Peninsular Thinking

A conversation about Bremerton, Port Orchard, Poulsbo, Silverdale, Bainbridge Island, Kingston, Manchester, Seabeck, Southworth, Suquamish, Belfair, Keyport, Olalla, Bangor, Hansville, Indianola, Port Gamble, Allyn, Port Ludlow, Gig Harbor and every once in a while something about the good folks who don't have the good fortune to live here.
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Tell your story

September 29th, 2014 by Steven Gardner
Click to see a larger version.

Click to see a larger version.

Might I suggest an activity for you on Thursday?

Come tell your story. Or just come and listen to others tell theirs at Story Night in Manette.

The event starts at 7 p.m. and we have to be out of there by about 9 p.m. because Karaoke takes over the Manette Saloon.

If you wish to tell a story, here are the basic rules. Stories must be:

  • True
  • Less than five minutes long
  • Within the night’s theme: “Schooled”

We have an event page and a regular page on Facebook. And I’ve got a website, SpillYourGutsGuts.com, that explains why I’m doing this. Here are a few paragraphs to give you a taste:

“I’ve been telling people for years that it’s probably one of the earliest forms of entertainment in the history of humans. Secondly, if the conspiracy theorists are correct and one day all the power shuts down, then much of our entertainment will be what we can do in person, like sing or dance. Storytelling will also be a big part of the mix.

“Storytelling events also connect us to people we might not otherwise know. We hear their stories and our beliefs about issues, lifestyles and life’s triumphs and mistakes becomes something human. If we’re not careful, storytelling makes us empathetic.

“Finally, it’s fun. You shouldn’t miss it.”

In 1999 or 2000 I attended a storytelling festival in Provo, Utah. That’s probably the first place I had ever become interested in the activity, though I always enjoyed public speaking. I know. I’m weird that way. I get scared, but I love it.

There are not that many opportunities for on-stage storytelling, so over the years I worked on improving my storytelling in my reporting. I also listened to shows that offer excellent examples, such as “This American Life” and “The Tobolowsky Files.” And then I heard The Moth, which is when I became interested in hosting an event. Angela Dice, a former reporter here, and I talked about it for years, but didn’t quite feel confident or disposed with a lot of time to get one going.

Then a few months ago Josh Farley, a fellow reporter who runs the outstanding Kitsap Quiz Night, asked me what I needed to get started. Turns out what I really needed was to have him ask me that question. He introduced me to Rebecca Dove Taylor at the Manette Saloon and we eventually set a date. Since then, it’s gone from slow simmer to full on burn as far as planning. And now the event is upon us.

The official jewelry of Story Night in Manette.

The official jewelry of Story Night in Manette.

A couple weeks ago I finally got to attend a Story Slam in Seattle put on by The Moth. And last week I participated in another Story Slam on Bainbridge Island put on by Field’s End. My message to you? You’ll do fine. Come tell your story. On the Facebook page and on the website are some tips to help you prepare to tell your story if you choose to give one. The winning storyteller on Thursday walks away with the fine jewelry you see pictured here. And I plan on bringing other prizes. I’m still working on those details.

The biggest prize, however, is just whatever you get out of being there. If you speak you get that experience. If you don’t, you get the thrill of hearing others and sharing a night with friends. I’ve been to a few of these and I’ve never been to one that wasn’t fun. And hey, even if you don’t tell a story, you could win a prize! You’ll find out about that on Thursday.


NK’s Page eyes end, but has not set a date

September 26th, 2014 by Steven Gardner

Patty Page, North Kitsap School District superintendent, said on Thursday she will not seek an extension on her contract with the district. That does not mean she is retiring anytime soon.

Page, who started with the district in 2012, signed a three-year contract with the board when she started and has seen one-year extensions each year since. This year she said she doesn’t want one.

Instead, from this point on, as she approaches retirement age she will work with two-year contracts, or go year-to year.

The conversation arose as the board continued conversations about how it will carry out its superintendent evaluation process going forward.


See a real struggle for a school district (not local)

September 16th, 2014 by Steven Gardner

No matter what kind of negative experience you have ever had with a school board, or probably any local government body, I have a hard time imagining it being as difficult as what’s happening in the East Ramapo, New York school district.

This story includes the federal and state governments, side deals and alleged and real racism, all ingredients for contention. And of course, some people get compared to Hitler, this time in a place where that would be an especially inflammatory charge.

The strangest element here though is that the school board is dominated by a group, a Hassidic Jewish community, who would never send their own children to public schools. You can look at the coverage from the Journal News, a Gannett news outfit in the Lower Hudson Valley in New York. That coverage includes amazing video of the district’s attorney actively mocking members of the public. New York Magazine has a comprehensive piece that explains so much of what is motivating the now dominant community.

One thing I think I can say without editorializing on who’s right here; The district needs nicer lawyers.

I first heard about this on the This American Life episode that aired locally here on KUOW on Saturday. I think it does a good job of being fair and it encapsulates the entire story well.


Visualize Asbestos Abatement

September 10th, 2014 by Chris Henry

If you’ve driven through downtown Port Orchard lately, you will have seen the old Los Cabos building wrapped in white plastic.
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The city of Port Orchard bought the eyesore in August with the idea of demolishing it to improve the ambiance of the downtown core. The sale price of $148,000 included demolition by Turnaround Inc., the company that held receivership on the building. The demolition will be ongoing for the next two to three weeks, hence the wrapped building. More on that in a minute

The former site of Los Cabos restaurant was gutted by fire in July 2013. There were boarding rooms upstairs that were occupied at the time of the fire. Three people escaped by climbing out a bathroom window onto a roof and jumping onto the bed of a truck at street level.

The building sat abandoned ever since, growing a fine crop of mold in what was the dining room.
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But the mold is not the worst problem. The two-story, 6,000-plus-square-foot building was constructed in 1910, accord to the Kitsap County Assessor, and has asbestos within from various additions and remodels.

Asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral, is a remarkable material, fireproof, strong, a good insulator, but it has been linked to cancers including mesothelioma, a cancer that attacks the lining of the lungs.

According to the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission, asbestos can be found in insulation of houses built (or remodeled) between 1930 and 1950, in textured paint and patching compounds whose use was banned in 1977, some vinyl flooring tiles, some roofing and siding shingles, older hot water pipes and furnaces.

According to Bobby Pelkey, of Rhine Demolition of Tacoma, the company handling the building demo, asbestos isn’t a big problem if it’s contained in materials like tile or widow putty, but if it’s part of insulation or “popcorn” ceiling tile, tearing it our could release the asbestos fibers that can cause cancer on exposure.

To protect themselves, workers wear fully enclosed suits and respirators. They tear out the hazardous material and seal it before removal. Inside the building itself, they construct a three-segment decontamination chamber, which includes a shower for removing any particles. The suits are bundled and sealed after they are taken off, as with the rest of the contaminated material.

The job is hazardous, no doubt, but says Pelkey, “As long as you take the proper steps to protect yourself, there’s nothing to worry about.”

According to crew supervisor David Schultz — who has been in the demolition business and working with asbestos for 21 years now — one of the biggest dangers of older buildings is unstable floor and ceilings. Before demolition begins, the building is tested for asbestos, and a walk through reveals potential hazards, such as a ceiling likely to collapse.
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It’s a living, and decent one at that, Schultz said. “I make a comfortable living.”

And about that plastic wrap, it seals any asbestos fibers inside the building. So when the building comes down, the asbestos will have been removed. Voila a blank slate.

Once the demolition is complete, gone will be the entire building, including this well-established collection of pigeon poop.
Cabo6
What would you like to see on the property?


How we got the river rescue story

September 8th, 2014 by Steven Gardner
Maddy Herring at the Skokomish River in Olympic National Park. Photo by Meegan Reid, Kitsap Sun

Maddy Herring at the Skokomish River in Olympic National Park. Photo by Meegan Reid, Kitsap Sun

On Sunday we told the story of Maddy Herring, a local 21-year-old who nearly lost her life in the Skokomish River. The story itself was certainly worth telling, but every once in a while the story behind the story is worth revealing to some degree. That is the case here.

Every morning and every evening we make calls to the local fire agencies, Washington State Patrol, the coroner’s office and to Central Communications to ask them and other local police agencies if anything happened worth reporting. It’s just one way we learn about things. Other times it’s people calling us, messaging us on Facebook or Twitter or we hear something on the scanner. It’s not the only way we learn things, but sometimes it turns into something newsworthy. The vast majority of times there is nothing new to report that comes from these calls. But they are worth making because of the times there is something worth reporting.

On Monday, Aug. 25 it was my turn to make the night calls. Included on our list of calls are three Bremerton Fire stations. My recollection is that I called one station and the officer who answered said there was nothing to report from the department, but that I ought to talk to Kevin Bonsell at Station 3 because of something he experienced while out with his family at Staircase the day before. When I called there and talked to another department officer I asked if Bonsell was available. I told him I had heard he had experienced something unique on Sunday and he told me the entire story.

After hearing what happened I was eager for someone here to get the story in the paper for a couple of reasons. One was that there was a public service element to it that reminded people of the dangers rivers can pose. The second, though, was that the story had that element of danger, but ended well for everyone. People showed up and did what they could and Maddy Herring is alive because of it. Bonsell said he would see if the family was willing.

My understanding is the Herring family found him again by reaching out through someone at the Central Kitsap Fire District, and that word got over to Bremerton through them. No one who was directly involved was advertising a story. That makes it even more attractive, because no one was looking for publicity just for themselves. Bonsell didn’t reach out to me, but once I asked him to tell the story he saw the public service benefit as well.

It took a few days but eventually Bonsell called me back with phone numbers for Maddy and her mother. By the time I spoke with Maddy it was a week and two days after the event. I was hoping I could get Bonsell to go out to the site to point out where it happened and talk on video. I had very little hope that Maddy herself would be willing to go. When I spoke to her, though, she was up for it, again recognizing the public service aspect of the story. So we made plans to meet her out there on Friday with a photographer, Meegan Reid.

The video setting is not far from where it all happened, but it’s not exactly there. When we first got there she tried to recognize the spot and could not right away. We eventually figured that the river was running lower than it was the Sunday almost two weeks before. So we filmed from a nice place to provide a good setting for the story. As you can see, Maddy was quite good at retelling it.

After we finished filming Maddy, Meegan and I began walking back to our car as Maddy decided to hike further up the trail. Meegan and I kept thinking that we had missed a turn on the trail so we hiked a little more than we’d planned before making it back. I decided to go the ranger’s station and see if we could get an incident report, which was when Maddy returned from the trail. In the interim she had found the actual spot where she was stuck and took some pictures. She said it looked more or less the same as it had that Sunday, but there would have been no way we could have gone down there with our cameras. She said seeing it made her heart race a little and she was careful not to get too close. The other bonus was the Herrings had left two pair of flip-flops and a T-shirt behind in all the chaos, and that they were still there two weeks later.

A man described as a political science professor also played a role in the rescue. I reached out to several at the different colleges in the area and struck out. Maddy’s mother, Theresa, called me on Friday and we spoke that day. I wrote the story and edited the video that night.

This whole thing came about because of a regular phone call we make in which we essentially ask, “Anything happening?”

My guess is the crews at the fire stations are not glad we interrupt their mornings and evenings to ask that question. I’m always glad when they tell me the calls have been routine. Some of that is because when the calls are not routine it usually means something bad happened to someone. The other part is if something happened it means more work. We’re like NASCAR fans who don’t necessarily want there to be a wreck, but if there is one we don’t want to miss it.

Most local fire agencies, the ones who still welcome our calls, have been very good about sharing what’s happening with us. Maybe it’s because they see the public service element in what they tell us. I’m sure sometimes they get disappointed in how we write what happened. That’s the risk, I suppose. But I think the public is well served in that relationship. And it’s because of that relationship that we were able to tell Maddy Herring’s story.


Signs of life at the Lighthouse

August 30th, 2014 by Chris Henry

Back from the ashes … again, the Lighthouse restaurant will reopen next week under new ownership, former general manager Brookes Konig said Friday.

And the new owner would be Konig himself, who is leasing from property owners Tim Tweten and Gordon Rush, doing business as 429 Bay Street LLC.

By now, everyone in Port Orchard knows the back story: how the grand landmark building sat unoccupied during the recession, how earlier this year Eric A. Smith of Bothell, a Seattle cop took a stab at the restaurant business, hiring Konig as general manager, how Smith called the place Robert Earl Lighthouse, after his dad, how the community was happy to see the place reopened in May.

Konig, former regional manager of Famous Dave’s, had no personal connection to Smith. A friend of Konig’s in the local hospitality industry hooked them up. So Konig was just as shocked as the rest of South Kitsap when Smith was charged July 2 in Snohomish County with three counts of first degree child molestation. Business, dropped off after the charges came to light. Employees were laid off, and in mid-July, the Lighthouse closed.

Word was, Konig was looking for a backer to reopen the place. On Friday, he signed the final papers on the lease, and he has purchased the business from Smith.
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On Saturday (that’s today) Rotary members will be at the restaurant, now called the Port Orchard Lighthouse, helping get the place back in shape for reopening some time next week. There’s a free barbecue from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and anyone is welcome.

Konig is eager to regain the good will of the community and hopes to distance the Lighthouse from the tarnish of allegations against Smith. “The recovery is what’s so important to this restaurant,” he said.

Konig has rehired 23 former staff members and is still hiring.


The Pink-a-Nator petitions to park at the courthouse

August 25th, 2014 by Chris Henry

Surely you’ve seen the Pink-a-Nator. It’s hard to miss the Pepto-Bismol pink utility truck with the slogan “Servin’ it up curb side.”
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The food truck dishing out specialty burgers, po’boys and other hearty comestibles has had a regular spot at the Annapolis Sunday Market and in a lot near the Fred Meyer shopping center (although not so much lately, since owner Michelle Roberts-Wash has been busy with catering).

Now, Roberts-Wash has her sights set on the Kitsap County Courthouse campus.

She attended last week’s Port Orchard City Council meeting to pitch her plan. The truck would occupy more than one space. The council’s public property committee has discussed the idea, said Councilman Jeff Cartwright, a committee member. The committee suggested a 90-day trial pending feedback from the county.

Meantime, the Kitsap County administrator expressed concerns about loss of parking spots that are already at a premium, according to Port Orchard City Clerk Brandy Rinearson.

Roberts-Wash had scoped out parking spaces on Austin Avenue between the county administration building and public works building. Councilman Rob Putaansuu noted that, at the previous meeting Aug. 12, a city resident had complained that she couldn’t find a place to drop off her ballot.

Other spaces Roberts-Wash had looked at were in front of the courthouse or the Sheriff’s Office.

Councilman Jerry Childs asked if this would set a precedent. What if others came along looking for space to sell their wares?

The public property committee talked about that, Cartwright said. In fact the Pink-a-Nator sparked a wide ranging discussion about food trucks, including Portland’s approach of designating whole blocks to meals on wheels. “Should the city have its own designated food truck zone?” the committee pondered.

“We talked very heavily about the parking versus the convenience of having a food service there,” Cartwright said. “We also talk about would that food service impact other businesses that also serve food.”

A hot dog vendor has a permit to sell in front of the administration building. Inside, Coffee Oasis has an espresso stand that sells food items.

Several council members commented — in the spirit of free enterprise — that competition with other businesses shouldn’t drive their decision.

Putaansuu also suggested the Pink-a-Nator might work in “underutilized” areas including Cline Avenue (the flat part not the mountain climb) and the gravel lot off Taylor Avenue.

Mayor Tim Matthes said South Kitsap County Commissioner Charlotte Garrido “would appreciate more notice and more information than she’s received so far.”

The council agreed to honor Garrido’s request, and Roberts-Wash said she’s fine with that.

So what do you think? If Port Orchard were to designate a food truck zone, where should it be?

And, if you’re a restaurant or cafe owner with a brick-and-mortar location, what are your thoughts on a food truck zone?


On Saturday, memorials for two young people

August 14th, 2014 by Chris Henry

A summer of loss.

This is how it feels. Three young people in Kitsap County died within a month of one another.

On July 4, Josh Osborn, 17, of South Kitsap, was on an outing with friends when he fell into the Ohanapecosh River. His body was recovered on July 28.

On July 14, JJ Hentz, 12, also of South Kitsap, was found floating in Island Lake. He died two days later at Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital in Tacoma.
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Jenise Wright’s parents reported her missing on Aug. 3. The last time the 6-year-old was seen was around 10 p.m. the night before. On Aug. 7 her body was found, partially submerged in a muddy bog near Steele Creek Trailer Park in East Bremerton, where her family lives. On Aug. 9, Gabriel Gaeta, a friend of the Wright family, was arrested on suspicion of raping and killing Jenise.
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A memorial for JJ Hentz was held several weeks ago. JJ was “a bubbly and energetic boy with an old soul,” said cousin Jaime Wainwright, whom JJ called “Aunt Jaime.”

On Saturday, Josh Osborn and Jenise Wright, will be mourned at memorial services a couple of hours apart. Both are open to the public.

Jenise’s service is at 1 p.m. at the Silverdale Stake Center, 9256 Nels Nelson Road NW.
Jenise was outgoing, always at the center of activity at the mobile home park. She loved the colors pink and purple.
The Wright family is accepting donations to help offset expenses. Donations can be made online at a gofundme account or at Chase Bank branches, under the “Jenise Wright donation account.”

Josh Osborn was “every parents’ dream” according to his obituary, written by his family. “He was kind, handsome, smart, funny, but most of all he had the biggest, most loving heart. Josh loved life and he lived every day to its fullest. He had many passions and dreams.”
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A memorial for Josh is planned for 3 p.m. Saturday at the South Kitsap High School gym. In honor of Josh, the family asks that you wear your Seahawks or South Kitsap gear.


Josh Osborn’s body recovered by Kitsap-based mountain rescue group

July 31st, 2014 by Chris Henry

Through a series of chance circumstances, the group that recovered Josh Osborn’s body Monday on a river near Mt. Rainier was the Bremerton based Olympic Mountain Rescue.

Josh fell into the turbulent, glacially fed Ohanapecosh River on July 4 during an outing with friends. Warm weather that led to snow melt made the river especially high, hampering search efforts. On Sunday, however, the Port Orchard teen’s body was spotted by kayakers, who alerted authorities.

But getting to him was no easy matter.

Josh lay in a foot of water between a mile and a mile-and-a-half from where he fell in, according to Roger Beckett of Olympic Mountain Rescue, who got the call about 2 a.m. Sunday from the state’s Emergency Management Division. Beckett coordinates rescue efforts for the group.

Typically, a mountain rescue group from Tacoma would have been called first, since they are closer, Beckett said. But because rescue groups are staffed by volunteers, the matter of who responds depends on who can most quickly rally a group of people with the technical skills required for the situation.

Josh’s body was reported to be in or near a rocky gorge kayakers call the “elbow room,” a particularly challenging stretch of the river, with narrow chutes of foamy white water and deadfall trees littering the route. Beckett expected rescuers would need to rappel into the gorge.

“This isn’t a place where anybody goes unless they go down to fish and kayak. It’s a rugged part of the river system,” Beckett said.

This picture, courtesy of the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office, gives a visual of the river.
Ohanapecosh

By 8 a.m. Monday a team of six Olympic Mountain Rescue members arrived at Packwood to receive a briefing from the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office, which was leading the search and recovery. Beckett did not go along, but he got a briefing later from team members. They split into three groups from the base of operations near the intersection of highways 12 and 123 and combed the riverbank at the bottom of a steep grassy ravine, according to Beckett.

Finally, they located Josh and were able to reach him, placing him in a stretcher, which they lifted to the road in several pitches, using a 600-foot rope.

Olympic Mountain Rescue, established in 1959, is made up of 25 to 30 members familiar with alpine climbing and specially trained for rescue and recovery in rough terrain, where even first responders are hard put to go.

OMR members participate in a couple dozen rescue or recovery efforts most years, and they took part in the search for missing outdoors writer Karen Sykes in June on Mt. Rainier. Sykes, an experienced mountaineer, died of hypothermia on the mountain. The group did not participate in rescue Tuesday of a 25-year-old Bremerton man who fell down an embankment under High Steel Bridge on the Skokomish River.


‘No Child’ waiver loss might be a blessing

July 29th, 2014 by Steven Gardner

This week’s North Kitsap School Board three-day retreat agenda includes discussion of what impact Washington’s loss of a No Child Left Behind waiver will have on the district. This is a conversation every district will be having.

While the additional allowances each school district in the state will have to make does make for extra work, there are some in educational circles who argue it is better than the alternative, evaluating teachers based on student scores on standardized testing.

The waiver loss does not mean a loss of funds. It means less flexibility with using those funds, about $40 million across the state. While the No Child law is being reworked states were given some flexibility in applying some of its standards, but the U.S. Department of Education held firm that states had to have a workable teacher evaluation system that relied at least in part on student test scores. Washington, in the end, declined to create a system and the feds tightened the screws on how money is spent.

What we’re talking about is Title I funding, money aimed at disadvantaged students. For North Kitsap Title 1 funding equals about $562,000. Under the existing law about 30 percent of that, about $168,000, will be directed to other purposes, said Patty Page, district superintendent.

Of that $168,000 about $56,000 is to be spent on professional development. The rest would go to transportation for parents who want to take their children out of schools deemed not meeting No Child adequate yearly progress standards. In North Kitsap that is Suquamish Elementary, Wolfle Elementary and Kingston Middle School.

Page said there are still a few questions left unanswered. One is whether the district’s application to provide special tutoring within the district will be granted. Another is whether transportation to other schools means schools outside of the school district. Answers to those questions and others are supposed to come soon.

The retreat is Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday night, with each meeting beginning at 5:30 p.m. and scheduled to last three hours. The meetings are in the district offices.

The No Child waiver is fifth on the three-day agenda, following the 2014-15 budget, open government training, strategic plans and board goals. Page didn’t expect the No Child waiver discussion to happen in the first night’s work, which could mean Page will by then have more answers on some lingering questions.

One story in an education publication suggests some states would tell Washington to accept the waiver loss with a happy face and move on. That’s the case made in a story in Education Week. Losing the flexibility over a few dollars might be an easy price to pay for the flexibility you get elsewhere. From the story:

For instance, he (Richard Zeiger, the chief deputy superintendent in California) said, there have been political benefits. The state’s teachers’ unions were a huge driving force in helping to enact a new funding formula that gives a heavy weight to students in poverty. It would have been a lot harder to gin up union support for the change if the state education agency had been tusseling with them over teacher evaluation, Zeiger said.

Maybe even more importantly, he said, the shift to new standards has been relatively painless for California. “We’ve had very little contention around the common core and the shift to the new testing system” in part because it’s happened separately from the types of teacher-evaluation changes called for in the waivers, Zeiger said. “The comments we’ve gotten on common core are: This is how I always wanted to teach.”

Other states say the waiver is working, the case made in an AP story this week. The story goes into some explanation as to what’s happening here in this state.

A brief NPR story goes a little bit into what is happening in Oregon and Idaho.


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