Wednesday, December 31, 2008

re: and then he snapped at the Courthouse

Those guys at the lets-hate-judges blogosphere keep on keeping it on. Now, truther says that maybe if judges get beat up, things will be better:

Taking away their security force is an excellent way to reform the unlawful and out of control family court. Think about it. Would little Paula Casey arrogantly and abusively disparage, extort and lecture some Green Beret who did nothing more than make a poor choice in a mate if she was not protected by guards and have an office behind locked doors and bullet proof glass?
Yes, because a judge being rude to you is totally the right reason to attack them. Maybe if that's your logic, there's a reason a judge is disparaging you in the first place?

I don't know, I'd say that someone who'd physically assault a judge might be in their own right a bad choice of a mate.

Free Media Relations/PR advice to Tacoma Goodwill

Don't comment spam.

For christsakes, are you serious? No matter how good your cause is, right now you look pretty dumb. Especially since my email is pretty easy to see here, you simply could have sent me the information that way.

I have to give you credit for trying to reach out to local blogs, I've seen you over at Olyblog before, but posting random comments on random posts isn't a good idea.

Instead, try doing your own blogging. Maybe not a blog specifically about Goodwill and the work it does, but the world that Goodwill exists in. Saying that in another way, don't just blog about the good work you're doing, write about the good work you see other people and organizations like your own. "Hunging good will in Washington" might be a good name for a blog.

Also, keep up the beat at places like Olyblog and the the Exit133 forums.

And, if you're in 15 counties, why are you called Tacoma Goodwill?

And, email me next time.

Jeff Dickison writes back

Answering this via email (by the way, I work with Jeff):
1. Thurston County is badly in need of county government reorganization. The question quickly becomes “what is the best way to accomplish this outcome”? While I would love to see a new charter put before the county voters, the current constitutionally provided option has proven unwieldy. The election of freeholders as a precursor to the development of a charter proposal has resulted in a kitchen sink approach to the process with numerous agendas, the inability for consensus, and a patchwork proposal that gives everyone a little to like and a lot to dislike. The result the last time around was a voter rejection by a 2 to 1 margin.


The CTED proposals to the legislature in a paper called, “County Financial Health and Governance Alternatives”, raised the idea of an appointed freeholder process to develop a charter proposal. I think the sideboards and accountability of such an approach would generate a charter with a much better chance of voter approval. This would require at a minimum legislative action and possibly a constitutional amendment by the voters. I think I would prefer to pursue this type of option before trying the elected freeholder process again. So, yes I would like to engage the home rule process, but no, I would not vote initially to pursue the current option before trying to develop some alternatives. This rates as highly important to me. I believe it is critical to reorganize county government.

2. The County website is indicative of the diffuse nature of elected authority in Thurston County which has resulted in a lack of accountability. Yes it is bad and should be changed. The first phase would be the fundamental overhaul of how information is provided to citizens and options, including the website, for interaction on issues of the day. However, at some point the website can only reflect the structure of the government. If county government remains decentralized and unaccountable it would be hard for a website to reflect a broader understanding of how and where to interact. The average citizen should not have to be a student of governmental design and structure in order to figure out how to address their issue of concern.

Also, I think blogging is a useful medium to help demystify the quirks of county policy and decision making. It would be worth exploring. I wouldn’t expect that I personally would adopt the standards of some bloggers with the expectation of daily or even hourly entries.
These answers point out something great about Jeff, he's one of the most studied people I know in general and probably of the applicants as well. His observations regarding the first question are well taken. It doesn't serve anyone to have an ill designed charter on the other end of a home rule process.

That said, I don't agree with his conclusions I don't think an appointment process for free holders in necessarily going to solve the issue of the "laundry list" charter. You'll just have a laundry list charter written by appointed freeholders instead of elected ones.

Its better to have a thorough election process for freeholders and lean heavily on their education once they start work. The opposite of Jeff's suggestion, a citizen jury process, would also be a better alternative in my mind. In the end, I think an appointment process would build-in biases about the role of government from those already inside the government.

Jeff's observation that the state of the website reflects the state of the county government is very insightful as well.

Jeff's a smart guy, if he doesn't get the appointment, it would be interesting to see him run.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Erik Landaas (one of the applicants) filed with the PDC and is running in 2010


I had an inkling while perusing Ken's latest post on Erik Landaas (the Republican donor asking Democrats for a job) that this guy, no matter what the PCOs and the commissioners decide in the next few weeks, that he was running.

I was right, Landaas has filed with the PDC to run for the soon to be open county commission seat in 2010.

A few thoughts:

1. Assuming Landaas can raise any sort of money to even be competative, he can cut a moderate (you could even say Jon Halvorson-esque) track against whoever ends up at the other end of the application process.

He can say he's not the candidate of the party organization. Halvorson's opponent for a county commission seat won the party's endorsement in a close race. Of course, she ended up taking that endorsement all the way to victory, but Halvorson didn't make it through the primary.

2. Assuming the Top Two primary is still around in two years, Landaas can still run as a Democrat, and if everything breaks right, he can face off against a fellow Dem in the general.

3. The Republicans can save themselves a lot of grief by getting out of the way. While the local conservatives liked Halvorson a bit (kind blogging here, but not an endorsement, from the current county Republican chair), the Top Two primary still produced one Republican and one Democrat. By not running a Republican and letting Landaas soak up their votes, he can be dangerous for whoever ends up with the seat via application.

Karen Valenzula gets back to me

Second of four applicants for the open commissioner position writes me back:

In mid-December, Jim Cooper sent all us candidates a list of 10 questions, the responses to which I believe he'll post in a few days, as soon as he's heard from all of us. Here's question #10 and my response to it --it tells you how I feel about your first question below:


1. 10. Other than attending necessary Board and committee meetings, what would you do during your first 30 days on the job?

I’d work hard to balance external work –mostly meeting with constituents and listening to their concerns and issues, and meeting with other local government electeds —with internal work –mostly meeting with department heads, fellow County electeds, reviewing the recently adopted budget, etc. I’d like to think that mixed in with all of this, I’d be developing ideas in the back of my mind about where improvements might be implemented and starting conversations with my fellow County Commissioners about these. The most important conversation that I believe needs to be started early in 2009 is the question of home rule: restructuring County government into the more flexible County Council model instead of the current County Commission model. We’re no longer the rural county we once were, and we need a more modern form of self-governance. It’s a community conversation I look forward to with great enthusiasm.


With respect to the County's web site, I agree it could and should be improved, which shouldn't be a big deal, but would definitely be a priority for me. Thanks for the compliment on our City of Tumwater web site, though I think it, too, suffers from lack of interactivity capability. I think you have it absolutely right: the County's site is ANTIQUATED! It also seems that its updating is pretty sporadic, almost like it's completely forgotten about for months.

I've certainly begun to appreciate the value of blogging since becoming involved in this Commissioner appointment process. You and Ken have both done a great service to us all with your sites --THANK you! I recently read that one of the federal agency directors has been blogging about agency issues and controversies for two years or so now, which I thought was intriguing. The great thing about blogging is precisely its interactivity and accessibility, so I like the idea a lot. It would really open things up!

I especially like the part when she doesn't call me stupid for not remembering one of her answers in the application material I already read.

Its also nice to be complimented for blogging. Thanks Karen.

Other than that, her answers speak for themselves. Unless she comes out as a closet Yankees fan, she'll end up on my list.

My questions for the applicants (and Russ Lehman's response)

I emailed a couple of questions to four applicants for the open county commission seat I'm considering right now (Russ Lehman, Karen Valenzula, Jeff Dickison and Walt Jorgenson).

They were about the possibility of home rule and how they feel about the county's frightfully bad website and about blogging as an elected (or appointed in this case) official.

Russ Lehman got back to me pretty quick:

1) Yes, the home rule process, as I understand it, can yield some important results – not the least of which is an important discussion on issues facing this county in the 21st century. I do believe that serious discussion, at least, ought to occur about a BOCC with “reduced” powers and an administration with “increased” powers – better to enable the citizen’s work to be done efficiently and effectively. The fear of a wide open, no holds barred home rule process should not limit our desire and willingness to have the people of this county talk about, and possibility make the appropriate changes on, the critical issues facing us.

2) The website is not currently the tool/mechanism for nurturing Democracy and engaging and informing our citizens that it must be. Of course I would have that be a priority (a relatively small and simple task in the grand scheme of things) with an individual(s) tasked with bringing the website up to date and user friendly ASAP.

As regards blogging, I have mixed feelings about it. To the extent that it is a technologically current way to correspond with constituents, than great. To the extent that becomes a way around the OPMA by in any way “doing business” outside the public domain than I am not in favor of it.
His response on blogging, especially citing the Open Public Meetings Act is interesting, if not troubling. Some response from other elected officials on why they haven't pursued blogging includes fear of violating the OPMA. In my short research, its the second most cited response to "what, don't you think I'm busy enough?"

I'm going to have to start thinking harder and longer about the OMPA and blogging.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Jim Lazar's list of who gave to who (open county commish seat)

Ken has the scoop on local good guy Jim Lazar's list of which county commission applicants gave to which candidates since 2000. Some gave to some non-Democrats, which might not look good to the party faithful who will do the whittling down:

Erik Landaas

Kevin J. O’Sullivan $300 6/5/2006

Kevin J. O’Sullivan $50 7/30/2006

Corinne Tobeck

Gary Alexander $100 5/28/2005

Sam S. Reed $50 11/8/2007

Ed Crawford

Norman K Maleng 4/25/2002 $100

Susan Bogni

Sam S. Reed $25 4/2/2008


The folks who get hurt the most by this are Tobeck and Landaas. Tobeck because she's basically only given to Republicans until this year when she gave $10 to the county party. Landaas because two years ago he gave to the Republican candidate (twice) who ran against Bob Macleod, who Landaas is now seeking to replace.

It takes a certain amount of guts, I have to admit, to give $350 to Republican Kevin O'Sullivan in 2006 and then in 2008, as a Democrat, file to replace the guy that beat O'Sullivan.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Rich Nafiziger, state Democratic senate caucus chief of staff and blog father

To me, there's a striking resemblance between former Olympia school board member Richard Nafziger's on-again-off-again blog and the new blog of the state Senate Democrats (mostly penned by majority leader Lisa Brown).

Makes a lot of sense for Nafziger to be Brown's blog father, but the similar blogging styles almost makes you think that its Brown's chief of staff that's doing the blogging. Both write long (almost too long) and really smart discussion posts, rather than short, clippy newsy posts. I would assume that the short clipply post would better serve a legislative caucus blog.

Nafziger's current personal blog has only two posts up on it, though he's been blogging for at least three years. But, on the internet, nothing is really gone. I've subscribed to his blog since before he quit the school board, so I shared some of his old deleted posts here.

To me, it doesn't matter at all if Nafziger is really doing the blogging. Good on him, good on the caucus, good on Brown.

The only thing I'd like to see improved is the length of the posts. In my internet reading habit, I've never been able to get my head around his posts in time to comment, though I'd like to.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Oh thank God for you Mr. Knight, what would we have done without you?

The Sitting Duck got up and left after five years and some months in Olympia. After having passively read it for most of the five years and closely for the past few months (ever since publisher Knight got into a scuffle in Lewis County), I'm not sad to see the paper and publisher Terrence Knight leave.

Actually I'm kind of happy.

I was never all that impressed by the journalistic effort of the Sitting Duck, and after reading the "see you later (not!), screw you" edition of the paper, I know exactly why.

Knight writes about bee-bopping around Olympia in the Summer of 2002, just more than a year after the bottom fell out of downtown. The Nisqually earthquake disconnected downtown by closing the 4th Avenue bridge, so the downtown Olympia that Knight found was a depressing version of the downtown that I grew up with.

His specific reference to the Spar is especially troubling to me. By the time he made it to the Spar, it was a sad shadow of the restaurant that I grew up with. To me, Mcmenamins buying the Spar was a sigh of relief. The service is worse there now, but I'm still glad it moved on to new ownership.

I could go on for awhile about how I resent being told about the soul of my town from someone who moved here in 2002 and is now leaving, but let me just say this:  Knight is full of himself. I cite the end of his "I'm outa here" column, Knight speaking of himself as the hero in "The Magnificent Seven:"
And so they ride back and shoot up the bad guys and in the process get pretty well shot up themselves. But they've empowered the villagers as best they can, and now its up to (the villagers) to protect themselves.

Like many before us, we had fallen in love with the curious character of our moderately famous community, and believing that ideas, truth, and words still make a difference, we're determined to give it a voice. That's what we came here to do and we have done our very best. We tried to fight the good fight. The fight isn't over though -- it never is -- and our biggest worry is that during the next few years, Olympia will need, more than ever, an alternative and original voice.

...

Our work here is done. And now it's time to ride on.
Well, since you did your harm to public discourse in this town, I'm happy to see you leave. We did an ok job before you got here, we'll survive without your inflated ego.

Friday, December 19, 2008

To Berd Whitlock: Triage sucks but its real

Berd wrote over at the Olympian:

There are some substantial differences between the battle between a Citizen's Group and the Port of Tacoma over Rocky Prairie; and the battle between Citizens' Groups and the City of Olympia and Developer Triway Enterprises over the downtown Olympia "isthmus." But there are a lot of similarities. Similar sets of logic apply to the situation here in Olympia, as compared to the situation in Rocky Prairie. Despite the differences, the best decision in the local Olympia case might very well be to pull the property off the market. City Council has the ability to enact a moratorium ordinance on the currently passed rezone. That would provide time to figure out how to go about creating a truly wonderful and novel park feature - a park feature that would accent the natural beauty that exists in such quantity here in Olympia. Would that be the right move to make? Seems so to me.


The main difference in terms of environmental restoration between the isthmus property and the Rocky Prarie property is that the isthmus property is more expensive and matters less.

Not to say that the isthmus property doesn't matter at all or that the cost is impossible to get to to buy it and restore it, its just the Rocky Prairie property is current undeveloped, is still ecologically connected to other large pieces of habitat. The isthmus properties, though easier to find on a walk from my house, would be islands of good habitat among bad.

A regrettable, yet real, concept being kicked around in restoration circles is called triage. Basically, with the limited resources we have to put towards species and habitat restoration, we have to choose what to go after first.

Here's a basic primer on the debate and another and a response to it.

So, if I had $100,000 to spend on saving some land from development, I'd spend it at Rocky Prairie first, then figure out where to go from there.

By the way, God bless you for being out there tonight.

The changing press corp who happen to work in Olympia

If we sent the Seattle Times $100,000, do you think they'd be able to bring David Postman back?

I'm not eager to link to him two days in a row, but Goldy is proposing raising $15,000 to send Josh Feit (who I have my own immature problems with) to Olympia to cover the legislature. I'd assume that people would chip in, maybe even the entire amount, because not only do they fear the effects on democracy of a shrinking press corp, they particularly like Feit's politics.

Fitting that Goldy puts this out there on the same day that Andrew Garber from the legacy Seattle Times points out he doesn't have that many people of the same profession to hang out with.

I think its fitting that now that we have a state budget database, that the governor can release her budget during a snow storm and get it out online and that TVW is more robust than ever, that the actual press corp is shrinking.

I do see a real role for honest brokers (along the lines of Fact Check), but the role's of people like Josh Feit will be more and more imporant. Garber's piece noted that former reporters, lobbyists and PR folks outnumber actual reporters in Olympia. That's not exactly a bad thing, as long as some of them are keeping eyes on each other.

I envision organizations hiring more people like Feit to do thingly vieled partisan journalism. Instead of paid reporters standing between the sides, telling you what's going on second hand, you'll actually see hand to hand combat, sort of like the opinion page blew up all over the front living room. With searchable databases, of course.

Or, sort of like the good ol'days of Publius and Silence Dogood.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Don't worry, Goldy doesn't remember Seattle in 1990

Hey, that's not the Great Lake out there, its the northern Pacific Ocean.

Goldy's whining over the last couple of days about the no-snow-snow-closures in Seattle reminds me how odd it is for the state's most popular liberal blogger (can anyone tell me that he isn't) to not really get the region he's writing about.

No matter how easy it would be understand how different Seattle and many Puget Sound cities are from most east coast cities both in terms of climate and topography, he just seems to gripe that we don't react to snow storms the way those hardened east coasters do.

We remember when we don't take these things seriously because:

Our kindergardener daughter was stuck at Kimball all day, and had to eat Fruit Loops, a great topic of subsequent conversation. Her school bus dropped her off on 19th at 10 PM. Fortunately she found her way home (we'd been alerted by phone to await her a block away!).
And:
In 1990, I was living in the north end and working in Ballard. I left work when the snow began to stick (not a good tactic) and made it to about a mile from my mother's house, got stuck on a hill, got help from helpful people to get my car safely parked without hitting any other vehicles, then walked the rest of the way to pick up my four-month-old.

We stayed at my mom's until the power went out, and then we bundled up the baby and walked 10 blocks to my house. My husband was driving home from the Eastside and arrived at two in the morning.


Since we don't get wall to wall snow, we don't prepare for big storms. We just let them happen and assume the few days at home won't hurt us too much. But, we're also more cautious about going out, since we know we're not prepared.

The stories of the 1990 storm reminded me of another snow related incident a year earlier. The late King County prosecutor's, Norm Maleng, daughter was killed in 1989 in a sledding accident.

Those kinds of accidents are not uncommon, but going from the a notorious snow death in 1989 to kids being stuck in schools in 1990, probably keeps decision makers more trigger happy to keep kids indoors.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

In person commission forum cancelled, time for a virtual forum

The snow is going to prevent the PCOs from meeting to talk to the applicants for the open county commission seat. Via email:

Commissioner Applicant Forum Cancelled
Dear Thurston County Democrats,

Due to the snow we have canceled tomorrow evenings Commissioner Applicant Forum.

We are looking at rescheduling the Third Commissioner District PCO Forum for Saturday January 3, 2009 prior to January 5th vote by the full Central Committee. Having it on Saturday will allow us more time (maybe three hours instead of two) so that we get a chance to learn more about the candidates.

I apologize for any inconvenience.

Jim Cooper
Chair, Thurston County Democrats
If only there were devices on which we could type questions, and the applicants could then respond in real time. Oh yeah, there is.

If between Christmas and the snow we can't get together, we shouldn't keep our traps shut online. We should be talking about this.

PCO silence on open county commission seat

Crickets so far, aside from Ken and I, in terms of the county commissioner application process.

So, frustrated, I write off an email to my fellow precinct committee officers. I mean, if we're the ones that are going to send a list off the to the county commissioners from them to pick from, the least we can do is take the process seriously:

I've been wondering what standards people are putting towards the applicants for the open county commission seat. I'll be honest, I'm judging differently than I would if I was choosing a candidate to support. In that case, I'd look for someone I think would be an effective legislator second and someone whose policies I would support first.

In this case, I'm looking for someone who can "do the job," who has proven through elected office that they're responsible stewards. Participation in regional boards comes second, campaign experience a close third.

Speaking of the difference between a campaign and this appointment process, since we're subverting an actual public campaign, the lack of discussion so far between PCOs in a public forum is troubling. Since we're representing the voters in some regard here, we have a responsibility to discuss in a public setting this public.

There have been several blog posts written on the various candidates, one at least on our own blog. Please comment there (http://thurstondemocrats.org/node/975). Or, at least lets talk amongst ourselves on this email list.

Thanks,
Emmett
This sort of gets at what one of the applicants, Jeff Dickison (who I work with), wrote in a comment over at Ken's blog:

I am frankly astounded at the deafening silence. Mere weeks after one of the greatest activist elections in history it is as if everyone has packed up their political antennae and gone home.

In the two email lists available for PCOs, there has been a smattering of discussion, but nothing substantial. This is disappointing to say the least. To say more, its freaking me out.

I feel we're on the verge of making a bad decision.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

TVW starting a blog (woo hoo, honestly)

Check it.

Now the organization with the biggest and best media archive or what our state government does will (hopefully) enter the discussion.

They want you to suggest a name. I'm going with "Blog in Olympia," despite its metonymic leanings.

Re: Mariners vs. Sounders

I'm a bit late reflecting on this as requested, but better late than never.

I'm not 100 percent sure of the impacts the Sounders FC is going to have on the Mariners in terms of fan support or health of either franchise. But, if there ever was an opportunity to start a new franchise in Seattle (or reintroduce an old one) now is the time.

I've written a lot in the past how
a nearby MLB team would hurt the Mariners, mostly because the Mariners t.v. contract (plus really good local ratings) make them a money-making team. If you carve off a good chunk of that t.v. market, then the Mariners make less. Two mediocre baseball teams instead of one good one. Three years later, not even one good one.

I'm not sure if the same argument applies to a soccer team vs. a baseball team though.

I'm not even sure if an MLS team in Portland would even threaten the Sounders market, but rather since soccer is relatively new to many markets, a close rival would probably do more to increase interest.

Another reason isn't necessarily a reason, but a sort of sign post. If baseball executives aren't worried about a nearby MLS franchise, why should fans be? The owners of the Oakland Athetics are so not worried about a soccer team with a congruent schedule that they bought one. The New York Mets' owners were also said to be interested in a summer soccer team, despite the crowded New York sports market.

In a historic note that doesn't really address the question, baseball's connection with soccer goes way back. In the early days of professional North American soccer (I mean the early days, not the 1960s, but the 1920s) baseball owners saw soccer as a way to extend the profitability of their stadiums. By playing soccer during the baseball off-season (when North American soccer still adhered to the world soccer calendar), they could make money year round. (see page 55)

Ever hear of Fall River FC or Bethlaham Steel? That effort did not work out.

Just a last few thoughts on schedules. Soccer in North America doesn't exactly have the same schedule as baseball right now and might not in the future in a much larger sense. While the MLS and MLB schedules overlap, MLS teams play in several other competitions. These include the US Open Cup (still summer), Superliga (summer again, my argument is losing steam) and the CONCACAF Champions League (summer to spring, certainly not baseball type schedule).

There is also talk of MLS going to a two competition league system sometime in the future. This system is popular in our hemisphere and would allow the continuation of a playoff system and allow a summer break.

Orange County guy plays Olympia WA

dcpetrich a 26 year old guitar hobbyist takes us through what I think a lot of guitar hobbyists consider a great rock song.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

How I calmed down and learned to like the idea that the Washington State Democrats won't have a blog anyway

Because politically centered blogs are just tunnel vision things anyway.

Ken does a good job pointing out tonight how the state Dems just really don't get blogs. I have my own reasons for thinking this, mostly due to their RSS feeds being so transparently part of their web consultants site. I mean, if you can't bother not broadcasting a feed from wa-democrats.org and not blueutopia.org, then its not really worth the facade at all of having your own website for the party.

But, in the end, Ken's complaint that they should have included a geographically more diverse set of lefty blogs only goes half way.

Instead of reaching out to just political blogs, they should be reaching out to the blogs in their own backyards like Real Dupont, Exit 133, Olyblog, or West Seattle Blog.

This post is sort of my mea culpa to Terry Thompson who weirdly bemoaned blogs as the haven for the politically strident who never listened to anything that got in the way of their political truth.

Yeah, if the state party did a better job building a nice online community, it would be great. The Obama campaign proved that a well thought-out and well aimed online effort could build community and enhance a campaign.

But, what would be even better for a state party and a collection of locally elected Democrats, would be for them to get out on the community blogs and talk with the people who are already there.

Ask them what their priorities are. Write about what you're doing and what you think is important and let them talk back to you. Lefty blogs will always want to carry your water, but community blogs are going to be the people who are deciding whether they want to vote for you.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Running out of steam on the county commission application theme

Tag Team Blogging! (A tired Emmett slaps Ken's hand as he enters the ring).

I'll probably write something on the county commission application process later, but for the time being an actual PCO from the 3rd District, Ken Camp, is taking up the baton.

Between giving advice to people who have already finished their applications for which deadlines that are past, Ken is also reviewing every application. Good reading.

All the District 3 applications are online (plus Ken doens't like Corrine)

Give credit to Ken Camp, our District 3 PCO, blogger and googling King, for digging these up.

Here's the entire list of applications plus some supporting material from the TCD website. I've also tried to upload everything to scribd for much easier reading here.

While he was at it, Ken decided to lay into one of the applications, Corrine Tobeck:

But, let’s face some facts. There are over 10 candidates running for the appointment to this position. Corinne was a school board director in Tumwater for 17 years, but was only opposed once in those 17 years. How much campaigning did she really have to do? She may know something of campaigning, but running virtually unopposed is much different from running in a crowded field. As someone who has done some high-level campaign work, Corinne’s campaign experience cannot be a huge factor in whether or not she is appointed. She hasn’t proven she can win a tough election, yet. What Corinne should be emphasizing is years of experience as an elected official, who had to make budget decisions.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Rep. Williams not going to be on final commission applicant list

From the Olympian:
I've said before that the term "political career" is an insult to those working men and women who are struggling to support their families.
I don't really accept this frame that if you serve in public office for awhile, that you're doing something bad. Sometimes it takes a long time to get things done and being in elected office is service, not careerism. Especially what we're paying electeds nowadays.

But, either way, he's not applying. He would have been a good one, I think.

Sharon Coontz's application letter for county commission seat

Some thoughts after reading Susan's letter.

Her success with Friends of Rocky Prairie is admirable, but using a sentence like "I've learned a tremendous amount about the region, including the roles of many committees and commissions I didn't even know existed before" under qualifications is troubling. It just points out she's new at this.

Maybe a few years on the county planning commission is more fitting than a county commission seat.

Also, her idea about using interns from Evergreen (you know they have a Public Admin masters program) is interesting. I don't know if managing unpaid or lowly paid interns is more expensive than actually hiring someone. But, its an interesting idea.

Via email:
TO: Thurston County Democrats
FROM: Sharron Coontz
RE: Board of County Commissioners, District 3

I have decided, at the urging of many county residents, to apply for this position. My recent work with the Friends of Rocky Prairie to keep the Port of Tacoma from building a huge cargo transfer center just south of Millersylvania State Park has convinced me that I need to do more. My success in making contacts and building alliances with public officials, state and federal agencies, and non-governmental organizations shows that I would be an effective country commissioner. I believe that I could make a significant contribution to the county and its needs in that office.

WHY I WANT TO SERVE:

As a fourth generation Olympian whose great-grandparents homesteaded here, I have a deep and abiding love for Thurston County. Lately, I've also had a deep sadness as I've seen some of the county changed forever in negative ways. I've been fighting what I considered a potentially catastrophic change to the county with the South Sound Logistics Center issue, and now I feel it's important to carry that struggle further and find ways to protect our county's precious resources, stop irresponsible growth, and make sure that Thurston County remains a lovely and compassionate place to live.

QUALIFICATIONS:

I've been spearheading the efforts to save Rocky Prairie for a year now, and was active with the group for months before that. During this time, I've learned a tremendous amount about the region, including the roles of many committees and commissions I didn't even know existed before, and I've learned about the relationships between the county and several other state and local agencies and how they interact. I still have a great deal to learn, but having successfully mastered a huge array of very complex information quickly, I feel certain I can continue to do so.

While I lack the arrogance to claim I have the best qualifications for the job, I am convinced that my success in gaining the ears and active support of many important leaders shows an ability to both persuade and unify when working with others, even those with very different politics from mine. (For example, many people were stunned when I managed to convince Rep. Richard DeBolt to make a public statement critical of the Port of Tacoma's decision to site the South Sound Logistics Center at Rocky Prairie.) I have had, and continue to have, a great deal of interaction with the county staff and officials, and have been developing relationships there as I've worked on this issue. Although much of my experience has dealt with land use, I doubt that there is any one candidate who is well versed in all of the county's activities, and I am committed to learning what I need to know quickly.

I would bring with me to the position a successful record of working with many areas of government, having organized, for example, the participation of several state agency directors and managers in a coalition with federal and n.g.o. leaders to work together in our dealings with the Port of Tacoma. These and the other contacts I've made could be very helpful to the county.

I also feel certain that my experience as a teacher will prove valuable in my work for the county, as it has shown me how to ask the needed questions of others and explain my position to them. My sense of humor and an ability to defuse tense situations are qualities that have helped me in all my endeavors.

ELECTION:

Since the solutions to many of the county's problems are long term, so must my commitment to the position be. I am only undertaking this challenge having considered the ramifications of such an extremely serious commitment. If chosen, I would draw on my grass-roots organizing experience to mount a campaign and run for election as requested. I see this as critical, since many of the accomplishments I'd be working toward would of course take time to achieve.

WHAT I HOPE TO ACHIEVE:

There are many issues I'd like to address as commissioner, and I hope there will be time to discuss them more fully in an interview. But I've listed some priorities below.

1. We need a sensible long-range funding system for the county, one not so susceptible to the vagaries of the economy that the budget needs frequent drastic changes. This is especially important in the social services, courts, and enforcement areas. The fact is, not having enough staff to address a policy decision when it needs addressing becomes a policy decision. (An example of what I mean by that is what happened with the proposed rezone of Rocky Prairie. The county said they hadn't enough staff to address the rezone this year and, intentional or not, that became a decision to leave the property unprotected.) This can seriously affect the health, safety and welfare of citizens and land.

The current economic crisis has demonstrated the danger of trying to run government services on a business model -- that model has failed rather dramatically. So while I have a huge amount of respect for the county staff members with whom I've worked, one of my first actions would be to reach far beyond them to voices not always heard by government agencies, setting up meetings with many economists, seeking those with new, fresh perspectives to brainstorm creative solutions to this chronic problem.

2. While addressing the long-term solutions for the budget, I would like to encourage some short term ones, such as: a more aggressive recruitment and use of interns from the local and nearby colleges and universities to help in areas where staffing has been cut; and encouraging a creative look at community service options to help lower incarceration costs where latitude exists in the sentencing regulations of "victimless" criminals.

3. I believe that growth needs to pay for itself instead of burdening the current citizens with the huge infrastructure costs associated with it. Impact fees need to be increased to reflect actual impacts. Also, developers often buy land that is zoned for low-density use, and accordingly pay less for it. They then turn around and ask for a variance or a rezone that allows for much heavier development. If the land had already been zoned at that level it would have cost much more. There should be a mechanism in place whereby if rezoned, the land is immediately re-appraised and the developer pays the county for the difference in land cost.

4. Our county needs much more emphasis on the enforcement of county regulations. Builders and county staff have made clear to me that the heavy emphasis on the permitting process, while helpful to the county financially, leaves little room for enforcement, and since the builders know that there's very little enforcement, many of them simply ignore the regulations once they've received the permits, often with serious safety and environmental consequences. I've also heard many citizens complain about faulty or failing septic systems they've seen on neighbors' land and the lack of the county's ability to initiate action.

5. We need to end the practice of trying to support the Development Services Department solely by development fees. This practice leads, in my opinion, to a certain acceptance of undesirable projects by a staff that knows such action represents job security. You can turn a desperate firefighter into an arsonist if s/he has been told the job will soon disappear if there aren't more blazes to fight.

6. Currently, there's a fox-guarding-the-hen-house-
policy of allowing developers to do their own Environmental Impact Statements. They're allowed to hire their own scientists and essentially come up with their own "best" solution to problems they find. It's necessary to work with other agencies and n.g.o.'s to fix this problem, and in the meantime, find a temporary solution for the county.

7. I would like to see more interaction with the public at commission meetings. Concerns shouldn't just be listened to, in my opinion, they should be discussed.


In conclusion, it's my opinion that with the recent election, not just Thurston County, but the whole nation has a renewed sense of hope and energy, a willingness to change the way we've done things. I've been reinvigorated by Obama's victory, and feel that others around here have too. So perhaps the fact that I'm not a known political insider, and am not politically ambitious, can be seen as a plus as I offer to work hard to help the county I love. I hope so.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,
Sharron Coontz

More on the Susan Bogni campaign

One of the more interesting notes of last night in terms of the soon-to-be-open county commission seat was the extent Bob Macleod (the current commissioner) is pushing for Susan Bogni.

There were fliers floating around the meeting inviting PCOs to meet both Bogni and Macleod at her house. The fliers read "so you can meet county commissioner Bob Macleod" and "talk abotu issuing facing Thurston County government and the upcoming appointment..."

Also, here is the entire letter I described here:

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Monday, December 01, 2008

The initial list of county commissioner applicants (who are these guys?)

I feel like one of the guys at the beginning of Major League looking at the roster of the Cleveland Indians.

Well, not totally, but of the list of 10 people who have put in their names so far for the soon-to-be open county commission seat, I recognized three. And, only two of those were on anyone's lists that I've seen.

Here's the list I got tonight at the county party re-organization meeting (I apologize for any misspellings, I wrote these down quickly as they were read out loud):

Mary Moore (LWV board member)
Eric Landen
Karen Valenzuela (Tumwater City Council)
Susan Bogni (Bob Macleod's assistant)
Jack Turner (county surface water board member)
Jacqui Brown-Miller (lobbied for a community values ordinance)
Richard Embe (likes yelling at the radio)
Corinne Tobeck (former Tumwater School Board and former Tumwater Chamber executive director)
Sharon Coontz
Ed Crawford

I also heard that Jeff Dickison, a former port commissioner, also sent in a letter today. In the interest of total disclosure, Jeff and I work together.

Update? on Bob Macleod replacement process

Not sure if this is an update or just a reminder of the previous email, but here again is the process that we'll use to put together a list to replace retiring commissioner Bob Macleod.

Also, since the deadline is today, and there's a Democratic meeting tonight (Re-org!), I might have something to write about later in terms of actual names.

Via email:
REMINDER - Application Deadline for County Commissioner is December 1.

In accordance with Article II, Section 15 of the Washington State Constitution, the two remaining commissioners, Cathy Wolfe and Sandra Romero, will have 60 days after December 31 in which to appoint a successor to fill the vacant County Commissioner position. The appointed County Commissioner will serve until November 2009, when a successor to serve the remainder of the term will be elected. The Thurston County Democratic Central Committee (Precinct Committee Officers) will provide the names of three candidates from which Cathy and Sandra are to choose one as the temporary successor.

Although our newly elected Precinct Committee Officers (PCOs) do not take office until December 1st and the upcoming holiday season poses some scheduling challenges, we do intend to provide the three names to the two other commissioners by mid-January at latest. This is the process we will follow:
Applications

Applications from Democrats resident and registered to vote in Commissioner District 3 are now being accepted, provided they are postmarked or emailed by December 1st. In addition to providing contact information (name, address, phone numbers and email address), applicants must indicate

(1) why they want to serve as county commissioner,
(2) what they believe makes them uniquely qualified to fill this vacancy,
(3) how they are prepared to stand for election in 2009 and then again in 2010, and
(4) what they intend to accomplish during their term as county commissioner.

Applications may be emailed to commissioner@thurstondemocrats.org or post mailed to PO Box 164, Olympia, WA 98507.
Review Process

By mid-December (before the holiday vacations), the PCOs officially elected in 2008 whose precincts are in Commissioner District 3 will meet to interview the applicants and develop a ranked list to submit to the full Thurston County Democratic Central Committee (TCDCC). This date of this meeting will be announced after December 1st.

In early January, a special meeting of all PCOs officially elected in 2008 shall be convened to review the recommendations of the district PCOs and develop a final ranked list of three candidates to submit to the two remaining county commissioners.

Each meeting will be chaired and moderated by the Thurston County Democrats’ chair or designee.
Public Comment

Written comments from the public are welcome and may be sent to commissioner@thurstondemocrats.org. All comments received by December 15 will be distributed to all PCOs who are participating in the review process.