Monthly Archives: December 2008

Roll On, Bremerton, Roll On

It’s been a hoot, Bremerton.

Call it “laid off,” a “reduction in force,” or “involuntary separation,” I will be leaving the Kitsap Sun. My reign of terror will be complete Dec. 31.

Lay-offs are the way of the world, like sinus infections, and I am the reporter of least seniority.

When I first heard the term “laid off,” it sounded fun. Imagine my disappointment. While better than being fired or finding your place of employment boarded up and the owner missing, losing a job is hard on a person, and hard on a spouse.

The bright side is that only one reporter is being cut, and it’s Binion!

The dark side, of course, is that I’m Binion.

It’s been some comfort that so many other workers are getting RIF’d, having their life force reduced. Then again, it makes it so much scarier.

As for your fearful reporter, I’m moving to Seattle, back in with the love of my life. There I’ll barricade myself in our apartment, stockpile powdered milk and arm myself to the teeth.

Despite the grim forecasts, I remain optimistic on the outside. I’m young, sort of, and I have two useless journalism degrees plus five years of daily newspaper experience. Beyond the storm clouds the sun is shining. I will have no problem landing a gig in fast-food, call centers or welfare fraud.

The new year will bring with it many changes at the Kitsap Sun, and ace political reporter Steve Gardner and other Sun staffers will inherit the privilege of writing about Bremerton life and government. The Paris of Kitsap County will be in capable hands.

The Bremerton Beat, this blog, will revert to a more natural, feral state, with multiple staff members offering posts. The invitation for community members to make contributions still stands.

I want to extend my most sincere gratitude to all of you, Bremerton Beat readers. We killed some time.

Writing for a blog has given me the chance to experiment, fail, expand my horizons and fail. I will miss lying awake at night, fretting about the voice mails in the morning, grinding my teeth and saying to myself, “This time you’ve gone too far.”

And, just so you know, I think you guys are way funnier than me. I wish I could name all of you, give you the credit you deserve, but, after all, I’m an envious snot.

Keep it real. Don’t fake the funk. Represent to the fullest.


Bremerton Is State’s Top Public Transit User

Oh, Pullman, You’re So Young and Hip

Maybe my heart is hardened and my mind has been enslaved, but I have trouble believing a wire story that claims Pullman is the home of the “young and hip” of Washington state.

That’s what I said. The city of Pullman. Never heard of it? I guess you weren’t an animal husbandry major.

But making fun of Pullman and its chief employer is not the point of this wire story from our friends at the Associated Press.

In fact, the point of this story is that we Washingtonians are smarter and richer and whiter than most of our fellow Americans. No word yet on what state is the most self-aggrandizing and unbearable to be around, but I’d like to think we are in the running.

Buried among the useless facts – like that Centralia is the whitest place in one of the whitest states, and the only place I’ve seen skinheads in the past 10 years – are a few interesting nuggets about Bremerton.

-Bremerton has the highest number of public transportation users in the state, at 8.4 percent. I’m guessing this is the ferry.

-The West Sound communities of Shelton and Bremerton have the longest daily commutes, 33.1 minutes and 29.2 minutes. I’m guessing because of the ferries.

-“Only” 5.6 percent of Bremerton families live in poverty, apparently the lowest in the state. (The census sample for Bremerton also includes Silverdale). Yakima (AKA  Crackima) had the highest rate of family poverty, at 15.5 percent.

-After that sad news, here’s a bit of humor from the story.

“Want to live among the young and hip? Pullman, home of Washington State University, is your place, with a median age of 24.9 years old.”

We here at the Bremerton Beat encourage people who want to live among the “young and hip” to move to Pullman. We think that would be great.

Lix dot Kong: Bringing It All Back Home

photo courtesy of C. Angelique Garr, Journalista Group

It was a crowd that appreciates neck tattoos.

A woman wore a T-shirt that said “Bremelo.”

The beer flowed Thursday night at Slip 45 on Bay Street. So did the rhymes.

Lix dot Kong, nee Eddie Laners III, a son of Bremerton who has been plying the rhyme trade on the right coast for the past six years, took the stage. The 30-year-old Laners wore a sequin Barack Obama beanie and despite some technical difficulties and a cold, belted out a short set that included an ode to his hometown, which features prominently in many of his rhymes.

When it’s time to sit and spin, she’s down with him
that fella named Lix from Bremerton
that fella that hits like Wimbledon

After high school, Laners did what a lot of young people in Bremerton do — a few quarters at Olympic College, a stint at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.

“It just wasn’t for me,” he said. “Music kept calling me.”

What started as a vacation to the New York City turned into a six-year residency. He met a girl, moved across the bridge to New Jersey, fell in love, had a baby, started school to become a paralegal.

He didn’t give up.

It started with an LL Cool J tape in the 1980s and KCMU-FM’s “Rap Attack” on Sunday nights. It grew into hours upon hours in his bedroom at his mom’s house, hunched over a computer, making beats, practicing his freestyle chops.

It don’t stop.

He’s had some aboveground success, freestyled on stage at the Up in Smoke tour and rapped with the Dogg Pound. But he’s found an independent push more fitting, a strong Internet presence which has led to airplay in the United Kingdom.

And while elbowing in through the birthplace of hip-hop, Laners has tried to make it known where he’s from — even if he says he’s from Seattle to people who have never heard of Bremerton.

And sometimes Seattle sounds like a foreign country.

“I still think people see it like Alaska, a lot of snow, no man’s land,” he said.

Abraham Laners, Eddie’s uncle, sat in the back of Slip 45 and watched. The 55-year-old is a jazz fan — the Laners family hails originally from New Orleans — and he had to admit some of the language was hard on his ears. But he was thrilled to see the diverse group of young people hitting the stage and hyping the crowd.

The elder Abraham watched his nephew over the years, from when he first started trying his hand at the spontaneous and difficult art of freestyling to his high school years when he started showing a single-minded focus on music.

“That was his world,” Abraham said.

Having what amounted to one of the only rap-friendly studios in the West Sound, which doubled as his bedroom, led to some awkward and dangerous encounters for Laners.

At all hours of the night, he could almost bank on someone knocking on his window, knocking on the front door, hoping for the chance to lay down a track.

“They’re all trampling on mom’s new carpet,” Laners said.

He’s planning a West Coast tour with other friends with Kitsap roots and eyes on the golden mic, and he also wants to move back to the wasteland that gets so little respect from hip-hop. This time he wants to live up near Bellingham, with a few old school friends.

“That’s the plan,” he said, “if I can convince the wife.”

Parking Is The Talk Of The (Down) Town

When I first got this job a couple years back, I told a Washington State Patrol trooper source that I was moving to Bremerton.

He grew up in the area, and thought about what advice he might offer me.

The first thing out of his mouth was: “They have some problems with parking in downtown.”

There are many issues facing the city, but if you want to see people’s faces turn red, if you want to see anger, and frustration, talk about parking. Complaining about the state of cars on the street almost amounts to a pastime.

Here we have a letter from downtown businessman and former City Council candidate Carlos Jara.

Let’s see what he has to say. (NOTE: The letter has not been edited, and Diamond Parking is the private company the city contracts to enforce its parking rules on downtown city streets and in a couple of the city’s parking garages).
Last night during the Winterfest activities in downtown Bremerton, a shocking occurrence happened.

Starting after 5pm, between Pacific and Park St on 4th, Diamond Parking proceeded to issue parking violations to over a dozen vehicles parked on 4th St.

The individual representing DP was questioned and challenged by numerous folks as to why he was issuing tickets, displaying an arrogance that let many to believe that it was planned by Diamond Parking to issue the amount of tickets.

Basically, he stated that there had been warning signs on both ends of 4th stating that the street would be blocked off between 5pm and 8pm Friday evening, and that warning signs had been up for 24 hours.

Here’s the problem, we own a business on 4th St and always notice when signs go up (i.e., Armed Forces Day Parade)…we are cognizant of this due to the fact that we have to advise both our clients and the folks working in our business to the upcoming restrictions. There were no signs up as the DP stated “for 24 hours”.

In fact, I made a delivery to our business at 3:10pm on Friday, crossing Pacific on 4th as I came down (from Washington). I pulled up next to Two Blocks Up (the former Goodies), and off-loaded my stuff. There was no sign on the corner of 4th and Pacific on that corner.

I went home, changed, and came back at 4:30pm, parking on 4th (so this time I came from the Park Ave side). Again, no signs. At this point, I noticed an elderly couple who had parked in front of El Coral Mexican Restaurant stating “it says no parking between signs, but where is the other sign?”…and I started looking around and saw that a “No Parking” sign had been put up on the corner of 4th and Pacific, the same spot I had parked an hour earlier to drop of the supplies and had no sign earlier!

So on the south side of 4th, where our business is and where I had parked, I looked down towards Park, and there were no parking restriction signs up, so I too was wondering what the restriction was about.

I went to our business, started greeting our guests (it was our Spa’s 2 year anniversary in downtown Bremerton), and received a call from a friend of mine, a local firefighter who was in El Coral grabbing dinner to bring to his wife (who works at our Spa) at 6pm telling me that the DP guy was about to cite my truck.

This is when I noticed an amazing amount of cited tickets and folks who were extremely upset at getting cited for parking when there had been no prior warning!

I approached the DP man, asked him what gives, and he stated that the signs had been up since Thursday. I told him very sternly that it was BS, right after he popped the yellow envelope on my pickup.

This was extremely frustrating since a few of our guests received tickets, and we as a business on 4th were not notified at any time about the pending parking restrictions prior to the evening.

This is a huge step backward for downtown and simply supports the mentality that one should not go to downtown to participate and be part of the community for fear of DP citing them.

I would like to see a story about this (or editorial).

I was embarrassed for our clients and innocent folks who were cited by what I truly feel was a scam (or lack of planning by the folks who were tasked with putting up the signs).

Good-To-Go! Down The Rabbit Hole

Look at ’em go!

I don’t know what it’s like to be put on a “no fly list,” but recently I learned that me and my debit card have been put on a similar list while trying to pass the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.

A so-called “black list.”

Although I never, ever want to cross the Department of Homeland Security – those people scare the heck out of me – my inadvertent transgression that offended the state Department of Transportation has me now quaking in my boots.

On Thanksgiving night, while driving my partner back to Seattle from my parents’ house in Mason County, we entered the snarled backup in the lead up to the toll booth. I thought the whole point of the new bridge was to eliminate these backups, but what do I know? If I was so smart I’d work for the government.

When we finally got to the front, the toll-taker swiped my debit card and then said it was rejected.

No information was given, and the toll-taker said she couldn’t swipe the card again.

My partner had her debit card, and although they draw from the same account, the toll keeper’s machine accepted it and the angry, blood-thristy drivers we were holding up didn’t overflow with holiday cheer and open fire.

Then, last Saturday, while crossing the bridge and eager to hand over my $4, my card was rejected again.

The toll-taker was nice this time – he called me “boss” –  but said because I didn’t have any other money, I had to “violate” and then call the department early Monday morning and beg them not to fine me for what amounts to their mistake.

Long story short, I didn’t call, I didn’t beg. My bad. I forgot.

I remembered Friday while reading Travis Bakers’ blog, The Road Warrior, and put in the call.

This is what I learned.

-It’s too late, I will be cited in Pierce County court. When the state screws up, residents are on the clock, not the state.

-There is no way to tell why a card is put on the “black list.” It just is.

-The black list lasts for two weeks.

-The fine is $52 dollars, $48 more than the toll, and the onus is on the tax-paying, fee-paying, toll-paying non-felon resident of the state to prove that they actually had money in the account and had no intention of trying to scam the government. I’m also not a terrorist or a sex offender, if that makes any difference.

So, in summary, the state can, without explanation, black list your perfectly valid debit card. If you don’t have $4 in cash – I also don’t carry my typewriter with me – or a generous friend riding shotgun, the state will fine you $52 for “violating.” If you forget to call and beg for forgiveness, you will have to go in front of a Pierce County judge and somehow prove that you (blink, blink) aren’t a toll thief.

“I would just have cash on hand,” said the woman who answers the phone when you call to ask.

(“I would just have wings,” said the frog, “my butt hurts from all this hopping.”)

“Until the card falls off that list, I wouldn’t even try swiping it,” she said.

So in the spirit of free enterprise, does anybody with ties to organized crime want to start a log raft ferry service to bypass the bridge?

Squirrelapocalypse Now

Comes now, an east coast perspective on squirrels. I have edited it for punctuation and spelling:

This is in regard to that horrifying incident that took place 11/13 when that poor unfortunate squirrel lost his life when he was struck by a rock. In defense of that person who threw that rock, I would just like to say I too am from Queens, N.Y. and you must understand it was probably a instinctive reaction on the part of that person from Queens.

You see, sir, the squirrels from Queens are much more dangerous than your ” garden variety” squirrels from the great Northwest . The squirrels from Queens have been known to carry knives and there have been unconfirmed reports that the squirrels in Central Park are packing little “Saturday Night Specials.”

Your article also said that this particular species of squirrel is considered a pest. Now that I live here in Bremerton I would be happy to have some East River Water Rats Fed Ex’d in and they would take care of that squirrel problem 1,2,3.

Unfortunately this would probably lead to an even bigger problem , a water rat “problem.” I guess the only solution is to “Live and Let Live”.

Thank you and I hope I’ve shed some light on this whole ugly incident.


Louis Mastronardi

Councilman Shepherd To Run For Bremerton Mayor

District 5 Councilman Mike Shepherd helped spearhead an amendment uprising during Wednesday night’s marathon council meeting, where members were deciding on final passage of the city’s 2009 budget.

Read the story here.

During a break I asked him if he planned to run for mayor.

“It’s too early to tell, I’m focused on getting the budget settled.”

Less than 24 hours after the budget was settled, nay, about 17 hours after the budget was settled, Shepherd announced he was running for mayor.

Here is the statement Shepherd sent:

“Better for Bremerton”—Mike Shepherd, experienced City Councilor to run for Mayor

Bremerton City Councilor Mike Shepherd has announced his intention to run for Mayor of Bremerton, citing a need for change in leadership and increased focus on neighborhoods and core services to citizens. During a recent meeting with local neighbors concerned about the City’s future, Mike stated, “Fresh ideas and new energy in careful management of the city operations are more important than ever in this period of economic struggle.”

Councilor Shepherd was first elected to Council in 1997 and proved his popularity with his district, being re-elected for two additional four-year terms, serving a total of nearly 11 years on City Council to date. He was elected to City Council President in 1999 and to the Association of Washington Cities Board of Directors in 2000.He was one of the first city officials in the state to complete the Municipal Leadership Certification through the Association of Washington Cities.

Shepherd has been recognized for his innovation and hard work throughout his career as a manager and for environmental projects for the Dept of Navy and Environmental Protection Agency. He received the “Al Gore, Reinventing Government” Award in 2001; National Silver Medal for Superior Civilian Service,; Washington State Governor’s Award for City of Rosalia redevelopment in 2004 and many other recognitions. He is a decorated Navy veteran and is involved in the new Veteran’s Conservation Corps program at Olympic College.

Locally, Mike has launched initiatives to paint murals in Bremerton, restore the Sinclair Inlet shoreline and he spearheaded the One Church-One Family program to address the needs of homeless families in our community. His interests include running, whitewater kayaking, hiking and spending time with his family. Mike’s family roots in Bremerton extend back to 1908, when his great grandfather settled here, and his youngest child is currently a sophomore at Bremerton High.

Shepherd explains his candidacy this way. “I care about Bremerton. I’m always looking for ways to make a difference, to make Bremerton a better place for the people who live here everyday.”

Mayor Cary Bozeman, who is rounding out his second term in office, said as a rule he waits until after Jan. 1 to announce if he will run again, but said he is leaning that way.

Bozeman said he had heard Shepherd would run, and said he expects others will throw their hats into the ring as well.

“It’s really irrelevant to me who else is in the race,” Bozeman said. “I’ve got to make my own case to the people, that’s the only way I can run.”

Hip Hop Coming To Port Orchard

The proverbial It will be kicked in an old school fashion in beautiful Port Orchard Thursday night.

If you’re not already committed to organizing your bread-tie collection, mending your socks or otherwise preparing for the impending doom that is hanging over the country’s financial system, Thursday night is the perfect night for taking in a rap show.

Up-and-coming emcees Lix dot Kong, Zodiac, Lyon and $Lucky$ be on the mic, spitting their rhymes. That’s right, I said it, they will be spitting rhymes. Did you think the old Bremerton Beat was so square we can’t relate to the kids?

The good thing about going to a rap show on Thursday, as opposed to Friday or Saturday, is that most of us have to work Friday morning. And that means no matter how banging the acts are (see,  I did it again!), you still have to behave yourself and not drink too much.

So early Friday morning, when you rise with the sun, you’ll say to yourself, “Gee, I sure am glad I didn’t overdo it last night. Now I’m chipper as a robin.”