Monthly Archives: December 2008

Recapping 2008 Power Struggles Over SKIA

Today’s Kitsap Sun features a recap of top stories for 2008. We reporters were assigned to write synopeses of those for our coverage area. On my to-do list, because Steve Gardner’s on a well-deserved vacation, was the tension that developed over the year between Bremerton and Port Orchard over the South Kitsap Industrial Area.
But just as I was poised over my keyboard to begin writing, I was informed that SKIA didn’t make the cut after all.
Perhaps it more appropriately belongs on our list of upcoming 2009 stories, to be published later this week. After all, the issue of whether or not Port Orchard will be the designated provider of sewer services to the South Kitsap Industrial Area is yet to be settled.
Private property owners began pushing earlier this year for the annexation of the 3,250-acre area slated for industrial development into the city of Bremerton in the belief that the city is equipped to handle permitting faster than the county — a key component, they said, to encourage development.
The Port of Bremerton, which owns more than half of SKIA, agreed in August to move ahead with the annexation petition despite concerns over an agreement with the city of Port Orchard regarding sewers.
Port Orchard maintains it has a right to provide sewer service to the area under a 2003 agreement it signed with the Port of Bremerton. Since the process began, PO city officials have been pressing the port and the city of Bremerton for assurance that the agreement would be honored.
But Bremerton officials have resisted, saying it is premature to decide who will provide infrastructure to SKIA. Bremerton also is now in a position to run sewer lines to SKIA because of the extension of its sewer service to Gorst.
Tempers flared in July at a heavily-attended public meeting of the key players in the proposed annexation, including the port, Bremerton, Port Orchard and private property owners.
Following Bremerton’s acceptance of the annexation petition, Port Orchard challenged the proposal before the county’s boundary review board, triggering a public hearing and extending what could have been a 45-day process to 120 days.
The annexation is segmented into two parts, the smaller SKIA North, on which the BRB will deliberate at their 7 p.m. Jan. 8 meeting, and SKIA South, which includes the port’s property. There will be a public hearing on SKIA South Jan. 23. The BRB’s decision on SKIA North is expected Jan. 30; SKIA South is scheduled for a decision on Feb. 25.
Most recently, Bremerton challenged portions of Port Orchard’s comprehensive plan update, including a map showing SKIA as a future sewer service area. The final plan does not include SKIA on the map, but, count on it, Port Orchard will continue to assert itself with regard to the SKIA/sewer issue. Stay tuned.

On Politics and Sock Puppets

Here’s a blog post that we, as a newsroom staff, have been working on for more than a month. The delay in posting it reflects the care we took to weigh an appropriate response to a specific incident or rather series of incidents. At one point we thought it might dictate some sort of policy about blog comments. In the end, it became more of a philosophical issue, one on which we invite you to weigh in.

After I wrote about McCormick Woods a few months ago, Port Orchard Mayor Lary Coppola commented on this blog to clarify his position on what he thought was a critical story. His response was followed by several other comments in his defense, several under the screen names ‘Gumshoe’ and ‘LocalPoliticalJunkie.’

At least one other reader noticed similarities in tone and word choice between those two users and Coppola, both on that blog entry and elsewhere, including Coppola’s personal blog, which he has since (as of Dec. 1) turned over to guest writers.

We thought the similarities suspicious as well, and checked on where the posts were coming from.

We can’t get specific detail on a commentor’s residence from the registration form our users submit, nor can we even confirm the identity they use when they register. People comment anonymously on our site, and we allow that. But we can check the Internet Protocol Address of each user, which is a unique number for a computer or network hosting a number of computers. Using the IP address, our system can give general details, such as a residence in Port Orchard, or a government building. We don’t regularly check the IP addresses of users, but we can, and so we looked at those being used by Gumshoe and LocalPoliticalJunkie.

Their IP addresses matched the one used by Lary Coppola, who had registered and posted under his own name. That gave some credence to the suspicion that all three online users were the same person. We asked the mayor about it, and he said it wasn’t him. He didn’t have an explanation for why the IP addresses would be the same, but said he suspected the others were copying material from his personal website and using them on the blog here.

We can’t confirm Lary is either one of the other posters, but, in light of the evidence we found and his response, whether to report on our discovery became a protracted discussion in the newsroom. It’s an issue we haven’t come upon in the past, but as the nature of journalism moves increasingly online, it’s sure to come up again. So we’ve decided to bring it up now, even though we have seen little of gumshoe or LocalPoliticalJunkie over the past month.

There’s nothing explicitly wrong with readers using more than one screen name to register at There is no law against using a second online identity to support comments you’ve posted using your first online identity (known in the online community as “using a sock puppet“). But the idea of an elected official doing so bothers us.

What would happen, for example, if a public official began to post misinformation on an upcoming vote, or a candidate for public office acted under many personalities in the course of campaigning? That doesn’t seem like behavior voters would look for in a public servant.

People are going to manipulate the system at some time, on some level, and there’s too much information and opinion out there to catch it all. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be skeptical at the appearance of such behavior.

We think elected officials should be held to a higher level of transparency in this new age of communication. Do you agree?

On a final note, we commend Lary for the comments he has made as a Mayor of Port Orchard. He is one of the few Kitsap officials to take part in the public conversation on the blogs, and we would encourage others to follow his lead.

Chris Henry, South Kitsap reporter
David Nelson, Editor

Cabin Fever Strikes

Do you suffer from any of the following symptoms?

You’ve had all the quality time with your loved ones you can stand for the next five years.

You’ve played every board game in the house.

You’re actually getting sick of “C.S.I.”

You’re out of groceries and the red goo at the bottom of the meat drawer is starting to look pretty tasty.

Your dog is starting to look pretty tasty.

You’ve started having conversations with your cat … and he answers you … in complete sentences.

If your children sing, “Let it Snow,” one more time, you will start having conversations with the red goo in the bottom of the meat drawer.

You will need a driver’s ed refresher course when this is all over.

You actually look forward to rain.

You could be suffering from cabin fever.

So what are your symptoms, and anyone know any good antidotes?

Port Orchard City Hall Opens at 10 a.m. Today, Dec. 23

This from Lary Coppola:

The City of Port Orchard will delay opening City Hall to the public until 10 a.m., Tuesday, Dec. 23 due to the weather. Also, the council meeting scheduled for tonight has been rescheduled for 7 p.m. on Dec. 30. More information on additional weather-related delays and closures will be available at the city’s Web site, usually by 6 a.m. on each morning.

South Kitsap Snow Report

Snowy Bridge
South Kitsap Snow Saturday night (Dec. 20, 2008)

Snow report, Sunday, Dec. 21, 2008

Snow, which had tapered off in the morning, picked up again around noon in South Kitsap, resulting in further accumulation. As of Sunday at 2 p.m., the Sunnyslope area had a foot of snow total accumulation (since Wednesday).

The main roads were plowed, thanks to crews working through the night in Port Orchard. One driver, Daniel Woods of South Kitsap, had driven all the way from Tacoma with no problem, only to get snagged in deep snow on the shoulder at the corner of Sedgwick and Sidney roads.

“I just came around the corner. I wasn’t even going that fast. I got my front tire stuck in the deep snow, and it just pulled my tires off the road,” Woods said.

Woods, his brother Art Burnett and Chris Simonson, who works at Port Orchard Market near where the car got stuck, dug the tires free, and Woods was on his way.

Woods said Highway 16 from Tacoma was passable but down to a single lane in some areas.

At Van Zee Park in Port Orchard, sledders and snow boarders took advantage of the deep snow and steep hill below the water tower.

“I love it. I wish it would stay around longer,” said Larry Mitchell, there with his daughter Marly and dog Jose. “I like it better than rain.”

“It’s awesome,” said snowboarder Travis Larson. “This is the most snow I’ve seen around here in a long time, since 1996.”

Larson and buddies Logan Davis and Nathan Arns said the quality of the snow was every bit good as at Crystal Mountain … and the price was right.

Among the businesses that remained open despite the snow, Big 5 sporting goods in Port Orchard was doing brisk business in all manner of snow gear and equipment. The store sold out of sleds Saturday, but was expecting a new shipment Monday, manager Shelly Miranti said. Propane and heavy socks were other hot sellers (pun intended).

Below: A ruler in a yard at McCormick Woods showed 10.5 inches of snow at 8:30 a.m. Sunday, Dec. 21, 2008. As snow has continued to fall all afternoon, I’m pretty sure we’ve got a foot by now. (Submit your snow pix, videos and comments at Stay warm. Is everyone out there OK?

Snow 10.5 inches

Worst Job, Dream Job

I read with interest the Kitsap Sun’s most recent article on unemployment.

In Kitsap County we’re up from 5.5 percent unemployment in October to 5.8 percent in November. That’s an increase of 1.5 percentage points from a year ago November. Statewide, unemployment stands at 6.4 percent; nationwide at 6.7 percent. And of course, behind all those stats are people.

Who among us has not been touched by this aspect of the recession, either directly or through someone we know losing a job or having a hard time finding one? I can list a half dozen people I know who are or shortly will be looking for work. My son searched for more than two months and sent out more than 20 resumes before landing a job earlier this month.

As he was starting to reach the point of desperation, he took a job that proves some things are worse than not working. The job title said, “canvassing.” But it was really cold call solicitations door-to-door. The nonprofit organization he worked for may have been very worthwhile, but given the reception he got, he may as well have been selling useless, overpriced whizmos or had the plague. It was totally demoralizing, he said. He quit after two days. Thankfully, he got a “real” job earlier this month, with benefits!

My worst job ever was a temp position in which I collated papers in a concrete, windowless building, freezing my buns off in a skirt because they told me it was a clerical position. It was the longest day-and-a-half of my life.

Second worst was waiting tables at the Village Pancake House in Casper, Wyoming. The restaurant was the place to go for a hot date, a sad commentary on the town and the times (1970s). I’m sure it’s an up and coming burg by now. You had to put up with sexist comments because the unspoken rule was the more you flirted the better they tipped. Twenty-five cents was the norm; 50 cents was considered big spending. It wasn’t – even for those times.

With all the uncertainty about the economy and the job market, who among us has not thought about what we would do if we got laid off? Is it the Chinese language in which the characters for “danger” and “opportunity” are the same? It could be time to explore a new field or finally believe you have the stuff to get that dream job.

So what would your dream job be? Is there anything in life you’d like to do that you haven’t tried?

Port Orchard: City Hall Open Today on Limited Schedule

From Port Orchard Mayor Lary Coppola:
The Port Orchard City Hall will reopen today to serve the public, but on a reduced schedule. Hours will be from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

In light of the predicted snowstorm and severe weather anticipated on Sunday, a decision on a possible closure on Monday will be made by 6 a.m. Monday morning, and posted on the City’s Web site. The local news media will also be notified.

For more information, please visit

Racapping the Buck’s A&W Saga

Update: Dec. 18: Buck’s A&W is scheduled to reopen today. See below for video coverage of the Buck’s saga.

Original post:

“It’s been a roller coaster of emotion that’s indescribable.”

That’s how Rick Gehring, owner of Buck’s A&W described the past week in which parties to a lawsuit against Buck’s that was settled in 2007 reached an agreement on attorneys fees awarded to the plaintiffs. The agreement brings to a close (yes, really) litigation that has gone on since 2004, when the suit was filed.

Buck’s owners Rick and Karin Gehring were absolved from personal responsibility in the sexual harassment conviction of a former manager, James D. Border, but a Kitsap County jury penalized Buck’s of Port Orchard Inc. for sexual discrimination. In a later ruling, Judge Leonard Costello ordered the company to pay the plaintiffs’ “reasonable attorneys fees.” The settlement pertained to the amount of those fees, which was not disclosed by the family or attorneys representing Buck’s

The reason the story has gotten such attention is that Buck’s has a long history of community service, particularly in support of youth sports.

Story links recapping the sequence of events are listed below, along with the link to South Kitsap resident Ron Boehme’s blog, in which he compares Gehring to Jimmy Stewart in “It’s a Beautiful Life.”

“It is really over,” said Kim Zak of the Shiers Law Firm, Port Orchard, who represented Buck’s during the trial and who was involved in negotiations on the settlement agreement. “We’re just pleased we were able to get the matter solved for Buck’s A&W. It was in everyone’s best interests.”

Among those whose interests are served by the resolution of this case are the plaintiffs. They will not receive any monetary gain, as their attorneys took the case on contingency. The settlement pertains to fees owed to the attorneys. But at least now the two women who were Border’s victims can get some closure on the crimes of which he was convicted.

Jury Clears Owners in A&W Sex Harassment Trial, July 2007, Kitsap Sun

A Healthier Kitsap One Frosty Mug at a Time (on the Gehrings’ contributions to the community), July, 26, 2008, Kitsap Sun

Buck’s Owners Served with Legal Challenge (on the litigation leading up to Buck’s announcement of bankruptcy), Nov. 14, 2008, Kitsap Sun

Legal Costs Force Closure of Popular Port Orchard Restaurant, Dec. 8, 2008, Kitsap Sun

Customers Flood Bankrupt Bucks in its Last Days, Dec. 10, 2008, Kitsap Sun

Buck’s Legal Tangle Stems from State Anti-Discrimination Laws, Dec. 12, Kitsap Sun

South Kitsap Says a Sad Goodbye to Bucks, (on Buck’s history), Dec. 13, 2008, Kitsap Sun

Buck’s Finds the Miracle it Needed, (on the settlement), Dec. 16, 2008, Kitsap Sun.

Ron Boehme blog item

Kitsap Weather: Volunteers for Homeless Shelters Needed

Is it cold enough for you? This weather reminds me of when I used to live in Montana — a walk to take out the garbage was a cheek-numbing expedition. Now imagine weathering this below-freezing weather — forecast to continue for the next week or so — without a home.

As you may have already read, Kitsap agencies and churches have opened cold weather shelters for the homeless. According to South Kitsap resident and advocate for the homeless, Sally Santana, more volunteers are needed to staff the shelters.

Shelters in Bremerton and Port Orchard opened Saturday and will remain open to provide a warm place to sleep for those who have nowhere else to go. One shelter will serve men, one will serve women and children, and another will serve men with children.
The shelters will open when temperatures fall to freezing or below or when an inch of rain or snow is predicted. Shelters open at 6 p.m. and close at 7 a.m. Reservations must be made daily and can be made by calling 211 before 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. After 5 p.m. weekdays and on weekends, those needing shelter can call the Crisis Clinic at (360) 479-3033 (transportation available if needed).

Volunteers are needed to help staff the shelters from about 5 p.m. to 9 a.m. Participating volunteers can select the days and times that fit their schedules. Volunteers will work in teams of two or three. Duties may include getting the shelters ready to open, signing in guests and getting them settled, putting on the coffee pot and closing up in the morning.

If you are interested in getting involved with this program, please fill out an application. Go to the Kitsap County Department of Emergency Management’s Web site.
• Select the “New Volunteer” button in the blue section on the left side.
• At the bottom of the page under “PDF Documents” printout both the “Background Check Application and Volunteer Application”.
• Fill out both applications
• Return the form by fax, mail, or drop it off at our office located at 911 Carver St, Bremerton.
• All volunteers registering with Kitsap Emergency Management will be subject to a basic Washington State background check.

Friday Afternoon Club: One Last Cruz at Buck’s A&W

classic car

Members of Kitsap County classic car clubs will gather for one last Cruz at Buck’s A&W from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday, the last day the 50-year-old fast food joint will be open for business. Buck’s is declaring bankruptcy due to legal costs stemming from a 2007 lawsuit. Read a history of Buck’s in Sunday’s Kitsap Sun. There will also be a story about how state law regarding the awarding of reasonable attorney fees played out in the case.

Community members have been streaming into Buck’s all week to get a last taste of its roots beer floats and curley fries.

“I didn’t realize so many people had so many attachments to Buck’s through so many channels,” said Rick Gehring last night as he took a quick break from the burger flipping marathon that has been the scene at Buck’s since news of its imminent closure went up on the reader board earlier this week.

Buck’s began hosting summer Cruz nights in 1991. During warm weather months classic car lovers and their families gathered in droves to show and shine their babies. Never mind that the weather on Sunday is supposed to dip into the 20s, said John Kincell of the Saints Car Club. The community will turn out to show its support of the Gehring family and Buck’s staff.