Wednesday, June 15, 2011

What's going on with a home rule charter in Thurston County right now

Last year, the Thurston County League of Women Voters updated their historic study on county-wide governance and made the case for a more responsive and financially stable county government through a home rule charter. The study is worth the read, by the way.

More recently, a group formed around the league started getting together to talk about the possibility of a home rule charter campaign. Here are the notes from their April meeting. While the notes indicate they were meeting again, no other meeting notes or notices are available.

The local Sustainability Roundtable seems to involved, making some moves in this direction as well. Here is a proposed position paper on local governance, which builds off the effort by the league.

Here is a version of the notes above from the April meeting, but with more references on the back end.

Here is where the roundtable will be putting their sustainable governance information.

So, it seems there is a new born effort between the League of Women Voters and the Sustainable Roundtable to create a home rule campaign. Nothing since the April meeting has happened, but I'm still poking around, seeing what I can find.

Thurston County home rule, STOP Thurston County and diluting political influence

One thing I've been wondering about STOP Thurston County, a local franchise of the Evergreen Freedom Foundation, is why they've focused with such laser intensity on particular environmental rules. I'd assume that if these rules were up for a county wide vote, they'd pass.

I mean, across the entire county, Thurston County is pretty liberal. And, the reason isn't necessarily that Thurston is liberal to the core. It literally matters how you carve up the county.

If Thurston County were to pass a home rule charter and create more elective districts, you could see how the balance of power in the county could change. Currently, all three seats on the Thurston County commission are held by Democrats. And they were elected by an average vote percentage of 56 percent.

Using Dave's Redistricting Tool (which has a county level redistricting option based on 2010 census data) you can start coming up with options. Here is what a five seat county council might look like:




Here is the Democratic vote in the 2010 U.S. Senate election (Murray-Rossi):

  • Olympia 70 percent
  • West Thurston 52 
  • North Lacey 54
  • South Lacey 54
  • Yelm/Tenino 49
So, the geographically small urban district is still largely Democratic, but every single other district is balanced. If Republicans did everything right, you could easily see a 4-1 advantage on a county council.

Here is what a seven district option looks like:



Again, the Democratic percentage in 2010:

  • Northwest Thurston 65
  • Olympia 68
  • West Lacey 58
  • North Lacey 52
  • South Lacey 50
  • Yelm Tenino 48
  • Rochester 46
So, in this option, you have three strong Democratic districts and then four which are balanced, with an equal number of those leaning Democratic or Republican. So, in a "Republicans do everything right" scenario, you could have a 4-3 advantage on a county council. On the other hand, in a Democrats do everything right, you have a 6-1 or 7-0 advantage.

I made a couple of assumptions that could be played with with these maps:
  • I will admit to trying to game the map by a little by keeping Olympia as whole as possible, thereby not spreading Democratic influence across the northern districts. But, I was just trying to illustrate how home rule would spread influence. You can download the .drf files I linked to under the maps to change my assumptions.
  • I also assume that the way county leaders are elected would change from a in-district vote in the primary and a county-wide vote in the general to in-district all the way
Either way, both scenarios show how creating more representation on the county level (more than our three current commissioners), you dilute the Democratic influence across the county. If STOP Thurston (arguably the most vibrant county level conservative movement in a decade) worked on governance issues, they could change the rules to make it more likely they could change the rules.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Immunization exemption rates in Thurston County and the Olympia School District (or 41 percent of kindergartners in Ferry County don't have shots)

This foul-mouthed post on Washington leading the nation in people who don't get their children immunized made me wonder about the more local data. How many people send their kids to school without the right shots, thereby making it more likely that not only will their kids get sick, but the entire school will be less healthy.

Turns out, Thurston County has one of the highest rates of immunization exemptions in the state. Or, the highest number of parents and guardians consciously sending their kids to school without shots.

Here is a map by county, and by school district and a spreadsheet with all the data. Not only is Thurston County a leader, but Olympia School District is in the worst category as well, rating over 10 percent exemptions of the kids entering kindergarden.

By no means is Thurston County on the fringe here, there are some much worse offenders. Like Ferry County, where 41 percent of kids entering kindergarden have signed exemptions in the 09-10 school year. And, that was after the rate increased from 8.9 percent in 2004 to over 50 percent in 2008.

Also, Klickitat County's rate went from 5.5 percent in 2008 to 21.6 percent in 2009. As the post at the start points out "(t)he national target is 95 percent" immunized.

Here's a run down on the current situation of how a parent can enroll and child in public school without a full set of immunizations from a legislative staff report:
...a parent or guardian may exempt a child for one of several reasons including if a physician advises against a specific vaccine for a child, parents certify that the vaccine conflicts with their religious beliefs, or parents certify that they have philosophical or personal objections to the child's immunization.
The staff report is on ESB 5005, which made the following changes to the requirment to be excempt from immunization:
...a parent or guardian must present, to exempt a child from school immunization requirements. The form used to certify the exemption for either medical, religious, or personal objections must include a statement, signed by a health care practitioner, that the parent or guardian has been informed of the benefits and risks of the immunization to the child. Health care practitioners may sign forms at any time before the enrollment of the child in a school or licensed day care.

The old wetlands below the brewery (Unpacking the Olympia Brewery Visioning, Part 2)

This image, from the Washington State Historical Society, shows an obvious wetland in the lower right hand corner.


From the current layout of the brewery, this is where most of the warehouses constructed in the post World War II era of the plant are located. These are obviously the most recent additions, and geographically, the most expansive.


View Larger Map

So, what I've been wondering is, since we know what was there pretty recently, what do we do with the area? Is it a good place to restore? Do we focus our commercial restoration on the old brewhouse and pre-World War II structures on the bluff on the northwest side of Capitol Way? Or, since this is a large flat area that's already been developed, do we right it off?