First Christian Church in Downtown Olympia (2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. shows).
  • Sounds of the Season – SPSCC Concert Choir and Puget Sound Community Choir entertain with holiday favorites on December 3 at 7:00 p.m. at the  Kenneth J. Minnaert Center for the Arts on the SPSCC Campus.

Seasonal Theater

nutcracker olympia

Plan your day around a performance of the Nutcracker in downtown Olympia.

The Nutcracker Ballet – No need to travel to Seattle, and spend hundreds, to see a stunning performance of holiday favorite, the Nutcraker Ballet.  Olympia boasts several performances leading up to Christmas that will delight young and old alike.  Ballet Northwest’s production is at downtown’s Washington Center for the Performing Arts from December 12 through 21.  Include a matinee in your day downtown or enjoy dinner at one of the area’s excellent restaurants and walk to the show for a special night out.

Harlequin Productions “The Stardust Christmas Commotion” – Now in its nineteenth season, this 1950’s musical set in The Stardust Club is a local favorite.  Each year, audiences delight in a new rendition of rat-pack rock n’ roll and holiday spirit.  Shows run Thursday through Sunday beginning on November 28 and continuing through December 31.

Visit Olympia’s downtown this holiday season and delight in the unique shops, locally-sourced foods, and cheerful holiday entertainment.  Stroll the tree-lined streets with your family or make it a day with your friends.  Olympia is a treasure not to be missed this holiday season.


Debra Daniels Offers Insurance Advice about Homeowners Insurance and Personal Articles Policies

Thurston Talk - Mon, 11/17/2014 - 6:00am



olympia insuranceYou finally save a little extra money for that special purchase, be it a high-tech digital camera for the bird watching hobbyist or a stunning Chihuly centerpiece, but in one brief clumsy moment your treasure lies in pieces on the floor.

If you’re covered under a ‘Personal Articles Policy’ like the ones offered by the Debra Daniels Insurance Agency in Lacey, your tears are only temporary.  Many Homeowner’s policies don’t cover fine art breakage, and damage to possessions counts as a claim against your policy, subject to deductibles and raised rates.  With a Personal Articles Policy, in addition to your Homeowner’s policy;  art, cameras, and expensive items are covered, at a fraction of the cost, with or without a deductible,  in the event of damage.

A Personal Articles Policy isn’t just for the 1%, either.  This addition covers your household’s computer equipment, sports equipment, jewelry, and musical instruments as well.  This blanket coverage extends to kids at sports or music camps, college-aged children both home and in the dorms, and travel between it all…anywhere in the world.

Should you be lucky enough to inherit Aunt Mabel’s estate, you can also cover furs, silverware, fine art, oriental rugs, and collectibles!

Because such a policy is in addition to your normal coverage, it’s best to call your agent to discuss specifics.  Their knowledge can guide your decision-making towards the best coverage for your family’s needs.  As with any change in policy, chatting early is always best…just in case.

Debbie Daniels and her team are always available to chat, Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., at their 8765 Tallon Lane NE, Lacey offices, located 2 blocks pass Costco on Martin Way .  Should you have late night questions, you can email their offices or file a claim online and she’ll even arrange appointments off-site or after hours as needed.  Their phone number is 360-493-8284 and they’d love to hear from you.


How I Lost My Hearing

Mojourner Truth - Sun, 11/16/2014 - 10:52pm
That's me in the striped shirt, appropriated from grand-dad 30 years before McLemore made it cool to do that.
So yeah, I was a punk. Back in the early to mid-1980s. Then the migraines got too intense, or I fell in with some deadheads, or I got married to a non-punk, or I just didn't have the time and money to goto punk shows anymore.

Today, I went to the Olympia Film Festival to see "Salad Days," a documentary about the punk scene in DC, the harDCore scene of which I was a brief and inconspicuous part (1982-1985, more or less). The movie, which is apparently one of several returning to what are now days of yore, covered a lot of ground, but didn't seem to tell much of a story.

And neither did my experience. I was never in a band, and I ended up being a government archaeologist.

But I also got a sense of what it meant to be free, to just go do what you were interested in. I was not interested in releasing a record, but in the years since I've gone ahead and written academic papers, facilitated outlaw land actions, carved wood, written innumerable unedited essays, and preserved landscapes because I felt like it, and would not accept experts telling me I couldn't.

Being a punk made me deaf to the many "NO's" kids and young adults will hear, and I'm thankful for that.

Being a punk also made me deaf to sounds. Mom may not have been right about the value of joining the church youth group (dominated by drunkards and stoners at a time when I was straight edge), but she sure as hell had a point about loud music ruining my hearing. There's a video to prove it.

Look here, and you'll see me at age 18, right in front of the stage at a White Cross concert in Richmond, VA. White Cross was the local headliner punk band at the time, and were reknowned for being extremely fucking LOUD. The last band was already loud? No problem, just crank it up higher. Even if they'd never used a distortion pedal, their sound turned eardrums into tattered curtains whipped by hurricanes.

You can hear it in the video, which turns out to be better quality than some of the stuff in Salad Days. It sounds so rough because it was, because it was so loud that the microphone sould not cope. From about 2:35-3:40, you'll see me in front of the stage, shirtless and sweaty, singing along, commencing in a close-up of my mesomorphic self that makes me shudder to realize how much I looked like an actual--rather than mockingly ironic as intended--skinhead. By 7:50-8:24, I was on stage, crouched and resting, carrying on a conversation while the band raged a few feet away. At 9:00, and especially 9:33-9:37, you see me in front of the PA system, my left (now almost totally deaf) ear a few inches away from a 15 inch woofer.

Steamboat Island Cooperative Preschool's 3rd Annual Dinner & Silent Auction, December 6

Griffin Neighborhood - Sun, 11/16/2014 - 9:38pm
Steamboat Island Cooperative Preschool's 3rd Annual Dinner & Silent Auction

Saturday, December 6
6:00 PM
Griffin School Cafeteria

Featuring a 50/50 Raffle, Silent & Live Auction, Kids Music Feature, Photo Booth, Arts & Crafts, Face Painting, Ice Cream.

General Admission: $15
Members, Alumni, and Children under 12: $10

For more information, call (360) 866-1819 or

Teamwork Pays Off with Olympia’s Visit to the State Volleyball Tournament

Thurston Talk - Sun, 11/16/2014 - 8:31am



By Gail Wood

Edward Jones Block AdCall them the unexpected guests.

With a 5’6″ middle blocker, with a 14-8 record and placing fourth in the 4A Narrows League standings, Olympia High School’s volleyball team did the unexpected when it qualified for the state tournament.

In a winner-to-state match at district, Olympia beat a Timberline team that beat the Bears 3-0 twice during the regular season. It was a defining win for a team that struggled to find that winning formula.

olympia volleyball

Olympia scrimmages in preparation for the state tournament.

From the first match of the season, Laurie Creighton, Olympia’s coach for 36 years, has preached “get better.” The building block to success was to improve each game. Win or lose, it was all about not quitting.

“There’s not a lot of replacement for experience,” Creighton said. “We were hoping to get enough of it before we ran out of time. A couple of weeks ago I was thinking, gosh we might run out of time. We just hadn’t consistently shown the progress I was hoping that we would show.”

A turnaround moment for Olympia came at a team meeting midway through the season when coach and players challenged everyone to get better. And instead of losing dividing the team, it brought them together.

“We really came together,” said Hannah Adams, a 6’2″ outside hitter for the Bears and a team captain. “We weren’t afraid of anything. We just had fun – just knowing there was nothing to lose and to go all out and play hard.”

Another factor in Olympia’s surprising turnaround was tradition. Nearly every year, Olympia’s volleyball team earns a ticket to state. Last year, Olympia’s string of seven straight seasons of qualifying for state was ended. They were determined not to extend that string.

olympia volleyball

Olympia volleyball coach Laurie Creighton talks to her team about team goals.

In Creighton’s 36 years at OHS, the Bears have reached state 22 times. Without that winning tradition, Jona Spiller, a third-year varsity player and a team captain for the Bears, didn’t think Olympia would have made it to state.

“It’s a whole different story if you take the tradition of our program out of it,” Spiller said. “Because we don’t have the best skill compared to the other teams at state. That’s huge part of why we’re at state now.”

With the 5’6″ Lydia Soto playing middle blocker, Olympia had to make a strategy adjustment. The Bears weren’t going to be able to play power, smash-mouth volleyball. They were going to have win with finesse, not power.

“Lidia is a great all-around volleyball player,” said Creighton, who was inducted into the state’s Coaches Hall of Fame in 2008. “But she doesn’t have a lot of height. So, she’s going to get matched up against a lot of bigger girls.”

Without the big, inside blocker, Olympia compensated with hard serves, putting an opponent on the heels and not allowing them to go on the attack.

olympia volleyball

Olympia coach Laurie Creighton watches her players practice shots at the net.

“Our goal is to serve tough so the middles on the other teams don’t get a lot of opportunity,” Creighton said. “If we can serve them and force them into less than perfect passes, it’s hard to run a middle.”

With each serve, Olympia’s goal is serve a bullet and place it so an opponent can’t set up their middle blocker for a rally-ending spike.

“We don’t use the middle as much offensively as we have in past years,” Creighton said. “But we use it hopefully enough to keep other teams honest. If they don’t pay attention to our middle, we’re going to sneak one by them. Hopefully that will open up some opportunities for our outside hitters.”

Olympia made its unlikely run to state with teamwork. It had just three all-league players. Adams made first team, Spiller made second team and Julia Fleener made honorable mention. Without a cast of all-stars who will be playing in college on scholarships, Olympia won with teamwork.

“We have a team that understands their role and are committed to filling that role to the betterment of the group,” Creighton said. “There might be teams with a lot of great players, but we’re a great team.”

olympia volleyball

In preparation for the state tourney, Olympia works on accuracy drills with its hitting.

From their first match of the season, Creighton has made sure that her team’s focus has been on getting better, improving with every opportunity.

“This whole year, coach has made sure we focus on the process rather than the final outcome,” Spiller said. “It’s been one practice at a time. One game at a time.”

In this turnaround season for the Bears, they’ve learned never to give up.

“To earn a berth after a lot of people had written us off, it’s really rewarding to be enjoying this extra week,” Creighton said.


Joe Batt at Salon Refu

South Sound Arts - Sat, 11/15/2014 - 7:58am

Published in the Weekly Volcano, Nov. 13, 2014

Over the past year Salon Refu has established itself as the edgiest art gallery in Olympia, if not the edgiest south of Seattle. But being in the avant garde is not enough for gallery owner Susan Christian; she also insists that the art in her gallery be skillfully crafted — no carelessly thrown-together art for this gallery.
And that brings us to the current installation by ceramicist Joe Blatt, which is outstanding in almost all aspects but slightly thrown-together in some small parts.For some time now I’ve been fascinated with Batt’s strangely anthropomorphized animals and child-animal hybrids. Now he offers a complete environment comprised of ceramic children and charcoal drawings. It’s a world of satellites and cellular phones — surreal and futuristic, yet very much the world we live in, a world in which everyone is connected via satellite, in which every hand holds a smart phone and heads, eyes and brains become television monitors.
Batt creates this world by placing ceramic children throughout the gallery, some on sculpture stands, a couple on ladders. Most are unpainted red clay, but there are spots of color here and there, such as the little girl with yellow pigtails and a pink jacket walking in too-large high heel shoes. There are children whose faces become view-screens, children that are cute and loveable and simultaneously horrifying.
Hanging from the ceiling are satellites and satellite dishes, while others hang on the wall, some drawn in charcoal on paper and others drawn directly on the walls. As a final strange touch, little cut-out clouds in charcoal on Foam Core board are scattered about the floor along with broken keyboards made of ceramics.
The marvel of all this is how beautifully and humorously the ceramic sculptures and charcoal drawings contrast and harmonize with one another in content as well as style work. In many ways this may be one of the most completely realized installations I’ve seen in a long time. While studying the show I kept thinking, “ET, call home,” but in this case it was everybody call ET.
This installation is funny, inventive, and a telling commentary on contemporary society (and perhaps a dire warning of a future in which people are indistinguishable from their technological devices).
But now I have to mention the hastily thrown-together aspect that I alluded to in the opening. Although the charcoal drawings on paper are exquisite, those drawn directly on the wall are crude and look unfinished, as if the texture of the wall presented a challenge the artist was not up to or as if he did not give himself enough time to finish them. And the little cloud formations on the floor are silly and uninteresting. Having said that, I now must say this is an installation like no other and you really should see it.
Joe Batt , Thursday-Sunday, 2-6 p.m. through Nov. 26, Salon Refu 114 N Capitol Way, Olympia,
Joe Batt will talk bout his installations Nov. 23 at 6 p.m.
Categories: Arts & Entertainment

Bone Cave Ballet, the Straws, Gourmet and Gobi Child

Northern - Olympia All Ages Project - Fri, 11/14/2014 - 4:00pm

BONE CAVE BALLET … melodic prog (Seattle)

THE STRAWS … alt rocks (Olympia)

GOURMET … lo-fi anti-folk (Olympia)

GOBI CHILD … mysterious music (Olympia)

Facebook Invite

Bone Cave Ballet

Categories: Arts & Entertainment

My.Future: Preparing Today’s Youth for Tomorrow’s Technology

Thurston Talk - Fri, 11/14/2014 - 1:57pm



comcastTechnology is constantly advancing. From phones, tablets, gadgets, and apps to vaccines, energy efficient solutions, social media, and more, STEM fields are always changing, growing, and becoming a more prominent part of our lives. With so much new technology and an increasing abundance of STEM careers, it’s more important than ever for youth to be well educated in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math.

comcast boys and girls club

Boys & Girls Clubs of Thurston County CEO, Joe Ingoglia, opened the Nov. 13 media conference with excitement and gratitude.

Two big supporters of youth development, the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and Comcast, have partnered to launch an initiative designed to help prepare today’s youth for the technology of tomorrow. On Thursday, Nov. 13, Boys & Girls Clubs of America and Comcast launched My.Future, an initiative designed to provide Boys & Girls Clubs kids across the nation with personalized, hands-on digital experiences designed to develop digital interests and the skills needed to be successful in an increasingly digital world.

Committed to bridging the “digital divide” and improving digital literacy nationwide, Comcast has been a longtime supporter of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. Through My.Future, Comcast hopes to help prepare today’s youth for the more than eight million STEM jobs expected to be available in the United States by 2018, by bringing digital activities to the more than four million kids at 4,100 Boys & Girls Clubs across the country.

This is also the fifth year Comcast Foundation has provided financial support to Boys & Girls Clubs of Thurston County, including the most recent grant of $13,000 for the Tumwater Digital Connectors youth program.

comcast boys and girls club

Programs like My.Future help prepare today’s youth for careers in STEM.

During the Thursday, Nov. 13, launch, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Thurston County in Lacey was one of 12 Boys & Girls Clubs across the country to hold a My.Future media conference. Present at the conference was Washington State Representative Richard DeBolt; Deputy Mayor of Lacey, Cynthia Pratt; Boys & Girls Clubs of Thurston County CEO, Joe Ingoglia; Boys & Girls Clubs Washington State Association Executive Director, Matt Watrous; Comcast’s Community Investment Manager, Diem Ly; Comcast’s Director of Public Relations, Walter Neary; Boys & Girls Clubs staff, parents, youth, and more.

Boys & Girls Clubs of Thurston County CEO, Joe Ingoglia, kicked-off the conference by sharing his excitement about the initiative and what it means for youth across the country and right here in Thurston County. Ingoglia also noted his gratitude for all the support Comcast has provided the Boys & Girls Clubs of Thurston County over the years, including their sponsorship of the Digital Connectors Program, a predecessor to My.Future which has helped illustrate the benefit digital skills building programs provide today’s youth.

comcast boys and girls clubs

Former Boys & Girls Clubs kid, Diem Ly, Comcast’s Community Investment Manager, is excited to announce the launch of My.Future.

Matt Watrous, executive director for the Boys & Girls Clubs Washington State Association, shared similar gratitude and excitement during the conference, noting the regional importance this initiative has for Thurston County and Washington State youth by helping prepare them for STEM careers with Washington-based companies like Microsoft, Amazon, and Boeing.

The conference continued with Diem Ly, Comcast’s community investment manager, who told the story of her own experience as a Boys & Girls Clubs kid and the value the experience had on her personal growth and development. With emotion in her voice, Ly said during the conference, “I’m proud that the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and Comcast NBCUniversal are announcing today a 5-year national partnership that invests in the My.Future Program.”

The media conference closed with powerful statements from both a Boys & Girls Clubs parent and Boys & Girls Clubs kid turned staff member. Both Erin Jones – mother of a Boys & Girls Clubs kid – and Brandon Pavlick – Boys & Girls Clubs of Thurston County staff member – have witnessed and experienced the real life benefits that result from introducing underrepresented youth to technology.

comcast boys and girls club

Boys & Girls Clubs of Thurston County parent Erin Jones says her son’s interest in computer technology was cultivated at the Boys & GIrls Club.

Jones’ son, Izzy, was a Boys & Girls Clubs of Thurston County kid from seventh through tenth grade. Always interested in technology, at just 5-years-old Izzy announced to his parents that he planned to study computer technology at the University of Washington someday. While both Jones and her husband are educators, neither of them understand much about computers. “STEM didn’t begin for [Izzy] in the Boys & Girls Club,” Jones said, “but I really believe that STEM became solidified for him right here in this Boys & Girls Club.” Now a senior in high school, Izzy has created more than 400 video game characters and is looking forward to studying computer technology in college.

For Brandon Pavlick, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Thurston County also helped nurture an interest in technology – an interest he didn’t even know he had. “I was the kid who didn’t fit in to anything. I didn’t know what I wanted to do ever. I had very little friends and was anti-social. But when I came to the Boys & Girls Club my main area of focus that I looked forward to everyday was the tech club,” says Pavlick.

Pavlick went through the Boys & Girls Clubs’ Digital Connectors Program and excelled. Years later, Pavlick is now a Boys & Girls Club of Thurston County staff member, and shares the knowledge and skills he learned when he was a Boys & Girls Club kid with the children that he mentors.

comcast boys and girls clubThe Boys & Girls Clubs of America and Comcast are proud to introduce the next step in boosting national digital literacy with My.Future. To learn more about the My.Future, visit

If you would like to learn how you can get your child involved in My.Future and the other great activities and resources available through the Boys & Girls Club, visit the Boys & Girls Clubs of Thurston County’s website here.


Olympia Weekend Event Calendar

Thurston Talk - Fri, 11/14/2014 - 7:41am



This week’s cold, dry weather has me pulling out my “puffy coat” and slathering on the chapstick.  Yes, it was chilly for us temperate climate zone dwellers, but the sunny, blue sky against the remaining brilliant leaves of fall was truly breath taking – and, especially welcome for families with children who were home from school.  Sending my two girls tromping through the woods on Tuesday, creating fairy houses and gathering leaves for collages reminded me how lucky I am to live in this beautiful corner of the world.  We paused, said a quiet thank you to all Veterans, named our soldier grandfathers long-gone, and simply remembered.

As you head into the weekend, don’t lose the reflective spirit.  Instead, carry it through into your family activities – be thankful for your hike to view salmon, enjoyment of a good show, or a meal well prepared.  Notice the small things, for they are often bigger than you think.

Submit an event for our calendar here.

ThurstonTalk aims to be your source for positive information and events happening in Olympia.  If you have a suggestion for a post, send us a note at  For more events and to learn what’s happening in Olympia and the surrounding area, click here.


Fake It, Don’t Make It – Where to Buy Local, Already-Made Holiday Foods this Season

Thurston Talk - Fri, 11/14/2014 - 6:59am



By Megan Conklin

duncan sponsorI am thirty-nine years old and I have never cooked a Thanksgiving turkey. I blame this in part on my birth order. I am the second from the youngest child in my family and, by definition, this means I do not host extended family gatherings and am asked only to bring a green salad or vegetable dish to all holiday events. Now, I fancy myself to be a pretty decent cook. I certainly cook every day for my own family of six. Yet, the “real” holiday cooking, in my little village at least, falls to my older sisters and mother most of the time. My lack of expertise in the holiday cooking realm just means that I am an expert at sourcing and purchasing local, handmade foods to bring as my potluck contribution to gatherings – the more homemade it looks, the better. So here you have it: How to buy a delicious, home cooked (just not by you) Thanksgiving meal without ever leaving downtown Olympia. (Except for a quick trip up San Francisco Street hill to the bakery.)

The Bird

thanksgiving food

A precooked, smoked turkey from Dickerson’s BBQ makes your Thanksgiving feast both simple and delicious.

The requisite fowl on a platter is a non-negotiable. And the smell of roasting turkey wafting through the air is Thanksgiving itself. If you are not into the whole getting up early to shoot, pluck, stuff, and roast your own – just give Bayview Catering a call. They will cook a plump and succulent turkey just for you. In fact, they will cook your whole dinner, including mashed potatoes, cranberries, green beans, rolls, and stuffing for you if you place an order by November 21.

Another option for a pre-cooked bird is Southbay Dickerson’s BBQ. Dickerson’s will smoke a 12-14 pound turkey, cool it, seal it in an oven safe bag, and all you will have to do is pop it in the oven for about an hour or until it is falling apart warm and tender and ready to be, well, gobbled.

The Accoutrements

The side dishes that go with Thanksgiving dinner are oftentimes yummier than the turkey itself. One perennial favorite is the rolls. Rolls are key to the Thanksgiving dinner spread, as well as next-day leftovers events. Think mini turkey/cranberry sandwich on a roll the day after. The San Francisco Street Bakery has scrumptious rolls.  Any of their wildly popular breads, from the aromatic rosemary garlic to the luscious and nutty walnut levain, can be ordered in roll form for Thanksgiving – just give them a 24 hour heads up. Wagner’s European Bakery and Cafe also prepares a plethora of rolls especially for Thanksgiving Day. They bake up some of the traditional favorites such as butter flake, parker house, and clover leaf, as well as their “napkin rolls” which are rolled to look like table napkins.

san francisco street bakery

Select any bread from The San Francisco Street Bakery’s and they will turn it into Thanksgiving rolls for your table.

Stuffing, or dressing, depending of your penchant for cramming one food product inside another, is probably my favorite part of the Thanksgiving meal. For a hybrid fake it-make it scenario, buy the herby and delicious premade stuffing mix at The San Francisco Street Bakery and stuff it in your bird before cooking.

If you are like me, no Thanksgiving meal is complete without the jellied cranberries from a can – complete with the imprints of the can on the jelled fruit. But, if you prefer to get really fancy with your cranberries, you can buy the delicious whole berries down at the Olympia Farmers Market, or from Ralph’s Thriftway. Ralph’s has berries straight from Grayland, Washington, or the “cranberry coast” as some like to call it.

A quick trip back to Southbay Dickerson’s BBQ will net you a quart jar of their famous gravy.  When I spoke to owner Eric Dickerson, he mentioned that this year they plan to expand their Thanksgiving offerings with the addition of a true holiday favorite, the green bean casserole. Call ahead to order your premade casserole.

The Desserts

olympia pie

Whether you love pumpkin, pecan, or fruit pies, Wagner’s European Bakery has all the Thanksgiving favorites.

All of the aforementioned bakeries offer a variety of decadent, handmade desserts befitting a Thanksgiving table. Traditional favorites such as pumpkin and pecan pie can be purchased at Wagner’s and San Francisco Street Bakery. Try quick fan favorite, Mom’s Baked Goods, as well.  And Olympia’s favorite French style bakery, The Bread Peddler, is offering unique autumn sweets such as local blue Hubbard squash pie (made with squash grown in the Lattin Cider Mill garden) and pumpkin ginger loaf with pure maple icing.

Pumpkin muffins and coffeecakes from Wagner’s or a simultaneously moist and dense bread pudding from The Bread Peddler make for lovely hostess gifts. An easy, morning- after-Thanksgiving type breakfast treat is always appreciated.

So go ahead and fake your way through the Thanksgiving meal this year. Taking a trip through downtown to support local shops and eateries is both virtuous and fun – and it might just be the most relaxing and delicious holiday yet.


Olympia’s Sarah Norman Endures Heartache, Pain to Reach State Swimming Finals

Thurston Talk - Fri, 11/14/2014 - 6:35am



By Gail Wood

providence medical group sponsorWhen Sarah Norman steps up onto the starter’s block to begin her race at the 4A state swim meet Friday, that alone will be a moment to cheer.

olympia swimming

Olympia swim coach Mel Smith talks with his team during practice.

No one – not Mel Smith, her coach at Olympia High School, nor her parents or her sister – thought she’d be there, swimming and competing for a state medal.

Two weeks ago on the day of the district finals, just a day after Norman did well in her prelims, she was rushed to the hospital and needed emergency surgery.

“I couldn’t move,” Norman said. “I was in so much pain.”

In September, Norman, a senior at Olympia High School, first felt stomach pains. But she passed them off as a flu bug. When the pain didn’t go away, she went to the doctor and was eventually diagnosed as having an ovarian cyst. Surgery was imminent.

“But we hoped we’d do it at the end of the season,” Norman said.

She wasn’t that fortunate.

On Monday this week, just eight days after her surgery, Norman, with her doctor’s permission, was back in the pool, swimming laps and preparing for state. With her coach making sure she didn’t push it too hard, she swam an “easy” 2,000 yards.

olympia swimming

Sarah Norman has faced some medical challenges to reach state this season.

“It was like keeping a thoroughbred under control,” Smith said with a chuckle. “Just not overdoing it is a challenge right there.”

As a precaution, Smith had Norman swim her workout laps in her own lane.

“We don’t need to have someone bump into her or someone swimming the breaststroke and kick her in the stomach,” Smith said. “But the doctor cleared her to get back into the water on Monday and cleared her to compete. We’re excited.”

Typically, someone who has undergone surgery needs two weeks before resuming any physical activities, giving them time to get the sedatives out of their system and to heal. Norman’s first day back wasn’t easy.

“I couldn’t do flip turns,” Norman said, frowning at the memory. “It hurt too much.”

But she felt better the next day. And now she’s hoping to push herself at state. When Norman went to the hospital on the day she was scheduled to swim in the district finals, she was still hoping to swim in her events that day.

olympia swimming

To avoid collisions and possible injury, Sarah Norman swims laps in her own lane as she prepares for state.

“We actually had my swim stuff in the back of the car on the way to the ER,” Norman said. “Just in case.”

But surgery couldn’t be delayed and it happened on Sunday, Nov. 2. Norman admits that the swimming, pushing herself at district and swimming a state qualifying time, aggravated her problem. Things probably would have been fine if she just been home relaxing.

There were questions whether or not she’d be ready to swim at state, but Norman only took a week off and was back in the water.

“I don’t have any pain right now,” Norman said after swimming laps at practice earlier this week. “Missing some practice time puts me behind where I should be. But it shouldn’t be too bad. I’ve been swimming for a long time.”

There have been moments where Norman, frustrated by her health problem, has cried.

Through all of this, Norman’s parents, Charles and Gigi, have been the encouragers. Understanding all the years of training to prepare for this moment, they’re letting their daughter pursue her dream.

“They’ve been very supportive,” Norman said. “My dad is at my morning practices. He knows what I go through.”

Another rah-rah supporter has been Norman’s younger sister, Ali, who is also on the high school swim team and has qualified for state. Both Sarah and Ali, who is a sophomore and has been a teammate of her sister since she was six, have qualified for state in two individual events. Sarah is in the 100 breaststroke and 200 IM. Ali qualified in the 100 butterfly and the 100 backstroke. Olympia also qualified three relays.

olympia swimming

Sisters Ali (left) and Sarah Norman are both headed to the 4A state swim meet.

“Qualifying three was hard even with Sarah swimming, but we had to do it without her,” Smith said. “Our kids really stepped up. They were outstanding.”

Seeing her sister struggle hasn’t been easy for Ali.

“It was hard for me to be doing good and to see her not being able to swim,” Ali said.

When Sarah was at the hospital, Ali admits she had trouble focusing on swimming her events at district.

“It was a challenging day,” Ali said. “I knew if I thought about it too much I’d start worrying and it would affect me. I just decided to put it in the back of my mind.”

In a strange way, it’s been a horrible, wonderful season for Sarah – horrible because of the pain she endured because of her health problems and wonderful because of the way her friends and family supported her and how she stood up to the challenge. She didn’t buckle and quit.

As a senior, this was going to be her final hurrah, her showcase season and her chance at earning a swimming scholarship to college. It hasn’t been easy.

“I’ve cried some over it,” Sarah said. “Hopefully, my next tears will be happy ones. Hopefully, they’ll be tears of joy.”


The Bearded Lady Food Company: Treats for All

Thurston Talk - Fri, 11/14/2014 - 6:09am



By Melanie Kallas Ricklefs

greene realtyAre you in the mood for a cupcake?  Maybe you’d prefer a brownie, cookie, or doughnut.  If you’re one of the many people who have dietary restrictions, your craving usually means it’s time to get out the bowls and measuring cups.  Not anymore!  The Bearded Lady Food Company is a unique bakery in downtown Olympia that specializes in vegan and gluten-free baked goods.  Their cupcakes are divine, and their brownies are pure bliss.  On Friday and Saturday evenings, you can stop in for a treat, while enjoying the cozy atmosphere they provide in their Franklin Street bakery.  The bakers are friendly, approachable, and always happy to answer questions about their ingredients.

bearded lady desserts

Jordan Marsicek, co-owner of the Bearded Lady, proudly displays the bakery’s vegan and gluten-free desserts.

The Bearded Lady Food Company began as a wholesale bakery in 2009, when owners Melanie Shelton and Jordan Marsicek acquired the business formerly known as The Blue Lotus Café.  They spent their first year of ownership adjusting to busy baking schedules, playing with recipes, and trying to figure out how to run a business.  In 2010, they “became lonely for customer interaction,” so they opened their doors to serve plated desserts a few nights per week.  They later added a bakery case, which is currently stocked with rich, decadent vegan and gluten-free desserts.

For those of you who have never attempted vegan gluten-free baking, it is not for the faint of heart.  There will be trials, there will be errors.  There will be cupcakes that taste like quinoa, and cookies that taste like chickpeas, but not at The Bearded Lady.  These ladies have mastered the art of combining flours and flavors to create luscious baked goods for all to enjoy.  They focus on vegan and gluten-free baking because it makes them happy to see people with eating restrictions, especially children, indulge in their desserts.  They also fill a niche previously unoccupied by traditional bakeries.

bearded lady desserts

The bakery case at the Bearded Lady is open Friday and Saturday evenings, and during weekend brunch hours.

In 2012, they started serving brunch on Saturday and Sunday mornings to help keep the bakery open.  Specialty desserts are not a necessity, but brunch appeals to everyone.  It also complements their baked goods, which are available during brunch hours.  They have vegan and gluten-free options for brunch, while also serving dairy and meat dishes.  The owners are proud to let you know that everything in their bakery and on the brunch menu is made from scratch – now that is dedication to perfection.

Their dessert menu is available on Friday and Saturday evenings, when you’re more likely to be out on the town, and might want to stop in for a treat.   Limiting their bakery hours allows them to avoid time spent waiting for the next customer.  Realistically, there aren’t many people looking for a luxurious dessert at 2:00 p.m. on a weekday, and keeping the bakery open all day is costly.  During their evening bakery hours, you can build your own sundae, which can include any of their homemade dairy, or vegan ice creams, vegan and gluten-free baked goods, homemade sauces, whipped cream, and more.  They even have a vegan caramel sauce!  You read that right, vegan caramel sauce, three sweet words almost never spoken in the same sentence.

bearded lady desserts

The Bearded Lady Food Company is located at 412 Franklin Street in Olympia.

When the bakery front is not open, the bakers at The Bearded Lady are hard at work (and play!) creating scrumptious goodies to supply to their wholesale customers.  The next time you need a sweet pick-me-up during the week, look for their products at any of the following local businesses:  Olympia Food Cooperatives, Bayview Thriftway, Traditions Cafe, Caffe Vita, Quality Burrito, Tofu Hut, Flaming Eggplant Cafe, Olympia Coffee Roasting Company, or Batdorf & Bronson.  You can also special order from the bakery, but they need one week advanced notice period, so no cupcake emergencies!

While the Bearded Lady was built on cupcakes, the owners admit that there are other desserts they prefer to create.  Don’t get me wrong, they both love coming up with exotic flavor profiles for their cupcakes (which change with the season), but there’s more to life than cupcakes.  Melanie confesses that her favorite desserts to create are tarts and pies with custards and curds.

bearded lady desserts

Cupcakes are the foundation of the Bearded Lady’s wholesale and retail business, but they have so much more to offer.

Jordan enjoys making ice cream and waffle cones, and creating the “little details” that put their desserts into a league of their own.  One of Jordan’s little details is the vanilla bean paste responsible for the full-bodied flavor of their supreme vanilla bean frosting.  I won’t give away any secrets, but the paste making process is labor intensive, time consuming, and oh…so…worth it!  Don’t take my word for it, find out for yourself.

Visit their website for brunch and dessert hours, special orders, and upcoming baking classes for kids, teens, and adults.  For questions about their products, call (360) 943-6235.

The Bearded Lady is a cash only business located at 412 Franklin Street in Olympia.  Be prepared because there are so many delicacies, you won’t want to limit yourself to just one.



OlyCurl’s Yukiko Taylor is All About the Curl

Thurston Talk - Fri, 11/14/2014 - 6:04am



olympia hair salon

OlyCurl proprietress Yukiko Taylor operates her salon on Capital Way in downtown Olympia.

We curly girls feel a special affinity for one another. We know how having a head of these locks feels like equal parts blessing and cruel curse. I mean, have you seen our childhood photographs? Don’t even get me started on the ones from middle school. We are united in both trauma and flattery, all wound-up in our big hair and what it has meant for our identity.

We are a group who practices solidarity and can bond instantly over conversations of gel versus curl cream, blow-drying versus air drying.

Lately, the buzz in our conversations has been centered around OlyCurl, the new haven for curlies on Capitol Way. OlyCurl is owned and operated by Yukiko Taylor and devoted to the worship of our unique manes.

My phone has been buzzing with text messages from girlfriends sending me pictures of their revitalized and re-shaped curls, touting the magical properties of this new salon. Could it really be that we have such a miracle worker for the curly set right here in Olympia?

Meeting curly hair expert Yukiko Taylor is kind of like going off to college and leaving your boyfriend back home. It takes about five seconds to realize there is a cuter boy in your dorm and a break up in your future. There is no way a curly haired person can spend a few minutes with Taylor and not feel the urge to make an appointment, break up with their current stylist, and take the leap of faith that their curly locks will be better off in her capable hands.

Taylor herself possesses a slight wave to her hair, but nothing like the curls she tends to most days. However, a chance meeting with a woman who was desperate for help with her very frizzy hair began to open Taylor’s eyes to the plight of the curly girl. She has committed herself ever since to helping us embrace our hair.

“I’m all about the curl,” shares Taylor. “I feel like what I do changes the way people feel about themselves.”

olympia hair salon

Taylor snaps before and after pictures of each client on their first visit.

Taylor is one of sixty Curly Hair Artistry-certified stylists in the world. She has trained with founder Scott Musgrave and is the only representative of Curly Hair Artistry in the entire Pacific Northwest.

Though she does cut straight hair, too, her clients are ninety percent curlies. People seek her methods from hundreds of miles away.

And what are these methods?

Chief among them is having the hair snipped while it’s dry. This avoids the dreaded “triangle” look that many of us have experienced when our curls have been washed, combed out straight and wet, then cut. With this dry method, the stylist can actually see how the curls lay and cut them in their everyday positions. There are no surprises for how it will look once it has dried.

Other methods for caring for our curls include foregoing the use of shampoo (sulfates and parabens are very detrimental to curly hair) and products with silicone, which both tend to dry-out our hair or “form a plastic barrier,” says Taylor.

And frizz? “Frizz is just hair reaching out into the atmosphere, looking for love,” explains Taylor. In this case, love equals moisture and hydration.

After an extensive first session, clients leave with a prescription for how to care for their hair, listing both products (she carries Deva Curl and Raw Hair Organics) and methods to keep it looking its best. “I like to partner with my clients on their curly hair journey,” explains Taylor. She discusses clients’ lifestyles and makes sure her plans will work for them.

I spoke with Kathy Hooper, who was getting her hair done during this interview. She sums up her experience with OlyCurl by saying, “This has been the rebirth of my hair.”

olympia hair salon

OlyCurl is located at 917 Capitol Way S in Olympia.

OlyCurl has been open since July, and it’s getting busier by the day. Snag an appointment with Taylor online through her website and join the leagues of local curlies who are texting pictures of their gorgeous manes to their friends. Check out all of the before and after pictures on both her website and her Facebook page, or follow her on Instagram (@olycurl).


917 Capitol Way S in Olympia

(360) 791-4688


A study in mis-direction: Inslee’s draft marine and rail oil transportation report

Works in Progress - Thu, 11/13/2014 - 10:04pm

State sees oil train risks as acceptable

Over the next several months, Governor Inslee is inviting the public to focus their attention on this Department of Ecology report leading to support for legislative proposals by March 1, 2015.

The question is whether the public should accept his invitation to help enable the transportation of this un-conventional Bakken and tar sands crude and to support his legislative initiatives or stay focused on local organizing, local jurisdictions, like Ports and City Councils, and statewide movement building.

I’ve come to believe that the only force capable of saving our land, labor and commonly held resources is an alliance of sovereign tribes, organized labor, farmer unions, and community based resistance groups working in concert with their local governmental jurisdictions.

The first draft appeared October 1 and the first comment hearings took place October 28 in Spokane and October 30 in Olympia. There will be more in the future.

Probably the first thing you notice about the report is what’s not there. There no mention of the significant statewide municipal, community, farm, union and tribal opposition to his proposed oil terminals, expanding oil refineries, explosive oil trains and the misuse of our public ports. You would think there would at least be a nod to the cities like Vancouver who passed a resolution opposing the oil terminal at the Port of Vancouver and calling on the Port of Vancouver to rescind its lease with Tesoro/Savage for a massive marine crude export terminal.

But then you notice who is writing the report. The Department of Ecology is the same state agency who on Inslee’s watch issued declarations of non-significance for two of the three proposed oil terminals at Grays Harbor. Such declarations would have meant a fast track to construction. However, an alliance of community groups and the Quinault nation got those declarations overturned and now massive Environmental Impact Study (EIS) studies are in progress for all three terminals.

Having this biased department leading the study is bad enough, but then they list a BNSF “Senior Citizens Club”, MainLine Management, Inc. as one of the authors of the draft report. This firm is the only rail consultant of the five firms listed as authors of the report. All three principals and all three associates in MainLine had long corporate careers with BNSF. BNSF is the dominant Class I railroad in this state and the main beneficiary of all the crude by trail traffic the Governor is facilitating.

MainLine, however, was apparently hired by Environmental Research Consulting (ERC) of Cortland Manor, NY. This firm, which has worked for the American Petroleum Institute and done previous studies for Ecology, has the sole contract with Ecology for this study. Of the $300,000 allocated by the Legislature for this study, ERC gets $250,000 for a one year contract ending in June 2015.

Then you need to consider the actions of Inslee’s Administration itself, not its rhetoric, but what it actually does. His policy. His Department of Transportation, State UTC, Freight Mobility Strategic Investment Board and Community Economic Development Board all implement programs with BNSF as one of its main beneficiaries and to the detriment of expanded and current passenger service.

So what’s the purpose of Inslee’s Study? Mis-direction. It defines the problem as a federal issue and calls upon the US Coast Guard and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to do something. The USCG actually regulates marine traffic, but the FRA is an industry dominated entity with the current capability of inspecting less than 1% of rail activity and a policy of imploring railroads rather than regulating them. Calling upon the FRA to regulate rail would be like calling upon BNSF’s owner Warren Buffett to stop making money. It’s not what they do.

Worse, the study’s authors wait until the very end of the report (p. 82) to state that the very things that the public has been asking about are not considered by this study: “… the potential ways in which the crude by rail system and the increase in port activities with new facilities affects tribal treaty rights, the environment and the regional economy” are “ancillary”and not the “direct topic” of the study.

Okay, if the study does not address how crude by rail affects tribal rights, the environment and the regional economy, what does it attempt to tell us? The study’s authors are trying to tell us all this risk is normal so there is no particular reason to get upset…. it’s just some new risks. They do this with the repeated phrase “for decades.”

“Tribal risks from spills currently exist in all areas of the state and have for decades.” (36) “The environmental risks from spills already existed in all areas of the state for decades.” (38) “While diluted bitumen has been transported into Washington for decades,” (38) “The socio-economic risks from oil spills has already existed in all areas of the state for decades.” (40)

But, of course, the scale of extraction of these “non-conventional” crudes has NOT been happening for decades nor have we experienced the consequent level of threat to our communities, our natural and treaty resources and our economic infrastructures.

Inslee’s study assumes all this extraction and transportation can be mitigated and focuses solely on risk. In focusing solely on risk, the authors are admitting they have no idea about, understanding of, or control over what they are facilitating. They refuse to exercise caution even in the face of existing catastrophic consequences. The study’s authors need to visit the still cordoned off downtown Lac Megantic or watch the film, Petropolis, showing the devastation from the Alberta tar sands where two of the three largest dams by volume in the world hold back all the unmitigated rot. And this study wants to reward all this by transporting it through our state?

Is there any value to this draft? Yes, it indirectly supports the statewide demand for an immediate moratorium on Crude by Rail. The study lists in excruciating detail how totally exposed everyone in this state is to the explosive danger of the existing crude by rail traffic. The Washington State Council of Fire Fighters is right. There needs to be an immediate halt to this oil train traffic.

From the report:

“Nearly three million Washington state residents live in 93 cities and towns on or near crude by rail trains routes” (or, as we would say, are in the “blast zone.”) (30)

“Current tank car placarding standards for the transportation of hazardous materials are insufficient in providing First Responders timely and important information. “ (51)

“None of the current crude by rail are subject to requirements for comprehensive response plans.”

“Railroad spills are not currently covered by state approved oil spill contingency plans (67)

“Washington has not established financial responsibility levels for facilities which include both fixed and mobile facilities and rail as a facility. (68)

“The current state regulatory definition of oil may not include certain heavy oils, diluted bitumen, synthetic crudes, and other crude oils produced in Canada that are transported in Washington. (68)

“Currently, the state does not have means to gather information on the type or volume of oil being shipped through Washington.” (69)

62% of the state’s 278 fire districts “believe that their departments are not sufficiently trained or do not have the resources to respond to a train derailment accompanied by fire.” (70)

An overwhelming majority of first responders surveyed “are not aware of the response strategies or resources in place by railroads should an incident take place.” (71)

There is “not a comprehensive inventory of the equipment location that would aid in locating and sharing equipment when it is needed.” (72)

“Training for first responders in Washington State is currently insufficient and is not uniformly coordinated, and what training is currently available is at risk of reduction due to reduced  federal grants. (72)

A Geographic Response Plans for oil spills to water “have not been developed for most of the rail corridors through which crude by rail trains are transiting….” (73)

How can this state level study process be used? There seems to be two options.

The study can be an opportunity to create a love fest for the “beleaguered green governor” who pleads that he has no authority to regulate rail and wants communities throughout the state to back a doomed legislative agenda to expand agency study budgets while oil terminals get approved, oil refineries get expanded, and our rail system is turned into a permanent carbon corridor for the export of tar sands and Bakken crude.

Or, the study can be a reminder that the strength of community resistance was what produced this attempt at mis-direction and the task remains to continue building opposition to state sponsored oil terminals, expanding refineries and a state bureaucracy collaborating with BNSF’s mission to export through our public ports global pollution from the broken earth of Northern Alberta and North Dakota.

I had a conversation with a person several months ago who described the small Lewis county rail towns of Vader, Winlock and Napavine as “sacrifice zones.” More recently I drove the BNSF track in Eastern Washington. I now think the farm towns of Cheney, Sprague, Ritzville, Lind, Hatton, Connell and Mesa are also “sacrifice zones.” Increasingly, I’ve come to believe that our entire state is being made a sacrifice zone to the extractive madness of the big oil and the state government is currently facilitating its creation.

Inslee’s study is an attempt to cap the oppositional movement and trade the state’s future for a false climate agenda based on mitigating disaster at the margins. It won’t work.

Dan Leahy is a Westside resident and proud member of the Decatur Raiders.

Tax me! I believe in civilization

Works in Progress - Thu, 11/13/2014 - 9:56pm

When it comes to taxes, Washington has the most regressive in the nation

The Supreme Court in Washington State is insisting that basic education be fully funded, and the group responsible for making that happen is the State Legislature. It’s not clear how exactly that’s going to happen.

It is clear we have a “revenue gap”—our state doesn’t collect enough revenue in taxes to pay for basic services and the McCleary decision will cost an additional 1.4 billion in this biennium. This comes on top of the .9 billion required to fund current educational obligations. So, simply in terms of K-12 education, we’re 2.3 billion short.

According to the Washington State Budget and Policy Center, if the legislature goes the route of NOT raising taxes, but tries to meet the demands of McCleary through cuts, we would lose all funding for:

  • Public four-year colleges and universities (1 billion)
  • Student financial aid (660 million)
  • Cost of living increases for teachers      (360 million)
  • Early learning for young children           (112 million)
  • Housing assistance for individuals with disabilities (79 million)
  • Offender supervision (65 million)
  • Food assistance for vulnerable families (24 million)

Food assistance, offender supervision, housing assistance, early learning support, cost of living increases for teachers, public higher education and access to it through loans—these are essential pillars in a civilized society today. We can’t have a democracy without a strong system of public education, and given the same structural inequities that make public higher education a necessity, we also need to insure that qualified students have access to that education regardless of family income and wealth. Without fair wages, schools across the state won’t be able to attract and retain highly qualified teachers. Without teachers, students won’t thrive. Each item on this list depends on the others in order to be fully realized, and yet all are in danger.

And yet, we may give all this up. Unlike most states, we don’t have an income tax. The suggestion that we should vote one in never materializes into actual policies, in spite of strong arguments in favor of it. We voted ourselves into a pickle in terms of raising property taxes when we passed Initiative 747 in 2001, limiting increases in property taxes to 1% per year or the increase in inflation, whichever was smaller. We live in a tax averse state.

Regulated inequality in WA State

In January 2013, the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy issued a report called “Who Pays: A Distributional Analysis of Tax Systems in all Fifty States,” and in it, they argue that Washington State has the most regressive tax policies of any state in this nation. Regressive tax policies are those that force families with the lowest incomes to pay high proportions of that limited income on taxes, while families with the highest incomes are allowed to pay a much smaller proportion of their incomes on taxes. In other words, with regressive tax rates, rich families receive a lower effective tax rate than do poor families. That’s the case in Washington State.

In WA State, the average income for families in the bottom 20% was $11,500. State and local taxes required 16.9% of their income. On average, across all states, families with the lowest incomes paid 11% for state and local taxes. At the other end of the income scale, families with incomes in the top 1%–average $1,131,500—needed 2.8% of that income to pay for state and local taxes. Across the country, families in the top 1% needed 5.6% of their incomes to pay state and local taxes. Because of our tax practices, we’ve earned the label “#1 of the Terrible Ten”—most regressive of all the states.

None of this is new news—it’s the situation we have been living with, and probably would go on living with, except the Supreme Court has ruled that we need to live up to our state Constitution in which we declare our commitment to providing every child in Washington State with a basic education.

In the upcoming legislative session, these fundamental contradictions in our state policies will come to a head. We can’t continue to tax the poor and shelter the rich while providing a basic education to all. Well, we can, if we cut all the things on the list named above.

Reckless endangerment?

Bill Stauffacher, the lobbyist for the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers (IIABW), is ready to make those cuts. In a letter to members of the IIABW, Stauffacher explains that the lobby will face two big tax fights—an effort to increase the B&O tax rate on producer commissions, and an effort to create a state capital gains tax, which he argues, is the first step towards a state income tax.

Stauffacher writes, “IIABW-member agencies and producers who are concerned about their B&O taxes increasing or the possibility of a new state capital gains tax (yes, you read that correctly) should run right at the looming political hurricane with all the collective force and fury we can marshal. This requires a renewed commitment to supporting the Big I PAC, timely grassroots participation and support of IIABW’s lobbying efforts.”

The status quo that Stauffacher supports—that the Supreme Court objects to—is one the state has tried to address before. In the 1970’s, in Thurston County, Judge Robert Doran ruled that schools were too reliant on local levies for their funding, which led to inequities across districts. The Supreme Court agreed in 1978, and the Levy Lid Act was passed, allowing local levies to pay for no more than 10% of a district’s education. That was repealed, and replaced, and the allowable levy limit crept up towards 30%. Currently, local levies provide about 16% of school funding, and the state provides 66 % (Budget and Policy Center).

What this means is that schools are not equal. Opportunities for learning are not equal. Local levies in the Sumner School District in north Pierce County add $2578 per student per year to the district budget. Local levies in the Sunnyside School District in Yakima add $351 per student. What difference can $2227 per student per year make in a school, or in a district? That’s a $55,000 difference in each 25-student classroom, each year.

Bill Stauffacher and his PAC may win. Washington may continue to be a comfortable home for the wealthy, while at the same time taxing the poor and providing inadequate services. He’s organized, he’s focused, and he’s getting ready now. Are we?

Emily Lardner teaches at The Evergreen State College and co-directs The Washington Center for Improving Undergraduate Education, a public service of the college.


Homelessness Leadership Summit: using fierce data to inform local programs

Works in Progress - Thu, 11/13/2014 - 9:53pm

Discussing what works and what does not

An exciting project took place throughout October that I am extremely proud to share with readers this month. SideWalk and the Interfaith Overnight Shelter, both programs of Interfaith Works, partnered to conduct vulnerability assessments five nights a week with people who are street dependent in and around downtown Olympia. The assessment asks questions such as: In the past six months, how many times have you been to the emergency department/room? How many times have you had interaction with the police? How many times have you been hospitalized as an inpatient, including hospitalizations in a mental health hospital? Does anyone force or trick you into doing anything you don’t want to do?

The assessment tool they are using is called a VI-SPDAT, Vulnerability Index-Service Prioritization Decision Assistance Tool, which was created and designed by two national organizations–Community Solutions and OrgCode Consulting. The tool is designed to help communities quickly assess the health and social needs of people experiencing homelessness. At of the writing of this article, 132 assessments had already been completed and entered into a spreadsheet and sorted by highest to lowest according to the vulnerability index.

The vulnerability assessment not only allows us to know who is most vulnerable on the streets because of a physical or mental illness, addiction or being preyed upon, it also helps us to identify high users of expensive systems of care such as police, jails, emergency rooms, EMTs, and mental health hospitals.

The following chart shows the cost per day, per person when people access these interventions. Too often, people with chronic mental illness lose all supports, become homeless and many become high users of the most expensive services on this chart.

For the first time in our community, people will be offered a shelter bed in the new Interfaith Overnight Shelter based on data (vulnerability scores) rather than on a first-come, first-served basis.   The shelter will offer their 30 beds to those who score highest in vulnerability based on the assessments conducted in October. The 12 shelter beds provided by St. Michaels and Sacred Heart Churches will be offered to those scoring next highest in vulnerability. Controlled studies in other communities across the nation show significant cost savings when high users of expensive systems of care are sheltered and housed in supportive housing.   Short shelter stays that lead to stable housing are cheaper and more humane than the other interventions. It is much cheaper for communities to figure out how to shelter and house people with appropriate supports than it is to do nothing at all.

I have to admit, I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with data.

My daughter and I discussed a math problem recently. It went something like this: Sally is on the middle step of a ladder. If Sally goes down 4 steps, then up 7 steps, and then down 13 steps, she will be on the very first step of the ladder. How many steps does the ladder have altogether?

We joked that Associate of Science students get to work on the problem, but Associate of Arts students ask what is Sally doing on that ladder?

What is happening in the field of housing people who have become homeless is we are holding in balance both of those tendencies; we are looking at what the data shows is most effective and efficient at stabilizing people’s housing and we are doing that in a way that meets people where they are mentally, physically and emotionally.

Meg Martin, Program Director for the Interfaith Overnight Shelter and Phil Owen, Program Director for SideWalk both say that this is why they are working together on the vulnerability assessment project.   They are looking forward to where we need to be as a community to house the most difficult to house.

The vulnerability assessment project is the latest example of how our homeless system is collecting data and using that information to track performance and outcomes. We aim to stabilize housing for people experiencing homelessness and we are tracking how effective our programs are creating those outcomes. At the Homelessness Leadership Summit in May, Phil Owen hosted a discussion about fierce data. Employing this nationwide best practice of targeting shelter and supportive housing to those who are high users of expensive public services is something that makes me proud of our community and the individuals like Meg and Phil who are making it happen.

If you would like to be a part of the great work that both of these programs do, please consider becoming a volunteer at SideWalk or the Overnight Shelter, or both! Email Aslan at for more information.

It begins with outreach, engagement and providing safety. that builds trust and a sense of relationship. to collect vulnerability assessments and to prioritize shelter beds and supportive housing units.

Theresa Slusher has over 20 years of experience in the field of affordable and homeless housing. She has worked for non-profit organizations, government and as an independent consultant. Her career follows a pattern of making positive impacts in one area, then looking ahead to where she could be of further service. Much of her work of the past ten years has been in community impact at the local, county and state levels in the field of affordable housing and homeless housing systems.

This article is the fourth in a series coming out of the Olympia Homelessness Summit held in May of 2014. The Summit was meant to be a convening of leaders, but was also meant to be the start of a longer community conversation.

Please visit the Facebook page dedicated to continuing this important conversation:

Dear Friends

Works in Progress - Thu, 11/13/2014 - 9:49pm

It’s my fate or fortune to be off work today,

and here are a few jumbled jottings:

It’s the end of May, a warm Wednesday,

my sister’s anniversary,

the morning after the evening

when we walked down our westside hill

and she took some striking photos

of the Stryker ship at the Port of Olympia.

It looked like something from Star Wars,

a big Death Star war boat

juxtaposed with a postcard image

of Rainier in its summer glory.

One of the cranes from that angle

resembled monstrous alligator jaws,

loading lethal equipment bound

for the oil fields of Armageddon.

I’d planned to rest my aching foot,

but I’ve got to go down there today.

I smile for at least a few moments

as I walk on West Bay Drive–

our redwood radical friend Remedy

has posted those photos on indymedia.

Hey Bonnie, we did good on that one.

The headlines adorn the downtown corners:


I limp along the creaking boardwalk

past dogwalkers and marina boaters.

A gray lawyer bustles by,

muttering to someone about suing someone.

The ship looks green and gray too,

the US Navy’s Pomeroy,

and when I take off my sunglasses

it’s even worse, a kind of corpse-like green.

A sign reads: Port Plaza, Waterfront Festival

and Community Gathering Place.

A crane is labeled Starport–

like I said, the Death Star!

Seagulls, sailboats, a KING-TV truck,

but the protesters and the officers

still seem to be catching up on sleep

after last nights “waterfront festival.”

A sudden chill as two cops pass by,

then put on a smiley PR routine

with some old folks and their ribboned poodle.

I see a guy in a wheelchair,

a grizzled patriot with a sad little flag

out at the end of the dock alone.

Now a Coast Guard patrol boat

with, my god, machine guns fore & aft,

drifts over and they talk to him,

and apparently order him away.

As I leave to go get too much coffee,

I pass by a chattering cellphone girl,

elbows on her purple chakra book,

picking up those cosmic vibes

in the last days of the empire.

Then I stand in Otto’s long line

and talk to an Earth First! guy.

His spirit soars on days like this.

I think of those poodle-playing cops–

they will not play with this young man,

and I can only say, hey, take care.

It starts to drizzle as I head back.

The holy mountain will not be out today,

and our spectacle will lack that surreal detail.

I walk by a statue called Motherhood,

and I realize I’ve never really seen it.

She cradles her tiny infant

with the death ship close behind,

and seems to say: Oh no, not this one,

you’ll never take this child.

Another sign: Welcome to Port Plaza,

with, you’ve got to be kidding me,

a picture of a curly-tailed pig!

I’m not making this up, folks,

I’m looking at an official Port of Oly

insignia of a pig–as more police arrive,

keeping an eye on the protest signs

that wait for their bearers to claim them.

The signs say Get Out of Iraq,

Get Out Of Our Town,

No More Lying & Spying.

It’s still early, so I go for lunch

at a place called the Dockside Deli.

I sip on a corporate cola

and think about the revolution.

It’s been a long time coming,

as the old song goes. Who sang that? Sigh.

Large people with small dogs go by,

they look like mortality is close behind,

but the draft-age boy at the next table–

may the gods grant that he outlives me.

He’s calling an ad for a motorcycle,

muscles filling his football t-shirt.

Maybe I should speak to him, but I don’t.

As I head back toward the killing machine,

I see playground kids laughing and crying

on their bright little swings and slides.

What will become of their lives,

as they cook in the filth of our abundance

in the ruins of the natural world?

That’s enough for now of humanity,

I need to find a big tree.

I’ll rest a while on a quiet trail,

and we’ll see what happens later.



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