Thursday, October 23, 2014

More crime in Thurston county between 1990 and 2011 results in even more prison sentences

I'm sure my dad is going to have something to say about this post, but I found some interesting statistics while looking for something else this week. I was poking around, looking for county level statistics to create a Washington level "general happiness index." I wasn't planning on tracking it across time, just finding some quick list of the happiest of the counties.

So, crime rates in Thurston County, take a look:



What's going on here is while reported crimes grew at a slow rate between the early 1990 to a few years ago, the total number of criminal sentences by our county courts went way up. What explains this?

Stiffer mandatory sentences? This phenomena may have led to courts imposing stiffer criminal penalties over the last 20 years.

Monday, October 20, 2014

"We've now got TONS of houses and nowhere to walk"

Read the results of the new Olyspeak.org survey. It is fascinating to read people chatting about what kind of things they like to see in a "community center" in their neighborhood.

Hopefully, the new comprehensive plan moves our neighborhoods into creating more of these vibrant areas. Think of the Wildwood building on Captiol Way, the Co-op on the west side or the San Francisco Bakery on the Northeast.

Or the desert of any sort of walkable community on the Southeast side.

At least on my side of town, there has been some serious real politics dealing bad news to this sort of thing. In my neighborhood, Briggs Village, the developer seriously dialed back what on paper was supposed to be a pretty impressive urban village. Some apartments over commercial. Some multistory commercial. Maybe even parking basements. But, now we're likely going to get a shiny strip mall sort of thing.

Hopefully, it turns out okay. But, in the long term at least, it was supposed to be a move to develop the area quicker. For now, we have no movement on those lots yet.

A few miles away, the LBA area was supposed to see a similar development with a nice walkable commercial/community area. But, neighbors to the proposed development rose up and stopped it.

Ironically, those very neighbors live a massive wasteland of walkable community areas. Between the Pit Stop Market (on 18th) and the Chevron on Yelm Highway, there is literally no place to buy a gallon of milk on foot for thousands of Olympians.

We want community. We want places to walk. We want to have tight neighborhoods that are forward facing and nice. We want character.

But, developers dial back grand plans and suburban car house dwellers defend trees in the face of new diverse neighborhoods.

However we advocate for neighborhood centers needs to realize the real politics that have created acres and acres of houses with nowhere to walk.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

A massive explosion in 1934 (mostly because I'm out of blogging topics) and some cool watermarked video

I'm literally posting this because I am lacking something for this week's second post. I was hoping to find a tsunami map for Budd Inlet or some reflection on homeless students, but came up short.

I had nothing prepared, nothing inspirational for you. So, this is just a smidge of some Smith Troy out of context and some interesting video.

From Historylink:
On Wednesday afternoon, June 27, 1934, 10 people are killed and seven are injured when two explosions demolish the J. A. Denn Powder Company plant on Hawk’s Prairie, eight miles east of Olympia.  An 11th victim, the company chemist, will die from his injuries the following day.  Thurston County authorities investigate the accident, but so little of the plant remains that the official cause will remain a mystery.

...

Smith Troy, the Thurston County coroner as well as a deputy county prosecutor, began an immediate investigation of the disaster.  He was assisted in the inquest by Claude Havens, Thurston County Sheriff; William A. Sullivan, Washington State Insurance Commissioner, acting as ex-officio state fire marshal; and E. Patrick Kelly, Washington State Director of Labor and Industries.

During an interview, Troy told reporters: “So little remains of the plant and surrounding buildings, about all we can hope to do is question survivors.  It will be difficult to determine the causes, but we may discover who, if anybody, was responsible for the blast” (The Seattle Times).

Monday, October 13, 2014

Aunt Alicia (Olyblogosphere for October 13, 2014)

1. Alicia Elliott will save Olympia.

New investment opportunity. Threaten development of something, raise the hackles of your neighbors, Alicia Elliott will buy you out. Its the modern Olympia Aunt Sally.

2. Support Zinefest!

3. The best Olympia blog ever reads my mind. What if! What IF!!!!!

4. Yeah, big surprise here. Every place in the world is more nuanced than it seems at first.

If you came here from New York, Austin and then Portland and moved to Olympia "because you liked its look" and then were disappointed.

You deserve that disappointment. It isn't our fault. Grow up.

5. I don't mind the debate on the LBA Woods. Let's debate parks! I'm against spending money on it now. And, I actually like the proposal for development (because it was better than the straight up burbs that had been built in that area).

But, this is annoying:
LBA Woods are a true gem--an old-fashioned Commons of sorts in that the property is privately owned, though it is neither gated nor posted with no-trespassing signs or welcome signs.
Because it isn't even true:
...the developer (D.R. Horton, a nationwide company headquartered in Delaware) has chosen to fence users of LBA Park out of the trails.
We can debate whether it should become a park, but the owner wants you to stay off their property. That's their right man.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

3 reasons why I wish I could tell you to vote for none of the above in the Clerk race, but I won't

1. For the love of Pete, would someone return a damn email?

I know I'm not anyone that important, it isn't like I contribute money to that many (if any campaigns). But, I emailed both campaigns months ago about what I consider to be a pretty big issue. And nothing. Not even an "I got your email, I'll get back to you later" or a "No, this isn't that big of a deal."

Just silence.

2. Could you make the race any less relevant to voters?

This race is so damn insular, the one time (one time!) I ever received any communication about this race from anyone connected to the campaigns, it highlighted an issue so low and degrading, that I would never repeat it here. Suffice to say, this race has been issue free.

Even the one difference that the campaigns bring up publicly is about an internal court system. Really? An internal office data management system? Wow. Killer stuff.

Here's a better issue to chew over.

3. I feel like I shouldn't even be voting in this election.

This post is starting to become a trip around my own favorite issue, but be patient with me. Yes, I feel that public access to court records should be easier than it is and that county clerks should serve the public in this regard.

And, when I poked around, the Whatcom County clerk provided the best answer to why he makes court records free and searchable online:

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.
The difference here is that the clerk in Whatcom county is appointed, while the clerks here are elected. I'm not sure it makes sense, but that means an appointed clerk is more willing to provide for the public than an elected one.

The only reason this makes sense to me is that an appointed clerk would possibly see their role as providing services to the public and the county as a whole. While, an independent, elected clerk would be interested in protecting their own budget and the structural power of their office. So, a creaking and old document management system that doesn't serve the public, but rather charges them for public documents, possibly makes sense.

So, I suggest you vote in this election and vote for Linda Enlow. At the very least, she seems like she's willing to change the office.

But, what we really need is a clerk that is willing to go out on a limb like the Whatcom County Clerk. And, we need to change the law that allows clerks to charge crazy fees for public documents.

But, in the end, support a Home Rule effort for Thurston County. This would allow us to rewrite how Thurston County government operates. And, if we decided to change the clerk position to an appointed one, we could do that.


Monday, October 06, 2014

Smith Troy once arrested the man that was running against him for county prosecutor

Smith Troy, the 1930s era Thurston County prosecutor, is one of the most fascinating historic figures, must have had brass balls. Seriously, he could not have lacked for guts.

I'd  certainly not argue that he was always on the angel side of things. But, when he acted, he seemed to act with no consideration of alternatives. Full forward.

Like the time in fall of 1938 he arrested the person who was running against him for prosecutor for campaign against him:

Sure, Gruhlke might have stretched the truth. But, it is hardly a lie to say the prosecutor should have arrested more prostitutes. And, no matter how he phrased it, that is pretty much all that Gruhlke said.

And, even if Gruhlke said "I know for a fact that Troy decided not to arrest women of the night!" it is a strange image of a prosecutor running for office arresting his opponent.

Gruhlke quickly and phased Troy down:

  

But, then months later, after Smith won another term, the parties kissed and made up. Smith was only just over a year away from being appointed state Attorney General. He had just prosecuted a high profile attempted murder case and he had empanelled a grand jury looking into misuse of state funds. And, he arrested someone for campaigning against him.



And, in the end, he got an apology from the man he arrested.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Thomas Brents and Cascadia

Its a fairly old trope in Washington State history and civic life that the name Washington State is pretty horrible. Our own state and territorial founders wanted Columbia as a state name, but eastern politicians hung the name Washington around our neck as a way to avoid confusion with the other Columbia.

I hope I don't have to tell you how well that lack of confusion thing worked out.

But, along the way, there were a handful of other suggestions for names, including (you guessed it) Cascadia. Our territorial representative, Thomas Brents, suggested in 1885 that a new name accompany the territory when it gained statehood:

Cascadia, in allusion to its many grand waterfalls and to the name of its principal range of mountains, the cascades (sic).
Brents was a bit early in his urging for statehood, and he also suggested that we bring in the northern part of Idaho along with the rest of the state. This was an obvious suggestion by the Walla Wallan Brents, as it would have tipped the balance of power in the new State of Cascadia to the east (given Idaho's mining industry and eastern Washington's agriculture).