Category Archives: General

Appeals Court upholds Top Two

The bulk of the Secretary of State’s announcement follows this brief conversation.

If you’re reading this blog you’re probably informed enough to know that when Washington votes in a primary the top two vote getters make it to the ballot in November. This is a fairly recent development that like many things sprung from problems in California. (I grew up there, so your problem with me originates there.)

In California it used to be that to vote in a party’s primary you actually had to be a declared member of that party. When the state changed that the parties sued and it ended up wrecking things for Washingtonians, who had voted for whoever the heck they wanted in the primary regardless of party. The Supreme Court struck down that system, and Washington eventually responded with the Top Two system.

The Secretary of State explains in what follows.

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Public Art to Make Your Ears Bleed

We’ve seen plenty here about the fish and fisherman and the two ladies in Bremerton. Public art has its supporters and its detractors and the latter group has fun in the comments section of our stories. (“What’s the deal with the Flying Nun doing squat thrusts statue?” writes RB3. Personally, I thought she looked like Rosie from the Jetsons.)

Others are having fun with it. I do see people taking pictures, and Rosie gets dressed up from time to time. Look for a Gonzaga jersey this next basketball season, I’m told.

In Everett they’ve got a new wrinkle on the concept of public art. The city paid $350 for eight old pianos and commissioned artists to paint them. For a few weeks they’ll be out on the street for anyone to play. From the story:

Street Tunes was modeled after another art project, “Play Me — I’m Yours” by artist Luke Jerram. That project has featured pianos in public places in cities including New York and London. The pianos in Everett are planned to be on the streets through Aug. 25.

At the end of the event, Aug. 25, the pianos will either be auctioned, with the money going to the city’s general fund, or they’ll be put on ice until next year, when the event would happen again.

Is this something we should do? Should we encourage our artsy types to splatter some paint on some old uprights and put them in downtown Bremerton for a while, or Poulsbo? (Bainbridge Island would probably not stand for such clutter, though it might add to the city’s reserves.) Port Orchard might prefer calliopes.

Vote in the poll on the right.

A Taps Story Worth Repeating

At Monday’s service in Port Orchard it was mentioned that Wayne Matz wanted to be at the event, but was in the hospital. Joseph Hovey played a flawless rendition of Taps in his place.

Matz’ absence is significant. You’ll understand why if you read the story former Kitsap Sun reporter Niki King wrote in 2005 about Matz and about Taps. King was not long out of college when she was with us, but she brought with her youth ample story-telling skill. For the subject matter, it sure was appropriate.

Former full-time Kitsap Sun photographer Steve Zugschwerdt took the photo you see here, as well as others.

King’s story follows.

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An Appetizer on Accountability

As a send off for the weekend I thought I’d give you something to think about other than where you’re going to be taxiing your youth, avoiding those weeds, ingesting beverages or clearing ground for that chicken coop you might one day be legally allowed to put in your backyard in Bremerton.

It’s not that I want you to think about me, because Heaven knows you’re not on my mind all that much when the little guy asks me three times where the puzzle piece goes, never satisfied with my answer. But allow the Kitsap Caucus to offer some appetizers on accountability.

What first got me thinking about this was a news piece I read from the San Francisco Chronicle, detailing how the budget deficit is growing nearer to crisis proportions. The following, for me, were the money paragraphs:

Polls show rising public alarm – and public refusal of specific spending cuts or tax increases required to change course. A Field Poll last month showed most Californians do not want to cut the largest parts of the state budget, such as education or transportation.

The polling firm Democracy Corps recently warned Democrats that the deficit now tops unemployment as a voter concern. But it also found voters “unenthusiastic” about the options to close the deficit. Voters overwhelmingly prefer spending cuts to tax hikes but reject cutting specific programs.

P.J. O’Rourke, in the book I just finished reading, “Parliament of Whores,” writes about 200 pages to explain the reality that appears in the final sentence of these next two paragraphs, which comes after he writes about his experience in a very local town hall meeting in which actual decisions were being made.

Citizens may have hardcore beliefs in the right to do whatever they want on their property or smoke whatever they want in their home, until it touches them. That inner granite that was once bedrock to principled living starts to crack, and pretty soon they’re using legal means to stop others from doing something that will introduce a change in their lives that they don’t like, or will let them change others’ lives in a way that profits them. Principles get tossed pretty quickly when convenient, or possible.

“Authority has always attracted the lowest elements in the human race. All through history mankind has been bullied by scum. Those who lord it over their fellows and toss commands in every direction and would boss the grass is in the meadow about which way to bend in the wind are the most depraved kind of prostitutes. They will submit to any indignity, perform any vile act, do anything to achieve power. The worst off-sloughings of the planet are the ingredients of sovereignty. Every government is a parliament of whores.

The trouble is, in a democracy the whores are us.”

His first line is about authority attracting scum, but there is a quote about absolute power that suggests that authority doesn’t just attract scum, it creates it. We can point accusing fingers at the electeds all we want, but often they’re doing what they know we want, not what we say we want. Sure, they sometimes try to pull fast ones they hope you won’t notice, but for the most part they want your approval.

If Government Gives You a Lawyer, Why Not a Doctor?

Let’s take a local story that has broader implications. I’m going to try to go Dave Ross here. Let’s take an issue that carries little controversy and ask why a broader issue gets so many up in arms.

The question is, “Where do you personally draw the line?” It stems from Josh Farley’s story, “‘In-House’ Public Defense Proving Cheaper

The story is about how the county is saving money by hiring more lawyers. The county has to provide defense to people who can’t afford to hire an attorney. This, some might call it an “unfunded mandate,” has its roots in a 1963 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Gideon v. Wainwright. Gideon argued he didn’t get a fair trial, because he couldn’t afford an attorney, while his accuser could. The Supreme Court agreed. Felony defendants are now guaranteed a lawyer.

On Farley’s story there was some question about conflict of interest, but lay that aside for a while.

Whether the assigned attorney is employed by the county or contracted locally, taxpayers are footing the bill. Having one on staff is cheaper, so the county is increasing the number of lawyers on staff.

If you are generally against bigger government, how is this OK? Or is it? Should we instead pay a higher cost to keep government smaller?

The bigger question is where else do we do this? When we decide we need roads our government generally hires that work out. Nonetheless, the building of roads appears to be constitutionally protected under the “general welfare” clause. If it were cheaper for the city and county to build its own roads, should it be its own contractor? In many cases it is already. Should this be a decision based solely on cost, even if it might mean government gets bigger?

What if “general welfare” applies to health care? We know that almost anyone who needs care gets it. The cost is the issue, which is why we’re having the national and state conversation we’re having. Those who can pay for it do. Those who clearly cannot get theirs paid for. Some struggle, file bankruptcy, or make difficult decisions because of the cost.

Where do you draw the line? If the government is accusing you of a felony it will still get you a lawyer. If you have cancer, it won’t guarantee you care. It’s left to you to decide whether you’re going to pay to live, or at least try to.

Americans, and most countries now, have decided a balance between private service provision and public works is ideal. The question seems to be where the line is drawn. Where do you draw yours? When should government be the provider of services, when should it contract it out and when should it get out of the way?

Giver’s Reward for Giving: More to Give

ronmuhlemanAs we debate health care and other public policy and as we sometimes grow annoyed at the phrase “public service,” it’s cool once in a while to see someone who gives public service away get noticed.

A few months ago I walked into Harrison Medical Center to visit a man with a knife and I saw on a wall full of photos the face of someone familiar around the Sun office for the past 42 years. Ron Muhleman is the operations director here. During my seven years he’s the friendly guy who always asks me how I’m doing and how things are on the beat.

Ever since I saw that picture on the wall, when people ask “Who’s the man?” I always tell them it’s Ron Muhleman.

His picture is there at the med center because he’s on the board of trustees. In fact, he’s a volunteer in a lot of places and has probably done more to enhance the image of this business in the community than just about anyone else I can think of.

For that he was honored by our parent company, E.W. Scripps, with the “William R. Burleigh Award for Distinguished Community Service. His prizes are a trophy and donations by Scripps to local charities.

If you see Ron anywhere, tell him “Thanks.”

Here’s the e-mail we all received at work:

Ron Muhleman will do whatever is needed to help others, as shown by his jack-of-all-trades approach to volunteering.

“While many of us find a volunteer niche serving in volunteer board positions or in ‘worker bee’ roles, Ron is well-known for covering any base,” his nominator said. “A typical week of volunteering for Ron may include everything from reviewing the financials of Kitsap’s regional medical center, to bell-ringing and counting kettles for the Salvation Army, to shoveling dirt at a United Way community project site.”

Muhleman is also an ambassador for the Literacy Council of Kitsap County and an advisory board member of a Salvation Army homeless hygiene initiative.

During his 42 years at the Kitsap Sun, Muhleman has chaired the board of trustees for the Harrison Medical Center, which under his leadership, added neighborhood medical facilities and an open-heart surgery program.

Muhleman served as chair of the Bremerton Area Chamber of Commerce, which honored him in 2000 with Kitsap’s most prestigious volunteer award, “The Thunderbird Award.”

In addition, he has served with the West Sound Community Health Network, the Kitsap County Chapter of the American Red Cross, Puget Sound Naval Bases Association, Pacific Northwest Personnel Association, the Bremerton Historic Ships Association and the Silverdale Chamber of Commerce, as well as the United Way, YMCA, Kitsap County Domestic Violence Task Force and the Boy Scouts of America.

Time for a Civics Test

Put away your notes, your pencils, your Ipods and anything you could use to cheat. It’s time for a civics test.

If I had done poorly on this test, I promise I would have let you know about this anyway. As it is, I got 32 out of 33 right, 96.97 percent. Honestly, I was shocked that I only missed one, because I guessed on a few. I’ve always been good at multiple choice.

The site reports that the national average is 49 percent and that college educators only get about 55 percent right. Surely, readers of the Kitsap Caucus would fare better than the rest of the yokels taking this on. Prove me right. Share your score with the rest of us.

Death and Taxes

Two items on open government.

The (Tacoma) News Tribune’s Joe Turner has a story today about opponents of an assisted-suicide initiative who want to get around state disclosure laws because they feel they’ll be threatened by their initiative supporters.

They want their donors to be able to remain secret.

Human Life of Washington, a conservative group that opposes abortion and doctor-assisted suicide, is asking a federal judge to throw out parts of Washington’s campaign finance laws. Human Life contends the laws are overly broad because they would classify Human Life as a political action committee if it buys radio ads that say suicide is wrong, even if the ads don’t actually tell people to vote against I-1000.

Human Life calls it “issue advocacy” and “voter education.” The state Public Disclosure Commission and the Washington Supreme Court call it campaigning, especially when the education occurs while such an issue is on its way or already on the election ballot.

The initiative’s opponents believe they’ll be “harassed or intimidated” by supporters, so they want the courts to let them remain anonymous. The opponents’ lawyer says federal case law is on their side.

Speaking of open government, at 5:30 Wednesday at the Kitsap Regional Library’s Sylvan branch, the Washington Coalition for Open Government and the Kitsap Sun are hosting a panel discussion and forum on open government. Included in the discussion will be Port of Bremerton Commissioner Bill Mahan. The port, most of you will recall, enacted a property tax that escaped the radar of port residents and us. The result is a new outreach policy for the port and a new marina.

I’ll be covering the forum. I would encourage anyone who can to attend, because there will be time for the audience to ask questions. If the technology permits, I’ll live-blog it.

Recognize Anyone?

Well, here I’m going to give it away. Stop at the first photo if you haven’t played yet. See if you’re smarter than everyone else.

Here’s a hint. Think presidential election, but it’s not the candidate. I’ll give two more hints after 5 p.m.

5:05 p.m.: Time for another clue! I’m getting clever with this one. The person you need to spot is a female, but if you looked in her passport file you might think it was a man. Go!

Look at the picture below and see if you can guess which of these people is kinda/really/might be famous.



Assuming you’re acquainted with Google, you’ll quickly make the connection now. You can read more about our mystery person in Sunday’s edition. Have a great weekend.

Former Legislative Candidate Arrested

Frank Mahaffay, who ran as a Republican against Democrat Sherry Appleton for state representative in 2004, was arrested Thursday night on suspicion of identity theft and was present at a preliminary hearing today.

Kitsap Sun reporter Josh Farley is preparing a story that will post soon.

In an Oct. 16, 2004 story I wrote, there was mention of Mahaffay’s financial struggles.

Mahaffay has experienced some financial difficulties. In 1998 he filed personal bankruptcy and since 2000 has been taken to court three times for writing checks that were not honored by his bank. One of those cases was dismissed. The other two he paid off.

“I had rough times,” he said. “I made a mistake and paid for that mistake and have moved on from that.”

The information from the newspaper story was later used in Democratic advertising. Angela Smith wrote on Oct. 30, 2004 about some of the negative campaigning and included a quote from Mahaffay:

“I was the victim of (attacks) via the Bremerton Sun, but haven’t been the victim from any other perspective,”

In the county’s Rebublican voter guide prior to the 2004 Primary, Mahaffay answered the question about the top challenge of the office:

Out of control spending and misapplied dollars are hindering our economic prosperity.

Everything is Political

Steven Gardner:

A couple weeks ago I read the New York Times story about the 2005 aborted attempt to get a top Al Qaeda guy in Pakistan. Donald Rumsfeld called it off, fearing it would sour our relationship with Pakistan.

I guessed correctly that both sides would politicize the story, though I was incorrect in how I predicted it would be played. I found one conservative writer attributing motive to the New York Times, saying the paper was trying to make it look like George W. Bush was as weak on terrorism as Bill Clinton. The liberal criticism was that Bush thinks the only terrorists are in Iraq.

Then this last week following the announcement that Zina Linnik was dead, it didn’t take long to find her death tied to other political issues.

The Sound Politics blog had “And He’s a Registered Voter” as a headline about the suspect.

Horse’s Ass first took issue, then poked fun.

Is there anything that can’t be argued in political terms? The ending to The Sopranos? Ichiro’s new contract? Baby carrots? Macs and PCs? Disco?

I challenge you to come up with ideas of what you think can’t be part of a political argument. Then, once you’ve laid down your challenge, I further challenge the rest of you to demonstrate how, indeed, politics can invade every facet of our lives.