Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Adele Ferguson lives (in rural weeklies mostly)

But, she's alive. Despite being dropped from the Kitsap Business Journal, Adele is still very much being printed by other weeklies around Washington. Here and here for example.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Stores and city hall

This is pretty scary:
(Port Commissioners) said the (city hall) project won't generate the foot traffic and economic activity they want at night and on weekends.

A City Hall would have to have shops on the ground floor or some other venue to draw people to the area after the offices have closed, the port officials said Monday. City officials, who previously were lukewarm to the idea, agreed to at least talk about it.
The problem is that the port doesn't want to build up their property and have one section of it shut down at 5 every night. I can understand that desire, but why is there an assumption that only commercial space can fill that role? The image of our city hall having ground floor retail space reminds me of Tukwila, Seatac or Lynwood.

Retail space isn't the only use that will create activity after 5p. Here's an idea just off the top of my head. The current Olympia Library is just over 20,000 square feet, too small for Olympia. In the late 90s there was an effort to build a new library down by where Yardbirds used to be, but that bond failed.

If the port wants folks to be down on their properties after 5, why do they have to be shopping? Why can't they be engaged in public, civic activties that center around the better part of life?

The solution could be a branch civic library, with reading and meeting space open after hours. The Timberland Library system already has experimented with providing library services in alernative spaces (in rural areas only though). This would be like a cross between the Olympia center and the current library, but as an alternative to both.

This isn't a perfect idea, but what I'm saying is that we don't have to settle for stores on the ground floor of our city hall.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Sunshine week question

Earlier this "Sunshine" week, State Auditor Brian Sonntag, AG Rob McKenna, the Olympian's publisher and the Timberland Regional Library Community Service Manager Michael Wessells got together to talk about open public access to government. Go here for a listen. Overall, not a bad hour to listen to, if not groundbreaking. Most of us have heard this stuff before, but it was interesting to hear nonetheless.

The Olympian allowed questions in the week leading up to the forum, and I was surprised that they got to mine early in the forum (about 36 minutes in) because it really didn't deal directly with access to records. Rather I wanted to know about efforts to increase citizen dialogue with government. Take, for example, public hearings or public comment periods where the government opens up simply to fulfill the letter of the law, not to dialogue with citizens.

Bill Schneider wrote about this problem at New West.

McKenna responded its important to hold regular town hall meetings, allow for a give and take. Its good to have it for all elected officials to have. He heard from folks during his public forums on open records and gleaned some good ideas for his

Eve Johnson, the very capable moderator from LWV, mentioned that Olympia puts everything in their packet online and is also putting videos of their meetings online.

"It's a tough job... most of them are trying to do the right thing" the Olympian publisher. Some ideas like forums are very useful. Subcommittee meetings can also help focus citizen involvement.

The gentleman from the library mentioned that citizens needs to be educated before they speak up (good point) and there are other channels, such as letters to the editor.

Good points all. If we expect that the public comment period at the start of local meetings is the extent to which we can dialogue with government, we're very wrong. I like the suggestion from Wessells and McKenna together. We need to encourage more and regular town hall meetings, and it isn't always the government that should take care of it.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

We should shrink the allowed size of initiative petitions

Almost a year ago I came around to an idea that shrinking the size of initiative petitions to a size that people can print out on their home printers. Recently, inspired by intitiative reform talk at horsesass and Evergreen Politics, I started taking the idea more seriously.

Now, I'm going to see how far I can take it.

I've started a new blog at This is what (printer) Democracy looks like to solicit ideas to improve where I'm at right now, get criticized and hopefully not ignored. In a few weeks, I'm going to start talking to some other folks around Olympia (including my representatives and folks at the SoS office) to see if I have any chance in hell of making this happen.

The idea is to make the entry point into the initiative process lower so the product represents more closer the public will.

Right now I'm seeking feeback. Where am I wrong my thinking? Is this a bad idea, or a good one that isn't ready yet?

I've started a campaign to shrink the allowed size of initiative petitions

Spured by the discussion a little while back on reforming the initiative process (at horsesass, Evergreen Politics and here) I've decided to start a low frequency campaign to shrink the allowed size of intiative petitions from 11"x17" to 8.5"x11", making it possible for anyone to print out a petition from their home printer and collect signatures.

I've started a new blog at This is what (printer) Democracy looks like to solicit ideas to improve where I'm at right now, get criticized and hopefully not ignored. In a few weeks, I'm going to start talking to some other folks around Olympia (including my representatives and folks at the SoS office) to see if I have any chance in hell of making this happen.

The idea is to make the entry point into the initiative process lower so the product represents more closer the public will.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

I can't believe someone didn't think of this before, I just added the precinct caucuses to democrats.org

There shouldn't be this kind of disconnect between the tools the national party has to offer and the way we use them. Democrats.org offers a general "event calendar," but no one has added any events and no one added the caucuses. Well, of course until I just did now.

The kind of people that cruise through the internet looking for information on local Democrat stuff are a bit more likely to look for information there than on our state site or counties sites.